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