World Masters Orienteering Championships – Sestriere – Italy – July 2013 – Day 5 Long Final

Long Final – Monte della Luna – 6.6kms; 340m climb; 20 controls.

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The bowl shaped arena area can be seen in the lower centre left with ski slopes running into it

What a fantastic name for the Long Final venue. And a wonderful arena too at Sanga Longa at more than 2000m in a natural bowl with a small lake, typical alpine scenery, wonderful views and only accessible by chairlift from Cesana.

Having qualified for the A Final I had a reasonably late start, but we were instructed to be at the bottom of the chairlift at least two and a half hours before our start time. It had the makings of another administrative disaster but for us it was fine – though I did hear of some earlier commotion.

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Final approach to the arena by chairlift

I have to say I much preferred this terrain to that of the two qualification races. We actually had more climb overall, but the hills didn’t seem so steep and there was a lot more variety.

Fortunately my first control was relatively easy so I quickly settled into the map and terrain and managed to plan, chose a route  and execute it well and at pace through to #5. Not sure if my contour hugging S shaped route to #6 was the best when running on the side of the steeper slope but found the control ok.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI really enjoyed the more stony terrain through #8 to #12 and was able to keep up a very good pace nimbly jumping and skipping through the rocks and still being accurate. I was gaining in confidence and ran as fast as I could on the path towards #13 overtaking a few slower competitors and not stopping at the water point.

It turns out I was 10th overall at this point. Was I becoming over confident perhaps? as I then promptly made errors approaching the next three controls.

Getting close to #14 I saw a pond to my right and thought maybe I had just passed the control so went back to find it between two small hills. In retrospect I realise that what I had seen was a lot of standing water in what is marked as marsh on the map. I had a gut feeling at the time that I hadn’t really gone far enough and should have carried on, but there was also the pull to stop and check if it wasn’t actually the pond. At least 1min lost.

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Fantastic bowl shaped arena and run in

Now ruffled ruffled I didn’t really keep in touch with the map to #15 and before I knew it had hit the path beyond. I thought I recognised the kink in the path with the stone inside and quickly ran diagonally back up the hill but didn’t see the control. Realised I was too high so went back to the path and tried to make out the adjacent clearing as I came back down and ran down its ‘finger’ into the control. Strange that I hadn’t seen it on the way up! Probably 3mins lost there.

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Looking over the run in towards Sestriere in the middle right distance

Then to #16 I was too low crossing the streams and nothing quite fitted so after some dithering decided to climb up the hill and hit the track to see where I was. Fortunately I saw the very large rock, relocated and made my way carefully down by the stream. At least another 3mins lost!

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Mikhail Gryaznevich (TVOC) and James Crawford (GO) comparing times at the finish

Slightly disheartened I slogged up the steep slope from #16 to the track and then went fast through the last 4 controls and into the finish arena with no problems.

Despite the errors towards the end I really enjoyed the course and my run and realised what I could do, and how fast I could actually go, if I kept it all together. I finished 34th overall which is actually my best WMOC Long Final result out of the four I have done so far – but I knew how much better it could quite easily have been.

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World Masters Orienteering Championships – Sestriere – Italy – July 2013 – Day 3 and 4 Long Qualification

Long Qualification 1 & 2 – Sansicario: LQ1 – Alto – 5.6kms; 280m climb; 19 controls. LQ2 – Pariol – 5.7kms; 295m climb; 18 controls

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The steep wooded slope for the two qualification races. The 2006 Winter Olympic Bobsleigh course can be seen and its top section is also depicted on the LQ2 Map below. The Arena is left of centre.

Both of the Long Qualification races were based above Sansicario on steep forested and semi open grass land cut through by the occasional ski slope and lift. Both days also used the same Arena and Start with Day 1 to the north and Day 2 to the south. There was a long steep climb up to the start on both days, so the legs had a good workout, and a warm-up map enabled one to get familiar with the depiction of the terrain. I had an early start on Day 1 but much later on Day 2 which was fortuitous as the early rain had just about

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Arena for LQ1 & 2

cleared up – though it was very damp and I did suffer from some misting up of my glasses.

My plan was to be cautious and not run too fast to try to avoid making time costly mistakes. I figured two solid runs without significant mistakes would be sufficient to see me through to the A Final.

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LQ1 Map

No major issues on day one though the early steep uphill legs soon had me gasping for breath.

