Auckland Ultra-Sprint

Last Wednesday Martin Peat and Counties Manakau Orienteering club set New Zealand’s first ultra-sprint orienteering race at Barry Curtus Park in Manakau. It was a fantastic afternoon of high speed racing and a great way to enjoy our ANZAC day in the sun.

The format of the afternoon consisted of 3 heats which could be run in any order before 3:00pm and the top 4, based on accumulative time, would race in a mass start final. Others who didn’t make the final would start afterwards as they pleased.

The special point about ultra-sprint racing is the extremely close together controls which require very quick map reading to get through cleanly. Planning ahead and sighting controls in advance on longer legs was a great technique to conquering the tricky parts. The other major difficulty was the maze which we visited twice on every course.

The start and maze on course A. (GPS in the maze is pretty useless)

The map include a maze enlargement which I found useful on most occasions

I missed out on the final which was won by NWOC’s Tom Reynolds closely Followed by Matt Ogden, Toby Scott and Jourdan Harvey. Places 5th to 8th formed an unofficial B-final which I finished 2nd in after losing my lead with a spectacular series of mistake while going through the maze.

I can’t wait for the next ultra-sprint and hope that this high standard is retained.

The Nugget

The Nugget Multisport Festival took place this Saturday in Waihi. The Premier event was the Full Nugget Multisport Race but the festival also included The Half Nugget Duathlon, and 3 trail runs, 21km, 10km, and 5km in length. I kept focused on my running goals and chose to race the 21km run. Alistair McDowell, who travelled with me from Auckland, was more adventurous and took on the Full Nugget as his second multisport race to date.

This weekend we teamed up with Vitasport, a supporting sponsor of the race, to help refuel competitors on the finish line and to do some promo stuff around the event centre. It was a great experience, and having to keep Vitasport stuff in order before and after the race lead to an intense day with some very tight timing.

The early morning Vitasport set up just past the finish line.

Alastair and I were also given the mighty Vitasport Landrover for our journey which made everything much more epic. Turns out it has many secrets and is a tricky machine to drive, but it’s a quite a beast once everything is figured out. We travelled down on Friday evening as we had to be at the event centre early to help set up and Alastair had to drop his Kayak and bikes off at the transitions before his race.

The Beast

The 21km featured a hilly start around the coastal track north of Waihi Beach, There were some stunning views and some very dramatic terrain where one slip could easy be your last. As the course turns away from the sea there is a big climb finishing through some farmland and giving a clear view of the finish, which was deceptively far away. The rest of the course was mainly on tracks and was very fast. I was guttered when I heard someone start their Garmin before the start as I realised I had forgotten mine. The race route off the website will have to do this time.

Course map - I think there were a few differences to what this shows

I started the race very easy and waited for my body to warm up before I decided how best to tackle the race as I was unsure how I would feel. I hadn’t put in any preparation into this race as I didn’t want it to interfere with my training. I had a few easy days after ANOC but I still hadn’t fully recovered and Friday’s 90 minutes in terrain was still sitting heavy in my legs. Kerry Suter took the early lead and once I warmed up after 5 minutes I picked up the pace and caught him quickly. We stayed together for most of the costal section but I wasn’t quite as aggressive on the last few hills and lost about a 30 seconds. I intended to make to catch on the big climb before the fast farm land but a few stitch problems arose and I took it easier than planned to prevent my stitch from worsening. I was feeling good after a Leppin at the drinks station and hit the next few kilometres quite hard and got to within 30 seconds again but Kerry was too fast along the flat and widened the gap again. After 2km on the road we had some more farm tracks which I tackled aggressively and got close to the lead once again. I was happy to see Kerry as he left one of the last paddocks but I was running a bit low on aggression and the gap widened by more than 3 minutes in the last 3km. I did lose a bit of focus towards the end but was impressed to see the final time gap so big. I finished 2nd in 1:42:25, 4 minutes off Kerry’s time of 1:38:30, and 5 minutes ahead of 3rd.

My body felt ok after the race and the next day which is encouraging for my current training block and I’m hoping my legs will develop some race-worthy aggression soon. Thanks again to Vitasport for keeping everyone at the race hydrated, especially Alastair and I, and thanks to Total Sport for another great event!

