WUOC Sprint and Middle

The sprint and middle here at WUOC haven’t gone as well as the long distance but I have been able to take some valuable experience from them and I’m pumped for first leg of the relay tomorrow!

Here is the men’s and women’s maps from the sprint.

The sprint was quite a blur for me and I never really got my navigation ahead of the leg. I lost time being generally unsmooth through the first 7 controls. I picked the fastest route on the long leg to 8 and was smooth through the next few controls until my brain failed again leaving 11 and I ran the wrong way for 10 seconds before realising. This wasn’t a great race for me and I think my failure to get on top of my navigation shows that I need more training and high pace and also I need to continue to work on relaxing my mind in these intense races. I finished in 38th place.

Last control of the WUOC Sprint race

Last control of the WUOC Sprint race

The middle was much better for me, and despite a brain fade on an obviously risky leg in the middle of the course I was navigating well and had my navigation well ahead of my legs. I was strong on my compass, simplified the terrain well, and always knew what was coming next. I caught another runner at 17 in a very dense area of forest and left the control without any plan of what to do next and relied on my rough compass bearing. For some reason I wanted to run away from this other runner as fast as possible, which is always a bad idea. After running on a bad compass bearing I managed to relocate and limit my losses to about 1 minute and 20 seconds. I refocused and navigated ok with only a few hesitations for the rest of the race but my mind was noticeably wondering and the thoughts of disappointment were hard to ignore. The courses will be online here some time soon.

My legs were quite tired from the previous days of racing and analysis shows that I was a bit off the pace. I finished in 31st which is an ok result but what I was more interested in was simply having a clean run. Tomorrow I will run first leg for our men’s relay team with Matt and Jourdan.

Pushing hard at the end of the end of today's middle distance.

Pushing hard at the end of the end of today’s middle distance.

Finishing the WUOC Middle Distance in 31st place.

Finishing the WUOC Middle Distance in 31st place.

23rd Place at WUOC Long Distance

Yesterday I took to the start of the WUOC long distance here in Olomouc, Czech Republic and came out with my best overseas performance. As expected based on the training and model events from last week it was one massive route choice exercise with a high portion of running on trails. The terrain was very typical of continental Europe with broad hills, numerous tracks and green areas scattered throughout white forest. This is not terrain I am familiar with coming from New Zealand but it hasn’t taken long to get used to as it isn’t especially complicated.

WUOC 2014 Long distance with my route in red. Click to enlarge.

WUOC 2014 Long distance with my route in red. Click to enlarge.

After feeling a bit panicked yesterday in the sprint relay I was determined to keep relaxed. I think I achieved this today and I took the first leg, which was very short, very slowly because I needed the time to plan leg 2 which was the first of many epic route choices. I ran aggressive and straight for this leg. From this leg on there was a lot of track running  which gave me plenty of time to plan ahead and pick the best routes.

Coming through the spectator run through and coaching zone.

Coming through the spectator run through and coaching zone.

I was running perfect up until number 9 where I was too high and lost about 30 seconds. I ran on the track for the next leg to avoid the hill and used this time to plan the most significant route choices in the last half of the course. It took about 2 minutes to make a decision on the 4 route choices and I was happy with my choices. I ran through a number of other runner throughout the course but I never had the opportunity to run with someone who was at my pace. I made another small error at 15 where I was too high once again on a contouring leg and lost another 15 seconds exciting number 17 with a poor direction. It’s hard to work out how much time is lost from not taking the best route but from discussions after the race it appears that all of my routes were good.

Pushing hard at the finish of the WUOC Long Distance.

Pushing hard at the finish of the WUOC Long Distance.

I finished in a time of 91 minutes and 32 seconds and ended up in 23rd place and only 2 and a half minutes off the top 10. The mind blowing times posted by the top runners are very inspiring and it will take many more years of hard training to be able to run that fast for that long. Results and maps can be viewed here.

WUOC Sprint Relay

Today I was very excited to run my first sprint relay! I didn’t have the race I was hoping for but it was very fun to be a part of. We weren’t allowed GPS watches so I don’t have this on DOMA. The same goes for all the races this week. The team finished 16th today which was ok but I think there is obviously a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of running speed.

