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JROS Hawkshead Results

20-Nov-21

DrongO provided results service to the Hawkshead Night Sprint Not-Relay.

Results are here

Dunnerdale fell race

16-Nov-21

Jeremy decided that he wanted to escape from London and go to a better part of the country for the weekend. Fortunately our government doesn't work on some Fridays* so he was able to be in Lancaster at a suitable time to head to the pub with John. Some beer and burritos were consumed and by the time they returned home Helen, Paul and Andrew had arrived.

On Saturday everyone went to Dunnerdale for a fell race. There were at least 6 DrongOs taking part and it was Jeremy's first fell race. The weather was surprisingly nice for November and it was warm enough to walk around in shorts and tshirts. Paul finished 3rd and everyone else finished. Jeremy was very tired at the end and sprawled on the ground. He was shortly revived with a pie and pint.

On Sunday, Jeremy went to visit his friend in Ulverston, John went for a run in Yorkshire and everyone else went to some horrible orienteering.

*other days may also apply

November Classic 2021

07-Nov-21

On a classic weekend in November, DrongO went to the November Classic. It was a classic weekend of orienteering, held in November.

On Saturday it was the Salisbury city race. Ben, Zuzka and Rowan met James near his house on Saturday morning for a lift, and Tom D and Richard drove themselves there. The start was right next to the cathedral and the courses had quite a lot of climb on them. James had an exciting race after getting caught by Ben Mitchell by 1 minute. He did well to hold on, but a late mistake involving an uncrossable fence led to Ben M gaining another minute to take the overall win. Ben W then slotted into 2nd having seen almost nobody on the way round, but James still holding 3rd place. when talking through maps, for the second time in 2 weeks, Ben W was told by Tom D that he'd gone out of bounds, and for the second time in two weeks the organiser/controller said it was fine (we secretly know that Tom is right, but it's the organiser's decision after all).

After the race Richard headed off to visit his brother and the rest of us went to get some late lunch from a combination of Gregg's and M&S (we were surprised to find a Gregg's this far south) and then tried to do some tourism. Salisbury cathedral was quite expensive to go into considering it was going to close soon, so we settled for looking around the courtyard. We then wandered around and saw some other not-that-historic buildings, before going back to the cars via Aldi to get food for tomorrow.

We stayed at a scout hut organised by UBOC (Bristol uni) and they already had a campfire going when we arrived. There were supposedly 6 beds which we said the drivers could have, but they were so terrible everyone opted for mats on the floor. We figured out how to turn on the hot water then walked into Burley to have dinner in a pub. Everybody failed at guessing what everybody else was going to order. The food was good, although the four-layer chocolate fudge cake, with a description which included the word "chocolate" no less than 7 times, left Ben and James feeling very much like Jeremy. Luckily neither of them stooped to his level.

Back at the scout hut we rejoined the campfire and refused Bristol's offers of spare veggie chilli as we definitely couldn't manage it. Impressively the water was indeed hot for showers now too! Ben and Tom played on the rope swing and with the help of a watch established that the rope was around 10m long. There were marshmallows, although the skewers to cook them on were quite short and Rowan employed a "no pain, no gain" cooking strategy when holding his skewer close to the fire.

After a good long sleep we got up to a sunny Sunday morning and packed up. Tom discovered two of his tyres on his recently acquired car looked quite flat, thus begun Tom's woes of car ownership. James had an electric pump to pump them up, and they seemed to stay hard so we were fine for the short term at least, so we headed 10 minutes down the road to the November Classic.

It was 2k to the start, 2k back from the finish, and 13.9k Black (M21)/9.9k Short brown (W21) - so quite a good day out. The area in the new "forest" was almost entirely open, and generally very fast running except for some areas of thick heather. In the men's Ben W was 3rd in 77 minutes, just managing to stay ahead of Meg Carter-Davies by 50 seconds, which Ben Mitchell stormed around to win 5 minutes quicker. Tom D was 14th, 33s ahead of James in 15th, with Rowan 21st and Richard 29th. Zuzka came 62nd on Very Short Green according to the results, which is strange, because she ran Short Brown.

Next we ate food and sat in the warm car for a bit like classic British orienteers (we had to, because it was a Classic event). James left to go on holiday in Cornwall, and everyone else drove a short way to go for a walk in an actually forested part of the new forest. There were three walking trails, a 2 mile red, a 1 mile blue, and a 0.5 mile yellow. Naturally we did all of them. There was a deer watching platform, where a local guy said he's only seen deer twice in 30 years. It's almost like deer avoid places where there are lots of humans, as we saw plenty during our Blue loop!

Tom then drove Ben, Zuzka and Rowan back to Newbury, where we sampled the local Wetherspoons before getting the train home.

