Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tips for making the most of your Easter Experience- from Boomerangs coach Wendy Read

Tips for making the most of your Easter Experience – from a few of the locals…

After many years of drought, SEQ has now had two very wet summers, and plenty of rain in the seasons in between.  We have only just had a hint of autumn in the last few days when the humidity has dropped below intensely sticky and there has been a sense of freshness in the air – but you have to be up early to notice.  Hence vegetation is lush, creek lines actually contain water (sometimes even flowing), and wildlife/ insect life is abundant. Your week of orienteering in SE Queensland will guarantee you 3 things for sure:
A great variety of terrain – from complex, granite rock detail to deeply,  eroded creek systems
 Lantana  and
Don’t be put off though – there are plenty of ways to successfully navigate your way through the carnival.
Let’s deal first with the events located in and around Stanthorpe where granite boulders dominate the landscape.  (Prologue, Day 1 & Day 3) Although patches of very complex rock will require intense concentration, much of the terrain is pleasant running forest, with hill sides of moderate rock detail. Being able to ‘look through’ the scattering of black dots and read the contours can help simplify the navigation.  Use the large, obvious features in the rock or other distinctive features for attack points. Sometimes areas of ‘nothing’ are a useful feature to use. Also look for the handrails, like creeks, ridgelines or bands of rock, that show the ‘lines’ through the complexity.  It’s worthwhile checking that you know the difference between what is a boulder, a mound, rocky ground and boulder cluster, both on the legend on your control descriptions.

The event at Shanty Gully (west of Warwick) provides a great contrast to the granite rock areas.  Apparently it is fairly featureless and steep. There are small areas of erosion and old, gold mining but not highly technical like the Victorian gold fields. Route choice and careful, speedy execution of it will be the key.

The events following the Easter Carnival also provide good variety:
Cascades – an iconic granite map, its reputation precedes it – enter at your peril! Not really – it’s one of those great challenging maps where you’ll need all your navigational tools working for you.  Map contact, map contact, map contact!
Hardings Paddock – an area typical of outer Brisbane, our orienteering bread and butter.  Hilly, well vegetated, some interesting rocky sections, but you’ll enjoy the experience a whole lot more if you wear full body protection and avoid the lantana. (More about lantana later)
QUT (Kelvin Grove Campus) & UQ (St Lucia Campus) – classic, university style, sprint maps and courses. If you’re really serious, get onto NearMap & do your homework.

Collins Creek – a few notes from the course setter, Geoff Peck who has a favourite wisdom, “Contours are for navigating, vegetation is for route choice!”:  The terrain at Collins Ck is undulating spur-gully with some detailed erosion, and a LOT of lantana. Most of the lantana is in small patches which are quite 'passable' and have reasonable visibility (hence the use of green stripes), but it's not easy to keep 'straight'. As the terrain is quite 'vague' it's easy to get well off line, and difficult to relocate. The classic 'aiming off' works well in these areas. It is mostly fast running, but some denser areas of lantana need to be avoided; it's not a pleasant experience to get stuck in it! The fact that it's a looping race means that relay 'tactics' are important. Runners can get a considerable advantage by 'slipstreaming' as long as they are sure they are on the same split! (Is that split-streaming? – a new O term?)

Coach Read in action
Since it has featured a bit in these notes - a word about lantana (an invasive, woody  plant with a pretty, dainty flower).  Don’t try and run through solid clumps of it – you won’t win. When in areas where it is extensive, keep your head up, look for clearer sections and you can usually avoid the worst of it. If you do get into thicker sections, look for small animal paths (on ground level), put map in mouth and scurry through on hands and knees.

A final note about the local wildlife – especially spiders.  Golden orb spiders and their sticky webs are still prolific in some patches of forest.  Whilst the females are big and scary, the smaller males won’t present any problems. On a recent training weekend, Queensland Cyclones practised the following technique (the three Ds:
             1. Duck under the web – does require you to look ahead and not only at the map.
             2. Adopt the defensive position – arms and map in front of face to fend off spidery tangle.
Failing steps 1 & 2
3. De-web one’s body – running hands spread wide from chest, up neck, over face and through hair, flinging spider and web far away.
It’s a good tip to quickly check you still have some idea where you are going after such an encounter, as all the head and body shaking can be dis-orienteering. (Oh – also check you actually got rid of the sticky little sucker!)

On a positive note regarding wildlife, there are plenty of beautiful wallabies and kangaroos in the forest making the most of the good conditions and, families of wedge tail eagles have been seen frequently near some of the Stanthorpe maps.

Hopefully these tips will keep you navigating cleaning at all the events over Easter.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Wendy Read,
Australian Boomerangs Coach and Queensland Cyclones team member.