27 April 2006

Why do it?

As I was out training this morning, a question arose it my head. Why do we do it? Why do we put outselves through this? Why did I get up at 6am to go running?

And then I thought back to an episode of a TV show, Scrubs, where one of the characters says to another something along the lines of 'nothing in life worth having comes easy, if it is worth having it is worth fighting for', and I thought to myself, what am I fighting for? I decided I was fighting to be the best, I was training to be the best. Not necessarily the best in the world, or the best in Britain, or anything like that, because that is both too much and not enough. We are all fighting to be the best that WE can be, to achieve the most that we are able to achieve, to reach our own potential. Whether that means being the best in the world, or even just being able to complete a course at an event, it is enough to be striving to improve ourselves. That may mean making sacrifices such as getting up early, being antisocial, not spending time with friends and family, travelling to far corners of the world, but IT IS WORTH IT. It is worth it to not look back with regret, not to think I could have been better, done more than I did, achieved more.

Think I will get up at 5.30 tomorrow.

26 April 2006

Oslo City Cup

Last night I took part in the 3rd Oslo City Cup of the year. The cup is a series of sprint races around Oslo, and unlike mid week events in Britain, where you get maybe 50 people on a good day, the turn out at one of these sprint races is more like 3-400. There is only one course (plus novice), and people start at 15 second intervals, often with 2 people starting at once. There was still 10cm of snow on the ground, and after about 10 minutes there was both a track and a line of people around most of the course. That meant there was little technical challenge, and it was actually more challenging getting past the hundreds of slower runners on the course!

The course was very enjoyable despite all this, and I caught Anders Skarholt (a top Norwegian junior) about half way round. He then missed out number 13. I caught him up again at 15, but then a series of small incidents proceeded to ruin my chance of victory. Following him out of the control towards 16, we were passing a small group of people. He managed to get in front of them before climbing over the spur to the control, while I had to wait a couple of seconds. Then in my haste I waved my emit at the unit, and on checking it as I left the control, I noticed that it had not punched. Then I had to run back and punch again (I was 12 seconds down on a 15 second leg). So after that I was chasing again, and I decided to take the right route round the building, rather than the left route that Skarholt was taking. I think his route was a couple of seconds quicker, and I had no chance to catch him.

When I crossed the line I was 2 seconds off the lead, but looking at the splits, at number 15 I was more than 15 seconds in the lead. Hmmm. Never mind, still a good result and almost a good race. Beat Jorgen Rostrup by 1 second. Still running well before tio and EOC.

Results here
Splits here
Report in Norwegian here

25 April 2006

Not long to TIOmila

Only 4 (and a bit) days left. I am feeling both nervous and excited at the prospect of my first TIOmila. I have run Jukola twice, once very well (for the 2nd team), and once very badly (for the 1st team). I am in the Tyrving 1st team, running a 'day' leg, and their are fairly high expectations for the club to perform reasonably well.

We have a pretty strong line up with myself, 4 top Norwegian runners - Audun Weltzein, Anders Tiltnes, Jarl Magnus Berg and Torbjorn Sagberg, and top Swiss runner Thomas Hodel. We have fairly good strength in depth, with a lot of people going for the other 4 spots in the team. The top 6 at least are in really good shape, with myself, Thomas and Torbjorn all achieving really good early season results.

TIOmila is one of the most prestigious competitions of the year, attracting approximately 350 mens teams alone this year, and as each team is ten men that is quite a big competition! And that is before you add the Women's, Youth and Veteran relays (maybe another 800 teams in total - although not with so many in each team). Most of the teams are Scandinavian clubs, with some clubs entering many teams, but every year there are some clubs from other countries, although these rarely challenge the top teams.

Details of the TIOmila are here

My preparation for TIO has been pretty good so far. Apart from a slightly inflamed achilles, I am in really good condition, and probably the best shape of my life. My form this year has been my best ever, winning the JK and the event on Sunday, 2nd at the British classic champs, and 2nd fastest on last leg of Spring Cup, so my confidence is high.

I have been getting up early this week and running in the morning (I usually run in the afternoons / evenings), and generally trying to adapt to the fact that on Sunday I will be racing at about 7am (not a usual time for me to even be awake). I have tried to train in relevant terrain, and I have been studying the old maps of the area.

