I arrived at the race start point, Selkirk rugby club, in the pouring rain. Driving past the tents of the folks who'd stayed over from the mountain bike marathon the day before, I wondered how many of them would be taking part in the orienteering race given the weather and their probable tired legs.
I parked up, and after registering, got my bike ready in the already busy area under the gazebo. After procrastinating for a while, it was clear the weather wasn't getting any better. It was time to go.
I started my stopwatch and 'dibbed' into the start control. Marc handed me the map and after clipping it into my map-board, chasing after my dropped control checklist, knocking a bulldog clip off of someone else's map board, finding and re-attaching it, I was off.
I'd decided to go up the big hills first so set off straight to checkpoint 12 at the bottom of Corbylinn Road for an easy 10 points. From here I had a choice to make; up the steep hill to the east and along a path marked as indistinct/boggy, or along the gently climbing track road straight to a 25 pointer above a waterfall. I went for the later, and after a short walk through some spiky bushes to find the control, I continued up the main track, ignoring the track straight up to checkpoint 9 as it looked too steep, indistinct and slow. Instead I decided to stick to the main track picking up 28 and 14 before detouring up a path (or was it a river?) to pick up 8. By now I was soaked through, my gloved hands were cold and my shoes were full of water.
I was on the final climb to the top. I thought it couldn't be far. I pushed on, peering through the thick mist, waiting for the 3 huge stone markers to appear. After a hard climb I finally saw the top and after not quite making it up the last steep kick-up without pushing, I grabbed the scant 5 points available. I stopped for a minute to work out an onwards route.
There were 2 obvious paths down from the ridge of the hill, both of which headed in different directions and both of which had high value checkpoints strung along them. I decided to try for both, which meant climbing back up the hill twice!
The first bit of single-track was awesome. A fun path down straight down through the forest with a steep, twisty section at the end.
After climbing back up the track road, my legs were feeling it, and when I reached the final junction and saw how steep the last road to the top was I thought 'nope' and instead continued on to join the second bit of single track lower down, missing out the top 15 points.
I gave it a good go but the first section was unrideable. A rooty mud slurry. I gave up and pushed through the forest, dibbing a couple of times along the way. The last section looked better, I splashed through the first couple of puddles. I hit the third one and my front wheel disappeared into a deep, bike eating hole. I teetered forwards not quite going over the handlebars. Luckily I was going slowly.
The lowest control collected, I settled in for the long climb back to the top. Someone passed me going in the other direction. I'm not sure who. I was just glad to see I wasn't alone out here.
Once I reached the top, I dipped back into the forest and out again to collect the 15 points I'd missed earlier. Then continued along the ridge, picking up the final hilltop points, hoicking my bike over a wall, and then happily heading back down towards the bottom of the valley, passing Campbell going the other way, and picking up 50 points on the way.
I grabbed the 20 pointer in Black Andrew wood, along the same piece of single-track as featured in the Revier's Raid (part 1) race, which was in a very different condition now!
The next checkpoints (29,21,19,22,23) were picked up along the paths which run along Yarrow Water back towards Selkirk. I cheerily shouted “different race!” at the wildly gesticulating marshal who tried to direct me down a side road.
Picking up 2 more checkpoints (24,16) I checked my rapidly disintegrating map. What I'd initially thought was a bridge, was just a weir. This screwed up my planned route. Not only that, but I was now forced to cycle into the fully dissolved hole in my map. I got lucky. I knew checkpoint 17 (“large drainage dome”) was around here somewhere, but I wasn't even sure what side of the river it was on. I also didn't know if the path I was on joined back anywhere useful.
Things worked out on both counts. I couldn't miss the huge dome when I came across it, and the path ended right next to the start point at the rugby club.
I checked my watch. Due to my screwup with the non-bridge, I had 20 minutes left! Looking at the map I saw a 25 pointer (25). It was a long way, but it was tarmac all the way. I decided to give it 10 minutes and if I was no-where close, turn back. The one-way roads through Selkirk wasted a few minutes but then I was on the long pedal back into the countryside. The control was at the top of another steep climb (of course it was!). This was where, almost exactly a year ago, I'd crashed and broken my knee!
My knee was certainly reminding me of this now. I turned around, carefully descended, and floored it back the way I'd come. I somehow found enough energy to overtake a couple of people doing the road ride and made it back only 2 minutes late.
After quickly changing out of my sodden clothes, I headed in to warm up with some of the excellent carrot, ginger and butternut squash soup followed by cakes, all made by Marc and Helen.
The results calculated, I found out I was equal in collected points with the consistently unbeatable Jonathan Ellis. However, he'd come in a minute later than me, meaning I'd somehow scraped first place by a single point.
Despite the weather, possibly because of it, it was lots of fun. Thanks to everyone involved!
For more information, and to join in the fun, go here: smbo.org.uk