Cambridge City Race 2021

30-Oct-21

At the end of October 2021 CUOC organised their 7th biennial city race around the streets of Cambridge. A large group of DrongO also turned up to help and run. Once the start clock had been set correctly by trial and error, everything was ready to go!

The assembly area was based outside a pub on midsummer common which was very convenient, and all the organisation went very smoothly. There was no access to any colleges this year (the colleges had a very convenient, but also rubbish, excuse to say no). However unlike the O*ford city race, the Cambridge race was still interesting without the colleges, and still went through several university sites.

As there was no prize giving, spot prizes were given at download using the spot prize giving algorithm, which was made up by whoever was manning download at the time. Prizes included buffs, ice cream vouchers, and a few bottles of Lachlan's home made cherry liqueur - if you weren't one of the lucky ones you can order some here

Controls were collected within 7 minutes of courses closing and then people headed in various directions - most went for a walk to Grantchester, some went back to Rowan's for a shower and some went to a church service.

We reconvened at the Anchor pub at 7pm for some drinks and then went to Zizzi's for dinner. Some people then went back with Richard to Stevenage for a comfy sleep in real beds, while the rest went for ice cream then went to sleep onto Rowan's floor in Milton. Rowan's initial estimate of 6 people fitting on his floor turned out to be too small, as two people managed to fit in only the space under the stairs, leaving plenty of spare area.

Most people stayed around for the whole weekend. Rowan and Tom went to the Norwich city race, and other people made their way to Ely by various combinations of walking and running. Rowan actually made his way there via Norwich. Phil and James ran there in heavy rain, while everybody else was sensible enough to delay starting for an hour, when the sun came out.

We got the train back to Cambridge and people went their separate ways. John was staying with Jeremy in London on his way back to Lancaster, so Ben joined them too for an easy quiche and vegetables dinner at Jeremy's.

Paul's House Go To France

20-Oct-21

A long time ago, Paul's housemate Andrew (AIRE/PLOD) decided he wanted to go on holiday at least once in 2021. At the time, it seemed that covid might be over by the autumn, so did some searching and found out about a week of racing in Larzac - 'every French person's favourite terrain'.

Months went by and we made plans. We all really liked Andrew's car, so decided that it was a good idea to spend as much time in it as possible. This is how we found ourselves leaving Leeds on a Friday afternoon to drive to Languedoc.

The evening's drive was uneventful, except when we arrived at the French border. Due to recent geopolitical disasters Helen, Andrew and Fay (AIRE/AROS) got stamps in their passports, which was incredibly exciting. Paul was disappointed to miss out, but then remembered he's able to live anywhere he wants in Europe and it suddenly didn't seem like so much of a loss. After spending a while in a tunnel and some more driving, we arrived in a nice forest at about 90 past Bedtime. We set up camp and settled down for a good night's sleep, interrupted only by some weird wild pig noises.

The next morning we got up and left before being discovered, bought some baguettes and pain au chocolat, and drove a long way. After driving a long way, we stopped in the New bit of Old Orléans for some flunch, then drove a long way. Another long way later, we stopped off to run around a very big Virgin on a hill and ate some dinner. Then we drove a long way, found the house and went to bed. While driving down, we had lots of entertainment, including the entire soundtrack of Legally Blonde the Musical, a podcast about a man who stopped someone from shooting the USA President, and finding out to our disappointment that the region of Pas de Calais does not in fact mean Not-Calais.

Sunday morning was spent recovering, shopping and looking round the local town. We decided to have a competition to see how could cook the most French meal, which meant looking at lots of recipes in French. One of the recipes had seaweed and tofu in it, but Super-U Lodève wasn't as veg-friendly as 'Assiettes vegetariennes', so we had to get lentils instead.

In the afternoon we headed to a big hill to go for a run. Only one short walk and one run made this the one of the most restful days of the trip.

On Monday we went to pick up some training maps for the week. The first training was quite difficult, because they had forgotten to print any white or dark green on the map. It was only after racing on the adjacent area the next day that we realised just how much had been missing. The terrain was really great - fast running rough open with lots of limestone rocks. Scrubby box bushes everywhere made visibility poor, but were easy to push through so didn't slow you down much.

We stopped for lunch at the top of a cool hill, then had a look round one of the trainings for the night race, in the hope that if we saw it in the day first we'd get less lost in the dark. We went for a walk up another cool hill, and then went to see Fay's friend Audrey for dinner. We were warned in advance "I hope you like cheese", so it was just as well that Paul's veganism was also having a holiday. When we turned up to the Tous Azimuts Douai chalet, we were greeted by a big pot of potatoes, a raclette grill, and 3 tons of cheese. We melted more cheese than any of us had ever though possible onto our spuds, then washed them down with apple crumble - our best attempt at a 'British pudding' that didn't involve suet or boiling for 4 hours. The French liked our food and we liked theirs, and so we did our part in keeping international relations cordial.

