Irelands senior squad prepare for the 2011 World orienteering champs in France
In the hope of finishing off the WOC week on a high, I knew I needed to be clean in the terrain and not be put off by others. There was uncertainty as to what legs of the relay people should run, but in the end I was put on first leg for the second year in a row. I looked forward to this opportunity and was confident that I could perform well in the terrain after visiting the model. I knew my speed wasn’t really up to much, but if I took the controls cleanly then I could leave Niamh and Aislinn in a decent position to do some damage.
My priority in the morning leading up to the race was to keep cool. So I stayed in shadow as much as possible, but took time out to check out the arena, and what to expect in the run through. As I waited with all the other first leg runners before we were called up to the start line I stretched, took on water and poured two whole bottles over me. Suddenly I felt refreshed and heat wasn’t bothering me.
Once the start gun went, we set off on quite a long run out and up the hill to the start kite. I began in the back row, and just stayed there running fast enough to stay with the group but checking my map to work out how I was going to head to the first control. As we were heading down the track majority of the group cut off to the right, but I continued on a bit further as planned along with a few other girls. Cutting into the forest I was no longer in a group, but took the control cleanly. Was a bit disappointed to see the other gaffles were so close and I was already behind majority of the group as their pace together was faster than mine. Maybe in hindsight I should have changed my plan and went with the majority, but my plan from the off was to run my own race.
On route to the next control, a few girls ran back past me towards the first control and I was running with a girl from Austria. I punched the control just before her but then she sped off past me towards the next. I took that cleanly, running until I hit a large track and then using small paths and open to locate the control site. The fourth and fifth controls were more difficult, but I was sensible and slowed my pace to again use (less distinct) paths and open areas. By number 5 and had caught a Polish and Latvian girl. The route to #6 was easier as we were to pass the large track again. I punched along with the other girls and then they took time out of me towards the next control. I took that cleanly but then had a small mistake to #8 as I didn’t read the map clearly and mistook a large depression and crag for the rocky pit I was looking for. I was then less certain to the next control but took it cleanly and prepared for the heat of the long run through.
I ran towards the singular tree I had checked the control at earlier and then followed the tapes through the arena. The atmosphere was amazing! There seemed to be Irish support lined up the entire length of the tape. This really spurred me on and I was pushing for time. I hardly needed drink but I took a sip and poured the rest of the water over me at the coaching zone. The hardest bit was actually the continued open area away from the crowd and by that stage I was glad to get back into the shelter of the trees and concentrate again for the final few controls. I followed a clear re-entrant (a feature I’ve been struggling with in this terrain throughout the week!) up to the next control and took it cleanly. I stumbled right across a felled area on a direct line to the next control. This felt rubbish and slow, so I’m not sure if it would have been wiser heading the long way round.
I wasn’t feeling great after that route, so it was a surprise when I approached the following control and the Polish, Latvian and a Serbian girl were punching it. I pushed hard to catch them and punched the next control with the Latvian and Serbian. This was when I should have sensibly out-navigated them, but I followed with them on a poor route to the penultimate control. I pushed hard on the run-in the 3 of us running in close contention. I was content, passing over to Niamh. I was glad to leave her with a few teams to compete against and that I had minimised my time-loss around the course.
This year the WOC sprint qualification was in the centre of Aix-les-Bains, an old French town. Our team pre-race preparations included route-planning on a makeshift map, and some ‘sight-seeing’ around the town in the days leading up to the sprint qualification.
On the day:
Pre-start: Normal routines here.
-2: Get control descriptions. I looked through them quickly and noted that there were 2 inside wall corners and 2 outside fence corners. Those kind of controls, if they are on uncrossable features in a sprint, can lose you a lot of time if you end up on the wrong side of the feature.
-1: We could see the start kite ahead and the athletes that were leaving one minute before were definitely taking their time running out of the box. This could only mean one thing: the first control was a long leg with some route choice!
