My most major mistake came in the few seconds after I started. I had, of course, intended to do Green, which is the course for M45+ in the ROC club series meets. I was handed a map, upside down of course. I punched the start control, turned the map over, and neglected to spend 1-2 seconds to see if it was the right course. I was just focused on my first control and how to get there.
Turns out it was a Red map. Fortunately the clue sheet was printed on the map rather than loose, so at least I had the right clue sheet for the Red course. Unfortunately, I completed the whole course w/o realizing I was doing the wrong course. I WAS thinking that this was taking me a very long time, longer than usual, but I just figured that the course setter took the opportunity to set everything longer than normal, because most local parks don't support very long courses.
I didn't realize the error until I downloaded and was told I MP'd. I was pretty surprised because I was reasonably sure I had gone to all of the right controls and punched correctly. Then someone happened to ask me what course I did -- I then checked the map and saw that I had in fact done the Red course!
Straight-line distance was 7.0 km.
Start to #1: Pondered, very briefly, taking a straight-line approach, but decided on the road/trail route, to be a very safe route, and give me time to get into the map and quickly scan the rest of the course. Went to the trail bend, then took a fairly straight-line approach to the control. Once I hit the small stream, I knew I was on the right track. 11:26
#2: Headed down to the veg boundary, more or less followed that until I got to the first gully, then headed NE, crossing the first, the second, and the third gully, then looked for the contours to tell more precisely where I was. No problems with this one. 8:57
#3: I didn't like the looks of the straight line route, because it crossed two rough open fields, both of which had a band of green along the edge, but there didn't seem to be any realistic other route. No real problems getting into or out of the first strip of open land, and no problems getting into the second, at which point I knew I was very close to the area of the control. But trying to get out of the field into the woods was a major challenge! Although where I was, it was mapped as medium green, it looked REALLY nasty. I spend a couple of minutes looking for some sort of passage, finally I found something very slightly less thick than anything else, and I plunged through. It was quite an unpleasant 10 meters or so, battling thorn bushes in a short sleeve shirt. Came into the open woods, and spotted the control almost immediately. 9:06
#4: Headed out towards the road/trail junction, took the road briefly across the gully, then headed straight north, staying between the stream and the dark green, until I got to the edge of the gorge. Took the indistinct trail along the gorge edge until I saw what looked to be the reentrant; went in, there was the control. 8:00
#5: Headed more or less straight west, crossing the stream, getting to the road, then went into the woods to the trail. Which turned out to be quite muddy thanks to horse traffic. Took the trail about 400 m to a bend which was near the control. I was initially confused because the contour looked very much like a reentrant on the map, and nothing was making sense, but then I re-looked at the clue sheet and saw it was a spur; found the control very quickly after that. 12:15
#6: Headed west again until I hit a different trail, which took me around a couple of bends, to where I could sort of see the shallow reentrant from a little ways off. Left the trail to head towards it, nailed the control. 7:43
#7: Pretty much a straight compass bearing to the area of the streams, then tried to read the stream bends, junctions, etc. I was a bit confused when hitting the first stream because it appeared fairly wide and bold on the map, so I was expecting a substantial stream; it was only a few feet wide, which made me wonder if I really knew where I was. But I pushed on, then found a distinct stream junction a little east of the control, headed up the hill, and there was the control. 10:25
#8: Headed sourth towards the road, staying a bit to the right (uphill) to avoid the green and swampy area. This worked OK except I was moving slowly; seemed like it took forever even though it was only around 400 m. Once I hit the road, I had a momentary bobble -- I started heading left (the correct way), but then I looked back and saw a bend that looked just like the bend at the intersection I was seeking. Even though I should have known there was no way I could be to the left of the intersection, I felt compelled to head SW to make sure. I quickly realized that was the wrong direction; may have lost 30-45 seconds, not much, but totally needless. Then I found 8 with no problem.
#9: Nothing to do but climb the big, steep hill. I was aiming for the white area in between the two medium green areas. I actually think I executed it OK but I don't think the green and white areas are mapped that well, because I hit some fairly thick stuff; it looked more open to the right, so that's where I went, and got out to the trail, but a lot further to the south than I was expecting. According to my GPS track, I went through medium green, even though I really didn't.
#10: This was actually my worst control. I had trouble getting out to the road just north of #9 -- it was mapped as white all the way to the road but there was actually some pretty thick stuff in the last 10-20 m which caused some lost time. Then I decided to take the trail east until I got to the N-S trail, instead of going a more direct route through fields and light green or white woods, which I feel would have been a much better choice. Especially since going the trail route involved about 3-4 contour lines of climb, which I did NOT need after the climb to #9. Then to top it off, I lost track of what field I was in, and I spent a minute or two looking for the control one field too soon (the field around 200 m S of the right one). Absolutely no excuse for that. The fields don't even look remotely alike. I'll blame it on being late in the race and being tired, but like I said, no excuse.
I remember a teaching I heard once -- that the most common places for mistakes are the first control (not into the map yet, not warmed up) and the last control (tired, feeling like the tough part is essentially over and you can relax, etc.). I did OK on #1 but certainly not on the last one.