After a disappointing performance in the middle distance at the World Cup in Tasmania it was hard to maintain confidence leading into the long distance. I was pretty blown away with how many mistakes I made at the middle distance and I’m still not entirely sure how they all happened. I gained a lot of confidence from the long distance model event the day before the race and stayed more relaxed than usual for such a big race. The model also showed me that the mapping was much easier to interpret than middle distance mapping and the features I expected to be distinct on the map were distinct in the terrain.
As I took to the start line I noticed control number 3 was also a drinks control indicating that leg 3 was probably quite long. In fact it was 3.8km long, the longest leg I have ever had to do. From the start I spent a short time simplifying the first leg and then spent as much time as possible planning how I was going to approach 3. My simplification was good and I got the first control smoothly and avoided some of the slowest areas. My approach for 2 was the same, simplify and focus on planning 3. I found 2 ok with minimal navigation but still only finalised my route 20 seconds up the hill after punching the control.
To the right is my route with key simplification features for 1 and 2.
Route for 1 and 2 in red with key points in green. Click for enlargement
I was mostly happy with my route for 3 but I could have travelled a bit straighter in 4 places shown by the blue lines.
My route for the longest leg of my life. Click for enlargement.
I was clean and smooth through the next few controls until 7 where I made my most significant mistake of the race. Initially I was expecting the contour passing through 7 to be obvious from a distance but lower visibility in this area and the broken ground meant this was not the case. My initial direction after the stream was not good and I ended up too far to the right. I attempted to relocate off a water course but I think the water course I found was too small to be on the map. Finally I bailed out to the north and relocated off the pond. I lost about 2 minutes here which was disappointing.
I also caught Tim Robertson here and I hoped this would mean we would be able to push harder together but neither of us were on good enough form to run much faster. I was clean through all the next controls accept for being slightly low on 12 after the spectator and some hesitations coming into 17.
Route through 10 to 14.
Chasing Tim through the spectator control. We should be heading a bit more to the left.
There were route choices right to the end in this course and I was still planning ahead well and I think I made the best decisions for me on 20, 21 and 22.
Physically I was running ok and still felt strong towards the end of the course but I was having trouble with my hip flexors cramping. I think this was due to all the jumping over fallen trees and branches and powering through the undergrowth in the early part of the course. This cramping definitely effected my aggression in the last 15 minutes as I was having to move over fallen branches sideways instead of jumping straight over. I was also lowering my leg lift to avoid cramping which caused me to trip over a number of times. This leads me to exactly the same conclusion as The Goat in December and I will be looking at improving my muscular conditioning by running in rougher terrain more often.
I finished with energy left in the tank which didn’t feel quite right and although my cardiovascular system would have allowed me to go harder for longer the cramping indicated to me that there were weaker links in my body what would not have allowed it. I finished 29th, a result I am happy with based on the caliber of the athletes around me.
Route through the last part of the race. Click for enlargement.
This concludes my trip to Tasmania and overall I was really impressed by the quality of the races in terms of the technical and physical challenges of the orienteering and the enjoyment of the races and event set up. This trip has reminded me of the importance of travelling to areas with different types of terrain and has encouraged me to travel within New Zealand and Oceania more often.
I will start a new training block now building for NZ Orienteering Champs with the clear goal of achieving consistency in training through effective injury prevention.
On the 4th of January I ran in the Oceania Relay Champs in an amazing setting bellow Mt Barrow on the Benbullen map. This was another opportunity for me to get some high speed navigation. I was only racing for the second New Zealand team but pulled out a good performance to be the first New Zealander home on the first leg behind New Zealand and Australia.
A few seconds after the start with Mt Barrow in the Background
The front of the pack heading out over the paddocks
All grades started at the same time making this a massive mass start for any race in the Oceania region. The elite course started with a 3-control split and I stayed relaxed and focused on my own navigation as the field spread out across the hill side. The pace was fast from the start but I felt quite relaxed and held back a bit until my navigation was flowing nicely. I began to push hard from 3 and found myself near the front of the leading pack entering the forest for number 7.
The first half of the course had been easy navigation, but the low visibility of the forest made the second half much more technical. The undergrowth in the forest was also high and hid many of the rocks and control flags. Controls 8 and 9 were very decisive legs with many runners getting stuck behind the green at 8 and even more struggling to find 9 cleanly. I had identified 9 as a risky control and was disciplined on my compass once I left the track and also picked up the vegetation change to lead me close enough to the control to see it in the high bracken. I didn’t realise that Sweden’s Oskar Sjöberg, Australia’s Simon Upphill and I had a significant lead at this stage.
Running through the spectator leg in second place
I ran to the road for 10 with Oskar and planned ahead to 13. I think this was beneficial as I ran very smoothly on my own through to 13 where I re-joined Oskar, My first mistake came at 17, where I thought I had seen the hill top on the edge of the control circle but instead I had only seen the rise around the large boulder cluster 50 meter before the hill. I ran back and relocated off 2 small boulders before checking my direction and running further than previously to find the control. I lost 1 minute on this leg. I was very flustered here and took off too fast as Simon and Sweden’s William Lind had passed me during my mistake. I ran passed William on the way to the finish to move back into 3rd and was surprised to learn about how spread out the field had become.