I think the key things to remember for TIOmila are -

1 Check your codes
2 Check your codes
3 Run at a pace that you can orienteer at - control the speed, identify when it is going to be difficult and slow down, but when it is easy and speed is required, run fast
4 Use other runners as motivation and to help with the pace, and use them in the circle to find the controls, but don't get distracted by them or be tempted to follow or run above a sensible pace to try and keep up
5 Run your own race, don't ignore other people, but don't let them control your race
6 Check your codes
7 Enjoy it!

23 April 2006

Østfold O-weekend Part 2

Today's event offered a longer course (about 10km), in less technical terrain than yesterday. The area was much flatter in general, but still with some steep slopes at times. Much less detail but still enough to make it interesting. For reasons unknown the planners decided to make good use of the slopes and the greener and felled areas rather than a lot of the more intricate and interesting sections in the centre of the map, but even slow the times were very quick for Norway (which suits me :) ). It was also a bit surreal as for long periods you would be running along in the bright sunshine, imagining it is summer, then all of a sudden you would find yourself running through shin deep snow for a couple of hunred metres.

After been thrown in at the deep end in terms of technical orienteering yesterday, today was a nice change and offered me a chance to stretch my legs. I decided before the race to push quite hard and treat the race as good race practise for TIOmila (fairly relevant terrain), and I went off quite fast. The second control was a fairly easy long leg across some gorgeous forest, and it would have been nice to have some more controls in that part. As I came into the control I spotted not only my 2 minute man (Christian Vogelsang), but also my 6 minute man, Ulf Brenna. I caught them across to 3, made a small mistake (15 secs) but still punched before them. I ran slightly in front of them through the next few controls, then there was another long leg across to 7. I took the 'safer' track route round the top, which turned out to be an exercise in marsh running. Vogelsang came with me but Brenna took a straighter route. Despite a good pace, as I approached the control I could see Brenna punching in front of me, and looking at the splits it looks like my route was maybe a minute slower. After that we formed a sort of pattern where I would run faster but hesitate in the circle, and the others would be slower but smoother through the controls. For me it was again a good exercise in trying to maintain a decent level of contact while running at a good pace. Sometimes I lost contact but only briefly, and my mistakes were due to route choice in general.
I lost about 45 seconds on 13 as I zig-zagged slightly trying to avoid felled area and patches of snow, and about 15 seconds on 14 with a poor line through the green and a moments hesitation coming out on a track and thinking it was a different track. The last 6 legs were like an urban sprint race and I put my speed to good use to claim 4 fastest splits (and a 3rd).

Overall I was very happy with my race, and although it was useful catching 3 people and forming a sort of fluctuating pack (people took different routes on some legs), I felt that I did most of the work on my own, and that I was orienteering really well. When I finished I was leading, and I managed to hold on to that lead over the next hour and a half to record my first victory in a race in Norway.

Here is a picture of the snazzy radio that I won.

Results here
Splits here

22 April 2006

Østfold O-weekend Part 1

Today I took part in my first race in technical terrain this year. I will put my map up when I can. This race was not a target in any way, I am using my time in Norway as technique training and preparation for TIOmila, but I wanted to orienteer well and run fast without working hard. My goal was to find a good speed and keep a good enough contact to be able to orienteer well. I achieved mixed results. In general I was really happy with my speed. Without ever really working hard round the 8.7km course, I felt like I was running pretty fast. As for the keeping in contact, the first part of the course went well, and I had no problems for the first four controls. I made a small mistake at 5, but nothing major. Then at 6 I refolded my map and lost contact. Instead of stopping and recovering I carried on and missed the control, losing about a minute. Then for 7 I chose a straightish route and simplified well until about 200 metres from the control. Then I lost direction and contact slightly and drifted off my line. It took me a few seconds to relocate and by the time I found the control I had lost around 2 minutes. Then I started to run out of 7 to the south instead of to the north, luckily I noticed before I had run more than a few metres so no real time loss. I was really happy with the next few controls, I orienteered well to 9, 10 and 11. Coming out of 11 I lost some contact, but then relocated mid leg in the green. Then I missed the control slightly in the circle and wasted around 30 secs. 13 was slightly strange as I couldn't get the map to fit the ground, but I kept running on my line and I ran straight into the control. Again at 14 I struggled to make the map fit, and ran too far up the flat area past the control. After a moments confusion I worked out what I had done, although I wasn't 100% confident, and found the control easily. 15 was ok, not sure I took the best line though.
Overall I was happy, and I felt like I lost around 4-5 mins to errors, and maybe a couple of minutes to running speed as I was holding back slightly. Hopefully tomorrow, with slightly faster and less technical terrain, I can do better.

