11 June 2006

Sting city

Today I took part in a local race at Blackwood. I love living and training in the South East of England, but at this time of year the forests take on an entirely new appearance. Just towards the end of spring, suddenly huge fields of stinging nettles and other undergrowth spring up making many forests and parks unusable (not just in the south east, but all over England). Then it becomes more difficult to train and you have to pick the training area carefully. Blackwood was mostly very nice, and I am sure the courses were planned to avoid the worst of the nettles, but I still managed to run through quite a lot of them, especially at the sides of the big open tracks. It is not always such a problem in an important race as thoughts of stings are superceded by the competitive spirit, but in a training competition I find that the desire to avoid the worst of the nettles and the after effects is more noticeable. On several occasions I took quite long deviations or just slowed to avoid patches, but in general the forest was beautiful with good running conditions.
My aim was to try and push the pace but stay in complete control, run confidently on my compass and minimise any time loss. The forest was clean on the floor mostly, with some areas of brashings and some with short grass which concealed branches and holes. Gently undulating, the terrain reminded me both of some areas of Denmark, and also the less technical parts of the middle areas for the World University Champs in Slovakia.

Race Analysis

In general my aim was to run straight on my compass, and only take wider lines if the leg really demanded it. Along the leg I planned to pick up as much information as possible, and use it to gauge my direction and distance. With such a runnable forest, there was no benefit to track running, and the only reasons for deviation from the line were to avoid height loss / gain (as leg 4) or to avoid areas of thick vegetation (as legs 6 and 10). Important skills were making sure that direction out of the controls was good, and judging distance without many features on the ground.

Control 1 I was slightly concerned about as I didn't really see an obvious attack point, and no catching features. Having said that I knew that the forest had high visibility so I knew that I would be able to see the control from maybe 50-100m away. I knew that I crossed the path just before the control close to the junction, and so there was nothing to worry about.

Controls 2 and 3 were straightforward using the shape of the ground as the main aid to navigation.

Control 4 I decided to take the track route for several reasons - looking at the contours I didn't want to take any more climb than necessary (even though the slope was relatively gentle), although the forest looked really runnable out of 3, I knew that anywhere yellow was likely to be thicker and more overgrown, and most importantly the track route was simple to execute, gave me a good attack point to find the control and an opportunity to look ahead at the rest of the course.

Control 5 was my first small mistake, slightly right of the line out of the control, I corrected myself at the large depression. Just coming down the spur I failed to read the open areas correctly and slightly misjudged the distance. But I kept my eyes open and looked all around, and I saw the control about 30m to my right.

Control 6 - there was a lot more vegetation than is shown on the map, and my route was optimal.

Control 7 was good, my direction was good and I picked up everything.

Control 8 - no problems other than everything looks the same in this forest so I don't see the depression until I am about 5m away.

Control 9 was fine except the block of forest half way should maybe have been light green.

Control 10 - was slightly worried so took fairly slowly. Thick vegetation and difficult to keep direction. Saw depression half way.

11 - I came out of control 10 the only way that looked nice and then corrected once in the white forest. Easy control though.

12 - Tricky control. Didn't see the big path out of 11, was overgrown. Wasn't entirely sure where I was approaching the control, but my line was good and I saw the flag from a way away.

13 and 14 I took slowly through the thicker vegetation. The paths didn't quite make sense, but my distance judgement was good and I used the contours.

15 to finish - back to running straight on the red line. Direction was perfect for 16. Decided to path it to 17 and most of way to 18. 19 was not very visible but again my line was good. Direction to 20 was poor as I was rushing at the end of the course. Control was not very visible even in the open forest.

In general my race was very good. Very little time loss due to errors. Maybe a minute or two slower than it might have been in winter, and my legs were very tired and heavy after a 2hr+ session yesterday. It was also very hot, at least 30 degrees, so my heart rate got higher than I would expect in a training race.

Results here

Splits here

No comments: