WOC 2017

WOC this year in Estonia is now over and a lot of the team is feeling rough after a bad last day for both the men’s and women’s relay team. Some of the individual results showed some progress but there is also a lot of thinking to do about WOC and how to perform well at this event. I find it both useful and interesting to go over my races in QuickRoute so I’ve put my maps on my DOMA and expressed a few thoughts about each race and how I would like to improve. I would have liked to be able to post after each race but I didn’t have the time or energy. I hope you find them good viewing with plenty of mistakes in there!

All 3 forest races at WOC were true to their intention, with the long distance presenting some really interesting route choices and tough terrain and the middle and relay being the ultimate technical challenge at speed. I liked both areas, but didn’t care much for the last 3 controls of the long distance which where all for TV coverage and offered very little for the athletes. I would have also liked to have seen some of the marshes in the long distance area mapped as impassable marsh to help athletes avoid the worst parts.

A lot of energy has gone into preparing me for the long distance this year and although I was very motivated on the day, I started without the great physical shape I have become familiar with over the past 6 months. I was happy with most of my earlier routes but I was much less thorough with my planning later in the course and I took some less than perfect, but not disastrous routes. I had a few little mistakes, which are always a bit annoying, but given the length of the race these probably only dropped me one or 2 places. I was slowing significantly towards the end and began to battle some stitch and cramp, as did many in this hardest of races – hamstrings being the main problem for many. I finished in 37th place, New Zealand’s best result since Chris Forne in 2011, but I remain very hungry for a result that I feel better reflects my ability at this discipline. Nick Hann would have finished a few spots higher than me but unfortunately crossed an out of bounds area, so will have to return in future years to get the result he deserves.

GPS of WOC Long on DOMA and gpsseuranta

WOC longs are always the hardest orienteering race of the year. We don’t get many tough long distances in New Zealand so it’s a massive step up running WOC with the winning times set up for the tops Europeans. I love the challenge, but I’m rethinking my plan of doing well at this race from New Zealand. With only 2 weeks of specific preparation in technical terrain I’m not sure how far up the rankings I can go.

The middle distance was a very different race for me, and I know that I haven’t trained my orienteering enough to expect a good results in this discipline. I also haven’t done anything at speed in this terrain before so I started with very conservative route choices. I was quite clean through the first 7 controls and although I got more confident at this stage I also got more distracted by other runners around me and lost concentration a number of times. I had a moment when I took control, but this was short lived as I struggled to feel flow through the greener areas and lost the other runners around me. I was a bit annoyed about this and never regained my flow, although in general I did have a lot more confidence to carry into the relay.

GPS of WOC Middle on DOMA and gpsseuranta

The relay went badly for both New Zealand teams and I feel a lot of responsibility for starting us off on the back foot with my mistakes early on in the first leg. I can’t really say what happen on that first control because it was all just a big blur. I wasn’t pushing hard physically but I never gained contact with the map and made a significant parallel error with a number of other runners, including some of the worlds’ best first leg runners. I lost more time on 2 and made some smaller mistakes later in the course, but after losing the pack on the first control I was destined to finish well behind the leaders.

GPS of WOC Relay on DOMA and gpsseuranta

I was never focused during this race and I regret my earlier confidence in my preparation. If I am serious about getting better at orienteering I need to sleep more and have more down time to prevent my mind from being overloaded and getting into this frantic noisy state. Right now I have too much on my mind to have the clarity of thought required to perform well in orienteering. I achieved this well in 2014 and 2015 but have since become excited about many other things and have been on the productivity buzz for too long. Although the signs have been there for weeks; restless sleep, tired legs, more injuries, easily distracted at work, I didn’t have a good way to get out of other commitments and had always been relying on my 2 weeks in Estonia before WOC as a chance to rest. This strategy worked before Oceania Champs, but not at all before WOC where my sleep quality was at its lowest point. I haven’t come close to practicing what I have preached and as a coach this feels rather silly.

My WOC preparation

Tim had a nightmare on 3rd leg that dwarfed mine and we finished a long way down. There were disasters for many teams and I have never seen so many men crying at the finish of a race before. I’m sure this provided great entertainment for the spectators but this was a race many athletes would like to forget.

Photo from the middle distance. Photo cred: WOC

I’ve now returned to Finland to race Fin5 and spectate at JWOC. I’d like to practice more orienteering and I’m looking forward to some quality competition in good terrain, not to mention watching the top juniors perform at JWOC.

The team minus Tommy. Photo cred: Anna Robertson

Pre-WOC

2 days to race day, and I’m feeling pretty relaxed. When I was younger I would allow myself to get quite worked up before big races, but I’m happy to avoid this now as it doesn’t increase the chance of me performing well while hugely increasing the level of disappointment if I perform badly. The other guys over here are great too, plenty of jokes and resting is ideal for me pre-race. It’s also been nice to sit back and watch the first 3 races as a spectator.

Steering my legs towards freshness on race day has been as problematic as ever, with more running in terrain than usual making my legs feel heavy. I’ve run mostly on the road in the past week and I’ve started to feel sharper as of yesterday, although not as sharp as earlier this year. This has been a little disappointing to realise –  although I have been training as hard as ever in the past 2 months, I haven’t been about to replicate the form I had leading into Oceania in April.

The terrain we can expect for the WOC long distance

Regardless of not being in the shape I have been dreaming about, I am still in better shape than in my 2 previous World Championships which were plagued by injury and sickness and I’m optimistic about getting some notable results for New Zealand

The long distance race on Tuesday will be a physical battle the whole way. I will need to navigate finely at times, but most of the map reading will be to identify the best routes. The terrain is going to have many tracks and open fields, and piecing together these speed boosts will be everyone’s goal.

Happy enough with the Estonian Forest