The kids had off from school today and I w=took off from work to hang out with them. We spent the morning hiking to a geocache in Frozen Head State Park, but the finding the cache was secondary to enjoying all the marvelous wildflowers. A splendid way to spend the morning.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Anyhow, I hosted my 4th CITO and it went really well. Two of my previous CITOs were in fairly remote areas and didn't have much of a turn-out. This one was in a county park close to everyone, and I also threw in a pot-luck dinner after the trash pick-up. Perhaps because of the social/eating aspect to the event, there were quite a few people who turned up. We spent an hour picking up trash along the fisherman trails. TO make things a little different, I spray-painted 4 "typical" pieces of trash chrome-silver and planted them in 4 different regions of the park. Keen-eyed geocachers who spotted this silver-lined trash during their CITO could redeem them for prizes. Two of the 4 were found and turned in, with a third being found but thrown into the trash bags by mistake. The 4th was never found, but I gave out the prizes anyways. Prizes are fun.
|ONe of the silver lined refuse. Ended up using it as a logbook for the event.|
Towards the end, I made an announcement that we are moving back to New Mexico this summer. The cachers and caches in this area are great, and I've really enjoyed my time here. Our next home will have a tough act to follow. I hope I continue to host CITOs though. It's a good way to get out and meet other local cachers.
At the very end of the event, I got to borrow a kayak from my friends Lullabye and Kaput and paddle out to the island cache near the park. I had found a few T5 water caches before, but rarely actually by paddling to one (this other CITO was the exception). Quite an easy and pleasant way to find a T5 cache I might add. I was pretty psyched to be on the water for a bit.
Saturday, April 2, 2016
MOGA MOGA MOGA!About a year ago I decided I wanted to attend my first mega event. For nearly 5 years of caching, I had never bothered going out of my way to attend one of these caching carnivals. Back when we lived in New Mexico, I don't think there was ever a mega event closer than 8 hours away. Here in Tennessee there have been a couple in easy driving range of 3-6 hours, but really there wasn't anything about the mega events that appealed to me. That changed when I learned about MOGA, the longest running geocache-competition in the country. A few locals went to MOGA 2015 in Missouri last year and posted on Facebook how they placed in some of the comps. I thought to myself, if they could place, I probably could to, and then I started getting the competition bug. When I heard that MOGA 2016 was going to be in Cincinnati, only 4.5 hours away, I started looking into it more. The event itself did appear to be somewhat like a carnival, with lot's of different geocaching activities planned all weekend long to keep every sort of geocacher occupied. but the main focus of MOGA is the competitions, which are basically orienteering style races. I hadn't done one of those since college, but I was immediately hooked on the idea of competing. Running around in the woods for 2.5 hours looking for caches is one of my favorite ways to cache.
I logged my "Will Attend" back in August of 2015 but didn't get around to registering for the event until January 2016. Still pretty far in advance. I booked us a room at the event hotel and started making plans for a family trip. Honestly though, the family wasn't going to be that interested in the MOGA event. Were they going to sit around in a park and wait for me to run around for hours on end? No... but the Cincinnati zoo was nearby and has manatees.. so the plan was for my wife to simply take the kids to the zoo while I was out at the races. I initially registered just for the Individual Punch competition. But I also put out a message on the local Geocacher Facebook page to see if I could put together a team as well. I didn't have much of a response, but I had one more trick up my sleeve. I knew of a couple cachers that live close to Cincinnati, LostSole and GeoFairy76, the cachers who found my Frozen Head Whereigo last fall. I had met them briefly a on a few occasions and knew they were friendly, liked hiking, and were perhaps a bit competitive. I contacted them about making a team and Lost_Sole was in. Geofairy wasn't, but their friends Sequoia and Kim--possible, also in the Cincinnati area, were game so we had a four-man team! I was starting to get pretty psyched.
