Physically demanding 8-hr foot-only adventure race (trek), organized by Rootstock Racing, near Frederick, Maryland.
This was the 4th Crooked Compass event. I've participated to the 2nd and 3rd, those two being in south-central Pennsylvania and 2 hours driving time from Pittsburgh were I live, and was able to attend without staying at a motel. This one was a little more farther from home and opted not to register. Then, after the Raccongaine event was over, experienced withdrawal and started looking and staring at the Crooked Compass webpage, debating whether I should go or not. The just-staring stopped when I discovered that my neighbor Yaki signed up just after Raccoongaine and was driving and had a motel room. Hey, I'll just jump in and sleep in the second bed, buddy, and so at the last possible moment, registered. I was going. Funny how things work.
Now having done 3 of the 4 Crooked Compass, I can see that a pattern emerges. The strength of the event is really in discovering, seeing, exploring, experiencing unique features in either terrain or man-made, features usually chosen for checkpoint placement. So the Rootstock team loves to scout new terrain and locales, and if they find and see some spectacular feature, either with hordes of tourists talking selfies or just remote rugged terrain where only eagles dare, they will get the itching of circling that on the map, and place a checkpoint flag. How neat, what a concept, and hey, 148 people signed up to check out just that.
The format of the race was having a course with 5 mandatory checkpoints. At start, each participant is given one overall map, showing the 5 mandatory checkpoints. At each checkpoint, participant is provided with a new map showing circle locations of something around 5 checkpoints (all optional). Given that there are 5 mandatory checkpoints (M1 .. M5), each being the "mother" to 5 "children" checkpoints, that means having 25 "children" checkpoints + the 5 "mother" checkpoints.
Race started at 8 AM, with a cut-off at M5 for 2 PM. Race ended at 4 PM.
When I read the course setter's note "very rocky in places", I looked at my shoes and all where more for an alluvional muddy but no rocks terrain. Resurrected an old pair of LaFuma Moon Race
trail running shoes, that had a Vibram sole and were quite sturdy. This choice of shoes was consequential, as I was able to protect my feet from the rocks for the duration of the race.
Swept the course with 5+ minutes remaining. 29.6 km linear length (excluding the prologue), 2263 meters in altitude change. It was quite a workout. Walking and running up 'em hills setting up Raccongaine paid off.
A couple of notes on map stuff: (later note: this is the original note posted in the original message. These observations, thoughts, and speculations turned out to be incorrect. From analyzing the GPS track data, it turns out that the circle locations on the map are accurate. It is too bad that USGS maps are not accurate. See and read discussion in the comment section for further deeper analysis).
"Z" had its circle centered on a creek, and yet the clue said "rocky ridge dividing reentrant". The circle also seemed much more down stream in a steep section, judging from the closely-packed together contour lines and was looking for a spot on the creek that was steep and possibly cascading down. Did not correctly understand the clue sheet and my eyes and mind were focused on the creek and never looked up, and went downstream for an extra mile before turning back, again, scanning the creek left and right. Did finally read the clue sheet again, and then reinterpreted the word "ridge" as "spur" and that is when I started looking up and finally visibly saw it. For this extra time and effort spent, and towards the end of the race, it sapped quite alot of energy.
"N" had its circle on the edge of a brown contour line, when it should have been on the edge of a blue creek line, effectively having the circle misplaced on the map by 80 meters. It confused a few folks, but then we saw people coming from the edge of the creek and that is where we found the checkpoint.
Conclusion: This was a worthwhile experience, pretty much an adventurous, body-physical, off-trail hiking and running, with natural obstacles found in Nature in the form of steep knolls, rocky boulder fields, thick vegetation. Always wanted to explore this park and never had occasion to. The existence of this event motivated me to do so, and explore I did, going in places where only eagles dare. Having done this with 148 other people was great, as one found others looking for the same stuff, on the same spots, at around the same time. While initially there were thoughts that the circles on the map were not where they were supposed to be, after careful analysis of the GPS track data, concluded that the circles were indeed exactly where they were supposed to be, but it was instead the cartography symbols on the USGS map that were incorrect. I would speculate that the organizers took a GPS coordinate reading of the feature spot where the checkpoint was going to be, and then plotted the coordinates on the USGS quad. While orienteering-the-sport minded folks were brain-focused on following the map only, here the participant had to pay special attention to the clue description, as, once in close proximity to the checkpoint location, it revealed exactly what to look for. For example, with the circle centered o a creek but clue says "rocky ridge", don't look down but look up. If the clue says "knoll" but the circle is on a saddle, same here. If the clue says "boulder next to a creek" but where the circle is there is no creek, don't look at where the center of the circle is but turn your head slightly and look at the creek. So what to do in this case? here on AP someone commented that the course setter could have custom-drawn a map symbol or feature on the map, providing additional clues to remove some of the ambiguity. Others have suggested that they prefer that the circle be centered on the map symbol instead, but in this case with an incorrect GPS plot, a compromise of sorts. Anyway, the disclaimer was in the printed course setter's notes: "remember, this is and Adventure Race, not an Orienteering race". You go with the flow and adjust your mind. We can adapt. After all, the Homo sapiens species of the primates have been the most successful animal on the planet and pretty much took over and dominated all other animals. Fun stuff. Fun day. Lets get more of this.