Orienteering with Alex Jospe
Orienteering requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points.
I’ve never done the 7 Sisters race before, mostly because it would always conflict with the first big orienteering race of the season. But this year, no conflicts, and I was so excited to be able to test myself on these hills and rocks! Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease the weekend before -that’s a risk you take as an orienteer, since ticks happen, and some of them make you sick. I caught the Lyme disease quickly, though, and after a week on antibiotics I was feeling peppy and ready to run, so I figured a hard hilly 12mi trail race was totally part of the recovery plan. Ready, go!
I didn’t know where to start myself, because I had no idea how my body would respond to being pushed up and down hills with lots of rocks in the way after a week of illness. I figured it was probably best to start conservatively, and worst case, if I felt crummy, I’d just go for a long hilly hike with a bunch of other folks on a beautiful day. Best case, I’d pass a bunch of people. Given the rocky, technical, potentially brutal nature of this course, I was armed with the best tools available – a sticky-soled pair of Inov-8 X-talons, and an attitude that was focused on having a really great time out there.
Because I’d started so far back in the pack, it was very frustrating to stand still and watch the leaders start running so much sooner than I got around to it (there was a record crowd at this race this year -nearly 500!), but I told myself to chill out, don’t go crazy passing people, just stay calm, and you have 12 miles to reel them in. So I passed people steadily, and it turned out I was feeling rested and peppy, a very pleasant surprise!
I spent a lot of the first four miles just constantly passing people, and enjoying the beautiful day and awesomely technical trail. I love running downhills, and a race with steep uphills and rocky downhills is just like orienteering, so I was in my element. I had chosen to run in the X-Talon 212s, and they were the absolute perfect shoe for this trail. Sticky soles with big lugs, super light, and a narrow fit so that your foot goes exactly where you place it -having complete confidence in your shoes makes a HUUUUGE difference on a technical trail like this! By the time I was descending from the Summit House to the turn-around, I was getting news that I was the leading lady, and this was also a pleasant surprise! I danced my way down the slickrock and cliffs, reveling in the views, the beautiful spring day, the feeling of having good legs under you and good equipment to support the effort.
The climb back to Summit House was pretty relentless, but I was feeling good, cruising along comfortably and totally ok with hiking when it got steep. I was really enjoying the day – any time the climbs started to hurt, I would just think about what an awesome spring day it was and how thankful I was to be out running, and I’d start smiling again. Everyone I passed going the other direction was super supportive and encouraging. At the cement blocks I knew I only had two climbs left, so picked up the pace a bit and reeled in a few more male runners. In the end, I was totally happy. It was gorgeous and sunny and not too hot and my shoes were awesome and there were amazing views and that trail is totally awesome and I felt good and peppy and more rested than I have in months and to top it all I won the race and then we had ice cream!