Tuesday was the first race, on the adjacent area to yesterday's training - the unpronouncable Bousquetnnous. This was really good fun - more fast running with lots of tricky rocky bits. All of the colours were on the map, making things easier than yesterday in places. Helen was 1st and Paul was 7th, despite multiple mistakes related to an inability to read control descriptions.

After a nice walk round a big valley, we headed back to the night area to do some different courses, but this time at night. The area was a bit different to earlier - more open areas, less box, and much bigger rocks. As one might expect, it was more difficult in the dark.

Wednesday's training was at Sainte Eulalie de Cernon, which was thorny and seemed to have a lot of gratuitous climb. The rocks were big though, and we got to run on a railway line, so it all balanced out. Afterwards we had a look round a cool village with a castle in it, before heading off to the biggest geological highlight of the entire week.

A 350m high hill doesn't seem particularly imposing when you're beside it. There are lots of 350m high hills and we run up them all the time. A 350m hole is another matter. The Cirque de Navacelles is ginormous. There's a hill at the bottom which is at least 50m high, and it looks tiny. It took about 10 mins to drive from 'ground level' all the way into the hole, but we reckon you could easily run it faster, because straight is great. It would be an interesting race to pit road cyclists, mountain cyclists and runners against eachother in a race from one rim to the other. It would be an even more interesting race when the gendarmes turned up to ask what you were doing to their special conservation area.

We spent a while walking around the bottom of the hole, then drove up the canyon a bit to walk to some watermills. This was the first swim of the week, as limestone plateaux don't have much in the way of water. It was quite cold, but very refreshing.

After heading home for another French-style meal we went to do our second night training. This time there were loads of other people around, getting in some last minute practice for the championships tomorrow. It was more of the same - lots of big exciting rocks with fast running in between.

On Thursday we didn't need to get up early to go orienteering, so we got up early to go to Carcassonne instead. This turned out to be a good idea, because it rained in Larzac. On the way down, we stopped off at Les Marcassins for a training in some of the weirdest terrain of the week. Red rock bare earth, cut into huge gullies by dried up streams, interspersed with the thorniest of thorny bushes. Steep, spiky, and surprisingly difficult, we spent about twice as long as we expected to, before heading off for the main event of the daytime.

Fans of walled cities or board games will know that Carcassonne is a famous walled city, named after a famous board game. In the game you place tiles with walls and roads on them to try to build walls and roads, and get points for various things. In the real life version, we came several hundred years too late, and all the tiles had already been placed, making it a less interactive visit than we might have hoped. In France, EU citizens aged 18-25 get free entrance to lots of historic places. UK citizens do not. Our token EU citizen also forgot his passport, so what was planned to be a free day out was looking quite expensive. In a stroke of genius, we booked our tickets online and assumed they wouldn't check IDs. Act of fraud committed, we headed inside. The castle was built over the course of several centuries, then fell into ruin but was restored in the 1800s, so is now mostly intact. One sign told us that when it was under siege, Lady Carcas used up all their remaining food to fatten up pigs, which they launched over the walls at the attackers. Seeing that the castle clearly had enough food to last years, the enemy gave up and went home.

We left Carcassonne, stopped off briefly at the house, and headed out again for the French Night Champs. It wasn't raining anymore, which made things a lot nicer to run in, and it was warm enough to just wear normal o-kit. Andrew's combination of wide angle headtorch for mapreading plus bike light strapped to his head for looking at the terrain did a good job. Helen's tiny petzl did even better, lighting her way to 4th, behind well-known Frenchwomen Tereza Janosikova and Eva Juřeníková. The course either tracked up or there were some big trains out there, because all the late starters had very fast times, even compared to early starters Lucas Basset (WOC silver medallist) and Paul Pružina (former East Anglian Champion).

The next morning we had a lie in, only getting up at 0830. We only had one orienteering session planned today, making this the rest day. The race was a 'forest' sprint, in similar terrain to yesterday morning. This time the gullies were less deep and the bushes less spiky, making running a lot easier and orienteering more fun. Andrew was out first, and came back telling Paul he should probably win. Helen and Paul both decided to take this advice. Afterwards, we decided we hadn't seen enough rocks this week, so went for a walk at the Cirque du Mourèze to see some more. These ones were the biggest so far, and very similar to the rock gardens of Český Raj - a paradis français.

The last day of orienteering involved an early start. We had packed and cleaned on Friday night, so just had to get up and leave the house at 0630 to head to Béziers. The French sprint champs are a little more serious than the British, with bigger fields, more good people, and quarantine before the races. We arrived in a school playground a few minutes before quarantine closed, and had a 90 minute wait before our starts. The Qualification races were good fun - starting off in a park before heading around some old town streets. The top 10 French people, and any foreigners in the top 10, qualify for the final. Andrew and Helen qualified comfortably, Fay snuck in in 10th, and Paul came 11th, cursing a 10s mistake that put him the wrong side of 10th.

As the others headed back to the school playground for several more hours of waiting, Paul got the chance to see the sites of Béziers, including an indoor market selling tasty olives, 155 steps of the Cathedral tower, a visitor leaflet written in first person by the Cathedral itself, and a cup of thé in a salon de. Eventually the wait was over. Fay was the first through, soon followed by Helen, and by Andrew half an hour later. The finals were broadcast live on Mont Blanc TV, and in total we had about 10s of coverage, mostly in the background of French runners they were trying to film. The courses this time were entirely in the old town, visiting a lot of the places Paul had been on his walk, but without being allowed to stop for thé or glace.

When everyone had finished, we stayed to watch the speediest men speeding in, before heading back to the car.

Béziers is not quite by the Mediterranean, and we thought it would be a bit silly to drive all the way here without even seeing it, so we drove about 20 mins to get to the beach and go for a swim. The waves were big and fun, but no one else around seemed to think so because they were all staying on dry land. We had a dinner of bread, cheese and houmous and then began the long trip north.

After a few hours of rain so heavy we could only drive at 80, we arrived at our luxury 1 star hotel in Clermont Ferrand. We spent the next morning driving up to Fontainebleau, where we didn't go orienteering, and instead looked at lots of cool rocks. Andrew got out his climbing shoes and did one boulder problem, but the rock was quite wet so no one else could do anything in normal shoes. We continued the drive up to Amiens, were we went to a Breton restaurant for dinner, getting galletes followed by crêpes, a highly recommended menu.

On Monday morning it was time to go. When we arrived in Calais, the French border guard made fun of the British for needing to get their passports stamped, and then the British customs queue took so long to check a caravan that we missed our boat and had to wait 90 minutes for the next one. When we eventually got to the less fun side of La Manche we drove some more, taking special care to drive on the left and go round roundabouts clockwise.

Larzac was a really amazing place to orienteer. The terrains were fantastic, the October weather was warm but not too hot, the maps were good, the competitions were great, and none of the French people laughed too much at our less-than-perfect French. Everyone should go orienteering there.

DrongO at the Czech Night Champs

18-Oct-21

On 16/17 October a weekend of orienteering was held featuring the Czech night championships, which Ben W and Dan S went to. The weekend started in classic DrongO style with Ben and Dan meeting at a pizza place on the outskirts of Prague, also joined by Johanna, who was quite new to orienteering and had just run a nearby training with Dan. Unusually, the score was pizza 1, DrongO 0, as DrongO could not finish the pizza and had to take it with them.

Next on the itinerary was a concert by a band called Timudej, whose most famous song is called "Banana squaish". Dan went home to have a shower whilst Ben went straight there, and was met by Dan's brother Seb. In the queue Seb almost managed to even up the pizza score. Just as we'd reached the front of the queue and shown our tickets, Dan appeared behind us which was confusing given the size of the queue. It turned out Dan thought the queue was a queue to buy tickets and had walked straight past it, skipping the covid check and getting straight in. The concert was fun and included glowing balloons being thrown into the crowd to be hit around. The band don't meet very often, forgot to bring their own merchandise (as Dan discovered at the end when he tried to buy some), and occasionally they messed up their own lyrics. Ben held the pizza box for the entire concert containing the final slice which nobody wanted. Seb finally put it out of its misery at the end. Then it was back to Dan's flat for some sleep before orienteering!

On Saturday morning we got up in time despite Seb's "wakes up everyone in the room" alarm failing. We picked up another guy (Fanda) and drove to Plzeň for a lunchtime sprint race, in which Ben came 7th and Dan had an almost perfect run but was outrun to finish in 22nd, just over 5 mins down on the leader.

Next stop was a face-stuffing self service supermarket restaurant at Globus, in which we managed to buy too much food. Dan made a moody waitress moodier by asking when more food would be ready. Ben was defeated by boiled potatoes and had to takeaway a gherkin, and the shared cake between Ben and Dan also got taken away.

When the face stuffing was complete, we headed to the accommodation in a boarding school to check in. We were doing the check in for the 17 members of Kamenice (Dan's Czech club) who had entered the race weekend. They insisted that we complete the addresses and passport numbers of everybody, but everybody wasn't there so Fanda spent an hour "remembering" this information. It then turned out that a subset of the club had come earlier and "remembered" their details differently, but fortunately nobody seemed to care. As a result, there was no time left for some Plzeň tourism, but we did drive round the town square which featured fountains of lambda, pi, and tau.

We then headed back to the Globus car park for the Czech night champs. People not registered with Czech orienteering aren't allowed to run the night champs, so Ben got demoted from 21E to T4, a 4k training course. Dan had a clean run and finished 41st, partly fuelled by anger at the start officials, who told him he might get disqualified for not having a covid wristband. It turned out we were supposed to show vaccination certificates in exchange for a wristband in the car park, but we may have not read every bit of the final details. Luckily they let us show them at the Sunday event and all was good. The assembly area was amazing, indoor, heated, and nice showers.

