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Getting 'Un-Lost'

A quick glance at the map, a check of the compass, you confirm the distance you have traveled, only another 50 or so paces to the trail and then smooth sailing along a trail downhill to the next CP. That CP is also a TA. You start thinking about warm pasta, coke, burgers and other goodies your support crew has waiting for you. Getting out of those shoes and hopping into a canoe to enjoy a lazy river paddle for a few hours.

Where are we??!

Back to reality and at 50 paces there is no trail, 100 paces, another 300? Hmmm is the trail here? You notice another trail but it doesnít really go in the right direction. OK, follow it for awhile. Hmmm, still not right. Maybe this is the trail you say as you peer into the deep dark woods of northern Ontario. Nope, it is going the wrong way too. Are there any foot prints here? Yeah but they are going the other way. OK, well let's try this anyway. After about a half hour the thought of a cold coke slipping to the back of your throat and disintegrating the toxic Gatorade gunk that has collected in your mouth turns to thoughts of the scratch over your left eye, that annoying deer fly biting your forearm and as you wipe the sweat (or is that blood?) off your brow you start to think "Am I lost?"

This is exactly what happened to me and my EAS Hammer teammates as we raced through the first orienteering/trekking section of 2003's Raid the North in French River. The woods were thick and slow. We wanted to take trails when the option arose. Despite over 30 years of combined international orienteering experience we were indeed LOST.

Has this happened to you or your team? You know, that "I donít really know where I am" kind of feeling! Some will call this being lost while others will call it 'losing contact with the map'. Whatever the terminology, your team has made an error - WHAT DO YOU DO? How do you


Add the difficulty of night time navigation and you're bound to get turned around once in awhile

The first thing you need to do is STOP. Then remind yourself that this happens to even the best of teams and the best of navigators. Don't worry about the how or why it happened. Regain your concentration and spend your time (and energy) getting un-lost. Next, remind yourself and/or your team that there is almost nothing you can do to make up the time you have lost. It is common for navigation errors to become compounded as teams panic and try to make up for lost time. You will not make up time if you are going the wrong way. It is time to relocate. How do you do this? Follow these next steps:

1. Orient the map with the compass.

2. Attempt to establish your location by comparing the oriented map and the terrain features around you.

3. If you can't relocate immediately, reconstruct where you think you went since the last place you knew you were.

4. If you still cannot figure out where you are, return to the last place of known position.

After the race, be sure to analyze your mistakes, and the reasons for them. Learn from them, and make it the goal of your next race to NOT GET LOST!

Mike Waddington is a 3-time North American and 5-time Canadian orienteering champion and navigator for Team EAS Hammer. He is also a course planner for the adventure running series.

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