17 December 2006

Road debut

Today I made my 'road' race debut. I have run a few road relays at various distances, and I ran a couple of fun races when I was a junior, but I have never run a serious road race at a 'proper' distance until today. I took part in the Telford 10km, which was run around Telford Town Park. 2 laps of the same course, it was all on surfaced paths with one small climb on each lap. At the far end of each lap, runners had to turn around a post and continue in the direction they had just come from - it wasn't so nice to have to basically stop running and then get back up to maximum pace again, that was probably the hardest bit.
I did the race partly out of curiosity and partly out of having a time that I can compare with over the next few years to guage my shape. I have to say that aerobically it was one of the hardest workouts I have ever done. My legs felt fine but my lungs were burning from about 2km. I haven't done any specific training for this race, and I didn't rest up at all during the week (apart from a rest day yesterday - my first day without any exercise for about 3 weeks), but I did try my hardest. Having no idea of how to run the distance, my goal was to run a steady pace and take splits every mile (for some reason the course had mile and not km markers). That lasted all of 5 minutes though as I went off way too fast at the start gun. My first mile was more than 20 seconds quicker than any of the others, and on the second lap what seemed like a small bank the first time turned into a huge climb (all of 10 metres!).
I went through 5km in 16.06, 5 miles in 26.31 and 10km in 33.08 (almost 4 minutes down on the winner who ran 29.18). While I have nothing to compare it against, it felt like the first 5 km was pretty fast and the second was horribly slow. I am a bit disappointed having got so close to 33 minutes not to get under, and I was overtaken and left for dead at about 7km by a guy who looked worryingly like a veteran at least twice my age and possibly quite a bit more.
Still, it's a benchmark for me to work on, and I intend to knock about a minute off my time and get close to 32 minutes by next summer.
Results will be up here

Incidentally, according to this website, that puts me around the 400 mark in 10km road runners this year in Britain, and 7th best woman :)

13 December 2006

Fell running, schools orienteering, training etc...

Ran a fell race on sunday, felt pretty good (but not on Monday). Was nowhere near winning the race, but had a good battle for 2nd/3rd. Feel inspired to do a few more fell races in the future.
Results here

Been doing a lot of coaching and mapping the last few weeks. Organised a schools festival for almost a hundred kids which went really well, and some of the kids I coach won medals at the British Schools Champs.

OD came a disappointing 2nd at the Yvette Baker Trophy (national junior club competition). We were 2nd last year as well, and after our victory in the CompassSport Cup (national club competition over all ages) our confidence was very high.

Winter training has been going well, training harder than I have ever trained before. Playing a lot of badminton and doing a lot of running. Doing a 10km this sunday which should be interesting as I have never done one on the road before.

05 December 2006

03 December 2006

England lose to Scotland in the Senior Home International (again)

I was part of the England team that was thrashed by Scotland in our own back garden this weekend. The annual Senior Home International (teams of M/W 20 and 21s) varies in importance for athletes from the pinnacle of the year for some to 'I can't be bothered' for others. This means that the teams are never the strongest from any country, but it is often the country that can persuade the most top runners to take part that wins (England or Scotland tend to dominate having most of the top elite runners). Unfortunately, in the last few years, that has been Scotland, and despite (or maybe because of) the competition being held in the centre of orienteering in England, near Sheffield, Scotland won both the relays and the individual competitions.
I love representing England and make the effort to whenever I can, even though we have to pay for ourselves, wear a very out of date o top and take the humiliation of losing to Scotland occasionally.

Saturday was the relay competition. It is structured so that there are 3 teams from each nation, with a 20 and 21s in each team. I was in a team with Andy Lewellyn and Duncan Archer, and we won by quite a large margin. After 2 legs it was very close and I started with Oleg Chepelin (Scotland 1st team), but Oleg had a poor run and I beat him comfortably. We both messed up really badly at the first control, but after that I ran a fairly controlled race, not taking any risks and if anything I was overcautious. This was probably a good thing as the wood was very detailed - the map was 1:5000 and it was very easy to make a big mistake (which many runners did). Scotland dominated the womens race and won overall though.

Today was the individual with 4 to count from 21s, and 2 from 20s. I was off early and quickly passed most of the runners starting before me. I had a pretty good run and I was running strongly through the deep heather and marshes which made me feel like my winter training is working. I did make a few mistakes though, with small misses at 6, 10, 16, 22 and 23, and a big mistake at control 20. I couldn't understand the vegetation or the contours in that area at all. The last few controls I was starting to feel tired, and without the mistake at 20 I would have been very happy with my run. I ended up 2nd, about a minute behind Al Buckley (England). Scotland annihilated us, especially in the W21 and M20. The M21s were about even and our W20s were best.

Considering I haven't really done any orienteering since the World Cups in France, I was pretty content with my weekend, just disappointed about the team results.
I will put up some pictures sometime and a link to the results when they are up, but I guess they will be here.

Relay results
Eng 3 (Archer, Llewellyn, Gristwood)
SCO 1 (Strain, Coombs, Chepelin)
Sco 2 (Musgrave, J Tullie, Kitchen)
Eng 1
Eng 2
Sco 3
Irl 1
Wal 2
Wal 1
Wal 3
Irl 3

Sco 1 (Stevenson, Orr, Mackenzie)
Sco 2 (Ward, Strain, Dunn)
Eng 3(Edwards, Spillar, Roberts)
Irl 1
Eng 2
Wal 1
Wal 2
Sco 3
Wal 3
Irl 2
Irl 3 (non comp)
Eng 1 dsq

Scotland 56 points, England 44, Ireland 28, Wales 16.

