EMPO Times Fall 1998


EMPO Hosts the Billygoat

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Canada's Mike Waddington is alone in front
 
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The winner goes over his course with some of EMPO's meet workers
 
more Billygoat pictures
Billygoat results
Billygoat course map

This year EMPO, and specifically our President Bill Jameson, was asked to be Director of the 20th Annual Billygoat Run. The Billygoat is a unique orienteering race in that it is a mass start event, following is allowed, and you get to choose a control to skip. The course is always quite long, with a winning time around 90 minutes, and T-shirts are awarded to all who complete it in 3&1/2 hours or less, which can be a real challenge for those of us who are less than elite orienteers. Though EMPO hosted it, this year's 'Goat was run on a NEOC map, Mt. Norwottuck, which is at least a couple hours East of EMPO-land. Norwottuck has the advantages (for the Billygoat) of being a large area with lots of potential climb. In fact, it has been used for one or two past 'Goats, and there is still plenty of territory to send exhausted runners in new and devious ways. Director Bill worked out an interesting course, but then suddenly duty, in the form of the US Army, called, and he had to leave for Korea, and the Club VP picked up the ball. Fortunately Bill had also picked up the help of a number of other folks by then, so taking over wasn't too onerous a task.

The weather on the day of the race was a bit iffy, but in the end was actually pretty good for running, if a bit cool and damp for standing around. We had a fine turnout, from literally across the country (and beyond). None of our worst fears (misplaced controls, too little water, serious injuries) transpired, though it was a close thing on handling of the finish line and results. We barely avoided blowing it until more experienced help took over. In the end, about the only complaints heard were inability to hear the start (next time be sure to have some way to stand above the crowd, and have a megaphone), the choice of the control to skip being a bit too obvious (well, it wasn't so obvious to me until I had been out on that side of the mountain), and there being no place warm to wait for results. The times and percentages of finishers turned out to be pretty much in the normal range, and the course made for an excellent race, and a lot of interesting commentary.

One of the fun things about the Billygoat is that over the last few years it has become a common practice for participants to write up their experiences and post them at a site on the Internet. The runners who do this run the full gamut from worst to first, and you get a great sense of the fun, frustration, effort and anguish that goes into each participant's race. Since EMPO directed the race this year, we had a few less members who could actually run in it. But the three older Trysons all managed to both work and compete in the event, and two of the three bettered the maximum time allowed to earn a T-shirt (3 & 1/2 hours). Stories from competitors can be found through the results list at EMPO's Web site.


Meet Roundup

Peebles Island

Preparation for the Peebles Island meet began long ago, sometime in the fall of 1996, by John Beatty, original meet director. He had everything all set to go for April 19, 1997. But fickle April weather brought snow and slippery conditions, and the meet was cancelled. So, with the preparatory work complete, it seemed a good 1998 event for Phil H.-T. to offer us as first-time meet directors. And we accepted.

Following a meeting with John to go over his courses and maps, etc., we proceeded to plan our duties. In April, we arranged to visit Peebles Island. We had never been to Peebles previously (except for having shown up for the cancelled meet!), and, upon arrival, were immediately taken by this quaint island tucked in the midst of urban life. With master map in hand, we set out to locate John's orange tapes. Time and weather had removed a few of them. As we proceeded control to control, we found ourselves trying to think analytically like an orienteer might? Due to time constraints, we were not able to finish this job on day one, and Rob returned in May for completion of this task.

On Sunday, May 28, hoping to visit Peebles one more time, we were greeted on 787 en route to Peebles with the emergency broadcasting system via radio, warning us of TORNADOES! We discerned that home would be a safer place to be than Peebles in a tornado, so we drove home directly, and our plan for a final tour was postponed. But, we made it back to Peebles the following week for our final check, and recognized that we still had more work to do. With the new pavilion as a tease, perhaps we should move the start from its original location near the parking lot. And, several changes due to the recent construction prompted the need for map changes. And, we needed to re-label the controls since John's control codes from a year ago no longer happened to match the control bags we had received. The next several days gave us a chance to deal with these issues.

