The race was held at Hampton Ridge in the New Forest, which is an absolutely beautiful place, but could never be accused of having the most challenging orienteering terrain. The main challenges were understanding how the gorse bushes were mapped (failed utterly at the first control and lost 1.30), keeping direction across featureless heathland, and working out which of the many small parallel ditches are the one which is marked on the map.
After the first couple of controls, I had a close to perfect race, and I was able to push the pace quite well. Towards the end, I caught Peter Hodkinson, one of the top juniors at the moment (he had a pretty good race, less than 3 minutes down!), but I couldn't run away from him, and a tactical falling flat on my face in the mud at the last control meant I didn't have to sprint finish against him :)
I managed to take the victory, but Duncan ran really well until the last part when he was a bit scrappy and let me back in. Great to see the juniors doing so well!
Sunday was the British Relay Championships - the first weekend in March! Bit early for some, and the start list was weaker than previous years. The timing of the race affected my club too, with several of our best runners unable to come. Unfortunately my training mate from when I was back in the UK, Jules Simpson, hasn't been training quite as he used to, but he was doing a decent job on first leg until the technical green area towards the end when he dropped almost 5 minutes! He came back in 15th, 7 minutes behind the rampant favourites, South Yorkshire and Nick Barrable. Matt Halliday, our rising star and junior team member, ran really well to bring us up to 7th place, and in a pack up to fourth place. I started fast, and quickly myself and the South London runner, Ralph Street (another really fast junior!) were running away from the other guys in the pack. We ran at a high speed, and pretty accurately too, and half way we caught the 3rd team (although actually Thames Valley were actually 3rd at that stage, they were ineligible with a foreign runner, Bertuks, in their team). Coming back into the woodland, and the technical green area, I was able to get a gap to Ralph, and caught up with Bertuks at the second last control. Again a tactical tripping over my own feet meant I didn't have to do a sprint finish, although to be honest the effort I put in to catch Bertuks over the last 2km meant I had absolutely nothing in the tank as he sailed up the hill to cross the line. Luckily (for us) they were not allowed to take a prize, so Octavian Droobers took their first relay medal in a couple of years (we won in 2003, and have taken one bronze since then I think, but apart from that it has been a lean couple of years). British Champs bronze to start the year - pretty good! South Yorkshire were run away winners as expected, but it was good to see Sheffield University take second with 3 solid performances. I had the fastest time of the day, and if Jules hadn't made the mistakes at the end, it could have been really interesting to see if I could have caught Baker on the last leg.