Irish Mountain
Running Association

Nav challenge 1 - Trooperstown


Maike JürgensAngus TynerJohn Bell

NC1 – Trooperstown. Ferns and more …

The first of the three Nav Challenges in 2014 was going to take place in Trooperstown. Hints for the short course were “race route” and “crossing several busy roads” for the long course so we debated potential routes in the car on the way to registration. It was only my second Nav Challenge, but I was really looking forward to it. The carpark was surprisingly full and a lot of people seemed to be registering. Some people took the option of an early start so it was a bit difficult to work out who had showed up. Around 11, we got the last few instructions from Gavan (accompanied by “do NOT look at the maps” about 5 times ☺ ). Off we went, across the bridge, most people taking the forest shortcut option we were familiar with from the race route. I started looking at the map while walking up the hill to figure out the best way to control no 1. There seemed to be two options – take a left turn off the road following the race route over the top of the hill or stay on the road and then take a left turn. I went for the second option, it had less climb (or less downhill from my point of view) and gave me the chance of checking out the junction for the downhill afterwards. Plus I should have plenty of time to job along the road and take a careful look at the map to work out the rest of the route. So far so good. Got the control just fine and set off down the hill. Close to the road there was another option, go left and somewhere crosscountry and approach Derrybawn from the east or take the little trail towards Wollen Mills and take a route not too different from the trail race. I sort of knew the little trail and did the Derrybawn trail race so I went for that option because I didn’t know what fern-state the forest would be in you might encounter on the east side. Off I went (Niamh in sight on the road- Maike, something is wrong here, you might be going a bit too fast – also, this was the last time I saw Niamh until the finish …) and found the little trail that would get me halfway up Derrybawn. A good few of the fast guys took this way to go down the hill. And there was a bit of fireroad not on the map but it provided a lovely shortcut. And then I met the ferns. But just for a short while (not to mention all those flies, it felt like hundreds!). The big mistake was coming up: I had meant to approach the control from the top thinking “ah sure, I ll see it from the big trail” – nope. Couldn’t get to the big trail. Too many ferns in the way. But I met a fence. And turned around. To meet a trail that was not on the map. Where the hell am I? Saw Daniela coming and she mentioned that the control is not necessarily on the trail. Oh well, yeah, I hadn’t thought about that. Then she was gone. So it was on the other side of the ferns (and goarse!). I better find it. Found it and was confused and disappointed in myself, it had been going sooo well until I met those ferns. Never mind, focus. Find the shortcuts to go down. Then I look at my feet. Ooops, cut and a good bit of blood and it didn’t stop bleeding. I better stay on the fireroad and try to find a plaster (I only had a foil blanket). Kindly, at control number three I found someone with antiseptic wipes (thanks a million!). Off I went, still a bit worried. And got lost in between all the cars in Glendalough. Once I had found the WW, I set off towards Brockagh, debating whether to turn left and follow this years Brockagh race route (more FERNS!) or turn right and find a way through the trees (I couldn’t be bothered to stick to the trails). And of course, there were more ferns so I waited until I went past a section with no ferns, surely it showed up and there was a trail on the other side of the forest. After you crossed about 20 m of more fern. Then, there was a trail through the fern (yay, exactly the trail I wanted). So follow trails to control no four. Then down the trail and fireroad, no more offroad aventures, across the river, up Paddock hill, down Wed nights race route and back to the finish. No more ferns for the day.
Thanks to Eoin for the plaster afterwards, Daniela and Eoin for the lift and Gavan + crew for putting up an interesting race.
Pointer for non-orienteers: it appears that the control is in the middle of the circle on the map. Not somewhere in the circle as I assumed until I got to the ruins … oops :D

Planners report and results

Nav Challenge 1 Trooperstown 24th August 2014

I’m away for the next 2 NCs so couldn’t defend my title so I decided to plan Nav Challenge 1. First I had to decide on area and this is critical to have a suitable short course which is aimed at beginners and not very physically demanding. I scouted a relatively unknown area in early June but could not make up a short course so in early July I informed Gavan, that I’m turning my focus on Trooperstown. It’s relatively close to home which is important considering the number of trips to be made and a circuit of Trooperstown would make a good short course.

