Sunday, 19 December 2010

Brighton City Race

photo: Robert Lines
On Wednesday evening I went to Brighton for the 2nd Brighton City Race. Although it was only a small race, the organiser(s) had put alot of effort into it,  advertising the race on Runners World and creating their own website. The map must also have been fairly new.

It was a good fun evening. The course was well planned as it wouldn't have been too much for a total beginner but had a few fun tricks and route choices. I always enjoy slightly crazy events and I'd put this in that category - negotiating the small alleyways of Brighton with a headtorch on prime Christmas party night was entertaining.

I was pleased with my run, I didn't make any major errors but sometimes the units were hard to see. I didn't feel like I ran at top pace, but slippery pavements, lots of traffic and people didn't help that. Even so I'm very encouraged to see that I ran the 4.8km course (measured as 6.6km on my GPS watch) in 29.55 - so I wasn't going too slowly.

I won the womens' course and presented the prizes to the other classes. See photos and video here. Also results here.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sprinting around Italy

looking over Italy from San Marino above cloud level
Last weekend I went on a crazy Italian sprint race tour. With a Park World Tour event around the streets of San Marino followed by the annual Venice race, I wasn’t too upset about missing the GB squad planning weekend in the North York moors!
with route
without route

We started off in San Marino running a fairly standard easy course around a steep forest park just outside the main city. I was really pleased with how this race went – probably because I got a minute to look at the map in the start lane, so I had good plans for all controls! The terrain was a bit rough at times both underfoot and bushes, but in other places it was pretty clear. I was a bit lucky finding the tree at number 9 as it was very hidden and the map was a vague resemblance of the ground (I went back afterwards to check it was as mad as first thought!). I was second, about half a minute behind Czech international Sarka Svobodna. I was dead pleased with that.

the castle area around 4-5
After a teaser night event around the lower streets of San Marino city we had the real race on the Saturday. It turned out not to be a Park World Tour race, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment. The views from the warm up area were brilliant and I was buzzing before I even started. Again I got a minute in the start lane to look at the map. I got a bit stuck by number 1 as I didn’t understand the control description. I realised it was on the underpass bit, but the description made it seem like the outside – especially when I saw how number 3 was described. So I wasted about 45 seconds there and in hindsight I should have realised that if it was on the outside then the description would have been building. But after that I really got going. Sarka caught me by a minute by number 5, though she got most of that on the first control and then just reeled me in. We had a great head to head race for most of the course as there were a lot of route choice options – or at least it took ages to find a route, let alone the best one. I finished nicely ahead of her but she still got the win by about 30 seconds.

The grand finale of the weekend was the Venice street race. This had been on the list of “must-do” events for quite a while and it certainly lived up to expectations. 74 minutes of concentration, tourist dodging, bridge jumping, head on collisions...fantastic. I was very nearly late to the start and when I picked up the map I just went “wow”. I stopped for a bit at the start to get a good route and then jogged off, slowly winding up the speed. I still took a wrong alley in my first decision of the race! I definitely got into things more and overall I was pleased with my performance. I ran down the very occasional dead end, but not wasting too much time. I thought my routes were good, but once I had chosen I didn’t look for others, so I could well have lost time there. I ended up about 5 minutes down. I think 2 could be accounted for by my slow start as I felt I really got going by the end.  Maybe there were a few missed route choices or maybe my speed wasn’t fast enough.  My GPS said I ran 14.7km for the 8.7km course. I definitely felt it in the legs the next day - it was a full workout as always changing direction, going up stairs over bridges and jumping down the other side. It totally lived up to expectations, as did the whole weekend.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Senior Home International

On the first weekend in November I ran for English in the Senior Home International match between all the home nations. I’d run this twice as a junior (and won both times!) but never as senior. Scotland had won the team prize overall for a few years in a row, so it was time for us to return the trophy to its rightful home. 

It was almost on home terrain for me, with the relays being just by Basingstoke and the individuals in the New Forest, but I hadn’t run on either area before. I was running second leg in the England 3rd team. Being really honest, I had hoped to be in a higher team based on the season’s results, but I know from past experience not to get too worried over England team selections. Alice Butt ran first leg and didn’t have the best of times, so I went out a long way behind the leaders. I was hoping to run through a load of teams but it was a bit lonely in the forest. I was quite pleased with my run. I attacked hard because the running was very easy. The controls weren’t always the easiest to find, partly as they were a little hidden on random features and partly because the map and I weren’t always in agreement. My garmin seems to agree that I might have had problems at number 9. I ran about 35 mins for my leg (the 4th fastest time of the day). The fastest were 32-33, so I was a bit off the pace, though I think more faffing than running wise. Karen Poole went out and ran a strong last leg to pull us back in a very respectable team position. 

The individual day was not as good. It started pretty badly as I did a nice 180 out of the start. Ran for 1 min wondering why things weren’t matching even though my compass was lined up before I realised I was upside down. I then ran well until control number 5 where I had counted off lots of bits of vegetation thinking I had understood the liberal mapping style, but lost all nerve at the last minute. Result was a large amount of muppetry before actually finding the flag. I ran the next lot ok, no major problems and stretching the legs out on the running sections. I went for the head-up tactic on the open areas as you were bound to see someone go into the control. 11 and 12 were more tricky in the actual location of the flag not necessarily the control site. At 16 I got a bit sloppy with the compass. At 18 I forgot that I was going into woodland and so needed to take the speed down a bit and I crashed on, wasting a bit of time, but eventually finding the control. At 19 I’ve no idea what happened, but I similar 180 ish error happened. Lost a lot of time there. From there it was just about getting home safely and that I managed though I saw Hollie Orr not far behind me. I wasn’t very happy with my run and expected to be thoroughly whipped but I surprised to be “only” 5 minutes down given my outing - and 5th! But I think everyone had problems in one or other place finding some the more hidden controls. 

