Croom, March 2008, Bob Putnam

How those controls got into the woods

Here follows a control-by-control story of how those controls got into the woods for the Green, Red and Blue courses. See attached scan of the Blue course with my actual route red-inked onto it. Notice my course-setter’s master from Jonathan Linforth has control codes on it rather than control sequence numbers.

Step 1: Janet & I rise before dawn, stagger out the door, drive 2+hours to site, check out and set up a little. I help John Ide re-right the tipped port-o-lets, suit up (at 50 degrees my 17 years in FL means I need a turtleneck under the running suit) and put 13 controls in a bag over my arm (why does it seem to weigh 50 pounds?) and I’m ready to go.

Start to XXX
I had cheated by peeking at Ales’ course plan briefly last month so knew I’d attack from the trail to the west. Running down the trail, looking for the little hitch before the junction from where I should find white woods to the control, I try to read the map to plan for later controls. Trip umpteen times over roots doing this. Decide not to ‘plan ahead’ just yet. Reach what looks like top of trail slope and head left looking for the ‘white’ woods. Surprise myself by seeing what looks like both white woods blotches and am stopped by a ditch. That should be on the map, but I don’t see it. Have I gone too far? Too South? Wait, that’s not a ditch, it’s the indistinct trail. But where am I? Wait, it doesn’t matter – simply run left until it turns downhill and then I go straight north. That works and it’s a beautiful control feature. Quick check around confirms the little knoll in the center is the dot knoll control feature.

I could try to bee-line this and nail it but could easily miss in any direction, not knowing what kind of vegetation mapping to be ready for on this ‘new’ map. (yes, poor Ales was told he’d be “re” mapping but it turned out he virtually first-mapped). I decide to attack from trails N of control, since I now know they are vague but follow-able. Some confusion at the junctions maze but the depression helped to orient me, so when I think I’m about south of the trail crossing I take a rough bearing and count paces. I’m not quite sure of the spot when I find it – it looks like something I’d map this way but to be sure I search for the linear earth bank mapped as crossing the base of the V-shaped distinct vegetation boundary about 40 meters further south. I find it and it looks OK, so I go back and hang the control – low (because visibility is still pretty good from all directions).

Control-hanging note: The Retrievers, bless them all, are tying the controls up really well. I figure it took me about 13 minutes to untie 13 controls while hanging. I have a system of my own that I usually employ by sitting down the night before the hanging and re-tying controls so that when I get into the woods I can pull one string end and it flops open – takes about 3 seconds. Forgot this time. I gotta tell more people about this.

ZZZ to 275
Nice long leg. Tempting trail. Tempting road. But the forest I know by now will be pretty clear, even where its light green. So rough beeline and plan to attack from the hilltop NNW of control – looked like 130 meters from the distinct thicket, which I should easily find - although be on guard near control because I should not rely on all indistinct trails to act as backstop – I could cross right over one of these. Skirting the light green at edge of power line I nail the trail junction – lucky – and can simply run uphill to the top. Thicket is indeed prominent, so I head SE and count paces. Nail it, but take a few seconds to check for the indistinct trail along S edge to be sure. Hang it low again.

275 to 277
I’m afraid of this one because it’s almost 300 meters from the big trail with no real attack point. I’ll have to rely on contours – always an iffy thing to do in FL – and hope/plan that the bottom of the reentrant will lead me right in. I try to just head east from 275 to the hitch in the big trail but don’t detect it confidently. Figure I can’t be far off so continue east, counting paces, and beginning to fade toward the SE as I go, hoping to see the reentrant. I begin to see ‘something’ like my shallow reentrant so keep pace counting. Then, yes, I’m in it and I see to my left the mapped distinct vegetation cluster of oak saplings so scan ahead to look for the distinct tree in the center of the reentrant. Yes, there it is, with a nice patch of greenish junk to its south so no need to check around any further. Feeling cocky now.

277 to 324
Charge off east – looks about 130m to a clearing. Simple. Whoops. There’s another clearing, and another, and another. Do I know where I am? Am I too far south? Why wasn’t I counting paces? Rats! Contours say my clearing is L-shaped with the E leg downsloping. Keep going a little more. Try not to wander aimlessly….Ah, there it is. Whew. Hang it low so they have to see the clearing before the control. Don’t step in the fresh doo-doo 6’ from the control. Is it bear? Hmm. Ah, never mind, I have a course to run...

324 to 325
I made this harder than it was, not realizing – not thinking - how big and obvious the gigantic depression was going to be. Moving carefully, reading the map all the way and wasting time, I went to the top of the hill first, to pick up the trail, planning to attack from the bottom of the depression. I needn’t have bothered. Could have just folded the map and rammed NNW. Anyway, I went to what looked like the upper contour level in the nave of the NE trending side of the depression. The clue here could almost have been “reentrant”. This was Ales’ “movement” control, to set us up for the next leg, but this is the one spot where I think we could have done better. There’s a single distinct tree straight north of 324 and E of 325 that we maybe should have used. Read on to see why.

