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Suburban Sprint and Sausal Canyon Maze-O

Date: (Fri.) Aug. 4, 2006
Location: Oakland, CA
Event Director: - 510.681.6181
Course Setter: Rex Winterbottom
Type: C; USOF Sprint and Score-O

Course Setter's Notes

By Rex Winterbottom

This urban map with some "off-road" areas presents some interesting challenges on 2 exciting course formats with a variety of fun landscapes and views. Check it out, then stick around for potlucking (BAOC supplies the utensils, cups, plates, napkins, etc.) and music and a movie. The meeting area is my flat at 4648 Park Blvd. Registration and starts are 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM, courses close 8:00 PM. If you bring food or drink, or plan to stay, bring a spare chair in case we run out of seats! Also, a blanket, since some people may choose to go across the street onto the public strip of grass to picnic.


Urban residences and streets, with some urban parks and trails. Many staircases and paths between streets. A few busy streets. Lovely gardens. Quirky looking houses, and a few palatial mansions. Undulating hills.


A 1:10000 scale, 20-foot contour selection from a huge color OCAD master map. Very accurate, although some staircase entries are hard to see immediately and require careful scanning of the landscape. The only area of dubious quality is the canyon — the roads are accurate and trails pretty good. Rough orienteering using your knowledge of the larger area is key here, rather than focusing on fine bends in the trail or any vegetative clues. For example, the whole canyon is marked as white forest, but most of it is at least "green", as in slow going or worse. But there are a few spots where it is clear enough to run through or hike up — general rule of thumb: if you can see across to where you want to be, go for it. City crews have cleared most of the brush from Park Blvd. almost down to Sausal Creek from Estates Drive to Zion Lutheran School.


Traffic. The old adage "look both ways before crossing the street" applies here! I would like to add "don't read your map while crossing the street." Use all your senses. Safety first. Neither course crosses Park Blvd., although both cross busy intersections along Park Blvd, the major thoroughfare on the map that is the only street with a thin divider line marked on the map. The rest of the streets have light traffic and low 15 or 25 MPH speed limits, but watch out for the odd careless driver. I kid you not, I saw a driver yesterday on her cell phone and flossing her teeth at the same time, while driving! But that was in another neighborhood.

Take care not to endanger other pedestrians and four-legged friends.

Swallowing or inhaling bugs: Early evening is high time for the little flies and gnats that circle aimlessly on shady spots along trails in the canyon. Be careful if your mouth is open wide gasping for air. I swallowed two while test running the Maze-O — although that's really uncommon, I run these streets all the time and usually avoid all of them. Recommended tactics: "the windshield wiper" — scan the horizon, and when you see the little bugs wiggling in the air, arms up, hands close to your face, and wave. Sometimes I take my cap off and wave just one arm, keeping the other free.



3.2 km, 100 m climb, 8 controls

Is this the first of Peter Gagarin's USOF Sprint Series events on streets? You might think streets are easy, but watch out for those "high stakes" route choices... one wrong move and you'll be sorry you committed so easily to the longer or steeper way. No control bags — uses the Q&A format. All the controls are street signs. Since there aren't control bags to tell you that you are there, make sure you know where you are on the map! You could get an answer wrong if you're not careful... At each of those controls, write on your answer sheet the smallest street number from the street sign OR make an acronym from the first letters of each word on the sign. Acronym example: Evans Circle & Percy Ave. would make "PACE" or "CAPE" on your answer sheet, but not "CAKE"!


3.9 km, 150 m climb, 4 or 7 controls

This one uses regular control bags with punches — it is possible that one could be removed, although I will take precautions to secure bags and be careful about the placement. The "Maze-O" is simply a Score-O with more route planning than usual: Sausal Canyon is a dramatic drop between two large mountain spurs along Park Blvd. Leimert is the only street that crosses it, utilizing a tall bridge! Up and down it is rimmed with trails. A year-round creek flows in the bottom, and just this week I was able to run along the creek without getting wet, using it as a trail. Although in some parts I had to hopscotch over some stepping stones to do it. Vegetation is thick, poison oak is present, but you can do the whole event on trails and avoid it. Some of you may want to go cross-country up and down the canyon if you see the opportunity — just make sure the vegetation and steepness aren't too nasty. Seven controls will be placed. You may go for all 7 or merely 4, and I would expect the winning time for getting all 7 to be about 30 minutes. Indeed, I test ran it in 31:33, but that includes some bug incidents, and although I do have a lot of knowledge of the map and possible routes, I would not be surprised if someone finds a better or more efficient route to all 7. Bring it on!

Rex Winterbottom