It was billed as “The Big Weekend”, a veritable feast of Orienteering to be held in Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh on 23-24 February.
To begin, the organisers promised a midday kick-off on Saturday with the Northern Ireland Score Championships. Then six hours later, the Northern Ireland Night Championships, once it got dark enough to run. Then, bright and early on Sunday morning, they would lay on a technically tricky test on the limestoned, heathered hills of Crossmurrin (near the famous Marble Arch Caves). How could I not drive the two hours down with three orienteering races on offer, all within the space of 24 hours?
Saturday’s events took place in Florencecourt Forest, less than ten miles away from Enniskillen town. 24 controls were dotted around the place, scores ranging from a mere 10 to a mighty 50 points. The 50 pointers were of course at the extremities of the course, so aiming for these were key. And we were kindly given 60 minutes to get as many points as possible.
Of course, I got lost in the forest. Careless navigation meant I couldn’t find control 79. Disappointed, and with 10 minutes gone, I relocated on a major track and played conservative from there. But that didn’t stop me later from trying to get one of the 50 pointers too close to the hour mark. I misread the map, didn’t see the wall that couldn’t be climbed, and lost valuable seconds. Sheer stubborn-ness then made me go around to get the blummin’ thing. But that resulted in arriving home late by 5 minutes, losing me 60 points for the futile effort (Results can be found here).
I thought I might fair a bit better after sunset. But unfortunately that was not to be. But no matter, there’s nothing that beats a bit of night orienteering, running around like a lunatic in the pitch dark forest with nothing but a headtorch on. And it was made all better after an incredibly sumptuous meal at Tully Mill restaurant where the Start and Finish happened to be.
Sunday was my orienteering resurrection. There were fewer forests to get lost in, just tricky contours, rough terrain, and boulder fields to contend with. The terrain was hard to run over, which gave me plenty of time to walk and look carefully at my map. And with some nifty compass bearings, I located controls without trouble. The weather was also wonderful, with clear blue skies and a hint of sun to melt away the night’s frost. (Results can be found here).
There was no time to hang about however after this orienteering gluttony. I jumped in the car and drove home as fast as possible to see the rugby. I shouldn’t have rushed though, as Ireland was thrashed by Scotland in the Six Nations. But regardless, a great weekend of sport on this beautiful island that is my home for the year.