Due West interviews Linda Hildebrandt

Linda Hildebrandt

Linda Hildebrandt is a long-time member of the Victoria Orienteering Club, where she has been active as both as competitor and volunteer organizer. She has also served as President of the VicO club, and is currently a Member-at-Large on the Orienteering BC Board of Directors. Linda has a particular interest in on-line learning modes for teaching orienteering , development of risk management protocols for our sport, and recruitment of youth groups such as Guides, Scouts and Cadets to orienteering.

DW: How did you first discover orienteering?

LH: I discovered orienteering for the first time when I was a cadet at a summer camp. After that, I forgot about it for a while, but I re-discovered it when I joined the Victoria Orienteering Club in about 1995, and have been hooked ever since.

DW: You’ve worked extensively with cadets and orienteering – how did that develop, and what have been the highs and lows for you?

LH: In the mid 90’s, I was employed as an instructor at a Canadian Forces school, which trains all the adult officers for the cadet program. It was there that we introduced orienteering as an activity for cadets and I worked on the development of an orienteering instructor course. Since that time, I also worked actively to promote orienteering as an activity for cadets in BC. In particular, I worked with the Victoria Orienteering Club to run at least one event for the cadets to be their ‘cadet championships’ every year for quite a few years now. In the last three years, I was actively involved in expanding cadet orienteering championships to run in 5-6 locations throughout BC.

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

LH: There are probably several. From a club level, I have had a great deal of respect for the senior members of our club who worked the most to keep the club going, these include Leigh Bailey, Diana Hocking and Carl Coger (now retired from the sport). My orienteering heroes at the moment are probably Leigh and Gil Bailey, who are still active in the sport while in their 80’s and travel all over the place to various competitions. This is something I to aspire to, as well; I hope my knees hold up.

DW: What is your favourite O discipline, and why?

LH: After attending the Vancouver Sprint Camp, I started to really like sprint orienteering. I am not a fast runner, but I really liked the fast decision making and the clever route choice decisions you have to make on the fly. On the other spectrum, I really enjoy the technical challenge of the Middle Distance, although I really must work more on my skills in this area.

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

LH: I like a thumb compass. I wear it on my right hand, although I think most orienteers prefer left – I am not sure why. This is probably a habit from the military when I used a sighting compass, which I was always used to holding in my right hand.

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

LH: Mostly in BC, but I did get to venture into Alberta for the WCOC and COCs. In 2018, I attended the NAOC up in the Yukon, which was absolutely amazing because of the open terrain. Outside of Canada, I have completed a Rogaine in Washington State, and also a multi-day orienteering competition in Bend, Oregon. The furthest afield I have travelled was to attend the Swiss 5-days and O Tour in 2012. Now that I am retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and free to roam, I am looking forward to attending a lot more competitions in future. (Provided the situation with COVID-19 hopefully ends at some point)

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

LH: My favourite terrain is pretty much any terrain without dark green on the map! Being from Vancouver Island, I have had my fill of swimming around in large clumps of salal, so I really enjoy open runnable wilderness terrain. I have really enjoyed the terrain around the Kamloops area, but could do without the thought of running into a rattlesnake.

DW: If you had an open ticket, where would you most like to go for orienteering?

LH: Somewhere far away – likely New Zealand or possibly Sweden or Finland, where the sport of orienteering got its start.

DW: How would you finish this sentence: “Night orienteering is….” ?

LH: …exhilarating. I love night orienteering. You just need a really good headlamp and hope it is not raining.

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

LH: Good – Most memorable good race was probably my top finish, which was as the Canadian Champion in my age group in Sprint during the COCs in Whistler in 2014. I felt like I had really good flow in that race. I thought I made one big error going around the long way on a control, but it turned into an advantage as the flag was at the top of a stairway, and by taking the long route, I came in at the top and saw it right away, while others spent valuable time searching for it below.

Not so Good – My other memorable race was the Long Race for the WCOC near Hinton, Alberta. While on a long compass bearing, I looked up from my compass to see a mama bear with cubs up in a tree. My GPS route is remarkable as I literately made a 90 degree turn and went in this long arc around to tag the control behind where the bear was. That was good, after that though I got a bit spooked still thinking about the bear and the wheels kind of fell off the cart for my next control.

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

LH: I think my greatest strength is figuring out good routes. I try to play to my strengths in that I move fastest on the trails. I like knowing exactly where I am, so I am very focused on checking off features and looking for good attack points.

DW: Why do you most often make mistakes?

LH: Occasionally, I get too keyed up at the start of a race and blow the first control. That has annoyed me, so I really attempt to focus, but on the flip side I may have a slow time on my first control. However, that is better than getting thrown-off by missing the first control, which can be soul-crushing.

The other mistake I am currently working on is taking the time to really look long enough at the map and not glance too quickly; it is that fine balance between concentrating on the map and moving fast enough. There are times I wish my concentration in that area had been better, and I could have saved myself making a mistake. I also want to continue improving my ability to interpret subtle contour features (improve my technical orienteering), especially for the Middle Distance races.

DW: In what part of the sport do you most like to volunteer?

LH: I have always enjoyed teaching, so it is natural for me to move into the Trainer role at the Victoria Orienteering Club. I really enjoy developing either theory or practical orienteering skill activities to help others get introduced to sport of orienteering, or help them improve their skills.

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

LH: If I were all-powerful, I wish that I could make orienteering a much more active sport in Canada and really increase how many people participate in the sport. I would like orienteering in Canada to be more on a scale similar to how orienteering is in European countries.

I also wish orienteering was a fixed part of the Canadian school curriculum, as this sport is not only good for getting everyone into Nature, it teaches everyone such a valuable life skill – how to use a map and compass, and find your way in the wilderness. Every youngster should learn how to use a compass; it saddens me how many adults I come across who never had a chance to learn how to use a compass.