Great news was that England took back the overall trophy. It was a nice weekend, but a shame that we weren’t using some better areas given it’s a high level competition. It was also a shame that the relays weren’t attached to another event to give more atmosphere and spectators. Though I should thank the organisers, particularly on the relay day, as it seemed very few people put a lot of work in to make the event happen.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

World Cup - Annecy

I've been delaying writing up this race because it was probably one of my worst of the season and I've realised my blog is becoming a diary of my mistakes in orienteering which was not very fun either. A bit of a reminder how far there still is to go.

I was on a training camp for 8 days which included the World Cup races. We were based in Annecy and the aim was to get used to the terrain for WOC2011 which will be in the same region. I was really looking forward to it as the maps looked crazy detailed and a real challenge.

Nothing really went to plan the whole week and I ended up ill for half the camp. I found the terrain really challenging. It was quite rough, very rocky, full of brashings (that weren't always on the map) and very detailed contours in places. It was everything that I hate about orienteering. You could never really run fast, but if you kept stopping either to climb over obstacles or to read the map, you lost lots of time.

The World Cup race was exactly that. I had a bad feeling about the race before I started, which is never good. But if you genuinely don't believe you can find a control in the forest, its pretty hard to talk yourself round and go out with a positive attititude. Anyway, I went out with the idea of running very slowly and not being out of control. That way I couldn't go that badly wrong.

Oh yes I could. I won't go through the race control by control, because I'll be here all day. I did mess up number 1, although having re-run that leg 4 times now, it was only once coach Toni walked it with me and explained which hills were which that I understood where the control should be. I'm surprised I only took12 minutes the first time!

So the conclusions are that I have a huge amount of work to do before next WOC. My technique is just not good enough to hold up in these sorts of forests. I hope to spend some good time in the Lake District not only learning to navigate but learning to run in steep rocky forests. I'm not going to rule out running one of the forest distances and I will train hard to get my technique better, but I have to say that I am most excited by the sprint next year. These French old towns look fantastic with lots of little alleyways, old buildings and better still, lots of patisseries.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Park World Tour - Perth

This weekend I travelled to Perth to compete in the Park World Tour. I had so nearly pulled out on several occasions in the two weeks leading up to it, but managed to persuade myself onto the long train ride up. I was nervous that I was in bad shape and so had done 4 intervals sessions in the previous 10 days as an emergency get fit quick plan. I couldn’t decide whether I was feeling fast, so I decided to decide I was.

The first race was qualification. The 15 international invited athletes were automatically through, so it was for the rest of us to fight for another 15 places in the final. The British elite turnout was not high, and so I was fairly confident of making the final – provided I didn’t mispunch.  I won’t write much about the qualification race at Scone, except I never really got in my stride and missed lots. Was an interesting course, but I didn’t do it very well. But I made it through to the final. The best bit of the day was running around the maze head to head with Cat Taylor. She led all the way with superior control flow, but then lost it all on the last one and I cruised to an easy victory!

The final was the important one. It was around the streets of Perth where the challenges would be crowds and finding alleyways. I had got the impression that the planner enjoyed control picks so I didn’t expect long route choices, but lots of little tricks. The two things I wanted to focus on in the race were control flow and smoothness through the course and concentration all the way till the finish line.

Well. I mispunched. I missed out number 17. I went straight to 18. So I guess I failed.

But after the initial anger, I was actually really happy. I had had a nearly perfect race (by my standards). I had been fluent through the controls, I had looked ahead, planned my exits before I was at the controls. I spotted little tricks early. I ran at a speed which felt comfortable but controlled. I kept my concentration through the last loop. Looking at split times, I might have been heading for a more than good result.

So the question is, why didn’t I realise I’d missed a control? I’m not sure. Usually there are big alarm bells going when I’m about to do something stupid, and I tend to ignore them. This time there was nothing. I think that I had looked ahead at the leg 16-17 on an earlier bit of dead running and had decided that I needed to come out left as it would be easier to find the route in than the alleyways on the crowded street. I had realised there were no tricks to block the control, so I didn’t look any more at it and kept focus on the current leg. When I got to 16, I ran up to the main road, looked at the map and navigated to 18. It fitted my plan, along the road, down the alleyway, nothing complicated - so I never noticed.

So how do I stop this happening again? It couldn’t have been that perfect a run if I didn’t do the basic thing of finding all the controls. At some point there must have been a lapse where it all went wrong. At the moment, I’m not sure when that was. GB coach Toni is full of interesting advice and quite often it comes back to the bigger picture of the terrain. He had some helpful hints, but that’s his advice to share not mine.

After a great ceilidh on Saturday night, I ran a long course at Devilla. I felt slow and sloppy in the first half (maybe attributed to lively dancing and lack of sleep) but I picked up towards the end. It was a really great weekend. I hope it’s  not long until the next PWT in Scotland.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

10th place Middle Distance Euromeeting

Last weekend I went to Turnov in the Czech Republic for Euromeeting. Its meant to be a B international for younger athletes, but there were a couple of older ones and also established names. Although there were not many countries with teams, Norway, Sweden and Finland all sent very good quite large teams. This meant that it was going to be very easy to come last!

I arrived on the Thursday night, and the programme was Middle on Friday, Relay on Saturday and Long on Sunday. On the Friday morning I went out and pottered round a training map and took photos of the fantastic rock terrain and got excited about the competition. I managed to get hopelessly lost while just walking, so it made me rethink my tactics ahead of the afternoon.

The middle distance was 3.8km with 20 controls and a winning time of 35 minutes. I expected lots of short legs, lots of crazy detail, changes in direction and tough climbs and descents. It was that really. We jumped between detailed hilltops, picking off controls in the most crazy of locations. I had a very controlled strategy. I often stopped still or walked when checking the detail close in the circle, and tried as best as I could to know where I was heading in the last 50m (although sometimes it was close to impossible to work out). I only ran hard when I knew I could, and I kept calm when things didnt quite match. I was very happy with my run as I felt I had control. There were of course many improvements to make with lots of small misses, but I expected that in this terrain and for me it was trying to minimise them. I finished in 39 minutes, and ended up in 10th place. This was a brilliant result for me, and although the orienteering wasn't pretty, I'm not complaining. It was obvious from the good Czech results that knowing how to cope with this terrain made a big difference, and so with that in mind, I was pleased that I chose the right way to approach the race and carried it out. My Garmin GPS route is in the picture, though I'm still working out the software a bit, so I'm not entirely sure I went so far right on number 10, I think I may have dragged that out a bit!

I was the only GB girl there, so there was no relay team for me. I ran first leg, wanting to get a bit of a feeling for mass starts in international relays but also saving energy for the long. I slightly missed the first one, not because I didn't know where I was, but because I was wondering why the pack was running past where my control was! So I doubled back and ran by myself for a few controls before I caught a group up again. I was fairly confident through the rocks, cruising physically and hitting the controls nicely. I was up with the Norwegian teams, but I think the Swedes had got ahead. Coming down to 9 I tried to find one of the rock passageways. I got to the one I wanted, but saw no way down that I felt safe. So I went on to the try the next. That was worse and suddenly I started to panic. Everyone else had gone, and I was alone. I tried the next and the next, before bailing out all the way round (even so I did rock climb hanging onto tree roots). I lost huge time there and just jogged in from there. I asked others what they did, and apparently there was a ledge half way down to jump onto which made it safer. In my rush I must have missed that and then I started to panic. I do think that in a race situation with team mates back home I would have been more inclined to take risks and get down some of the slopes. But I don't regret my decision at the time, there was nothing to be gained.

I was feeling very good ahead of the long distance race. It was 9.5km with 550m climb (best route) winning time of 70 -80 minutes. I had a feeling that this would be unrealistic and that survival was the main goal given the over 30 degree heat. I wanted to try out taking energy gels in these long races, and I had two drinks points to combine that with. I ran extremely well out at the start. I took it steady and pick off the controls nicely, and felt like I really connected with the map. I caught up my 4 minute Czech and 8 minute Swede who started ahead and I felt good. I kept it together, making sensible decisions for a few controls before managing to drop the Czech who had lached on to me. At the first drinks point I took water and ran on, before opening my gel. I took some of that but then got a bit of a dry throat and wished I'd done gel before water but it wasnt fatal. I ran on to number 10, getting a little confused with paths, but managing to stay on the right route. As I came into the control, I tried to find the spurs to lead me into the right reentrant. Things didn't quite match up and I was confused, but as usual, instead of listening to warning signs, I carried on. I soon stopped and realised the need to relocate. That I did off a clearing. But things still didnt work out. Wrong clearing. Muppet. Back down the slope, up the next one, into control 10. Great. 10 minutes lost and physical energy.

But I am used to this and I was determined not to give up. I was expected to loose time at one control (although not 10 minutes) and I wanted to refocus and get back in the groove I was in before. I slightly missed 11 and 12. 13 was very tough to get to as it was brambled felled area and the map didnt really give a clue as to the best route. But I nailed it once I was in the control circle and I tried to use that to pull myself together. I got to 14 which was a map exchange and drinks point and took lots of water and the last bit of my energy gel. I ran on and got 15 and 16 ok. I was running with a Czech girl to 17, a relatively long leg ending in rocks. Along this leg I suddenly got really bad stomach cramps/stitch. I don't know why this was, maybe the energy gel, maybe the 4 cups of water, or maybe a long race and the heat had killed my body. It became impossible to run so I walked for a bit. I was keen to push on, so I didn't wait too long before trying to jog again. After maybe 1 minute, I managed to get going again and then pretty soon I was back running strong. I managed to catch up the Czech girl going into the contorl although we both missed slightly at the end approaching it from different ways. Got 18 ok and raced the girl to 19 - a long leg towards the finish.She was faster but I got the ditches slightly better than her, so we were racing hard into the final control and finish. (sorry no map yet as were collected in at finish).

To summarise the race, it was a bit of another missed opportunity. Like the World Students classic, I ran very well at the start. I was competitive amongst the best if you look at the split times. But then I lost it on a big mistake and never quite got going again, mentally or physically. Despite this, I was not too upset at my performance. It was a matter of survival and I did get through to the end. Physically I was able to manage 1 hour 50 of tough hot running. I did feel that I missed a bit of "racing edge" and that at the end, I couldnt quite push the Czech as much as I would have liked. But I have used the last month to rest up from the 2010 season so that I'm ready to hit my winter training soon, so that may explain it. My use of energy gels needs further refinement, but slowly I'm putting the bits of the jigsaw puzzle together.

I had a brilliant weekend, in some very special terrain. I am very glad I went, and I think that my middle distance result is definitely up there along side my JWOC results from 2007 given the quality of the field.

Middle results and splits, Relay, results and splits Long results and splits. Video of the event (including highlights of the bit I thought too dangerous to jump down!)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

World Student Championships Sprint

This was going to be the race of my season. I'd had some encouraging sprint results and I felt fast and this was it. And it so nearly was.

I had prepared well, I knew what to expect. The race started really well. It was simple street orienteering at the start, no big decisions either, and I got round it well. No complaints at the time, but possibly could have pushed a little more. But I looked ahead.

Things continued well through to the spectator control. My splits looked better from this section and I didn't get caught out by number 9 and the fence blocking it on one side.

I coped well with the crowds and coming into the wooded valley area. There were spectators everywhere, it was a bit wierd, but I got 13 and 14 well. Then came 15. I looked up and missed the gap in the fence and panicked. I heard people shouting and I got stressed. I then missed the next gap in the fence from being too worried. Then that was 1 min 20 gone. I ran back through spectators, which was mildly embarrasing but more I was just angry.

