Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Swiss 6 days. Muotathal

This year’s Swiss 6 Days were characterised by a lot of changes, be it the weather or the orienteering plans themselves. Our arrival in Muotathal – South of Zug – coincided with the Swiss National Day and from the campsite we were gratified with major fireworks. The mountains created some spectacular sound effects and the lights from the fireworks made a beautiful show. This festival feeling was soon to subside to be replaced with some unfair weather.

One of the characteristics of orienteering in Switzerland is that you are never really encouraged to take your car - quite the contrary. The Swiss did not disappoint again this year with the use of public transport as well as Duros (military vehicles) to take us to all the events., showing that it can be done without the car!!!

Day One was a sprint event in Schwyz, a large town about 10 minutes away from Muotathal. We were brought by bus to the centre of the city as the rain was literally pouring down. We were among the over 3,000 participants to find shelter in a sports hall before we were to start our event, where we could leave our bags in a dry place. Paul and I got around fairly quickly and found ourselves finishing in the first half of our respective age groups. These first results were fairly encouraging.

The next two days were Alpine days with day 2 in Schwialpass. This time we travelled in Duros at a time set for each one of us. The trip was a good 25 minutes long. We then had to walk for another hour to the start. The weather forecast was for heavy rain, and once again the Swiss weather did not disappoint as we never got to see the top of the mountains! The heavy and damp terrain made it quite hard to progress rapidly from one control to the next. Even though we could not see much, we could still hear all the local cows and goats, which are equipped with bells, fairly well. This proved to be a plus, as they were providing a nice melodic company during the event!

Day 3 was to be – in the words of the organisers – a “memorable day”. It certainly was characterised with the sun (oh beautiful, what is this yellow thing in the sky?) which we had not seen for a few days, heat and a very long walk. For this event in the Glattalp, we were first taken by bus to the base camp, and we were then to walk 4.4K, and 700m climb before reaching the start/finish of the event. We had been advised to take our camera as the views from above were indeed spectacular. Obviously having to walk up such a distance is not exactly the best way to be ready for the event, but at least every participant got a good warm up. When we reached the top, some heavy mist appeared suddenly, leaving us with hardly any visibility for the start of the event. Orienteering there was certainly the highlight of the week, with gigantic mountains, lakes (which had got even bigger with the heavy rain), snow, etc...

Day 3. Glattalp

We then had a rest day during which the organisers decided to swap the venues for Day 4 and Day 6 because of a landslide which had washed the road away. They could not risk getting all the participants to the event and then have them stranded! So on the Thursday we headed to Chinzig-Seenalp, in the mountains again. The day was glorious and the trip 45 min up the mountains in the Duros was quite chaotic due to the rocky terrain. We were then to walk for 30 min to the start. The sun was shining and we could really appreciate the beauty of the place. It was a typical alpine terrain and once again we were to run among surprised cows! It was a fast terrain still which meant that it was essential to stay with the map at ALL times. The planning of the event was pretty much to get us down, so no real trick there, which made it very inexcusable to make any mistakes, really!!!

Day 5 was a “forest day” in Gibel. The advice there was to wear long legs and sleeves for fear of ticks. The course was short enough and it was essential to plan your route very precisely and accurately as the forest was quite dense in many parts. Gibel was also used for the “Euro Meeting” - these upcoming elite orienteers from Europe were to use the other side of the map of Gibel.

Day 6 finally arrived and more rain was again scheduled, so it was decided that we would get to use Gibel again. Overnight, the organisers had planned courses so that we would all get to finish our 6 days. We even got to use a pen to circle our controls!! It was like being back in the old days. The terrain was quite wet still but again very fast with few paths. So staying close to the map proved very useful.

All in all the week was very memorable, not only because of the places that we got to orienteer into but also because the Swiss organisers did not get defeated by the weather. What is really great about the Swiss O-week is obviously the majestic landscapes. The organisers are proud to take us in the most beautiful parts of the country, even though it means that the participants have to walk up to 2 hours to reach the start.

Furthermore it is really great to be able to orienteer with maps that are so accurate. The smallest boulder would be mapped, thus allowing for improvement in reading the map and navigating more accurately. And finally it is always a bit of a cliché to praise the Swiss precision for logistics regarding the transport, but they certainly managed to get over 3,000 participants from all over the world as far up in the mountains as they could and then they relied on us to carry on by foot without a word of complaint!

Isabelle LEMEE/Paul NOLAN

For results and other details, see here.

For anyone thinking of orienteering in Switzerland, the World Masters O-Championships (for over-35's: not to be confused with the World Championships) is on in the Jura Mountains in Western Switzerland next August. See here for details. There are open events that anyone can run as well.

