Europe Preview 2012

The annual ‘Europe Trip’ is kicking off for me on Friday June 22nd and taking me to at least 4 countries before I return to New Zealand on the 2nd of August. This is my first year not being able to race at JWOC, and so my trip will have a different focus to that of previous years. My main goals are still uncertain as trials for WOC and WUOC teams are in April and acceptance into O-Ringen’s Elitserien will not be known until the last minute. I have based my trip around attending these 3 main events but because selections have not taken place my NZ representation is not guaranteed.

WUOC (World University Orienteering Champs) is being held in the Mediterranean city of Alicante, Spain. The area boasts some stunning sand dune terrain which I was initially hopeful to race in but having heard the terrain description I am now looking forward to an entirely new challenge. The races are on stony, semi-open land with areas of steep hills and gullies. The low vegetation will make going tough and reduce visibility in many areas. There are also many rock features including boulders and cliffs that will test my fine navigation and large impassable ravines will make for some important decision making. I am looking forward to the physical and mental challenge of an area so different to anything I have experienced before. Spain will also be a very new experience for me and I’ve heard Alicante has lots to offer.

A map from Alicante with similar features to what I will be racing on

My second major destination in Europe this year will be Lausanne, Switzerland to either race or watch WOC. The New Zealand WOC team will be a great challenge to make considering the improving form of many of our top runners and I won’t be overly disappointed to have such capable runner selected before myself. In the event of not making the NZ team I will race the Swiss 5-day competition which is running in conjunction with WOC. The terrain in Switzerland is going to be typical alpine hills a mixture of forest and open. This will stress the weaker aspect of my technique as I get little experience with such terrain here in New Zealand, especially the massive smooth hillsides. I am looking forward to the physical side of this terrain as there will be opportunities to especially fast in open areas and on tracks.

Some of the terrain I will be racing on in Switzerland

Being at the WOC races will be a massive eye opener for me and surely a huge motivator. To see so many of the top orienteers in the world doing battle day after day will be a great experience. I am also looking to make good connections with people I meet there as in years to come I may be looking to join a top club in Europe.

My third and final major stop in Europe this year will be the city of Halmstad, on the west coast of Sweden, south of Gothenburg. This will be the home of O-Ringen 2012, famous for attracting the largest number of competitors in any orienteering event. I have visited Sweden to race at O-Ringen for the past 2 years and now I’m looking to take the step up to Elitserien – the top elite grade for which there are a restricted number of competitors depending on where you are from. If I am not selected to race in this top grade I will be racing Men’s 21 Long which consists of 3 long distance and 2 middle distance races. The terrain will be awesome Scandinavian forest with areas of lower visibility and complex slopes and will be worth so much coming from New Zealand. However, the 3rd day of competition offers a twist to the usual terrain description as it is on a sand dune map and finishes on the beach! This week of racing will also be a massive social occasion and I have found it one of the most rewarding weeks in the previous 2 years.

Massive crowds at O-Ringen

 This year is looking to be more epic than ever!

On the Horizon

The 2012 orienteering session has kicked off hard with 3 days of sprint racing at Hawkes Bay’s Sprint the Bay 4 weeks ago. The Elite field has stepped up a notch since last year and is making for exciting racing. Next up is Taupo’s Katoa Po All Night Relay on the 10th of March with companion events on the 10th and 11th. North West will be looking to take the title off Auckland with Tom Reynolds and Matt Ogden both on good form. There is no doubt that it will be a hot contest with Auckland, Wellington and Bay of Plenty clubs all boasting a strong array of runners. Unfortunately my own race in uncertain as I am still recovering from an ITB problem sustained at Sprint the Bay but I’m optimistic I will be back on track in time to run for my club. If not, I will still make the trip to support North West!

An aggressive elite field starting at Sprint the Bay

Further afield, I have my sights set on the NZ Orienteering Champs in early April held by my very own North West Orienteering Club in Woodhill Forest. With this weekend doubling as the trial races for the New Zealand WUOC and WOC (World University Orienteering Champs and World Orienteering Champs) teams there is even more at stake. This year’s NZ Champs is shaping up to be very intense, and with an increasingly strong NZ Elite field looking to put some extremely technical terrain to the test I will have to be at the top of my game to feature.

Teaser of the stunning Waioneke Forest being used for the NZ Champs Long Distance

Another big event I have highlighted as a goal race is Queens Birthday 3 Day based at Waitarere Beach starting on the 2nd of June and run by Wellington OC. This event will feature some typically fast sand dune terrain with technical areas and should be a great opportunity for me to achieve some top results as I did at Queens Birthday in 2011. This race weekend will also be my last chance to hone my technical skills before I travel to compete in Europe later that month.

Yes, I have booked my flights and will be giving a rundown of my plans shortly. For now all I have to say is that the trip will be epic!