For the Long course I couldn’t see an alternative other than a circuit of Laragh, but for the route to work the final run in would have to be from Paddock Hill to avoid a long run in along the Annamoe to Laragh road. This meant that I couldn’t bring the course near the tops of Derrybawn or Brockagh as this would make the course too long with the target 2hr winning time in mind. So it wasn’t going to be an open mountain affair many associate with the Nav Challenge but I knew with astute planning the Nav and the challenge would hold up.

My first recce was on 15th July. This sorted out the short course. I had an armchair route planned and I followed the direct route to first checkpoint and ended up in head high bracken on a marked path that led directly to checkpoint. This “path” was removed from the map! The checkpoint site was good leaving a left or right option from the start once you crossed the bridge. The quickest seemed to take left option. This was good underfoot and allowed the rest of course to be planned. There was also opportunity to take short cut through forest but I don’t think anyone did this. Clearly some lost time on no.1, so even the short can be a challenge.

No. 2, forest corner was probably more straight forward in navigation but was long. I had initially planned a checkpoint in the forest to get 2 route options but the fence around the forest was too high to cross safely so had to drop this idea. No. 3 was at the “Bread & Butter Stone”. There were a number of route options here. Up and over Boots/Round Hill, flanking this hill along an indistinct path. The path was visible but did not offer any faster running. Some aborted this option and dropped down to better path.

No. 4 was at path junction the other side of a valley. The direct route dropped into valley through a sheep farm and probably some high vegetation. It shouldn’t have really been considered and I didn’t hear of anyone taking it. The route on the path around the valley is the better option. It gave an insight how a longer route going round may be better than a straight down and up.

The last checkpoint was designed to give a number of options for the run into finish. This was also the first checkpoint for the long course and for the long it really did cause mayhem! There were 2 track options. Up and over the top of Trooperstown or the left option along the road. There were variations of a straighter route but it’s likely with the tall vegetation at this time of year that any of the straighter options would be slower.

The first finisher on the short came in just over an hour and the top 4 were separated by a minute! The first lady came in just 3 minutes later. The longest was 2 ½ hours. The feedback for the short was very positive and I’m happy to have got it about right both technically and physically.

The long...I made 3 recces before I was happy with it. 2 full recces and a 3rd trip to sort out checkpoint 3 as the placement of this was critical to get the right balance for route options for the leg 3 to 4.

I had a course planned taking in Derrybawn, Brockagh and Paddock Hill. My first recce was on 21st July. This nailed down checkpoints 1 and 2 and possibly 3 and 4. No. 5 I had nearer the top of Paddock Hill and this gave a left or right option from 4. The right option was Wicklow Way so I wanted to see the left option. No problem crossing Avonmore River at bottom of Glenmacnass valley but the route up to Paddock Hill from here meant going through sheep farm, so I ignored a no trespassing sign and went through the sheep farm with my dog...going through some sort of private property could not be avoided in this area and hence no 5 had to be changed to take the left option out of the equation.

With time ticking on and planning and printing deadlines approaching the 2nd full recce was on 11th Aug. This time taking different route options. I hunted around for an off path site for checkpoint 5, but could not find a viable option. There was no distinct feature that wouldn’t involve forcing competitors through high bracken or gorse or both! There was going to be enough opportunity for competitors to choose these options, without actually forcing them! So checkpoint 5 was reluctantly placed at the junction of the Wicklow way and path down to the finish.

The 2nd recce did unearth another problem and that was leg 3 to 4. The right route through Laragh Village was much quicker! I wanted it as an option but not necessarily the quickest option. So went back on the 13th to sort out leg 3 to 4. Initially I had checkpoint 3 higher in forest, but decided to drop it to the Green road or preferably nearby so not as easy for it to be tampered with. The issue being where to site so that the left route was marginally shorter. At no stage did I consider the straight route across river. With the heavy rainfall early in the month the river was quite high and though not actually impassable it would have been too complicated to actually include this option in my planning. Eventually, after doing leg 3 to 4 twice and running up and down the Green road a few times I settled on the final site actually on the Green Road. For security of the kite and electronic box I could secure it with a gripple and wire. Positioning of checkpoint 3 didn’t really have a bearing on leg 2 to 3. Regardless of where 3 was positioned there were still route choice options.