Mike Long leads Ajax to Lug Relay win

Stone Cross to Lug Relay, September 26th 2009.
There's a sweet dip at Sally Gap crossroads that drops the first leg runner into the changeover, ending the hour and half battle from Ballinascorney over Seefingan and Kippure. Sweeter still for Mike Long knowing that he had left three Setanta teams in his wake and set up the lead. One - nil for Ajax.
Drifting wide in the forest Shane Enright and Donough O'Keeffe had taken Seahan first, but not by enough to stop Mike taking the lead into Corrig and the relentless climb into Seefingan. Pursuing him across in cloud to Kippure Shane got up to him but could not stay on the 2km drop off Kippure across the heather to the road.
Ajax second leg, Peter Kernan's, first glance back on Carrigvore picked out an olive green top...Philip Brennan, Setanta...the steady leg plan got changed to hold the lead. A fall off Carrigvore and a stitch from the pace change over the tops of Gravale and Duff hill were probably good signs ... at least the body was trying. Mullaghcleevaun East, glances in cloud picked up nothing...was he closing or not? Turning to just off south from Mullaghcleevaun, it was simply a push as quick as possible to Stony Top, crawl up it and Tonlegee and a clean drop to the Wicklow Gap. Two - nil.
Greg Byrne accelerated out of Wicklow Gap knowing that Paul Mahon was sitting in the traps waiting to be released behind him. The last, longest leg needed a clean run.
Cutting road corners up Turlough hill, Greg goes direct for Conavalla, hits the 702 spot height NE of it and has to recover across open bog. Not knowing the gap back, doubt sets in, had Paul Mahon overtaken?
A direct charge for Table Track, onto Camenabologue and the northern cliffs of Lug, between clouds, walkers but no runners. Sweep down clear to the bottom of Camara Hill and Fenton's. Three - nil, game over.
Mike Long's efforts over the years coaxing Ajax into the Wicklow Way relay or the Lug Relay had paid off.

None of this adventure would have seen the light of day without a director. Niamh O'Ceallaigh took over the role at short notice, organising the race with a calm, friendly ease that was impressive. Many thanks to her.
- Peter Kernan.

Photos: Gerry Brady, Justin Keatinge IMRA site here. IMRA race report etc here.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Championships Approaching

Four regional Championships are coming up between now and the end of November and closing dates are approaching fast.

Northern Ireland Championships
The Northern ireland Championships on October 3rd/4th have a latest entry date on next Monday, September 28th. Looking at the entry list (see here) shows numbers so far to be small enough.

The event is combined with the Senior Home International, the Ireland v England v Scotland v Wales competition for classes M and W 20 and 21. The areas being used, the Burren on the Cavann/Fermanagh border and neighbouring Crossmurrin, are largely limestone-based open ground with plenty of pits and depressions, but fairly dry underfoot.

Details of the events are on the Fermanagh Orienteers web site. FermO are a small club who have put a big effort into running these events and need our support. Saturday's race is the classic (normal distance) championships and includes the SHI Individual. The area was used for the 1994 Irish Championships where we crossed a fence marking the border between Fermanagh and Cavan on the way to the start - amid jokes like "Have you got your compass? Whistle? Passport?". You can see the map here.

Crosmurrin, featuring the spectacular Marble Arch Caves, was used for the Irish Championships and Trail-O Champs in 2007. This time it will host the SHI Relays and the NIOC Middle Distance event.

Entry for each day is separate and you can enter vis the SportIdent web site here.

Munster Championships
Cork Orienteers are staging the 2009 Munster Championships on Sunday 1st November at Toureen Wood, Bansha, Co. Tipperary, on what CorkO Chairman John Scannell describes as "... perhaps one of the last remaining mature forests on the Northern slopes of the Galtees. To run in this forest will be an experience and will demand both physical fitness and good navigational skills. The area selected has mature coniferous forest with good visibility and is free of brambles except for parts where long grass and stones will impede running. The forest has a good road track network with steep sided ravines and dry gulleys which run down the slopes which are
characteristic of Galtee maps."
The area is new to orienteering and was mapped this year by Brian Corbett and Pat Healy.
On line entries are open now here. Entries close on 14th October.

Connacht Championships
The Connacht Championships are being run by Western Eagles Galway Orienteers on Sunday 29th November. More details will be available later. Keep an eye on the WEGO web site here.

NI MTB-O Championships
If mountain bike orienteering is your personal addiction, don't forget the Northern Ireland MTBO Championships at Castlewellan, Co. Down on Saturday November 10th, run by Ivan Millar. Watch the LVO website for details here.

Coaching Ideas
On a different note, David Healy has proposed an exciting training initiative for Dublin orienteers, adding more technical training every week to supplement the physical training many are already doing. He plans a meeting at the Scarr event this Sunday: details are on the O-Group here.
He also alerts us to lots of ideas from a coaching conference in Austria. It looks great - read it here.

