This is a recycled piece I did for North West Orienteering Club once I returned from Europe. It contrasts from my generalised comments in Explaining Orienteering and gets into some nitty gritty of high intensity racing using one great example from O-Ringen this year in Sweden.
The highlights of my 6 weeks in Europe were 2 races in particular, both for the quality of the course and for my performance. These 2 most memorable experiences were the middle distance at O-Ringen and the Relay at WOC. I have some writing on both at www.genebeveridge.co.nz and for now will just look into one leg from O-Ringen since Renee and Matt have chosen to discuss WOC. Hopefully my thoughts below will give an insight into what I am thinking about when I race and provide a reference point for those who are somewhere on the same journey as me, trying to improve their orienteering ability.
This is some random guys video of his race on the same day to give you a feel for the forest.
One very memorable leg at the middle distance at O-Ringen was the longer leg from control 5 to 6. On this leg I was challenged greatly by the course and forced to use many of the techniques in my skill set to execute this leg as fast as possible. Leg 4 to 5 was easy to simplify so this gave me time to plan 5 to 6 in advance. Coming into 5, I checked my exit direction with my compass and also visually so I was 100% confident and could maintain full speed through the control. The initial plan was to stay to the west of the green forest and marsh and use the hill system northwest of the green area to guide me into the control. I ran to the edge of the green forest and here I took advantage of the tracking created by so many people running this way earlier in the day. There was a well-run line in the small white strip taking me in a better direction than my original plan, so I capitalised on this by utilising flexibility in my navigation. I did not use much of the map through the marsh, and instead ran hard and aggressively on a compass bearing, maximising my speed and minimising the distance travelled by running as straight as possible. I had to relocate once I emerged from the marsh and onto the hill in the middle of the leg. There were lots of boulders so the best simplification was to identify the 3 hill tops and travel over the middle one. This relocation was successful at full speed. As I ran down the other side of the hill, I looked for the spur sticking out into the marsh and confirmed that my direction was correct by checking my compass consistently. From here I ran very aggressively again and had to relocate again as I emerged from this second marsh into the white forest with higher visibility. I did so by picking out the unique features around me. In this case the smooth spur with the clearing was the stand out feature. The important part here is that I was not looking for just a spur, as there are 2 very similar sized spurs here, and not just a clearing either because there are 2 similar sized clearings here. It was the unique combination of the clearing on the spur that is important. I was disciplined with my compass for the rest of the leg and used the contours to determine where I needed to get to next but since the ground was very stony it was important to pick the best lines through the rocks using your eyes. I made another useful observation here amongst the chaos of boulders; the small marsh on the hill has now become unique, as it is the only marsh anywhere on the hill, and was a useful feature for me as I ran though this detailed area at full speed. As I got closer to the control I used the good visibility to the west of the control and referenced my position off the hill to align myself more accurately to the control. Referencing from this hill was the difference between hesitating in the last 100 meters and having 100% confidence at full speed all the way to the flag. I had the control code in my head and I checked my exit direction in the final moments before punching, enabling me to flow beautifully onto the next leg.