So nearly done. So nearly clean run. Position wise, may have been top 20. That would have good enough for me. I would have been really happy, a clean run when I had really been aiming for it. But it wasn't.

I guess at least I only made 1 mistake. As opposed to about 5 yesterday. But still, it doesn't matter how many, its not good enough. A real good chance blown.

Results are here, Splits are here. Routes are here.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

World Student Championships Long

I'm feeling pretty mixed after todays race. There were moments of genius, moments of stupidity, the performance was worse than expected but the result was better.

My aim was just a good solid performance. I had two things to focus on, my bearing on route and my attack points/nice lines into the circles. I had done a bit of preparation and seen that in previous events on the area, it was still possible to make mistakes even once you were within 50 m of the control.

I started off well. I sensed I was quite nervous to number 1, but legs were almost shaking and I was worried I had come too high and lost contact with the map already. But I calmed myself down as I ticked off a small open hill and ran nicely into the control. Number 2 looked very tricky on the map, so I wanted to get a nice line into the control with the contour details on the slope. But even getting there didn't look easy. But as I started running, everything started to click. I ticked off yellow open areas, small reentrants and I hit the control perfectly. I felt physically very strong and technically confident.

I set off to number 3 with a plan of following marshes but being careful on the way in. I had a mini faff midway when I first met the track. I should have just run along it, but I tried cutting a corner before I bailed out. Into the control felt fantastic. I ticked off everything, I knew exactly where I was and where the control would be. I had the third fastest time on that leg and I was in 4th position by this control.

I knew I need to keep my head screwed on and 4 looked difficult. I banana-ed a bit to try and avoid height loss which was silly. But I came down to the marsh, and I wasn't 100% where I was on it. At this point I needed to really nail it down precisely, but instead I continued on climbing up the slope. I knew I was going too far, but I had found a shallow reentrant and it was only when I hit the path that I realised what I had done. I lost a fair bit here, more than expected, but I think it was a combination of errors at all stages of the leg.

Instead of being sensible, I ran off without the best plan to 5, and found myself searching around with a group of girls for the control. After getting it, we then ran together for a few controls. We all ballsed up 7 quite badly. I led the group to 9 and then I felt quite confident and happy with where I was going, and got back into my rhythm again. I messed up 10, but at various stages. I didn't run fast and confidently and I got distracted by the group. Finally, when I was within 5 metres of the control I still didn't see it or have the confidence to really find it. From there to the finish was fine and I ran a strong run in to finish in 24th place. Click here for results, here for splits and here for route.

Physically I felt great out there. Always felt like there was another gear and I had so much more in the tank. I drank some sports drink that morning and I think that really helped. I don't usually do this, so I might try it again in future. Technically, there are lots of positives but also many mistakes to learn from. At the moment I'm thinking positively, but I'm also going to try and learn more from each mistake - surely its not necessary to make this many before I get good!?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Sprint battles against Sarah

Since moving back to the South, I have been making the most of the good sprint training opportunities. Not only are there world class areas, lots of events but also Sarah Rollins (probably Britain's best sprint orienteer) lives nearby. This has meant that I have been able to measure my performances against her each time I go out which has been very fun. Obviously I don't know whether she is racing hard or just running at training pace, but it has at least kept me motivated to run fast!

The first of the events was at the University of Surrey, Guildford, used for the World Cup Qualifiers in 2005. It was a Friday evening after work and within reach of the train station, so very handy. My aim was to run it hard as in a race, but with a special focus on control descriptions, mainly remembering numbers in advance. I think you can save a bit here, particularly in sprint racing. I ran ok, up the wrong alley to 3, and bad route to 13 (looks good but more steps and in and out of buildings), miss at 18 (went up by number 1 - bad route in first place). But I enjoyed it so much. It was really tricky, very difficult to read (although I expect better printing and paper might slightly help that) and was an awesome evenings training. Sarah beat me. But only by 25 seconds. Results are on the Guildford Orienteers Website.

The next morning there was a Berkshire Orienteers park race not far from where I lived. I cycled there with my brother and ran the long course. I didn't get the chance to warm up as we were late, but I don't think it affected me so much. My plan was to always stay ahead of myself decision wise while keeping the tempo high. The first few controls were easy, but the white forest was not runnable due to the amount of stinging nettles. The course really got going out in the streets and I was pleased with all the controls in this section. There were only some small hesitations that would not show up on routes or splits that I know myself I need to improve on if I am going to become world class. I finished that section pretty pleased and then almost immediately proved to myself how not-world class I am. From 14 to 15, I didn't even look at the compass but just ran aimlesssly off into the corner. I was annoyed at myself, mostly because my legs were tired and did not appreciate the extra distance. I was annoyed afterwards as that was where really I lost it to Sarah - otherwise I was within 20 seconds overall. Results are here and click the map extract for route gadget.

The final race was a longer urban race in Guildford city centre the following weekend. I was looking forward to this, but had been struggling physically since my 10km/cycle effort on the Wednesday. I got up on Saturday and decided not to go, had a shower, and then thought the legs felt good enough that it would be silly not to at least turn up. Just as well! The race itself was great fun. I was always having to think. Only when I got to the second last control did I switch off and just run home. When I got dead running I tried to plan as many legs in advance as I wasn't feeling energetic enough to stretch out. It was very hot and by the end I was totally shattered. My only mistake was about 30 seconds at 12, when I was the wrong side of the wall. I had realised that I needed to work out what side the control was on, but I got it wrong, getting my control descriptions muddled up. Otherwise I can't think of much to complain about. I was sad to see that Sarah had mispunched this race (she missed 15, though not sure what happened). But what was really encouraging for me was to see that I more than matched her running speed throughout. I finished 1 minute ahead (although she was disqualified obviously). So I pulled one back in the head-to-head battles (which, incidentally, she doesn't know or probably care that I'm having). Again, here for results, click the map for routegadget.

