I was highly impressed by the middle distance at Nationals this year. The course demanded high concentration and flawless technique to allow you to finish unscathed. The terrain was refreshingly different to the typical flatter Woodhill maps I am used to but would still require mainly the same techniques. As well as navigating cleanly the winner would have to be aggressive on the hills and also open up on the longer legs. I was also grateful that the course planners made the middle a good length (Toby won with 37:44) as I am sick of pathetically short races.
The course was unrelenting from the start and required map contact to be maintained as most hand rails were small. Control 1 was in an extremely tight re-entrant and I treated it with respect as I dropped off the track. The 2 depressions near control 2 were obvious and a good bearing ensured I ran confidently to spike the control. I was not strong enough on the compass on 3 and veered to far right costing me 20 seconds. I did a similar mistake again at 8 and 10 and lost a little time running extra distance but still maintained smooth navigation through the controls.
I found I didn’t need to do anything super tricky to spike the controls. The map was very accurate and the uniquely shaped hills and re-entrants were equally as obvious on the ground as on the map. Well done mappers! It was possible to avoid some climb but the extra distance travelled did not justify a choice to not run straight. Better routes than the ones I took are shown above in green.
My biggest mistake was on 15 and cost me 25 seconds – a punishment for complacency. I correctly identified 15 as being relatively easy due to the god visibility, flatter features, and obvious back stop. I did however forget to check my compass after I crossed the road and veered left. I wasn’t sure whether I was too far left or right until I saw the form line (circled in green). Perfect mapping! I should have used the depression in the northern most green circle to guide me after crossing the road and was punished fairly for not doing so.
The 850 metres between 15 and 16 required some small decisions to be made but was mainly a test of our speed. On this occasion I did not have the legs to make the most of such an opportunity. I look forward to getting some form back, after being injured for so long, and being able to push hard when given the chance.
After the map change (map flip in this case) we were tested by a pivot section designed to split up runners and apply additional pressure as you see competitors more frequently. Given the 4 minute start times this was little use since the field was already spread over a large time period and contact with other elite runners was rare. I got through this second half of the course almost perfectly with only a small mistake on 19 were I didn’t run straight enough. I finished in a time of 41:54 in 3rd place but eventually slipped to 7th. I’m happy with my performance and was stoked to see that winsplits thinks I didn’t make any significant mistakes!