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!)

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