Next week I'm off to the World Students in Borlange, Sweden. I'm running the long, sprint and relay. I'm wanting some good results, not just good performances. Sometime soon I really have to start producing them.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

New 10km PB - 39.44

Last night I ran a 10km race at Beale Park, near Pangbourne. I have only run one 10km before a few years ago where I did around 44 mins. I took this race quite seriously as I wanted to get a good time, which for me meant under 40. I knew I was in the shape to be able to do that, but I was unsure whether I could pace it right and actually pull it out of the bag.

Receiving my trophy
I started near the front and felt very comfortable for the first half. I passed 3km in around 11.30 and the body felt good and the legs felt light. After about 6km I started to suffer. The person in front started to get a bigger gap so I could no longer use them to track. By 7km, the person behind was catching me up. I went through 8km in just under 32 and I knew that if I was going to break 40 I had to really dig in deep as it was not going to come easy. The 9km split was around 36, confirming to me that this was no time to relax. I came into the finish area knowing that I was on 39 minutes, but unsure how many seconds. I tried to give as much as I could to the line, and when I glanced at the clock I was so happy to see 39.44.

I finished as the first female (by about 5 minutes!) and 8th overall (results here). I am encouraged by that result as, although it was flat, it was not a fast course. It was probably mininum 60% off road, with some tougher grassy sections. I also cycled 8 miles from home to get there. Tactically I think I ran well and paced it ok. I did die at the end, but I think thats meant to happen. I want to aim to get closer to the 39 mark in my next 10km, so I'll have to find time to fit it into the calendar.

My fun new Monday night running group from The Sweatshop, Reading

O Festival Relay

I stayed around to run the O Festival Relay for NTNUI on the Sunday. I was feeling surprinsingly good physically. It's a 4 leg relay, and I was running 2nd on the 2nd team. Gitte ran a strong first leg and we handed over in 2nd place about 2 mins down on NTNUIs first team. I started to feel nervous, but I just needed to focus on myself. I knew Halden would be chasing me down by less that a minute so I knew there was no possibility for mistakes early on.

I went out well and safely got round the first 4. Then I saw Halden just ahead. I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, and I knew the gaffles could vary by up to a few 100m, so I assumed I had gone long at the start and I just needed to keep my head. I chose to go round the track to 4, which was a fine route although I think it would have been better in the marsh. The track was lined with thick green trees and it wasn't always easy to know where to come off.

I was a bit stupid at 6, as I started going to 8 (I need to get out of this habit in relays) and got to the path and marsh before I realise. I don't think it cost me too much, as apparently I came through the arena having caught in a bit on NTNUIs first team and at the same time as Halden. I felt confident going to 10, as we had our first control nearly there yesterday. Silly to be so confident. I did well getting to the cliff, but from there I dragged myself too far left. I should have contrentrated harder, almost putting yesterday out of my mind, it didn't help at all. In hindsight I should have gone all the way around the marsh.

At this point Bækkalgets and Nydalen caught me and I knew Halden were ahead. I was annoyed, but I needed to keep calm. I was a little high to 11. On the way to 12 I did the same old thing of slipping my thumb on the map and looking at 13. Luckily I realise half way and I managed to catch myself on the big hill. I was running with Halden at this point (as they made a mistake on 11), Nydalen and Bækkalgets had got away. I pushed on and got ahead of Halden to 14. I ran hard with Nydalen to 15 determined that I was going to get to the finish ahead of them. I really ran hard from to 16 and got a good gap, and was even closing in on Bækkelagets. Got 17 safely, and from there I just had a monster run in. I finished in sight of Bækkelagets but it hurt. I think I kept about 2 minutes behind NTNUI 1st team. I was pleased with the run, despite number 10.

Another thing that hurt was my left knee. I've been struggling over the last 3 weeks with ITB, shin splints and a pain behind the knee, but I've managed it ok with good stretching and it felt like it was on the mend. But now it feels awful. Luckily I remembered I bashed myself on a rock. I have quite a nice bump under my knee so I am giving it lots of icea and hoping that its not any of my chronic problems but just a bash.

The team finished 7th. NTNUI first team won (results).

Next stop Trondheim. Clean appartment. Tuesday I move back to England for good. Thursday I start work in London. No rest for the wicked.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Chase - end of Nordic Tour

The third and final race in the Nordic Tour, this time in Raufoss, Norway. Since Stockholm, we travelled to Falun, Sweden for 2 days training in terrain relevant for the World Students Championships that I will race in July. From there, we drove to Raufoss ready for the chase. The times are added together from the first two races, and the best starts first. Everyone else then starts in order of time, so that the first person to cross the line wins.

I was starting in 40th place. All us Brits had been pretty similar throughout the tour and were starting within 3 mins. I had identified a few people ahead I felt I could overtake and I knew there were some people that were not going to start. However, I knew there were a number of very good runners behind me not least the other Brits. My aim was to be at least 35th place, but more importantly have a technically solid race that I had attacked physically. I wanted to finish the week off well and put a bit of what I had learnt into practice.

I started 2 seconds behind a New Zealand girl, but because of the complicated gaffling (spreading) system to try and split runners, I wasn't sure if we would be going to the same controls. I decided not to waste energy thinking about it, and just got on with my own thing. I did well to 1 and 2, but I made a mistake at 3. A combination of a bad exit from 2 and not adjusting to the slightly greener areas was the problem. I did relocate off a fence, but still couldn't quite get things together. So I took another loop of the area before I finally got the control. I pulled myself together and set off to 4, determined that that would be the one and only mistake of my run.