Results here
Splits here

20 April 2006

Some photos from the JK

On the podium

On the run in

On the floor (with Tessa)

Thanks to Matt Rooke and CompassSport for these pics

Training in the snow (again)

OK, so there is no longer any snow in Britain anywhere, so what do I do? Move to snowy Norway.
After the JK I jumped on a plane to Oslo, and I am now spending two weeks here preparing for TIOmila and doing some technique training. Last night I took part in a night relay with my club, IL Tyrving. Each team was made up of 4 runners, but the first and second both ran at the same time, with the second to finish sending out the 3rd runner. Anders Tiltnes and I finished within 5 seconds in 3rd and 4th place (just behind Jorgen Rostrup) to send out Morten Christopherson (who ran 3rd and 4th legs for us) off in the lead. He dropped two places, but we still finished in 3rd place. We were rewarded with cool bags (ideal for TIOmila beer supplies?) and a very late night. Luckily there was not too much snow in that forest, but my other training so far has been in forests with at least some snow coverage.

Results from Tyrinatta here. First (and last) part of the race.

19 April 2006

Selected for European Champs

Guess the title says it all really. Full British team up here and is

Men: Rob Baker (2), Matt Crane (1), Jon Duncan (1), Graham Gristwood (2), Oli Johnson (2) and Jamie Stevenson (1).

Women: Helen Bridle (2), Rachael Elder (1), Sarah Rollins (1), Claire Ward (2), Jenny Whitehead (1) and Pippa Whitehouse (2).

Relay team is in brackets.

JK 2006 Champion

My second year as a senior and after just missing out at the British Classic Championships, my first major senior title. It is all so different to last year, where a shocking run in the (later voided) middle race was followed by a classic race where I was running ok but hit the wall towards the end and dropped to 13th. With no Jamie or JD this year though, the competition was open enough to know that I had a real chance of at least a medal.


The weekend opened with the first ever JK Sprint race sponsored by Planet Fear (there is a report on their website here). With a strong field, a good spectator presence and good prizes on offer, it was a very unusual British race. Held around the grounds of Temple Newsam on the edge of Leeds, the race promised to be fast and not especially technical. Starting in a crowded arena, the first control involved weaving around some buildings through members of the public and then out into the parkland. Coming into the first control we were presented with a really surreal site. Instead of seeing a control at the feature like you expect, there were approximately 6 or 7 kites spread around the immediate area. This is when you remember reading in the details that the Trail-O is using the same area and so there will be lots of extra controls out. Struggling to remember that the Trail-O kites will have blue tapes on them, I look around to try and find a kite without any tapes on it. Then I realise that in my confusion I have almost run straight past the real control. No big time loss, just general confusion.

After that the course is straight forward, and it is more a case of trying to push myself as I know that BJ will be hunting me down. There is some route choice to 4, but I choose the best route and pick a good straight line. On the way up the hill to 6 I see Oli Johnson (my 1 minute man) in front of me, which gives me quite a boost. He goes left of the lakes to 7 and I am catching him all the way. I pass him leaving number 9 and power up the hill. All that powering makes me tired though and I start to struggle on the hill to 11. The last few controls offer the most technical part of the course, with a maze of hedges and walls to comprehend. The key is to check control descriptions really carefully to ensure that you are on the correct side of the feature. I am clean through these controls but then drift slightly left to the last control. That aside I sprint in to the sounds of the commentators announcing my big lead. Oli finishes a bit behind me and then it is just a wait for BJ to finish. Keeping an eye on my watch, I count past a minute and I have won. Just time for a drink and then it is time for the prize giving.

