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.