Race report: Ontario Orienteering Championships 2017

On October 28 and 29, Don’t Get Lost hosted the Ontario Orienteering Championships – it would be my first time participating in them, and my daughter Ailish’s first real orienteering races! Also participating in the sprint, middle and long distance races would be Ailish’s friend Anne.

At Firemens Park in St. Catharines, we picked up our race bibs and got ourselves organized. The sprint race was first, with athletes starting 1 minute apart, 1 or 2 at a time. Ailish and Anne had never done a start like this before (my first time was at the Canadian Orienteering Championships in Perth this summer), in which you not only started alone (or almost alone), but you didn’t get to look at your map until your race began. We headed to the start line early so they could see how it all worked. Turns out Ailish would be starting with someone I knew – Evan from Ottawa.


Anne, Ailish and I would be racing in our age groups, so W16 for Anne, W14 for Ailish, and W35+ for me.

Ailish checks in at the start with Kim, one of the volunteers (and an Adventure Running Kids navigation coach).

Ailish and Anne were both nervous about their races, but they did great!

I had 16 controls to find within the 1 hour allotted. After I found my first control, I struggled to find the second. I was close, but just not seeing it. I ended up backtracking a bit, and eventually found it, but it took me nearly 15 minutes! I would find out later that the winner of my race finished in 24 minutes. I missed the path I wanted for the third control and overshot it, but when I came to the fourth, I knew exactly where I was. I ran back to 3, returned to 4, and from there, it was relatively easy to find all the controls!


In my course, controls 7, 10, and 14 were the same, but do you think I could find 10 after having already been there once?! It took me much longer than it should have, because I was approaching it from a different angle and the tree it was near clearly looked different! While the first part of the race involved some trails and woods, this part was an urban park, where there was a playground, a dog park, and people wandering around. I reached the finish line in 46:21, much slower than I would have liked! However, given that there were only 3 people in my age category, and one person mispunched (punched controls in the wrong order), I ended up on the podium with a second place finish.

Ailish was 1st, and Anne 2nd in their respective age groups.


We enjoyed our yummy prizes – orienteering themed cookies!

After lunch, it was time for the middle distance race. The start location was a 1 km walk away, so we headed there in time for Anne to start. I was starting a full hour after her, and Ailish in between us.

We cleared and checked our SI sticks, and eventually, our races began!

I didn’t know it at the time, but Ailish finished her race before mine even began!

Ailish heads for a control. [Photo by Don’t Get Lost]
When I read the course setter’s notes for the race , I had the impression that I would be able to mostly use trails for this race, with only a bit of off-trail navigation.  But that’s not how it felt during the race. After the first control, I decided to head for the second by bushwhacking there, a straight line distance of 500m+. In the past, I’ve gotten myself into trouble doing this when my compass bearing wasn’t quite accurate. The further away the control is, the further left or right of the control you can end up if your direction of travel is wrong. I was super pleased that my compass bearing took me directly to the control – a small but important victory!

[Photo by Don’t Get Lost]
For some of the controls, I ended up working with another woman running the same course as me – Laura. When we split up at control 12, that was the beginning of the end for me! For some reason, I headed completely the wrong way for 13, but realized it and returned to 12. Near there I started bushwhacking in the direction of 13, but found a fence and another athlete, so together we turned around and ran along the fence until we could get around it. We found the control together at the top of a hill, but when we reached the bottom, we disagreed as to where we were on the map. We split up, when I should have stayed with her. She was right. I was wrong. It took me way too long to figure out where I was, which didn’t really happen until I found her again and she had already found the control. From there I found it quickly, and headed back to the urban part of the park and the last control before the finish.

Once again, I learned that trails can sometimes be very confusing!

Anne and Ailish both finished 1st in their respective categories (Ailish was only competing against herself!), and I ended up 5th out of 5. In fact, my SI stick didn’t upload properly, so I didn’t get official results.

New to racing with control descriptions in an arm sleeve, I kept forgetting to look at my arm and instead continually unfolded my map to look at them there!

On Sunday, the long distance race was held at St. Thomas School in Waterdown. Anne and Ailish raced together in an open (non-competitive) age group, running the W16 course. I left them at the start line and headed back to the school to meet my teammates for the Peak2Peak Adventure Race (separate race report here).

At the start of the long course.
Heading out on the long course.

It turns out they finished before my race even began. They did great, and more importantly, had fun all weekend!!

My daughter even thanked me for getting her into orienteering.

Thanks Don’t Get Lost for a great weekend of racing!

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson