Dream Realised in Lunsen

I nice looking patch of Lunsen

I very nice looking patch of Lunsen

It was many years ago when I discovered the Lunsen orienteering map while browsing online and I have now finally have the pleasure of training on it. OK Linnés Albin Ridefelt set a 16km session broken into a number of short courses with different focusses. I was glad we had a low pace section first to give me time to get into the map. I was a bit worried about making a big stuff up because it is very hard to relocate in this terrain with no tracks and so much similar contour detail. There were also no control markers. Below are sections 1, 3, and 5 of the training.

Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the training.

Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the training.

The forest was much denser than expected and the thick knee-high bushes and uneven ground made running very hard. The marshes were very soft and although they were flat, they were not as fast as running up and down over the high points in most cases. The high points are not easy going either, as the undergrowth can still be thick and any bare rock is often cracked and fragmented. There was a lot of jumping and leaping and I can see the significant benefits of doing plyometric training for this terrain.

Mass start with splits. (Only my course was visible for the training). GPS had some issues and cut out twice.

Mass start with splits. (Only my course was visible for the training). GPS had some issues and cut out twice.

Section 2 of the training was a mass start with splits. I was really struggling to read the necessary features on this exercise and was very unsure of where I was most of the time. I used the clearings a lot to relocate myself because the hills were not standing out to me. I was impressed by the aggression and confidence of the others in this high-stakes terrain. On the second easy section I tried to ignore the others and find my own flow. I gradually got better and seeing the hills but many were still not clear to me and I had to relocate a number of times. The rocks were helpful but there were some rocks which seemed big to me but were obviously not on the map so had to be ignored.

Contours only on Lunsen!

Contours only on Lunsen!

I was feeling pretty tired at the start of this contours only section proving the physicality of this terrain. I hit this exercise quite hard and I was getting quite good at picking up the contour shapes. Matt caught me 20 seconds at number 11 and we pushed hard and finished a long time before anyone else. I was starting to feel quite confident with my technique and didn’t let make Matt distract me.

Mass start proluge and chasing start.

Mass start proluge and chasing start.

The final hard section was broken into 2 parts, mass start, and reverse chasing start based on the mass start. I was feeling much more confident and tried to run away from Albin to take the lead but he was strong and I had to hesitate a few times coming into the first finish. I did the same in the reserve chasing start but lost time trying to run through a marsh that was a lot softer than I expected. I never caught Albin once he passed me and Matt also stayed clear, but we were a long way ahead of the rest. Everyone was pretty tired after those 16kms.

Car Park

I was very happy with how I progressed over this session and the OK Linne guys who train here often were impressed that I picked it up so quickly. It probably is the hardest area I have ever orienteered and it is easy to see how top orienteers can make big mistakes. I’m not sure if I should have another training on Lunsen before I leave to Czech Republic or if I should quit while I’m ahead.

O-Ringen Part 2/2

The weather was still hot and O-Ringen was still pumping. Stage 4 of this year’s O-Ringen was my favourite stage, but for all those how lost lots of time in the first few controls it may be have been their least favourite. The map featured some very detailed areas of re-entrants, rocks and cliffs as well as some very fast beach forest. I ran a very disciplined race through the first 5 controls and didn’t make many errors putting me in 10th place.

First 5 controls of stage 4

First 5 controls of stage 4

I gained another 2 places on the long leg to 6 but had some issues on the way to 7 starting with the drinks point being in the wrong place. I was pretty flustered on 7 and 8 as I struggled to get my focus back. I freaked out a bit on 9 and took the safe option. I saw the control from a distance but was getting confused and though that it was definitely not mine. After relocation I had more trouble in the rough terrain and lost a bit more time on the way to 10 and 11. I got caught up by a fast Swede at 12 and followed him for a few hundred meters. I used this opportunity to relax and got back into my navigation leading him to 13 and staying clear until I made a small mistake at 17. I was clean for the rest of the course but still never saw him again.

I finished 18th on the stage which was my best result so far. I lost a few minutes in the middle of the course but my running was much stronger and I was able to push through the denser areas more aggressively than in the previous stages. Matt was sick on this day and so ran quick slowly meaning I would beat him overall.