So planning finished and maps forwarded to Gavan for printing. I put out all the checkpoints, some the evening before and the rest on the morning with the final checkpoint on long placed after the race start! Thanks to Brendan Doherty sweeping up the short course I didn’t need to take in those checkpoints and I was home by 5pm having collected the other 4 checkpoint.

So how did the long pan out??

Pretty much as expected. The briefing made it quite clear that the shortest route may not be the quickest, but the shortcuts were so tempting everyone got tempted at one time or another. Certainly some paid off but on balance they didn’t. It made for interesting and satisfying listening at the end.

No. 1 which was the reverse of the finish leg on the short provided a number of options. There were 2 options to stay on tracks or road the whole way. Either left and over the top of Trooperstown (not sure if anyone did this) or continue on paved road and then left up track to checkpoint. There were shortcut options tried. Mainly near start from corner of road through forest, across deer fence and then up through scrub. I did this in reverse on one of my recces and if you were lucky you may not have lost anything but I doubt there was anything to gain. Then there were various straighter options on Trooperstown Mountain itself. Again none of these were clean and the likelihood of very slow progress at some stage was high. For one or 2 the race was lost early on first leg and for Alan the race ended when a contact lens popped out in the rough vegetation.

No.2 did provide a fairly straight possibility across Avonmore River but without local knowledge I doubt it was seriously considered by any. So everyone probably crossed river via road bridge. Even getting to this bridge there was shortcut possibility and as so often they start with an inviting animal path which disappears into the scrub of gorse and bracken. I tried this on a recce! Again nothing to gain except scratched legs! Once across river and on main Laragh to Rathdrum road it was a question of how far up the road did one travel before cutting in. The wood here was very nice for running, so the earlier the better but many, perhaps bitten by first checkpoint stayed on paths. The checkpoint was off path, the only one, and I was keen to use it after coming across the ruin during Nav Challenge 2 last year. It was I thought unmarked on map. Actually it was marked but was hidden by checkpoint circle and I got lucky. So knowing the site I had no hesitation in using it when the possibility came up.

Checkpoint 3, I’ve already given reasoning for using it and it was a case of trying to get as straight a route as possible from checkpoint 2 but minimising the off track running as the bilberry is quite high in area. Many did manage this, ending up running down path along side deer fence, though this path disappeared near bottom.

And so checkpoint 4, the one I dedicated one recce to sorting out. With the lack of recent rain the straight route across river was the option taken by many. This inevitably meant crossing farmland (i.e. Private) but such is the competitive nature this did not put off many. Depending where one ended up on the Laragh Glendalough road there was still the left option via Wicklow Way or right via Laragh village. If the Wicklow way then the river crossing may have been wasted as one could just as easily run the Green road and cross river at visitor centre and avoided some climb. Those that went right after reaching road certainly did save as many as 5 minutes, versus right along Green road and out to road via the woollen mill. There was still the not so small matter of getting to checkpoint site, mainly via the path network. From Laragh Village the most direct path had some sort of private access sign. I didn’t take this in my recces but many did in the race. The first few got through but it wasn’t long before an irate local got in the way. Thankfully we don’t wear the numbers in the Nav challenge races with IMRA written across them, so not bringing IMRA into disrepute!! Those that took Wicklow Way route from Glendalough still had various options as well and again no one seemed to gain from shortcuts vs the longer way round!

Checkpoint 5, the last, didn’t provide the multitude of route choices. It was a case of getting to Wicklow Way and following it to Checkpoint. At least one person did miss the Wicklow Way. But while the route was more straight forward it did challenge physically with the climb up and this ensured the Long course was a proper long! From 5 to finish was same as last Wednesday’s race! It was straight forward enough though some did miss the little shortcut which the Wednesday race did not take.