Saturday's weather report for Sunday, as well as verification that the pavilion had not been reserved, convinced us that the start should be relocated. We had previously mutually agreed to make as few changes to John's work as possible. This is one change we're really glad we made. Sunday, in fact, delivered an abundance of rainfall. At around 8:00 AM, we arrived at Peebles to hang controls. The beautiful, new pavilion was looking more and more inviting with each falling raindrop. So we, indeed, did set up registration at the pavilion. A fisherman, having had enough of the rain, passed by the pavilion, grinned and exclaimed "Stay dry!" as we set up map boards and the like.

Our support team of Janet and Glen, and John arrived prior to 11:00 registration. As the hour neared, rain was falling steadily. Who in their right minds would come out in this weather? Well, as is true to form, some folks will come NO MATTER what is falling from above. Orienteers came from Oneonta and Massachusetts and New York City, as well as several local areas. We were quite amazed, and enjoyed talking with old friends and meeting new faces.

Despite the rain, we really did have a blast. We learned to appreciate the amount of time and effort which goes into each O meet. We're glad we could give back a bit of which we've taken over the past couple of years. We would like to say special thanks to John, for sharing his preparatory work and brain with us; to Janet and Glen and Phil for answering additional questions along the way. And especially to each and every one who took the time to brave the elements, run the courses, and partake of the homemade chocolate-chip cookies. We hope each one experienced at least a portion of the amount of fun we had.

-Robert & Rita Reed

Tawasentha Park

Tawasentha Park has become one of our seemingly endless series of maps which requires a lot in the way of course notes, map corrections and special attentions in order to keep it viable. Even so, it still made for a rather nice start to the EMPO Spring season, with entertaining and competitive courses for all those who dared come out on a cool and damp Saturday in April. The Meet Director/Course Setter (Sue Hawkes-Teeter) tried to keep the numerous differences between the map and reality from coming into play more than necessary, and was reasonably successful. Despite getting a bit muddy, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, even the entrant self-identified as "Grumpy." The park's other recreational options make it a nice place to bring the family, and many of the younger "O" set spent a lot of time sliding, swinging and climbing on the various pieces of (unmapped) equipment. A lot of fun!

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Fred and Matt Gipp dash to the Tawasentha finish line Steve Jackson punches the final control beside the Normanskil at Tawasentha Park

Blueberry Hill

At the start of the week before Blueberry Hill, we were unsure whether the Pine Bush Commission was going to have a planned burn in the area. The rainy turn to the end of the week, however, postponed the burn, and our event went off as planned.

Numerous changes to the trail network since the map was last used were noted on a scanned/altered version of the map, which we feel was more readable than a marked-up copy of the old map would have been.

Courses offered were the usual White, Yellow and Orange; Red offered a "twist." Red course runners copied control locations on their maps, noting the control codes rather than a sequence of numbers for each location. The starter then told them which control to visit first; each control had a streamer telling them which control to visit next. Their clue sheets carried only control codes and description, with no sequence given ahead of time.

-Glen & Janet Tryson


'O'ctober A Meets

October is arguably the most beautiful month of the year in the Northeastern US, and that's especially true in the fields and woods through which we orienteer. This year the Northeast is home to three USOF "A" Meets in October, all within a half day's drive of EMPO-land. Leading off will be the annual event put on by the Cadets at West Point. It's always rugged, competitive, and fun. You can eat and sleep cheaply in the military training barracks, with good opportunities for comparing notes and swapping tales with your fellow orienteers. While the t-shirts aren't quite as prized as those from the Billygoat, you'll be in good company wearing one.

After a weekend at home to challenge the best(!) of our own offerings at Thacher Park, the Rochester Orienteering Club is hosting "The Long & Short 'O'f It", two US Championship events: The US Long-O Championship and the US Short Course Championship, at Letchworth State Park. They have a new section of the Park mapped, and have re-done the map of the portion used several years ago for another A meet. Even without the orienteering, Letchworth is a place you should see. It's known as the "Grand Canyon of the East", and the views are spectacular. Compare the awesome drop-offs with what you just saw at Thacher. In mid-October it should be awesomely beautiful.