14 November 2006

Selected for stuff and the start of the cross country season


I have been selected for the South Africa camp in February with the GB team, and I have also been pre-selected for the Nordic Champs in March. Full selections are as follows

South Africa
Helen Bridle, Rachael Elder, Mhairi Mackenzie, Alison O’Neil, Pippa Whitehouse, David Brickhill-Jones, Oleg Cheplin, Matt Crane, Jon Duncan, Scott Fraser, Graham Gristwood, Matthew Speake & Jamie Stevenson

Nordics Championships
Jon Duncan, Graham Gristwood, Jamie Stevenson and Helen Bridle (further athletes will be added

Cross Country

My cross country season started at the weekend (having missed the first races due to the mountain marathon). On Saturday I ran in the Warwick Relays, teams of 4, 3.3km per leg. I ran first leg for my running club, Kenilworth Runners, and I also ran last leg for a mixed team with Liis and some friends from university. I was running well (the best I have felt in a hard session since the OMM), but my downfall was my choice of footwear. I didn't wear spikes and regretted it, sliding all over the place. On the firmer ground though I was strong and I almost managed to come back first (3 seconds behind Alistair Smith). My team finished 3rd and the mixed team won that category. Results here.
On Sunday we had a house trip down to the 'Cardiac Arrest', an 8 mile extreme cross country race. This basically meant they took us through quarries, over big piles of rocks, through small tunnels and in and out of a number of rivers and ponds (see this great pic of Liis).
I won the race, Harold was 2nd and Matt was 3rd. Liis was 3rd girl and we won the team prize, so basically we came away with almost everything. Results here. Report by Matt and some pics here.

05 November 2006

(International?) Winter Technique Camp

I am organising a technical training camp in the Lake District in Northern England in January (6-14th), aimed at elite runners from Britain (and around the world). The idea is to get good number of elite athletes together to have a high quality, high intensity training week at a time when a lot of people are doing no technique work. There is almost no chance of snow in early January in England, and the Lake District offers some of the best technical terrain in Europe, including the Graythwaite Estate which hosted a World Cup race in the 90s, and many top British races including British Champs and JK in the last 10 years.

The plan is to stay in cottages on the Graythwaite Estate, and much of the training will be planned by World Championship medallist Martin 'Bilbo' Bagness. There will be a key focus on the weekends, when many people will come, and less (but still at least one technical training a day) during the week, for those who chose to stay for the midweek. People can come for as long or as short as they like.
The camp will be attended by a large number of GB squad athletes, both junior and senior, as well as aspiring athletes outside the squad and good runners who want to train hard with the top elite. There is a minimum standard, but we are not exclusive.
Foreign runners of a suitable standard are welcome to join us, and although we want to book the cottages by the end of November, there will certainly be youth hostel accommodation available for anyone who decides to come after that. Any groups interested can contact me at oneandonlygg (.at) gmail.com

02 November 2006

OMM maps (now with routes)

Full day 1 map here our route here

Full day 2 map here our route here

Craney and Neil won the A, see Craney's blog (he's my hero)

30 October 2006

Victory in B class at the Original Mountain Marathon

Yesterday Harold and I won the B class at the KIMM/OMM. It was a first mountain marathon for both of us, and despite what people had said beforehand, I enjoyed almost every minute.
This year the OMM was in Galloway Forest Park, famed for the KIMMs on '76, '86 an '96 (some sort of pattern there...). We heard a lot of stories about Galloway before the weekend, toughest MM venue in UK, no paths or tracks, just marsh, hill and tussock in every direction, but on the weekend it was actually ok.

The weather was quite mild, and although there was a fair bit of wind and rain , conditions were fine. Visibility was pretty poor though, and at some points it was down to maybe 100 metres. We travelled up and registered Friday night, and found a nice B and B to stay in, so Saturday morning we woke at 6am, had a substantial cooked breakfast and some cereal, and drove to the event centre. We had to get on a bus at 8.40 to take us to the start on the other side of the park, and so when we got off it was time to start. The first couple of kms were on a forest track, all uphill, and then it was into the fell. Of our 25km course on day 1, maybe 3 or 4 was on tracks or paths, the rest was through fairly heavy going moorland. It has been very wet this month, so the marshes were damp, and the rivers were swollen. Bizarrely our course only had 4 controls, and even more strangely that with an average leg lenth of 5km, there was very little route choice.
We ran quite well, being slightly conservative as neither of us are that experienced in that terrain or over that distance (especially with a rucsac too). We didn't make any mistakes, but may not have always picked the optimal lines. The toughest parts were fording the streams (I had a couple of swims), and actually some of the descents through the rocky ground. The ascents weren't so bad, even though I was often pulling Harold as well (with our home made tow rope). We were pretty conservative with nutrition as well, maybe eating too much during the race. What we didn't do though was drink enough water and we were both a bit dehydrated by the end of day 1. Our biggest issue coming towards the end was Harold's toenail, which decided it didn't really want to be part of Harold anymore. This slowed him down considerably, especially on the downhill. The worst I felt was a bit of cramp in my legs and stomach in the last km. We arrived at the overnight camp in just over 5 hours, with a lead of about 11mins. Then it was time to put some warm clothes on, pitch the tent, have some food and get some rest.
We were both travelling as light as possible, with a 1 1/2 man tent between us, a very small stove, a few spare clothes and plenty of food. We drank out of streams as we ran. We also both bought balloon beds, the lightest weight beds you can get at 100g. They are also almost impossible to put up when you are cold and wet and the balloons are wet. They also escape during the night, and several times I woke up and had to chase it round the tent. Anyway, after our meals of cous cous and tuna, we went to bed around 6.30pm in order to get as much sleep as possible.