Me coming through the spectator leg

Me coming through the spectator leg

The team was Laura, myself, Tessa and finally Matt. Laura had a very good race and put us in 9th place after her leg. Before my start I was feeling quite relaxed and I started calmly. I didn’t understand the trees around my first control and I was really confused leaving this control. I sorted myself out but lost about 30 seconds running too far to the right and stopping to relocate. There were a lot of people running around in front and behind me at the stage as the splits were very significant. I sorted myself out and got back in the zone and ran pretty clean through the rest of the park section up to control 10. However, analysis shows that I lost some time by running too much on the grass and not enough on the paths. The final five legs were very simple and I ran past a runner from Ukraine and handed on to Tessa in 11th place.

Me running into the finish.

Me running into the finish.

It is clear that I need to do more racing under pressure because I find myself falling back on old habits in big races. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s long distance and I feel ready. It will be important to show myself that I can keep my mind relaxed and focused under pressure.

WUOC Models and Being Tourists

The whole New Zealand WUOC team is now together in Olomouc and we have had a good taste of Czech forests in this area. We have had model events for the middle and long and I think I have a good idea of what the race terrain will be like. The team is really enjoying the accommodation here now that the meals are up to full size with all the other teams here too.

The long model area was fast running forest with small and distinct patches of dense young trees and going straight was always fastest. However the race looks twice as steep as this model so going straight won’t always be best on race day. The most significant thing we found while out on this model was that the tracks and rides were very hard to see because they were covered in needles and leaves exactly the same as the rest of the forest. I ran past a ride and a track near 6 without seeing them. I also used this model event as an opportunity to get a better feel for some more route choices. Going my way to 6 was between 30 seconds and 1 minute slower that going straight.

The fast parts of the forests here look like this. #Trimtex

The fast parts of the forests here look like this. #Trimtex

The middle distance model was on the northern end of the race area and was extremely relevant to race day. The map is very flat and the contours offer very little navigational aid. I jogged half of the training to get a feel for the map and I was feeling pretty confident with how I was going. I made one small mistake at 3 where there appeared to be a clearing about 50 meters prior to the control which I had seen from I distance and was expecting the control to be there. This took me 30 seconds to work out and also tricked a few others too. The green areas are low trees with nasty spikey branch which try to poke your eyes out. Generally you can still stay on a compass bearing fine in these areas but if you want to get through these areas fast you can to expect to take a fair amount of pain. As with the long model, the tracks and rides were not very visible.

 

Toby and I jogging around the middle distance model.

Toby and I jogging around the middle distance model.

Matt doing what he does best.

Matt doing what he does best.

We have also been romping around Olomouc looking at old building and eating gelato and have got our party uniforms sorted already so won’t have to worry about them during the race week. Which one these item ended up in our party uniform?

Which one of these did we chose for our party uniform?

Which one of these did we chose for our party uniform?

So many epic churches like this one in Olomouc.

So many epic churches like this one in Olomouc.

Metal model of the Olomouc town centre in the main square.

Metal model of the Olomouc town centre in the main square.

One of the many amazing works in the churches here. A lot of gold went into this one.

One of the many amazing works in the churches here. A lot of gold went into this one.

After one of the training events we were allowed to have a crack on this downhill minicar course. There was a ridiculous amount of crashing during the first few runs, but by the end of the hour there were 5 of us in a very tight battle for the fastest time. I managed to role my minicar on my second run and pull a muscle in my back but that has fixed itself now and I only have a few grazes to remind me.

Hooning down the minicar course.

Hooning down the minicar course.

Hands on the breaks, feet on the steering.

Hands on the breaks, feet on the steering.

First 2 days in Czech

I flew into Prague on Monday and took the train to Olomouc. Transport here seems to run really smoothly and I got all the way to the accommodation by just following my nose. Most of the team were already settled in and had been training already. The accommodation is in a student residence block with all the facilities we need and I think it will be really fun once all the other teams are here too.

I ran my first training on Tuesday which was relevant to the WUOC middle distance with very little contour detail and a patchwork of varying vegetation. Most of the green areas were as shown and the dark green had to be taken seriously. The map felt pretty old as a few of the denser areas had opened and most of the stumps had rotted away. Looking at the old version of the race area I think we will have more open forest on race day. Hopefully more like this!

Our manager Greta out in a beautiful patch of forest.

Our manager Greta out in a beautiful patch of forest.

I struggled to understand the map in some places, which increased the importance of holding an accurate direction with the compass. I found myself practising “If you are going to make a mistake, make it quickly” a few times when taking a bearing into almost featureless forest. The principle behind this is that if there is no more information available from the map then the compass is your only tool and you are equally likely to make a mistake if running faster or slower. The worst case is if you proceed hesitantly and still have to relocate. I used this on 7 and 12 as the vegetation changes prior to the control were difficult to identify.

