Don't Loiter at the Controls
Do you want to cut 10 minutes off your time at your next orienteering event? One of the easiest ways to do that is to improve your technique of approaching and leaving a control.
The typical beginner finds the control, punches the card, and then, while still standing at the control, looks and sees where the next control is, decides what route to take, which direction it is, refolds the map, checks the bearing to it, and heads off in that direction. Meanwhile, one or two other orienteers may have come running into the control, punched their cards, and immediately headed off in the correct direction to the next control.
If you don't do any advance planning before you get to the control, you can easily spend a minute trying to decide what to do next. Multiply that minute by the typical 10 controls on the course, and you have lost 10 minutes already.
How do you improve your technique? The main thing is to plan ahead before you get to the control.
When should you do that? One good time is when you are running on a trail and the navigation is minimal. Another time is when you are slowly chugging up a steep hill. Ideally, before you punch the control to which you are heading, you have looked at the next control and have a general idea of how to approach it. Then, when you see the control you are looking for, rather than make a mad dash towards it (and incidentally tip off anybody else who is wandering around looking for it), check again which way you are going to exit the control, refold your map, get your bearing, all while you are still running to the control.
Know before you get to the control what the code number should be and have your punch card ready. Then when you get to the control, check the code number, punch, and immediately head off in the direction that you had planned to go, checking your compass to make sure you are going correctly. All of this should only take a few seconds, rather than minutes.
Besides, it is poor form to linger at the control. You are helping runners behind you by providing a big beacon as to where an otherwise well-placed control flag may be hung. Although I will take all the help I can get, I really enjoy it more when I can navigate to the control using the map and terrain, rather than someone standing there studying their map trying to figure out which way to go.
One way to get used to the technique of running through the control: After you see the control, stop before you get there, do your planning, refold your map, get your bearing, then run into the control, check the code, punch, and immediately head off in the direction of the next control. After some practice, you will be able to eliminate the stop, and do this on the move, if not a fast run, at least a steady jog.
Remember, one key to improving your time in orienteering is to try to keep moving and keeping the hesitations and stops to a minimum. And if you do have to stop to figure out what to do, don't do it at the control! Be an orienteer, not a control loiterer.
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