|Kentucky Travel Bug Hotel Success!|
|A hasty dinner in the hotel room before heading down to the event|
The Individual Competition
|Shivering before the individual race|
My plan for this race was to start off with a 1/2 mile jog up the main access road and target Punch #17 as my first stop. I would then proceed down the road picking up a few punches along the way to the area furthest from the start/finish. After getting those I would make my way back to the finish area in a clockwise kind of path. I was hoping to have enough time to stop at each location, but since i was working my way backwards, I would have opportunities to skip punches if it looked like I wouldn't have enough time. I deliberately left the punches near the finish for last as they could be used as filler if I ended up getting back with a few extra minutes to spare.
|My course map. Numbers are a little hard to read, but if you zoom in you can follow along my route.|
It seemed like a decent plan, and it also appeared to be just about opposite of what everyone else in the comp was doing. There was maybe one or two other competitors on the road with me as I jogged and I soon out-paced them and was on my own. I found punch #17, #11 and the first stage of punch #27. Going into the comp, no one knew exactly what to expect from these multi stages. This was the first year they have been incorporated into the competition. After punching in the coordinates for the final location for punch #27, it was clear that these multi-caches were meant to disrupt your route. The final was way on the other side of the course by the first stage of #28. It was not close by as I had been hoping , say within 0.1 miles of the first stage. I didn't fret it too much though since I knew my planned route would take me by the final for this one anyways.
I moved on to punch #24, #23 and #22. It was at punch #22 that another competitor caught up to me. He wasn't a runner, so I was kind of surprised that he caught up to me while I was running. But not too surprised. I was struggling to find the cache for #22 and spent more than a few minutes looking when he showed up. He made the find quickly, we both punched it, and I took off running for the next one, while he simply hiked quickly. I beat him to punch #21, but once again struggled to make the find and he caught up with me once again. I did finally find it and we both punched again, then I took off running once more. But the same thing happened at punch #20. I have to admit this was getting kind of funny. here I was, running between caches but not doing the course any faster than someone just hiking quickly. To be fair, the terrain between some of these caches didn't allow for fast running, being fairly thick understory to weave around in the woods. But still, I was busting hard and getting tired but for no additional gain. This makes a good point about these kinds of competitions, it isn't just your athletic ability that matters. Your skill at finding the cache, or geosense, also plays an important role. The best competitors are probably fast, and good at finding these things. I was not feeling like one of the best. For the next cache, I tore down a steep hill towards punch #19 and once again put some distance between myself and the other competitor. But he caught up to me again,a nd ended up being the one to find the cache again. And this happened again at punch #30! At this point I was laughing out loud at myself for even bothering to run. I told him I would be better off just following him around. But it turns out that he hadn't found #23 and #24 (which is maybe why he caught up to me at #22 in the first place). So while he went up after those, I took off towards #13 and #30. I would end up crossing paths with him again a few times, but never in the same direction or going after the same cache.
Just past #30 I ran by two cachers finding an ammo can. I asked if they were in the comp, and they said no. The cache they had just found was not officially part of the competition, but was placed as a companion cache to the punches. Basically, each punch for the comp had a sister cache that was an official cache on geocaching.com. The idea is that these are all real caches that people can go and find, but having the competitor's punches separate from the real caches makes it less likely that the punches will be messed with by those not in the competition. And even though the punches I was finding were not official caches, we were encouraged to log the sister cache a found by us, since our punching of the card is our proof that we found that cache and as good as a signature on the log. Does this sound kind of weird to you? Well, it is a little odd... but I wasn't going to fret about it too much. What was kind of cool about this particular spot was that the two cachers who had found the ammo can and were just opening it said that they were the First To Find on it, and then invited me to share in the FTF with them since I was right there. I happily said yes and they handed over the blank log sheet to me so I could sign my name. How cool! I didn't stay long to chat though, I was still in race mode.
