In 2008, the Mental Health Foundation in Canberra took over the running of the Urban Polaris, a popular bike/orienteering type event. It has quickly become the organisation’s most successful fundraiser, this year alone bringing in an impressive $47,000.
Upon arrival as a competitor, you receive a map of the nation’s capital and a bunch of grid references that reveal the locations of control points spread around the city. Once the clock starts, teams of two discover the point values of each control and have to plan a route that enables them to collect as many points as they think they can within the following 7 hours.
This year I teamed up with Gaye Camm again, secretly hoping to defend our win in the women’s category from last year. We headed South to get some high value controls to start with before swapping strategy for fun and rode North to collect smaller controls closer to the centre of town. The Northerly controls meant we could enjoy more fun on-bike navigation, a bit of swimming and a long run up and down the fire escape at Black Mountain Tower (46 flights of stairs apparently). We also had a failed attempt at picking up bonus points for scoring a strike at the bowling alley in Belconnen. I didn’t realise ’til half way through swinging the ball that it was too heavy to hold on to after that much riding, meaning a second arm was called on for unfashionable emergency support and the ball rolled about a metre before sliding the rest of the way in the gutter. I blame my odd looking right thumb which is too big to fit in any of the more child-friendly balls.
Gayes has a talent for plotting routes that avoid the hills, so we managed to complete the day with 95km of pedaling and less than 1500m of climbing (including the stairs), which surprised us both with a first place finish. I’m not sure what final participation numbers were, but there seemed to be people out enjoying themselves at just about every control we visited, which certainly makes the hard miles in between seem worth it. Fortunately there were only marshals present to witness my talent for bowling.