I got through the next few fine. The New Zealand girl was running on my tail, but I wanted to stay ahead so that I could be in control and not be distracted by her. I continued steadily and strongly through the next controls with 2 map changes. I felt I dealt well with the complicated system by just focusing on the map and taking my time when necessary. As I was coming up to the final loop we had a run through the arena for the spectators. A Norwegian had caught me up and was running stronly. I didn't want to let her go without a fight. I pushed through the arena and over a rough area of stones and felled trees. It was uphill and I was physically stronger and managed to get a little gap. We were catching a Dane, who was one I had hope to overtake. I had identified the next two controls as being tricky in the green. I ran around the road (I should have cut the corner) and tried to take a nice line into the control spotting the open area and marsh on the way. I hit it well and pushed on to the next control. Got that safely.

On the sprint finish, covered in marshy mud
Now it was just downhill. But tough, rocky and fallen trees. The Norwegian was just too strong downhill over the rough terrain and I couldn't keep the pace up. But I was not going to let the Dane beat me! We raced on, one more control through the green. We found a Russian. Ok sprint finish, and I was going to win. I went my own way, safely into the control. I got there just ahead of them. One last control - easy, but don't mess it up. Head up, run strong, ok got it. I didn't look back, I didn't know how strongly the Dane would sprint and it was a long run in. So I pushed, across the bridge. The Norwegian finished infront, in sight but too far to get. I beat the Dane and the Russian. 33rd in the Nordic Tour. 37th best time of the day. I'm pleased with that. And I'm pleased with the performance.

Click above to see the race broadcast on Norwegian TV.
Highlight of me starting around 17.30

I need more time to really learn from the experiences. I have a lot of little things that I can work on when I analyse splits and my mistakes, but looking more broadly, the key thing is that I need to be more attacking. I am too slow making decisions and I think I check off too many things on the map when I get nervous. I need to be more confident in my compass and simplication techniques.

Knock Out Sprints

World Cup Race number 2. Stockholm. After a night out at Jukola in a miltary tent, a cat nap at Helsinki docks and a night in a 4 man cabin on the boat I was tired. Still, I felt this was a really good chance for me to get a good result. I am confident in my speed, I had an encouraging sprint result a few weeks ago, this could be fun.

Cream crackered. Slumming it on the cobbles at Helsinki docks.

I needed to get through a normal sprint orienteering course first, and be in the top 30 to qualify for quarter finals. From there, there were mass start races and the first two would automatically go through to the next round.

I wanted to attack more than I did in Finland and I was happy to pick up the map and see it was mostly buildings rather than forest sprint. I won't go through the race in full detail, but I made three biggish mistakes: Control 2 - mistake at the end of the leg, Control 12 - right way, change direction, wrong way, Control 14 - mistake at end of leg. Having said I wanted to be attacking the race, in reality I was still hesitant. I took extra time to make decisions particuarly on route choice and I didn't attack the short legs hard enough. I felt like I used my leg speed when I could on the long legs, but it doesn't show up as I made mistakes on 2 of them in the circle.

In general I felt like my brain was not in gear. I think I haven't got the balance between being calm and nerves. When I was a junior I was always far too psyched up and nervous. Now I think I'm almost too calm, at least in my head. Its great to have the chance to be at these races and try things out. Obviously I realise that I am a way off the pace, and that there is a big amount of work to do before I am top 30, but at the same time it is good to get the little things right like preparation to get the most out of myself.

The highlight of the day has to be Graham getting through to the final round the Old Town in Stockholm and getting 5th place. Inspiring to watch. Very proud.


Jukola is something every orienteer should experience. This was my third time at the massive relay in Finland, but each time has been so different. I have usually run first leg, but this time I was on last leg for NTNUIs third team. It wasn't exactly high pressure, but we are a good team that could get a good result and so we wanted to perform well. I did have some nerves.

All the warnings were that the terrain was green, physically tough, and mistakes would be easy to make and costly in time. Very exciting, even if thats not exactly the terrain that suits me. Our usually stable first leg runner, Ane, did well except for a large time loss (maybe 6 mins +). It was a shame for her, but I do not think I would have coped at all with a mass start in that sort of terrain, so I was still impressed.

We picked up places with strong second and third leg performances from Hanna and Natalie and I think I went out in around 90th place. I played it cool, getting into the map and hit the first 6 really nicely. There were lots of paths out in the terrain, so runnability was easier than expected, but it was a case of checking the compass all the time and ticking off features. I gained confidence and set off on a long leg towards 7. It was a bit of a gamble about finding the best runnability, but luckily tracks helped a bit. I was in full control, feeling very good, but momentarily took my mind off the control. I navigated straight into 11, spiked it, but sadly that was not where I should be heading.

Frustrated at myself, I hacked off back through the marsh and continued on. I got the next few ok, getting more confidence and running faster. I was with a fast group but I didn't want to rely on anyone. I came out of 10 a bit too fast and didn't manage to tick off the features well enough. I stopped short, a bit confused. At that point, Freidig's star last leg runner came storming past and I thought I better gamble and go further. Luckily the control was only 50m further on, so there was not major time lost. I ran strongly to 12, and despite a little wobble and landed up at the control with Freidig even though we took different routes. As we started on a longer leg to 14, I wanted to keep the pace up with Freidig, although it was faster than I could safely go. She had got out of sight in the low visability, so I just had to be confident in my compass and hopefully see her in the more open areas. The plan worked, as I landed up on the slope before 14 and looked to my left and saw her a bit behind me! I made a slight wobble into this control, but nothing major.

From then on it was fast and furious. I was desperately trying to keep the red shirt of Freidig in sight, but becuase of the low visability that was difficult. Therefore I had to keep contact with the map also. It was fun trying to push this balance. With 2 controls to go, I knew I mustn't relax. There were 3 of us together and it looked tricky. Despite identifying this, I didn't have a secure plan to 20 and I got messed up in the green and landed up a bit too high. I missed 21 quite badly, I was on line half way, hitting the stoney hill, but then came too far left and down, giving me a bit of a climb back up to correct.

It was a shame to lose time on the last two as navigationally I felt pretty solid up until them. It was awesome to run at a relatively fast pace in the last half, and it made me realise what I need to be doing when running alone.

