My longest and most successful training block ever of 22 weeks has just come to a close, so it’s time for some reflection. This block was a smoothly increasing progression with 2 overload weeks and 3 goal races. I took course records in my 2 B-goals, Tussock Traverse and The Hillary, and won my A-goal race, Oceania Orienteering Champs Long Distance. This is most exciting because the orienteering often doesn’t go to plan and good fitness can easily go to waste with bad navigation on the day.
My pursuit for consistency successfully delivered me to race day on good form, but perhaps most importantly, experiencing fewer frustrating disruptions has kept me more positive throughout the training block. Early in the block I felt like my training load was too easy, but I stuck to the plan and ignored the usual urgency and 11/10 motivation to train harder. Eventually I was at my peak week of 16 hours including a number of high intensity sessions, without ever having one week noticeably harder than the previous (except for the 2 overload weeks which took advantage of training camps).
To focus in on last Saturday’s long distance a little more, the splits show that I was running very strongly and my navigation was mostly smooth but with 4 mistakes totalling about 4 minutes. Although I find it hard to be satisfied with this amount of time loss, considering the very challenging navigation and the number of mistakes others were making this was on par with my close competition. The biggest factor spreading names down the results board was running speed. I didn’t start particularly aggressively, but still took an early lead as my running speed was really good. This lead was taken away after a small mistake, but up to control 9 I was quite satisfied with race. It began to fall apart in some challenging legs to 10 and 11 and dropped to 4th place at this point, and could feel a degree of frustration.
I left these mistakes behind me and attacked the next legs hard and began to pull time on my competition. I focused on safe routes and fast lines and pulled time on my competition, except for Matt, who was still maintaining his commanding lead. The last quarter of the race sealed the deal, and I flipped the 2 minute deficit into a 2 minute lead. Perhaps Matt started too hard, as he began to fade in the last quarter of the course while I had the endurance to keep my aggression very high. I posted the fastest time on 6 of the last 9 legs, and was only narrowly behind the fastest time on the other 3. The terrain ramped up in this section and I was putting 30 seconds into Matt on most of these hilly legs. Simon Upphil had also run a solid race to this point, but slipped away similarly to Matt to finish 3rd, 5 minutes down.
A quick course breakdown with Matt at the finish. The NWOC 1-2!
I was both surprised and thrilled to hear the commentary announce that I had the fastest time at the finish, but I couldn’t stand the nervous wait watching the clock for the other top runners to finish so I left the event centre to warm down.
This race reinforced my decision to focus on long distance, as strongly as it reminded me that I still haven’t addressed my often sloppy navigation. But with very little focus on orienteering training this was always going to be the likely case. So now with 2 months until WOC I really do need to focus on navigation, but with a serious problem in my left ankle running in terrain is risky and I’m not sure how best to approach this conflict. I have been working with Sports Lab for a few months on this problem and although we did make progress, this has been more than undone by all the racing in the last 2 weeks.
I will relight the fire in 2 weeks, but for now I sleep satisfied.
The Aftermatch Northern Orienteering Carnival was an idea created by Northwest Orienteering Club and implemented by Matthew Ogden. The money raised will go towards supporting juniors from our club by easing travel and other costs. It also encouraged competitors from NZ Champs last weekend to stay on for a second set of races and make use of the training opportunities in between.
My recovery from Nationals wasn’t great and I’m not overly surprised given my preparation before Nationals. I made the most of the training organised by the National Squad coaches which was great, but left me pretty tired come Saturday. The races at ANOC were going to be hilly and require aggression through the rough terrain. I knew I was going to be too tired to perform my best so instead set goals relating to my navigation.
Day one featured 2 middle distance style races held on a cool piece of New Zealand farmland near Helensville. An old 1:15,000 map of this area was made in 1988 by the Auckland Oreinteering Club with the north end named Paehoka and the south end named Kiwitahi. The new map, made by Northwest Orienteering Club, is relatively small but offers more forested areas and more detail as it is drawn at 1:10,000. It is still a relatively easy area but was a refreshing change to sand dunes and the well set courses kept me thinking.
