Saturday, October 2, 2010

Washington, DC Update

A dispatch from, as far as I know, Ottawa Orienteering Club's most southern member.

Not counting a couple of small street-O/social events, the local fall orienteering season in the DC area kicked off on September 19th with a National Orienteering Day score orienteering event at Lake Accotink, a smallish park just outside the Beltway in the Virginia suburbs. It was a lovely day and an unusually well-attended event for the venue with about 115 starts on a map where QOC (Quantico Orienteering Club) has been accustomed to getting barely more than half that. Hopefully, a good omen for the orienteering season to come. But I and a number of other QOC members were busy elsewhere that morning at the Bushwhacker Adventure Running Race - not what you might expect if you're familiar with GHO's adventure running events but a nominally 10 mile trail race through parkland along the Occoquan River with off-trail shortcuts permitted and only three obligatory e-punching checkpoints enroute. The race has been held three times in the past but scheduling conflicts kept me away. This time I made it along with five other QOC members and, unsurprisingly, we did pretty well against a field of runners and adventure racers - I won overall by about 7 minutes, Peggy Dickison won F50-55 thumpingly by finishing third female overall, and the other four orienteers grabbed the first four places in M45-49. Somewhat like shooting fish in a barrel, perhaps, but a banner day for QOC nonetheless. As the newly minted QOC president, I'm particularly happy that most of the orienteers running wore either their QOC orienteering uniform tops or the new QOC running singlet, which I model in the picture above.

I think I caught the photographer by surprise - he seemingly managed to get frontal shots of all the racers behind me. In any case, I can hope that contributed a little bit to raising the profile of orienteering locally. If we're really lucky, whatever the freelance writer I talked to who was there on behalf of Runner's World writes will actually make it into the magazine, which might inspire others to try similar race formats and incidentally raise the profile of orienteering more broadly, even if only slightly.

I followed that up with, since I was stiffening up noticeably, a less than full speed run of the score-O that afternoon and some control pickup. A day well spent and, with NAOC, WOC and COC behind us, a good beginning to the no particular pressure, just have fun and the results will be what they will be but it would be nice to make it through to winter without serious injury fall phase of the orienteering season. That means, in addition to a fairly heavy schedule of local QOC events, the Hudson Highlander tomorrow, the Golden Leaf O Fest next weekend, the US Classic Championships the weekend after that and DVOA's Hickory Run event the first weekend of November. Plus, of course, the fairly heavy schedule of local QOC events. Hopefully, I've recovered well enough from August over the course of a month of mostly cross training to get through all of that without this season's nagging injury - a chronically tight and fragile feeling left hamstring - flaring up into something debilitating that would compromise winter training.

So, a busy fall of orienteering awaits. Which is nothing new, in contrast to the position as QOC president to which I'm still adjusting. Fortunately, the QOC Maryland and Virginia Vice Presidents and others in the club are perfectly competent to keep our local event schedule ticking over with little, if any, help from me other than to keep my powder dry to design courses in the event that they have trouble recruiting a course setter for a local event. Nevertheless, it's a big change from my previous fairly high level of involvement in club affairs that everything is now my business and that promoting orienteering is now my job rather than just a hobby. To date, that's largely meant a fair bit of effort over the summer and the first couple of weeks of September assembling a new QOC web site. So far, it's mostly an aesthetic and organisational improvement over what preceded it, though we also tried to to make it much more helpful to beginning orienteers in terms of content describing orienteering and orienteering technique, but the plan is to roll out much more interactive functionality in the year to come, much of it integrated with similar changes to the Orienteering USA web site, which is also undergoing a Web 2.0 redesign. Hopefully, having a web site that doesn't look several years out of date alone will have at least a marginal effect of making QOC more attractive to prospective new orienteers.

Beyond the web site, keeping the club ticking over and working towards our next A event (timing and venues still TBD and therefore on the agenda for the next Board of Directors meeting), I get to try and dream up other ways to attract and retain new orienteers. Mostly attract. Not to say what QOC offers is beyond improving but I tend to think there would be a lot more orienteers in North America if everyone who would like it if they tried it had heard about it and tried it. So I'm focusing on raising awareness of the existence of orienteering generally and QOC in particular. The new singlets were one effort in that direction that I was involved with last year - you can't see much of it in the photograph above but they have "QOC ORIENTEERING" printed quite boldly on the back, sending the twin messages "Something called orienteering exists" and "There's an orienteering club in this area that you could check out". I don't expect a rush of new participants just from that but it can't hurt. It was also nice having them in time for last season's annual meeting - we gave one apiece to the juniors who showed up regularly for training sessions in QOCs small junior program in recognition of their dedication.

I've also been toying with the idea of having QOC host a trail race, no navigation involved, on the theory that people interested in a trail race may be relatively good prospects compared to dedicated road runners and that having an event we could put on local running event calendars without the intimidation factor of off-trail navigation being involved could also serve to raise our profile and drive some traffic to our web site that might notice the rest of our schedule while they're there. I've been shot down by one possible venue, a national park conveniently close to DC but with apparently an inconveniently extreme level of concern for the state of their trails and the impact a running race might have on them, so it's back to the drawing board as to where we might try this and when. In the meantime, we've just been approached by a local running club planning a new 50K trail race in one of our mapped parks about whether we could customise our map for their purposes so we may be able to realise some of the same benefits I was envisioning from hosting a trail race by negotiating to do that in exchange for some publicity in the form of our brochure in the race packets, fairly prominent attribution of the customised map to QOC, and the like.

Hopefully other and perhaps better ideas will come to me - suggestions are welcome. I certainly shouldn't have any trouble finding things to think about during long training runs this winter under the new dispensation.

No doubt many of the likely readers of this are coming to GLOF in Hamilton next weekend. See you there.


  1. Nice work on the new QOC website Jon. See you at GLOF.

  2. Thanks for all the posts - something to look forward to each week.

    As for promoting orienteering, following an event in Canmore in which we delighted about 20 new comers, Alaric Fish came up with the rather simple idea of posting a simple advert:

    "Do you love maps? Do you love running? THen call me"

    Good luck with QOC