My 2hr prediction was in the ballpark with Conor completing the course in 1hr 52. He may also have run shortest route covering 18.6km. Paul Mahon had the quickest time on 3 of the legs, but either of his poor options on the 1st and 3rd checkpoint cost more time than the 4 minute margin. John Bell grabbed 3rd place passing Ruairi on the climb up Paddock Hill and descended strongly to ensure 3rd remained his. Niamh O‘Ceallaigh ran strongly to be first lady home and 7th overall.

There was a very strong turnout with 30 on short and 32 on long course and as I mentioned before the feedback was very positive and justified all the planning.

The use of Sportident equipment and computer which was kindly lent by Setanta Orienteers, provides very welcome feedback with results analysis.

Thanks to Gavan for his assistance and support throughout, Zoe for her thoughts on planning and help on day and Brendan for checkpoint collection...Daniela’s home bake, yum yum and all who participated, most of whom retuned with positive feedback.

Results below, but I suspect the formatting will go haywire when I submit.
Results and splits can be analysed in depth at the following 2 links.



IMRA Nav Challenge 1 24th Aug 2014

Short 7.8k 350m

Name Class Club Time
1 Brian Sugrue 60:33
2 Karl Maguire 61:16
3 Torben Dahl 61:26
4 Anthony O'Reilly 61:34
5 Siobhan Delaney CNOC 63:43
6 Hilary Jenkinson 76:32
7 Alice Clancy 76:43
8 Zoe Tyner SET 78:05
9 Keith Fitzsimmons SET 79:04
10 Vivian o'Gorman 80:03
11 Eddie Cousins 81:23
12 Jason Dowling 81:26
13 Regina Kelly 83:12
14 Thomas Galvin 86:39
15 John Greene 87:38
16 Melanie Walsh SET 89:49
17 Eileen Walsh SET 103:10
18 Anne Hodge 105:20
19 John Fitzgerald 111:17
19 Eamonn Hodge 111:17
21 Marguerite Clarke 111:20
22 Jane Walsh 113:15
23 Theresa Doyle AJAX 121:49
24 Maeve O'Grady 135:53
25 Josh Philips 148:19
26 Rory O'Loughlin 148:20
27 Conor Archer 148:21
Paul O'Grady DNF
Vincent & Elle Giguere-Walsh DNF
Adrian Burns DNF

Long 11.2k 800m

Name Class Club Time
1 Conor Short 112:50
2 Paul Mahon 117:12
3 John Bell 120:33
4 Ruari Short CNOC 121:44
5 Sam Scriven 126:01
6 Eoin Syron 137:14
7 Niamh O'Ceallaigh 138:47
8 Paul Smyth AJAX 147:49
9 Paul Keville 148:25
10 Robert O'Neill 149:14
11 Kevin O'Riordan 149:20
12 Roisin McDonnell 150:00
13 Dallas Baird 158:29
14 Denis Deasy 166:10
15 Frank Brazil 166:26
16 Ruth Lynam 167:23
17 Daniela Boehm 175:32
18 Colin Walsh 176:20
19 Alan Nicol 176:25
20 John McCann 182:51
21 B Delaney DFO 184:42
22 Maike Jorgens 185:24
23 Stephen Bailie 187:43
24 James Cahill 199:58
25 Jarlath Hynes 203:20
26 John Condon 208:55
27 Miriam Maher 230:41
28 Karen Devenney 230:45
29 Caitlin Bent 243:26
30 Ger Power 263:35
Raghnall O'Donoghue DNF
Alan Ayling DNF

