MY FIRST OVERNIGHT RACE – WEALDEN WATERS 2014

Frustration struck after the check point at 45 miles. I think.. We entered a field. Another instruction of continue up the let hand. Side of the field was starting to wear thin. By this point after running and walking for over 13 hours we were starting to lose our humour. It was cold, dark and the ground underfoot was craggy.

 

I don’t know much about the farming seasons. This is despite living in a little village. I can sum them up like this. Sometimes it is easy to run across a farmers field because it is flat and there is nothing growing to impede my way. Sometimes it is harder because the crops have formed a stranglehold on the path. Sometimes there is No path. No crops. No hope.

 

The instructions said follow the edge of the field until the first corner. We did that. We reached what we could describe as a corner. It was pitch black. We had to travel across the field at 120degrees from north. Aha. I had a compass. A little field compass. Happily it was a silva one. Silva make the best compasses. But you still need to know how to use one. I didn’t. I talked a good tale thought and I’m confident. Usually most confident when I am least confident and have nothing to back it up. We headed across a recently ploughed field. To say it was a hateful experience is an underestimate. There was no path. 2we? mounted ridge after ridge of the field. Heading vaguely 120 degrees. There were probably one hundred people ahead of us and yet I wasn’t that worried that I couldn’t see any sign of all these walkers and runners. We reached the field boundary. No stile. Right for a couple of hundred feet.  Nothing. Right for a few hundred feet. Nothing. We rounded the field. Sarah convinced herself that there was another part of the field that we should have headed for. She had been here before. Marking the territory so to speak. Recceeing the route. We got to that side of the field. Nothing. We soon came across a stile. Over that we went. Success. We were on our way. The instructions said that there was another field. Well there wasn’t. But there was after we had run 300 ft. After we went over two stiles. Yes. A narrow field. But narrow in the wrong dimensions. I looked at my Garmin and discovered we were close to the previous checkpoint.

 

What do you do in a circumstance like this? There are a few options. 1) sit down and cry. 2) go back to the place which was last correct 3) persuade yourself that you’re right.

 

We did all of those things. We found ourselves back in the field of despair. We tracked back down to the edge of the field. Working out that that was the place that we came into the field and once and for all agreeing that the route that we had just taken was absolutely wrong. Then we waited. We saw a head torch. It was a hopeful sight. We agreed that we wouldn’t mention we were lost. We would just see which way that guy went. He ran up to us. We said we were resting. He said it’s this way and headed across the field. The same way that we had run one hour earlier.

 

I realised that we had drifted off our bearing an hour ago and this chap led us directly to the stile. Phew. One hour wasted. Yikes. Hopefully we would still make the cut offs.

 

I’m afraid after that incident I threw a little strop. I wasn’t navigating any longer. I had done 45 miles. And I was pretty exhausted. And I had got us lost. I was despondent. Disappointed. And a bit fed up. We trundled off into the night. And promptly got lost again. This was no fun. Sarah had already recceed the route but we couldn’t see any reflective markers. At all.  We stumbled round a field. And eventually found an exit. Again. This wasn’t going well.

 

What did I learn from this? Better navigation was a high priority. I needed to learn not just how to use a compass. But how to navigate. The tips and tricks that would mean that I would never get lost again.

 

I did some research and after a reserve and collect online I was the proud owner of a Garmin Etrex 20 with topo maps. Yay! I had in the front of my mind the second attempt at Dusk til Dawn. I needed to have good navigation skills for that. Mine were terrible.

 

My first experiences with the Garmin were very frustrating. I estimated that I spent around 100 hours trying to understand how to use the thing. I read lots online. Including the website of a chap who had obviously spent his life working it out. The best description I can give of it is it is like stepping back to the mid 1990s to a non Nokia phone and working out how to send a text or do something like set an alarm or use WAP for the first time. It was annoying.


Eventually I worked out how to use it. How to set up tracks and convert them into routes and download them to my Garmin. I had plenty of opportunity to test it out because I organised Twelve Ghosts of Pluckley run in the September.

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