ANOC Day 2

The second day of the Aftermatch Northern Orienteering Carnival featured a long distance style race on the recently updated Slater Road map north of Parakai. The courses were set by Matthew Ogden himself and were extremely testing. I have run on Slater Road many times in the past 3 years and often find I can use my memory to my advantage but Matt’s courses had be thinking the whole way.

Initially the elite field was to have a chasing start based on accumulative times from yesterday’s 2 middle distance races but after a gentlemen’s agreement it was decided we would use an ordered start with small start intervals to add pressure and first across the line would be victorious.

The course began with 4 short legs in a small area of technical sand dune detail. I had a small hesitation at 3 but was stoked to get there ahead of first starter Tom Reynolds. Our partnership in this technical area was a bit dangerous for me as I am capable of running faster than my navigation and we started pushing each other quite hard. I noticed Nick Hann was also behind me at 4 which meant I was leading!

Technical start – classic course setting

4 to 5 was a massive leg (totalling 1800m in a straight line) and presented obstacles like hills and dense vegetation and had many tempting tracks. My route, which I think may have been the best, is shown in red and there are many other variations shown. Click to see it closer. It was cool to see both Tom and Nick take different routes even though they were just behind me and could have easily put the map down their pants and followed me. Nick’s deviation from my route is shown in orange and Tom did something similar to the purple line.

Long leg to create route choice – classic course setting

The race ran into a pivot section which made good used of a very cool area of sand dune detail. There where a lot of felled trees on the ground as shown by the green stripe, but they were all pretty rotten and didn’t make anything unfair. I think this area was great for a long distance race as  the rotten trees increased the physcality of the forest and made route choice decisions more crucial. I chose to use the track from 5 to 6. Tom caught and passed Nick and I through this section and had about a minute lead heading to 15.

Pivot in technical area to condense runners and increase pressure – classic course setting

Leg 15 to 16 features a massive slope. The elevation graph from my Garmin shows that almost all the climb during the race happened on this leg. Nick dropped me towards the top and my brain to jelly shortly after my legs contributing to the 3 small mistakes at 16, 17, and 18. I lost sight of the leading 2 but I had a big gap back to 4th and maintained good flow through the end of the course to finish in 3rd.

Technical controls after massive uphill leg – classic course setting

The cool stuff that my Garmin Forerunner 610 does

ANOC Day 1

The Aftermatch Northern Orienteering Carnival was an idea created by Northwest Orienteering Club and implemented by Matthew Ogden. The money raised will go towards supporting juniors from our club by easing travel and other costs. It also encouraged competitors from NZ Champs last weekend to stay on for a second set of races and make use of the training opportunities in between.

My recovery from Nationals wasn’t great and I’m not overly surprised given my preparation before Nationals. I made the most of the training organised by the National Squad coaches which was great, but left me pretty tired come Saturday. The races at ANOC were going to be hilly and require aggression through the rough terrain. I knew I was going to be too tired to perform my best so instead set goals relating to my navigation.

Day one featured 2 middle distance style races held on a cool piece of New Zealand farmland near Helensville. An old 1:15,000 map of this area was made in 1988 by the Auckland Oreinteering Club with the north end named Paehoka and the south end named Kiwitahi. The new map, made by Northwest Orienteering Club, is relatively small but offers more forested areas and more detail as it is drawn at 1:10,000. It is still a relatively easy area but was a refreshing change to sand dunes and the well set courses kept me thinking.

Area of the old Paehoka / Kiwitahi map that was remaped for ANOC in 2012

The morning race was also my first race with my Garmin forerunner 610 and below is a snippet from QuickRoute. This is a look at some shorter legs where it was important to choose good routes based on the combination of contours and vegetation. 3 to 6 was a part of the course where I avoided the vegetation as much as possible. It was great to see some younger members of my club learning to set the courses and Lauren Holmes should be proud of her great job.

Full speed no mistakes

I finished in 5th place with a time of 26:39. I felt pretty shattered but had enjoyed the race especially since it was on a map I had never used before.

Saturday’s second race a bit more technical and my body finally gave up. I was haemorrhaging time in the second half of the course and every fence was a major obstacle. I found it funny how little co- ordination I had while on the course and I was glad to see the finish. Here is the course set by talented youngster Helena Barnes. I finished in a very tired 37:08 for 8th place

First time using QuickRoute with my first GPS watch

NZ Champs Middle

I was highly impressed by the middle distance at Nationals this year. The course demanded high concentration and flawless technique to allow you to finish unscathed. The terrain was refreshingly different to the typical flatter Woodhill maps I am used to but would still require mainly the same techniques. As well as navigating cleanly the winner would have to be aggressive on the hills and also open up on the longer legs. I was also grateful that the course planners made the middle a good length (Toby won with 37:44) as I am sick of pathetically short races.

