Thursday, December 20, 2012

BALMORAL TRAM - MORE THE 'RACK' THAN THE 'TOASTRACK'

On a night with our lowest ever winning scores, our largest ever number of runners with scores below 100 - and where 80% of competitors scored on or below the half way mark, we have something to think about. Pork Pie leans forward, licks the pencil and scratches his head - it looks like a long night at the Stewards inquiry.

Another toughie, probably our toughest of all time, and capping off a trio of long flogs that is making old cunning runners wonder if they have woken up in some sort of Sydney Striders nightmare. Lets have a little look behind last nights goings on as Sydney Tramways brings us the Balmoral Line, and a nice day out at the beach.

Chief Motorman from the Bennelong Shed, Gordon 'The Track Grinding Car' Wilson (not Driver Bluett as per original timetable), had been predicted, by none other than 'The Pie Shop' himself, to be casting the thirty knucklebones in a wide scatter - and invoking his occasional dining partner, Contour Kate, in his plans. Little did the 204 trusting passengers anticipate how wide he would go, how very wide, or how much Kate would figure. Little did the crowd aboard the O and K class cars (the Toastrack Trams of the Sydney Network) imagine that 'The Grinder' would demand so much from their $10 excursion fares.

But a demand it was, and one of the biggest calls over many years of summer fun with the Aunties at beautiful Balmoral. Let's start at the Suakin Drive Depot and examine the network, the cars and their crews.

Firstly, nice to be at this well presented depot with good parking and not the meters of 'below stairs'. The BNO bunting acknowledged their recent winning of the regional NSW tram depot garden competition, and welcomed runners to the ticket office. Slipping in the ten bob note resulted in an A4 sized colour ticket in portrait format - with magenta the circles requiring an Ian Thorpe foot to cover them. Mmmmm, this looks a worry, mused excursionists as they boarded O class #1278.

Looking closer, the map had two close in clusters (one with a sting in the tail), and an elongated leg warmer to the north. There was a little beach action, a touch of tramline, and a property perve loop for those that didn't want to get wet feet. Much puzzlement and string twirling, saw bathers reluctant to join the departing car, hoping there would be another one along in a minute when their thoughts had settled. Secretly, they were holding off the 5.32 O class service, hoping that the 5.48 might be a later model R class car with the more comfortable seats. Alas, it wasn't to be.

How to begin? How to end? The western claim (9,12,7,27) was one obvious starting point, and gave a nice 'high line' link to #30 and points further north. The eighty points immediately south/east also had fans, with #10 giving a nice line to the drop via 22. The attraction with this beginning were the views - magnificent at #13 and very enjoyable along the 13-10 track. The sting was #21, a beautiful bit of setting that had you working for the three tenners (Luciano etc, etc). I note that Larry, in his excellent on-time 330, worked a 5,13,6,9 beginning - ignoring the temptress at W Path.

So a beginning in two parts. How to add was the next puzzle. Accepted advice from old trammies at Balmoral, is to avoid climbing more than once if it can be avoided, and this figured as passengers puzzled over their routes. If dropping from either the west start or the east start, swapped returns worked, but ignored the clutch of points in the conductors money bag - and those further north. We have often seen a biggie on the creek line below #8 giving the shove a broken down tram needs in these parts - but not last night. 'The Grinder' poked a ten on a 'bridge too far', dropped the creek from his thinking, instead focussing on the tramline formation, where a 14/29 claim saw competitors rise at about the same speed as their beachgoing relatives did in the 1950's. The other devil here was #19 - one for the half way down Harry's maybe, but not worth the effort if you were flogging home before the Mr Whippy van left the Suakin Depot.

