Orienteering has been the impetus for the Treasure Hunt Adventure since 1988 and still remains my number one sport and love. When I can get a weekend off, and the calendar is right, I try to participate as much as I can. Last weekend was off the charts: the US Orienteering Championships at beautiful Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in nearby Cross River, NY. But much more than that was the presence of the World Champ Thierry Gueorgiou.
On his Twitter page Thierry describes himself as “13-time World Champion and full-time dreamer.” Well, he showed the US community what his dreams are made of, by winning the US Elite Championship, a two day total time race, by almost 40 minutes! This comes after his Silver Place finish in the World Orienteering Champs in Sweden last month.
But orienteering is basically an egalitarian sport. Imagine that you can play a pick up sand lot game alongside Tom Brady or Derek Jeter. The best will toe the starting line alongside mere mortals and even weekend hacks like me. And quite often, we can approach the best and maybe get some of that mojo. I volunteered at the Starting Line and got to see him leave the line and head to the first flag. He was able to turn over his map, locate the triangle that shows where the start is and start to run toward the first flag in about ten steps. Incredible focus.
After the race contestants, friends and family all mill about the Results area. The results are on monitors with current finishers added in as they return. Plenty of sunshine, music and fellowship added to the excitement as I found myself in a group including Thierry.
Not knowing what else to talk about, I gave the champ a copy of my “Great Central Park Treasure Hunt,” a do-it-yourself introduction to orienteering in the southern end of the park. Well, he was intrigued and said he would be trying it out the following week. I pointed out where Strawberry Fields was and he was nodding before I explained it. (His Twitter feed had a his video clip from last week’s AC-DC show at the Garden. The guy rocks in the woods and out.)
This is all good fun but what runs through my mind quite often, in the woods and out, are the words of the announcer for the World Champs in Savoie, France in 2011. The play-by-play guy was astounded at Thierry’s movement in the forest and pronounced in broken English, “He is like maCHINE!” I think of that quote when I need focus on a task, be it running or working. Having all cylinders firing is my goal, even if I don’t achieve it. And to see Gueorgiou’s gait as he thundered through the French forest (there are cameras everywhere) has been enough to inspire this aging champion-wannabe.