you'll be amazed how good your nav is when you start walking.
Actually, that's why I was amazed. One of the things that bites me in 24-hour events is that, because I'm moving so slow, I lose my sense of distance traveled. Didn't struggle with that today. Maybe it's because I haven't been in the woods at all lately, so I had no frame of reference to confuse me.
aren't there some crazy math skillz/rules of thumb one could apply to calculating rate of progress?
Of course, and that's how beginners become intermediates. But, truly navigating well (as with doing just about anything well) means moving beyond that to where the recognition of patterns is more or less an automatic process. That only happens through tons of practice. In my experience, changing the rate at which the patterns are encountered seems to interfere with that. That's why I pretty much run the same speed in the woods for all events under 3 hours (at 3 hours, I have to start slowing down due to physical limitations).
Alas, automatic pacing was one of the things i could do only sporadically, I relied a lot on instinct and when that started fading i was screwed...how do you keep the same pace when going up steep uphills, through areas of deadfall or briers, etc? Or conversely when you hit the trail or road?