Mt. Pinos: Jonas Kjall's Recap

This year we had a big group travelling down from the Bay Area to one of the highligts of the orienteering season, the Mt. Pinos orienteering weekend organised by Los Angeles orienteering club. I had been down once a few years ago, so I knew we could expect challenging navigation in one of the most beatiful forests in western United States. The weekend was packed with a nice mix of orienteering, a classic race on Saturday morning, a prolog followed by a night chase where everyone competed on the same course on Saturday afternoon and evening and a score-O on Sunday morning. Before the races I was a bit skeptical about that everyone had the same course on three of the four events. It is very hard to design a course that are well suited for inexperienced as well as experienced orienteers. However as I will explain below, the course setters did a great job and accomplished it. Since there already is an event report posted on the LAOC webpage, I will mainly focus on the racing, especially my night-O run, with the hope that orienteers not so used to night-O can learn something from my approach. But first let me mention among the many good performances the very impressive results throughout the weekend by the juniors; Matej Sebo of BAOC and Alex Kiperman of LAOC. Matej won the Red classic course, Alex got revenge on the Prolog by placing very high among all the seniors. Matej finished off the weekend with having one of the best performances of everyone on the score-O course.

The prolog was a 2.6 km long downhill orienteering course roughly following the major road. Thanks a lot to LAOC for the extra job of organizing shuttles to the start! Much of the course was going from trail to trail (or road) trying to get off and down the slopes at the right point. It demanded full concentration due to the high speed from the short course and the downhill character and some tricky control locations. However all controls where close to trails and it was often possible to follow the trail around so even less experienced orienteers could complete the course. I heard many of the blue runners praising the course afterwards as challenging to them, yet appropriate for less experienced runners. After a couple of small mistakes in the middle of the course, totaling about one minute, I ran very well in the end of the course. Running fast down a steep slope to a trail I came together with another runner, who took off inching away from me on the trail. This sometimes happen to, but then it is always a kid who sprints for 100 m before he gets tired, but this guy was about my age and kept going. It turned out that he, Vipul SInghal, was running for the Caltech orienteering club and had only orienteered twice before! It is not often I find myself in an orienteering race with someone who has only orienteered that little, but on this course it was nothing strange. Caltech had four runners attending the full weekend, lead by Victoria Stevens, a former member of the British national junior team and three others who were fairly new to orienteering, but showed great promise by already running fast on challenging courses.

Having had a pretty solid race on the prolog and with some mistakes from the other fast guys I got to start 70 seconds before the first chaser Greg Walker. This is enough of a gap in a night-chase that one should be able to not been seen by the chasers for a while if mistakes are avoided. I hence tried to approach the start of the race as an individual night-race. However, it is very hard to not think about the others and I have to confess I looked around several times during the race. Prior to the start we were told that the first half of the race would be primarily on trials. Initially I was a bit disappointed hearing that, but I know that even orienteering along trails in the dark can be challenging for an experienced orienteer. Upon flipping the map at the start I realized this was the case, many small trails whose twists, turns and junctions could be hard to see in the dark. Consequently, there was no reason to change my original plan to be extra careful in the beginning of the course, since I have not been running much night-O in the last 5 years. Also, looking at the winsplits afterwards, this was indeed the case, with much more mistakes for runners during the first half of the course compared to the second half. The techniques used in night-O is basically the same as in day-O, but night-O is much less forgiving. As long as one sticks to the plan, the same speed as in the day can more or less be kept (it is a little bit trickier to find the optimal path through the forest at night), but it is much harder to relocate or even correct ones route since features in the distance one has not planned to use are harder to see. Having a plan for the whole leg before starting out on it and things like direction, distance estimates, attackpoints and catching features are hence very important at a night-O. Personally, I think night-O is some of the best technical training one can do, since it forces you to do things correctly.

Below follows the approach I used for the different legs:
S-1: I tried to be a bit extra careful to avoid an early mistake and to inch back into my old night-O technique. To the trail junction 50m away at the bend, be observant since a small trail like this can be easy to run past in the dark. Another 20m then take off perpendicular to the trail along the ridge.
1-2: The forest was very nice and open around 1 so I decided to go straight to 2, trying to aim slightly to the left so I knew on which side I was if I hit the trail just behind. Running on it to 1, I suspected the trail should be hard to run over without seeing it. Unfortunately the forest immediately turned worse and it was hard to keep a straight direction, which made me a bit nervous. I came out to the left of a fallen tree on rough open , wasn’t convinced it was the maped one, so continued to the trail to be sure. Looked for the junction but didn't see it, still the boulder was down on the other side. ~20 seconds lost. Stupid route choice, obviously I should have taken the trail, even if the forest had been amazing and I ran straight to the control it had not been that much slower. More importantly, I like to take a trail route early, so I have time to look over the course, to see how much energy I need to save (not important for a short race like this) and find the tricky route choice legs so I have time to think about them before I get there.
2-3: Over the trail, didn't see the junction but kept going north on the compass near the edge of the undergrowth, while looking for the trail. Not worth to spend more time looking for the junction initally. Found the trail, followed it past the reentrant to the fallen tree, compass NE to hilltop.
3-4: Compass ESE 50 m to between shallow reentrant and ridge looking for the trial, I suspected it should be hard to spot. Found it, down to the rough open, compass 100m ENE to the NE corner of hilltop.
4-5: S to trail. Follow it up almost to the bend, compass SE 50m to reentrant.
5-6: S to bottom of reentrant. Contouring E to the gap between ridge and hilltop. Compass SSE 250m tried to follow the hillside to the ridge, aiming slightly right of control. Lost some concentration in the light green forest and realized I was heading to much E. Decided to go S, hoping to end up at the control. Came up on the ridge, but it looked like I was on its end. Could I have got that far left? Decided it was the only thing that made sense with the map. Lost 30-40 sec. At all previous controls I had taken a quick look back to see if I could see the others. Not very smart since I could give away the control locations. Strangely at the control I missed most at I got confident that the others would not catch up with me and did not look back from it (nor at any of the remaining).
6-7: Compass SSE 300m, trying to stay on the same height on the gentle slope. Aiming slightly right to the ridge as attackpoint. Saw it but the forest was so nice so no point in running up on it, just continued straight for the N end of the hill.
7-8: Compass ENE 250 on the wide ridge aiming straight for the control. Saw the stony ground before the circle and kept going straight to it.
8-9: Compass NNE 200m staying on the same height on the gentle slope down to reentrant. Aiming slightly to the left, saw the stony ground, realized I was just a few meters left, slightly less than planned but great.
9-10: Up the reentrant ENE. On my way up in the wrong reentrant, the one to the south, but realized it almost immediately, stayed slightly above the bottom of the reentrant on the south side for most of the leg.
10-11: SE to trail. Due to vegetation, turned into almost S, no big deal just some more trail running. After the uphill just in to the left. Decided to go in a bit earlier in the light green, than what should have been necessary, to be on the safe side, running parallel to the trial within visibility.
All in all a very solid night-O race I am happy with.

Finally on behalf of me and my club mates I would like to thank all the LAOC people who organized yet another amazing orienteering weekend in Mt. Pinos.

-Jonas Kjall, BAOC

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