With 'only' 170 points available up top (and I'm including car #21), runners needed more chips on their buttie. As it turns out, many heeded the Motormans mantra, and worked north from 30 to pencil 24,17,28 before turning the trolley pole, and home via 3,15,16 and around to 29,8. Others, with a less strict travelling inspector on board, collected #17 and then looped north to add 25 and 18 before reversing the car. There is a confusing gaggle of streets and tramway points around 3,15,16, with several trips taking wrong tracks here. Onesuch was Dan 'The Stationmaster' Redfern, rising from #3 (after punting an in/out to 15 and feeling it) to 16, but counting the wrong number of streets, and ending  up on a straight track instead of claiming at the twenty point bend. This whole part of the map is where passengers kidded themselves that they had avoided the main climb, but the puff-o-meter knows otherwise! Especially those that liked the 15,14,29 link - but twigged on the bridge in the park below the fence corner (and above the rabbits?!) that they were at the very bottom, and it was upsey, upsey with traction motors screaming as the driver had the old girl working in full series.

Other routes of interest were Mal 'The Indian' Bradley (370 VM) doing a full outer circle, leaving off the middle and south, and confining his Balmoral Burn leg close to the run of the same name. Mark Schaefer went high north, dropped to 26,4 and then pressed home via the middle for his 400 net, while Paula began 1,13,10,22 and ran the beach before a 26-25 flog (not tempted by #18) got her height and a passing Athol Wharf tram home. Although 100 points over, Miss Finland looks to again be our VW winner.

If staying close to home, the top 170 points was most commonly augmented by a drop along the old tram route (29,14), sand in the volleys at 23, and taking the steps up to 22 for a potential 280 pointer.  This was hard work, and still well short of halfway on the staff roster! 'The Blue Engine' was having his way with you, and you had no answer!

I don't think many would have bought the ten cents ticket to #1, and so honorably award this last nights 'lonely pot'. Everything else heard the dong of the tramcar gong, even if heavy traffic and slow work on the uphill line meant time penalties - and a please explain from the 'on-time running' superintendent.

So how did the excursionists fare at this toughie from 'The Track Grinder'? Suffice to say, most age category winners were as per programme, with perhaps the standout win on the night being Mel 'Ting Moment' Cox with a simply sensational 360pt toppie in the super vets. Lazzo, despite his excellent planning, was still thirty in arrears here, and had to stand on the way home. We are also seeing some of the overseas orienteering competitors on their way to the Christmas 5 Days and the NZ World Cup in town - with Sweden's Lina Andersson (SJW) and the 'Get Your Guns' duo of Annie and Anna (JW's), claiming the points in this nice down under warm up (and transport history lesson). I should also mention 'Tearaway' Ted Mulherin working his horse tram to victory in the Immortals. Malcolm's 240 (to Ted's 270) gives him a good 2nd here, with Heiko overcooking the powerstation, and causing his tram to work back to the depot in first notch (a 58.28 outing not popular with his Central Coast passengers).

Other items of interest. Glenn working an all stops car in 65.59 (close) for 390, one of only two cars to work the full Balmoral route (the other car being driven by Motorman Coady, ably assisted by Conductor Parker, who also get the Government Transport Award for longest on course - their R1 class tram being out of the depot for 85.36 minutes!).

In the always interesting 'just made it' category', Sue Thomson (IW 200pts) punched the depot bundy clock in exactly 45.00!! and takes out first prize. The one second unders followed, with Brian 'The Brain' Brannigan (VM 330) and Jason 'The Scissors' Gleadhill (MM 240) the purest at 44.59 apiece, and Glenny, Jimmy Forbes, Carolyn, Stu Deane, Martin Mansfield and Keryn Hassall all carding a .59 and thanking the responsiveness of their trams to the white departure light at the Gearges Heights stub terminus. In the dreaded 'just over' group (five victims), 'The Atom' and 'The Mattrass' both pinged in a cruel 46.01, Kenny went one under in 44.01 with Ian 'The Turin' Froude (53.01) and Sindy, Celine, Matt and the Empress Josephine missing the beheading at 47.01. Cruel timing, and a likely rebute from the fat controller.

