PART 1: A Trail Runner’s Attempt at a Navigation Race

03.10.16 Written By: Gretchen Walla
PART 1: A Trail Runner’s Attempt at a Navigation Race
BUT WAIT, there aren’t any confidence streamers?   WHERE DO I GO?
PART 1: A Trail Runner’s Attempt at a Navigation Race
For anyone who has run with me on the trails, I am a lost soul. Literally.  I once ran with a friend on Tiger Mountain and when we found ourselves unsure where to go, I felt prepared because I packed a map!  We pull it out, and I begin trying to zero in on where we were.  My dear, sweet, patient friend on the other hand, informed me that I had pulled out a map of Cougar Mountain. Damn it—wrong cat mountain. We found our way back to the car, but dang, did I have quite the embarrassed ego.
I am also that trail runner who DEPENDS on confidence streamers in races. When I was at mile 20+ in my first 100 mile race last summer, I probably lost 15-20 minutes back tracking a few times because I hadn’t seen a confidence streamer. Never mind that the course manual had warned us to follow the PCT markers along the PCT section (uh, hello) and heaven forbid I actually study the many course maps provided for this race.  It’s probably pretty apparent that I like to daydream while running or hiking on the trails.  Funny thing is, I know I am not alone among my trail running pals in this habit.
 ME - Cropped pic for Nav blog
However, none of my trail running pals work for MerGeo, a Seattle-based company that puts on not only trail races but also wilderness navigation races and Street Scramble urban orienteering races.  As the Marketing Manager, I feel quite comfortable promoting our trail races. Street Scramble events are like urban scavenger hunts and while it requires a map and planning routes, you are in a city and can ask for help if you get lost or pull out your phone and check your GPS dot on the map. I wasn’t at all intimidated to give that a shot.  But an orienteering race that is a sport of navigation?  These are in more remote areas where your map and compass skills do come into play so you can find certain checkpoints.
I do recall telling my supervisor, Eric Bone, I learn best from hands on experience, so it did make sense for me to experience a navigation race.  Before I share what that resulted in, a little tidbit about Eric.  He is a navigation orienteering BADASS. He represents the USA at the World Orienteering Championships.  Check out his profile.  Badass right?  Also the most humble person who will want to edit this all out, but after what he signed me up for, it’s staying.
What am I signed up for? This Saturday I will be at the Ultimate Orienteering Series race #3 NIGHT at Lincoln Park. That’s right, I need to find my way through the dark to certain checkpoints.  Thankfully, it’s in a city park and Eric said he’d help me through.  But I have some anxiety that I won’t find even one checkpoint let alone several.  There also might be the anxiety that Eric will want to find a new MerGeo Marketing Manager.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Could Gretchen Find At Least One Checkpoint Or Did She Try To Pull Out A Map For Bridle Trails At Lincoln Park In Front Of Her Supervisor?  Ok, so that’s what the title of my nightmare would be.  In all honesty, I am sure my post-race write-up will be a positive one because there will be a lot of people to help and cheer a newbie on including Eric. However, I have a feeling there will be a lot of laughs along the way….