Long Weekend at NZ Champs

It’s always tough dealing with the difference between expectation and reality when you perform well below your potential. Although I consider my first training block of the year to be quite successful, it was not without some disappointments, the most major being in the long distance race at NZ Orienteering Championships 3 days ago.

NZ Champs started with the sprint race in central Nelson on Friday. I was in contention for the lead most of the way through the fast race, but a small mistake – a common one not seeing an impassable fence – dropped me from 1st to 3rd. I finished 9 seconds from the leading time of Nick Hann, with Matt Ogden in second. I enjoyed the sprint, and although it did not have the toughest navigation it was very rapid, and had some traps which caught a few people out. We then moved on from Nelson to the stunning setting of St Arnaud for the forest races.

Icebug NZ teammate, Nick, and I stoked with the setting of this year’s NZ Champs

Icebug NZ teammate, Nick, and I stoked with the setting of this year’s NZ Champs.

Saturday’s middle distance was a very interesting in some very dense beech and manuka forest. The vegetation was mapped very well, although it did take some getting used to in order to interpret the light green properly, which often felt like rough open. This was noticeable at my first control, where a large portion of the elite field had trouble, including myself. I was very disappointed after losing too much time to be in contention for a high place but did manage to get my focus back and race quite well from 3 onwards. This was the thickest forest I have ever orienteered in, but the quality of the mapping meant that it was much more enjoyable than I would have initially thought.

Next up was the long distance, my favourite! I had been pretty clear that I have wanted to win this race for a few years now, finishing in 2nd place for the last 2 years. The terrain this year was very hilly and slow underfoot, so not my ideal conditions, but I knew that I had done the right training and was fit enough to win. My start was ok, losing a bit of confidence on the first control but quickly regaining it and getting up to full speed through to 4 and then attacking the first long leg to 5. It all went wrong on the way to 5, where I somehow got 2 course lines mixed up on the map and accidentally navigated most of the way to 11 instead of 5. This was a big emotional blow as I knew I would never be able to get back in contention after this 10 minute error. This was NZ Champs, and I still wanted to race, so I got my brain back into gear. Unfortunately, after 2 more legs I had a big fall through some dense undergrowth on the very steep hill side descending to control 7 and lost my nerve on the steep hills. This was frustrating, and along with breaking my Garmin GPS watch in the fall, it made it difficult to maintain focus. I completed the course, but without the motivation to push for the win I was a long way off the impressive time set by Chris Forne.

The long weekend wrapped up with the relay – a race I always look forward to. I love the pressure of head to head racing in these mass start events. I started calmly as usual and waited for those around me to settle down and let the intensity of the race take its toll. Nick Hann broke away and I found myself in second place, leading the first main bunch until a small mistake put me to the back of the bunch. The last km of the course had much harder navigation, and I made 2 small mistakes here with Matt Ogden, putting us in 5th and 6th. Matt’s team went on to be our top NWOC team, finishing 2nd once again.

So my results are a much lower standard than that of previous years, but I will continue working hard in the hope that next time will give me the results I want. Firstly though, I will be having 2 weeks off training to allow my body some time to recover completely and then I will begin my next training block. I’m also looking forward to working more with Sportslab on my running mechanics and injury prevention and with Icebug in the trail running and orienteering scenes.



Going Hard

Today I had a race. A race against my own body and mind. A race of will power.

I had 7 and a half minutes in which to prove myself. To prove that either I’m either up for the challenge of becoming a great runner, or that have to concede that I am a slave to my own hardwired predispositions. These 7 minutes were broken into 6 75-second hill sprints. Lactic hill reps, my coach calls them, while I call the death reps. It’s a pretty simple session; you try to run harder than you think you can up the hill and then walk back down, 6 times.

I get nervous about these session 2 days out and I don’t even batter an eyelid at my 3 hour long hilly runs. The concern that bubbles up inside me is natural, but not to be listened to because success in this session is about being aggressive and pushing past boundaries, especially mental boundaries. For me it’s boiled down this; the difficulty of a run is more to do with the mental effort, the concentrated power of will, than time or distance. The longer the run, the more you pace yourself, especially if the training is prescribed at a comfortable intensity. As you get tired you may get slower, but here the decision is simple and you just keep the rhythm flowing, you keep sitting on that threshold. This hurts, but not in the same way these sorter efforts hurt. In these hill sprints I am straining my brain to tell my body to shut up because I am way out of control, far past the threshold. Here there is no rhythm. There is urgency like nothing else and much more screaming. My consciousness is having a screaming battle with my body louder than in any endurance race.

8 reps next week.