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Typical terrain

Running along the slope was hard on the ankles and then the steep downhill legs required holding oneself back, grabbing hold of branches and breaking ones speed on the occasional tree trunk to avoid getting out of control – a couple of times I still went head over heels or slithered down the slippery grassy slopes on my backside.

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LQ2 Map

Day 2 was very similar but two small lapses of concentration cost me a few minutes. I was running too fast towards the end of the leg to #6, hadn’t really planned or visualised the final approach and was tempted by another control on the small hilltop just outside the circle to the north. And I was then ultra cautious and slow getting away from #6 round the green and over the streams and finally off the path and on my way to #7.

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The steep downhill to the run in

Then coming out of #14 I looked up and saw a rock face on my left and thought I should be running past it to get to #15 but instead was heading SW and along and indistinct path on the side of the slope. A quick check of the compass brought me to my senses when I realised I was running in the wrong direction and I cursed myself for a very silly mistake.

I then got to grips with the map, properly interpreted the terrain again and the position of the rocks and cliffs on the other side of the slope. As you can imagine I then tried to put on a spurt of speed which was difficult of the side of the hill to #16 but was easier and essential for the later part of the leg to #17 which I took to the east of the pond.

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On the run in on LQ1

Strangely both days had a relatively long (as a percentage of the entire course length) and navigationally un-challenging penultimate leg which seemed a bit of a shame to me. Maybe cutting out one or two earlier controls and putting extra ones at the end would have made the

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Chatting with Jean Velecky (SOC W90) after our runs. There was only one other W90 competitor, two M90’s & one M95

courses even more challenging throughout.

At least I had achieved my main aim and got through to the A Final, albeit in 63rd place. I would be starting the final just 1min before Mikhail Gryaznevich from TVOC.

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World Masters Orienteering Championships – Sestriere – Italy – July 2013 – Day 2 Sprint Final

Sprint A Final – Sestriere – 2.4kms; 60m climb; 17 control

Me Warming up at Sestriere Sprint Final

Warming up at Sestriere Sprint Final – the start was just to the right

Another splendid arena and run-in in the main shopping precinct of Sestriere. And a good course too – very compact and with constant changes of direction. However there was quite a significant climb mostly on grassy banks and one huge unavoidable drop into #4 that I finished up doing backwards scrabbling with my hands in what grass was left to slow my descent.

 

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The finish arena in the shopping precinct of Sestriere

The overwhelming limiting issue for me was simply not being able to run fast enough primarily due to a shortage of breath rather than weary legs. Maybe not long enough acclimatising to the altitude – or maybe not enough training generally.

However there was no real excuse for two or three suspect route choices. The most significant being to #15 where I hadn’t fully recognised the importance of the control description and made my final approach from the SW which involved an unnecessary loop round a building costing me at least 45secs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That plus another couple of route choice issues and the shortness of breath left me somewhat adrift at 20th – 2min 41secs behind the winner Francesco Guglielmetti (SUI) and 1min 49secs behind James Crawford (GO) in 6th and 1min 22secs behind Gavin Clegg (WSX) in 8th.

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My control 8 where I ducked through the fencing only to come back again when I realised there wasn’t a way through in that direction

No excuse I know but I did struggle with the steep, and often grassy, slopes and would have preferred a flatter course. But you have to be able to tackle whatever the terrain and the planner throws at you so  absolutely no excuse. More concentration, focus and harder training and commitment is what is required.

WMOC Sprint Final Sestriere 346Roll on 2015 and my first year as an M60. I shouldn’t really say that but maybe it is a sensible target for me to really focus on in the longer term to achieve my ambition to get on a WMOC podium – all or nothing planning and training for the next two years leading up to a massive assault on all major 2015 orienteering competitions – and then take up another sport such as sailing perhaps before the legs give up completely!

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British Podiums – Nick Barrable 3rd M35; Sarah Rollins 1st W35; Bill Hanley 3rd M60; Tony Thornley 3rd M65

On the brighter side I did after all just make the top 20 and slightly improved on my 27th in the qualifier. Fantastic also to see several Brits on the podium again this year.

Really looking forward to the long distance qualifiers in the mountains now after a day of rest tomorrow probably cycling into the Troncea valley which is supposed to be beautiful.

