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James celebrates being 5 years off being an M35 with a trip to the Lakes

01-Jul-22

To celebrate James Hoad's 21st birthday, DRONGOs James, Natalie, John O and Jeremy, Honorary DRONGO Phil V, and unregistered DRONGOs Jess, Paddy, Becca and Bowers headed to the Lakes for the Buttermere fell race.

On Friday, everyone based in London met promptly at James' house at 8:30. Jeremy definitely didn't think the pickup time was 12hrs later, and therefore didn't need to be picked up from the M40 instead, as this would have been very stupid. Other things that didn't happen on the journey include:
• James missing the turning and having to pay to use the M6 Toll
• James having lots of fun with car in "envigorising" mode on the M40 and the M6
• This and the bikes on the roof meant James's car could play a fun game of which would come first: the car arriving at James's selected petrol station, or the car running out of petrol. Jeremy and Paddy wondered what would happen if petrol station was closed, which Jess didn't find very funny. Thanks to drafting behind a caravan at 50mph for the last motorway section, over the 325 mile journey the petrol station won by 8 miles.

Once we had arrived at the YHA with no drama whatsoever, the Londoners decided to make use of the sunlight to go for a run and swim. James declared the run to be 4km, so complaints will be written to the multiple GPS watch manufacturers who's gadgets said the run was 8km.

John and Bowers arrived suspiciously just as dinner had been cooked. Unfortunately personal alcohol is banned in YHAs, so many trips were needed to James' room to top up coffee mugs with 'latte'. Some very red looking tea was also 'brewed' in a teapot.

At Jess's recommendation, pudding started strongly with some Cartmel's sticky toffee pudding. It then went quickly downhill with some Eton Tidy, which Jeremy had entirely deliberately dropped on the floor to make Eton Mess. This was bottomed out with some very dense Booths own brand Cheesecake.By this point John and Jeremy had had enough 'latte' to decide that late night dip in Buttermere lake was needed. Unfortunately they managed to choose a spot with a stonebank, and had to walk a long way out to get deep enough to swim.

Just as Jeremy was going to bed, Phil arrived, which was fortunate for Phil as Jeremy could show him where his bed was. Less fortunate was Becca, who's unregistered DRONGO "friends" had failed to tell her the room number. After wandering the corridors and trying to call people with no phone signal, she decided to sleep in the lounge with a camper who's tent had blown away and had smelly feet.

Saturday was James' big day, so he was presented with a card made out of an old Amazon parcel, his broken Garmin charger and some shoe tape that he'd left in Finland. Jess also gave him a “Birthday Boy” badge so everyone at the race would know he was a big birthday boy.

Once James had sufficiently enjoyed his gifts, we drove to the start of the Buttermere fellrace. Whilst getting out of the car, James's bum bag didn't like the sound of 35km with 2500m climb, so promptly split open just before race start. As it was his birthday, he was quickly rescued by John's spare after only a small amount of laughing at him.

The race started with a difficult to hear cheer for James' birthday, followed by a mumble that we should probably go. Phil missed the start because he was in the portaloo like an idiot. Fortunately he was able to catch up by the first hill. Unfortunately his map remained at the start, because he is an idiot.

More used to boring starts as a road runner, Paddy showed true pace from the start and ran off the front. The top fell runners were somewhat confused as to who the weird man dressed in pink was. Unfortunately the go-faster pink wasn't fast enough on the descents for Paddy to hold off all the fell runners, so he had to settle for 2nd on the 21km "short course". John O came in next for a very lonely 3rd, 10 mins behind Paddy and 5 mins ahead of 4th. Becca, Jeremy and Jess all followed in with the pack, happy to have completed the course with relatively little incident.

On the long, Phil was first DRONGO back in 8th having been mostly successful at guessing where the course went until the end where he went to the carpark before the finish to let a couple of people past right at the end. James and Bowers both managed top 20 finishes, with James looking sufficiently worn out on his 21st

Thankfully, this being a Lake District Fell race, James and all the DRONGOs were soon revived by the smorgasbord of pies, cake and brews served at the finish by the friendliest volunteers ever, and included in the £8 entry fee(!) Jess was particularly proud to be affectionately referred to by the locals as "duck".

After some swimming, the party headed to a pub. Then it headed to another pub because the first one wasn’t big enough for 9 of us. This was good though because the barman at the second pub turned out to be fellow orienteer and lakes local Spenny. This meant:
• Informed food recommendations based on portion size
• Permission to eat Pam’s cake
• Provided with birthday candles for aforementioned cake
• Free drinks for following the pub on Insta (or Facebook if you’re a Grandad who doesn’t have Insta)

Bowers drank a pint very fast and then went to challenge a hen party to a boat race, but ended up just giving them free cake. James looked tired after his big race so was fed Jagerbombs to revive him. Somehow this turned into everyone drinking Jagerbombs, which is appropriate as it was a 21st. Because we had such a good time, we left a nice tripadvisor review. Hopefully Spenny gets promoted because of it.

The next morning it was raining, and some legs hurt, so the DRONGOs drove to Honistor Pass for a shorter low level walk. Upon arrival, Phil was first to discover the car park was £5/car, which seemed outrageous. He therefore spent £10 in petrol driving between other car parks (which also charged £5/car) unsuccessfully trying to find somewhere cheaper to park.

The key feature of the walk was the rain - in the words of the world's best runner:

"We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath." At the end of the short walk, it was still raining and everyone was now cold and wet, so we headed to a cafe to warm up. However the cafe wasn’t very warm and the butties advertised as being served on “Artisan rolls” were actually served on white hovis loaf. After everyone had enjoyed a hot chocolate (or other hot brown liquid), it was still raining so we drove into Kewsick to another cafe. This time less brown liquid but more brown food was ordered. Jeremy was quite full so ordered a side of chips, but this backfired when the plate was bigger than the mains.

At this point it was still raining, just not as heavily, so John, Natalie and Jeremy headed back to Lancaster where Natalie discovered the Ockenden snake. Phil went for a run on his own because nobody else wanted to come with him, possibly because it had lots of climb, or possibly because he has bad chat. Everyone else went back to Borrowdale YHA where James couldn’t hack the spice level of Bowers’ curry and didn’t finish it because he clearly isn’t a spicy boi.

Keen for a warm up cycle, Bowers did a double Honister pass climb to go back to previous YHA when he remembered he had left some of his stuff there. Other exciting athletic achievements included a spectacular black ball pot by Jess despite still having multiple balls still to pot on the table. Becca performed an elaborate stretching routine to provide a moving obstacle for the pool and table tennis players. James & Jess sat in the cold river by the hostel and drank beers - this has been proved to be 110% more effective for recovery than elaborate stretching routines.

On Monday morning Natalie left early for a train back to London to do things to rats. John and Jeremy had an excellent work from Lancaster party, featuring lots of tea, meetings and yawning.

Whilst serious amounts of work happened in Lancaster, more fun people continued their weekend with a "gentle" cycle around the Lakes. Whilst the author wasn't present apparently this included James being repeatedly dropped by Bowers & Paddy on every hill (which seems unkind to do to the birthday boy) and being rained on on every descent.

Luckily lots more DrongOs will probably be turning 21 soon so we will have excuses to go on more fun trips!

Harriet does DrongO proud

28-Jun-22

Harriet Burdett of DrongO recently attended the prestigious Keyne-O at Furzton and Teardrop Lakes on Sunday 26th June. This mass-participation race was attended by competitors from across the midlands - rumour has it that at all 40 orienteers from the local area were in attendance. Harriet signed herself up to the 5km "Short Run" , and had an extremely close race with international athlete Martin Cook. While Harriet had a stormer of a first control, getting the fastest split by a massive 2 seconds, by the time she reached control 7 she was 38 seconds down on the leader. Realising that she might get beaten by an M65, Harriet kept things together and took the lead back on the way to control 14, holding until the finish where she won by 12 seconds.

When interviewed by national newspapers, Harriet said "My proudest achievement... Got a first" before giggling nervously and adding "It was a stupidly local event and I knew the area well but even so, I'm proud of myself". Just look at how happy she is in the photo!

At DrongO, we are all proud to have Harriet as part of the team, and wish her the best of luck in her next big endevour at Howe Park Wood next month.

DrongO goes to Jukola

27-Jun-22

Jukola 2022 was attended with much anticipation from a large group of DrongOs, topped up with a few people from CUOC, JOK, OUOC and honorary DrongOs. This led to a fantastic entry of three 7-person Jukola teams and one 4-woman Venla team. There were only four Jukola teams from the UK, so we were most of them!

In a change from the norm, James A coordinated the Jukola weekend itself, with several others stepping up to organise a fun few days of holiday/training beforehand.

A few people arrived a full week before Jukola and started out with some Helsinki tourism, before joining up with more DrongOs on Tuesday at a forest AirBnb. We were unsure if Jeremy's accommodation reputation (earned in Madeira) would be ruined, since this place had no swimming pool, and claimed to sleep 13 people whilst being really not very big! However, it was saved by the presence of a sauna and the fact that the garden ended in the sea, and it turned out you could actually sleep 15 people there if two of them were in a tent in the garden!

On of our first tasks upon arriving was importantly to put up the DrongO banner. Handily the garden had a huge flagpole in it, and we couldn't not use it! This is the only pole which has ever made the banner look small. Unfortunately the night was too much for it though, and the next morning the banner was sadly lying on the ground. Other features of the accommodation included an ornament with dangly gold chains which were very pleasant on your hands/face, 2.5 bathrooms, and roll-down walls which were very much not opaque, and therefore no privacy was provided by them.