The course was unrelenting from the start and required map contact to be maintained as most hand rails were small. Control 1 was in an extremely tight re-entrant and I treated it with respect as I dropped off the track. The 2 depressions near control 2 were obvious and a good bearing ensured I ran confidently to spike the control. I was not strong enough on the compass on 3 and veered to far right costing me 20 seconds. I did a similar mistake again at 8 and 10 and lost a little time running extra distance but still maintained smooth navigation through the controls.

Start of NZ Champs middle distance + features I should have used to get to 3

 I found I didn’t need to do anything super tricky to spike the controls. The map was very accurate and the uniquely shaped hills and re-entrants were equally as obvious on the ground as on the map. Well done mappers! It was possible to avoid some climb but the extra distance travelled did not justify a choice to not run straight. Better routes than the ones I took are shown above in green.

My biggest mistake was on 15 and cost me 25 seconds – a punishment for complacency. I correctly identified 15 as being relatively easy due to the god visibility, flatter features, and obvious back stop. I did however forget to check my compass after I crossed the road and veered left. I wasn’t sure whether I was too far left or right until I saw the form line (circled in green). Perfect mapping! I should have used the depression in the northern most green circle to guide me after crossing the road and was punished fairly for not doing so.

Time to stride out if you have the legs!

The 850 metres between 15 and 16 required some small decisions to be made but was mainly a test of our speed. On this occasion I did not have the legs to make the most of such an opportunity. I look forward to getting some form back, after being injured for so long, and being able to push hard when given the chance.

Pivot on second map

After the map change (map flip in this case) we were tested by a pivot section designed to split up runners and apply additional pressure as you see competitors more frequently. Given the 4 minute start times this was little use since the field was already spread over a large time period and contact with other elite runners was rare. I got through this second half of the course almost perfectly with only a small mistake on 19 were I didn’t run straight enough. I finished in a time of 41:54 in 3rd place but eventually slipped to 7th. I’m happy with my performance and was stoked to see that winsplits thinks I didn’t make any significant mistakes!

NZ Orienteering Champs 2012 Long Distance

Firstly, I am stoked to be running again after having 8 weeks off due to my ITB related injuries. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to get my body ready for nationals. I managed 3 runs in 6 days leading up to nationals but I knew it would take about 2 weeks to develop some race-ready form. My goal at the start of this year was to win the long distance at Nationals but I realistically lost sight of that goal month ago when my injuries turned nasty. My goal approaching this weekend was navigate cleanly and I knew I would have little control over how I performed physically.

The second race at NZ champs this year was the long distance held on Waioneke, a map last used 7 years ago for Oceania. I remember it being extremely hard and have been looking forward to the challenge since the race’s location was announced.

Waioneke - NZ Champs 2012 Long Distance

I wasn’t up to the physical level to be competitive in such ruthless terrain but I still loved the challenge of being shattered half way through the race and still having to hold it together mentally. I could spend all day talking about the race but here are some interesting parts and a quick evaluation of what I did well and not so well.

Technical challenges early on in the long race

2 – 3 presented route choice opportunities as shown by the 3 colours. My choice is in red, another choice is in blue – I think Tom Reynolds chose something similar to this, and Matt Ogden’s choice is in green. The main decision to be made is “how long should I stay on the track for?” Leaving the track as early as I did meant that I ran a shorter distance but I had 2 ridges to cross and these slowed me down too much. Matt’s choice to stay on the track to the last possible moment was best and he was about 1 minute quicker than me on this leg. Tom mentioned his pre-race plan was to use tracks as much as possible and his choice utilise the track as he did was good, but he was not quite as quick as Matt.

4 – 5 is a leg I did very well and I was happy to find that I posted the fastest split time to control 5. I simplified the map well by identifying the line of positive detail (hills as opposed to depressions) that made a very straight line between the controls. I kept the line of detail close on my left hand side and used the good visibility to identify the highest point in the line of detail, which my control was immediately after. The red line shows the exact path I ran along the flat ground avoiding the sand dune detail and gaining no height at any stage during the leg. Perfect!