After enjoying the showers we headed back to the accommodation for bed. Dan took one for the team by being first to discover that the toilet paper was stored outside of the toilet cubicles so you had to plan ahead, but a clubmate rescued him.

In the morning we packed up quickly had a Lidl breakfast, where croissants are approximately free. It was foggy and frosty and we were about the 10th car to arrive in the car park. In contrast to yesterday's rules, Ben was the only person who couldn't get demoted from 21E to 21A, since foreigners are assumed to be good. Ben managed not to embarrass himself and finished 27th of 37, 9 minutes down on the leader. Dan finished 52/68 on 21A, 13 minutes behind the leader. The standard in Czechia is definitely higher than in the UK, and there were so many young people at these races! We had dršťková afterwards, a kind of soup with cow stomach in it. It was slightly strange.

Then it was time to head back to Prague. We ditched Seb for Johanna in the car and drove back. At Dan's flat we discovered that Ben didn't comprehend why Friday's concert had started like it did, with a man in a full head mask ha-ing random songs (ha-ing is like humming, but instead of saying mmm you say ha). He was meant to be a character from a French film called Fantômas, so we watched that. It includes a vehicle chase involving everything from a motorbike to a submarine.

Then there was just time to squeeze in some dinner and beer in a pub before Ben went back to the airport. Dan brought his scooter to use for getting back home more quickly and scooted out of the pub when we left, complaining that the only good surfaces for scooting are those which are forbidden to scoot on.

BOC 2021

07-Oct-21

On 2nd October the British Long Distance Championships were held on Braunton Burrows on the north coast of Devon. Ben W, Ben S, Rowan and Zuzka assembled (in that order) at the exciting location of Sixt car hire North Wembley to begin the trip. First stop was a very efficient 30 minute stop in Oxford to pick up Tom D, but more importantly to eat the tuna bake he'd prepared. We decided this was his pre-house warming so that when we finally have a proper one it won't be too freezing when people first arrive. We also established that the pasta bake was marginally more expensive than the brand new plates we were eating it off.

After a long journey involving a rather strange service station which looked like a converted supermarket, we arrived at our AirBnb in Bideford, which was very luxurious by DrongO standards.

There was plenty of time to lie in in the morning, and Zuzka made pancakes. We played a slightly annoying game where you aren't allowed to use the word "yes" or "no" in answer to questions, by which time it has started raining and it was time to go. Upon arrival we were directed to the backup backup car park, which was actually quite good.

The area was difficult and there was a lot of stuff on the map - not just complicated sand dune contours, but also various patches of dark green vegetation and marshes. The final details had done their best to set low expectations of the map quality, and as a result everyone was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The courses were long (hence the name of the competition) and were a bit like a black course and a middle race stuck together, with the final third having plenty of shorter legs to catch you out when tired. The M21E course had a fantastic route from the penultimate control to the final one involving a 15m descent of a large and steep sand dune.

Ben W gained his first ever BOC medal, coming 2nd on M21E after managing not to make any major navigation mistakes (and a large number of team GB being away in Switzerland might have helped). Ben S had some exciting head to head racing for a large portion of his course, getting dragged round in the earlier part and then doing the dragging towards the end, to come 7th overall. Tom and Rowan also got round successfully, finishing 18th and 23th, with Zuzka 11th on W21E. There was also a DrongO medal win from Mary Ockenden with bronze on W60.

After the race we thought about going to the beach, but everyone was quite wet so we went shopping and back to the house to "cook". "Cook" because Zuzka voted that we should have an Asian ready meal feast, featuring Thai, Indian, and Chinese, and everybody else abstained from the vote. We also made crumble with a cinnamon DrongO on top, because we felt it was the right thing to do. Our ideas of doing some tourism in the town didn't really materialise by the time we'd eaten and played a few games. We also enjoyed a bottle of red wine delivered by Nick Barrable to Ben W. It was Ben's prize from the Rome city race, brought via Stockholm, and it took around 2 years to complete the journey.

Sunday morning was more of a normal getting up time, leaving at 9.30am, at which point Ben W discovered a parking penalty notice on the car. The pay and display ticket had slipped down and was still visible if you looked at the correct angle, but was not "clearly visible". Luckily they decided not to charge us once sent some more photos.

There was a middle distance race on the same area as yesterday. This time we were only sent to the backup car park so it was 2.7k to the start. The weather was windy and sunny, with very short but very heavy showers. Some people were lucky to stay dry whilst running and some were not. Ben W picked up his prize from yesterday of Devon Chutney and a Terry's chocolate orange (which was rapidly consumed during the journey home).

