AYROC’s website billed last Sunday’s event as “the annual score orienteering competition, in which as many controls as possible should be visited in any order in a fixed time period.” And so Sheila, Robin and I turned up at Palacerigg Country Park, just outside Cumbernauld, on a cold but sunny afternoon, aiming to grab as many points as we could within an hour.
Now, I’m still fairly new to orienteering, and don’t pretend to be any expert (a glance at my results will confirm this!). But there are some things about score events that I’m gradually figuring out:
Rule 1: Take a stub of pencil.
Well, that’s what I do. You don’t get double points for visiting the same control twice 🙂 And pencil works in the wet.
Rule 2: Have a Plan.
What’s the area like? How fit are you feeling? How did it go at your last score? Only the top runners can entertain the idea of getting to all the controls, so you’re going to have to be choosy. Probably very choosy. Remind yourself of this.
Rule 3: Take longer than usual to digest the map before haring off.
See Rule 2. Don’t be put off by the fact that the runner starting before you looked at the map for just 2 seconds, before charging off in an unexpected direction. He’s Terry O’Brien and he drew the map. You, take a good long look at it.
AYROC’s description of a score event is not quite accurate: it’s not usually “as many controls as possible” but “as many points as possible”, and some controls will get you many more points than others. Look out for a relationship between the control numbering and the points (e.g. 11x means 10 points, 15x means 50 points) and memorize it.
Remind yourself again that you can’t get to as many controls as you think you can.
Rule 4: Understand the mind of the planner.
Always useful, but even more useful for a score. In his or her mind’s eye, the planner may have imagined short chains of controls that link up nicely. Try to guess what these are. The planner may have divided the area up into zones: “this area, I’ll have this for the older runners, quite a lot of mid-value controls but a bit technical; this over here is for the beginners; over here, this is for the hardcore who are aiming to get to everything”. Figure out what kind of runner you are! And in the planner’s brain, other conventions of score events may come into play: “this control will be the doozy: top points for little effort; everyone can get to this one and be satisfied. I’ve tried to put it somewhere pretty and/or public”. Make sure you get to that one. But also “this control will be the duff one: top points, but miles from anything else: a challenge for the gotta-get-em-all runners; a trap for the novice”.
I think I went to the duff one at Palacerigg. In fact, I think there might have been two and I went to them both.
Rule 5 and Rule 6: Get back on time.
You get penalised massively for being late. For example, the last third of my run on Sunday was spent visiting just two high-value controls. All those points were then lost by returning 5 minutes late. Val was looking at my splits and said “oh – you were first on that leg. Well done!” But being first on a leg in a score probably doesn’t indicate you’re podium material; more likely, you were the only person foolish enough to link that pair of controls. In my case, it was the final desperate 2k run from the back of beyond to the Finish. Don’t do that! Work out rough km distances and be realistic about your speed. Plan to spend the final quarter or third close to Finish, staying safe and mopping up the odd control if you have spare time.
Sheila and Robin also had sizeable penalties, so ELO was a little down the leaderboard. With Robin and me, I think it was because we did the southern half first, and the northern part of the map was:
- Bigger (so it wasn’t the southern half we’d done at all) and
- Much rougher (not golf courses etc., but overgrown peat-cutting bogs, for example).
Robin said “Looking at my route I appear to have stopped thinking several times!”. Sheila went to the Glencryan area, which I remembered from a previous event as a bit complex in parts, and a bit rough in others, and she said “I definitely chose the wrong area to go to – now I look at the alternative I can see that heading NW was not the best. Ah well, can’t win them all!”
If you fancy seeing the courses and how people tackled them, you can go to AYROC’s Routegadget site.
Rule 7: Have fun.
Maybe that should be Rule Zero.
Anyway, if you fancy a score event, they’re quite popular in the winter, since you’re not supposed to be out for too long. Some of them also have mass starts, with everyone setting off together, so everyone gets back about the same time. In our neck of the woods, we have:
- TAY’s Christmas Score near Crieff (with meal afterwards).
- Our own Hogmanay Festive Frolic – well, I think it’ll be a score. New Year’s Eve, in Vogrie.