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World Masters Orienteering Championships – Sestriere – Italy – July 2013 – Day 1 Sprint Qualification

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Centred on Sestriere (altitude of 2035m) and the surrounding mountains that hosted the 2006 Winter Olympic Games this seemed like a perfect setting for WMOC 2013. And it was too. The alpine climate was perfect with clear blue skies, a hot sun and cooling mountain air.

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The magnificent setting of Sestriere

The organisers said this WMOC set a record for the largest number of countries represented – 45. However the total number of competitors was down with only 2603 entered for the WMOC. Finland had the largest contingent with 528 followed by Norway with 382 then Russia and Sweden. GB had 64 and surprisingly Italy, the host nation, only had 35. As a result of the lower numbers M55’s were split into 3 heats rather than the 4 in previous years.

Sprint Qualification – Pragelato – 1.9kms; 55m climb; 18 controls

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Arena at the base of the Olympic ski jumps

Access couldn’t have been easier as we were camping on the outskirts of the town at Villaggio GoFree so cycled in. And what a splendid arena at the bottom of the Olympic Ski Jumps. Looking up those I’m glad I chose a sport that keeps you in contact with the ground.

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Pragelato nestled in the valley

It was already very hot jogging out to for my start at 10:24.

Pragelato is quite a thin linear town on either side of the main road down the valley. As a result nearly all courses visited the grassy & forested areas surrounding the town on the valley sides as well as the older streets plus a timed crossing over the main road between controls 7 and 8 on my course.

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The compact old town area wher controls 5 to 8 were positioned

My start was a little manic and before I knew it I had run well beyond my first control. I was also slightly confused by the control description symbol which was a circle and mis-interpreted it for a hill-top when there was a control on a small hill-top in front of me. Ran back to the correct control which was actually a bench / table. 1min lost already and I’d hardly even started my WMOC2013 campaign.

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The exit from the busy market

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKnuckle down, concentrate and keep moving fast – I told myself. And that’s pretty much what I achieved. No further mistakes and was well and truly out of breath at the finish. The course through the town was tight, twisty and fun though not without incident. At one point I was blocked by cars squeezing past each other and a parked car on a backstreet to #5, had to dodge shoppers in a busy market coming out of #8 and then nearly swept a lady off her feet on a small footpath leaving #9.

Once out of the narrow streets and across the river bridge, there was quite a long straightish run taking in 4 easy controls through fields and a gravel track to the run-in.

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Comparing times with Gavin Clegg (WSX)

A bit of an anxious wait to find out if I had done enough to overcome the early error and get into the A Final – which I did being 9th in my heat. Phew! Not as bad as I thought it might have been. Effectively 27th in the class across all three heats. Gavin Clegg (WSX) won our heat and without my little indescretion I would only have been seconds behind him instead of 1min 19secs.

Have I done myself a favour perhaps ? as I shouldn’t be under so much pressure as if I’d got into the top 10 for the reverse order start of the final – we’ll see tomorrow.

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Portugal 2013

Three events (12 races in total, 3 Long, 5 Middle and 4 Urban Sprints) in the space of three weeks and all within relatively easy reach of each other in central Portugal was an opportunity to good to miss – especially to swap the freezing GB winter for the milder Portuguese climate.

Lake by our campsiteI had hoped to arrive in the vicinity with a few days to settle in and acclimatise, but unfortunately our ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao was twice postponed due to storms in the Bay of Biscay. So it wasn’t until the evening before the first event that we arrived at our campsite by a lake (Barragem Marechal Carmona) 5 miles from Idanha-a-Nova and not far from the Spanish border – a very quiet corner of Portugal.

Norte Alentejano O’Meeting (NAOM) based around Nisa

NAOM Logo 1According to the event website this was the “7th consecutive year this event had run and the first time it had returned to Nisa, where it all started in 2007”.

Day 1 – Arez – Middle Distance – 4.1km; 80m climb; 20 controls; 1:10k map

Day 1 Arez route to the startBased at the old bull ring in the small village of Arez the influx of orienteers of many nationalities brought the place to life. The terrain was rough open land with scattered olive trees and many large boulders and outcrops of rock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy course was compact comprising mostly short legs and with a footbridge river crossing to get from one part of the map to the other. It was straight in the deep end having to navigate through the boulders to #1 and I got pushed out quite a long way to the right by the very thick dark green veg so went right round the outside.