Once everyone was back we headed over to Saunton Sands, a massive, sandy, very shallow beach where there were lots of surfers and kite surfers. The Bens and Tom went for a swim and Ben W drew a string course in the sand and sand dunes to be used for warming up again after swimming. Rowan indicated the edge of his personal space with a line in the sand and Zuzka got trapped inside a circle drawn around her.

We just made it back to the car within 1 hour of parking and started the journey home. We dropped Ben S at Cheltenham Spa and got some pizzas to have DrongO pizza at Tom's on the way back past Oxford. We were also worried about petrol because we had to bring the hire car back full. After filling up in Devon, then Cheltenham, then Oxford (with progressively longer queues, lower availability and higher prices) we made it to London with the guage still showing full.

We dropped Rowan off at Hillingdon only to get a call from him a few minutes later to say there we no trains, so we went to get him again (there may have actually been trains, ask Tom if you want to find out if there were). This made it very tight for him to get the last train to Cambridge, but Rowan soldiered on, easily making his train with plenty of nanoseconds to spare. Ben W and Zuzka dropped the car off but spent a while trying to find the box for key drop, because Ben couldn't remember where it was. After taking some photos through a crack in a window (which turned out to be a toilet, not a key drop) they found it at the entrance to the compound just in time for the next train home.

Thanks everyone for another fun DrongO weekend, see you at the Cambridge city race!

Gigasecond Weekend

01-Oct-21

Once upon a time* DrongO wanted to go to the JK in Yorkshire. But alas, a plague came and it was not to be. The DrongOs** had already parted with their gold for a bunkhouse in which to stay, and so it was that the booking was postponed. Twice upon a time*** Ben was nearly 30 and thought celebrating in Yorkshire would be fun. The MMM happened one week earlier, but alas the plague struck again. Do not fear, said the DrongOs**, the JK in Cornwall is cancelled. So the DrongOs** decided that next time**** they would have a weekend in Yorkshire instead. But alas, the plague still hadn't finished its last strike, and the DrongOs** thought they'd try again at a later date*****. But what to call it? Ben's 30th had passed long ago, and he was now nearer****** to 1 billion seconds old than 30 years. So it was that the Gigasecond weekend was born.

* 10-13 April, 2020
** Ben, on behalf of the DrongOs
*** 25-28 September, 2020
**** 2-5 April, 2021
***** 24-27 September, 2021
****** The actual Gigasecond is at 4:55am on 6 July 2022

Two cars travelled to the Hole of Horcum on Friday morning and went for a walk, which included some token bracken bashing, a ruined tower, and a view over the steam railway. We could also see a super secret military triangular prism, but we don't know what it is. We got to the bunkhouse at about 5pm and put up tents (because there were more people than would fit in the bunkhouse) and waited for the other three cars to come, one of which had the food in it. Luckily the food-containing car was first to arrive, with the final people finally making it sometime after midnight. Food was a zero-chopping veggie chilli with wraps, which involved throwing everything in a saucepan, waiting for it to get hot, then eating it in wraps. Helen O and Paul presented Ben with his Gigasecond present - 1000 millions carefully counted out. There are 986 of them left currently.

On Saturday morning it was day 1 of the October Oddysey on sand dunes near Redcar, with a view over an offshore windfarm in one direction, and a view of a steelworks in the other direction. DrongO had managed to roughly double the number of entries on the Brown course. The brown was "won" by Ben W, but later it was discovered that two M18s had run the JIRCs quicker (same course, but in the afternoon). Here are the full results. We also had two relatively new people to orienteering with us - Andie (Rory's partner), who somehow ended up with a map for the Yellow course, but control descriptions for the White course. She rigourously stuck to punching the correct codes as shown on the descriptions, and quite impressively completed the White course despite not having the map for it! Tom Weatherby also ambitiously entered the Brown, and completed it successfully, beating at least one person in the process!

Once everybody was finished we had a picnic by the dunes and then went for a walk on the beach. However, upon reaching the beach many people decided that it would be more fun to bury Jeremy in a vertical position, so some people went for a walk, and some buried Jeremy. It soon became apparent that building a pile of sand as tall as Jeremy would be very difficult, so once it was up to his waist he sat down and the Jeremy-encasing sand castle was completed. Meanwhile, Ben S went for a swim and came back reporting that he had almost been dragged out to sea by the current! A lucky miss, so after the sandcastle some people went wave jumping without getting too deep.

We then went back to the bunkhouse for some quick showers, before heading back out to a pub for dinner. Contrary to John's prediction that "nowhere is going to have space for 17 people on a Saturday night" this place did indeed have space for 17 people on a Saturday night, thus proving John incorrect. It was an enjoyable meal, culminating with dessert (as meals usually do). Jeremy and Rowan shared the "sharing sundae" - which Rowan ate his share but Jeremy needed help, deepening his reputation for being too full.

