Today I nearly became part of the food chain, when a hulking great beast tried to eat me. Here’s how it happened…
Ok, I have exaggerated slightly above for literary effect, but the story itself is true. I woke to an outside temperature of -2C and then it started raining. Great. An iced-over driveway meant we briefly flirted with not bothering to go orienteering today, but go we did. About 3/4 hour later we were at Claybury Park and signing up for our courses – my daughter on yellow, my wife on orange, and me having to move up to a full green as there was no light green available today. Then a 1km walk uphill to the start over icy paths, much worse than at home, had me thinking of my Microspikes which I’d left at home.
Usually, the shock of starting has me desperately trying to orientate myself with the newly picked-up map before then confidently finding the first control. But today it was the other way around. Whilst waiting to start I got my compass out, worked out which way was which, and so when I picked the map up after crossing the start line, I instantly headed off in the right direction. A good start.
But it still took me 10 minutes to get to the first control, partly because I was taking care on the compacted snow, partly because it was quite a long way, and partly because it took me a while to work out which of the maze of paths I was actually following. The second and third controls came easily and I found myself in the general vicinity of number 4 quite easily and, conditions and fitness considered, quickly. But finding the actual control was much more difficult than its eventual location suggested, mainly because I turned off into the undergrowth too soon, went in a big arc past it and then had to backtrack up the path. Numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8 all followed in respectable times, but cutting across the paths to number 9 sent me too far south – so far south that I encountered number 11, but at least that enabled me to get a fix. Noting its position for later, I ploughed through the woods and found numbers 9 and 10. Then I used my memory of number 11 to try to find it quickly. A massive failure this turned out to be. I went right past it and in a curve around it looking for it as “it must be somewhere about here”. I got it eventually, but wasted a good 5 minutes or so.
Number 12 was easy – down the hill across the open land to the fence next to the housing estate. But as I was minding my own business a small dog (Jack Russell sized, but I’m no expert on canines) came racing up to me. Telling it “not now, I’m busy,” it took umbrage at the rejection and continued its run towards me, ending in physical contact with the back of my right calf and a sharp stinging pain from where it had sunk its fangs. I whirled around and kicked out at the dog which was homing in for another attack, tripping over a fallen branch as I did. Ah, a weapon! The branch gave me a longer reach, which I needed, as the dog had shown no signs of contentment with its meal and wanted more. At this point its owner stated that maybe it would be better off on its lead, which I agreed with, commenting “your f****** dog bit me”. This probably saved the dog’s life, as I was quite prepared to kick and club it to death if necessary to stop it attacking me, and indeed I reckon I could have had the owner too.
I inspected the damage – the gash was deep enough to have drawn blood, but my trousers seemed to be doing a decent job of blotting it, so I carried on, found the control and headed along the path to the largest pond where number 13 was located.
I steamed back up the slope into the woods to pick off numbers 14 and 15 and then it was done in a time of 1:35:22 and missing 15th place by 1 second. A decent result all things considered, as the turnout was lower than usual and several people who would normally run walked today. But I reckon I could have slashed up to 10 minutes off my time by running more, paying closer attention to my navigation (particularly measuring distances), and avoiding encounters with the local wildlife.
Back home I inspected the damage. The blood had clotted and it all looked a lot worse, even after a good wash. A quick check on NHS Direct, and the fact that my Tetanus jabs are up to date, put it into the “keep an eye on it” category. With a bit of luck the dog’s “meat” will not have agreed with it and it will have horrific bowel trouble for a week, but I somehow suspect that it will live to fight another day, in which case the locals who use Claybury Park might want to take precautions!
I realise that I may have upset any dog-lovers reading this post, but I hope you will understand that this dog quite literally came up to me and bit me unprovoked. I’ve never liked dogs, since one scared the shit out of me on a beach as a child, and I suspect the mutt sensed this, but it’s not a crime to dislike them and certainly doesn’t give the dog a right to attack me. You may criticise me for trying to kick and hit the dog with the branch, you may even try to make an argument that a dog wouldn’t just attack someone like that, but you weren’t there and I was. If I hadn’t defended myself, it would have bit me again – I even tried walking away which was when it bit me. Not that it was an easy target anyway, as it was one of those smaller more agile dogs that doesn’t keep still for one moment. But my tactic kept it away long enough for its owner to realise that a lead was in order, and apart from some potential food poisoning the dog was unharmed.
So my 4th orienteering event was completed, and it seems like quite a coincidence that each time I have an incident, it’s the CHIG event – first my rib injury in Latton Woods and now the dog attack in Claybury. Whereas at HAVOC, my home club, events I simply get lost. The next event is a CHIG one, so I’m left wondering what will happen to me. My money’s on alien abduction. But hopefully they can read an orienteering map.