I made a successful loop of a small peninsula, picking up punches #10, #9, #12, #14 and #15. Getting to number #15 involved a stream crossing and I got a bit wet, but my shoes were already pretty muddy so I didn't mind too much. I then got the first stages of the multis #29 and #28. The final for #29 was just across the lake on the peninsula I had just come from (near #12). And the final for #28 wa even further away, somewhere back near #22. Going after either of these would be some serious back-tracking, but I was feeling good and felt like I might have time. I grabbed the final for #27 next and then found the second stage of #30. The final for #30 was back across the lake from the first stage of #30, also a pretty serious back-track. Now was the time to make a decision. My original plan was to back track slightly and get #26, #18, #16 and #25, then head try to sweep the final punches near the finish area. But if I was back-tracking already, maybe I could go out and grab the final for #30 first, then hit the final for #29 and then finish my original route. Would I have enough time? My alarm had just gone off recently indicating I had an hour left in the competition. I had to decide what to do... and I decided to go after the final for #30 first, and then pick up as many as I could on my way back. As an aside, my phone starting ringing a bunch. My wife was trying to call me, and I figured that she wanted to talk about how I did. But since the competition actually started 45 minutes late I wasn't ready to sit down and chat, so I ignored the calls for now. Gotta... keep... running.
I had ended up with 19 punches overall, but two of them were Multis worth 3 bonus points, so my final point score was 22. Out of a total of 35 points, this didn't seem too bad, but it also didn't seem good enough to win. I talked to two other competitors, both runners that had 26/27 points respectively. Still, I thought I had done well enough to place. I took out my phone to call my wife and immediately saw a barrage of text messages and phone calls. I had taken the car keys with me and she wasn't able to take the kids to the zoo as was planned! I immediately jumped into my borrowed car and zoomed back to the hotel to do a key hand-off. It was still before noon, and once my wife had the keys they were off to the zoo. They ended up having plenty of time to explore the zoo, but I didn't find out about that until later. I just felt awful that they had been stuck all morning at the hotel.
I had a few hours to kill before I had to meet up with my team for the 4-man competition and I spent most of that time getting food, drink and resting. My knee was sore and throbbing, but after lying down for a bit it started to feel better. I really wanted to find some coconut water at the nearby Kroger, but despite my wandering down all the aisles, I couldn't spot any. So I ended up with a bottle of sporty-ade and a philly cheese steak sub sandwhich. 2 hours was not nearly enough time to recuperate though, and as I drove back out to the competition area, I was starting to have my doubts about whether I would be able to run.
The Team CompetitionI got to the competition area at 2pm, an hour before the competition was supposed to start, and met up with my team-mates, LostSole, Sequoia and Kim--possible. We got the competition map, loaded the waypoints into our GPS devices and sat down at a picnic table to come up with a strategy. It was actually pretty easy to divide the course map up into four zones. Two zones were pretty close to the starting area and these were assigned to Sequoia and Kim--possible who were not as eager to be doing lots of running. That left to further caches which Lostsole and I would divide up. We would each need to run a1.5 miles or more just to get to our first stop. Lostsole ended up taking the harder of the routes as he had fresher legs than me.
|Team Competition Map. If you look closely you can see our different routes marked in.|
|Team TKO with Signal pre-competition|
The morning had been pretty nice weather, if not a little cold, but a storm was blowing in in the afternoon and winds were gusting between 40-60 mph. There was a rowing Regatta on the lake that head been called off (not geocaching related), so the and in general it just looked nasty to be outside. Still, there were a horde of people gathered to compete. Both the 4-an and two-man competitions would be running the same course, and I'd guess that there were 150 or so geocachers out there to compete. It ended up taking a good long time before everyone had their maps and waypoints, and the competition ende up starting nearly an hour late. But once it started we were off running. Well, I was off running, and Lostsole too. We cruised the firstmile or so nd then realized that there was no one in sight behind us. I slowed my pace a bit, as my knee was starting to bother me already, and it was nice to walk/run side-by-side with Lostsole for at least part of the course. We ended up over-shooting the trail-head we were looking for, but after a short cross-country trot we found the right trails. This is where our paths diverged though, I struck off towards cache 44, while Lostsole still had a ways to go to reach 53.