Results of sprint race here


Saturday brought a completely different challenge, with the middle distance on Ilkley Moor. Looking at the map beforehand, I knew there would be two contrasting challenges. The southern part of the map is flat open moorland, with little detail and little vegetation, and the northern is a fairly steep slope with a large amount of contour and rock detail. My pre-race plan was therefore to try and really push the pace on the less detailed areas, and slow down in the more detailed terrain. I followed this plan, and on the way to the first control, I had already identified the controls that would require more thought. The first two controls were relatively straight forwards, the rock detail and shape of the ground providing enough to go on. Leg 3 was more interesting with a route choice over a deep re-entrant. I decided that my strength lies on track and flat running rather than through the terrain so I opted for the round route. I think I may have lost a few seconds, but it gave me a nice route into the control and I had the opportunity to look ahead at the rest of the course.

Control five was the first really challenging control. The areas of white forest really stood out in the open moorland, so it was past that and then try and pick a nice line up the slope. The knee deep bracken and heather makes for tough running, so picking up little tracks really helps. I could see Andy Kitchin (my 2 minute man) close in front, and the track I chose took me a little high and to the right. However, I relocated quickly on the small round knoll and contoured round and into the control. It was well hidden but as I approached both Andy Kitchen and Andy Middleditch (my 4 minute man) are leaving the control. I ran with them to 6, the first control that I had identified as a problem control. The white half way offered an obvious marker, and then it was over the track and through the little col. A quick glance at descriptions revealed that number 6 is in a reentrant. Looking the map this seems improbable, but a double and triple check don't alter anything, so I keep an open mind and follow the line of the hill, only taking one small break to fall down a massive hole between two boulders leaving me dangling in mid air. As it turns out, 6 was in a reentrant and was also fairly obvious. Control 7 I take slowly trying to pick off the various rock features. Andy M comes racing past but my slower pace is vindicated as he goes shooting off to the left and I spike the control. Then it is time to speed up again, out on to the track and around the hill. Up the little path and contour round into the control. Pass Ed Catmur on the descent down to the spectator control. Have already scoped this out before the start so know exactly where I am going and can actually see it from a fair way off. Before starting, I had watched many of the early starters mess up control 10, so I had already worked out exactly where I was going to run and take that control cleanly. Only small hesitation when I realise I am trying to navigate to the following control by mistake. Decide to go round the track to the potentially tricky 11, but then decide there is too much climb so cut off the path and start to contour. Run past control on the end of the marsh just before the control so know exactly where I am. Run out of 11 possibly slightly too fast, maybe as a result of spiking all the controls so far. End up running too far left and hitting the path too low. Have to run up the path and dive into the reentrant. The control is quite hidden and manage to do a quick lap of the reentrant before I find it, and this maybe leads me to leave the control too quickly again. Don't check compass enough and again go too far left down the hill. Hit path junction so recover quickly and run up spur. Come of little path about the right height but can't see the reentrant and nothing seems to fit. Panic slightly and see two other runners hunting for a control. Run down a bit, find a depression which doesnt seem to be on the map, or if it is then is in the wrong place. Run up to top of the hill, find the path, think I can see the reentrant but turns out not to be it, so run a bit down the path and then can finally see it. After all that have only lost about 45secs but seems like minutes. Tank it down to 14 as see that it should be easy. The running is very good and doesnt seem to be any point using the paths. Count of the bushes and tracks and then can see the control. Up to the path, across the big track, and then get slightly confused by network of small paths. Use contours instead and find control easily. Have already checked out last control so race down to it and into to the finish. Commentators announce a big lead again, but with all the big names to follow. It is an anxious wait as first Ewan McCarthy comes in 22 seconds down, then Matt Crane comes in 11 seconds off my time, and then finally Matt Speake comes within 8 seconds of my time. I have won though, even if it is only by 11 seconds.

Middle results here

Splits here


I have never really been known as a classic runner, especially when it comes to senior classics. Junior classics I could just about do if I had to, but before this year, I had never really run a top class senior classic race. So then it came as a bit of a shock to me that on the classic day of the JK, a lot of people were saying that I was the pre-race favourite. I had run well at the British Classic Champs without any expectation or pressure, but this was a bit different. Starting last and with a big build up was certainly a bit more pressure. I didn't even decide to run the classic until the previous week, on the advice of the GB coach.