On the way back home two cars stopped off at Goathland station (which was Hogsmeade station in Harry Potter) - as part of the "steam Gala" which was happening that weekend, there was a beer festival. You could choose from around 30 beers and drink them on the platform, and a couple of steam trains came through with their fires giving an impressive red glow in the darkness.

On Sunday it was day 2 of the October Oddysey, but starts weren't until about 1pm, so some people stayed around the bunkhouse and played board games in the morning, and some people went for some short walks on the moors. Ben W, John and Jeremy walked up and jogged down a nearby hill, stopping at a nice-looking pond on the way down for a quick swim. Unfortunately the pool turned out to be not so nice, and actually just a good mechanism for swapping a sweaty body for a muddy one.

Everyone met up at the race, which was on the same sand dunes as yesterday but a bit further south, and was middle distance. It included a couple of legs where you could choose to run along the beach, and some fun sand dune descents if you took the right route! As yesterday, this was followed by a sunny picnic at the assembly area, and then another trip to the beach. More people went wave-jumping today, and a scale drawn in the sand showed that the sea had moved up the beach by around 14m whilst we were in the water. We couldn't leave without doing a bit of sandcastle building, so some smaller castles were built a further 10 metres up the beach until the sea destroyed them. Miranda and Tom's car had left us at this point. The rest of us went back to the bunkhouse to cook some curry for dinner and spend the evening playing games.

On Monday morning it poured with rain for around two hours, so we got up slowly and played some more games whilst waiting for it to stop. It did indeed stop, and the sun even came out a little bit, so we packed up and drove a few minutes do another moor walk. The walk crossed the steam railway which led to much excitement at being able to walk on the railway tracks. After the walk we had a picnic lunch and then just had time to return to the tracks to see a steam train go past at close range.

Rory's car then headed off, while Richard's car and John's car went to York on the way back for some more tourism walking round the city walls. Thanks everyone for coming!

MMM 2021

14-Sep-21

The Mourne Mountain Marathon (MMM) took place on 11-12 September. Various people arrived at various times and The Spreadsheet was used to ensure they all made it to the Pružina household on Friday night. The Pružinas had prepared some tasty baked potatoes for us, which were made tastier because we had recently discovered that not only is Ireland famous for potatoes, but Comber, the Pružina's town, is famous within Ireland for its potatoes. Sadly these potatoes weren't from Comber, but whatever. An unknown boy with long hair was also staying with us, and we still aren't sure who he is.

On Saturday morning it was an early start and everyone made it to the assembly area in time for their starts except Jeremy and Ruairi, who fancied a lie in. Their lateness was further compounded by the assumption that Ruairi's parents were both doctors and therefore the required first aid items would be found around his house, however nothing as simple as a bandage was available, only complex doctory things were there. They eventually started 3 minutes after the start officially closed.

It was a lovely day as the clouds lifted and gave way to semi-blue sky, and gradually everybody came into the overnight campsite. For once, nobody wished they were like Paul because he had banged his knee and so his partner Phil ran the course unofficially on his own, accompanied by Ben for the final bit, who was spectating/taking photos because 4 hours is too long to run for if your Achilles hurts. There were, however, some non-injured people on the elite course: Matthew+John leading over a mixed pair by less than a minute, and Heather+Helen just over an hour behind in 6th, and 1st women.

Jeremy and Ruairi came in from the C course a bit later in the afternoon - Jeremy's housemate Ruairi had once told Jeremy "mountain marathons sound interesting". Jeremy promptly bought him an entry to the MMM as a birthday present! Helen and Zuzka arrived with Zuzka feeling sick any time she ate anything, but they made it! Richard and partner James Roberts (also from Pembroke, and almost new to orienteering) came in from the B course just as the sun was setting, coming in quite cheerfully after a huge 10 hour effort! We also discovered a CUOC pair were there - women's captain Sarah Pedley and Dom Dakin (who is about to start Cambridge, but is already on the CUOC committee!).

The afternoon/evening was spent eating and talking. Conversation topics included "would you eat the baby?" and "can you get waterproof trousers for a horse with taped seams?". Ben, Phil and John went for swim dressed very naturally while Matthew spectated. Jeremy ate multiple desserts, so we can confirm that he is, after many weeks, no longer full from pancakes.

Sunday morning was chilly and grey, but dry, and still very sweaty once you got running. The courses were generally slightly shorter and also more runnable than yesterday. Matthew and John had a good day to win the men's elite, while Heather and Helen we're 5th on elite and women's winners. Phil would have virtually "won" but his watch deleted the activity, which ruined Phil's day and erased all evidence of his virtual win. Dom and Sarah were also 5th on the C.

Once everybody had arrived back and helped to consume some of the spare sandwiches (nobody wanted a peanut butter wrap through), one car headed off for a swim in the sea and the others went back to the Pružina household for showers and more tasty chilli. Then it was time for some people to go home, and some people to stay a bit longer to explore Northern Ireland!

