IOC (and beyond) for beginners

IOC- Irish Orienteering Championships

If you’re one of the many orienteers that attend club events each week but haven’t ventured too much further than home territory with your orienteering, you may be wondering what all those mentions of IOC, LOC, Shamrock and JK that have been appearing on our social media posts recently.

These are abbreviations of a number of larger events that happen each Spring. They all require pre entry, which tends to be the first hurdle that a newcomer has to jump! For a newbie the various entry websites can be cumbersome and, to the un-initiated, rather frightening. Accounts have to be made, courses selected and payments made. In addition the decision to attend must be made ahead, you can’t wait to check the weather! 

Putting all this aside, it’s worth the hassle! As I write this I am attending my families fourth JK. Our first was booked on the last day of entry! We were not an ‘orienteering family’ with a background in GAA, soccer and golf, we hadn’t a clue! Admittedly, the memories of the first day weren’t great. We arrived (not having read the final detail instructions) with 40 minutes to spare! A 2km walk to the arena to collect bibs followed, a further kilometre to the uphill start made us late! We now download the final details and read them! 

The memories of the weekend are now looked back at in a fond way, wondering how we could have been so naive; it’s easy to say with hindsight. One of our party did an 180 degree mistake after his first control, but he did finish, all be it three hours later.  My eldest son returned from the fog in one piece, we learnt as we went along. The terrain was amazing, the maps were brilliant, above all the vibe at such a big event was wonderful, especially amongst the Irish contingent where all clubs became one big Irish family. 

Five years on, our family has travelled to the UK, France, Scotland, Hungary and all over Ireland in the pursuit of orienteering. We have travelled to places we would never have visited otherwise. We have met wonderful people, we have seen stunning scenery, we have been out in all weathers and survived. Our family have made many memories that will stay with us into the future.

With hindsight I would recommend the IOC to start your orienteering travel. 

Why? Well it’s on home territory. Whilst it’s Ireland’s most competitive event, you’ll have familiar faces, every club will be represented, there will be plenty of helping hands both for entry and at the event. Most Irish orienteers are happy to help you out on the field too. Whilst it’s very competitive for some, if you’re lost and asking where you are on the map, you aren’t likely to be in the running for a prize! So there’s no harm done in helping. 

What can you expect? Well the difference will be, a lot more people, a more formal start and finish area, an allotted start time, spectators, some serious athletes doing strange exercises whilst warming up, some unusual looking outfits and people with ‘all the gear’. As mentioned earlier you also have to book ahead! Don’t let this worry you, everyone is welcome and everyone gets a cheer as they come through the finish line! 

So if you’re a beginner I hope you’ll learn from our mistakes and dip your toe further afield. But do start at home, you won’t regret it.

Here are some pointers.

Booking online: 

Don’t try and use your mobile! The sites are generally written by orienteers, they aren’t beautiful but they are functional. Set up your account, follow the instructions and double check your entry. Get the number for someone in your club if your not sure what to fill in, call them (or email me)!

Choosing a category: 

You don’t have to enter the competition in your age category, you can enter an easier course as non competitive. So for example, if you’re M 30 and you want easier, enter M 14. Ask your club which course would suit you best, they are familiar with your ability and experience. Children can be shadowed by an adult. There are two colour coded courses too, yellow and orange.

You will also be asked to choose a start time, I would recommend middle for a starter. It means there will be others out on the courses, you won’t be alone. There will be some tracks and you won’t be under pressure to be back before the course closes, so you can take your time and enjoy the orienteering and your surroundings.

Before the event:

Before the event you will be emailed final details. You do need to read them!

This document will give you parking location, opening time of the car parking, distance to the start, call up times (these are usually between 8 and 3 minutes before the time you have been allocated), toilet location (very important), where to download etc….

At the event:

Don’t be late! Allow extra time for parking and walking to the start. Bring a change of clothes, warm clothes- waterproof clothes- after all it’s an Irish summer, there will always be some hanging around. Bring food and drink, a flask is always great. Afterwards you might like to take time to have a chat and watch the competitors coming in. There’s always a great atmosphere around the finish area.

After the orienteering:

There is usually an evening event on at least one of the evenings during the championships, usually to raise funds for the ever-needy Junior Squad, often there’s a table quiz and if there’s not enough in your party to make a table there will be tables you can join, or your club might have a table too. Some clubs have an evening meal organised too.

So the deadline is only a few days away… take a step in your orienteering journey, you’ll make some memories.

IOC 2018 deadline is midnight Sunday April 15th.