325 to 333
If I had moved the 333 control 330m NNW to the Vegetation Boundary, west side, it would have been more challenging than 333 in the depression. Although.... I fumbled maybe 1 or 2 minutes on this because I lost confidence as I attacked 333 from the big track. I couldn’t see the big round depression clearly and was unsure I’d seen the indistinct trail, so bailed out west and then came in from the W track as soon as I could see the track turn S of me. Easy, but goofus work on my part lost time.

333 to 334
What a delightful leg. I love this design and would have loved it just as much had I relocated #333 as noted. I bee-lined it, thinking I could hold a rough heading, pace count and look for that index contour reentrant at about the 300m point (which is for me about 100 ‘breaths’, since I breath two steps out and two steps in, while running). And now that I think of it, there were a lot of these just-about-300m things to do on this course. Anyway, it worked just like I planned and I nailed the thicket, but just in case I used a precision compass heading and counted paces 75m out to the trail junction SSW, to confirm. OK, so proceed.

At this point non-FLO readers are thinking: “If the attack point is 300m from the control it’s a “bingo control” and evidence of a poorly designed course. Not so. Believe me, in Florida, with our smooth terrain and open woods, and with our infrequent features and control sites, 200m to 300m is common for attack point to control. And not unfair. And not ‘bingo’.

334 to 335
I could see what Ales is doing here: trying to tempt us to go the long way around to the right on trails (or left on jeep track) to be safe, but thereby wasting valuable time. I’m feeling confident again so I follow the indistinct path south, believing I can jump off at the right spot. I want to go a full 300m (what’d I tell ya?) so as to use white woods, but the light green seemed pretty open, so left early when I saw the trail drop over what must be the contour, and “contoured” in. It looked right but I took a few seconds to double check the presence of the sucker-route trail, 20m away, just to be certain.

335 to 336
An especially delightful leg design, with the control sited just up over a hilltop – well, in Florida terms anyway, it’s “just” over the hill. My kinda placement. Light green forest is looking pretty passable here, so I decide to just head west until I can see, and/or bounce off, the fence corner at the houses. Then I’d just go to the top of the hill and NW from there. Woods were so open I could see the houses well before I expected and as I shifted direction to NW I passed the dark green thicket in the reentrant and so relocated nicely. That’s when I turned my brain off, shot over the top of the hill and well down toward the green thicket in the other reentrant before realizing “Oops, this is way too far. That distinct tree I just ran under must in fact have been the control site”. It was. Less than a minute lost.

336 to 337
“Piece of cake” I say to myself. Just beyond, and so close to, a big trail is more like an orange course placement. That would have been true if I’d paid attention to pace count and direction to the trail, but when I arrived at “trail” I didn’t know which trail I was on, or where exactly. Stutter and stagger along to where I can see the trail rising to a crest and the mapped yellow clearing to my right, before being confident again. My route might look clean on the map, but time was squandered in confusion and by missing one trail completely.

337 to 344
Classic leg! Lots of detail around the control. I had not taken time to plan this route beforehand so looked quickly and decided to skirt the darker green along its east flank and noticed I can do so by more or less ‘contouring’ once I’m N of the trails, in the light green. Then I see that the big fat nose of the hill will point me right into the control – skirting what should be a distinctly visible depression. I make this plan while running north from 337, checking off the big thicket and then the first trail. Hillside contour has deer trails that help. When I turn at the broad nose of the hill I head right into the depression, not along its N side as planned, but no sweat – woods are open. Up to top of hill, around the thicket and guess what I see? An old ribbon from 2 years ago when this same spot was used on a red course. Looks familiar now.

344 to 534
Another Classic Leg! Long, with tons of route choices. I decide right away (again, I have not planned ahead, but should have) to do this cross country without much trails, staying to the right of the bee line. My legs feel surprisingly good at this point and I’ve consumed most of my water so I think I’ve got steam left. I hold the line and come out on the power line right where I want to be. I then dive into the green, planning to parallel the bee line, and discover this was probably a bad move. Thrash about looking for the indistinct trail and by the time I find it I’ve abandoned bee line and will stick to trails, however indistinct. About 300m later (surprise, surprise) I only need to jump from one trail to the next and that one will take me right by control XXX. Not much thinking going on here, just running. Mistake. Should have planned a good attack point for 534. After passing XXX I was blasting down the hill on a rough compass just left of N, when I saw Paul Hodges approaching XXX from below, using the ‘other’ attack route. Shout “Hi”. Forge on, and into deep muck from previous night’s rain. Not sure I’m not too far right with this muck and get distracted again when I see Donna Fluegel also attacking XXX from the N. I shout “Hi”, again and tell her I have no idea where I am and it’s the truth. The little stream I’m looking for should be along the edge of the green but I can’t pick it out. Sort-of-quickly bail out W to the trail where I see people walking. The sharp turn, which should have been my attack point anyway, places me safely and I can pace to the stream end correctly. More time lost – probably several minutes. Hang the control and head in.

534 to 427
I don’t bother visiting #427, figuring I’ve earned a bye untying all those flags.

Final time: 102:13. Great course, with a good mix of challenges. I expect my 102 time will be bested, but only Paul Hodges does it, at 88 minutes. It turns out the red and green, truncating this blue course, also had high winning times. While the challenges were perhaps a little too much for our FLO crowd, these courses were I think, very appropriate USOF caliber and Ales did a terrific job.

Bob Putnam