Coast and Islands

26-Jul-21

Day 2

After the sprint in Ullapool the previous day, everyone was excited to go orienteering in some real terrain. Everyone got stuck in some roadworks on the way to the race and missed their start times. Start times were not adhered to for the rest of the week. The terrain turned out to be a horrible thick green forest with lots of spiky bits at eye level, trippy bits at foot level and scratchy bits at all other levels.

We'd parked on the playground at Lochinver Primary School which was next to a lochan. John and James went swimming, and John got covered in ticks from some grass next to the water. We headed into Lochinver village to investigate the pie shop. Unfortunately there was a massive queue, so we got the picnic bag out of the car and ate the emergency tesco pork pies instead.

In the afternoon we went for a walk up Stac Pollaidh. The cloud was down and we didn't expect to see a view from the top. Shortly before the summit we broke through the top of the cloud into glorious sunshine. There was some fun scrambling along the ridge and working out which was the real top. We camped on some dunes above the beach at Little Gruinard. The beach was a good spot for dinner and stayed relatively midge free.

Day 3

We had late afternoon starts for the orienteering, and decided to spend the morning doing a warm up. Jeremy decided that the best way to do this was by doing some more paperwork for renting a house. John and James decided that was not active enough (and had no paperwork anyway), so decided to run up some Munroes instead. They were originally planning to do an out-and-back run from the road, but Matt told them that the route was best done as a circuit including some scrambling. There was a 5km track run in before the climb really started. The bedrock at the lower slopes was quartzite, and this changed to a red sandstone on the ridge. The ridge sandstone was made up of lots of lobes - a bit like a stack of unfinished pancakes. John and James scrambled along the ridges and came across a herd of goats. The Munroes: Sgurr Fiona and Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill were fairly unremarkable, but visiting them nearly doubled John's Munroe count. Back at the road, everyone sat around a picnic table when a cyclist stopped and looked strangely at us. It turned out to be Pippa, who had been cycling on the Outer Hebrides and was on her way to Fort William. We invited her to join us for lunch, and realised most of the lunch was still in the other car, parked a few km along the road at the start of the run.

In the afternoon we went orienteering at Poolewe. There was a section of woodland at the start and end of the courses, but mostly it was on the fell. The car park was surprisingly midgy and we escaped to Gairloch for dinner. The pub was full so we joined the long queue at the chippy. The wait was rewarded by large portions of chips, and Jeremy once again failed to finish all his food. Fortunately hungry cyclist Pippa was around to ensure nothing went uneaten. We found a partially constructed 5G phone mast to camp under, and as the rain started everyone drifted off to sleep with sweet dreams of covid conspiracy theories.

Day 4

It was still raining in the morning and there were lots of midges stuck inside the tent outer. We went to a cafe for coffee and second breakfasts, and stayed there for quite a while. Pippa left on her bike and we went to the orienteering. The rain stopped by the time we arrived. The area was the best of the week, a fellside with lots of rock detail and reasonable underfoot running. John caught up a few minutes on James and spent the rest of the race trying to get away, ultimately making a mistake and letting James get ahead again. Jeremy also had a nice time.

We went to Shieldaig for lunch. James had not done enough exercise in the morning and went cycling around Applecross. He returned in a cold, soggy state a few hours later. We found a nice spot to camp on the area for the next day.

Day 5

The toilets in Kyle of Lochalsh charged an extortionate fee which we realised we shouldn't have bothered with anyway, because we then went to a cafe for second-breakfast. Tom Dobra has been complaining for years that no-one plans red courses anymore, but one had been planned for us. The area was very green and the best way between controls was always to go round on the paths. Matt skipped part of the long course and found out at the finish that he had managed to do the correct controls for the short course.

In the afternoon we went for a walk up Belig on Skye. It was very steep and the summit was in a cloud. Matt left his bag a short distance before the top, which Jeremy then moved. On the way down Matt was deep in conversation with James and walked right past his bag. Jeremy shouldered Matt's bag and continued walking down the hill. John and James tried to keep the conversation going, but eventually Matt realised that he'd forgotten his bag. It was quite possibly more funny at the time.

In the evening we got separated whilst trying to find a place to camp. No-one had any phone signal which resulted in quite a lot of sitting around and wondering what the others might be doing. Eventually everyone converged on a lovely beach, which had also been found by several other orienteers in campervans.

Day 6

The orienteering on the last day was at Armadale Castle on Skye, although no-one is actually sure if there is a castle. The course was in the wooded hillside surrounding the supposed castle. After the race, everyone went for a final dip in the sea. John and Jeremy headed back to Lancaster. The journey was mostly uneventful apart from Jeremy nearly destroying the clutch in John's car, and stopping for an excellent pie, mash and peas. James was still not tired, so stayed on Skye to do some more exercise.