Shortly after punching #44 I received the first group text from Kim--possible about the location for one of the multi finals. It was in LostSole's quadrant. I made it to the first stage of the multi in my quadrant next, and after finding and punching in the coords, it also was in Lost_sole's quadrant. I had some nasty bushwhacking through thorns to get to punch #46 and #48 and by the time I had done that the coords for the other multi finals had been texted out... and all of them were in Lost_sole's quadrant. He would be overwhelmed trying to get all those multis and the other punches in his area, so I texted him that I would pick up #47 and #49 which were not too far out of the way from my quadrant, and that he should focus on the multis. Going after these two caches took me much further than I had planned on going, but it seemed like I still had enough time. One nice thing about punches #47 and #49 is that I was able to run along a sandy beach for part of the way between them. This was the nicest part of my run, which until that point had mostly been on single-track trails in the woods, or deep in the woods without any trails. The lake was cold and mean looking, but I didn't have to go swimming, and the nice view gave me fresh energy. I powered on to the rest of my quadrant.
My next punch was #52 and to get to that one I ended up jogging right past #54. This is where we had a break-down in our communication, or simply an "oops". I assumed that #54, being in Lostsole's quadrant was already punched. Turns out he had skipped it to go to #60 and then ended up moving further south to go after other multis. It would have been so easy for me to stop and get this punch, but I passed it by. Oops. Didn't learn about that util later though. It was in this area that I started running into other competitors. I picked up #52 and then passed several people on my way to #50, where there were 4 cachers looking for the punch there. They said they had been looking for a while and that it couldn't be found, but I gave it about 3 minutes of looking anyways. Part of me was suspicious, we were competing after all, and if you wanted to be mischievous you could pass along false information in order to trick other groups into not finding some of the punches. I have no idea if this actually happens, but the fact that I thought about it made it seem plausible. Plausible, but not too likely. Geocachers are usually pretty friendly and helpful. I believed them that #50 was missing and really only gave a look to see if I could maybe turn up something that they had missed. I didn't, so I trotted off to my next find.
I followed another competitor to #51, then had just one cache left in my route. I had a bit of extra time though so I gave Lostsole a call to see if he needed help with his stuff. He was pretty far from hisoriginal route going after the multis, and it looked like I could help by finding the 2nd stage of the #60 (the 3-stage multi), which was pretty close to where I was, so off I went after it. I found it and punched in the coords, and wasn't at all surprised that it was also in Lost_sole's quadrant, and also would be the furthest cache of all the others. Lostsole was going to make a go for it, but our time was starting to run out and we still had over 2 miles to run back to the start. I got myself to a nearby road and started jogging to pick up the last cache in my quadrant, #45, and then started making my way back. At this point I was passing all sorts of competitors wmostly walking, but some jogging. Almost everyone I met was heading back to the finish area as time was short. But hardly anyone was running back. Checking the time it looked like I wouldn't make it without running, so I was a little confused why no one else was. Turns out I had miscalculated when the competition ended some how, maybe because of the delayed start. The jog back was partly on a muddy trail, but mostly on paved roads, and my knee started throbbing again just like. I couldn't maintain much of a pace, but kept on trotting, and passing other competitors.
|Lostsole's triumphant return|
|Panic setting in as LostSole's card is not found|
|My punch card from the Team Event|
The Awards Ceremony
|MOGA Mega Madness: The Event Ballroom|
I got back to the hotel just a short while after the rest of my family got back from the zoo. They had an awesome time, despite the blustery weather. We all cleaned up and headed down to the event ballroom for the awards ceremony. I actually hobbled down to the ballroom, because man was I stiff and sore. The hot shower and clean clothes felt good, but I had forgotten to bring an extra pair of shoes, so I was still wearing my muddy and wet sneakers. Oh well... gave me a little authenticity. We milled about in the ballroom for a bit, maybe 30 minutes, waiting for stuff to happen. The MC was taking his time though, and we hadn't had dinner, so we ended up leaving the ballroom and getting a table at the hotel's restaurant, within view of the ballroom. We needed food, but I didn't want to miss any announcements. While we ate, they announced the raffle winners, and I kept jumping up out of my seat to go over and see if I had one anything. Nope. Back to food. We finished our diner and went back into the ballroom to wait. After what felt like hours they finally started announcing the competition winners, starting with ....the biking competition. One of the cool things about this year's MOGA as compared to previous years is that they organized a lot more competitions. Their was the bike comp, the paddle comp, a handicap competition for those with less mobility, a puzzle-solving comp... and then the regular punch comps with individual, 2-man and 4-man teams. Perhaps they didn't realize that with so many competitions, their awards ceremony would be that much longer. Or maybe they needed to stall for time so that a team of volunteers could go through the results that were only turned in a few hours earlier. Whatever the case, the ceremony dragged... This wasn't helped by the MC, who absolutely loved being the center of attention and would go off aon tangents at every opportunity. Towards the end he was even joking about how everyone wanted him to shut-up, and each time he made such a joke the crowd would cheer wildly. He didn't get the hint though... and kept talking.