Well I won't say it was the best night I have ever had, the tent was constantly being blown all over the place, my sleeping bag was touching the sides, my balloon bed was trying to be anywhere but under me, and the constant rain, whilst almost therapeutic at times, didn't help. The extra hour due to clocks going back was nice, but we woke around 5.30 anyway. The traditional bagpipes sounded just before six as a reminder to crawl out of our nice warm sleeping bags. Despite the fact that we had a whole hour to eat a couple of cereal bars and put the tent away, we still managed to miss the call up for our 7am start, and ran straight through the start boxes and picked our map up on the run. The leaders on each class start at 7am on the second day, so we had the pleasure of running out with messers Crane and Northrop from the A, and messers Powell from the elite. Once again, there was a fairly long run out along a forest road which gave us time to plan our day. One thing I haven't mentioned yet, but should have really as it was a big part if the weekend, is this - chafing. Ouch.
Anyway, back to the race. Knowing that the second pair were only 11 minutes behind was quite good motivation. Just at about 7.15, the sun rose to our left, the sky was beautifully clear in every direction, from the top of our hill we could see for maybe 10km over lakes and forest and mountains, and it was the best sunrise I have ever seen. Shame we couldn't hang around to enjoy it. With the clearer conditions came the possibility of seeing the teams behind or them seeing us.
We hit the first control perfectly, and then on the way to the second we found a beautiful little sheep path through the rough terrain which allowed us to stretch our legs. Then minor disaster hit. We were so busy following our little path I didn't realise we had climbed way too much and I made a parallel error off a really big crag, so we were actually 50m higher than we should have been, and we could see our control way down below us. This mistake maybe cost us 5-10 minutes and had me looking over my shoulder.
The next leg, number 3, (see section of the 1:40,000 map above - 15m contours) looked to me to be the decisive leg. Really long and tough, with a massive ascent whichever way you approached it, and two obvious routes. From the bridge, either straight line it up through 3km of moorland, or run 3km uphill along a track and then 1 - 1 1/2km uphill through forest and moorland. We went for the straighter shorter option, and at first it looked like a really bad plan as the tussocks were waist deep in places and the terrain was the worst we had found yet. But we stuck too it and it got better to the stage that we found little paths from competitors the day before and we motored up the hill. It was still a really tough approach to the control though, with the 'flatter' section before the control really sapping marshy heather. Looking at the splits we seem to have made the right choice, but it was touch and go at the time. Then the 4th control was seemingly the most technical of the weekend, but in actual fact in the perfect visibility, it was easy to make out the features from a way off. It was on the way to the 4th control that I thought I caught a glimpse of people behind us, and that was a really good spur for the last few km. Control 5 we picked a really good line and pushed quite hard. At 5 we felt it was in the bag and perhaps I let my mind wander a bit so that we picked a really bad route choice to 6. We went almost all the way down to the forest corner and had to gain all the height to the control. What we should have done was gone a lot further east and conserved the height and approached from the north. It was on the climb to 6 that both of us hit our lowest ebb. With the end in sight, neither of us had eaten or drunk enough and I was certainly running out of energy. Both of us ate a GO bar and had a long drink and pulled ourselves together for the last push. From number 6 there was no-one in sight and it was all downhill for the last km, so we could at last relax a bit and enjoy it. We were actually the second team to finish the day, just behind the C course winners, and although 1 team beat us on the 2nd day on our course, we weren't too worried about that. We extended our lead by a couple of minutes to win by about 13 mins over the 2 days in a total time of 8hours 34mins.

I was definitely the stronger partner over the weekend, which was as we expected. This meant that comparatively I felt fairly good after the race. Harold, however, had a few problems after the race, including chafing, blisters, muscle soreness and general fatigue, all of which combined meant he preferred not to waddle around too much, preferably just sitting down somewhere quiet. I had a little bit of cramp again on the second day in my hamstrings, and again chafing really badly.
After a kit check at the finish (there is a mandatory amount of kit that it is compulsary to take for safety) and download, it was time to enjoy our first decent meal for 30 hours. Time to chat to friends and competitors about routes, kit and chafing. Time to follow the results in the other categories, and finally for the prize giving.
On the way up, Harold and I shared the driving, but he was in no state to drive, so I drove 300 miles home on my own, managing to stay awake with the help of Ed (Kelleher - 7th on short score with Schnitzy). Arrived home at about 11pm, just in time for shower and bed.

Next year
Well I am definitely doing it again. Now I have won the B class, it is probably time to do the A class. I'll give elite a miss for a few years yet though I think....

The OMM website

Sleepmonsters race reports

OMM results

24 October 2006

Selected for Great Britain Perfomance Group

The new British Squad was announced today, with a new structure. This year there is a large pool of athletes who make up the squad, and a smaller group of athletes who form the Performance Group.

Lizzie Adams (SOC/SHUOC)
Aislinn Austin (CLOK)
*Helen Bridle (WIM)
Becky Carlyle (AIRE)
Rachael Elder (CLOK)
Jenny Johnson (SYO)
*Mhairi Mackenzie (WCOC/EUOC)
Alison O’Neil (NOC/JOK)
Helen Palmer (CLYDE)
*Sarah Rollins (BAOC)
Jo Stevenson (SYO)
Claire Ward (INT)
*Pippa Whitehouse (CLOK)
*Helen Winskill (SYO)

Rob Baker (SYO)
Nick Barrable (FVO/JOK)
*David Brickhill-Jones (INT)
Oleg Chepelin (GRAMP/EUOC)
*Matt Crane (WCH/SHUOC)
*Jon Duncan (GRAMP)
Scott Fraser (INT/EUOC)
*Graham Gristwood (OD)
Oli Johnson (SYO)
Dan Marston (INT/DRONGO)
Ewan McCarthy (MAROC)
Mark Nixon (EUOC)
Neil Northrop (SYO)
Matthew Speake (EBOR)
*Jamie Stevenson (SYO)
Murray Strain (INT)

* Member of the Performance Group

Getting nervous before the OMM now

16 October 2006

The winning team

OD retain CompassSport Cup

Yesterday my club, Octavian Droobers, won the CompassSport Cup for the second year in a row. This is the most prestigious club competition in Britain, with a clubs qualifying for the final through regional rounds, and 25 runners to count in the final from a variety of age classes.

The picture above is club captain Alan Halliday collecting the trophy from Mr CompassSport, Nick Barrable. With him are course winners Jessica Halliday and Iain Embrey. Photo from Peter Guillaume.

The event was held at Greenham Common, an old RAF base, which was on the whole flat open grassland with pockets of contour detail and some areas of slightly more undulating woodland. There were several long legs which were just running across former airstrips. This meant that for the elite, the times were well under 5 minutes per kilometer. Craney won the elite, 10.2km in 47.15. I was 2nd in 48.42 - my race was a little scrappy and my legs felt tired after my long run on Saturday, but Craney beat me on almost every leg.

