Orienteering (Sessions GPS-O) 1:09:12  8.59 km (8:03 / km) +200m 7:13 / km
An early morning pre-run at Sessions Woods. Ran early since I had to work today, most of the flags were out already, the remaining ones were streamered. No SI since there was no clear/start/finish boxes, so I just took splits the old fashioned way.
As a NOD meet, Peter Gagarin (meet director) tossed out the option of using a GPS to navigate the course. So for chuckles my goal was to go out and run as much of the course on GPS, using the map/compass as little as possible. This worked really well in many cases, not so well in others but was certainly a lot of fun.
I had preloaded the coordinates to my GPS the night before and glanced at the map enough to determine which 25 (of 30 total) controls I was going try for. In the nice open woods of the northern portion of the map, the GPS was a real benefit as I would look at my map at the start of the leg to A) determine the next control and bring it up on the GPS and B) ensure there were no major uncrossable features and/or obvious trail routes. But other than that I didn't study the map for minor features, nor did I really check to see what was actually in the circle when I got there. I just looked at the GPS which gave me distance to control, direction to control and my current direction. (in cardinal directions - N,NW,W,SW etc) As long as my current direction and the direction of control matched it was full speed ahead picking the cleanest line through the forest. No checking features enroute, no trying to hold a steady bearing. Since the GPS was constantly recalculating my current position, heading and bearing a quick glance at the GPS was all I needed. If the control was NW and I was heading W, a minor deviation to the R was all I needed to set things straight with no slowing down. When I got within 20m of the control the GPS beeped and I'd look up and usually see the flag. A couple of early controls I did overrun slightly as I was moving quickly and passed the edge of the circle before the GPS realized it and beeped. In the first half of the course I don't think I lost more than 10s on any given control and I ran the full leg about as hard as my current fitness will allow (not that fast).
As I passed around W of the pond and headed toward the cluster of controls in the green, the GPS quickly became less than useful. Determined not to rely on the map, I found myself facing impassable rock faces and laurel thickets over and over again and the per/km times plummeted. Such that after the first couple (found just fine once I located a clean line into them) I opted to bag the rest of that group and drop myself down to the 'get 20' course instead. I'd worry about which other two to drop later.
Back on the trail and into open woods running smoothly again and simply enjoying the act of running through the woods. I should note that as far as satisfaction goes, I actually prefer open, clean courses which allow me to run - when the courses get ultra-technical forcing a slower, methodical approach I'm less excited about them. Plain and simple, I'd rather be running full stride than picking technical lines through Pawtuckaway type terrain..
Anyway, the rest of the controls came easily, though since I abbreviated my course part-way through, the efficiency of my overall route didn't gain me anything. My total running distance is probably pretty close to what I would have run had I done the full 25, but the time pissed away thrashing around in the laurel thickets and picking lines up amongst the rocks would have meant a much lengthier time spent in the woods for the same distance run. And I did have the issue of getting to work on time.
A very fine time in the woods, many thanks to Peter for letting me run it early and for allowing the GPS option. I think allowing GPS would appeal to a lot of folks that might not otherwise try orienteering and is an idea worth exploring, perhaps setting a separate GPS course at meets comprised of controls where the benefits of running with a GPS can be enjoyed. Many of the same controls could be used, just keep the legs out of the highly technical areas.
PS - Another benefit of the GPS is that eyesight handicaps can be diminished. As an eyeglass wearer, running in the rain is close to useless, and this AM my glasses fogged on me a couple times. But since I did not have to relate the map to the larger landforms around me (which I can't see without the glasses), I could easily see the GPS and my footing well enough to keep moving on a couple controls where I was carrying my glasses. Just sayin....
more detail later, just jotting splits before I accidentally erase them..