I’m really happy to have won all races at Auckland Champs this weekend. The field was quite small unfortunately but the attendance of some top juniors and Ross Morrison meant that I couldn’t get cocky. I knew my running form was good but I hadn’t been navigating well in my past few races so I had something to prove to myself at least.
The sprint race was held in Thames on Saturday morning. The course was quite tricky with many short legs in detailed buildings. I made a number of small errors throughout the course where I wasn’t planning ahead enough and my running caught up to my navigation. I was getting distracted by some things around me and really struggled to get into the zone. Most of the field lost time on the 3rd last control by assuming is was on the bridge, whereas it was actually on the grass below the bridge. Tommy Hayes had a clean run and finished only one second behind me while Ross lost too much time near the end of the course and finished half a minute down.
The middle distance was also a tricky course in the low visibility forest of ‘Plantation Farm’. I haven’t raced here for a few years so I was happy to get another chance but the map definitely needs some work. My running was very strong and my navigation was mostly good with the exception of losing contact on the way to control 9 and a small mistake at 14. I stayed focused on my compass because it was very easy to drift in the forest with many fallen down trees and steep slopes. On number 14 I made a mess of and easy leg by focusing too much on my running. I relocated off the wrong bend in the stream on the way up the valley and so ran up the steep slope too early. The main time loss was because running along the hill side was very slow but I knew if I kept going I would hit the fence and then the control. I finished with a time more than 7 minutes faster than Carsten and Ross to take the win.
Low visibility forest make for some challenging navigation.
The long distance was raced on a brutal new map at Kawakawa bay. Most of the terrain made for easy navigation but the patches of forest were tricky and many of the controls were in some very sharp re-entrants making them hard to see until the last few meters. The main challenge was of course the highly physical terrain. I think I was just fit enough to handle the hills for the length of the race but at the high intensity I was pushing I didn’t have much energy left.
I made a bad mistake at the first control which put me 3 minutes behind the others very early on but I forgot about that quickly and focused on the race ahead of me and was in the lead by control 6, at the end of a very interesting leg where I think Ross chose the fastest route. Ross and I were still very close at 17 but I manage to put time into him on 18 and 20 which both had significant climbs. I put another minutes into Ross down to 24 to finish with a lead of 3 minutes.
Possible option for 5 to 6 with the best way being my GPS for the first half and the orange line for the second half.
I really enjoyed the challenge of this long distance and there was a lot to think about in order to consistently choose the fastest route. I also love the physical challenge of these massive hills, especially now that I am strong enough to keep pushing hard for the entire length of a long distance.
The next fixture on my calendar is South Island Champs in 3 weeks where there will be a really strong field with most of the elite runners in New Zealand competing.
So after only doing recovery runs and the odd orienteering race for 2 months amongst lots of cycling I decided it was time to take my Achilles out for a proper focused training run. I was excited to get out to Whitford Forest straight after work in East Tamaki to find some hills to hit up. Unfortunately I forgot to print out the map before I left work so I had no idea where I was going to end up but this has not been a problem in the past.
After 45 minutes of pushing quite hard I decided it was time to start heading back to the car but after 70 minutes of heading back in what I thought was the right direction I realised I had stuffed something up. There were some really nice views from the tracks and forest roads I was running on for this last half so I knew what direction I was heading but everything was not ok as by this stage I should have hit the road which I ran in on. Hitting the edge of the forest totally blew my mind because I was a very long way from the car but at least I knew where I was.
So how does this happen? Here it is in simplified form and again with my approximate GPS route.
How I got lost in simplified form and approximately from my GPS.
GPS here on Garmin Connect.
So I boosted 8km back across some farms to my car. I ended doing 21.4km with 800m elevation gain in 1:41 which gives a pace of 4:42 mins/km. Pretty happy with my form going into Auckland Champs but that was a bit too long for a run 4 days out from race day. My Achilles also felt fine for the whole run!
Yesterday I finished off the OY series with another win on the remapped Muriwai area. I will win the series pretty comfortably with Thomas and Matt no longer living in Auckland, but today’s race was not the same standard that I had achieved in the OY 1, OY 4 and OY 5. I was generally very distracted for the first half but I managed to bring some more focus to the last half of the race to finish. Here is a look at my GPS now that I have a Garmin again after my old one broken a few weeks ago.
The first 2 controls were in theory very easy but there was some very recent felling that meant you couldn’t run exactly where you wanted to. On 3 I struggled to hold my direction up the hill because I was thinking too much about running fast and so not checking my compass much. I got confused on 5 trying to work out the tracks and the things I expected to stand out really didn’t. Coming up to 7 I got distracted by a friend and lost map contact but picked up my mistake pretty quickly. The vegetation going to 9 was pushing me around a lot and I didn’t manage to realign coming into the control. 10, 11 and 12 were quite easy but it is obvious that I was not using my compass well. There was a lot of unexpected vegetation going into 13 but I still wasn’t reading the map much. I got pretty confused going to 16 as I must have found some old motor bike track instead of the ones on the map.
I still wasn’t reading a head much on 17 and 18 but I felt to be running quite fast. My choice from 18 to 19 was very risky but I got through the course although I did become a human pin cushion in the process. Some people found it more difficult to get through the vegetation than others but where I passed through was not as bad as shown on the map. From here on I sorted myself out and felt a very obvious change in how smoothly I was moving through the terrain. Compass. Simplification. what next? What next? What next? Leaving 20 I spent a lot of time avoiding cut down trees and although I was off the line I was still in contact with the map. The last 4 legs were almost perfect as I was actually reading the map.
So overall it is better to read the map when orienteering!
I’m really looking forward to Auckland Champs next weekend and will be doing all I can to hit that start line focused. I know my physical shape is steadily improving so I am very excited to apply myself to a race situation especially on 2 new maps.