In my ongoing quest to get myself to exercise, I frequently find activities that are very much LIKE running, but are not just going for a run.  After the Amazing Contenders tri, I'd been looking online for more excuses to get my heart rate up, and I somehow found the Minnesota Orienteering Club website.  Oddly enough, as a kid I did a couple of their meets with my parents and a friend or two, usually running around a state park, with a compass but usually just navigating by landmarks and the boundless energy of middle schoolers.  Since then I haven't orienteered at all, and have hardly used the compass I've got, usually forsaking it for the all-knowing GPS.  It just happened that their next event was taking place about 5 minutes from my apartment, so I put out the call on Facebook and quickly found three friends to fill out my team.
The Captains of Crush, from the left, Adam, Elizabth, Kristen, and myself
We showed up not really knowing what to expect, but found the MNOC regulars to be very friendly.  Living so close, I'm very familiar with the park the race was held in, which would serve us well considering the race started a little while after sundown.  We chose the long (6km) route, and the whole thing kicked off with a mass start.  Seeing as how I'm not a very fast runner, we quickly fell behind the faster runners, but with the excellent map, compass, and the occasional glimpse of another racer's headlamp in the distance we were able to keep from making any serious navigational mistakes.
Post-race, trying to figure out if we were using the compass right
It felt slow, but as we reached each control point in succession we were always neck and neck with at least a couple teams, so I was hopeful that we would at least not be last!  As we headed to the final point, we realized we were on the wrong side of some woods, and made the decision to cut through, hopefully saving a significant amount of time.  As soon as we stepped a couple of feet off the sidewalk, it was apparent that it would not be as quick as we'd hoped.  The spaces between trees were just choked with thornbushes, and it was easy to track our progress through them by the chorus of curses as we picked up new scrapes and cuts.  Myself and Adam made it through, and found the control point, so I took off for the finish just about 100m away, trying to catch up to another racer just ahead.  I did it, but turned around to find Adam had disappeared back into the brush to lead Elizabeth and Kristen out.  Such a gentleman, but it cost us valuable seconds!  Luckily, even with the delay we ended up 15th out of at least 18, achieving my goal of not being last!
After the race, we adjourned to a nearby bar for drinks and food with the other racers, where we learned a bunch more about the MNOC, discovered there's such a thing as mountain bike orienteering, and learned of this crazy orienteering stats thing called Attackpoint.  Coolest name ever, right?  I'm already signed up for the next Adventure Race on the 30th, and will definitely be checking out other local orienteering events.  If you've never done one, I recommend you search for a club in your area. Even if you're brand new, they'll usually loan or rent you a compass, and probably can even show you how to use it if you ask nicely.  You'll learn some  usefull skills and get a great workout!  If you want to see our route, it's on Strava here.  Don't laugh at my pace...  Our Attackpoint stats are here, and that will show you our splits for each control point and how we compared to the rest of the field.  I have no idea what some of the other numbers mean yet!