Results are available here

14 October 2006

University Challenge - orienteer style

Today I went to see the filming of 2 shows of University Challenge as my housemate Harold is on the Warwick University team. The show was filmed in Manchester and will be broadcast later in October - will put up show times when I know

Mountain marathon preparation

My next goal for this year is the B class at the OMM - the Original Mountain Marathon. This is a two day event at the end of October, basically a really long orienteering competition where you carry your camping and cooking kit. I am running it with my housemate Harold, and in preparation for the 5+ hours running each day, today we went up into the Peak District for a long run with our rucksacks. We wanted to test out the weight of our bags and kit, and get an idea about hydration and nutrition. We tested out a few energy bars and gels to see what we might want.

The competition in 28/29th October and is in Galloway in Southern Scotland. We are planning to take a camera to chronicle our weekend.

09 October 2006

World Cup Final maps

Part of classic map

Middle map

Sprint map

Middle qualifier map

First World Cup Podium

My first ever senior podium position, 6th place in the World Cup Final Relay thanks to some mispunching by Theirry and David Andersson.
I ran first leg and had a really good race coming back in 3rd, only 45 seconds down and just behind 2nd place. I made a couple of small mistakes, at controls 1, 5 and 6, and I was ultra safe at number 12.
BJ had a pretty good run, with one mistake early on but held on to 3rd place, and JD also ran ok to claim 6th place for GB. My first time in the 1st team and my first bunch of senior flowers (and a big knife).
Here is my map

Results here

06 October 2006

15th place at World Cup Final

A good day in the office. 15th place in the middle race at the world cup final (my best ever non-sprint result). Finished 27th overall in the World Cup 2006 with 101 points. Up to 47th in the world rankings (my highest ever).

This has been a good week in France. My goals were to get top 20s in the sprint and middle (which I achieved) and top 30 in the classic (which I was very close to). I also wanted to finish the week in the top 50 in the world, which I did after todays race.

My race today was ok. It was by no means perfect, but it was fairly steady and I made no significant mistakes. We haven't had the maps back as the relay tomorrow is on the same area, so it is difficult to analyse now.

Full results here and splits here.

05 October 2006

World Cup Final Classic Race

For almost two hours I ran into trees, fell over rocks, fell onto rocks, headbutted rocks, got bits of tree in my eye, fell onto more rocks, attempted to find a few controls and generally really enjoyed myself. Very tough technically and while not overly physical, the sheer rocky-ness made the running very tough (although I probably didn't help myself by running through lots of rocky bits that I should have run around).
I was fairly happy with my race apart from maybe four places. I made a stupid error at control 3, both coming in and leaving in the wrong direction. On the epic long leg across the map, I chose a good route, and then proceeded to ignore the nice white forest and attempted to run through a thick green boulder field. Then at controls 22 and 23, just when the finish was in sight and everything seemed to be under control, I made two big mistakes. The first I lost contact on the leg and failed to relocate, and then the next one I had big problems in the circle. I lost maybe 7-8 mins in total on those controls.
I am content with my 31st place. My goal before the race was top 30, so I am not really happy. At least I beat BJ (only just though....)

Results here, map sometime when I get home

04 October 2006

Sprint at Chateau de Theix

Today we had a really enjoyable world cup sprint race around Chateau de Theix. With no qualication, it was a straight final with a really strong field. Most of the race was in some steep woodland with intricate rock detail, and the rest was in scrappy parkland with mixed vegetation and quite a few paths.
I had a fairly good race, and I am content with my placing (20th), but I was amazed by how far down I was on the leaders (almost 2 minutes). There were a couple of route choices that I was unsure about, and some of the mapping of the rock detail was either hard to read or a bit dubious. I lost some time on one control running through an area of large rocks mapped as rocky ground when the rocks were just as large as the one with the control on it. I also lost time on the hill running sections of the course, entirely down to my inability to run up hills. One 300m leg had 45 metres of climb on it and I really felt every centimetre.

Results up here, map to follow

03 October 2006

Kenilworth, Ukraine and World Cup Final Middle race

In the time since my last post, I have been living in my new house in Kenilworth (which is very nice). I have had a bad cold after my long summer trip, I have had a training camp in the Ukraine with the GB squad (maps and photos to follow), I went to the Post Finance Sprint in Switzerland (where I did very badly) and I am now in France at the World Cup Finals.

These are being held in the Auvergne region, close to Clermont-Ferrand. The event website is here. Most of the team arrived on saturday, but the Post Finance Sprinters drove over from Bern on Sunday morning. We all took the opportunity to go to the model events to get a feel for the very special terrain (see extract below). We were blown away by the technical element of the orienteering here - it truly is a case of lose contact with the map, and lose the race. Mistakes here can be measured in tens of minutes.

Middle Qualifier

I had a solid race, no big mistakes. I stuck to my plan which was to keep constant contact, make good judgements about where to run fast and where to really concentrate, and if in doubt, make absolutely sure. I made a small mistake early on, and really hesitated at one control where I stood still for over 30seconds making absolutely sure that I was where I thought I was. At the end, I was running at a really good pace with a small pack and I qualified comfortably. I feel that I was a little unlucky in terms of heats, as my time would have placed me much higher in the other 2. I felt 12th was worse than the run deserved. Results here. The map of my race is here.

Middle Final

Memorable. Before the race we knew it was going to be trickier than the qualifier, with less paths, more details and more climb. What we didn't know was that the weather would conspire against everybody and force the race to be cancelled. Winds over 100km/hour knocked out power to the whole region and caused many trees to be knocked over. The event itself lost power and runners were stopped in the forest. Only a handful of athletes finished the race, and many weren't even allowed to start. I started, but only made it as far as half way to the sixth control before I was stopped. My run was ok, I had made a 2 minute mistake, but apart from that I was fairly happy, even catching Audun Weltzien by 8 minutes (at the 2nd control).

Tomorrow is the sprint race, I have a fairly late start. Then thursday is the classic, friday the rescheduled middle and saturday the relay.