Footbridge crossing Day 1 ArezCautious to #2 threading my way through all the boulders then into a good rhythm for the next few. I didn’t actually spot the marked crossing of the river from 8-9 so forded it thigh high and then I had trouble finding #9 until I came across another control in one of the wet pits to the north. Cleaning up after Day 1 Arez with homecooked O food about to be consumedThe last section after the footbridge was fast and furious and I overshot #19 and had to check myself and look back. With the two or three little errors I was surprised to find I was first by 55 seconds. Washed down and cleaned up after the event and filled up with a bowl of home cooked o food.

Day 2 – Lapa – Middle Distance – 3.8km; 80m climb; 15 controls; 1:10k map

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACool control featureWent too far left to #1 and struggled to identify     mapped features on the ground in the high broom like veg. Decided to follow precise bearing to #2 which worked better as demonstrated by a fastest split. Typical Day 2 terrain at LapaWent through too much bog staying straight to #3. To #5 took the right hand path to the gap in the wall then slowed right down so not to overshoot. Next few legs were good and subsequently saw from the splits that I went 1st at #8 where I stayed to the end finishing 2min 49secs ahead.

NAOM 2013 M&W55 PodiumMedal & Wine PrizeOverall for the two days I was 1st by more than 5 mins which was quite a pleasant surprise, as was the goody bag which included a delicious jar of tapenade and a bottle of local Termas de Nisa red wine to celebrate afterwards!

Nisa – Night Sprint – 2.3km; 1:4000 map

This was on the night of Day 1 so we stayed around NisaNisa after the run at Arez and eventually chose a café for a bite to eat – but hadn’t expected the food to take quite so long so was a little heavy in the stomach area for the subsequent run around the town! Despite this I had a good run and only really lost time getting orientated on the firstOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA leg and then also towards the end when I took the 1st instead of 2nd turning right to #10. It was very enjoyable running through the narrow streets of Nisa and I finished 2nd.

All in all a very satisfactory start to the 2013 Portuguese campaign I thought, but unfortunately things went downhill a bit from here…..

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6 Days of Austria – Wiener Neustadt – Austria – July 2011

Campsite grass scythingWe chose to use the ‘pop-up’ event campsite which was run by the local fire brigade. It was quite basic but adequate and I borrowed a scythe to cut back the long grass around our awning.

Austrian Event Campsite Washing Facilities

Campsite Washing-Up Facilities

Getting there early we were able to get a good spot within electricity hook-up range. There were several familiar faces from Hungary a week ago and we were again camped next to the Swiss orienteering couple Hanspeter & Brigit Oswald.

Looking back I guess I was just a little too wound up and tense for the World Masters in Hungary so I planned to be much more chilled for these few days in Austria. Finding a fantastic swimming pool in the town with a relaxing health suite with sauna, steam room, cold plunge pools etc also helped

I was the only British runner out of 40 in the M55 class though there were quite a few Brits in other classes.

Day 1 – Aspang – Middle 3.8km; 110m climb; 14 controls 1:7,500 & 1;4,000 maps

Aspang Day 1 Map

RouteGadget Map at 1:7,500

An unusual map – two sided at two different scales. Starting at 1:7,500, up through a hilly, coniferous wooded area with steep slopes.

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Change of scale at control 7

Then onto 1:4,000, for a more complex contoured area of gullies and steeply down hill to the finish. Making sure of the navigation to ensure no mistakes, which felt good, but probably a little slower pace as a result. The first leg was very long with only one obvious route along a contour hugging track before a short steep assent to the control. Several further legs took us up and over the hill then it was into the more intricate terrain which went well. Lost it a bit (2min) on the last two legs through poor route choice and finished 4th (36:45min) –  6min downAustria 6 Days Day 1 Assembly & Finish on the leader Anssi Juutilainen (Finland), 3mins behind 2nd placed Mario Ammann (Switzerland) and 38secs behind 3rd place Josef Hones (Austria). Afterwards it was lovely to be able to jump in the outdoor swimming pool just under the railway viaduct from assembly.

Day 2 – St Corona – Long 4.3km; 110m climb; 15 controls; 1:10,000 map

St Corona Ski Lift

View down piste to finish at St Corona

View down the piste to finish

This day was in alpine terrain and required a chairlift up to the assembly (a first for me at an orienteering event) and we chose to walk back down afterwards.

The course took us through some mixed forest, scrub and open terrain finishing with a steep downhill which crossed then descended on the now grassy piste.

