Due West interviews Diana Hocking

Diana has been a pillar of the Victoria orienteering community for many, many years. As a professional cartographer, and lover of the outdoors, orienteering was always a natural fit for her, and she has pursued it with her typical passion. Here is how she describes her long-term relationship with our favourite sport.

DW: How and when did you first get involved in orienteering?

DH: My very first try was when Martin (my husband) had a sabbatical at McGill University in about 1978. My daughter, Philippa, and I did a beginner course near Morin Heights together. She ran to punch controls while I walked along the basic trail, planning the next route.

Back in Victoria, I located Dennis Fedoruk, who was just starting VictOrienteers (with Alan Philip and Carl Coger), and I’ve been involved with the club ever since.

DW: Which aspect of orienteering do you find most appealing?

DH: Decision-making, especially when I make the right one. Competition is also fun, not a common part of life for octogenarians!

DW:  What is your favourite O discipline (forest, urban sprint, or rogaine) and why?

DH: Classic forest 0 is the only “real” orienteering in my opinion (despite the fact that I seem to do best in urban sprint competition)

DW: How many parts of Canada, and the world, have you orienteered in so far?

DH: Lots! In Canada: BC, Yukon, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland ( I have put on events in St Johns for cartographers’ conferences)

In USA: Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, maybe more…

Rest of world: New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, England, Wales

I’ve been to the World Masters three times, first in Tasmania in 1992, as a very inexperienced orienteer; also, more recently, in New Zealand and Sweden.

WIth Martin’s sabbaticals as an excuse, I’ve been a member of clubs in England (London OC), Sweden (LundsOK) and Australia (Garingal OC, Sydney)

DW: If you were free to travel where you choose (and COVID19 were not a factor!), where would you most like to go for orienteering?

DH: Hmm. Nesta and I are vaguely toying with going to the WMOCs in Japan next year…

but there’s some pretty nice terrain nearer home (see below); anywhere but our local dense forest!

DW: What is your favourite O terrain (and map) within North America?

DH: I always enjoy the Kamloops area. Too bad we’ve lost the Douglas Lake Ranch.

DW: Who has been the most influential person in your own competitive orienteering experience?

DH: Kitty Jones, a brilliant and encouraging coach.

I’ve also learned a lot from Don Scott, Dennis Fedoruk, and Bryan Chubb

DW: Do you prefer to use a thumb compass or a baseplate compass?

DH: Thumb. It allows me a spare hand to help keep my balance.

DW: How would you finish this sentence: “Orienteering on the West Coast is …….” ?

DH: Challenging….

DW: What has been your most memorable O race (good or bad)?

DH: Bad: too many to count. I can make a mess of anything…  Here’s a recent example from the long course at the Canadian Champs in 2019, at Rawdon, Quebec.

Control 1 was disaster #1, 37 minutes, scary start… confidence low, so went slow and easy, got a couple, then on towards the next two X controls. One actually was a root stock, but the other was not green but black (a hide), so I probably found every other rootstock around before stopping and peering at the map to see what it really was. From then I told myself to stick to the logging roads wherever possible. But I didn’t check the map as often as I should have, so I panicked when I found I was at the power lines! I realised where I was, backtracked as required, then mindlessly ran the trail for a long way, kicking myself for stupidity. But (excuses coming up) I was hot and tired after #6, and then totally misjudged how far I would need to go uphill to a minor re-entrant. Why didn’t I pace count up the trail? I went much too far, and, in classic fashion, kept finding a control (but not mine) in really tough terrain, trying what seemed to be perfect attack points. I finally decided to bail altogether and reluctantly returned to the lower trail, from which I could actually see my control in a tiny re-entrant, much lower down than I had expected. I had gone way too far up! (Footnote: I had been off the map for most of this time. The map had been deliberately clipped so that we old folks could have a larger scale!)

Amazingly, this disaster prompted a huge surge of energy; I finished the last few controls easily, and limped in.

The moral is “always return to where you know, to regroup” and check the map! (or is it “never quit”?)

On the up-side, as the only one in my class, and managing to finish just inside the three-hour limit, I brought home the winner’s medal!

Good: My most satisfying result was in New Zealand at the ranking event for the Sprint event of WMOC2017, on a nicely open college campus. I managed to block out all distractions and stick to my own plan, with no mistakes. I was very surprised to come in fifth out of ca. 40 in my class.

DW: What do you consider your greatest strength as an orienteer?

DH: Determination? I hate to have to DNF. I have also loved (and worked with) maps of all kinds forever, so I think I am able to read them more easily than some folks.

DW: What is the most common reason that you make a mistake on your course?

DH: Lack of concentration

DW: In what part of the sport have you most enjoyed volunteering?

DH: Coaching, especially beginner adults.

DW: How do you describe orienteering to a professional colleague who has never tried it?

DH: It’s the best activity to allow you to totally forget all your work problems for a while, as you really have to concentrate. It takes you into wild areas you would never find on your own. Your fitness level is enhanced at the same time (and no work colleague can find you).

DW: And finally: If you were all-powerful, what aspect of our sport would you change?

DH: Simplify the relative time commitment needed for mapping and organizational work vs actually competing…. but don’t ask me how. I often sigh when passing a soccer field and see 22 kids totally involved, where all anyone had to do was turn up at an already prepared field, with one ball.