We finished 82nd. We think 2nd best 3rd team! We were a happy team and enjoyed our night cheering on the boys. We got a perfect view of the mens start - video below.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Nordic Tour - Finland World Cup Race

I'm part of the British Team doing the Nordic Orienteering Tour over the next 10 days. It consists of 3 world cup races in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Britain has selected a young team to get experience and there are some older athletes sorting themselves out but also taking part in the races. The whole thing is complicated.

I arrived in Helsinki after an early start on Wednesday. We travelled up to the model event where I sussed out the differences in vegetation and tried to work out what sort of speed to run at.

The race was on Thursday evening and started with a middle distance style course, followed by a sprint. I came 42nd, not too far off world cup points (top 40). This was lower than hoped, as I was mainly satisfied with my performance.

The first control was tricky as it was a really short leg. I hit it slowly but ok. I then did a wierd mistake which loads of others seemed to do. I came out on a small track after the control, and not paying enough attention to the map, I set my compass and ran down assuming it was the road. I soon realised this wasn't quite right and I had to cut across the marshy forest to get back on track, although probably would have been better going straight on to the next path. Given that early half the men and women made this mistake, I have come to two conclusions. One was that the track at the beginning section did seem big. Also, the depression was full of brashings on the left hand side, forcing us to go right and so not hitting the road/track junction. Still, no excuse.

After that I had quite a good section. There was a butterfly loop and I took that very conservatively. I hit all the controls pretty much ok, but with bit of hestitation. Things continued to go ok until a long route choice leg. I decided to play it simple and go all the way round the road to the left. I entered the circle from the way people would be exiting. The problem was I came across a depression with a control in it straight away. I punched this and started to continue on my way. Luckily I checked my codes and as I was running out I realised what I had done. I went back to find my depression which was a little further on. I was not so bothered about the time loss as I was just happy not to have mispunched!

The map changeover was simpler than expected and not infront of specatators. I still took it very slow and carefully although it was simple. From then on the sprint was pretty basic. I took a bad route to number 4, although nothing drastic. I completed the course pretty nicely and I was happy with that. Click here for Norwegian TV program of the race, here for GPS tracking replay.

Its a bit of a shame to be so far down in time, although there are definitely 3 or so mins to be saved in the forest. Not attacking probably lost me a bit aswell. I felt heavy in the legs and I so maybe there is a bit to be saved there. It's not good enough performance at this level, but for a first race, its ok by me, I've learnt a lot.

Next stop is Jukola. I was in the model event terrain today. Its tough, low vis and green. I'm going for damage limitation strategy again.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Trondheim Open

This weekend there was a 3 day (sprint-middle-long) competition based very close to where I live in Trondheim. I had been suffering with a knee problem all week and hadn't trained at all, so I was just going to see how things went. Bigger priority is the World Cups next week.

So rocked up at the sprint, 5 mins down the road. Warmed up for a good while and knee felt nice after 4 days of nothing. I was pleased with my performance. I made sure I had full control and didn't ever feel like stepping on the gas (although of course I was running really hard, it just wasn't that I was focusing on it). I made some good route choice decisions about getting round tricky fences, walls and hedges and I barely missed. A slight error on two vegetation boundary controls. I did get a slightly different pain in my knee, behind on the outside but it didn't stop me too much.

I can't believe the result. I came 6th, about 1.30 down on the winner. Far beyond expectations and it shows that I am in good running shape and if it comes together technically then I am capable of some good results. I am now really looking forward to sprints at the Nordic Tour, but most importantly World Students. I think this is one of the first times that my new found speed and improved orienteering technique have come together at the same time, even if it was a sprint race. Its no coincidence this happened when I was not focusing on the running speed.

The middle distance was fun, but my knee pain got much worse. It didn't like terrain. I finished respectibly, with a bit of time loss, but certainly not the 10 mins behind the winner over 4km. That was a bit disappointing. I hope that it was the knee slowing me down, because otherwise its too much time to lose.

Long leg route choice - there was an option to come right which Andersen and Hausken did

I was uncertain whether to start Sunday given the knee situation. But tempted by the fact I would be wearing GPS, I decided to go out. I took it easy physically, although easier said than done given the climb between the first and third controls. I took a bad route choice to the second control, I was too rushed making a decision and I came out badly out of the control. It was nice enough after that. I could have done a better route on the long leg. Although it was good to cut through the forest, Mari Fasting showed that it was good to drop to the lower path on the steep slope. I stopped once I got to the spectator control. I don't want to run any risks.

So it's nearly the end of life in Trondheim. I have just defended my Master's Thesis and am now about to pack my room up before heading off to the Nordic Tour. My aim for these races is to give consistant results that I am proud of. Play it safe. I'm also very excited about Jukola where I am running last leg for NTNUI 3rd team. It looks like difficult technical terrain so I am going to use the same strategy of playing it very safe. Until then, I am going to take care of my knee and potentially try a speed session on the track if it can take it. It seems to be terrain that it doesn't like.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Beating world champions and other things

Ok, beating a former world champion on 1 leg of a course. But it was a long one!

Last Sunday there was a long distance race in Trondheim. With everyone preparing for WOC, it was quite a fun "low key" event. Anne Margerethe Hausken turned up, I got to wear a GPS unit for the first time and the terrain was some of the more beautiful marshes and white forest that Trondheim has to offer.

The previous weekend I had run two races, one was satisfactory but not good enough, and the other was as bad as I have performed in a long while. It was a reminder back down to earth that I am still capable of some pretty ugly orienteering. So my plan was to run at a very comfortable speed and give a very nice GPS trace for afterwards! Just aswell, given the marsh to the first control was a little indistinct. Coming out of 3 I didn't do a bad route, but it was not intended at all! It got a bit green and messy and I didn't follow the compass. Luckily, I hit the road and all was ok, but it seems I lost time being hesitant and not knowing where I was before then. I made a big mistake at number 7. This was a tricky control and it seems alot of people did. I had identified it as being difficult. A bit of route choice and a bit difficult to attack. I came high to the left around the paths and managed that ok, but lost it in the last 100m, not knowing what height I was at and how far to keep going. In hindsight, I should have taken a lower route choice with a safer way i nto the control. Or I should have had more things to get my into the control, like running to the stream/marsh/veg boundary in the reentrant. I probably lost 2 minutes there.

