After a Middle distance gold the day before that somewhat shocked me, I had to prepare myself for the next day's race: a Long that I knew was going to involve more mental than physical endurance. Hours after I finished the Middle, I talked with Peter Gagarin, who once again told me what I needed to hear: my success in the Middle did not guarantee any future success, and tomorrow was another day. However, I knew that I had discovered an effective navigational strategy while running the Middle, and my goal was to run the Long the same way, taking trails when possible and otherwise compass-chaining features along a straight route.Map link (part 1)Map link (part 2)
Unfortunately, my pre-race plan failed to deal with more complex issues of route choice, such as the race-defining leg to #2. I barely had time to look at this leg while navigating to #1, mostly because I was still getting used to the map scale (this is only my third course this year at 1:15,000). As a result, I never saw the northern trail option that went past #4, which turned out to be the optimal route choice.
I knew I had chosen badly as soon as I crossed the beaver dam underneath the power line west of #1. Ahead of me was a long, painful slog through forest much thicker and slower than the paths and forest to the northeast. I followed the power line northwest for as far as I could and then veered west at the large pylon between #2 and #5. I misread the marshes east of the control, briefly got disoriented, and almost wandered off the map before relocating off the cliffs south of #2. Judging from relative split times, I could have saved over 4 minutes by going north. At that point, I knew that I had some serious catching up to do.
I nailed #3, a tricky control, mostly because I followed a precise compass and managed to read all of the little hillocks correctly. To #4, I essentially went straight again, relocating off the pylon and hitting the surprisingly distinct vegetation boundary in the woods west of the control, which I used as my attackpoint. I ran along the trail and over the hill to #5. At this point, I also caught sight of Addison, who would hang on to me for the next third of the course.
To #6, I chose the optimal, straight route that followed the small trail to the beaver dam between the two lakes. Unfortunately, I got a little disoriented after coming out of the green, headed too far right, and lost some time in the intricate trail network north of #6. To #7, I once again veered off course, this time to the left, and ended up at the trail junction just south of where the road entered the field. At #8, I continued my NAOC trend of making strange mistakes around streamered chutes; I took the wrong (southern) trail out of #7, realized my mistake, thrashed through some underbrush, and ran the wrong way down the spectator chute to punch the control.
#8 and #9 were streamered, with no room for mistakes, and I picked up my new map at the map exchange at #9. My first instinct was to pick a trail route to #10 so I could pre-read the rest of the course, and running out to the road along the power line would have been fine if I'd had a clear approach into the control. I didn't; my plan was basically "contour along the hillside from the pylon on the rocky hill", and it didn't work. I missed #10 to the west and lost 3 minutes on my only technical navigation mistake on this course; I finally managed to relocate off of the trails southwest of the control.
#11 was straightforward, but instead of following the trail to the southeast of the control, I should have probably gone straight. To #12, on the other hand, I went for the straight, steep, green route when a southern one would have entirely avoided crossing all of the narrow, parallel ridgelines. I hit #13 using precise compass and identifying the clearing south of the control. To #14, I went straight again, again using the clearing close to the control to relocate. #15 was a long track run, and I hit #16 with another straight compass heading. Needless to say, I paid very close attention to the finish chutes when approaching #17 and ran down the right one without mishap.
A lot of the strategies that worked for me on the Middle were much less effective on the Long. On the Long, going straight was rarely the best option, except for short, technical controls like #3, #11, or #13. In my two races, I never really figured out what effective route choices looked like in this kind of terrain; I had learned how to navigate safely and precisely, but not quickly or efficiently. In the Middle, route choice never had massive implications; the issue was always running to the right spot, not figuring out how to get there the fastest. Here, route choice mattered in a huge way, and I wasn't really prepared to deal with it.
I finished 3rd out of 25 juniors.