1. (Percentage behind fastest leg time: 147%): A long, steep leg. Most of the climb in the course was here. I opted for a right variation, but I lost some time on the two little paths through the green as they were quite overgrown. The left variation, up the stairs and across the semi-open, would have been better. I didn’t lose any time executing my chosen route. After deciding on the route plan, I glanced ahead at the rest of the course. A surprise was that the final park was marked as all olive green (as it had been in our transport program in the instructions for the opening ceremony). Little did I know the controversy that it would cause later… The course was as we had expected in our pre-planning – uphill in the forest at the start and finishing in the streets of Aix-les-Bains.
2 (143%): Run!
3 (129%): Run faster! I used this leg to plan ahead.
4 (144%): There was a route choice to stay high along the path, but I didn’t see it at the time. I had planned this route on the way to 3. Along the straight track section I planned ahead for 5. The control was on the inside corner of the wall. Made sure to cross the wall where it was grey 😉 This was the wall of controversy!
5 (114%): High route. No problems. I was surprised to be within 114% of the fastest leg time on this ‘running’ control
6 (120%): The control was on the inside corner, but I could see it while I was running down the hill on the way to 5, so it was no problem. I used the time to plan the route to 7.
7 (116%): This was a nice leg. There was no route obvious straight away. Took the right route choice here.
8 (126%): A straightforward control… just don’t miss the narrow street in to number 8 and don’t run into any of the children in the playground at the control.
9 (116%): Nice control flow through 8 and straight out through the underpass. We had seen this during our sightseeing visit so knew the lie-of-the-land.
10 (121%): On the way to number 9, I sussed out the rest of the course. Once you realized that you couldn’t go left to number 10 because of the uncrossable wall, there was no other choice but to go right through the underpass.
11 (140%): Annoyed that I missed the narrower northern street that would have made the route shorter. I didn’t even see it at the time.
12 (124%): Had decided to enter the park to the east to give the easiest route into the control once I got into the park. There was a lot of supporters here, the atmosphere was great and the Irish fans were in top voice J
Finish: Run, run, as fast as you can. Interestingly, in heat 1 and 2 the fastest split time from the last control to the finish was 38 seconds, but in heat 3 someone managed it in 14 seconds!
I finished just a few seconds behind Aija Skrastina (LAT) and just ahead of Galina Vinogradova (RUS) who had both started in the same time but in different heats, and who I knew were extremely good. This gave me a bit of hope that I might make the final but it wasn’t to be. I was a little disappointed, but my aim was to have as good a sprint race as possible and I did that. I just wasn’t fit enough this time. The planners of the qualification races did a great job and the courses were challenging and varied.
One topic of team conversation before and after the sprint was that of embargoes. Access to Aix-les-Bains and Chambery (where the sprint final was held) was unlimited, and you could easily walk around the town and, as you were sightseeing, check out the beautiful architecture of uncrossable walls, underpasses and narrow streets. If you were lucky enough to be in the towns a few months beforehand, it’s nice to make a sprint map when you get back as a souvenir. The general feeling amongst the team was that embargoes should be proper embargoes. For this qualification, we had prior knowledge of, for example, the long stairs leading down to my number 7 and the passage exit from number 8. Our verdict: either a total embargo of the areas or just don’t tell anyone where the race will be held until a few days before!
Bring on the WOC sprint in 2012.
It started like every other morning, a bowel of muesli and wheatabix. I hadn’t slept very well the night before as it had been a hot humid night. But today was the day I’d been hoping and waiting for for 12 months, WOC middle final. I’d had a reasonably clean run in the qualification race, losing a bit of time towards the end on a bad route choice and being too hesitant going into one of the last controls. But overall I’d been calm and tackled the terrain well and I hoped to employ the same mentality and techniques in the final. There had been more path running and less technical legs in the qualification than expected but I knew the final was going to longer, tougher and more technical and I was excited by this challenge.
