Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Part I: A typical day at the TJOC


Here is what a typical day was like for me at the Texas Junior O' Camp...

6:40 a.m.

When the alarm goes off, I get up. Most of the kids at the camp have been up since just before six. They start the day with some exercises and stretching before breakfast. Some of the camp instructors join them. I don't.

Breakfast in the dining hall is at seven. When I walk in the place is packed with about 80 kids in matching TJOC T-shirts wolfing down breakfast. The menu changes daily -- one day it might be breakfast burritos, the next day french toast.

The kids have been up since before six. I don't know when the kitchen staff (parents who volunteer to help out at the camp) have been up. Since 5?

8:00 a.m.

Everyone meets in the meeting room at 8:00 a.m. Sharp. Dressed in full O' gear (which usually includes duct tape around the ankles to protect from spear grass). The meeting includes some general announcements about the day's schedule. The meetings are usually short -- maybe 15 minutes.

The first O' session of the day begins around 8:30. The day's first session is a highlight because the temperature is still relatively cool. Running when the temp is in the lower 80s and the sun is low feels great.

A classic TJOC exercise is the "4-point course." Some of the kids have designed a course with four controls. The race begins as a mass start. But, instead of being at the start triangle, we line up a few hundred meters away. At the start we've got to run along a gravel road, climbing maybe 4-5 lines, to reach the start control. There is just one SportIdent punch at the triangle, so you need to fight hard to avoid a long line at the punch.

The course is short and the race is fast. Most people are done within 30 minutes and the winners might be ten minutes faster than that. Everyone hangs out at the finish discussing the course and chugging some water and sport drink.

Because of the heat, it is important to drink a lot. There are big coolers filled with bottled water and sport drink waiting by the finish. It is great. I think a sponsor donated the drinks. Thanks!


The kids pile into a school bus for a dusty ride to the morning's second session. It might be the score O' (designed by TJOC graduate).

By 10 the sun is starting to feel hot. The air is starting to feel heavy with humidity. I usually take the session easy, but the kids (being younger and probably a bit more acclimatized to the weather) seem ready to race.

I should say a bit about the terrain at Sid Richardson (where the last two TJOC's took place). To put it simply -- it isn't nice. The footing is rocky on places. The vegetation is unpleasant -- spear grass and cactus are particularly nasty. The forest is grassy, making it difficult to see the rocks. Now and then you wonder if you're going to step on a rattlesnake.

The competitions are usually tough. The better TJOCers are quite strong. The US JWOC has eight runners -- two of them are TJOCers (and another couple of TJOC participants are very close). The kids are divided into two or three groups based on their experience and level. There are prizes for all the races and the level of competition is probably higher than the junior categories at most A-meets.

I tend to take the late morning sessions easy (being an old man). Sometimes I skipped them altogether and helped out hanging controls for later events or vetting courses.


A bus full of sweaty orienteers returns to the main camp. Everyone piles out and cleans up quickly because there isn't much time before lunch.


Grab a bottle of water or sport drink, and wait in line. The line moves quickly and lunch tastes great. Lunch is a sandwich and salad bar plus any leftovers from last night's dinner.

Part II tomorrow....

posted by Michael | 10:04 PM


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