Friday, 6 December 2013

Forget the Cold

Although Winter does have it's merits, for an orienteer being warm and not having to feel the ground slide from beneath your feet in every training is a smarter option! I've had a couple of tough Winters struggling with injury since I moved to Finland, but now for the first time everything seems to be working as it should (touch wood). It's a bit easier to get out the door for a recovery jog when you only need to wear a pair of shorts as opposed to 12 items of live-preserving clothing, so to be on the safe-side I've decided to 'get the hell out of dodge'.

New Zealand is once again my destination. Many athletes got to experience a slice of NZ summer with the world cup races and Sprint The Bay in the beginning of this year. Though competing at a such a high level before the season began was not particularly ideal, I think most who made the journey were happy with the training opportunities, or at least being able to thaw their bones out.

I look forward to a really good training period in Hawke's Bay, while preparing for another Sprint The Bay. Once again we've got a bunch of exciting new maps and will have our first knock-out race at Stage 1. We were pretty stoked to see our Splash Planet (Stage 2) map from this year recommended by many and in the running for the worldofo course of the year - thanks to those who voted! There are still "cheap" flights available (compared to other years - around 1100€ return from Europe), if you do a little hunting online. For those who didn't make it to NZ this January (or for those that did but couldn't get enough!), I welcome any training partners to join the mini-camp I've got planned with my younger brother. Check out the 2nd of our STB promo trailers for next year's races for a glimpse of what to expect:

After New Zealand, I plan to ease back into the cold. I will go to Spain for a short period then Portugal for a Rajamäen Rykmentti training camp (about 3 weeks in total). This will give me a chance to get some low intensity technical training under my belt and hopefully some good WRE points at a couple of events. I've now decided to skip the first World Cup race in Turkey (though I was really looking forward to it) - I suffered the effects of the long season this year and I would like to focus my efforts over a shorter period of time. Things will be a bit different this year as far as WOC goes. I am really aiming for the sprint and relays, but I hope to run another distance as well. It's going to be a bit tricky with New Zealand's seriously limited start places in Long and Middle, but hopefully there's a spot for me there.

Right now I've been focusing on my studies and training quite often with the local athletics guys from Jyväskylän Kenttäurheilijat. I am focusing a lot on strength at the moment, something I have previously avoided (for reasons unknown). I have quite a different approach to training than a few years ago, and I'm looking forward to seeing it's effects now that I finally have some 'clear skies' and can train properly without injury.

Have a great Xmas and New Years everyone! :)

PS. Vote for NZ's own Lizzie Ingham for the worldofo orienteering achievement of the year! (before 11th of December)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Knock-out Sprint Video

Great video of the knockout sprint final race from the Wellington Champs in New Zealand. The video was edited by up and coming junior star Devon Beckman from my local club in NZ - HBOC - great work by Devon, who also stars in the final (first man in the line-up). This is how to make orienteering look cool.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

O-no! last (real) WOC

A lot of things have to come together to perform well at WOC, and after 8 years I have yet to get everything right. I think I have managed to slowly make progress with my orienteering over the years, however, this time around things seemed to unravel rather than culminate - making it my worst WOC (result-wise) since Denmark in 2006. It's especially annoying to have this 'bad year' when due to the new changes by the IOF it could be the last chance I get to compete in a WOC middle or long. It's a real shame for us, when New Zealand now has a lot of talented up and coming junior runners (3 different JWOC podium results in the last 3 years) that are going to have a very hard road ahead of themselves to make it internationally in forest orienteering. The changes make it that much harder for smaller orienteering nations to get good results at a world champs. As for the development of orienteering in non-developed orienteering countries - a lot of national orienteering federations aren't well recognised by their governments and are limited financially because of this. Reducing the chance of getting WOC medals greatly reduces the chance of federations and athletes receiving the funding they need, for both high-performance and for the development of orienteering in their respective countries. It feels to me like WOC is now EOC and we have 'luckily' gained special acceptance to compete in the sprint events. Hmmm, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out...