So anyway, I started last, and I was up against home boy Matt Speake, experienced international runners Ewan McCarthy, Matt Crane and Oli Johnson, all of whom have traditionally been stronger than me in classic races and I knew I had an 8 seconds head start....... Just great. No problem. Hmm.

I start at a comfortable pace, not wanting to run out of steam, and the first 4 controls are in beautiful white forest with very little on the ground. Control 3 is slightly tricky and I have to do a lap of the green to find it (maybe 20 secs lost). 4 is easier than it looks as the walls offer great handrails. 5 is the first of many slogs along forest paths and tracks. 6 is the first real indicator of how rough white forest can be in Yorkshire. 7, 8 and 9 are in a really cool patch of forest, and offer a bit more of a challenge. I deliberately take it easy through these and spike them all, and I am pleased to see that Matt Speake (my 3 minute man) is just leaving 9 as I enter it. It is now for the first time that I know that I have a real chance of victory. If I can stay with or get away from Speakey then I am almost sure of a top 3, and if we run well together, who knows? Anyway, first have to concentrate on the race. I instinctively raise my pace slightly to catch Matt. He is running slightly faster than me on the tracks, but I seems to catch him slightly in the terrain and am slightly smoother into the controls. The pattern for the next few controls is fairly standard. We choose similar routes, he stretches out a bit in front, then I catch up and we punch the controls roughly level. There is very little route choice and no chance for either of us to get away - just seemingly endless track runs through rough forest. Then there is a nicer patch of forest around 13 to 15. Running different lines, we still seem to get to the controls level. The forest is really rough again around 16 and 17, and my legs are struggling. Hitting the long field run feels like running through sand and Matt pulls out quite a lead by 18.

However the feeling that I am running really well and there is not far to go inspires me and I reel him back in. The forest is much nicer now, much more runnable and I am enjoying it much more. The climbs are becoming tougher and tougher, but at least there is little on the ground. It seems to take forever to climb the hill to 20, but then I can stretch my legs and even get a way ahead for the first time through 21, 22 and 23. I pass Ewan and I can almost taste the victory, but I don't want to get too carried away. I hear the commentators announce Oli Johnson finishing in the lead, and I have to stop myself thinking thoughts like how far I have left and how long he started in front of me. Matt is right behind me again now, and the climb up to 24 is the worst yet. I see a control and run too it, but it is on the knoll to the south. I see Matt punch our control and attempt to catch him again. We spur each other on up the hill to 26 and he leads me through the green to it. Then I stretch out my legs, past the boulders, down the hill, follow the earthwall up and into the control. I know there are only a couple of short minutes separating me and the finish, and I draw on all my reserves. A small miss coming in to 28 as I cross the stream slightly too far left, but then as I come through the green I see the field and the cheering hits me. Down into the second last control, across the stream and into the field full of cheering spectators. Matt seems to have dropped off as I sprint (or try to at least - I am sure my dad could have outsprinted me after that race) to the last control and then into the finish. As the last starter, I am announced as the winner of today and overall. Matt crosses the line and we both collapse. He takes a well deserved 3rd place overall, behind Oli who moves up from 6th in the middle to 2nd overall with 2nd in the classic.

My exhilaration at winning is matched only by how absolutely shattered I feel - both mentally and physically. I have no energy or motivation for a warm down, and having collected my trophy, I just have a bit of a sun bathe and study the previous winners of M21E wondering who this J Stevenson might be and how he has got his name on it so many times....

Classic results here

Classic splits here

Overall results here

Hopefully I will put some more pictures up soon, but there are loads up here and here.