Running down piste to finish at St Corona

Running down piste to finish at St Corona

St Corona Map

St Corona Day 2 Map

Started a little slow getting to grips with the detail on the map but then got into my stride with only one serious hiccup stopping to look for #8 too early in very tall grass.

The top four were the same as day 1 but in a different order. I finished 3rd 48 secs ahead of Mario & Josef was 1st this time and Anssi 2nd.

Day 3 – Wiener Neustadt – Middle 4.5km; 0m climb; 22 controls; 1:5,000 map

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Mario Armmann finishing day 3

Just a stone’s throw from the town this was a very flat military training area with scattered ruins and depressions started in an open pine forest then out onto grass / scrub land. It felt familiar being much like many of the flatter BAOC Military League South venues back home. It was fast and furious with 22 controls in 4.5km and you just couldn’t let your concentration lapse as seconds would count. Coming out of the forest into the intricate #4, 5 & 6 was difficult to adapt to but then I climbed up to 1st by #12 and kept it until #20 where I lost 30secs somehow homing in on the right depression. Terrain and format definitely suited me and I finished 2nd only 13 secs behind Anssi and 22 secs ahead of Mario.

Day 4 – Grimmenstein – Long 5.1km; 250m climb; 19 controls; 1:7,500 map

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Impressive Start Facilities in the Forest on Day 4

Today’s course took us around the 750m Kulmriegel mountain and required a shuttle bus to the start. Wow what a nasty first leg – straight up an 80m climb then some longer open forest legs led round the mountain to its steep northern side riddled with large cliffs and boulders.

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Austrian ‘O’ Food

Mario, who started 2min behind me caught me up and overtook here and I was struggling to keep up. This egging eachother on caused us to both overshoot #11 hitting #12 first – silly! Mario gradually disappeared as we started the long descent which was taking it out of me and I was already feeling tired with quite some way to go when we got to a road crossing to #16. I found it a bit of a slow slog along the side of the hill to 18 and almost staggered down to the finish. I was 6th whilst Anssi was 1st, Mario 2nd and Josef 3rd.

Day 5 – Bad Fischau – Middle 3.8km; 105m; 17 controls; 1:7,500 map

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Tim & Carol Sands with Andy Hempstead & a Solway Sister

Going well up to #4 then struggled through vegetation and slopes to #5. #6 was ok but lost it completely to #7. I was always expecting to see a fenced compound to my left but never did and then completely lost my orientation until I was near the road and lost 6min on this one leg – what a disaster. The rest of the course was up and down then but I did, funnily enough, manage fastest immediately to #8 and somehow also on the run-in but to avail. Worst day by far finishing 10th with Anssi 1st again, Josef 7th and Mario 35th !

Day 6 – Witzelsberg – Long Chase 5.3km; 260m climb; 19 controls; 1:7,500 map

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Final day finish and arena

Dropping my day 5 score left me 3rd going into this final day chasing start. I started 4min 8sec behind Mario which would probably need an error on his part for me to catch him. I then had a gap of more than 5min to the 4th place starter so mustn’t make any big mistakes myself or my podium place will be in jeopardy! Really enjoyed the course which had quite a lot of variety and was complex and tricky in places requiring concentration and good planning and execution. This only fell down once going to #9 where I probably lost a couple of minutes after mistaking a minor path of to the left.

Brigit Oswald (OLK Piz Hasi - Swiss) W60 Champ

With Brigit Oswald W60 Champ

M&W55 Podium

M&W55 Podium

In the end I finished 2nd on the day just under 5 min behind Anssi, but I gained 9 secs on Mario. Overall for the six days Anssi Jutilainen was 1st (way ahead) Mario Amman was 2nd and I was 3min 59secs behind him in 3rd. My first top three position at a foreign event which I was very pleased with. The podium ceremony was backed up with some rousing fanfare music (have look at the amateur video)

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World Masters Orienteering Championships – Pecs – Hungary – July 2011

Sprint Qualification – Pecs – 2.3kms; 105m climb; 14 controlsPecs Assembly Flag

WMOC 2011 LogoThe sprint qualification took place within the old city walls of Pecs with the assembly area and finish in the main Szechenyi Square with its wide open spaces, important buildings, Turkish mosque, statues and fountains.