A very tired Matt

A very tired Matt

Stage 5 was on the least Swedish area I have ever been on in Sweden. It was all continental beach forest very similar to a lot of central Europe including where I will be racing in Czech Republic in 2 weeks’ time. Of course with any good 5 day competition the last stage will be an intense chasing start based on overall times from the 4 previous stages. I started in 22nd place less than 22 minutes off the leader and 9 seconds behind another runner and also with another runner close behind me. Most of the course was pretty easy but the pressure of racing side by side with other runners caused to me make some hasty decisions. I ran away from my pack which grew to 6 runners on 4 occasions but made mistakes and was caught on the first 3 times. I finally broke away on the way to 13 and stayed clear to the finish to claim 21th. This is my best performance at O-Ringen and I feel like I will be ready to tackle the elite class next year.

It was such an amazing feeling to come over the hill at the last control to see thousands of people screaming. The hilltop view over the ocean was surreal and I think the organisers this year had some amazing ideas which I was lucky to be a part of. The O-Ringen week really is an epic one and I encourage everyone from New Zealand to add it to their travels in Europe. Weeks like this have made the biggest difference to me as an orienteer and I look forward to racing O-Ringen again next year.

This is a must see video filmed on stage 5 this year.

 

O-Ringen Part 1/2

Somehow I avoided the effects of jet lag and had perfect sleeping patterns from day 1 in Sweden. This was especially convenient as day 2 was my first race day. I arrived at O-Ringen at midday in the intense summer sun, the hottest week Sweden has had so far this year and caught up Rob, Marquita, Renee and Matt after a short training and a swim.

This is the training map I ran on with some friends from Stockholm which was relevant to stage 3 of this year’s competition. This was my first run in 3 days so it is always interesting to see how the legs feel as often time off does strange things to me. My navigation was ok in this training which was good for my nerves.

After another good night’s sleep I hit the start line of O-Ringen for the fourth time. It took me 4 controls to get into the terrain and to get my rhythm going but when it did I felt confident despite the unfamiliar terrain. There were a number of important route choices in the first stage, most of which I got wrong – going straight was significantly slower for 11 and 19 and I lost a lot of time on these legs. Overall I was happy with my navigation on this stage as I only had problems at 2 controls and had learned a lot about the speed of the forest, knowledge that I could take into the second stage to help me make better route choice decisions. Physically I didn’t feel great and my hamstrings were cramping after being worked much harder than they ever would in the New Zealand forests I am used to. This was also the first time I had raced again Matt Ogden since February so was an opportunity to reignite our rivalry.

Hearing the sound of the commentary getting louder and louder through the final few controls as more and more people emerge from the forest to descend upon the finish control is a very special experience and makes it so obvious just how massive this sport is in Scandinavia.

Stage 2 was held on the same area but featured less hills and more low visibility forest. I made much better use of the tracks and roads on this stage, and I was running a lot better than the previous day. I also only experienced cramp near the end of the race. I still finished 11 and a half minutes behind the leader after a pretty good race. The difference in pace is mainly due to the stony ground which those who live and race in Sweden are much better at running over quickly. I had extremely sore toes from stumbling on the stony ground already. Matt started only 2 minutes before me and I was excited to pass him on the way to control 12. I finished pretty strongly and put 5 and a half minutes into Matt but still couldn’t get close to the winner’s time. I really enjoyed this race because of the variation across the map and even across single legs.

The third stage of O-Ringen was a middle distance on beautiful piece of sand dune forest with open and sandy areas. This terrain was very natural for me and I found my flow very quickly. I was going very well until number 11 where I lost 3 minutes doing a pretty serious parallel error. I also had the contours in the control circle backwards in my head so was having a lot of trouble relocating. I ran the rest of the course well and finished in 34th place. Matt had a good run and finished in 5th place meaning he was beating me by half a minutes after 3 days of racing. I was in 8th place before my mistake so I know my speed is good in this terrain but at full pace may navigation is still unstable, but always improving.

I am currently staying with Matt in Uppsala and have reliable internet access so I will get the final 2 stages from O-Ringen up online tomorrow plus a more in depth look at stage 4 which was my favourite.

Well done to all those at JWOC!

Travelling to Europe

I’m pretty relieved to get the 2 day journey to O-Ringen over and done with without a hitch. I left New Zealand on Thursday night and arrived in Stockholm 29 hours later after flying through Los Angles and Munich. I had short stops in both cities and this could be the fastest trip I’ve had to Europe. But the travelling only finished after a 4 hour drive to Kristianstad with IFK Lindigo runner Anders Calsson.

