An incredibly fun Long distance Blue course at Shell Ridge. Fun is obviously a subjective term, but in this case, the course was runnable, full of interesting route choice, physically challenging, technical in places, and free of angry hornets, ferocious cows, and scratchy bushes. If you ask me, that definitely qualifies as fun! Map link
(sorry for the relatively low quality of the image...)
#1 was a straightforward control at a rootstock (which I still managed to overshoot by a little bit), but at #2, the real fun started. I took the straight route, passing through the fence crossings in the saddle between the two big hills and following the long re-entrant southwest to the road. I then promptly overshot the control, but relocated quickly.
For #3, I ran west through the flattish area to the saddle between the two steep hills, and then up between the two green patches. On #4, I dropped down into the east-west streambed and followed it all the way to the control, passing some mountain bikers along the way.
#5 was the first major route choice, and I had already prepared for it, choosing the longer route that followed the winding road to the right but cut down the otherwise brutal climb to a minimum. After passing through the massive saddle, the rest of the leg was literally all downhill. #6 was straightforward, and I ran up through the spur junction to attack #7 from the clearing.
#8 was another critical route choice; I took the most popular and likely optimal route choice that followed the paths to the north of the line and avoided the southern route-choice's 20-contour climb (I had kind of had enough of 20-contour climbs after yesterday). #9, #10, #11 were technical controls in the intricate, rocky, and steep northern sector of the park.
#12 was the final major route choice; again, I tried to conserve climb, this time by taking the eastern path that led me past the start triangle, through Borges Ranch, down the re-entrant with control #14, and up through the saddle to #12. Again, most of the Senior Team went some version of the straight route, which was much more direct but also significantly steeper.
The rest of the course was pretty uneventful, except for what happened at control #17. I had been waking up quite a few of the controls on the course up until that point, but I received an awakening of my own here. As I was about to punch the control at the base of the cliff, I heard a sudden scratching noise quickly followed by a muffled thud and an ominous whirring suddenly heading in my direction. Everything happened in less than a second. Two eagles, each with a wingspan in excess of three feet, came flying out of a cave in the cliff at ground-level, their wingtips coming within inches of my face. I screamed; I'll admit it. That happened to be the control where Eric passed me (he beat me by 9 seconds in the end), so I guess I have a legitimate excuse... (-;
I finished 1st among US juniors, and 5th overall.