Pecs Assembly Area & Finish Round Mosque

My course took me through the NE quadrant and its many interesting historical areas. My first control was in the ruined walls of a chapel that was built on top of an ancient Christian mausoleum. I then crossed in front of the Cathedral, went in and out of the city walls, through streets, inner courtyards and gardens and round the mosque to finish.

WMOC 2011 Hungary Sprint Qualification

Final control which is re-used each day

Sprint Qualification Map PecsThere was a very light shower as I started which left the hard surfaces damp and slightly slippery which I had to factor in during my run. My route choice was generally good though erring on the cautious side when finding it difficult to spot gaps whilst reading the map at speed. I was probably fortunate not to lose much time going to 6 when finding it was actually on the E side of an impassable wall whilst I was was aiming for the bottom of the steps on the W side. And I could have saved a few seconds from 8 to 9 by going through the inner courtyards rather than round the outside.

Orienteering FoodVery pleased to finish 2nd in my heat, 6th out of all four heats for my class and safely through to the A final. GB did well with six of us in the top 10 in my class so very buoyant looking forward to the Final. Rounded of the day with a fantastic Hungarian ‘snack’ after the race.

Sprint Final – Komlo – 1.8km; 60m climb; 11 controls

The modern mining town of Komlo provided Sprint Final Map Komlovery different terrain from the old town of Pecs. Modern buildings and many blocks of flats set on hillsides in an open plan style with grass, parks and small wooded areas between them. The main road had been cordoned off for the run-in and the small town seemed overwhelmed with the volume of people and an event of this size.

WMOC2012 Komlo Sprint Finish 1The seeding found me starting 2nd to last with James WMOC2012 Komlo Sprint FinishCrawford (GO) behind so I didn’t want to see him coming up behind during the race. With such a short course (1.8km), not much climb, but a lot of downhill, I knew I needed to be running flat out right from the start whilst keeping it smooth through the controls. And it went mostly as planned!

First major route choice was 3 to 4 and I decided to take the eastern route up the steep hill path through the olive green. 5 through 6 & 7 and most of the way to 8 was all downhill and dangerously fast on the slopes with short cropped dusty grass.

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Debrief with Mikhail and Gavin

At 6 my times reveal I was in 3rd place but then dropped back a bit. Could probably have chosen a slightly faster route to 8 and then it was into the intricate hillside park for the final legs. Thought I could see the Swiss who started 1min ahead of me, but lost all hope of keeping up with him when I misjudged 10 and flew past it too high up the hill losing about 20 precious seconds and dropping from 5th to 9thoverall.

Still very pleased to be in the top 10 and, having finished 18th last year, will be looking for a top 5 or podium next year!

Long Qualifications (LQ) and Final – Mecsek Mountains

Sink Hole Terrain

Typical karst sink hole terrain

The two qualification and final races all took place in typical karstic terrain above Orfu in the Mecsek Mountain forests NW of Pecs with its intriguing ‘negative’ terrain and  numerous sink holes – some being very large indeed. It was fun planning and especially executing routes through this terrain often running round the rims of the sink holes first one way then the other, feeling like one was being sucked in by the gravity of a black hole or gaining velocity like a spacecraft sling-shotting round a planet.

LQ1 started well including a fastest time to #2, but I lost far too much time at 7 & 8 and finished 18th. LQ2 was much better finishing 5th with 3 fastest legs at 3, 7 & 9 and only one significant hiccup at 14 dropping some 3-4 min. These gave me an overall 10th in my heat and safely into the A Final – for the first time at this my 2nd WMOC.

The day of the long final was very hot and despite drinking lots before the start I felt WMOC 2011 showerdehydrated within 15min. Started a bit slow, but increased speed and gained places to be 7th after  #12. On the way to #13 there was a drinks station on a track at the top of a steep rise and I took advantage of it to quench my thirst. Unfortunately this lead to a lapse in concentration and an immediate frustrating 5-6 min error. In the end I finished 37th and 4th Brit. Results here. When back in assembly it was wonderful to get under the cold water spray provided by  the local fire brigade.

Our stay in Hungary was at a very convenient campsite in Sikonda ¾ OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof the way between Pecs and Komlo. This was the Mediano Thermal Camping , which had a cute retro logo, just a short walk from the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAexcellent Sikonda Wellness Hotel & Thermal Baths which were excellent value and which we used a lot including the saunas and steam rooms and the 50m outdoor pool.