There were three days of glorious sunshine forecast before the weekend. Wednesday morning started with some people going swimming and breakfast outside, before planning some training on Finland's "MapAnt" directly from the hut. Most people ran the course successfully but Ben W came back early after going over on his ankle. At some point Jeremy decided to save weight for the journey home by snapping his toothbrush in half...whilst it was covered in toothpaste in his mouth. Some people went for a second training session on the other part of the island because Zuzka said the map looked nicer there, the terrain was indeed nicer and Phil saw a moose whilst control hanging. We had a barbecue in the evening, which for once didn't involve rain!

On Thursday we headed to one of the official Jukola training areas. Having legitimately obtained maps to train on, everyone ran around finding kites, mostly successfully. The area had beautifully rocky hilltops interspersed with forest and marshes. After orienteering we went swimming in a quarry and sat in the sun for a bit, before going for a quick bit of tourism in Turku. The highlight was building a dam in a water feature which pleased the fluid dynamicists greatly. At some point Ben S declared Rona to be his friend in a slightly unusual way, and we learned from the Finnish guide book that Finns are quirky, dark and self-deprecating. Jeremy also renamed Helen to Lauren and Rona to Lindsay after having memory recall issues.

On Friday we had a slow start as we had to pack everything up to leave for Jukola. There was also time for a quick 120 Celsius sauna which was incredibly toasty. Some people gently (or not so gently) whipped each other with birch branches in the sauna, which made them smell nice - another trick leaned from the guide book. Eventually most people went kayaking in Turku in the afternoon, while a few people went to another lucious training area. The kayaking highlight was a fountain, which some people kayaked through to cool off!

Jukola

We then headed off to the big event Jukola 2022, laying our stuff out in the two military tents we had booked. Ben and Zuzka pitched their tent inside the other tent in order to avoid mosquitoes after a scarring experience at Jukola 2016. This proved unnecessary as the mosquitoes really weren't that bad this time! The evening was spent sitting in the last of the sun and exploring the arena. Ben W and Zuzka also went to the Jukola concert in the local church, which wasn't that special and appeared not to be related to Jukola, other than having an O kite hung outside the church. As the sun was setting a smaller group went out for some night (or at least slightly dim) training on another lovely area.

At about 4am many people awoke to the sound of heavy rain on the tent. It was an excellent reason to lie in for as long as possible. By the time Venla started on Saturday afternoon the rain had reduced to a light drizzle. Miranda headed off first in the 1400-team mass start. From 1123rd in the start list she pulled up to 659th by the first radio control, roughly holding it to hand over to Sarah Pedley, who pulled us up to 447th. Things continued upwards with Rona Lindsay and Helen Ockenden completing the relay in 244th overall! During the middle part of the relay, Ben, Zuzka and Richard went shopping to provide team bread and fillings, since Jukola food was rather pricey to eat all the time, but rather tasty to eat some of the time - there's only so many consecutive meals of bread and cheese you can have! Rona complained about the Jukola bib being too large to pin below her breasts, to which Dom responded "to be fair, they are enormous" - completely oblivious to the possibility that he could be talking about anything other than the Jukola bibs.

Once Phil had finished repeating Dom's quote to as many people as possible, it was about time for the Jukola start. DrongO 1 had James Ackland on first leg, with James Hoad and Jeremy Knott running for DrongO 2 and 3. The mass start was absolutely spectacular with 1600 headtorches heading along the run out and into the forest. All three teams started well down in around 1200th place, but James A brought us back in 246th, with James H 448th and Jeremy 1074th, having been reinstated from the backup punching after a complete emit brick failure.

About as first leg was finishing, it started to rain quite a lot. This lasted approximately for the direction of second leg, before the sky cleared for a sunny Sunday. Ben W headed out for DrongO 1 and gained another 60 places to get us into 186th. Phil Vokes then had a stormer of a run (fuelled by a massive smoked fish meal), coming 97th on his leg and bringing the team up to 141st. Disaster struck when he finished though as 4th leg runner Fiona Bunn wasn't at the handover! It transpired she had been in the box watching for Phil but just hadn't seen him streaking past! Fiona kept a straight head though and orienteered well, and was only 27 places down by the end of her leg. The team kept going up - completed by Paul Pružina (gaining 13 places), Ben Stevens (gaining 6 places) and Luke Fisher who also had an excellent run, finishing 67th on his leg and bringing the team home in 127th overall, a really great DrongO result!

In DrongO 2, James H handed over to Helen Ockenden, with James Turton, Helen Hanstock, Zuzka Windsor, Jack Smith and Richard Watkins completing the team to finish 571st. It was a very close fight with DrongO 3, who finished 3 minutes behind in 582nd with Ben Kyd, Ryan Elliot, Alex Elliot, Helen Pružina, Dom Dakin and Phil Vokes completing the team. It was Phil's second run of the night after about 50 minutes if sleep and only one banana, and his sugar ran out about 2/3 of the way round which added to the close result!

In the morning people watched the DrongO teams finishing, slept, packed up, and mostly headed back to the airport. A few people spent one last night in Helsinki and had a Monday of tourism. This allowed them time to finish the last kilo of cheese. Their journey to Helsinki was going smoothly before Rona decided to "just double check" what time the bus left, with the double check coming out with a result of ten minutes ago. This led to much panicked transport replanning, finally leading to us spending 2 hours sitting in the sun waiting for the next bus while Paul and Ben S, who had gone to Helsinki by car, cooked a tasty dinner for when we arrived. The dinner was finally a dinner which didn't involve cheese, so we remedied this by covering it in cheese.

Well done to everyone who ran and thanks to everybody who helped to organise the trip! There's been suggestion of a top-100 target next year! Go DrongO!!

DrongO at the British Sprint Champs

12-Jun-22

On 11-12 June the British Sprint championships were held in Leeds. Results can be found here.

The Pruzina-Walsh-Stemp household was used as a very convenient base. On Friday Ben W and Peter D arrived. Ben W determined that Leeds was in the north based on McDonald's chips costing under £2, and the bus fare being £1.

On Saturday it was the sprint relay champs. Ben W spent this day at a wedding, so somebody else should write this paragraph.

On Sunday it was the individual sprints, with qualifiers in the morning and finals in the afternoon. Assembly was in the very nice Leeds student union with a plorethra of toilet and food facilities. The sprint heats had lots of controls, and lots of controls in gardens, and the planning made it a good challenge to navigate cleanly and plan ahead. Some people had strange/negative split times, but syncing the boxes before a major event isn't essential so all was fine since at least everybody's times were off by the same amount (we think?).

After the heats there was a few hours until the finals, with most people eating a smallish lunch while Ben W gambled on having a late start and sampling the student union's full roast, which provided further confirmation that Leeds is in the north.

Start times for the finals were announced about 15 minutes before the first final start, and additionally the selections for the finals didn't really follow the rules written in the final details. However, Ben S managed to blag himself into the A final, while Paul ended up in the C because he lives in Leeds and therefore must know the university site really well which would be an unfair advantage, especially since somebody fast like Paul was likely to gain a podium position were he allowed to be competitive.

The finals started and an unexpected start-spectating spot was found at the back of the student union building. The finals had less gardens and more multi-level stuff including a chance to run through the famous tunnel (it wasn't the best route choice though).

There were just two DrongOs in the A final, Ben W who finished 18th 4 minutes down on NZ winner Tim Robertson with Ben S in 23rd. Fiona Bunn was the only DrongO woman in the A final, finishing 9th, 3 minutes down on winner Meg Carter-Davies. It's also worth noting that neither Ben S nor Fiona should really have been mentioned, since both entered under the wrong club.

After the final some people dashed off quickly to catch trains and everybody else dashed off at a more standard pace to go home.

Irish Championships 2022

12-May-22

While most of the club were busy celebrating CUOC's 51st anniversary by running around Thetford, three more discerning Drongos decided to sample some real terrain instead, and made the trip over to Kerry for the Irish Championships. Unlike the national championships of some lesser nations, the IOC is a four day extravaganza over the May Day weekend, which takes the same format as the JK. Paul and Helen O had travelled over to Comber the Monday before to spend some quality time with Max the dog, while Ben S went straight to Kerry later in the week with his family.

Paul sprinting Ben sprinting The sprint on Friday was in the evening, allowing plenty of time for the 6 hour drive the length of the country. We had been told to leave extra time for travelling because the town was being shared with the Rally of the Lakes - a 3 day festival of fossil fuels, skid marks on the roads, and engines that sounded broken. Luckily the traffic ended up being not too bad, so we arrived in good time for the race.

The sprint itself was around Muckross Estate, an old country house with landscaped garden and craggy runnable woods. We were launched straight into a rock garden, which was tricky enough that most people were walking round. After that the intensity stayed high, with tricky legs around the woods. Everyone agreed that it was great craic and there should be more forest sprints. Paul and Helen were both 3rd, with Ben in 8th.

Helen finishing the Middle The next morning we headed west for the Middle. On the way, Paul and Helen picked up a great Dane called Jørgen, who hails from Silkeborg (which the reader may recall from past CUOC reports). He told us that he aims to orienteer in one new country every year, and Ireland was his 24th.

Paul running the Middle The Middle race itself was in classic Irish terrain - rough open mountain, with a decent amount of contours, although less rocks than normal. The courses weren't especially technical, but they weren't too easy either, and the running was quite physical. Paul won the Men's, retaining his title from 2019, while Helen and Ben were 2nd and 7th. After the race, Paul and Helen went for a swim in the lough by the assembly, but Ben decided to wait and go in the sea later.

In the evening there was a 'Music and Cultural Evening' in the centre of Killarney, which included some music performances and céilí dancing, but the big highlight was the Irish dancers on stage, who demonstrated perfectly why the band didn't need a percussion section.