Departure from Auckland to start my journey to Sweden

Departure from Auckland to start my journey to Sweden

I have taken very few measures to overcome the jet lag I will experience over the next few days mainly because of inflexibility around work. In the past I have changed my sleep cycle by up to 5 hours while still in NZ making the transition to the new time zone much less severe. I would also like to have tried to adjust eating and light exposure times – a strategy I haven’t tried in the past. However this was very difficult with the timing of meals and lighting on planes being inflexible. As I am racing ridiculously soon after arriving in Sweden I also had to ensure I got enough sleep so that I am not too tired to race well. This means that taking opportunities to have short naps during Swedish daytime hours could be a good thing for my performance during my first races although it may slightly delay my complete adjustment.

As usual I’m determined to not let jetlag affect my mental and technical performance. However, I must be accepting if I find my brain is fried and not be hard on myself if I’m doing all I can to orienteer as well as I have been in New Zealand over the past month.

Taking off from Munich to Stockholm

Taking off from Munich to Stockholm

Tomorrow I look forward to getting a run on the O-Ringen training map to tune my navigation to the Swedish terrain as much as possible before racing on Sunday. I have raced here many times before and understand the most important techniques in theory, but to perform well in a race situation I need to hit the start line knowing what the terrain will feel like, not just look like. This year I am racing H21L (M21 long) which consists of 4 12k long and a 6km middle distance with the last long being a chancing start. This is a format I really love and to complete the whole week (assuming one is racing ok) is extremely rewarding. O-Ringen is also very social and if the weather is good it will be a week in heaven more me!

I will try my best to get my GPS routes up on my DOMA page as soon as possible after each race.

More Injuries but Feeling Ready for Europe

It’s been a pretty rough year all up with 6 independent injuries so far. Firstly there was my right vastus lateralis tendon which didn’t handle my high volume over summer as well as my lungs. This took about 2 months of few little training but with it gone in later February I got my teeth into the best training I’ve done all year (including some speed work which is a rarity now). Over this period I developed medial tibial stress syndrome in my right shin. Lots of cycling and running on soft ground got me through NZ Orienteering Champs on good form but the increaseed length of time on soft ground, particularly at high intensity at NZ Champs, left me with Achilles tendonitis on both sides. This tipped my training back to becoming cycling based and both the stress syndrome and tendonitis went away during this period marking 2 months for the stress syndrome and 1 month for my Achilles. In May I bizarrely developed a neural tension issue in my left sciatic nerve felt as a sharp stabbing pain below my ankle if I extended my leg into certain positions. This forced me to steer my training away from terrain to prevent further damage and after a precautionary week off I found I could complete most of my training on firm grass or on the bike with no issues.

In early May I had started to include strength and conditioning back into my training as I had been doing in the last two years but this time I was determined to build it up much slower. Shortly after the pain from the neural tension issue became less frequent, I had to have more time off to prevent my ITB syndrome from developing further. It came on very rapidly on both sides and I didn’t really know why but in hindsight I suspect too much time sitting at work had allowed by hip flexors to tighten. I missed a number of weeks of quality training before I made progress into the issue and after icing and stretch the pain became more irregular and appeared to shift into the sides of both my knee caps. This caused a much more predicable pain which I relieved by stretching my quads and after 2 weeks of continued quad stretching the issue was gone.

The first day that I felt no pain was 2 Saturdays ago. But it was not a day without problems. Something in my left buttock began to get significantly sore. I suspected this was a follow on from the tight glutes I was experiencing over the 5 days prior or maybe from the increased amount of rolling and trigger balling I was doing. . Warren from SportsLab suspected it was referred pain from my quadratus lumborum after poking around last Friday. I raced really well last Friday and pushed hard for the entire race with no problems but after I cooled down I couldn’t run more than a few steps without the pain becoming uncomfortable.

After taking last week completely off I gave my legs a tester yesterday and a proper run in the Waitaks yesterday. Everything went well so I’m hopeful that my injuries have passed enough to not inhibit my racing over the next month in Europe. I fly out tomorrow!

Here are the 2 quality orienteering session I did last weekend. AOTC training on Saturday and Auckland OY 1 on Sunday. Both were in a relatively familiar area but I was feeling disciplined and focused almost all of the time. I was genuinely confused with a few spots in the open dunes on both days and I also struggled with a section of Saturday’s corridor exercise. I was patient and went back to a last known point twice but could make sense out of the map. After removing the corridor on OCAD and overlaying the GPS I could see where I ended up but my GPS track didn’t agree with the contour features I had passed on the way so I think the area is at least a little bit warped.

AOTC Training by Matt Goodall

AOTC Training by Matt Goodall

My GPS for Auckland OY 1 shows a pretty good race.

My GPS for Auckland OY 1 shows a pretty good race.

Expect some good posts about my time in Sweden and Czech Republic over the next month!