Brief summary of 2006 so far

Well the year started off at a party in London. Then during a few days at my parents house I ran the round Aldershot long - o. I didn't really fancy the full course (which was won in 3hr 16mins), so I ran the half which turned out to be a bit short. Results here. Also managed to start seeing Liis before back to work. Nothing very exciting for a few weeks then. Did a '10km' x-c race (results here) and a fair bit of teaching and coaching. Picked up a cold just before the county x-c champs so didn't run that. That meant I didn't get picked for the county team which was a sceondary goal for the winter. I also missed the Warrior O-Trial which is a good tough weekend every January up in the Lake District. Managed the middle race but felt pretty bad so missed the ultra long the next day. Just to round off a mediocre January, at the British Night Champs I had headlamp problems from the start, and it failed completely about a third of the way round. The next day I won the first National event of the year, the Concorde Chase, at Cold Ash ahead of Matt Crane . Results here.

First GB squad weekend of the year at Lilleshall Abbey. Came 2nd in a sprint race around the grounds, one second in front of a certain Mr Stevenson (results here). Also a long training on Cannock Chase the next day.
The last two weeks of February I had off work, the first one as all the schools were on half term, the second because the GB Squad had a 'Warm' Weather Training Camp in Spain. Liis and I went up to the Lake District for four days to do some sight seeing and some training.

The weather was awful though, and this photo was taken during the only five minutes you could see more than about 50 metres.
Then it was off to Spain for WWT. A few of us went out a bit early and stayed up in the mountains. Those couple of days were absolutely fantastic. The weather was fab and we did some awesome training, including a race on this terrain (will try and put some maps up soon)

Some of the guys did some climbing and we basically just chilled out. Then the rest of the team joined us, we moved to a hotel further south, and out of the mountains, and it suddenly turned pretty cold. It even started snowing a couple of times

Was a good week with a mixture of fast and slow training, and a contrast between the dunes on the coast and the more traditional Spanish terrain inland and in the mountains. At the end of the week we took part in the Costa Calida Trophy, with a World Ranking Event Classic Race on day 1 and a chasing start on day 2. Day 1 results here . After a few days in the lake district and a hard 10 days training in Spain I was pretty tired and made quite a few mistakes (mostly in the circle) on a very detailed area. Day 2 was much better on the larger scale map, and I had a really good strong race with only one small mistake. Coupled with the fact that several runners ahead of me on day 1 didn't start, I managed to pull up quite a few places. Results here.

Few weeks working followed by another week off for BUSA and a training camp :). No longer a student, I am still eligible for the World Students Championships being held in the Slovak Repubilc this summer. The selection races for the team are BUSA championships, the British Championships and the Scottish Championships in May. This also marks the start of the main elite season in Britain, with a lot of top runners present including senior squad members Oli Johnson, Matt Crane, Mark Nixon and myself, as well as former GB junior Murray Strain who took victory in the individual race (results here). I managed a non-comp 3rd place which I was happy with, but having lead the race for a bit early on I made some mistakes and was caught by Murray. BUSA parties are always memorable (well actually there is one i don't remember much of....), and offer ideal preparation for the relay the next day. We woke up to find Edinburgh and Scotland covered in snow which added some interest to what might otherwise might have been a slightly dull relay.

In a non-competitive team with Ian Nixon and Dave Sprot, I had a reasonable run on last leg but lacked the motivation (and speed?) to keep up with Murray in the battle for 2nd place.

Then it was time for a mini training camp in the Lake District with some of the people I coach. The journey down was the slowest I have ever driven in the UK, with the entire north of the country covered by the most snow for years. We eventually arrived in the Lake District to find all the training areas under at least a foot of snow (some several feet). We decided to carry on anyway though and improvised - some days travelling quite a bit to get away from the snow.

Some days running and orienteering proved impossible....

....so we looked for other ways to entertain ourselves...

...including hill training with sleds...

Snow or not, the lake district is one of the most beautiful places in Britain as you can see from these pictures and the one at the top.

We still managed to do a fair bit of training, including a fell race (my first ever) which I came 2nd in. The events at the weekend were both cancelled, but we took part in an informal event on Loughrigg in the snow. Results here.

Spring Cup

British Championships

to be continued...

18 April 2006

My first attempt at the internet thingy

I don't know anything about how computers work or how to make a webpage, but I have decided to at least try and this seemed like a good place to start. I will be putting up some maps, some stuff about my training and anything else I think might be interesting to people.
Pic of me and Liis (and no i don't understand a word of her blog thing either)