On Sunday morning it was raining, which, after two dry days, was only to be expected. Today's area is one of the best maps in the country, and was used for a World Cup race in 1998. It was everything you can want from an Irish hillside - rough and wet and tricky. Everyone loves Crohane. Today's courses featured some shorter legs round the western end of the area, followed by a mega leg all the way to the east, before throwing you into very tricky plantation forest for the end. Helen had a slight 10min mistake to the first control, then lost her compass on the long leg. Paul dropped out because his knee hurt. Ben had a much better performance, finishing 3rd.

On Sunday evening there was a prize giving in Killarney, preceded by a short talk by the new CEO of Sport Ireland, who is also an orienteer, which can only be good for the sport. Lots of people picked up some nice pottery, and then we walked around town looking for a pub, and watching Gardaí drive around in cars they'd confiscated from rally hooligans.

Monday morning's relays were right beside the town, around a mixture of parkland and very nice woodland. Paul and Helen ran for LVO teams, while Ben had a Stevens Family Team. Paul came back first on his leg, with his biggest time loss being from waiting for a herd of deer to leave the control. Ben had an equally good run, coming back at the same time having started two minutes later on a marginally shorter course. Helen hasn't told me how she did (but I probably should have asked).

Helen on the scrambly ridge After the race, Paul and Helen went up some big hills including the Ireland's scrambliest ridge (which was pretty scrambly), before driving north leisurely the next day. The Stevens family stayed on for a few days of holiday in a very nice part of the world.

Next year's Irish Champs are near Dublin, and followed the next weekend by the British Sprint and Middles in Armagh and Down. All these places are very easy to get to from Britain. You should come.

CUOC 50th Celebration Dinner

01-May-22

CUOC memories shared at the dinner: HTML | PDF (2MB) | PDF (8MB)

After a year's delay, CUOC's 50th anniversary celebration happened on the last day of April, year 51ACUOC. It seemed that many of the DrongOs who attended the 40th didn't make this one (we were told that we should blame children for this), and many DrongOs who were children themselves at the time of the 40th were in attendance.

The festivities started at around 1pm in a beautifully sunny Brandon Country Park, with some training to remind everybody how lovely some parts of Thetford forest are at this time of year, how brambly some other parts are, and how to navigate to a pit in the middle of a load of other pits in the middle of broken ground because there were too many pits to put on the map. Many people arrived on time by car, whilst Jeremy's "party train" (consisting of just him) arrived shortly afterwards. There was a 9km trains exercise, which most people did about 5km or less of, since everybody needed to save themselves for the very serious peg relay which was to follow.

John and Helen P arrived on their hour-delayed train in time for the peg relay start, having spent their delay time drinking tea and taking selfies using the wrong camera.

As tension mounted for the start of the peg relay, Lachlan unceremoniously shouted "go" and Matthew pegged it off, followed by everybody else not reading their maps. Matthew led everybody to the wrong place for control 1, then led them to the right place, but no control was to be found. The pack of 20 wandered around randomly for a while, carefully stepping around the ground-nesting birds, before the control was spotted and the pegs were quickly devoured. This left several of the faster runners without pegs. Fortunately the rest of the controls seemed to be in the right place, the bracken was still dead, and the map wasn't as out of date as we thought it might be, so everybody had a nice run around the rest of the course. The "elite" CUOCers were back first, because they didn't do the whole course. Matthew and Ben W were back next, but had missed the first peg. James H came back several minutes later as the winner having got all the pegs though!

We all hurried back to Cambridge for showers before an exciting mystery pre-dinner activity - the only hint was that we'd only been told to install an electric scooter app. It turned out to be a 3-leg relay around Cambridge City Centre on electric scooters! Of course, safety was very important so everybody went as quickly as possible to minimise the time window spent on the scooters during which injury could occur.

As soon as everyone was done, we moved to Sidney Sussex college for the main event of the day, the 50th anniversary celebration dinner. The food was very tasty and nicely presented. We swapped places between courses to be able to talk to more people. When the eating part was done port was then served, and Richard had organised a fun quiz where you were given a map extract of a CUOC area, and had to identify the area and the mapper. The teams with John O and Ben W in came first and second respectively, which was definitely nothing to do with several of the maps having been mapped by them. Ben W had also collated several pages of memories, news and photos from 52 DrongO members all over the world, which were handed round for everybody to look at.

Colin Duckworth then gave a very well thought out speech about a variety of topics relating to his orienteering experiences, including the M25. He had also brought along a folder of old maps from his time in CUOC which were very interesting to look through! Lachlan Chevasse (CUOC Captain), Pete Molloy (CUOC Treasurer), and Ben W then all gave less planned-out speeches, during which Pete told us how CUOC had committed fraud and that CUOC were actually going to pay its members to go to Czech Varsity next year due to the success of the latest city race. We then took a variety of group photos, and DrongO taught CUOC how to build a human pyramid.

The "low" level partiers then headed home, and everybody else moved to Sidney Sussex bar for some more socialising. John taught the barman how to make Stockholm cocktail and had to go back for a second jug! The "low-medium" level partiers then headed off, and everybody else tried to move to a pub. The first one we tried was full, but the second one was completely empty so we got personal service from barman Lachlan, being provided with a variety of interesting drinks we wouldn't have thought to try in any other pub.

The "medium" level partiers then headed home, Zuzka persuaded Ben W to upgrade to "high", and everybody else tried to go to Lola's because it was mapped. It was also full, so we settled for Revs. After about 10 minutes in a very crowded/loud/hot room, Zuzka decided she didn't like "high" so much so her and Ben went and danced on their own downstairs where it was only loud, but not crowded or hot. Shortly after Miranda and Tom went home, because Miranda didn't like partying with her dad. Adam waited a while to be sure that he'd firmly outpartied his daughter, before he too headed off.

At some point Revs closed, so the remaining people got some late night food. The 7 people who were cramming into Rowan's house sensibly decided to taxi home rather than electric scooter. Rumour has it that Stephen, who definitely won the >M/W21 party, made it back on a scooter though.

This just left Matthew V, the only "extreme" partier, who danced the streets of Cambridge with his Stockholm cocktail to songs such as "You and Me" and "Deepest Forest (Jukola)" and "This is Wales", all the way through until the 0922 departure to King's Cross.

Lakes Weekend

29-Apr-22

Jeremy arrived early on Friday afternoon in order to go to the pub with John, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that some of the pubs in Lancaster were having a beer and pie festival. This allowed him to continue the trend of having pies when visiting the North (see 'Dunnerdale fell race' article Nov 2021). Some starter pies (chilli jam, black pudding) were sampled whilst sitting next to the canal at the White Cross, before moving on to the main course pies (lancashire cheese & onion, minced horse?) at Merchants. They then proceeded to sample the new pub which has opened on platform 3 of Lancaster station, and can report that it was of acceptable standard.

On Saturday some excellent courses were completed at Blakeholme and some DrongO members helped collect the controls, and on Sunday everyone who had entered on time went orienteering at Loughrigg. Helen may have beaten John on precisely all the days but we'll gloss over that!

JK 2022

23-Apr-22

JK

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, back before the legends began, in the good old days of days auld lang syne, there was a great tradition of the peoples of this land. Through the dark days of winter they eagerly awaited the coming of spring, heralded by the lengthening of days and the leafing of trees. The great mathematicians studied the stars to set a date for the Gathering, and decreed that two days before the first Day of Sun following the Vernal Equinox, the many tribes of British Orienteering would travel from afar and gather at a place of learning. But on that day no learning was to be performed. Nay - on the Day of the Gathering, we gathered to sprint.

But for the past two years of plague, there had been no Gathering, as the people huddled in their bubbles, visiting only local events. And two years before that were wasted, being purely tests of speed around army encampments. Finally, after 5 long years of waiting, the people were granted what they had been waiting for - a JK sprint on a decent area.

Orienteers came from far and wide and descended onto Swansea University, with a good number of DrongOs joining. The weather was perfect for a day split between sprinting fast and sitting on the grass. The arena, start and finish were almost identical to what was used in 2014, which gave a huge advantage to more experienced competitors, who already knew the exact best line to take on the run-in. The courses were nice and technical, with plenty of route choices and places to make mistakes, and a change of terrain into ornamental garden near the end just to be extra tricksy. Top elite performances of the day were from Fiona Bunn coming in 5th James Ackland (CUOC) in 10th, and Ben Windsor in 14th. Further up the age categories there was success from Mary Ockenden who took the bronze in W60.

After the race was run, we all left for the long drive to the bunkhouse. Jeremy and Zuzka were already there, having decided that a sprint race wasn't tiring enough and they would rather runwalk 30k over the hills from Abergavenny. We had 16 Drongos staying at the bunkhouse, along with a motley crew of friends and relations to make up the numbers. After a great feast of veggie chilli, we sat around drinking tea before getting some well-earned rest before Day 2.

Morning dawned bright and not particularly early, because we were staying quite close to the Middle area. After a frantic rush of cereal eating and sandwich making, various cars left at various times filled with various people, and headed over to a lovely industrial estate that looked rubbish for orienteering. Luckily, the organisers arranged for the bus to take us to school, where the assembly was. We had a very nice south-facing grassy slope to sit on, overlooking a very nice looking running track (if you're into that sort of thing). Seems like the people of South Wales take their athletics seriously.

From the school, it was only 1 warm-up-distance up a farm track to the very tasty terrain of Clydach Terrace. Decades of mining had left the landscape torn up and scarred, which was good for us because it made lots of nice contours. It was great for a middle distance, with lots of detail almost everywhere, and decent runnability for most of it. Today's top individual performace was again by Fiona coming in 6th, but in the team race James found himself starting two minutes in front of eventual winner Sasha Chepelin, and intriguingly also finished two minutes behind. Of course, the author would not like to insinuate that all of James's performance was due to his position in the start list: he also had a boost from his extra grippy new shoes, bought after accidentally leaving his old ones at the bunkhouse. Slightly further down the list, Helen O was 12th, hon.Dron. Phil 11th, Ben W 16th, and Paul and h.D. Rona in 20th and 23rd, just slipping into the list of people to be given GPS tomorrow.