Myself and Kyle arrived up at the pre-start one hour before I started. It was already really warm and even sitting in the shade didn’t offer any relief. I’d never worn GPS before so spent 15 minutes trying different techniques to get the most comfortable way of wearing it. I warmed up well and headed down to the start. With some final words of encouragement from Kyle, it was now up to me to get the job done! It felt quite lonely jogging the 10 minutes to the start as in the qualification races I was with two other competitors. Standing on the start line with one minute left to go, I repeated my first 3 description numbers over and over in my head and looked frequently at my compass, trying to ignore the massive camera pointing in my face. Physically, I felt a nervous wreck, my heart rate was high and my stomach felt in knots but mentally I felt quite calm. Then, on the final beep it was time. I snatched my map and ran along the tapes to the start kite looking at the medium length first leg. It didn’t look too tricky; lots to tick off along the way, not a very definite attach point other than a large strip of open. I felt in control and the running felt easy for the first half of the leg. As I came through the strip of open before No1, I wasn’t 100% sure where I was but carried on towards where I thought the control was. I started slowing down and alarm bells started to ring. It was a vague area around the control and I was struggling to relocate. I carried on along my line and ended up on a path past the control which I tried to relocate off but unfortunately relocated incorrectly. I was starting to feel really sick at this point, I looked at my watch and saw I’d already lost about 4 minutes on this 1st control. My confidence was sinking and I knew I was being watched by thousands in the arena. I tried to put these thoughts out of my head and finally headed south towards to control seeing the control guarder before the control. Over 5 minutes lost on the first control, it wasn’t what I’d hoped for in the final but I reassured myself that others would make mistakes and i started focusing on the rest of the race. It was a tough uphill leg to No 2 and I took it slow and started getting distracted by another competitor as I came close to the control. I tried to ignore her and found no2 reasonably well although quite hesitantly. The navigation was starting to get trickier now with more brashings on the ground and increased rock detail. I took the next 3 controls very slowly and stayed in constant contact with the map working my way through the tough terrain and repeating my leg plan over and over in my head. A Ukrainian competitor had caught me and we used each other well without getting distracted and led off line. After 5 short technical legs, leg 7 to 8 was a long leg with 3 route choices. My navigation had improved over the short legs and my confidence started increasing. I decided on the straight option, ignoring much of the detail and relying on my compass until i got to 50 metres from the control and then slowed right down. It was a tricky control on the edge of a green area and it was important to go into it at exactly the right point. I got it without problems and headed straight onto 3 easier controls before the spectator loop. I was starting to enjoy the course now and as i came out into the open arena to the thousands of spectators, I felt proud to be part of the championships. There were people shouting and roaring support the whole way round the loop which was so motivating to keep pushing up the hill in the heat. All i had left were 5 reasonably straight forward controls in a loop before a long downhill finish. I took safe routes for these and felt so exhilarated as i ran smoothly into the last forest control. After 2 controls in the open i punched the last control, gripped my map tight and sprinted down the run in to more cheers and support.
My first WOC final has been very memorable, from such a poor shaky disappointing start to a confident fast second half and i had learnt a lot. 1). Always get the first control cleanly, even if it means walking to it! 2). Never give up, others will make mistakes too. 3). Enjoy it! I have never enjoyed a race as much as I have this one. Thank you everyone for your support.
This was the first time I was going to be running the middle distance at WOC. I was really looking forward to a new challenge and had spent some hours thinking about how I would run the race to get me through to the Final. Coming into WOC I had a troublesome two weeks with injuries but always tried to stay positive and knew there wasn’t much I could do about it but give it everything and prepare the best I could. I arrived in france 4 days before my race. was out in the forest twice to refresh my mind about the terrain and find a good flow. Mainly though to test my ankle and see how I would hold up in this rocky rough terrain.