Click map for GPS replay

I was a bit panicked coming out of 7, and wasn't optimal to 8. Helen Palmer caught me there, but I tried to be calm. I clambered along the line of crags to 9, planning my route to 10. Helen punched 9 just behind me, but I set straight off onto the long leg without getting a drink. I should honestly say my plan was to go straight and join up the marshes to the control, but I got half way and was about 50m from where I wanted to be on a marsh. I thought about correcting, but then decided to run out towards the road. It was easy from there, and the control was almost visible from the road aswell. I completed the course satisfactorily from there, nothing major, though a bit difficult to get down the crags into 13. I finished in a time of 1:10. 10 mins behind Hausken. I was happy enough. I didn't ever feel like I was racing and there was a lot left in the tank, but that was the plan and is no bad thing for my ability level at the moment. I'm not reliable enough at the faster speeds yet.

Looking closer at the long leg, I took 14.44. The next fastest was Hausken with 15.13. So it was a considerably faster route, even though it didn't look it on the map. Although I ran fast up the road, I didn't gut it, so I think that it would have been even faster for the better runners. It's an interesting one in the lead up to WOC 2010 as it shows that really big gaps could appear on these long legs. You have to get the decisions right, though it was just luck that I took this route this time.

In other news, I have just got a new job to start on the 1st July as a research assistant at University College London. I am very happy as it gives me 9 months of part time work living at home. I can use the spare time to train and to settle back into British life and work out the next steps I want to take.

Before then, its just the Nordic Tour including Jukola/Venla to do, and a Master's thesis to defend. I'm looking forward to the whirlwind that will be the next 3 weeks.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman

This year the WOC selection races were held in Scotland. The sprint was on a Friday night in Glasgow, followed by the Middle and Long in Oban. I stayed with Kyle Heron and Rosalind Hussey in Strathyre.

The weekend started pretty well. I did a standard race in the sprint which I was happy with. It was a cool area with lots of underpasses through buildings. There were a few controls in little bits of woods, and I took very safe routes to them, maybe loosing a bit of time to the fastest. There was a very tricky control pick at the end which I should have taken slower as I lost small amounts of time on nearly every control. But I finished well and was happy enough with a solid run and a nice 5th place, near enough 2-4th spots but a long way off Helen Bridle in 1st.

My plan this weekend was to race. Up until now I have felt like I have always held back in the races to make sure I don't make big mistakes. But I was starting to get a bit bored of that, because I wanted to show that I am capable of more. So I ran hard on the middle. I nailed it for the first 13 controls. I was pleased, slowed down when uncertain, picked off big enough features. I felt good. Then we went into a patch of green. I know I am bad when the visability suddenly changes and I took the first control in this patch safely. Spiked. Good stuff. Then I set off on a compass bearing ready to tick off 3 small hill tops. I drifted to the left. Not cool. I half relocated, but then not enough to be absolutely certain. I ran to pretty near the control but in the panic I didn't really know what I was looking for and so continued headless chicken running. Finally, Pippa Archer caught me up and pretty much lead my into the control. Shame. I then ran strongly for the rest of the course. I ran together with Pippa although I was keen to show that I can navigate and run just as well. After a tough climb from the spectator, Pippa got a little gap and got a control on a boulder slightly before me. There was only one control to go, so I took that carefully and ran into the finish. Annoyed of what could have and should have been. But happy that when I run well, I can do more. No regrets, although I'm sure many would think it was a stupid strategy.

Kyle played spot the difference at the assembly area: Tess - highland cow?

I woke up for the long distance and I was dead. I felt dizzy and tired in the legs. I think I had run too hard the day before in tough terrain! But so had everyone, and I was confident my fitness was good enough. I got to the start line and tried to half push, but it never worked. I have no real explanations, just it wasn't my day, and honestly, I wasn't that bothered (which is slightly worrying given I trained so hard this year!). I made a mammoth mistake at the 9th and then went through the rest of course kind of with Helen Winskill but being a bit sloppy myself.

I was a bit disappointed with my weekend in some ways, but I was actually overall happy enough. I know I have more potential than what I showed in the early races, but I am not the finished product yet. There is a lot of technique work I still need to do. No surprise really, the snow is only just leaving Trondheim. I have the Nordic Tour and World Students to aim for, which gives my 8 more weeks of hard focused training. After that, its time to regroup and plan the next attack.

PS. I got WOC reserve spot. Very nice. I think based on sprint result, middle potential and solid results prior to this. Not sure on the weekend I deserved it but its a really nice acknowledgement of how far I have come this season.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Tio was great fun this year. I was very kindly allowed on the training camp meant for the 1st and 2nd teams before the race as I had already got flights and planned to do this. Was beautiful terrain, although not the sun of England.

The race itself was great fun. We had some pre-race team photos and we all were pretty happy with our runs. We were the best third team, I think ending up in 57th place. My run was fun. I didn't see many people out there which was surprising, but I did overtake about 15 so they were there somewhere! I did a steady race, some small wobbles, but nothing crazy that I tend to do in Scandinavian terrain. I was pleased when I finished, but later I looked at the results and my heart rate curves and I realised I didn't push that hard and there was a lot more in the tank. I think this is the next step for me in orienteering. I know I can run fast (though its all relative), and I'm becoming a better and more stable navigator. I just am not putting the two together.

The 1st team in both the boys and the girls did well and it was fun to be part of NTNUI at Tio. Hu og Hei!