After the race we stopped off in Crickhowell and had a stroll around looking for ducks. On the way to ducks, we found icecream, honey, chocolate eggs and a castle. Rather predictably, the ducks were to be found in the river, where there was a nice bridge. However, most of the party decided to get in touch with their more primal selves and paddle across instead. Those who weren't paddling tried to find an answer to the question "Do you think you could hit a duck by skimming a stone". Through a careful scientific method of aiming far away from the ducks, every now and then a stone would miss its target, thus going close enough to a duck to lend weight to the answer "yes".

When we were bored of the river, we turned our attention to grass beside it, with some people playing chasies while a less mobile group thought up new things that DrongO could stand for. The best suggestions include: "Dominate Relays, Obliterating Not Good Orienteers", and "Drongo Rongo Ongo Ngo Go O".

When we got back to the bunkhouse, some people cooked a nice curry, while others drank tae. We managed not to cook far too much, only making a bit too much, which was good. After dinner Paul and Luke got out their muscle torture devices, and everyone had a go hurting themselves until they felt fully recovered, and ready for a relaxing night's sleep.

On the third day we rose again, ready and excited for a Long day to come. After the standard morning routine, we headed off for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Blaenavon, where even more mining used to happen than at Clydach. Here, mining used to happen on an industrial scale. So much mining, that the Pit might even be described as 'Big'.

Today's race was at Pwll Du, which the reader may remember fondly from a previous DrongO report as the relay area from 2014 (the word 'may' here is used to invoke a sense of uncertainty - I've not looked that far back in the archive, so don't know what that report said). Back then, courses stuck to the fast grassy sections around old mining spoil heaps, but today's race would be ever so slightly tougher. Once again, the courses were excellent, with a good variation between shorter legs in terrain similar to yesterday's, and longer yomps across the heather and tussocks. There were some strong DrongO performances again, with Fiona improving her position up to 4th, and James taking 8th to show that he actually would have done pretty well yesterday regardless of start time. Ben W came in 10th, Helen O in 14th, and Luke in 15th.

After the race, Richard, Mark and Zuzka went on an exciting trip into the Big Pit, and everyone else headed back to the bunkhouse to shower and eat biscuits before dinner. We then headed over to the local pub, where they didn't do draught beer but they did do quite nice food. Jeremy managed to eat all his food, further proving that he was no longer full from pancakes.

When it was dark enough that we definitely needed torches to get home, we walked back, with Ben S's prize from Cyprus leading the way. But when we arrived back, the bunkhouse was under embargo for the top event of the weekend - the Easter Egg Hunt, organised by Helen O and Paul. Once everyone had arrived in the porch, the hunt began, and soon enough, impressively enough, every egg had been found, even the one hidden inside an orange. As the old saying goes, Once you've got eggs, it's time to go to bed - so we went to bed.

On Monday we had to leave, which was sad, because it meant we had to clean. We had breakfast, made lunch, cleaned the house, and gave everyone far more uneaten food than they wanted, or could comfortably take. The relay area this year was Caerwent, a military base near England, which promised a small amount of forest mixed in with a bit of fast grass, and some more fast grass. The courses made decent use of the area, but due to constraints of the area, were pretty heavy on the fast grass, which is great if you're a cross country runner. SquaDron Gold were 11th and Large HaDron Gollider 32nd in the Men's Trophy, with Outer Drongolia 13th in the Women's (although n/c due to an non-Dron imposter). Sadly, the best results from Drongos were not for DrongO, with Fiona and Helen O coming 2nd and 4th on EUOC teams.

And so the four days of revelling ended, and the peoples returned to their homesteads. Their normal lives returned, punctuated by normal weekend events. Already the scholars have convened to determine the date of the next Gathering, and proclaimed it - on the ninth day of the fourth month we shall meet again, in the county of Cumberland (or possibly Westmorland or Lancashire). See you all there.

Isle of Man Easter festival

Meanwhile, over on the Isle of Man some DrongO members (James and John) were competing in the Easter running festival. The entire festival, including transport to the races and entry to the final night party was cheaper than entering a single day of the JK. Any monies saved were probably spent instead on beer, although the speedier runners (James) may have won some prize money and made a profit.

On Friday evening there was a 10k road race around Port St Erin and Port St Mary. James ran a time of 31:40 - described on Strava as "how does that only get you 15th". John was only about 10 minutes slower in a time of 41:28, a PB by default as he's never done a 10k race before. He narrowly managed to beat one of the Cambridge runners who'd stopped for 3 pints on the way round!

Saturday was the hill race at Peel,a short course up and down Peel hill which overlooks the harbour. James was 12th, John 88th, only 4 minutes behind today. After watching the womens' race it was time for the pub crawl back to Douglas, pilgrimage to the golden arches. Much beer was consumed and several pubs were visited before arriving at the aforementioned sacred site.

Sunday morning saw the arrival of the final race of the weekend, a 5k race out and back along the promenade. James ran well, whilst John reckoned he probably got a PW. In the evening we all headed to the Outback for a party that made pretty much every VM orienteering party look quite tame. In the final of the boat race, the teams were within one second, the winning time being 15.7 seconds (for four pints). DrongO could surely pick up some tips.

A great weekend and a good alternative to the JK, although probably not suitable for everyone in DrongO.

A curse lifted

09-Apr-22

Varsity 2007 Men's A map It was the seventeenth day of February in the year of our lord two thousand and seven according to the Christian reckoning. A group of six scholars from Granta bryg huddled together in the cold dankness of Wharncliffe Wood, on the border on Mercia and Northumbria, nervously awaiting the call of each of their names. They were the Elder brothers Alan and Ian, the renowned geologist Alex Copley, physician-in-training Graeme Ambler, coxswain Chris Williamson, and aspiring mathematician Ben Stevens. They had travelled there for a singular purpose: to defeat the scholars of Oxnaford in a competition of speed, endurance and quick-wittedness, known as “orienteering”. One by one they were called up and discharged into the forest. They faced many obstacles on top of the multitude of brambles which pervaded the surrounding wilderness. In a moment of not-quite-so-quick-wittedness, Ben Stevens ran most of the long leg to the eighth checkpoint without having visited the seventh, so extended his course by over two thousand yards. Many tired jokes ensued about mathematicians and counting. In spite of all this, when the sum of the times of their four fastest runners were added, they emerged victorious over Oxnaford by nineteen minutes, and that night was one of great celebration.

On the morning of the following day a murder of crows was spotted flying from left to right above Loxley Common. For those of us who still surreptitiously follow the Old Ways, this should have been a sign of great misfortune to come, but we did not then realise its significance.

The misfortune started with something small: a handing out of too much responsibility; for the youngest member of the Granta bryg team was entrusted with the trophy that they had won so valiantly, in the belief that he would cherish it the most. However, possessing the carelessness of youth, he forsook the trophy in the carriage of the locomotive in which he travelled home, and only discovered the loss some hours later. Despite many enquiries, no information was ever found on the location of the trophy and its existence drifted into myth. The Granta bryggians purchased a new trophy, but in order to save costs, they failed to replace the engravings, only listing some on the back. However, the Fates would not have all the history that they had spun unravelled thus, and silently placed a curse upon the scholars of Granta bryg: that they would not again defeat Oxnaford in their annual varsity orienteering match until the offending Granta bryggian team had grown old and repentant.[1]

The next three years passed with Oxnafordian victories. The Granta bryggians thought themselves unlucky but not cursed; a victory seemed just on the horizon. But the Fates were more vindictive than that. They gradually eroded the loyalty of that same young scholar who was so innocently entrusted with the bygone trophy, until he was tempted into a monstrous betrayal, and joined the ranks of Oxnaford. Four times he helped to secure an Oxnafordian victory. Thereafter the curse lay heavy upon the Granta brygians and an inevitability started to settle upon their annual defeat.

Eventually, 15 years after that cold February day in 2007, the Fates grew weary of their vengefulness. Many things had changed: Granta bryg was now called Cambridge and Oxnaford Oxford; the equations of Maxwell allowed the range of the miniaturized Faraday chronometer system to be extended; only extremely old-fashioned people brought a printed copy of the final details to the event; some people had begun to take an interest in the result of the women’s varsity match; Wharncliffe Wood had become even more brambly. Moreover, the Oxford team had grown arrogant and had even stopped bringing the trophy with them to the match, so assured were they of success. So, two of the Fates were minded to lift the curse, judging it satisfied now that all the members of that 2007 team were M35s.

But the third, Atropos the Inflexible, could not be moved, and devised a fiendish strategy to thwart Cambridge once again. She caused an elite race to be organized on Holme Fell, two months before the date of the varsity match which was also to be held on that area, knowing that James Ackland of Cambridge would be unable to resist such a competition. Indeed, he eagerly entered the race, not realising until he was mentally committed that this would disqualify him from the varsity match that followed.

Temple of Apollo However, unable to accept such a cruel blow, the ex-Cambridge team members (known as “DrongO”, after the favourite bird of wise Athena), decided to organize a pilgrimage to Cyprus. There, that same curse-bringer and betrayer from all those years ago visited the temple of Apollo, and also many sites of the Christian and Muslim gods, praying to atone for his sins. Even though most of these sites were closed when he chose to visit, Apollo heard his prayers and persuaded his cunning sister Athena to devise a strategy so subtle that not even one of the Fates could foresee its outcome. Her stroke of genius was to eliminate via damage or misplacement the control description holder of one Zac Hudd of Oxford a few weeks before the race. Now this was so trivial that none of the Fates even remarked it, for how could such a thing possibly affect the outcome of the varsity match?

