(Info about the event is available at http://www.chicago-orienteering.org/events/ )
I hadn't been truly out on a course in over a year, so I was fully expecting a tough run. I had, however, been on a simplified puzzle-style orienteering challenge at the same forest preserve 3-4 weeks earlier, plus this was my home forest preserve a few years ago, so I was fairly familiar with the layout.
Unfortunately, this event was an unusual one for our group, and I'm told that the Orange course (my usual) was more of a Green level as a result. There were very few direct handrails. None of the controls were near trails; going on trails would take you perhaps twice the distance. So, it was a tough course made tougher by my rustiness. I'm told the CAOC organizers have also gotten trick-inclined lately, such that they put controls the requisite 3 feet off the ground...if you count the ground as a hole or ditch such that it isn't visible from your standard height until you're basically on top of the control and look down.
What made it worse was that the forest preserve had a significant portion of the area fenced off for restoration. While the simple course I'd done a month earlier was using a map that had the fence marked, CAOC for some reason chose to give out maps without the fence marked. To my knowledge (and I checked around before I left the start point), there weren't any addendas showing the fenced area blocked off for orienteers to mark on the maps.
As it happened, even the yellow course ran into the fence issue. This made for a very discouraging event. For those on orange, the last control was easily accessible by a trail, but to get to that trail, you had to get past the fenced area, having no idea how long it would go on for, what area it was blocking you from, etc...you just had to discover it as you went. If you went to the North side of the fenced area, it was pretty easy to pick the trail up, but if you went to the South side of the fenced area, you ended up overshooting considerably (as the fence blocked you from heading north at the correct point) for the last control. Result was a ton of DNFs compared to the norm for Orange...including me, mainly because I took that South route and got frustrated when I realized how far I was overshooting.
The worst part is that I *knew* the fence was there, and it still didn't occur to me to mention it to the organizers and get them to post an addenda or other info about it. Nor did I ask around to get the info for myself...I, too, had no idea how long it went. The simple course had bypassed that area for the most part. In retrospect, there are a ton of things I could have done that would have helped both me and others on the course, but I was too nervous and excited about going out again to think about it. I also kind of assumed it was on the map, as it was on the simpler course that I did, so I didn't worry about it. ::sigh::
I also kind of bit the head off of one of the organizers at the end who asked me if I had a good time. Honestly, I'd had a great time right up until I spent 30+ minutes walking that fence, knowing I couldn't easily get to where I needed to be, and going through numerous thorns and prickers in order to stay near the fence, which theoretically was going to lead me to a trail or clearing at some point. But at the end, I was not feeling the orienteering love. :)
Speaking of thorns and prickers, I'm completely at a loss as to how to avoid being coated in burrs and other such nasties at the end of a course. I ruined a really good pair of running pants this time. I've tried various fabrics to no avail. Any suggestions from the readers on this comm? I should note that I am of a size such that wearing one of those spandex hotsuits that the pro orienteers wear would be both highly unflattering and infeasible due to sizing issues...so I'm really looking for common fabrics or gear that I could get at an athletic supply store.