Some weeks ago, some folks on the North Park Trail Runner facebook group suggested to go out on a Sunday and participate to Raccoongaine, an orienteering/scavenger-hunt game. This is not a race: you have to find targets in a state park within a time limit (3 hours or 6 hours). This reminds me the City Spree in Pittsburgh, except that you are really on your own and have to really know how to read a map.
In a nutshell, you show up at the starting line one hour before it starts, get a map that shows the targets location and you are good to go and find them. When you find a target, you an electronic device register it (it is used to trace what targets did you find once you finished). Each target you find will give you a number of points (targets far from the starting line gives more points of course). The map shows the trails, the elevation profiles and routes/roads. Needless to say, GPS devices are prohibited, you are just allowed to use a compass.
If you expect to run the whole thing: forget it. You have to go through branches, steep hills, cross streams, etc. Also, dress accordingly. There are a lot of brambles so, in case you wear shorts, your legs finish bloody. On the other hand, this is a great way to cross-train on a rest day: this is time on your feet, you exercise other positions and climb steep hills. Definitively useful and a great way to train for coming trail races.
Our team did not get a lot of points and we spend a significant number of time trying to find a target (that we never found). On the other hand, this first experience was great and there are some advices if you are considering doing it:
- Wear pants, sunglasses and protect your body: there are brambles and lot of thorn. This was my mistake. As soon as I came home, I applied alcohol on my legs, which was very uncomfortable and, well, painful.
- When you do not find a target quickly, move on and go somewhere else! We obviously spend too much time looking for a target we never found. According to somebody we meet before, it seems to be a usual rookie mistake.
- Establish a plan to try to maximize the points by reaching targets that will give you many points.
- Learn to use a compass. I do not know who in my team really knew how to use a compass. I do not (which is very bad) and this is probably the reason we lost so much time trying to find a target
- Learn to read a map, not only the location but everything. By analyzing the area around a target (fences, walls, roads, elevation change, etc), it would be more easy to find it
These are just some recommendations after a first experience. I will definitively try other events like this, this is a great way to spend time outside and have fun with friends while cross-training for trail races! If you plan to do it, register quickly, the event was sold out for this 2015 edition. The same club do other event like this over the year, so, you might check out their website.