The day of the race I was feeling relaxed and ready to go. Hoping that my tactic would work was the only doubt really. My tactic was to take easy routes and make the course as simple as possible and get nice attackpoints into the controls. I knew that sometimes my routes might not be the quickest but I knew if I avoided mistakes and the other runners did’nt I would qualify. Thats what I had to tell myself!!
After a long run to the start I was in the start box and feeling relaxed. The first few controls went without any major problems, safe and pretty clean. My plan for the long leg was to pick out a nice system of tracks that took me about 300m from the control. All I needed to do was make sure I took the correct tracks. No problems. however I made mistakes on the 7th and 8th(loss of 2min) where I found it hard to understand the mapper in this area. The major mistake came on the 10th. After cutting through a section of forest I came out on a path and for some reason went right. I don’t know why but this lead to a large mistake where I spent about 3min trying to find out where I was. After this the course was pretty simple.
To summarize my race I was pretty disappointed. I could blame it on my bad build up, mapping, too easy a course. Ultimately, the only reason I didn’t make the final was because I was not good enough on the day. Too many mistakes, about 4:30 in big mistakes and a runner who makes mistakes like that did not deserve to be in a middle final simple as that. It’s WOC and the standard should be that good. However now I know that with a good race and the tactics I used would have qualified me easily in OK shape. This I can take with me the next time I run middle at WOC, whenever that is. Now I am looking forward to WOC next year and revenge will be on the cards whatever distance I will be running.
I ran the second leg in the relay. Nick ran the first leg. I was hoping he could come back with the leaders something akin to the Italian performance that day so i could get a tow off of faster guys for a while. But he obviously lost alot of time to big mistakes. He screamed at me changing over “Have a clean race!” which was the third and final reminder of the day to do so. The first reminder had been when the strong anchors on the womens last leg made a dogs dinner of their final controls. And the second being the big guys on the mens first legs having similar, but not as comical, difficulties. These were three reasons on the day to remind myself not to have any massive mistakes. And i didn’t.
WOC Relay, 3rd leg.
After the disappointment of both the terrain and the courses in the long and middle qualifiers I was really looking forward to this race as the finals and relay model indicated that terrain was much more to my liking. I was also delighted to be selected for the team and given the job of running the anchor leg, though due to my lack of speed it’s not a position that I would normally expect to run in a relay like this, but it was clear from the other races that what you did in the forest was far more important than the last few metres.
A very quick first loop from second leg runner David Healy meant that I didn’t have as long to warm up as I was expecting, but due to the warm up area being a very hot and exposed open field I didn’t want to spend too much time there anyway. This meant that I was feeling a bit stiff on the run out to the first control (but nobody noticed this as the French were at same time leading at the spectator control). My plan for the relay was zero risk; to maintain contact (and stop if things weren’t fitting) and hopefully let others make the mistakes.
I started well and flowed well through the first two controls and onto the third, but then things suddenly didn’t fit. I stopped turned around and tried again. But still couldn’t work out how things were going wrong within 30m. I ventured a bit further but still couldn’t understand the map so it was back out and to try for a third time. Was a bit more careful and kept more of an eye on my compass and distance and eventually hit the hill that I was looking for before my control. I found the control without understanding why I was repeatedly losing contact in those 30m (and still don’t), but put the 3 minute loss behind me and concentrated on the next legs.
With the exception of one long leg the following part of the course offered easy rough navigation on all legs to a major feature, so making sure that you knew where you were when leaving this made for a relatively easy attack point. I saw a few other runners in this section of the course but managed to ignore them and focus on my own navigation. I chose to link together a series of slopes and depressions on the longer leg (#6) to give me an easy identifiable and definite attack point. This work well but I lost some seconds trying to find the flag within the circle. Keeping a close eye on direction and distance allowed me to nip past the NZ team just prior to the spectator loop, and I spent the start of the last loop expecting to be caught as the navigation had become relatively simple.