Aggression is a very important attribute to perform well in this terrain as big time can be lost messing around in the undergrowth. However I was reminded early on that trying to push through a branch of blackberry only results in the thorns digging deeper – but come race day I don’t think that many shits will be given about thorns or stinging nettle.

Wednesday’s training was aimed at the WUOC long distance and the course posed some good route choice problems. Test your thinking against my GPS route – some of the routes I took were obviously not the best but for our learning it was important to know exactly how fast or slow certain options are.

We only did half of course as doing big miles in steep terrain is not in my definition of a taper. Jourdan and I ran together testing different routes to get a feel for when it is time to run on the tracks and when it is time to run straight. I suspect the WUOC long will be one massive route choice exercise.

Renee and I discussing our routes to get a better ideal about what was fast and what was slow.

Renee and I discussing our routes to get a better ideal about what was fast and what was slow. #Trimtex

Me cruising around the long distance training

Me cruising around the long distance training. #Trimtex

Training in Borlänge and Leksand

After leaving Uppsala Rob and his Garden party left for Borlänge to meet with Lars Sjökvist and Karen Gunnerson. This was a good opportunity for Matt and I to train on some hillier terrain than that available in Uppsala. Upon arrival we were treated to a massive lunch before heading out on the mountain bikes for a big adventure including some mountain bike orienteering. This was a good opportunity for me to do some good training without stressing my already tender Achilles. We rode a hard 2 and a half hours through some very varied forest. It is feels strange in Sweden how there are many areas of old sand dunes mixed into the typical rocky forest. That night we had a massive dinner outside in the sun.

On our second day in Borlänge Matt and I ran an orienteering training from the house where we were staying which of course was on the map. We did some very focused side-by-side orienteering aiming for technical perfection and using verbalisation to emphasise all attributes of our technique. This was a great success but we also had to contend with some extremely dense areas of forest which were not mapped as such. I still bear the scratches. I made 1 mistake towards the end of the course at control 17 which could have been prevented by checking my compass more frequently as reading the vague contours proved unreliable. In a race I would have used the tracks more often but I chose not to, to increase the technical difficulty of the training. The course is here on my DOMA page.

We also visited the Falun Copper Mine this day – one of the rare tourist activities we do on these orienteering trips. This mine is over 1000 years old and the company running mining operations did so for 700 years when operations ceased in 1992.  The tour was pretty amazing and walking through the narrow tunnels which opened up into vast rooms felt like being in Lord of the Rings. I also stood directly over a 208 m deep mine shaft. The history of this country is mind blowing compared to that of New Zealand. The main hole was originally created by a massive collapse when there were too many tunnels close together.

Trust me! I'm an Engineer!

Trust me! I’m an Engineer!

Looking straight down 208 meters.

Looking straight down 208 meters.

We also climbed up as ski jump. The people who do this sport are totally nuts! That night another orienteering family joined us for a massive dinner.

From here I could barely see where they would be landing.

From here I could barely see where they would be landing.

The next day I travelled with Rob’s garden party to Leksand to stay in Lars’ Father’s house. This was another beautiful Swedish home and of course was on an orienteering map. The first thing we did was have a massive lunch outside in the sun. I went for another bike ride on this day as a recovery session. It is often hard to do these easy sessions when overseas especially in Sweden because the opportunities to do new and exciting orienteering are often hard to resist, but these will be important for my form coming into WUOC in one week’s time. We had another massive dinner outside – Matt and I have definitely been well taken care of on this trip.

On Sunday Matt and I went for a long run. I was feeling recovered after including a few recovery days into my training over the week prior and my Achilles were not a problem while running, although my patella tracking problem was attempting to make a return. The run was a mix of gravel roads, twisty trails, rough forestry machine tracks and thick forest. We covered 22km with 800m of accent and I still felt strong at the finish. The run included some stunning views of the surrounding town, lakes and hills and also plenty of blue berry eating. Running well on this day was a good sign going into WUOC but I need to be careful not to spend too much time in terrain over the next week. This run was perfect because the road sections provided an opportunity to run fast and relaxed but we still included some terrain to keep the training relevant to orienteering.

Our summer house in Lensand

After a massive lunch we headed back to Uppsala where I spent my last night in Sweden before heading to Olomouc in Czech Republic.