Important choices to be made between 7 and 8

Leg 8, 1500m long, was a challenging route choice leg and I have shown my route in red. I aimed for a straight approach to run less distance and to reduce climb. I was not physically aggressive enough to justify my decision and runners who chose track options were rewarded. Matt Ogden ran a route similar to the green line and had the fastest split time between 7 and 8. This was a very challenging leg and deserved more thought than I gave it during the race. There are many possible routes on this leg as shown by the different coloured lines above.

My body broke after I had been racing for about an hour and I my hip flexors and hamstrings began cramping up the hill from 18 to 19. Tom caught me in time for the final 8 controls and I had to dig deep to hold onto him. I was impressed that I ran with him for as long as I did as I was lacking aggression through the physical terrain on my own but having Tom’s heels to chase made it much easier to get up to speed. I eventually lost him 2 controls from the finish and had to drag my body across the line by myself in a time of 1:39:25.

NZ Champs Sprint Review

The 2012 New Zealand Orienteering Champs has kicked off to a fast start with the sprint race held at Albany’s Kristen College. Competitors were faced by an onslaught of small school buildings mixed with copious gardens and walkways. There were also longer legs for the longer courses between Albany Junior High and Kristen to allow the fastest runners to excel. Over all it was an extremely technical area and the courses set by top elite Thomas Reynolds proved testing.

The Elite Men’s field was hotly contested as expected, with top form making its way from all around New Zealand. Young Tim Roberston (Hutt Valley) hit the ground running to take the win with a time of 14:55 ahead of last year’s champion Toby Scott (Auckland), himself only a first year senior. Tim is proving to be one of New Zealand’s most promising juniors and will head to Slovakia for Junior World Champs in July with high hopes if he can maintain his outstanding form. Scott, 30 seconds back from Roberston, finished a narrow 5 seconds ahead of Christchurch’s Tane Cambridge (Plain and Peninsular) and will be pleased that he is still orienteering well after suffering with some recent injuries. Nick Mead (North West) is showing he is now a runner not to be messed with any longer, achieving his best result to date, also as a first year senior. He claimed 4th place, 8 seconds back from Cambridge, and 11 seconds ahead of the experience Jamie Stewart (Wellington). The elite men’s field is showing good depth with the close times throughout the field.

The tight Elite Women’s race had 17 seconds spanning the top 4 places, with Greta Knarston (Counties Manakau) taking the title with a time of 17:14. Amber Morrison (Hawks Bay) took the early lead, dominating the split times for the first half of the race, but her time suffered after making some mistakes in the later half and she eventually finishing in 8th. Kate Morrison (Hawkes Bay) claimed 2nd place 11 seconds down but a mistake on leg 4 cost her enough time to reverse the deficit to Knarston who was also very clean race accept for one mistake later in the race. Georgia Whilta (Plains and Peninsular) ran a very clean race and squeezed into 3rd place 2 seconds ahead of Imogene Scott (Auckland). Imogene did well to hold her composure after dropping 30 seconds on the first control and is proving to be back on track after spending most of this year injured. The top 5 was rounded off by Angela Simpson (Bay of Plenty) in a time of 18:22, 1:08 off the lead.

Junior grades are getting stronger each year with more school runners taking the step up to the club level. The Men’s 20 grade was won convincingly by Matthew Ogden (North West) who also claimed the fastest time for course 1, ahead all the Elite Men, and showing he is on track for another crack at the Junior World Champs. Fellow Junior World Team mates Nick Hann (Wellington) and Duncan Morrison (Hawkes Bay) picked up 2nd and 3rd respectively. Top Junior Girl Laura Roberston (Hutt Valley) dominated the Women’s 20 grade with a 1:59 lead over Sweden’s Ellinor Tjernlund and 2:02 over official 2nd place Selena Metherall (Plains and Peninsular). Next, after losing some time to mistakes in the latter half of the course, was Cosette Saville (Counties Manakau).

Good performances took the titles in all grades from Men’s and Women’s 10 grade Men’s and Women’s 75. The gruelling New Zealand Long Distance Champs takes place tomorrow north of Parakai and will test a different array of skills to those used in today’s sprint.

A small section of the Elite Men's course