Alpine Adventuring

My training is still free-wheeling and the moment and so I’m just running steady base training runs in locations of my choice. I didn’t expect to beat the 9 hours of training which I did last weekend in Rotorua this weekend in Ohakune on the back of cold I’ve had this week, but still had some inspiring adventures and some new experiences.

I didn’t write a post on last weekend but you can check out Saturday’s long run on Strava. We ran out of food on this one and really suffered in the last 5km.

My first run this weekend took me from Old Blyth track on Ohakune Mountain Road, along Round The Mountain Track and then most of the way up Turoa Ski Field. The beach forest along for these trails is as beautiful as any in NZ, but the frozen puddles added a novel dimension to the experience. Blyth Track eventually ramped up into a steady climb and popped me out onto the Round the Mountain Track for a stunning view of snow-covered Ruapehu.

Every day should start like this!

Every day should start like this!

The winter form of the North Island’s highest peak

The winter form of the North Island’s highest peak

I followed the Round the Mountain track for 5km before heading full terrain, weaving my way between patches of smaller dense beech trees and eventually out of the tree line and onto the open dirt and scoria fields. I could move a lot faster over the open stones than over the marshy uneven tussock land, further reminding me that at some stage I will need to train more in this “heavy” terrain to become a stronger orienteer.

Ruapeahu steadily ramped up and I pushed on, onto the steeper snowy slopes. The wind was getting quite fierce so I didn’t go as high as I initially wanted to and bailed down a deep valley to get out of the wind. This was a serious challenge for my Icebugs and they delivered on all fronts! I ran across and then down a very steep 100m high slope of compacted snow, sometimes rock hard. My GPS tells me the decline was 30°, which is a serious slope of compact icy snow! The crags below me meant that loosing traction could put me in a pretty serious situation, but fortunately my shoes kept me from sliding to my death.

My Icebug’s loving their natural environment

My Icebug’s loving their natural environment

After not dying I took on another 200 meters of elevation and enjoyed boosting down the ski field to the Turoa café, much to the surprise of all the skiers who I passed! Garmin tells me this run included over 2100m of elevation gain, but I only got to 1600m counting the contours on the topo map. Either way, it’s up there and is setting the standard for the rest of the year to come!

I also did a less extreme run the next day alongside the beautiful  Waikato River on the Huka Aratiatia Walkway in Taupo. This cheeky 26km in the sun completed the weekend perfectly. Follow me on Strava to see this run and more!

Looking forward to enjoying the trails from home next weekend but still haven’t decided where exactly. Waitaks, Woodhill or Riverhead? Probably all 3!

Wild Scotland

8 races in 9 days have given me a great taste of orienteering in Scotland and my first taste of World Champs. I was expected to be finished with WOC after the Sprint relay allowing me to solely compete in the Scottish 6-Days. But with Tim dislocating his arm in the WOC middle distance I was bought back into the team to run the relay with one days’ notice.

The mixed sprint relay team, 12th place

The mixed sprint relay team, 12th place

Here is a quick look at that race which I’m very happy with because I was technically clean and my strategy was also effective. The pace off the start line was insane but I relaxed and set my own pace. This put me almost last for the first few controls. The second set of split controls started from 5 and the 6-way split threw runners in all directions. I stayed focused on my own navigation here and was clean. A route choice possibility after these split controls was an opportunity to rearrange the bunches that were forming but most of my bunch spent too much time running in the rough open and those who used the tracks better made the jump up to the front bunch. I remained a contributing member of the second bunch and came into the 3rd set of splits pushing off the front. I was confident through these controls on my own and found  myself joining into the first bunch when things came back together. It was just a mad chase from here on and my position didn’t change at all. I finished in 12th, the second best place for a New Zealander on first leg. Shamus and Matt both had stable performances and we finished 16th overall, the 3rd best result for New Zealand ever, but in tougher competition than the 2 higher finishes.

You can investigate the GPS tracking for leg one here: www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/2015wocRelayM1/?v=m3

Suffering close to the finish during the relay

Suffering close to the finish during the relay

I raced on this Darnaway map again the following day as part of the Scottish 6-Days, and had a good run again to finish in 4th place in the Men’s Elite field.

The final 2 days of the Scottish 6-Days were held at Glen Affric and were both relatively long races. I finished the latter in 118 minutes, which very few errors. Most of the terrain was very rough and hard to maintain a high speed on because I was falling and stumbling so often. The terrain on these to last days can only be described as incredibly wild. To move through those forests and heather-cover moorland at speed you need to be an absolute beast. It seems my training needs to get tougher and take me into nasty forest more often.

WOC Sprint Qual

My first race at World Orienteering Champs is now done and dusted, and I will have my second this evening here in Scotland. I raced a very tight sprint qualification yesterday and unfortunately didn’t make it into the top 15 of my heat to get into the final. I was happy with my race which went very smoothly but I obviously don’t have the leg speed at the moment to get into the very exclusive final.

Running smoothly and confidently towards the end of the course. Photo credit to Orienteering.It

Running smoothly and confidently towards the end of the course. Photo credit to Orienteering.It

I didn’t feel overwhelmed at all about the magnitude of the competition or the calibre of my competitors. This shows that my race preparation has come a long way in recent times and I can consistently hit the start line with a good balance of intensity and calm. I think doing more high pressure sprint races like this will help me to push harder off the start line more autonomously, whereas currently if I am focused on navigation then naturally my running only gets up to about 95%.

Pain face

Pain face

I’ve drawn my route choices below. No execution mistakes but a few small choices that meant I was a little bit slower than my best possible time. Jan Kocbach’s analysis on World of O shows that even the tops qualifiers were not perfect in this regard.

My routes

My routes

Good luck to Tim, Imy, Laura and Lizzie who did make to the final to be held on Sunday evening!