Problem: I have been following your advice and want to step up from local events to events in the South of Scotland Orienteering League (SoSOL). On the day of such competitions, what should I do to prepare for success, once I arrive at the event and in the three boxes at the start?
Doctor-O's response: Whilst it’s understandable that those with only experience of local events may be nervous of moving up to SoSOLs, there is nothing to be nervous about. They are similar to local events but bigger – more courses, more people and usually larger (more extensive) areas.
More courses - SoSOLs (level C events) offer the usual White, Yellow and Orange standard courses available at local (level D) events, but also include more technical and longer courses, i.e. Light Green, Green, Blue and Brown. Light Green (Technical Difficulty 4) is a step up from Orange (TD 3), whilst the other three are as technically difficult as the area will allow (TD 5). The difference between these three courses is their physical difficulty, with the course length increasing from Green through Blue to Brown. The nature of the terrain determines the actual lengths for these courses, as areas of rough ground with few paths can reduce runnability significantly. This does not really affect White & Yellow courses, as these follow paths, although these may be less distinct, e.g. in woodland, than in city parks. An Orange course, although planned to the same standards as at a local event, will often involve navigation across more difficult terrain; the same skills are ‘tested’ but the terrain is likely to be less forgiving if the required skills are not fully developed.
More people - With a greater range of courses, SoSOLs attract orienteers from across the region and, therefore, more formal procedures are required, particularly at the start, to deal with the larger number of participants. The current procedure (call-up at 3 minutes before your start time and moving forward every minute through the boxes at –2 and –1) was developed when timing was manual and it was important to ensure everybody started at their allotted start time, with sufficient time to deal with any problems before the competitor’s start time. Typically, there will be a call-up official at –3 (3 minutes before your start time), and the clock on display will be set 3 minutes ahead of that on the start line, i.e. you move into the start system (boxes) when the call-up clock displays your start time. There will be a start official on the start line giving you any important last-minute information, and indicating when you can start (usually aided by a bleeping, countdown clock). You do not collect your map until your time begins, i.e. after you have started; the only exceptions are the White & Yellow courses for which maps are issued at Registration (essentially to enable juniors/novices to see the maps before they start). There will usually also be a third person at the start to help anyone requiring assistance so, if in doubt, ASK.
Larger areas - Because of the requirements for the longer courses, areas used for SoSOLs tend to be some distance from towns and cities, but with Holyrood Park, the Pentlands and Gullane Dunes close to Edinburgh city centre, there is plenty of opportunity to sample a SoSOL. The same standard courses are available as at a local event, i.e. White, Yellow & Orange. If you have successfully completed a number of Orange courses, why not have a go at Light Green?
Now that we know there is nothing to worry about, and even if there is a concern, you can always ask a start official or fellow competitor (but not on the start line!), let’s look at race preparation on the day:
• Arrive in plenty of time.
• Stick to your race day routine.
• Allow extra time to catch up with friends.
• Wrap insulating tape around your shoelaces (to ensure they stay tied).
• Warm up properly.
• Check the finish – can you see the last control?
• Get to the START with at least 10 minutes to spare.
• If you have a start time, check the call-up clock when you arrive
• Finish your warm-up routine with dynamic mobilisation exercises and lift your heart rate with a few sprints
• Look at how the start system is set-up and watch competitors leaving the start.
• Focus on how you are going to approach the race.
• Relax to reduce or avoid anxiety.
• Remind yourself that you are there to ENJOY yourself
• Check which direction is north so that you can quickly set the map.
• When you get the map check it is the correct course and locate the start triangle.
• Go very carefully to the first control.
Phew! The orienteering should be a piece of cake after all that ;-)
And finally, whether you adopt all or part or none of the above, remember: ENJOY!