08 September 2006

New house

On wednesday I moved into my new house in Kenilworth. I will be working in Kenilworth over the winter in a number of schools, and using it as a base for my mapping and training. I will be living with Matt Rooke and Harold Wyber, both students at Warwick University, and both promising orienteers.
I was going up to the Lake District Mountain Trial this weekend, but I have a slight cold so instead I am going to have a relaxing weekend in Kenilworth, and catch up on my emails and paperwork.


Just a quick post. Last week I had a great week in Switzerland, staying first with the Lombriser family, and then with Tom and Nicole up in the hills. I did a lot of running, including a very memorable run up and down Niesen (awesome views). I also did the Kandersteg elite races at the weekend. Maps and photos to follow from my whole trip.

31 August 2006


With WUOC over, Liis and I headed out on a short holiday together. Armed only with a tent, cooker and map of Europe (which I later left in a train station) we set off from Kosice. The only firm plans were that we were going to go to Wien (Vienna for English people) and that she was heading off to Italy 'at some point' to see some friends, and at the same time I would head over to Switzerland to see some of my friends.
So having failed to find a lift to Bratislava (or anywhere at all), we caught a train through some beautiful countryside. We were immediately confronted at Bratislava station by several representatives of youth hostels in the city, and after a short failed attempt to find a better alternative, we agreed to one of them. Hmm.... I guess you get what you pay for, and it was pretty cheap. There was a bed.... Best just leave it at that.
Anyway, the centre of Bratislava was quite nice for a morning stroll, and then we caught a boat up the Donau (Danube for English people) from the centre right into the centre of Wien. This took about 75 minutes and was pretty cool.
We then spent about an hour trying to use the 'Info' terminal on the street which is very clever and very frustrating at the same time. Eventually we found a suitable pension (low key hotel) just outside the centre. We map memoried it across the centre and found it almost first time, only to discover that the info terminal had in fact lied, and there were no spare rooms. Luckily the lady was nice and found us another place close by for the same price, and despite her not knowing her left from her right, we found that eventually too.
Now Wien is a beautiful city, and I can imagine Hannibal Lecter enjoying his retirement there, feasting on waiters and enjoying the Mozart and Strauss, but we both wanted to get out into the countryside. We spent a day in Wien, went on the big famous Ferris Wheel that James Bond went on once, got very wet in the thunder storm, ate ice creams and had a nice morning run round a lot of the famous sites much to the surprise of the hordes of tourists.
We also encountered the funniest waiter in the world, who basically took the piss out of all the patrons and put on a bit of a show. I only understood the bits in English, but he made me laugh anyway.
We had no idea where to go after that, so we went to the train station and looked at where the trains went. Comparing that with our 1:500,000 map, we found a place in the hills in roughly the right direction (Italy and Switzerland ish) that looked nice, and we got on the next train. As it turned out, completely by chance we managed to end up in the Semmering area which is one of only 8 World Heritage sites in Austria (or something like that) and famed for it's beauty and it's railway. We didn't know that until we got there though.
Actually we didn't even go on the famous bit of railway. We got off just before it and hiked for hours and hours in the hills in roughly the right direction (again based on the 1:500,000 map with none of the very small towns or roads on). It was beautiful and nice to be out of the city, but with a heavy rucsac it was pretty tiring, and eventually we had to camp on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere (nice view though).
Then we had to find out where we were exactly, so we kept walking and eventually came out at another railway station. Which was nice.
Then we found another random place on the map in roughly the right direction and took the next train. This place wasn't quite so good. After walking round in a thunder storm for 2 hours we decided we had had enough of Unzmarkt and got on the next train out. Now I'm sure its a lovely place, and I would have no objections going back, just I would rather enjoy it without one of the heaviest storms I have ever encountered.
So then we headed to Villach, quite a large town close to the Italian border that neither of us had ever heard of before. We both loved it. We found a nice friendly campsite just out of town (although just out of town turned out to be over an hours walk). We went walking in the hills (one day we went out for a short brisk walk and accidentally got carried away and walked for about 5 hours). We explored the town centre (which is very nice). We had a fantastic Mexican meal (and got a little drunk).
Then it was time to go our separate ways. Liis got onto a bus to Udine, and I took a train to Innsbruck. I spent the night there and had a morning walking around the city (so now I have been to 3 out of the 8 World Heritage sites in Austria - lucky me). Then it was off to Switzerland.

29 August 2006

Unfortunate World Students Champs

I think that I can count myself as being probably the most unfortunate person at the World University Orienteering Champs last week in Slovakia. I went in with high hopes, and came out with average results and minus a shoe and a pair of trousers. I decided to sit out the long because I wanted to concentrate on the middle, sprint and relay, so I had a nice day in the sun cheering on the British team. It was especially exciting watching Helen Bridle run to her silver medal.

Then on Thursday it was time for the middle race. I felt really good before the race and in the warm up, but I didn't feel so good when I started. I had trouble getting into the map, and it seemed like all the first half of the course was uphill. I started to worry that my heart rate was too high too soon and maybe I was sick. Despite all this, I had a fairly good start to the race (not at the pace of the leaders, but OK). I made a couple of small mistakes in the rocky section, again nothing major, just a few seconds here and there, and I felt that I was running ok. But then, on the steep rocky descent to number 10, I felt my foot sliding around in my shoe, and eventually half of the sole came away. There had been no indication (as far as I could tell) that the shoe was in a bad condition, and it was a huge blow. My confidence in my footing was reduced to zero, and my concentration on the map fell to quite a low level. I wanted to finish the race as best I could, but looking back, I was orienteering really badly, concentrating more on where my foot would go next and not on the shape of the ground.