To stay with peak colors you need to move South a little, so the final "O"ctober event is in Connecticut. My only familiarity with this venue is that I almost went to school there, and I remember being greatly impressed with how pretty it was (it was in the Fall when I visited, of course), but I've been to several Western Connecticut Orienteering Club (WCOC) meets, and have always appreciated the quality of the job they do. So, make it an October of "O". Just two Meets (four days) and you can be nationally ranked and a larger part of the orienteering world.


Orienteering Basics

Handrails and Re-locating

A handrail is any linear feature you can follow to where you want to go. The most common kind of handrail is a trail, but they are so obviously something you can follow that we don't really think of them as handrails in this sense. More commonly we mean any linear feature other than a trail or path or road, etc. A good example would be a stream. I have seen a lot of controls placed on stream bends or stream junctions, and one good way to get to the right spot is to first get to the stream (you might use aiming off to get there, remember that one?), then follow it in to the flag. Another excellent handrail is a stone wall, with which the Northeastern US is crisscrossed. There are some maps down in HVO territory where it's hard to set a challenging course because there are so many of them. Of course, you've got to keep track of which one you're following, which I have failed to do on a couple of occasions. And when that happens, you get to our next topic: re-locating.

Every orienteer blows it now and again. In fact, that's part of what makes the sport fun, the risk of discovering you don't know where you are because you were too busy going fast to keep good track of your location. Sure, you strive for consistency, but to really do your best you have to push your effort to the edge of your ability navigate cleanly, and sometimes you'll go over that edge. What do you do then? Pick the safety bearing and go home? Eventually, perhaps; but before that try to see if you can get yourself back on track. There are a few basic approaches. First, stop and look around; then look closely at your map. You're not where you thought you were, but can you find some fairly distinct feature, or better yet a group of features, within view and on the map? This is tricky, as it can sometimes be easy to convince yourself that now you've figured it out, and then you proceed a bit and discover you have even less idea where you are than you did before. So if that doesn't work pretty clearly and pretty soon, you're left with the second and third options: go back or go forward. Going back means to get back to the last place where you were sure of your location on the map. That can be easy or hard depending on how you got to your current location, and it's always frustrating. Still, if you're sure you know the way back, it's the safest method. If you're not sure just how to retreat, or if you have reason to believe you can bail out on a compass bearing and reach a good catching feature or handrail, then do that. As you go, keep looking for other points that may allow you to place yourself even sooner, but don't waste a lot of time that way. Once you've started re-locating, you want to get it done quickly so you can move forward once again.

Perhaps the toughest question is just how long to try to muddle through before you decide to go into serious re-locate mode. And there is no easy answer. It's a tough calculus involving how long it has been since you were last sure of the location, how close easy re-locating features might be, how sure you still are that the flag "must be just over there," and your experience. In the end, that's what you fall back on: your experience. Therefore, to re-locate well, you may have to experience getting lost a few times. Which means you've got to get out and orienteer. So, orienteer, get lost, and get better!


EMPO's New O-Suits!

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Sue, Marty & Phil H-T show EMPO's colors in Wyoming
 

This Spring, while attending HVO's "Deja Blue" Meet, EMPO's O-Suit design committee had a chance to meet with Jeanne Walsh, the owner/operator/seamstress of The Compass Needle. Together they worked out colors and a pattern for a new line of orienteering tops and pants. They're bright blue, with gold trim and a little white, and they look great. They are made of supplex nylon, which makes them comfortable yet tough, as well as light and very quick drying. For the next issue I'll try to be sure we have a picture of someone wearing one, but better yet come to the Fall meets and you're sure to see at least one person already outfitted, as several suits have already been purchased. They are all individually made to order, and the way to do it is to contact The Compass Needle, 25 Summer Street, Milford, NH 03055 (e-mail c-needle @ ma . ultranet . com), and indicate you would like an Empire Orienteering Club suit (or just a top, which is what I did because I prefer to wear tights rather than pants). You'll be sent back a form asking for your measurements and advising you of the price. Then measure, write a check, and in no time you too can look (and, more importantly, feel) way cool as you glide on through the woods.