I won't go into the boring details of why exactly my WOC went so badly, but I didn't manage to perform (physically) at anywhere near the level that I had prepared for. I ran the sprint and middle individual races and missed both finals. I also ran poorly on 1st leg in the relay. I am quite upset (and a little embarrassed) about my results, but there were also some positive things which I am choosing to focus on instead now.

A big disappointment was not to make it to the sprint final. I prepared a lot for that race and think it was very much my kind of sprint. My body wasn't working properly in the qual and I literally almost felt like dying after 3-400m into the course. The feeling was distracting and caused me to make some small mistakes which actually cost me making it to the final (I thought I would be well from the cut-off at that pace). Oddly enough though, I was a little relieved not to make the final as I wouldn't have liked to compete with that 'bad running-dream' feeling anyway. I was already thinking about this while I was trying to survive in the qual so I didn't really enjoy myself at all.

Sprint Qual ResultsGPS

Hmm.. a bit of a waste of my time!
I managed to swallow hard and go to watch the final race, which I'm really glad I did! It was an amazing atmosphere in the event centre, with Mexican waves and all! :D Our own Lizzie Ingham, despite some mistakes, managed to get another great WOC result in 14th place. It was unforgettable to witness Måre's victory on home soil, especially when I know it has been a long term goal of his which I have seen him working incredibly hard towards, especially over the last year - congrats!

The middle qual could have been a great run, but good one Ross - you totally muffed it! I had decided to take it easy - the terrain was very tricky and I knew I could qualify even if I wasn't feeling myself physically - because I knew everyone would make mistakes. I started quite well, I ran much slower than normal in the first (quite tricky) part of the course and only lost 5-10 seconds - then everything fell apart on the 6th control. I think I made a good route choice and had good attack points, but I misread the terrain quite close to the control. I thought I was running below some cliffs in the re-entrant after the track, but I was actually just above them (sometimes it's easy in this terrain to make yourself see what you want to see...). I noticed the hills that were to my left (the ones just before the control) and remember thinking that they shouldn't be there, but I was overconfident and kept running. I soon stopped when things didn't match and looked for something to relocate off, and voila! - there was a giant anthill in front of me - search the map - oh crap there aren't any marked - I was a bit annoyed to find out after my race that they had used the special symbol in the Kainuun Rastiviiko but had decided not to use it for the WOC maps - that would have totally saved me. Oh well...
Anthills on public race map, but not WOC map :(
6th control
At that point I panicked a little and ran back. I found another cliff that was on the edge of the circle but I was in too much of a hurry to notice it on the map and then ran around some more. When I finally calmed down for a few seconds I was able to realise my mistake and hurry back to the control. At this point I had a totally unnecessary train of thought. I decided to start running fast because in previous years when I had made a mistake that big I would have had no chance of qualifying without doing something special.
8th control
Unfortunately I didn't know that I was still well placed to make the final even after my 2.5min mistake. I slightly missed the 7th but it wasn't too bad. I planned to run hard at the same height to the cliffs below the control, but I somehow went downhill and was really confused and nearly at the 9th control. This mistake ended up being even bigger - 3 minutes. Even still I could have made the final from here! But by this point I was freaking out. I ran pretty fast for the rest of the course but lost small amounts of time in the circle at 9 and 10 and missed the final by 49 seconds :(

Middle Qual Results & GPS

Middle Qual - Last Control (Photo: Jan Kocbach WoO)
Relay guess - not too far off :)
The relay was the icing on the cake - although I was determined to redeem myself from my earlier poor performances - we don't always get what we want! :) I nearly missed the first control losing 10-15sec, just enough to get a little bit behind and stressed. I got distracted by other runners and numerous other controls on the way to 2 when I was trying to catch up and lost a lot of time. I also lost a bit on 3. The rest of the race I was mostly alone and it went OK but I was losing time just by being alone. I lost a minute or so on the 8th control and came back in 22nd place. Tane had some big mistakes too and Tim ran alright and we ended up in 26th place (one worse than last year).

Relay Results & GPS

The banquet was probably my best performance (or worst depending on which way you look at it), I mustn't have been very focused because I lost a lot of time there too ;)

The positive side of things was that I had glimpses of some good orienteering, I just need to make it last a bit longer! Despite the bad results, I got to run in some nice terrain and on great new maps and I had moments where I was really enjoying myself.