There was a coach load of Estonian orienteers staying in WMOC 2011 Winery music manchalets at the same campsite and the site owner invited us, and a Swiss orienteering couple Hanspeter & Brigit Oswald, to join them in his outing to the Blum Pince winery at Villanykovesd near Villany  We were treated to some very hearty Hungarian food, pitchers of local wine, some ‘rustic’ music and dance and a trip down into the cellars to sample more wine – all great fun.

This was the furthest East we had traveled in our caravan and orienteered and, though initially unsure what to expect, we found it delightful and also good value – which was a bonus. Would definitely go back to Hungary again.

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JK Festival of Orienteering – Northern Ireland – 22nd to 25th April 2011

Sprint – Stranmillis University College & Queen’s Elms Village in Belfast
JK 2011 Logo

Having a very late start time – last off – I was able to fly from Cardiff to Belfast on the morning of the event and still have time to soak up the atmosphere and have a good pasta lunch in the canteen overlooking the Assembly, Start and Finish areas below.

The day had been fine but a light rain started shortly before my start which left some of the surfaces very slippery which might, ironically, have actually helped me as I had to run with special care and not always flat out!

The first half in Elms Village was made up of short legs and rapidly changing directions in and out of the mass of buildings. It wasn’t easy in the short distance and time between controls to plan any further ahead than the next control. As a result I hadn’t fully appreciated the position of 4 and had to stop and examine the map more carefully – then I was off again. The hard surfaces from 6 through to 9 were very slippery and required care when changing direction and then it was through the gap into the second half in the University grounds. I had earlier seen some of my fellow competitors running through the spectator control 13 and had also roughly noted some of their times to that point so calculated I was probably doing quite well in comparison.

JK Sprint Map 3

Running too fast I went straight past 15, not having read the control description – it was on the other side of the small building under the overhang! 16 to 20 went quite smoothly though was worried 20 wasn’t going to be as obvious as it looked on the map. Found the approach to 21 confusing as, on the ground, the gap between the wall and the building looked very narrow and the sight of a piece of red and white tape on the end of the wall convinced me to keep to the south. At the bend in the wall I glanced over it, saw my control below and had to go round the end and back down from the opposite direction – at least 15 precious secs lost.

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The finish arena

Went through the last four controls smoothly despite being unsure exactly what 23 might look like when I got there – it appeared like a maze on my wildly bobbing map! Then I was very surprised to be running into the finish straight with hardly anybody around rather than the excited bustle and commentary that I had witnessed earlier and was accompanied only by a lone guitarist singing and strumming * through the loudspeakers in the background,– but then I was one of the last to start! And looking at my splits printout after downloading I was so thrilled to see “you are currently 1st out of 91 finishers” knowing there was no-one else to come in. My first Gold at a major event and after my Bronze at the British Sprint earlier in the month I am getting the message that the Sprint format suits me.

The same M55’s took the top three places here as we didOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA at the British Sprint championships, but this time I was 1st, 39secs ahead of James Crawford (GO) in 2nd with Gavin Clegg (WSX) 3rd. Unfortunately I had to wait until the next day for the prize giving at Tyrella and James & Gavin who had earlier runs were unable to join me on the podium.

*The singer / guitarist was Josh, the son of the organiser, and he was playing “My Lagan Flowing Softly“, originally by Bakerloo Station. The River Lagan rises near the summit of Slieve Croob (used on Day 3 of this JK) heading in a NW direction then winds its way 40 miles down to Belfast.

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British Sprint Championships – Sussex and Brighton Universities – 9th April 2011

Having just returned from a winter in Spain and Portugal this was my first event back in Britain. Consisting of qualifying heats and a final race on two different parts of the University complex.

Qualifying heat – 2km & 75m climb

The start was within the Falmer campus and the route there took us over the railway, through Falmer Village and past the impressive, but still under construction, stadium that will be the new home for Brighton and Hove Albion FC. Warmed up well and had a good start through the first two controls, but then hesitated slightly over my route choice through the smaller accommodation blocks on a steep hillside. Took the best route to 8, I think, as you really needed to be on the right side of an uncrossable wall at the end. Then there was a long leg over the railway bridge and into the northern Uni complex. Had to spot a couple of small gaps between buildings etc , which was not easy at speed, to ensure the best route to 14 and 15. Then it was hard running uphill through 16 & 17 into the woods and out on to the playing fields for the run in. Finished 4th in my heat of 18 runners (8th out of 62 from all heats in my M55 class) and safely through to the A Final.