And so I started to make mistakes. Number 17 was the major one, losing track of my height on the slope. I misread a rootstock and looked for the control too high. Number 18 was far from perfect too. By this stage my shoe was really annoying as well as uncomfortable. Every step half the sole would flap forward and catch on branches, or just get under my foot. I missed 19 badly and at 20 I just ripped the shoe off and ran in my sock to the finish. I was not surprised to finish 5 minutes down, and I thought that my position would be lower than the 23rd i ended up with.
Results of the middle here

Then it was time for the one I felt I had my best chance in, the sprint race around the town of Kosice. I had a good late start time, and I felt fit. My confidence was very high after WOC and I knew a medal was a possiblity. The start was in an alley, and the first leg took you out of the alley into the main street in Kosice. The first control was close, and in sight of all the spectators. I ran out and was immediately confronted by loads of people. I had prepared for this, but it did not stop me being distracted. Sometimes maybe it is a little unfair to have a sprint race like this, timed to tenths of seconds where people can block your path, or obscure your view. This is no excuse for my mistake, but I was pushed wide by a crowd and I misread the map and ran to the wrong building. I quickly realised what I had done, but the damage was done and I had lost 25 seconds at the first control. I am very disappointed with this, as it cost me a chance to do really well, but I am really happy at the way I recovered from this early mistake. I then went on to have a really good race, with only one small route choice mistake (where I lost maybe 10 seconds). I picked out good routes, executed them well and had a good pace. Most of my splits are comparable with those of the medal winners. I finished in 12th place, 44 seconds behind the winner, and knowing that I had thrown away at least a top 6 finish right at the start.

The fact that I recovered so well and had a good race though makes it easier, as does the fact that Murray made the podium - nice one Rocky :)
Results of the sprint here

The relay was meant to be a glorious end to the week with medals for the British boys and girls.

So we got it half right.

The girls were awesome and Helen Bridle ran a storming last leg to sweep past Norway, Finland ans Switzerland for the GOLD medal.

The boys did less well. I ran first and my race was mixed. I ran in the lead to start with, then I missed a control and dropped back into the pack. I managed to catch the leaders again through the spectator control and ran together with them at the start of the last loop. We had a long climb, and then some shorter legs around the top of the hill. I made two mistakes, trying to run too fast etc, and lost around 2 minutes to finish 7th, just under 2 minutes down. As I said earlier though, I also lost a pair of trousers. This occurred about 1/3 of the way round my race, and I ran approximately 25 minutes with my ass hanging out.

The other boys had mixed fortunes and we ended up 10th i think.

But then it was time to celebrate the girls success and prove to the other nations that not only can GB boys and girls orienteer, we can dance as well. At the banquet we caused a stir by dressing as the Spice Girls and the Village people, and performing awesome dance routines to the amazement of all (including ourselves).

Can you tell which one is me?

World students website here

Rachael Elder's photos here

Øystein Kvaal Østerbø's photos here

David Rosen's pics here

14 August 2006

Route choice on a budget

What would you think the cheapest way to get from Gothenburg to Kosice in Slovakia would be?
Well it turned out to be a trip lasting 19 hours and involving 3 planes, 4 buses and a lot of sitting around in airports. Combined with the increased security measures in some airports, it was quite a stressful journey, but I am now in Kosice, preparing for the World University Champs. I am running middle, sprint and relay, starting on thursday.

11 August 2006

Selected for World Cup finals

The selections for the GB team have just been announced for the World Cup finals in France, and I have been selected in the team. I am planning on going to the PostFinance Sprint just before that as well.

The British team
Helen Bridle
Rachael Elder
Mhairi McKenzie
Sarah Rollins
Jo Stevenson
Pippa Whitehouse

David Brickhill-Jones
Oleg Chepelin
Jon Duncan
Scott Fraser
Graham Gristwood
Jamie Stevenson

I have also been selected for the training camp to Ukraine at the end of September in preparation for WOC next year.

The selections are on the BOF newspage

10 August 2006

WOC maps and photos

Taken from the WOC website.

WOC Sprint final

Other athletes maps with routes here

On to Sweden

The second part of my trek round europe and i have made it as far as Gothenburg. I am travelling with Sarah-Jane, my best friend from university and we are now staying with her brother who lives just outside Gothenburg in Partille.

Since WOC we spent a day in Copenhagen, a day in Hillerod and a day training with Jamie (Stevenson). Then we caught the ferry from Helsingor to Helsingborg and despite our best efforts, failed to hire a car. We arrived at AVIS just after they closed, asked around for another place that might be open, and met a very friendly local called Stefan who drove us around several car hire places, and finally back to the station when the journey proved fruitless.

And so it was a train that took us the Gothenburg. We met an odd fellow at the station, a Swede who had lived in Bradford and who swore I was Australian. He made us guess how old his Thai fiance was from a dog-eared photo in his wallet, and laughed at us when we got it wrong and then went away (thankfully).

Today we chilled and went for a nice walk, and the plan is to do a little bit of training, and go and see some of the European athletics champs which are on this week.

No photos unfortunately due to camera problems.

05 August 2006

Victory in the pancake eating !!!!!!! (over Craney at least)

Breaking news - final results of GB pancake eating challenge held this morning in SAS Radisson Aarhus.

GG 13 - 12 Craney

(OK well BJ ate 16 but he hasn't been seen since disappearing straight after the last one)

Full story and photos to follow

02 August 2006

Happy to be ninth - or sad not to be on the podium?

Wow, what a day. 5 runners in the top 20 for Britain (probably a first). 4 PBs from British runners. Podium for Helen. 9th place for me. 12th place for Pippa in her first WOC.

So should I be happy that I have a 9th place at WOC? Or should I be sad that I threw away a podium position at the second last control? Hmmm. At the finish I was pissed off. Now I am ecstatic. 9th place was beyond all expectations for this year so I couldn't really be much happier.

My run was very good, and I made no mistakes before the spectator control. I may not have chosen the best route for the long route choice, but my split was pretty good. It was when I got to the spectator control that things started to go wrong. As I was approaching it, the commentator mentioned that I was approaching, and then he suddenly went wild, shouting about how I was about to take a big lead at that stage, and it sounded like he was going really wild. Now, I have done a few big races, but I have to admit, being announced in the lead at the spectator control with not all that many starters after me was a new experience. And it was one scenario that I had never prepared for. I don't think I panicked, but my concentration level definitely dipped. I was aware of it at the time but I couldn't control it. I made a small mistake at the 16th control (losing maybe 7 or 8 seconds), and I mentally slapped myself, but at the 20th control (of 21) I made a big mistake, taking the wrong path out of the control. It was a mistake that several other runners made as well, but it was still inexcusable and could have been avoided by taking a second to check position and compass. That mistake cost me 15 - 20 seconds and a likely 5th or 6th spot.