A short leg diagonally down hill to a pit in green right at the end of the course flashed warning lights at me so I slowed down, kept on eye on my compass and marked all features off along the way. I hit the open right next to the control and heard some movement ahead of me. I located the control hidden in the bushes but didn’t see anyone. I opted to run in the forest on the following leg as if offered better viability and was again treated to some movement sounds (this time slightly closer) as I approached the penultimate control, but again saw nothing. I took the wide rough around the hill and woods to final control and as I approached a Romanian appeared out of the woods from the other side of the control. He looked a lot more surprised to see me than I was to see him, but unfortunately the 10m lead he still had over me was too much for me to close.
We finished 22nd, which although not as high as we were hoping, was a good solid result and matches that of the past few years, though missing out on a higher placing by just 3 seconds was slightly frustrating, although with none of us running in the finals we were at some disadvantage over those runners who had already experienced the terrain around the arena. It was an excellent area for a relay and the live tracking showed how exciting this kind of event can be when top class orienteers are put under pressure in difficult terrain, an excellent way to finish the week.
I arrived in France on August 4th, giving myself time to train and prepare onWOC terrain. I didn’t travel to the selection race weekend and training camp in May so that made going toFrance early a necessity. Once I got out onto the terrain, 3 days in a row of morning and afternoon sessions, I didn’t have the same bad feeling that I had had last October. I was still making mistakes and struggling to make sense of the map at times but felt a bit more positive. In the last few days before the Qualification race it was one session a day, with sessions on both 1:15000 model maps. Training had been a mix of 1:10000 and 1:150000. Beating the split of 16/17 minutes that Marcus took for a leg on Prepoulain was also achieved (very easily). But even on the model maps I still wasn’t finding the controls as easily as I’d have liked, but the map was making more sense. Decided I’d go with the “it’ll be alright on the day” approach.
Based on weather forecasts we knew that the weather was going to be hot enough for qualification, but expected it to be slightly cooler than what it turned out to be. In quarantine I felt fairly relaxed as I’d decided that in order to do well I needed to enjoy the orienteering, and not put pressure on myself. There was still a feeling of doubt as to whether I’d make big mistakes but decided to ignore that. Didn’t really do much on the warm-up map, just had a stroll around staying on the tracks. Then jogged for a small bit before entering pre-start.
When I started the race I saw that the 1st control was very close to a track so I decided to use that, play it safe, just after a big track too so that was a nice attack point. There was an Austrian lad around me at the start and I saw a bit of him until after the 4th control, so that gave me confidence in that I wasn’t losing too much time. At the 2nd control it was a lot rougher than I expected it to be, didn’t notice undergrowth on the map. Think I was lucky as I wasn’t too sure where I was after finding a control that wasn’t mine, I then went into the next depression and found my control. After that the next 2 controls were out in the open section of the map. It was from here on that things didn’t go so well.
There was a long leg to 5, so decided on a route which in hindsight wasn’t the best route, but was an easy route to navigate. During the leg my body started to feel crap. My stomach felt really bad. So I struggled across the open, which was hot in the direct sunlight. At one point I felt I was almost going backwards when contouring along the side of a steep slope getting stuck in some undergrowth, which wasn’t encouraging. I also went over on my left ankle but that didn’t really bother me until I tried to do a warm-down run after the race. I got 5 and the water that was next to it, I was thirsty. Then downhill onto a track before hitting 6 and then back uphill to 7, bit hesitant before 7 but got it. Saw a few orienteers around here but they were all going faster than me, tried to keep up but didn’t feel up to it. To 8 I decided on a much longer track route to the right. Just wanted to be safe, tried to run hard up the hill, did ok for the start but not so good further up and on the flat track after it. 9 was next to a track so I decided on another very safe route but lost direction crossing between 2 tracks, not a problem though as I realised quickly what I’d done. Again my stomach felt crap as I tired to run up the track to 9. 9 to 10 was probably the trickiest control on the course. Took a bearing and counted off the paths along the way. Then found myself in a depression which I identified on the map, getting closer to the circle now. After that I headed towards the control which was in a saddle. From the map I couldn’t really visualise what I was looking for. I saw a control guard so knew there was a control somewhere but eventually spotted it after losing a few seconds. Happy with how I didn’t lose too much time.