A Final – 2km & 65m climb

ImageThe first leg, longest of the course by a long way, needed some quick thinking right from the start to assess the best route. I decided to head directly downhill through the trees to hit the road as quickly as possible with the thought that once on the road I could start planning ahead. I ran through the next few quick controls as smoothly as possible and from 5 belted downhill fast – too fast perhaps as I hadn’t fully appreciated the exact location of 6. I ran straight up the middle of the rows of buildings when I should have been on the NE side, so had to go round the end of the block and double back.

Trying to make amends and in a bit of a panic I ran very fast to 7 then I had to consciously re-gather my composure and concentrate when I realised I hadn’t even looked ahead to see where 8 was. Took 9 ok, then had an easy longish fast run to 10 to start planning ahead again. Could just see Mikhail, another M55 runner, ahead which spurred me on, but had to take care and look hard on the map from 11 to 12 to ensure there actually was a route through the buildings. I left 13 just after Mikhail – he went right, but I thought I could see a good route staying left – and it might have worked. However uncertainty crept in when I couldn’t clearly see a way through on the map Imageround the end of the building into 14 so I finished up doing a bit of a dog leg losing a bit of time to Mikhail. However, I managed to eventually get ahead of him when he made a small error overshooting 17 and I ran fast through the small gap to 18, through the woods and up into the run-in.

With my couple of small errors I didn’t expect to finish as high up as I did so was really pleased with third place and my first medal (bronze) at a major event. 17 secs behind James Crawford (GO) and 20 secs behind Gavin Glegg (WSX).

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International Meeting of Arraiolos – Alentejo – Portugal – March 2011

The tiny village of Gafanhoeira was surprisingly the event centre for this international meeting. With only about 100 houses, a couple of cafes, a village hall and surrounding farms this small hamlet has a thriving orienteering club with very enthusiastic members. The wonderful local open and runnable terrain of undulating cork and holm oak with rocky outcrops is also probably a key factor in its popularity and success.

Middle Distance Course

Middle distance 4.3km 145m climb and 18 controls.

The first 6 legs were the longest and took us round a lake through undulating fast forest – could have been a little faster here perhaps. Then it was into the short, sharp, legs constantly changing direction through rocky and rougher terrain which required high levels of concentration. Kept it smooth here running fast where I could and mostly direct and the controls came up very well.

Nearly came a cropper towards the end after catching another competitor but caught my drifting route just in time. Finished 1st out of 32 with a time of 27:51 12secs ahead so was very pleased with that and it put me in a fantastic position to go for 1st overall of the combined Middle and Long races.

The night event had unfortunately been switched (I would imagine very late in the day) from the very interesting old town of Arraiolos to the village and surrounding fields of Gafanhoeira. Some 80% of my course was round several features of an open, stubbly and muddy hill top field with only the last few controls in the urban village setting and even those were not very imaginatively located.

Not a good course and not a good result for me. Inadequate head torch and no street lighting in the fields didn’t help!

Alentejo Camping Family Spectating in the Rain

Long distance 6.1km 175m climb and 16 controls.

This area contained more open spaces with pockets of denser vegetation usually around rock outcrops with some forest and scattered trees. There was a big climb and downhill again towards the finish. Unfortunately ran into trouble early on looking for no. 3 in amongst some vegetation and rocks. Looking back I can see I was very close to it several times and even after re-locating for the second time found it difficult to find. Lost some 6mins on a shortish leg – oh dear! Being just a little annoyed the next two legs were very ragged but then I began to get to grips with myself and the terrain despite the now near torrential rain. I knew I had to work very very hard to recoup any lost time at all and must make no further mistakes. The last two thirds of the course went well running as fast as I could even on the tricky steep hillside. After the heavy rain the narrow run-in was a quagmire of sloppy mud.

Prize Giving with Home Made Prizes

After the mistake I was pleasantly surprised to finish second on the Long with a time of 53:20 and only 2 min behind the leader – obviously everyone else also had problems somewhere on the course. Overall with the combined Middle and Long times I was 2nd only 58 secs behind Matti Hautala (FIN) and 2:42 ahead of Urban Larsson (ESP). The prizes were novel and made by the local inhabitants of the village.

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