Never mind, still a very good day in the office. Maps to come (and maybe some more analysis).
Results here. Splits here

01 August 2006

9th place in WOC sprint!!!

Maps, routes and comments to follow.

27 July 2006

Preparations for WOC

As soon as I got home from Lithuania, it was time to head off to Denmark for the final Great Britain team training camp. We spent a few days in Silkeborg, training mostly in the forests around there, and then we had a day in Aarhus, staying in the Radisson (to see if it was suitable to stay in during WOC - it's a tough life being in the British team and having to stay in these hideously expensive hotels). We took part in the Danish middle selection race, and we attempted to take part in the classic selection races too, but officious organisers wouldn't let us start early and so we had to rush off to catch our plane home after running the first half of the course.
I personally did some really good sprint training too. There are some very good sprint maps in the area, with a lot of different challenges. However, none of them are really that relevant to the forested WOC sprint that we are expecting.

So, home from Denmark, but it was only about 8 days before time to fly out to the World Champs itself. The most appealling option during those 8 days was just to stay at my parents house, chill out, do a little training but not too much (tapering for WOC - reduce length and number of training sessions but not intensity), and spend as much time as possible with Liis before not seeing her for a couple of weeks.

So in those 8 days I frankly didn't do very much. I went to Thorpe Park, which was nice (although ultimately a little disappointing as the main new attraction, Stealth, broke just as I was about to get on having queued for about an hour). I ran a couple of local orienteering races. I did some technique training on 1:5000 maps. I ran some interval sessions and a time trial. I also watched Surrey Cricket Club thrash Kent.

The most interesting day was probably Tuesday though. I started off by jogging first thing. Then I did a sprint training session on Esher Common, on a fantastic new 1:5000 map. I was just training on my own, with no controls or anything, and I planned myself a complicated session which I will descibe briefly.

I started by warming up well with a long jog from the car park. Then I did the first line course, trying to run as fast as possible while staying on the line (which proves very difficult sometimes).

Then I ran a control flow exercise with lots of controls, lots of twists and turns, designed to maximise confusion and improve concentration and direction in and out of the controls.

Then it was another line at the other end of the area.

Followed by two short sprint races which I ran at maximal intensity.

So I managed to get some really good training out of a very small area, and a lot of it very relevant to Denmark. Then I surveyed a school for an orienteering map, and started to draw it on OCAD as well, before my next training session which was a small training event organised by Croydon OC on Addington Hills. It took the form of a map memory exercise, where at each control you have to memorise the route to the next one. I have run on the area a number of times before, but it is perfect for this exercise with countless spurs and reentrants to confuse you.

I ran it pretty well, and was perfect except for 2 controls. I made a small mistake at 5 when I dropped into the wrong reentrant and had to relocate off the fence. But it was number 14 that threw me, and I must have spent around 10 minutes searching for it before conceding and heading back to the start for another look at the map.

A really enjoyable session on what otherwise could be a limited area.

Yesterday was mostly spent packing and travelling. Our flight was delayed so we arrived at our hotel in Aarhus after midnight. With less than a week until WOC sprint, I won't be doing much training but I will try and get onto sprint maps a couple of times.

20 July 2006

JWOC, Takas 5 Day and Kaunas part 2

So into day 3 of the TAKAS 5 day and I am lying in 2nd place overall, around 2 mins down on the leader. Watch the JWOC middle qualifier which is generally the most tense and exciting individual day, and get both really motivated and dehydrated. No need to warm up too much in this heat. I am pretty confident going in to the race, and I have a near perfect race. Technically, I am as good as all year, with one small blip at number 7 when I misread a depression as a hill (costing me around 20secs). Physically I feel great and push hard all the way round. I pick out the difficult controls well and deal with them well (16 I am down on the best split but most people lose a hell of a lot more). Finish feeling really high and full of confidence for the rest of the week. 1st place with 1min 20 to second place. Results here.

As well as my good run, my main contender manages to put himself out of the running (mispunch or retiral?) leaving me with a massive 6 minute lead overall, with two middle races to go. Almost so good that something had to go wrong?

Day 4 was back on the same area as day 3 and the JWOC middle race. Another hot day in the sun cheering on the disappointing efforts of the GB junior team. Most of the entertainment came from the fantastic girls putting up the results (see picture ;) )

Again we were running later in the afternoon, with some similar legs to the JWOC courses, although a much longer course. For the first time in the week the heat started to get to me, i was struggling on some of the climbs, and the course was the most physical and technical of the week - much more like the traditional Baltic terrain I had been expecting. I was slow off the mark, going wide to the first control and taking a detour through some bushes. Partly due to looking ahead at the 2nd control - which I played safe. Possibly not the quickest, but the easiest and the option which gave me a chance to look ahead at the rest of the course. Despite being the most difficult course of the week, I was on top of the situation and only panicked once, when on the way to 13 I became disorientated in the light green. Apart from that and a small miss at 12 it was still pretty good, and despite not feeling fantastic, another victory, extending my lead to 8 minutes. Results here.

And so to the final day. JWOC relay day. A chasing start for the conclusion to the TAKAS 5 day. An 8 minute lead and a 10.5km course. Which is a bit misleading as it was the same course as the last leg of the JWOC relay and those boys were running well under 50 minutes for the 10.5km. Obviously I wanted to show the juniors how to do it as well as winning the race which is probably not the best frame of mind to enter the race with. Anyway, with high confidence I went out into the glorious, lightning fast forest, and I did one of the most enjoyable orienteering courses that I can ever remember doing. The forest floor was clear, the contour features were distinct, the ground was slightly springy and the course was well planned - technical but not too tricky.

With little vegetation and only small height difference, it was possible to run well under 5mins per km, and at that speed it is easy to make mistakes. I had a reasonably good run, with small misses at 14 and 24, and a slightly larger one at 16 (overcompensated for going off line). Apart from that it was orienteering that I love, running straight on a compass and picking off loads of details. I ran the 10.4 in 45.53, 2 seconds slower than the fastest junior. Another victory in my class though. Results here and overall results here.