The next couple of controls were fine until the steep climb up to the spectator control, that hurt a lot. After the spectator control I lost a small amount of time on a couple of the last few controls. 14 I stopped too soon and then 16 I’m not sure what happened. I thought I left 15 in the right direction, followed a path uphill but found a hill next to the path which didn’t match the path I wanted to be on. I assumed I had followed the wrong path so found a path on the map with a hill next to it, so then headed in a direct line for 16 but found the control a few metres after leaving the path, lucky! Then a small bit more climb over the next control and the last 100m to the finish. I’m told I did the run-in quite fast, it felt it at the time and I definitely felt it after crossing the line. There had to be energy left since I definitely felt I didn’t leave it on the course.
During the race I felt negative about that sort of time I was going to do since I felt I was moving so slowly, couldn’t force myself to run as fast as I knew I could. So was surprised to find that I’d done 94 minutes. Probably the fastest minutes per km I’d run in this terrain too. I was very disappointed with the race due to the way my body felt. But on the other hand I was pleased with not getting too lost. Reflecting afterwards I think I did the best I could considering the circumstances.
Thierry won his 3 gold medals. The Swedes dominated the women’s competitions. France and Finland were victorious in the relays. Aislinn made the middle final and the Irish relay teams did ok too. The sun shone on the supporters and Bernie got her first ever ride in a helicopter!
It wasn’t a bad week and now the team are going to tell you how it went for them with their race reports, which will be coming in pretty soon, so keep checking up here on the Irish WOC blog 🙂
The 28th World orienteering champs has been officially closed and the fun and excitement of the relays is over Minna Kauppi sprinted home for the second year in a row to deliver gold to Finland and the French are finally the relay kings thanks to a storming third leg by Thierry Gueorgiou who now has the magic 3 gold medals from the championships.
As for Ireland – The women ran a strong relay with Rosalind performing admirably on first leg, Niamh had the second leg and ran well. Aislinn finished off a great week with a fast run on the anchor leg. So a steady run from the girls to finish in 24th place.
The men got off to a good start although Nick was somewhat disappointed with some errors in the forest. It was not only Nick having problems though, many team members found the pressure of the relay added to the technical terrain lead to mistakes. David then took over on 2nd leg and caught a number of teams in the first section and by the spectator control was running a great race. There followed a shorter loop in the forest where David felt he tired towards the end and made a few small mistakes. Marcus took over from Nick on the anchor leg with a small posse of runners close behind including the likes of New Zealand, Canada, Spain and Belgium. Marcus was very happy with his race and was 17th for his leg. Navigating well he pulled away from the chasing teams and almost caught the Romanian on the run-in! The team finished an excellent 22nd overall. Equalling last years performance but with far more teams now competing it is a more satisfying result.
Full Relay results can be found here.
Ireland’s Aislinn Austin produced a fine run after a shaky start to claim 41st position in the World championship middle final. Aislinn admitted afterwards to being nervous on the start line and without a certain attackpoint to the first control she lost nearly 5 minutes. It proved to be a costly mistake in the intense terrain. However, Aislinn felt like she relaxed more after the first and orienteered well for the rest of the course. The CorkO athlete reflected on her race positively afterwards and must be pleased to make the final at her first WOC appearance. Sweden again took the gold in the final with Helena Jansson winning in a time of 33:10mins ahead of the young Danish runner Ida Bobach and Switzerland’s Judith Wyder.
Thierry Gueorgiou then bagged his second gold of the week in the men’s race, with an outstanding victory. The margin was over 2 minutes ahead of Swede Peter Oberg and last years Long distance champion Olav Lundanes from Norway.
Full middle distance results can be viewed here.