Positive note - Good starts
I had some similar experiences during WOC trainings too. I got to see some really nice terrain near Joensuu when I went there for Finnish WOC trials, so I wouldn't say this was all a waste of time :) See what I mean:

It's a couple of days since I got back to Jyväskylä and I'm a bit sick now - just got kicked in the nuts with a flu virus on top of everything else, but compared to the standard post-WOC feeling I'm actually much more motivated to get back into training than usual and to get some good results!

Next week I'll hopefully be well enough to run Oringen up in Boden, but if not it will make for some nice training at a super-elite level :P

Friday, 12 April 2013

Portugal Training Camp

As I mentioned in my last post, I was the lucky winner of the prize for picking the winning course in the 'course of the year' competition, and my reward was an all expenses paid 4 day training camp for 2 in Portugal from Orievents - woohooo! :) It was great to get away from the cold and snow of Finland for a little while even though it rained almost the whole time we were there, which was meant to be quite unusual for that region (I put it down to Ross's luck).

We had to stop for a photo of the only blue sky we saw all week :)
Hanna and I arrived in Castelo De Vide in the evening and soon met with Fernando Costa, the camp organiser - who turned out to be one of the most helpful guys I've ever met! We were fortunate enough to organise our mini TC at the same time as a Norwegian club (Frol IL) so we would have some company for the trainings. Better still they had with them a kiwi tag-along, Nick Hann, who had grown enormously since last time I saw him, both in size and orienteering ability!

We were anxious to get started and made our first training that night on a forest sprint course. Orienteering for the first time in months in unfamiliar terrain at night with only tapes (no reflectors) is quite a challenge! We managed though, with no huge mistakes.

The next few days we tried to squeeze in as many trainings as possible. Unfortunately I was a bit too overconfident in the condition of my ankles and twisted my dodgiest one pretty badly on a mass start night training on the 2nd day. I had to take it pretty easy for the rest of the camp. I focused on sprint trainings after that, but even those were pretty painful, and possibly not such a great idea, but I didn't want to make the trip a waste! :) See the start of the mass start night training:

Over the 4 and a half days we were in Portugal, depending on how you count, we managed to do 13 orienteering trainings and one gym training at a local spa where we were also able to get 60min massage for only 15€! :) It was the perfect area for a training camp, with a great variety of over 20 different trainings available, all within around 30min driving from the Hotel where all meals were prepared, making it possible to do several trainings per day. There was also an athletics track just down the road, which unfortunately we didn't really have time (or the desire, due to the weather) to make use of. BUT! over everything the biggest deal for me would probably have to be the price of steak :)

Cook it yourself steak on a hot stone, mmmmmmmm....
My favourite training had to be control picking on the map 'Carapinha' - probably because it was the one I made the least mistakes on! Check it out:

See my other maps from the Portugal training week here.

I'd like to give a special thanks to Jan Kocbach from and Fernando Costa from Orievents for making the camp possible. We both had a great time and we definitely want to come again, next time hopefully for a lot longer!

Cheers Fernando!
From Portugal we went straight to Göteborg for our club 10mila training camp, but I'll write about that some other time. Now I'm back in Jyväskylä so I better run fast to make the snow melt ;)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Long Summer (Megablog 4)

It's been yonks since I've written anything decent on here, it seems to be becoming quite a habit! I have resolved to make more of an effort this year :)

I was fortunate enough to keep my Achilles (plural) away from the cold this European winter (until now), which I think went a long way towards me staying relatively injury free. The never-ending torrent of problems that I experienced after France plagued me until only a couple of months before WOC in Switzerland. I learnt to ski over the winter in Finland, it was great to do something that my body could handle (other than aqua-jogging). This provided me with enough base fitness to squeeze in some speed-work close to the World Champs, but even still my physical shape was the worst it had been in years. A bit of experience paid off and I was able to qualify for both the Sprint and Middle finals. My final results were pretty average, but I was pretty happy just to be racing semi-well again :)