Holme Fell It was 09 April 2022. A group of 4 Cambridge students congregated on the sunny slopes of Holme Fell in the Lake District, nervously waiting for call-up. They were Oliver O’Brien, Lachlan Chavasse, Dom Dakin and Peter Molloy – only four this time, but only four were needed. They had travelled there for one reason only: to win the orienteering varsity match against Oxford. One by one they moved through the pre-start boxes and out onto the fell.

As the finishers started to come in, at first it was difficult to see what Athena’s plan had achieved – surely Oxford would win once more? But when Zac Hudd downloaded, everything became clear. For, not having replaced his description holder, he had failed to check the control codes, not wanting to waste time by unfolding the map, and had consequently mispunched number 23, hence one of Oxford’s best runners would not count. The Cambridge team began to hope. And as the last Cambridge runner finished, it became clear that the curse had been lifted. They’d finally won the men’s varsity match after 15 years.

[1] The ravages of so much time passed upon the memory of the author meant that an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Granta bryggians engraved their victory as the only one on the front of the new trophy, whereas in fact they engraved none at all, but the Fates were still angered by the loss of the trophy and non-replacement of the engravings.

Cyprus

27-Mar-22

Arriving

Most people arrived on Saturday or Sunday, although Dan arrived earlier on Friday and sat on the street shivering outside a random Lidl until everybody else arrived. Our accommodation was split in two since the trip was very popular, with about 11 people staying in the main accommodation, which included a very cold swimming pool, whilst four people stayed in another place down the road, which included a hot tub of unknown temperature.

Day 1

Sunday started cold and cloudy, not living up to the sunny Cyprus we were expecting. First, we went to see the flamingos at a nearby salt lake, which were very cute until Phil scared them all off by running too excitedly toward them.

We drove to the south-eastern tip of the island and had a picnic on the rocks by the sea, whilst John stood guard to chase off the feral cats who were quite keen on joining the picnic. The cats quickly gathered he was a nasty piece of work and backed off to a safe distance.

The sun came out in the afternoon, and we had a nice walk round the cape. We visited a natural rock arch and found a rock cave near a chapel. There were some people sitting in the cave who were pretending to meditate. They soon abandoned their ruminations and climbed up the hole at the back of the cave; following in DrongOs' footsteps. Dan wasn't feeling well and decided to wait on the road part-way round the walk for us to pick him up on the way out. We later found him in a rather cold state begging us to pick him up!

Silly Jeremy managed to accidentally break the embargo for the first day of orienteering by walking through the area.

Day 2

As we were about to leave for a walk in the mountains, John discovered that his car wouldn't start. We squished into the remaining cars. John rang the hire company who unhelpfully suggested that pressing the brake and clutch together might magically make it start. John wasn't in the car to test this suggestion so resolved to sort it out later. When we arrived in the mountains, everyone thought it was quite cold. As we climbed the walking path, small patches of snow started to appear and snowball fights ensued - led by Ben S.

Ben W challenged Ben S to throw a snowball into a bin. This was a sneaky distraction to keep Ben S occupied, so he wouldn't be in the group photo. Ben S eventually managed to bin a snowball but nobody else saw this. The top of the mountain was covered with snow, and we built a snow DrongO. John, James, Phil and the Bens ran back down the mountain. First Phil tried to confidently take them down the wrong side of the mountain but luckily was stopped before too much descent had been done. Later there was also some route-choice fun - about 1km along a path, or a much shorter and much steeper terrain descent. James and Phil bombed off down the path but lost to the others by a long way.

John rang a different office of the hire company who unhelpfully (and incorrectly) suggested that pressing the brake and clutch together might magically make it start. Subsequently, they were very helpful and sent a replacement car which arrived an hour later. A large amount of DrongO branded apple crumble was cooked in the evening, and unsurprisingly it was all consumed - mostly by Jeremy who was really hungry.

Day 3

The DrongOs split into three groups with one headed to Avakas Gorge, the other going mountain biking and James going out for a spin on his road bike.

Walking up the gorge involved lots of fun jumping between rocks to avoid going in the river. Ben S thought this was too much fun so decided to walk straight through the river in his O-shoes. Phil tried to make friends with a pig we met but was rejected. We then went and did touristy things in Paphos and saw lots of old ruins. Natalie and Rob decided that they had had enough of Cyprus and decided to fly to Greece.

The mountain bike group (John, Rowan, Matt) started the morning with lots of faff - mainly going to a pharmacy to pick up some burnt tree pills for Dan's upset stomach and getting some cash for the bike hire. We had to leave the car as a deposit which meant cycling some extra distance on the roads to get to the nice gravel tracks. We stopped for lunch near at a monastery at the top of a 600m peak, and John reprised his role scaring the feral cats. In the afternoon Matt took us down a scary mountain bike track, but Rowan and John decided it wasn't fun and went round on the forest tracks instead.

Day 4 (orienteering day 1)

The first day of orienteering was at Cape Greco with the start next to a beach. Jeremy had been disqualified for his transgression onto the area and decided there was no point doing the orienteering. The map was covered in green dots for all the clumps of bushes on the area. Sometimes there were passages between the bushes, and sometimes there was no way through. Ben W and Richard went for a pre race swim.

After the race, everyone had a picnic on the beach and more people went swimming. We went on a short walk to a Cyclops cave and looked at the waves breaking on the rocky coastline. People were still keen to do things, so we went to a cave church. Google took us on some interesting routes including past a live firing range, and testing the limited off-road capabilities of the hire cars.

Some people were keen for ice-creams and went to Agia Napa. However, it turns out that Agia Napa is a #dump and almost everything was shut. Eventually ice-creams were procured from a slightly dodgy looking corner shop on the outskirts. One car went to the sculpture park and Phil pretended he was a hippo, whilst another car went to collect Harriet from the airport.

Day 5 (orienteering day 2)

The second day of orienteering was on a forested area of rolling hills. The loose descriptions on the M21E course were slightly different from the controls on the map, but John managed to find the control anyway by reasoning that stream junctions don't exist at the top of a hill. He managed to mis-punch a control shortly before the finish so was disqualified anyway.

We promptly left the race to head back to the villa for a barbeque, and in typical British fashion it started raining. That didn't stop us from grilling some burgers, corn cobs, vegetable skewers and a massive amount of halloumi.

Later in the afternoon we visited a neolithic village - described by Harriet as thrilling. We also walked to the monastery the mountain bikers had been to earlier in the week. The monastery was closed, so we consoled ourselves by kicking a pinecone down the road, all the way back to the car.

Day 6 (orienteering day 3)

Day three of the orienteering was on similar terrain to the previous day, although a greater proportion of the area was rough open land. Shortly after we had parked the cars, a digger blocked them in by digging a trench across the exit. On the course, John and James had some good head-to-head racing with the front-runner changing several times.

A group of early starters promptly left the race to go skiing; the trench having thankfully been filled-in. 90 minutes of driving and 1800m of climb later they were at Cyprus's ski resort at Mount Olympus. They hired some very questionable (but cheap) equipment and had time for almost two hours on the slopes before they closed. Miranda sensibly started on the beginner slope with Tom coaching her, before moving to the main ones, while Ben W spent the first hour being slightly terrified, skiing with the Czech people who actually know how to ski. On the way back they stopped off for a speedy bit of tourism in the capital Nicosia.

After a more leisurely picnic at the race, the remaining DrongOs left to go for a walk in the mountains. Phil was very disappointed to get stuck behind a police car on the drive into the mountains, it was definitely slowing him down! Rona decided it would be more fun to watch Disney+ in the car than go on a drizzly walk to the radar station. She was wrong though, because the hot chocolate in the visitor centre café was exceptional.

Jeremy managed to accidentally break another embargo by stopping at a café in Lefkara on the way back.

Day 7 (orienteering day 4)

Snow was falling in the assembly area when we turned up for the orienteering, so we all stayed in our cars until our starts. Natalie and James had a competition to see who could try the more impressive injury. James won by dislocating his finger, which meant that Natalie didn't get much sympathy for her cuts and bruises.

Everyone was keen to get away quickly because of the cold except Dan who had heard that you got a free mug if you collected controls. Some cars went to Nicosia to see old stuff, whilst Ben W, Zuzka and Dan didn't fancy going there again, so went for a hike up a nearby hill. Dan failed to cause any landslides. Jeremy managed to again break the Lefkara embargo by visiting a different café. We hear that the Cyprus orienteering federation may award him a five-year ban due to his continued offences.

In Nicosia everyone went to a museum. Ben Stevens had heard that Cyprus is prone to earthquakes, and methodically went around the museum photographing all the artifacts. Should the museum be destroyed, Ben will have a complete photographic record. [Webmaster's note: this is a gross exaggeration; plus, look the author has actually used one of the photos, so, you're welcome!] Harriet said she'd been to worse museums. Some people went up a tower and paid €2.50 to look onto North Cyprus, whilst others celebrated the fact they'd not paid €2.50 for the tower, by purchasing ice-creams.

John rapidly became fed up looking at old stuff and told his car that they were going for a walk on the way to Larnaca; his passengers were keen to oblige. Harriet described the walk as: "best walk I've been on this week". A brief stop was made on the edge of Larnaca to look at an aqueduct. Phil and John carried out a rapid(ly moving) study to measure the length of the structure (they both needed to take measurements to reduce the error) and concluded that it was 340m long.

In the evening we took part in the "just for fun" Harris relay, but everyone in DrongO understood it was a race. This was a slightly chaotic sprint around an area of Larnaca whilst trying to work out how to divide the extra controls between the pair. DrongO maximised the potential for prizes by entering pairs into many (DrongO-defined) categories.

Richard had organised a meal for us at a Lebanese restaurant, which included a surprise #performance , which Jeremy said was the highlight of his week. We ordered mezze for most people which turned out to be a lot of food - Rowan was a good boy for finishing his. Natalie was most keen to join in with performing, and eventually managed to get a few other DrongOs to join in too! Some remaining food was taken away as a goody bag.