I handed over to Thomas Reynolds and Matthew Jeans to finish the relay in our all NWOC team, while the official New Zealand and Australian teams battled it out for the test match points.
Photos belong to Orienteering Australia.
On the 2nd of January we ran the World Cup sprint race qualification at Cataract Gorge, and on the 3rd the sprint final at the University of Tasmania both here in Launceston. The NZ team overall had disappointing results in the men with our top sprinter, Tim Robertson, missing out on qualifying and Nick Hann miss-punching. Cam Tier, Shamus Morrison, Thomas Reynolds and myself all ran well enough to make the final. All our girls made a sprint final with Lizzie Ingham our top qualifier.
I thought this was a fun race on some different terrain. It wasn’t super hard which was expected given that it was just the qualification. You can see the map below and thankfully we had a map flip because this version is extremely cluttered. My route isn’t on there because it’s too messy to draw on one page.
World Cup sprint qualification, heat A.
Yesterday we ran the sprint final on the flat campus map of the University of Tasmania. I was confident with this type of sprint orienteering, as were most of the New Zealanders, but we couldn’t match the speed of the top Europeans. Lizzie is on good running form but unfortunately could put the navigation together on the day and finished in 20th place, making Laura Robertson the top girl in 18th place. The top men were Cameron Tier in 28th and myself in 30th after mostly clean races.
World Cup sprint final with my route drawn.
My race started a bit messy with me misreading the fences behind the first control and I lost about 5 seconds changing my plan once I saw them. I was planning ahead really well from the start and except for exiting 1, was perfectly smooth through the first half of the course. I was also very comfortable checking my numbers in advance and descriptions whenever I had doubt about the control placement like on 8 and 10. My running began to fall apart at about 10 and my navigation was noticeably less throughout form this stage and I didn’t plan 11 well enough to take the shortest route. I made another small error on the way to 13 when I was planning the control circle and also hadn’t planned ahead upon leaving the control and lost another 5-8 seconds. Because of the hesitating I had recovered a fraction and broke into my planning ahead rhythm again.
Photo taken from the first spectator leg just after leaving control 9.
14 onwards was also less technical and so planning ahead was easier. I made my biggest mistake however very close to the finish on number 20 along with about half the field. The control placement was on the right hand side of the wall but it seemed natural to most people that it would be on the left hand side and so I had to run a little extra there. I was also running noticeably slower towards the end of the course and it was clear I hadn’t done enough speed work to hold the pace I wanted too.
I thought this was a really fun sprint but there were opportunities on this map to make the course harder which were not taken by the race planner.
Tom and I with our final placings
I have been in Tasmania for 5 days now and have done 2 quality training sessions with the other New Zealanders here in preparation for World Cup Round 1 starting today. The 2 forest maps we have been on were mostly relevant for the long and middle distance.
I did this first training on Mt Pearson alongside Chris Forne so that we could discuss the map and give each other instant feedback on our navigation. The training was broken into 3 parts, the first focussing on comparing our stepping stones and route choices, the second focussing on navigating faster with an increased pace, and the third to get more time in this unfamiliar terrain. I started off navigating pretty well and I found the rocks and contours were pretty clearly mapped. I was interested in the vegetation in the gullies as this was pivotal for route choices and in most cases it was soft and so we could push through it without any problems. The runability through the forest was quite variable with some slopes having a lot of fallen branches and trees not shown on the map and the hill tops and spurs having more spread out trees with very few branches on the ground. It was mostly easy to pick the best line to run through the forest as the visibility was very good.
These photos taken from the same spot facing in opposite directions show the variable runability in these Tasmanian forests.
Looking in one direction
Looking in the other direction
I made some mistakes near the end when I was getting tired and thirsty, but gained essential confidence throughout this session and it was extremely fun orienteering in terrain very different to what I get back in NZ.
The second training was on Livelys Bog, again with a mix of exercises to further improve our confidence with different elements in this terrain. The dense vegetation in the marshes on this map was denser than the previous day’s and avoiding the dark green was always the best option. We didn’t have great success in the line following exercise which indicated to us that simplifying the rock detail would be essential to help us navigate more smoothly. We also think the map in that area was not perfect as we spent a long time in some areas and still didn’t understand them. In the mass start section I lost contact on 2 occasions which I was disappointed about. Both problems could have been avoided by using the contours more and staying stronger on my direction, as I was spending too much time trying to pick the best line to run through the bracken and branches
Matt Ogden and I managed to contract food poisoning and so I didn’t do any proper training on the 30th but managed a small run on a sprint map on the 1st. I’m feeling much better now but still not perfect and I’m not sure how my body will be when I’m running hard in today’s sprint qualification.