Finish chute at WOC Sprint Final - fastest split - my only claim to fame in 2012 ;)

Before the icy-rain started to rear its ugly head again, in the end of October I migrated back south to New Zealand. The main reasons to go back so early were to continue mapping for Sprint The Bay and to train and trial for the World Cup races in NZ. This proved to be quite an unstable dynamic, and due to the condition that failure in one of my commitments wasn't optional, the scales were rather lopsided at times :) I did however manage to improve my general fitness and speed quite significantly in the short time before the world cup races. Ultimately I could have stood to be about 5kg lighter, but Mum's cooking in her new kitchen was well worth the burden!

In preparation I managed to drag my ass to a few NZ competitions such as Auckland Champs in Whangarei (which were awesome) & South Island Champs (Didn't go so well, but awesome terrain!). Check out the video below that I made from the gold-mining terrain in Naseby, see if you can spot my 10min mistake - Clue: It's hard to miss :P

The first World Cup race was in a new area of mostly open sand-dunes near Levin. My race was pretty bad technically, but in saying that, it did seem to catch quite a few other people out as well! I made a lot of small mistakes, already by the 2nd control, and a few big ones in the second half of the course. I ended up in a pretty good 26th place.

Great to see my Auntie Ruth out to cheer us on  at the first World Cup race :) (my sister Amber to the left)
Next we moved down to Wellington for the sprints. The qualification went well for me, I made a couple of bad route choices to the 10th and the 17th, but other than that only some small hesitations. I was happy with my 19th place (#pityitwasntthefinal). See my maps:

I was a little overwhelmed with the sprint final. I wasn't mentally (or physically) prepared for such a difficult and extreme course, and after making a really bad route choice to the first control it was hard to get my head straight. Like a lot of people I lost most of my time on the big route choice to the 7th control (see maps):
I actually walked for a little bit on the way to the 6th, but I found it very hard to spot the gaps in the big fence - perhaps I was too tired. I totally mis-understood the map, I thought I had to climb all the way to the control ( maybe because there weren't tag lines on the contours) so I chose the left route-choice, up the big hill, which was really slow for me. I ended up in 29th place.

Through the spectator area on the way to the 6th control in the Sprint Final
Straight after the sprint final we headed back up to Hawkes Bay (via KFC) to finish off STB preparations and get some rest before the last world cup race. I planned to do some trainings with some of the other national teams and practice my fence jumping, but unfortunately there was no time!

The prologue race at 'The Slump' went poorly. I made some retarded mistakes on my first loop and then pushed too hard and got really tired in the end of the course. I ended up in 37th place, quite far from the leaders (even further after you count their bonus seconds). In between the races I attempted to stay cool, a mango smoothie, McCafe air-conditioning and a swim in the river did the trick :)

#24 in the chasing start, cliff changed?
The final started quite well, until I made some small mistakes and got distracted by the pack and lost the focus I'd had. I managed to pick up a few places, but lost 2 of them again in the last loop where the map was weird in the control circle. The control was described as being 'at the foot of the north western cliff', and looking at the map, the way the cliff ran on the hillside the control should have been visible as you approach (in my mind), but in fact the cliff was inverted (the opposite direction to what it appeared). A few days after the race I compared it to an old version of the map (in the snippet here) - you can see how on the new map it is possible to make the mistake I did in picturing the control site, I marked how I would picture the control placement for each map. The red dot is where I think the control should be according to the description. The foot of the cliff is actually to the north of the little black line, not the south as it appears on the new map. The old mapping would have served better for this control. I finished up in 34th place, enough to collect a few world cup points :) See splits from the chasing start here.