John Bell

Nav Challenge 1 – Trooperstown
I arrived at Trooperstown car park at about 10:45 and there were a good number of cars about. At first I thought they might have been kayakers or hikers, but when I made my way over to registration I realise that the majority were IMRA people. It turned out to be one of the best turn outs for the nav series since I first comlleted one 2 years ago. It turns out there were 30 entries for the long course and 30 for the short course (proving very popular). Maybe we’ll see a few of the short course runners moving up to the long course over the next couple of weeks? Apart from the challenge itself these events take you to parts of the hills you would most likely not otherwise venture to, especially the middle of a field full of gorse, but more on that later.
Just before we headed off Gavan and Angus gave us our map and the race briefing. The theme for the long course was Route Choice as the course measured about 11.5k in straight lines but optimum route along paths and tracks avoiding dense vegetation and obstacles would be closer to 19k. I was thinking it would be interesting to use GPS devices to record routes and there could be a prize for the shortest / most direct route, which would most probably not be the quickest.
Control point No. 1 was to the southwest of Trooperstown at a path junction. As with all of the controls on the course, it was not hard to find, the challenge was to find the quickest route. I choose the path and road the up as far as the telecom mast, which is the same as the return for the league race. From here instead of heading up onto Trooperstown I followed the road and a track that contoured around the hill. This minimised the amount of climb and joined a path that lead directly to the control point.
From here and onto Control No. 2, which was to the east of Derrybawn, there seemed to be plenty of route choice. I had a bad start trying to take a short cut following some animal tracks that disappeared and I ended up in a field full of gorse and briars. I could hear some others zipping past on a track about 20m away but the gorse was so thick and I couldn’t find a clear way out. The choice was to turn back and find a better route or jump, climb and wade through it, which I did. This should have been a lesson learnt, and I made a mental note to stick to the tracks from now on. After making it onto the track the route was fairly straightforward out onto the road across the bridge up the Glenmalure Road before turning onto a path heading up Derrybawn. The path zig-zagged but the forest floor was clear so I cut the corners until I got to a forest track, which I followed before turning off onto a small path which lead to control at a ruin, which I recalled Angus mentioning after one of Nav challenges last year.
Control No. 3 was along the Green Road due north, so I took a fairly straight route down through the forest following a narrow path that was not on the map but some others were coming up. When half way down and onto a track I came across some mountain bikers who lead me to a good and direct track down to the Green Road . Those mountain bikers like their direct and very steep paths! The control was just a short distance along the road towards Glendalough.
The next Control No. 4 was located to the southeast of Brockagh East and there was allot of route choice starting with the option of heading towards Laragh or Glendalough. I initially headed towards Glendalough but I rashly decided to turn onto the path towards St Saviours ruin (I hadn’t been there before and these events are about seeing new places!) hoping that I would find a decent route up onto the road between Laragh and Glendalough. I jumped through the river and found a farm track which was fairly direct. I then headed towards Glendalough to join the Wicklow Way up onto the side of Brockagh. Looking at it now I would have been better off heading towards Laragh and follow part of the Brockagh race route, but it didn’t seem so obvious at the time. While walking / jogging up along the Wicklow Way I was hoping to find a forest ride that would lead onto the open mountain but I never found it so instead I cut through dense forest all the while thinking to myself did I not decide earlier on to stick to tracks! Anyway, once onto the open mountain I found the path I was looking for, but again I took the gamble to follow an animal track to cut a corner. This path lead me into chest high ferns before the path disappeared so I had too make my own path. I was certain at this point that I had lost allot of time and was kicking myself for not sticking to the mapped paths and tracks! After getting through the ferns and onto the path skirting the forest it was straightforward to the control at a path junction.
The last Control No.5 was at Paddock Hill and the route choice was fairly straightforward, so it as back off Brockagh onto the Wicklow Way and follow it straight to the control on Paddock Hill. This was the last bit of uphill and my legs were fairly tired, but I knew the last leg to the finish was all downhill so I pushed on, passing Ruairi Short, the first runner I met since leaving control No. 2. From here is was up to gravity to get me to the finish, initially following a narrow path, which at one point seemed to disappear, so I had to double check the map, before continuing straight out onto a forest track and a bit of road back to the finish. I was a little surprised but happy to hear I was third back after some poor route choice. After talking to a few other finishers it was clear most had similar gains and losses along their routes.
Congratulations to the winners on the long course Conor and Niamh, and thanks to Gavan and Angus for all the planning and work that obviously goes into these events. Where else would you get such a well organised event and adventure on the hills for €7?