Phil had become accustomed to how Cypriots treat the rules of the road by now, thus ensuring his car was home and mostly showered by the time the second car arrived back.

Day 8 (orienteering day 5)

The final day of orienteering was a sprint through the picturesque mountain village of Lefkara, which none of us had been to before. The village had many narrow and twisting streets, and the courses also had a reasonable amount of climb. Some people were a bit slow because they were tired from all the other activities during the week, but Zuzka's excuse was that she stopped at a café part way through the course.

DrongO won a lot of wine, which was unfortunate timing since we were about to fly home, though luckily James had a hold bag so he "kindly" took care of everybody's wine. Unfortunately the prize giving took so long that some people had to leave for their flight before their prize was presented. Fortunately Matt was still around for his prize, so that he could give the main organiser a hug. DrongO+Honorary DrongO achieved their aim of a full podium on M21E, won by Phil, while Rona won the W21E.

British Middle Championships 2022

06-Mar-22

On 5/6 March the British middle distance championships was held near Milton Keynes. On Saturday there was a race in Salcey forest, but nobody went to it because it wasn't a very good area.

On Sunday it was the main championships, which were also suspected to be on a rubbish area because it was named "Rushmere Country Park" but actually turned out to be a lovely fast area of forest and heathland. Bad luck to all the DrongOs who missed out!

Ben W and Ben S had a competition for who was the most dedicated to attending, since Ben S had got the train to Cambridge on Saturday, stayed with Rowan, got a lift with Ben W to the race on Sunday, before getting an expensive no-advance-fares-remaining train back to Edinburgh from Leighton Buzzard. Meanwhile Ben W was on his way back from Czechia and had hired a car at Stansted on Saturday evening, stayed with Rowan, and then taken a very roundabout Stansted-Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Cambridge-Stansted-Stratford-Waterloo-Portsmouth-Island route home.

The DrongO banner was also in attendance, but it didn't have a pole and also got left in the car.

Fastest DrongO was Ben W who finished 5th, 30s off a medal. Ben S came in after 5 minutes below in 10th with James 43s behind in 11th. Rowan came in 24th with an eerie 8.5 minute gap behind him, before and after which the field was relatively tightly packed! Meanwhile on M55 Rob Campbell also just missed out on a medal by 25s, finishing in 4th place.

It was a short and sweet DrongO trip, but most of us will see each other in Cyprus next week!

Back to the 15th Goat

05-Mar-22

On 5th March 2022 the (30/2 = 15)th round of Dan Šafka's race "Opět na Kozla" was held just south-east of Prague in the Czech Republic. It was attended by exactly one DrongO (Ben W) who hadn't bothered to go home since the cross country ski trip. Ben had a rather unsuccessful journey there, first he got fined on the motorway for not having paid for a motorway disc (it was Pavel's car and the disc hadn't been renewed yet for 2022) - then whilst getting the train from Prague to Kozel, he absent-mindedly alighted from the train at a random station, which was by no means the correct one. After waiting half an hour for the next train, which didn't connect with a bus thus leading to an extra 3k walk at the end, he was only about 20 minutes late for the mass start and at least caught up with the very very back of the pack!

One fried cheese lunch later, Dan dressed up in his goat costume for the prizegiving, and Ben and Dan collected some of the controls. As they were finishing the collection, two people with an orienteering map emerged from the forest. Oh, they were still walking the 16km A course and Dan hadn't noticed! It is believed that Dan's flawed logic was along the lines of "all two of the women running A are back, so that means everybody is back"! Luckily courses had closed anyway and we hadn't actually collected any of their controls, but we drove back to the finish and waited for them to come and punch it! They turned out to be an American who teaches computer science at Charles University in Prague, and one of his international students from Serbia. The teacher speaks Czech, thus confirming that there exists at least one foreigner who knows Czech without being married to a Czech person.

Ben got the train back with them to Prague, ensuring that he didn't get off at any random stations, although he still managed to miss a metro stop on the way to the airport, and didn't notice until two stops later. Come back next year for the (2^4)th Kozel!

Cross country skiing 2022

18-Feb-22

Day 0 - downhill skiing

A smaller contingent of DrongO (John, Jeremy & Ben) went out to the Czech Republic a day earlier to do a day of downhill skiing before the main cross country ski trip.

John and Jeremy awoke to a puzzling message from Ben asking if they were going to circuits. After a brief period of confusion it transpired that circuits is just the Czech word for breakfast, and soon they were happily eating. After loading the skis and bags into the car, Ben tried to get into the driver's seat on the wrong side of the car, again. He managed to get the car out of the car park with only minimal skidding, and we were all off to the ski slopes.

In the morning there were quite long queues at the ski lifts, but we managed to remember how to ski and did various runs within the ski area. After a vegetable-free lunch at the top of the mountain it started to rain and most of the Czech skiers went home, leaving a few other Brits in addition to us. On the long slow chair lift Ben remarked that the conditions were just like the Lake District. After having not crashed at all in the morning, Jeremy crashed by skiing into a ditch and became detached from both skis. He wisely decided to retire to the café and not risk further injuries.

John and Ben made efficient use of the lack of queues and skied fairly non-stop until the lift closed. Everyone reconvened in the café for some very good hot chocolate. Back at the Potkavarna the Czech sauna experience lived up to expectations, particularly the hell-hole. The hot tub however was still somewhat cold; one to enjoy another evening. In the evening some beer was consumed and everyone at the Potkavarna was glad they weren't trying to catch a flight whilst storm Eunice was raging. Quite a lot of flights were delayed, but some DrongOs arrived at Potkavarna in the early hours of the morning, whilst others stayed in Prague for a few hours of sleep.

Day 1

We hired skis a short walk from Potkavarna and then set off from the chapel to re-familiarise ourselves with how to ski. Paul proclaimed he was an expert at cross country skiing (despite never doing it before) and promptly lost his balance. There was general hesitation amongst the group at the top of the first decent, and lots of people subsequently fell over. Jeremy was very hungry at lunchtime and had to assist John finish blueberry dumplings, a brief hiatus in Jeremy's inability to finish his own food. Team fast (those with own skis) arrived at Nova Louka for lunch, and decided that the queue was too long.

After lunch, a spliter group of team intermediate split off to form team slow. During the afternoon, many things of note happened in team slow, but apparently they are all top-secret, and we aren't allowed to know. Information from DrongO's extensive spy-network suggests these individuals are being given blueberry-dumpling based bribes by an extremist group and are at risk of becoming radicalised. The remainder of team intermediate set off on a slightly longer loop and bumped into team fast a short while later. They skied together for the test of the afternoon.

In the evening a funny Scottish man called Alastair turned up at Potkavarna in his kilt to make us eat haggis. Czech import laws forbid bagpipes to be brought into the country so the haggis entered the dining room with a non-traditional musical accompaniment from a rattle and a bell. The haggis was addressed in the traditional fashion, and as this was Scottish cuisine the meal included separate vegetables - a rare treat! Following dinner, the tables were pushed back to make space for the ceilidh. We had great fun stripping the willow and doing a dance which can only be described as a bit like the hokey-pokey; putting your right leg in, your left leg in and shaking it all about. DrongO convincingly won the ceilidh.

Day 2

We awoke to the sight of a fresh snow and were keen to go skiing. Most people skied up the road to the chapel. HelenP, Miranda, John and Jeremy (team fun) formed a group thinking they were at the back and because none of the fast skiers had waited for the rest of group. Tom messaged the WhatsApp group saying to ask where everyone else was, and had ended up skiing on his own. From the messages Tom had sent, team fun thought he was ahead and continued skiing to Knajpa where they stopped for lunch. Whilst waiting in the queue for food, Tom turned up; he had actually been at the very back. The menu at Knapja was somewhat limited and team fun collectively sampled most of the items from it, going for increasingly more expensive* items when they realised the portion sizes of the cheaper items were inadequate for hungry DrongOs. HelenP spotted a drink called Caj-rum-bum and insisted that we all try some - she seemed in good spirits all afternoon.

In the afternoon team fun went to explore a non-groomed ski track. A short way along the track we met some skiers coming the other way who told us that the tracks stopped, and they couldn't see the way through. Team fun were optimistic that they would be able to find the way through, but a short distance later the tracks and the obvious ride through the forest stopped. It looked like it was still possible to ski between the trees, so we continued, and after about 50m we came out at a track junction, with a sign post and picnic shelter. We took the direct track back to Potkavarna which was much easier than the previous day due to the fresh snow.

Before commencing the main body of the Team Fast section of the report, Team Fast would like to lodge a formal complaint against the fast-fun dichotomy being pushed by Team 'fun'. Team fast wholeheartedly believe that fast and fun are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, often act to complement each other, with fast increasing the fun, and fun increasing the fast. Semantics aside, Team fast arrived at Kaplička ahead of Team 'fun', and couldn't be bothered waiting, so headed off for some skiing. We met Team Good at Skiing (Ben and Zuzka) at the dam after they had accidentally avoided catching up with Tom, and headed off for Knajpa. We stopped for some Čaj bez rumu and Horké čokolady before continuing down the big long fun hill. We ended up at Jizerska, not to be confused with Jizera or Jizerské Hory, where we found a hut with less of a queue than there was yesterday. Zuzka thought the service was less good than last time, and they didn't serve massive blueberry dumplings like they used to, but most people were pretty happy with the choice of two smaller blueberry dumplings, or the only vegan food ever found in a Czech mountain hut.

