Alpine O Weekend

Any chance to run on a new map in New Zealand is not an opportunity to be missed. My motivation for doing focused orienteering training in Auckland has dwindled over the past few years, as the repetitive terrain is not challenging the skills I really need to work on. Take a local race from a few weeks ago, where I wasn’t all that focused but still managed to put together an almost perfect race. It’s better than nothing but the good visibility and runnability only challenge a small part of my skill set.

This is why Alpine O-Weekend was extremely appealing and extremely beneficial. The 3 races based near Castle Hill in Canterbury gave me a hiding day by day, control by control. The dense beech forest and steep hills are the total opposite to my speciality, and force me to up my game, or die, or both!

The short distance on Saturday was a hectic blast through some very dense and very tricky terrain adjacent to Castle Hill Village (Map on DOMA). I was getting my ass kicked from the start and I tried to maintain full aggression but my navigation suffered. High levels of complacency were obvious, a side effect of most of my orienteering training in Auckland being in high-visibility pine forests. I was surprised to finish in second place – it was clear that many people had trouble – but I was not satisfied with the sloppy performance and I looked for tomorrow for another chance to prove myself worthy.

Original plan in red compared to actual route.

Long Distance: Original plan in red compared to actual route.

What the **** is going on?!

Short Distance: What the **** is going on?!

I started strong in the long distance (Map on DOMA), and was close to perfect until control 9, which felt too high at the time, and my GPS agrees. 10 was the first big challenge of the course and I failed to meet my expectations, losing contact early in the leg and unnecessarily running through multiple dark green areas before relocating off the river. I tried to salvage the leg by changing plans and getting myself to the track, but screwed up the approach into control 10 by hitting as much dark green as possible. All up I lost more than 2 minutes, but I refocused and got back into the game, executing 11, 12 and 13 well and moving aggressively into the long leg to 14.

Once again my lack of care around the dark green areas punished me duly, and I lost a minute and a half getting stuck in head high bushes descending into the large valley, despite the map clearly showing a clean way down the slope which I ran straight past. Here I was passed by Matt and Chris, making me 6 minutes off Matt’s leading time at this stage in the course, and a little deflated. I pushed hard and caught the speeding pair but shortly after this Matt made a big mistake and put himself out of contention leaving Chris and I together. I had the belief that I could drop Chris and knew that putting him under immense pressure to force a mistake was my best shot at winning, but we were too well matched physically and I never got passed him, nor did his navigation seriously falter. Another second place for me, but I remained disappointed by my foolish actions leaving 9, approaching 10, and descending through the dark green midway to 14.

The final day was a middle distance, albeit a rather long middle distance (Map on DOMA). The intensity of the course was high and I was hungry for a win, but a poor start with a mistake at number 1 was not what I needed. My main fault here was relying on the vegetation too much, which appeared obvious from the map but was patchy in the terrain and led me astray. I was very precise from here on, and knew that I would have to push well into the red zone to stay competitive with Matt, who was just as hungry for a win. The forest section from 14 to 20 was the main challenge for me and I had a lot to prove to myself. I was thorough and focussed here and only made a small mistake approaching 15. I was physically reckless but navigationally precise and for the first time over the weekend felt true mastery of the skill of orienteering. My aggression was fading quickly down towards the finish and I was absolutely rekt on the finish line. I was narrowly beaten by Matt giving me 3 second places over the weekend, but most importantly for me, a tough test on challenging terrain to complement my good physical training over the past 2 months since my returning from Europe.
Happy to get through this section at full speed with no major issues.

Middle Distance: Happy to get through this section at full speed with no major issues.