Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Highs and lows

I did the FRA navigation course at the weekend. Some theory and practical lessons, a couple of short navigation exercises, one solo, one at night, all leading up to the big test on the Sunday. A "Death by Knoll" run round Silver Howe, 10 checkpoints to visit.

Feeling very unsure, I elected to be shadowed by an instructor who left me to do my own thing but was only a couple of minutes behind me if it all went wrong. Off to a good start, CPs 1-3 in the bag, easy, reassuring words from Anja, my shadow. First proper bit of route choice made to CP4, no problems I came in from above, spotted the flag, the cutoff made with 45 minutes to spare, all looking good. Onto CP5, again coming in from above the sheepfold spotted, a speedy dash, card clipped. The longest stretch now to CP6. And here's where it all went wrong. I knew to break it down into manageable sections, the two knolls and a boulder were reached. I took a bearing and off I went again. A very steep sided river valley was reached, uncrossable. Knowing that this couldn't be right I paused and waited for my shadow, looking at her map it became apparent that the main problem was my marking a checkpoint in the wrong place on my map. I got cross with myself. Things unravelled a bit. My shadow sorted me out and got me to a point I could relocate myself on the map. I was now nearer CP7 than 6. Did I want to go back or just miss the CP? I went back, I'd rather run out of time than fuck up and not really know what had gone wrong. CP6 properly located and bagged, I rushed back to CP7, the flag was being dismantled as I approached, I made a funny squeaking noise and Chris K marshalling put the flag back out for me, rewarded by the biggest grin ever from me. He checked I was OK, did I know where I was going next, yes, I told him my route choice. Off I went, bumped into another instructor who suggested I cut along a different path, so I did. Except when I got to the end of it, I couldn't work out which way to go. Three instructors calling me back up a hill.

Frustration, anger, fatigue, all too much, I cried, I wasn't going on, screw CPs 8-10. Instructor Kev, asked me what I'd eaten, nothing? No wonder the brain is shutting down, crisps, cheese sarnie, half a litre of nuun, I dried my eyes. A whisper of encouragement, CP 8 is only 2 knolls away, nobody has told them to take the flag down yet........... up, down, up, card clipped at the CP, down. Three more knolls and CP9 is bagged. Chris, the same marshall from CP7 is here, he's so pleased I'm still going, more grins. A quick route choice check, looking at the map with him and something really clicks this time. The contours really make sense and I can visualise what the ground ahead is doing, I know that slope will be too steep to be traversed, I realise a path must be 80m ahead that will then skirt round to the left, then right, then across the road, past the vehicle track, over some marsh, up the knoll. I bloody well know where I'm going and I do it. CP10 clipped. I run all the way back to the YHA and the end of the course.

I'm bedraggled, knackered, smelly, my legs are scratched, I've got a windchapped face, a freaky tan line on my legs, but a full card of checkpoint clips. I'm so chuffed. I can navigate, clearly though I am not safe to be left in sole charge of a pen when marking up a map.

A weekend of highs and lows, topographic and emotional. But this has massively increased my confidence. Already looking forward to my next time out on the fells with map and compass. I won't be the one having to follow someone else.


kate said...

well done!! sounds like a really worth while course. however, we should probably never pair up ;)

...d&w mini 14/11 interested?

jumbly said...

Tempting! Is it score or linear, can't see on the event website which it is. I have a xc race on the Saturday, but that shouldn't break me........ famous last words!

kate said...

score. we might be moving/tour of pendle the day the before. no excuses ;)

Pedalling Polarcherry said...

i've done a fra nav course up in kettlewell or kettlehell as my sister & i now call it..... i remember being useless, refusing to run and getting lost alot.
maps aren't my straing point so well done you for cracking it!

Pink Orange 5 said...

I quite like maps as you know it suits my OCD Garmin affliction. But I find the checkpoint stuff frustrating and wouldn't have the patience to do one of those unless someone else took responisbilty for it. So well done you didn more than I would have managed.