Our most popular score was 250 points, with 15 runners going this route. Among them, Chris 'The Beanstalk' Jacka (OM 90 over) and Antoniya 'The Ballerina' Bachvarova (MW 70 over) were the wider claims, whilst Peter De Lissa 'Pork Pie Makes Of This The Better' (OM) and Ian 'Bedside Manner' Cameron (SVM) both put their controllers in the neutral position with seconds to spare - recording no penalty in this clubby and age varied class.

As The Pork Chop always says, there are many more stories to be told about the night and scores to be revealed. "Soon my lovelies, soon", all will be on the SSS web site. In rounding off then, there is no getting around the fact that we had a very tough ask last night. in one of our greatest locations. Gordy took to us with the point lever, and bludgeoned the passengers into lower scores than most anticipated - or liked. Despite the low totals, much about the setting was excellent in route option terms, in orienteering terms, with very difficult decisions being mulled over, and often modified on route. I think we might have had a revolution if it had been a simple loopy excursion over this length/width, but that, thankfully, wasn't the case with lots of (admittedly poorly paying) options. I'm hoping the course might invite comment - with all feedback to this blog most welcome. PP will reiterate guidelines to try and get back some semblance of scoring reason shortly (and notes a 'no problem' view with a tough biggie - as long as the majority of points are within a reasonable claim, and only go for a few outliers).

I always like to salute the organisers, so thanks to all the BNO crew, and to Gordy, Terry etc. A great roll up, excellent facilities, views, the beach - and some choice real estate to finger as we passed out (no, I mean by!).

So, to next week (yes, the SSS rolls on with Ian Jessup hosting #13 at Harboard on Boxing Day!). The important news here concerns the assembly area - moved from Freshwater Reserve at the beach to Jacka Park (cnr Oliver Street & Wyndora Avenue). Note there is a playground at Jacka, BUT NO TOILETS. Be prepared. And enjoy this classy beachside area that 'The Sauce Bottle' is bound to fully exploit. Also note the altered event timing, with starts available from 3.30pm (to 6pm), so everyone can get a swim in. Bring the cossie in this perfect way to run the body back together after too much Christmas pud.

Speaking of Christmas, correspondent Pork Pie and all the Summer Series crew, wish you all a very happy Christmas, and holiday break. Thanks for supporting the greatest cunning running programme in Aussie - which continues into the new year with Dave Stitt's incendiary outing at the Incinerator in Willoughby on January 2. All those NZ Oceania Challenge orienteers departing on QF47 on Thursday morning, this is your one last chance to flog the fetlocks in anticipation of running the Kiwi dunes - and the enigmatic map called "Mr Speaker". Should be a blast!

 

        

3 comments:

Michael Roylance said...

Plenty of route choice as you say Porkie but wasted if the majority of runners don't have the legs to get to those choices. Fine for the elites but not much pork chop for the mainstream.

Dave said...

It was an extremely hard run, as a runner who usually expects to get about 500, I scored 340; in context I was happy with that, but it was very hard work for the points!

To be clear here, I'm not trying to be negative; I do believe harder runs have a place in our sport. I also strongly encourage anyone who is upset to offer to organise an event (I'll be organising an MM event next year).

That being said, I'm looking forward to scoring 500 again one day :)

The 5th Official said...

I don't think anyone should be upset with the course. I thought it was a fantastic course, brutal but fantastic

There were so many options for runners to consider, the strategy of managing the contours made a big difference and definitely knowing when was the right time to turn back. The course pushed you to work hard as you knew that an extra 10 points along the way would count for a lot given the likely low scoring nature of the spread

I think it would be boring if every week, the winner scored 600 points in 45 minutes. Ultimately the competitive scoring relates to yuor comparative position to other runners in your category and that was still the case this event

Sure, everyone would like to reach as many checkpoints as possible each event but there is nothing wrong in my mind with that mix being changed every so often

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