|Kids up way past their bedtime.. but cheerful about it.|
The kids were up way past their bedtime and I kept dropping hints that they could head on up to the room and go to bed. They probably wouldn't miss much. But my wife insisted that they stay. "We want to see you win." Funny how she was more confident about me having won something than I felt myself. Around 9:30 the awards for the individual competition were announced. The way the competition was structured there were three finishers for each age category and sex, and since there were three age categories, that mean 12 "placers"overall. For some categories this meant your odds of placing were actually pretty good. In other categories, like the men's 30-50 which was my category, you were up against a big group. They ended up announcing my group last, and I was thrilled to have come in 2nd place. One of the other guys who bested me was in the under 30 group. The other guy, the overall winner, also happened to be the winner for the past 4 years or so, a real MOGA competitor veteran. So yeah, I didn't do half bad. The kids accompanied me up to the stage to receive my Silver Medal and were super excited. I guess it had been worth letting them stay up.
The two-man competition was announced next and it was cool to see some winners were from the Knoxville area, my freinds [ZUG] and milla's_mommies. Way to go. There was also a four man team from the Knoxville area that placed in the 50+ age caterogry. Part of me felt a little miffed. I had posted on our local facebook group about heading up to MOGA and wanting to assemble a team, and had gotten almost zero response. I guess I had just figured that no one from our area was competing, but it turns out that quite a few people from my area were competing. They all just had their own teams. Even though I've been in the Knoxville area for almost 2 years, I still feel a little like an outsider. Must be my personality. The winners of the 30-50 age category for the 4-man team competition were announced at the very very end. They had hinted that there was a reason that this was done, and that people who had been at previous MOGAs would know, but I had not been at previous MOGAs. Still it wasn't too hard to figure out. The team with the best score in all categories was the winner of the MOGA cup, a traveling trophy, and they want to announce this last.
They announced the 3rd place finishers first a team that had 18 points. Suddenly, my team perked up. We had more than 18 points on just our three cards, it looked like we would place after all? Our hopes were immediately dashed when they announced the 2nd place finishers a team with 23 points. Kim--possible shot me a look of disappointment. We must have been disqualified completely for not having turned in our 4rth card. What a disappointment! We had such a good team, and competed so hard, only to be knocked out of the competition due to a freak accident, a card falling out of Lostsole's pocket as he ran back to the finish line. We were all set to start consoling eachother for our loss when they started announcing the winners.
The winning team is an interesting story. They all finished within the allotted time, but only turned in 3 punch cards. Normally this would disqualify a team. but per our rules, if , any other competitor turns in the lost card before the competition ends, the card can be scored. By some lucky miracle, another competitor had picked up a lost card found in the mud, and turned it in. This is the kind of behavior we know and love about geocachers, they are always willing to help each other out, even during a competitive event. With all 4 cards scored, the winner is team TKO!OK... I'm paraphrasing there. I didn't have a recorder going to capture exactly what was said, but the minute our team heard them start talking about a team with a lost card we were jumping up out of our seats. We had won! Our devastating defeat at having lost the card had been turned upside down into a giant victory! The look on Lostsole's face was priceless, and the first thing he did as we approached the stage was to ask who it was that found our card and offer to buy him a drink. The geocacher that turned in our lost card goes by Shaved Ewok, and we will forever owe him our gratitude. My son joined us up on the stage and we were cheering and jumping as we received the MOGA cup! The so called Stanley Cup of geocaching!
|Team TKO from left to right: Fugads, LostSole, Kim--possible and Sequioa|
|One happy competitor|
|Me and my son with the cup|