My Sister, Renee, makes some really honest comments on our wonderful sport here in this article.
Renee in Czech Republic last year.
Orienteering is a tough mental battle, and it’s really hard to explain this to people who haven’t experienced it. “The zone” is everything at the top end of the sport. You must be so focused on the map and the terrain otherwise you will make a mistake and lose crucial time. It can be considered a game of risk, where the athlete is under pressure to push physical boundaries, but at the expense of the athlete’s ability to read the map and make decisions. In the moment there is no obvious balance, no green light to tell you when you are in perfect contact with the map, no red light to warm you when you start making a mistake. Only satisfaction and empowerment when you are in control and disappointment and frustration when suddenly you are not where you expect you would be. The athlete doesn’t know that the running-navigation balance is wrong until it’s too late, the best you can do is to practise again and again so that you habitually read the map more effectively, and one day, you might have that perfect race Renee mentions in her article.
One analogy more people could relate to would be an exam, but a unique exam. Unique because the first to finish is the winner, but you have to get each answer correct before you move to the next question. Do you skim read the lengthy questions and take short cuts in your working to arrive at your answer as fast as possible? The faster the better right! This is a race! Until you choke on question 5. Your mistake appears so avoidable in hindsight, but it was not so in foresight.
Now do that exam on a treadmill… turn the speed up… and let’s see how you feel after 90 minutes.
I was mentally and physically wrecked after 90 minutes of racing at the long distance at NZ Champs earlier this year. I lay on the ground for some time at the finish of this race.
I gave my Icebug Acceleritas 4 RB9X shoes there first serious test 2 weekends ago and second bash last weekend. This is my 3rd season now using Acceleritas since I first raced in the Acceleritas 2 for some World Cup Orienteering races in New Zealand back in 2013. Infact I am still using Acceleritas 3 shoes for training in Woodhill Forest after their second tough season.
Seen me boosting around in these guys yet?
My shoe’s first race was the Auckland Sprint Relay Champs held at Botanical Gardens on a mix of soft to muddy grass, gravel footpath, paved roads and some patches of native forest. Maximum traction was required for furiously darting between the gardens and along wooden board walks at full pace. The ruthless tread pattern has not changed significantly since the first Acceleritas and I know exactly how grippy it is. There were a number of legs in this race however when straight line speed was crucial. Boosting along the foot paths I could feel a high degree of efficiency from the low profile fit and firm rubber sole. I can easily feel the difference to the Inov-8 X-talon that I used to wear which were very soft, meaning that not only do inov-8s reduce your efficiency but they would also wear out much faster. This efficiency factor is the reason why I have been preferring firmer racing flats like Adidas Hagio where the terrain allows like on urban sprint races, but the firmness of Acceleritas 4 RB9X is set to change this. I was a bit disappointed that my navigation was a bit messy, but with over a month since I last orienteered it is understandable that I was not thinking at the speed required to master this tight course.
Last Sunday we had another AOS race in Woodhill Forest on the Whites Line map. This is my home terrain and I’m always very confident here so set off at full speed with the goal on driving my intensity through my navigation. I simplified the legs well and tried to run as straight as possible using my compass and looking as far as I could through the forest for my next stepping stone. There were some legs where I chose to avoid rough open areas to maintain a much higher speed in the clean forest. I made one mistake on the way to 22 where I was messing around refolding my map and planning further ahead instead of executing 22 well. I had to build up my speed in the last 3rd of the course as the rough coastal area disrupted my rhythm. I pushed at 100% again for the last 20 minutes only slowing slightly to read the map more clearly in the areas of complex contours. My Icebugs were great again in this terrain. The priority in most of this forest is speed, so the lighter the better, but there are some very sudden steep slopes where the grip allow aggression to be turned into speed and not wasted on slipping around. The deep tread with the large lugs was also great through the open sand blowouts where the more sand you can purchase the more you grip.
This rounds off 2 weeks for 12-13 hours of training per week, mostly endurance style, with some fartlek, but also 2 races to get some time at a very high intensity. I have also been capitalising well on the time I have available on the weekends by doing multiple session each day, and I don’t just mean I did a morning jog. My average training volume for the last 5 weekends has been over 6 hours! So training has been going well under my own guidance, but now I will be transitioning back to my coach Michael Adam’s with a new training structure and a very long build all the way to NZ Orienteering Champs at Easter next year.
If you want to see what I get up to day to day or get some ideas for your own training follow me on Strava.