Area of the old Paehoka / Kiwitahi map that was remaped for ANOC in 2012
The morning race was also my first race with my Garmin forerunner 610 and below is a snippet from QuickRoute. This is a look at some shorter legs where it was important to choose good routes based on the combination of contours and vegetation. 3 to 6 was a part of the course where I avoided the vegetation as much as possible. It was great to see some younger members of my club learning to set the courses and Lauren Holmes should be proud of her great job.
Full speed no mistakes
I finished in 5th place with a time of 26:39. I felt pretty shattered but had enjoyed the race especially since it was on a map I had never used before.
Saturday’s second race a bit more technical and my body finally gave up. I was haemorrhaging time in the second half of the course and every fence was a major obstacle. I found it funny how little co- ordination I had while on the course and I was glad to see the finish. Here is the course set by talented youngster Helena Barnes. I finished in a very tired 37:08 for 8th place
First time using QuickRoute with my first GPS watch
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.
Start of NZ Champs middle distance + features I should have used to get to 3
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.
Time to stride out if you have the legs!
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.
Pivot on second map
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!
Firstly, I am stoked to be running again after having 8 weeks off due to my ITB related injuries. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to get my body ready for nationals. I managed 3 runs in 6 days leading up to nationals but I knew it would take about 2 weeks to develop some race-ready form. My goal at the start of this year was to win the long distance at Nationals but I realistically lost sight of that goal month ago when my injuries turned nasty. My goal approaching this weekend was navigate cleanly and I knew I would have little control over how I performed physically.
The second race at NZ champs this year was the long distance held on Waioneke, a map last used 7 years ago for Oceania. I remember it being extremely hard and have been looking forward to the challenge since the race’s location was announced.
Waioneke - NZ Champs 2012 Long Distance
I wasn’t up to the physical level to be competitive in such ruthless terrain but I still loved the challenge of being shattered half way through the race and still having to hold it together mentally. I could spend all day talking about the race but here are some interesting parts and a quick evaluation of what I did well and not so well.
Technical challenges early on in the long race
2 – 3 presented route choice opportunities as shown by the 3 colours. My choice is in red, another choice is in blue – I think Tom Reynolds chose something similar to this, and Matt Ogden’s choice is in green. The main decision to be made is “how long should I stay on the track for?” Leaving the track as early as I did meant that I ran a shorter distance but I had 2 ridges to cross and these slowed me down too much. Matt’s choice to stay on the track to the last possible moment was best and he was about 1 minute quicker than me on this leg. Tom mentioned his pre-race plan was to use tracks as much as possible and his choice utilise the track as he did was good, but he was not quite as quick as Matt.
4 – 5 is a leg I did very well and I was happy to find that I posted the fastest split time to control 5. I simplified the map well by identifying the line of positive detail (hills as opposed to depressions) that made a very straight line between the controls. I kept the line of detail close on my left hand side and used the good visibility to identify the highest point in the line of detail, which my control was immediately after. The red line shows the exact path I ran along the flat ground avoiding the sand dune detail and gaining no height at any stage during the leg. Perfect!
Important choices to be made between 7 and 8
Leg 8, 1500m long, was a challenging route choice leg and I have shown my route in red. I aimed for a straight approach to run less distance and to reduce climb. I was not physically aggressive enough to justify my decision and runners who chose track options were rewarded. Matt Ogden ran a route similar to the green line and had the fastest split time between 7 and 8. This was a very challenging leg and deserved more thought than I gave it during the race. There are many possible routes on this leg as shown by the different coloured lines above.
My body broke after I had been racing for about an hour and I my hip flexors and hamstrings began cramping up the hill from 18 to 19. Tom caught me in time for the final 8 controls and I had to dig deep to hold onto him. I was impressed that I ran with him for as long as I did as I was lacking aggression through the physical terrain on my own but having Tom’s heels to chase made it much easier to get up to speed. I eventually lost him 2 controls from the finish and had to drag my body across the line by myself in a time of 1:39:25.