Overall I think the World Cup/Oceania Carnival went very well. It's a huge task for such a small orienteering country with limited resources, and the work put in (mostly by volunteers) often goes unrecognized - so that's a big THANKS! from me to everyone that made it possible for us kiwis to experience World Cup races in our own country :)

Time to relax??? nooooooo, it was time for Sprint The Bay! The event this year went very well from our perspective. Somehow Duncan and I managed to step things up again from previous years (Magazine Bulletin, Model Event, WRE, After-Party, Points competition for all grades etc.), and we still pulled it off without any major screw-ups :) From what we've heard, most people had a good time too! The Yellow Singlet winner in the Elite Men's competition was Matthias Müller (SUI) with rising sprint star Tim Robertson (NZL) in 2nd overall (Pink Singlet Winner for best junior in the elite grade), and Tue Lassen (DEN) in 3rd. The Finns dominated in the Elite Women's competition, with Venla Niemi (FIN) taking out the Yellow Singlet, the gorgeous Hanna Raitanen (FIN) in 2nd and super-sibling of Tim - Laura Robertson (NZL) taking out 3rd place overall, also winning the Pink Singlet in the girls comp. Due to an unfortunate family encounter in 2012 we decided to raise money for breast cancer awareness at STB. We managed to raise $1943.10 NZD (so far) for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation - a big thank you to everyone who contributed! (If you wish to support the cause it's still possible to donate here).

For the STB aftermath, see the following:
Photo Gallery

STB tribute video by Hawkes Bay Junior Devon Beckman:

Head-cam run-through of Julian Dent (AUS) at STB 2013 Stage 2 at Splash Planet:

Before our daunting flight back to Europe, Hanna and I managed to squeeze in a bit of a 'sprint-holiday' (not sprint orienteering, more of a quick excursion). We went to visit friends in Wellington for a few days and also squeezed in a bit of training. A summer highlight had to be stopping at Otaki Forks on the way back to Hawkes Bay for an epic run on a nice day just to savor the little time we had left in NZ:

I'm back in Finland now, and the long summer is over. Trainings at the moment are a choice between running and skiing. Spring is a bit shy, the snow melts one day and freezes again the next leaving surfaces excitingly icy. Training here seems to hurt my muscles a lot at the moment. I'm not sure if it's from the cold, the slipperiness, the contrast to the temperatures in NZ or a combination of everything, but I feel like I've been beaten up after even the easiest training. We're looking forward to going to Portugal in a few weeks for the training camp I won from Orivents in the 'Course of the Year' competition, then we'll stop by Sweden on the way home for a club 10mila training camp. For now I'll just have to put up with the cold and orienteering trainings at -17°.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sprint The Bay - WRE

After recently arriving back in New Zealand for a long summer, I'm happy to announce another exciting development for my brother Duncan and myself in our roles as event organisers: Stage 1 of Dirty D Sprint The Bay 2013 will now be a World Ranking Event :)

The first stage of the 6-race sprint tour will take place in the morning of the 15th of January (less than 12 weeks away). The area consists of a private girl's school and it's surrounding grounds.
Sample of Woodford Terrain
Set on the foothills of Havelock North's Te Mata Peak, the terrain is relatively steep and riddled with intricate building, park and farmland detail. With the World Cup and Oceania Carnival coming to an end only 2 days beforehand, we expect to see some interesting international fields over all grades donning their racing flats on the morning of Tuesday the 15th. Entered participants from around the globe (including 2 current World Champions and a Junior World Champion) are already preparing themselves for the 3 days of intense and diverse sprint racing coupled with a vibrant event atmosphere around the lovely Hawkes Bay region (renowned for it's great weather and wine production).

There will be live coverage of the event from the Sprint The Bay website. See our 2013 event page for more info on the upcoming STB.

In other news, Sprint The Bay is now using it's profile to help raise funds for the New Zealand breast cancer foundation. Also, in an effort to promote breast cancer awareness we have now changed the white singlet competition to the pink singlet competition in 2013. Credit card donations directly to the foundation can be made on our NZBCF fundraising page. Please help us support this cause.

Lastly, for a little bit of entertainment, check out this video made for  Jamie Stewart, the winner of our photo competition (photos from STB 2012):

Monday, 6 August 2012

Matt Ogden - NZ JWOC Gold Medallist - Race Analysis

This is basically a step by step guide on how to win JWOC. Matt has made a complete breakdown of his middle distance race so that he can share his great experience with everyone. It makes for an exciting and emotional read. See the article here.

Enjoy! :)