After lunch, it was snowing which made skiing slightly less fun, but we expect Team 'fun' also had the same experience. Ben S, Zuzka and Dan formed a splinter group to go to Poland in search of blueberry pancakes, while Team fast-remnant headed back up the hill towards Knajpa. It was now getting late enough that the Knajpa people had gone home, but they had kindly left a big urn full of self-service čaj to keep us going. When we got to the dam, some people took the fun route back, while Helen went the boring way. Paul, whose self-identification as an expert skier was now slightly more valid, managed to avoid getting any more cuts to his face. When we arrived back at Potkávárna, we realised that we could go straight into the sauna, where we rejoined with Team 'fun'.

Before tea, we used the sauna, the hell-hole and the hot tub - which was pleasantly warm on this occasion. How many DrongOs can fit in the hot tub we hear you ask. Well the answer depends on whether the water needs to stay in the hot tub? Eight to prevent overflowing and substantially more** if that's not an issue. Over a lovely dinner of vegetable curry, we managed to finish the remainder of the ale (actually a light, fruity IPA) - one of the available beers at Potkavarna. In the evening Paul and Ben played the piano, John taught the barman how to make a G&T, and we sang along to classics such as Moana, ABBA and Fantom Opery. The singing stopped later in the evening to allow other guests to sleep, but DrongO convincingly won the singing***.

* relatively expensive but still Czech prices :)

** experiment not carried out

*** other competitors may not have been in attendance

Day 3

On Day 3, Team fast made sure to leave extra on-time because they had a Big Day™ planned. We all (Ben, Ben, Ajka, Paul, Dan, James) piled into the car, 4 on the back seat and one in the boot (don't tell the policie) and Dan drove us over to Bedřîchov. Paul paid the 1000Kč entry fee for the group by dropping it on the ground, and we set out on the 50km Jizerská padesátka route. The race itself had happened the previous week. The fastest men's time was 1:56:20, which seemed a little too fast for us, so we decided to target the significantly more manageable women's time of 2:25:25. As we set off, we realised that the odds might be against us, because the tracks hadn't been ploughed today and were all full of snow. The first part of the route was fairly similar to what we did yesterday, and by the time we got to Jizerska we were all very ready for some lunch. While we were waiting for our food, we played about a quarter of a game of 'Sorry', and discovered that Dan has an unnatural knack for rolling sixes.

In the afternoon conditions got a bit faster as more people had been out and compressed the snow for us. Ben was finally able to do some skating, but Dan still insisted that as it was a classic race, he would do the entire thing classic style on his skating skis. When we finally got back to Bedřîchov, Ben and Dan decided they didn't want to squish into the car again, so skied all the way back, while the rest of us were quite tired, so waited for Dan to come to pick us up. We finished in a moving time of just over 5 hours, or an elapsed time of slightly under 8. On some steeper downhills, we even managed to achieve the average overall speed of the winning men, so maybe next year we'll come back for the race itself.

Team fun skied to the dam on the Potkávárna track which still had a good covering of fresh snow from the previous day, whilst team we-only-ski-on-groomed-tracks went round via the chapel and caught up a while later. Tom did an incredible amount of faff, putting on or taking off warm layers at every opportunity. Team fun went for some more forest exploring whilst team we-only-ski-on-groomed-tracks made their own route. Zuzka also went too because she was finding the pace somewhat slow and getting cold. In the forest the snow was deep and crisp, but not particular even. Like yesterday there was a section of the trail where the ride disappeared, and we had to keep checking the map.

Team fun and team slightly less fun met at Nova Louka for a lunch of blueberry dumplings. In the afternoon an over optimistic route was planned which would get John back to the chapel at a reasonable time for returning to Prague. Mark quickly decided that he'd make his own way back to Potkavarna to ensure he was back in time. A short distance later, John decided that the pace was too slow and that he needed to head back too. Jeremy decided to join him, and they skied on a fun track which went over a dam and then climbed up between some cliffs.

John and Mark both left because they were sadly working the next day. Mark provided a very efficient and on-time lift to Prague and then the journey quality deteriorated. The plane was delayed an hour from Prague which meant he missed the train from the airport and had to wait for the subsequent train. This turned out to be everyone's favourite mode of transport: the rail replacement bus. At this point he declared an emergency situation and proceeded to eat the emergency ration of Tetranky he'd been carrying throughout the trip. The rail replacement bus had a fault which meant that it continually made a beeping noise. The bus didn't take him to the station on his ticket, but threw him out somewhere in the vague vicinity.

Back at Potkavarna, the situation was also dire because DrongO had managed to drink all of Dan's beer. To avoid spending any more time in a building without beer, we did the only thing we could, and went out to the teepee for the rest of the evening. It was quite cold at the start but when the fire had been going for a while it wasn't too bad. We played some games and Dan told us about how much the last people who stayed overnight there enjoyed it.

Day 4

When we got up, there was lots of fresh snow, so we looked on Mapy to see which trails had been groomed already. We set off for Knajpa, enjoying the speedy tracks which made things easy. Not wanting to have it too easy, Jeremy led a small party on a shortcut up a firebreak, which was just about quicker than going the long way round. After a quick stop for Dan to eat a coffin, we kept going to Nová Louka for some Knedliky. After lunch, we headed back to Potkávárna a fairly quick way, although Helen and Dan decided they hadn't done enough fun downhill, so went for another 5k loop. Ben S went straight back to drop his skis off at the hire place, but realised he didn't have any shoes to wear back. It turns out that socks have quite good grip on icy roads.

In the evening, we went downhill skiing. Unfortunately, the car was gone, so Ben had to borrow Andy and Pavel's car, which a) needed to be brought back as soon as we got to the ski slope, and b) was covered in snow. After a quick strength session, the snow was moved and we were able to get going. Zuzka and Ajka used their mad language skillz to hire us some skis, while Ben drove back and swapped to the other (now returned) car. The ski hire shop closed soon after we arrived, so we could hire now, but would have to come back tomorrow morning to return the skis. The ski slope itself was very busy, and it took almost 20 minutes to get through the queue for the lift, but the skiing was good fun. Paul didn't self-identify as an expert downhill skier, so ended up falling over several times, but no one else identified as a good enough skier to hold a camera while going downhill either. After six goes down the run, the time was up. Tom left first, with Ben driving him to the station for his train home, while everyone else went to the pub. In a stroke of luck, we met the people from the shop, and they said we could return the skis now, which significantly reduced the uncomfortableness of the journey back to Potkávárna.

Meanwhile, (or, very likely, earlier that day), John calculated that he managed to eat £7.71 worth of food at the all-you-can-eat breakfast.

Day 5

One might think that the best time to get a ski lesson would be early in a ski trip, so that one can learn good techniques and have plenty of time to practice them. There weren't any English-speaking lessons available any earlier, so we got a lesson on the last day. We started by skiing over to Bedřîchov, where most people didn't fall over on the steep downhill into the stadium. There we met Alex who was going to turn us into experts. We spent the first while skiing up and down the stadium, practicing pushing off with one leg and balancing on the other whilst gliding. Alex told us that double-poling was often the fastest way to ski, and we proved him wrong by struggling to double-pole even 100m on the flat.

After we'd gone up and down the stadium enough times, we set out on the trails, where Alex demonstrated the validity of his statement, with the caveat "if you are good at skiing". Just before we arrived at Nová Louka, Jeremy called to tell us he had Covid. We didn't panic too much, but still had lunch and then headed back to do some tests. Luckily, no one else got covid, so we were all allowed to go home. It would have been incredibly sad if someone had been forced to stay in Czechia for another week of skiing. For Helen O and Paul, it was only a stay of execution - they both got covid at BUCS four days later, and had to isolate in the much less idyllic surroundings of Leeds.

The 2022 Edition of DrongO Cross Country Skiing was a great success - thanks to everyone who came, and to Potkávárna u Havrana for a great place to stay (as always). Hopefully even more people can make it next year!

Edinburgh Big Weekend

23-Jan-22

Friday

A large group of DrongOs made their way to Edinburgh in an unprecedented trip involving less travel for those who live in Scotland than those who live elsewhere. The Big Weekend organisers were both DrongOs - Helen O and Fiona B - and as far as we can tell their almost flawless organisation was tainted only by their inability to predict the wind speed and direction months in advance, therefore assembly was quite windy.

Tom and Ben W arrived on Thursday evening so that they could do circuits on Friday morning, something Tom was particularly enthusiastic about. Most people arrived on Friday evening in time for "fight with the night", an informal yet highly competitive night race, mainly around some complex students accommodation blocks, interspersed with three long and uninteresting legs on some streets. The organisers told us that being friends with them wasn't enough to warrant being allowed to put our bags in the indoor helpers area, so we retreated to the bike shed along with everyone else for that. Lots of running around in the dark later, the highlight of the evening was Matthew using his almost flawless navigation to beat ickle brother Phil. People filtered back to Helen O's house, John's house, or their own house for a good night of sleep. At John's house everybody had an excellent sleep on very comfy mattresses/sofas despite the crumbling wall, the cold hallway, the creaky floor, the unaffixed floorboard, the unaffixed skirting board, the bright advertising board outside, the lack of shower, the low roof above the bath, the security issues with the front door, the security issues with the windows, the builders working outside early in the morning, and the possibly ancient shredded wheat.

Saturday daytime

On Saturday morning we assembled at the assembly area in time for our starts of the Edinburgh city race. The race had a good mixture of long route choice legs and complex sections and was interesting all the way round. There was also a maze in assembly with 3 courses to do - we think the records for all three were held by DrongO (mainly Matthew). Once everyone was done we got a picnic from Sainsbury's then went to the National Museum of Scotland. It was free and had plenty of interesting things in it, including an entirely mechanical clock which chimed a tune every 15 minutes. It also had a roof terrace offering excellent views over the city centre. After the roof terrace we went to see a stuffed lemming and Rona spent a while talking about tits. At some point the results appeared and we found that a control was stolen and two legs voided, which was particularly helpful for those who had lost some time on that leg. This left Phil as top honourary DrongO in 4th, with Matthew in 10th and Ben W 11th. Pippa Dakin was first DrongO woman in 9th, with Elizabeth Bedwell in 17th and Helen P in 20th. We donated a few coins to the museum in their spinny black hole donation thingy then left for a bit of walking tourism.