It wasn't until the prize giving that I realised that there was a cash prize for the winner, so I accepted my 500 liters. It would have been rude not to plough that money straight back into the Lithuanian economy, so I rose to the challenge and bought everyone I knew (and some I didn't) drinks at the party all night (and still came away with some spending money for the next few days).

Then it was time for stage 2 of the trip, sightseeing in Kaunas with the Warwick Uni boys and girls. The driver on the way back was disappointingly reserved and not a single part fell off the bus and we arrived all in one piece (although Matt's head was slightly sore).

Highlights of Kaunas

Driving little electric cars around the park (see picture below), playing lots of games of Worms, playing volleyball / ultimate frisbee / football wherever there was an open space and often where there wasn't, smiley sundial (see picture below), litre glasses of beer (but not too many), cheap nice food, 35 degrees every day.

Lowlights of Kaunas

Lack of nightclubs open on Sunday and Monday nights, people getting beaten up in the street right in front of us and left lying there (what do you do when you don't know the phone number for the police?), 35 degrees every day.

Want my advice? Go to the Baltics - great weather, great food, great prices and pretty good orienteering too.

Almost forgot to mention, check out StalinWorld too.

11 July 2006

JWOC, Takas 5 Day and Kaunas part 1

I have just spent the last 8 days in Lithuania where apparently they have just had an all time record sunny spell (which was nice). I watched all the JWOC races, did all the spectator races, spent pretty much all week in the sun and had a really nice, if tiring, week with some of my friends. I was also a supporter for the GB JWOC team, especially Tess Hill who I coach.
Below is a short report of my week, including my maps from the races and some photos.

Well the week started with a bang, literally. 5 of us flew into Kaunas airport about 1 hour before the start of the sprint final, so we jumped in a cab to get us to Druskininkai. The cab driver seemed to sense our urgency and proceeded to hurtle at breakneck speeds down small country roads, frequently getting air over bumps even with 6 people and luggage in the car. He did eventually slow down, but only after a particularly large bump and short flight through the air after which a large portion of the exhaust pipe fell off. After that he was slightly more reserved and we made it to the arena having only missed the first few girls.
The main thing I can say about the sprint race is that I wish there had been one when I was a junior and how I really wanted to run standing there watching all afternoon.
After the race we went to find our caravans and explore JWOC town. I was acting as a reporter for planetFear during the week (who I work for as an orienteering correspondent - see www.planetfear.com), so I had to make daily trips to the press centre to send back the news and photos.

The next day was the first of several really long days in the sun followed by an evening competition for the spectators. Some days we were watching JWOC at 9.15 or 9.30, and not racing ourselves until nearly 5pm. Day 1 for us was a middle race on the JWOC classic area. After 2 days of watching, I was really ready to get racing myself. My over eagerness showed a little and I was a little rusty over the first few controls. I got really into the later part of the course though and was a little disappointed with 7th place, although less than 2 minutes behind. The forest was a real mix of beautiful white forest and bushy areas which were fine to run through, but with really reduced visibility. The contour detail was really interesting. Detailed but not complex.

Results here

The next day was a rest day for the JWOC competitors, but for us it was back to the classic area for our own classic race (and World Ranking Event).
Again I had mixed feelings after the race. I knew after day 1 that I was running really well, if only I could put a good race together navigationally I would be right up there. I was starting 6 minutes before Simonas Krepsta and the plan was not to see him. It worked until about 80% of the way round when I blew more than 4 minutes in 2 controls and I saw him pass me. I thought he was away but he then missed the next control and we ran for a little together. At the end I took a dodgy route and he finished about 20 seconds ahead of me.
Much more difficult than the middle the previous day, this race went in and out of a lot more low visibility areas. I had a pretty good race, with minimal time loss for the first 17 controls. Small misses at 5 and 12 were acceptable given the visibility. It was 18 and 19, back in the area we had been in the day before, where I lost the time. 18 was a stupid parallel error, running into the wrong depression out of the drinks point, and at some point between 18 and 19 I lost map contact. I failed to relocate in the circle spectacularly and went for a little wander. The 'white' forest was very variable, with patches of open, areas of bushes and almost invisible tracks. The contours became crucial and I did manage to relocate. As I ran into 19, Simonas was running out of it. As I said before, he missed 20 and we ran to 21 together. For some reason I decided to take a direct route and not go round the nice path and he got a little ahead, where he stayed until the finish.
Again a promising result but not what I was looking for. Having said that I took a lot of positives out of the day and it boosted my confidence both for the week and the season. I felt really strong in a good standard race for over 70mins.
Results here
To be continued

29 June 2006

Summer Training

I am back living with my parents in Surrey at the moment in between travelling to training camps and competitions. This is the first May/June I can remember without the stress of exams and it feels great. There are some very active clubs around the area, so there are always opportunities to do some varied training. The British Army are the most prolific, putting on events every Wednesday and also organising training courses on a very regular basis during the week (usually for cadets etc... but I get a special invitation). Last wednesday, for example, BAOC put on an event with a difference. The first part was a sprint race, then you changed over onto mountain bike for a section of bike-o, then back to normal orienteering for another sprint race. A very simple yet effective combination which made a nice change from my usual training. See the bike-o map below. Results here.

Since the weekend, my training has changed focus slightly. My most important races this summer are now sprint at WOC, and sprint, middle and relay at World Students, and so my training is going to reflect that. I have been doing lots of short hard sessions, with lots of speed work, including intervals and some race pace runs. I have also been doing lots of sprint race training, getting on to as many 1:5000 maps as possible.

Last night I did a trail race in Bracknell Forest. A gently undulating 9.3km in 33.25. I won the race comfortably, and had plenty to spare. It was a nice surprise to meet an old running buddy from university, Graham Robinson, and he took 2nd place. Results here.

This weekend I am going to do some sprint training with Sarah Rollins and on Sunday I think I am going to run a 5km trail race.