We wandered for a while, then some people went home and some went to a cafe. After this the evening social was split in two, with one half at John's and one half at Helen O's. Hence there were two reports written, as follows:

John's social, written by Helen's social

To begin their evening, Team 2 chose to divide and conquer. Ben and Ben went to engage in some high quality banter by joining Team 1 for tea and cake whilst John went back to open up his pub and be grumpy. Ben and Ben went to see the infamous steps on the way back to John’s house, which was interesting, but not as interesting as the samurai warrior they saw winning a haggis speed eating contest at the side of the road.

At Ockenden’s pub, they were reminded of no dogs, no children, no smoking and no excessive laughter. Having been at the café, Ben and Ben had missed the early evening performance of Les Misarables, acted out as a scene by scene remake by Rowan and Jeremy. Jeremy’s portrayal of a melancholic and compassionate Jean Valjean was described as hauntingly beautiful, with a sensitive and passionate performance including some knock-out musical performances.

The fact Ben and Ben missed out on this didn’t matter though as evening entertainment was soon provided by the landlord as he opened up the bare knuckle boxing ring. Jeremy was beaten in 3 rounds by Atomic Tom, and Rowan successfully tripled DrongO’s net worth by scoring a first round knockout against the kingpin leader from the Edinburgh faction of an underworld Chinese Triad in a high stakes no holds barred cage match. Helen P will have her work cut out processing £1 million worth of dodgy black market East Asian crypto currency for the next DrongO accounts. Mr and Mrs Stevens (who may or may not have been present) were expelled from the pub for unruly behaviour.

Dinner was then served. The starter was nachos, followed by the main course which was Miranda’s severed head (cooked by John in a spicy marinade with a side of seasonal vegetables and steamed new potatoes). Jeremy couldn't finish his portion because he was still full from pancakes. Dinner time conversation consisted of heated debate about the unfairness of the British Orienteering rulebook regarding voiding legs when controls have gone missing. Everyone agreed it would have been better if Train Tom was present as he clearly understands the rule book the best.

After dinner entertainment was provided by Ben W performing a trombone recital including favourites such as “Do TrailO”, “Moves like Jagger” and “Metallica mega mix”. This was followed by a game of charades where Jeremy was given a yellow card for inappropriate miming and Mr and Mrs Stevens (who may or may not have been present) were expelled from the pub again (having snuck back in) for rude and abusive language.

The team then practiced the acrobatic routine for Atomic Tom’s next hit Broadway musical called “Nifty Nuclear Extravaganza” (“It’s explosive, 5 stars – The Guardian”). This involved forming a human pyramid with Miranda (having grown a new head) and Rowan forming the base as the two strongest members of the squad. John decided this was too fun and banned the activity in his pub so he could go back to serving high quality ales and being grumpy.

Ben then yawned because he was tired and everyone had a penalty shoot-out using apples and his mouth as a goal. John announced he was both grumpy and tired so everyone agreed they should have a sensible early night and go to bed at 21:30 (allowing this narrative to be complete so this article can be published). Ben though this would be a good idea because it would allow him to get a good night’s sleep. This was important as he wanted to run well at the classic race tomorrow and be beaten by Matthew when all the legs Matthew made mistakes on were voided.

Everyone got into bed and went to sleep, apart from Ben S who went and collected Mr and Mrs Stevens (who may or may not have been present) from the local police station after they were cautioned and released following an altercation resulting in wanton destruction of property.

Helen's social, written by John's social

In the evening we split into two and Paul hosted a vegan haggis dinner at Helen O's house, because Helen O was busy organising the orienteering. Helen P, Phil, Rona and Matthew all headed back there too. Tom D managed to squeeze in a quick trip to church, so said he would join them a bit later. Upon arrival at Helen's house, it turned out that dinner would need to be eaten sitting on the floor because all the chairs were occupied by Tom's belongings, and he wasn't there to clear them up.

Paul put the vegan haggis on, then went upstairs for a quick shower. Twenty minutes later, just as people were questioning Paul's showering ability, he returned. He'd actually showered in record time, but had been held up marvelling at Helen's uninspiring stairs on the way up.

He did however arrive in plenty of time to save the haggis from being burnt. In the remaining minutes before food was ready, discussion included what a haggis looked like, and Phil got down on the floor and did an impressively realistic impression, including sound effects. Just as he was doing this Pippa arrived, and the conversation quickly moved on to the cons and cons of rowing.

Everybody had a very civilised and enjoyable alcohol-free dinner. Conversation topics included whether string theory would provide the answer to the universe, whether civil servants should be allowed to enjoy first class train travel, and the best flavour of jelly baby. Rona kept telling Phil he was saying inappropriate things, whilst simultaneously laughing at them. Tomorrow's final details were also read through, and everybody was too nice to make fun of Helen P for being the only one not to have entered the mass start.

After dinner everyone was very disappointed that Ben S wasn't there to do the washing up, but it was ok because Helen P very helpfully volunteered. Thanks Helen!

At 22.30 Helen O arrived having spent all evening tracking down a stolen control, which was eventually found in Matthew's bag. She had a quick conversation with Pippa about how Carnethy fell runners were a terrible club, and was in bed by 22.45, as the bed time routine specified. Everybody else chatted for a bit longer then also went to bed, although Tom stayed up deliberating whether it was more efficient to do TrailO first or second in the morning, and eventually put his head to rest at around 2am.

Sunday

On Sunday morning we met up again in assembly at the foot of Arthur's seat ready for a mass start race. As anticipation for the start rose, Matthew formulated his plan to be first to the first control, and Miranda formulated hers to beat him to it. The start claxon went and Matthew rocketed off to achieve his goal, while Miranda didn't quite make hers but did a very good job of trying!

Soon after the first control, Phil was somewhere out in front and stayed that way into the first butterfly loops. Ben W was chasing him a little way behind, but was surprised to come out of the loops without seeing a Phil running into the distance. Meanwhile on other parts of the course there were other DrongO battles raging of Ben S vs Matthew, and Pippa vs Rowan.

Coming out of the butterfly loops Ben W found himself alone, only to find out a few controls later that Phil was now behind him. At the finish Ben W discovered he was actually first, with Phil finishing 5th in the end, Ben S 7th and Matthew 9th. Most of us then went for a quick walk to the top of Arthur's seat to enjoy the views which we couldn't enjoy whilst navigating, before going to a warm student union cafe for another picnic. Paul and Tom also did the TrailO. Paul won, and Tom was 17th following a few errors despite a very speedy time.

We stayed there for the rest of the afternoon talking about things like world heritage sites, the quality of today's map, and the state of coaching in the UK. As a final bombshell, before Tom left, he revealed that he sometimes faffs when he is tired.

Lakeland Warrior

24-Dec-21

On the first weekend of December a load of DrongOs, and also some non-DrongOs, went to the Lake District for a weekend of orienteering.

Most people arrived at the Ockenden manor in Lancaster on Friday evening. It was a relaxed start on Saturday with starts around lunchtime. We left with 10 people in two full cars, and John also came in his car on his own because he's antisocial like that.

It was raining on and off all day so the middle distance race was wet. It started with some short legs on a steep rocky slope, followed by some less short legs on a steep rocky slope, followed by a run on a path and then some controls on a less steep, less rocky slope. In the men's Ben W finished 10th, just under 8 minutes behind winner Ben Mitchell, with Paul P in 13th, Ben S 17th, John O 22nd and Tom D 23rd. In the women's Helen O was 5th with Zuzka 11th and Helen P 14th.

Everybody was then wet and/or cold so we went to a chocolate cafe where they had precisely 32 flavours of hot chocolate, the most popular being pear and ginger. It was very chocolatey, so chocolatey that Zuzka got full. Tom managed not to take too long changing his shoes and his car also made it before the cafe closed.

By now the rain hadn't stopped, but had become more continuous, so we excitedly headed to the night training - a mass start, head-to-head gaffled course using SI air, which definitely was not competitive and in any way and was only training. This was a replacement for an actual night race which had been cancelled at short notice since the forest had been decimated by the wind last week.

We timed leaving the car so as to arrive at the start as close as possible to the mass start, got cold for a short while, then started and got warm quite quickly. The course crossed the railway line twice (where there were trains of the choo-choo variety) but nobody got any points in the competition for who could get the most decibel-seconds of train horn sounded at them. Andrew showed us his police headtorch but fortunately didn't use it out on the course. Everybody finished at some point but it was dark and raining so we don't really know who finished when (except that Paul was fast like Paul this evening).

Then we headed back to Lancaster and had some efficient showers before walking into town for a curry. DrongO didn't honour the standard DrongO naan and rice order very well, but the food was still very tasty, as were the jugs of lassi.

We had a comfy night's sleep, packed up, and headed back to the Lakes for day 2 at High Dam. It was a chasing start based on yesterday's times with fastest starting first, so first to the finish wins. The courses started with three short loops run in different orders, followed by a longer loop which was the same for everyone, which led to some exciting head to head racing. The weather today was almost sunny, so it was nice to be able to chat/eat lunch outside instead of immediately hiding in the cars.

Once we were all back, Tom's car stayed in the Lakes for the afternoon and everyone else went home. We started by going part way up the old man of Coniston, which then got extended to a circuit which went most of the way up, which then became going all the way to the top, which then became an increasingly dark descent. Everything was snowy up high and the snowy sunset views were a great way to finish the weekend. Scott Collier also joined us for the walk and him and Anne invited us back to their house in Coniston for brownies, but sadly time was tight to get going south so we missed out on brownie enjoyment.

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