Friday, 18 September 2009

September News

Mountain Meitheal invade Cruagh Wood
Sunday morning, Kevin kneels in Cruagh Wood beating the hell out of an upturned wheelbarrow. "I'll fix this for you Peter.., you didn't know I used to be a panel beater."
He's using the sort of hatchet I last saw a Red Indian laying into some unfortunate cowboy with in a movie. The tomahawk slams in again ..I don't argue.
Despite Kevin's efforts I watch out for an opportunity to get hold of one of the new barrows he's prepared.
Any advantage pushing boulders, hard core and grit for a couple of hours is worth taking.

Mountain Meitheal has plenty of helpful stalwarts like Kevin, every week there's new faces and new old faces you've not seen before.
Volunteers of every brand ... students, climbers, walkers, hill runners, solicitors,.... from Ireland, England, Poland, Venice, Romania, Germany, etc ....
On any given day material arrives , volunteers turn up, tools clatter out, an arm is pointed..over careful..the troop almost without direction fall into lifting, hammering, digging, talking, moving rock, lifting timber, stop for lunch, talk nonsense, start again.
Talk knows no bounds, this mountain, that mountain, football, politics, holidays, state of the nation, sandwiches, the dog who took them,... Angela bemoans the untidiness of crow's nest construction.....

Tiredness stems the chatter of the last hour, closing words disperse the crew home or to the Merry Ploughboy.

Undeniable is what gets done, an astute picking of projects, organisation, is followed by hands on grafting to produce results that even before they're finished passers by remark at and appreciate. They're a crew who do what they talk about doing.

This summer, Cruagh Wood has seen both a boardwalk linking the top track out onto the open mountain and a grit track connecting up Cruagh to Massey's estate constructed. Both are worth taking a trip out to Cruagh for. One day, no doubt, you will see them appear as features on the next orienteering map from 3ROC.
One day you could do well to join them.. you don't need an SI card, compass or map, just need to be pointed in more or less the right direction. Get more details here.

- Peter Kernan

Marcus Pinker injured in bike crash
Irish Champion Marcus Pinker suffered serious injuries following a bike crash near Sheffield last month. He is recovering but it sounds like it may be a while before he's back to racing fitness. Marcus won the Irish Middle Distance and Classic distance championships in Donegal in May, and on Day 3 was on the winning CorkO relay team. We wish Marcus a full recovery. Here's his account of what happened:
It's about time I caught up on what exactly happened last weekend. I was near the end of a two hour cycle which I had thoroughly enjoyed and was cycling pretty well, I had gone down through Eccy Woods and turned left to take the quieter residential road to join Abbeydale Road. This road is slightly downhill and has speed ramps once you get out of the woods. I guess I was doing 30mph or so and obviously had to focus on the ramps so they didn't throw me off. I looked up from one of these and saw a car crossing the road right in front of me. The image of the car is a blur and I think that I tried to get me feet unclipped and put them down (I think I got the left down). I reckon that there was approximately 10m between when I saw the saw the car and when I hit it so there wasn't any time to think about it. I can (again, in a dream like manner) remember heading towards the car but nothing after that. I was told that I was unconscious for about 15 minutes and when I came to the paramedics were around me. I was in pain but too much, but I don't recall leaving the scene or the journey to the hospital at all and didn't wake up until I was in A&E.
According to the police there were no cars parked around the junction and no other traffic around. I usually make a habit of looking for cars on side roads as (especially when on a bike) you never know if someone will pull out on you. However in this situation I think that the speed ramps were taking all my focus. The driver said that he looked both ways before pulling out but obviously didn't see me until it was too late. Unfortunately he was going straight across the junction (I was on the through road) so when he did see me he was side on in the middle of the junction leaving me nowhere to go. I apparently hit the front wing (leaving a big dent) and judging by my injuries, it was with the upper right of my back. I hit the ground next to the car (so did 30mph - 0mph instantly) but my bike carried on over the bonnet (haven't quite worked how that happened yet). My helmet is cracked throughout with a strip missing around the rim (haven't worked how that happened either) but my bike appears to have come out unscathed.
Personal damage wise I think that I have been very lucky, my limbs and head have all escaped injury (aside from a bruise on my left side of my head). Sure as my trunk is quite battered it makes all movement difficult but it could so easily have been a lot worse. I think that I have 18 fractures (7 along the side of my spine and the 7 adjoining ribs, my right shoulder, a vertebra and 2 ribs at the front). Time for some R & R!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

What did you do in the WOC, Daddy?

The World Orienteering Championships, now an annual event, is the competitive pinnacle of our sport. This year the Irish team travelled to Hungary in August to face the challange. Here the team tell us how they fared in the different disciplines.

Well done and thanks to Dave Healy, Shane Lynch, Neil Dobbs, Ciara Largey, Ros Hussey, Colm Hill, Ruairí Short and Nick Simonin.

We also had representatives at the World Trail Orienteering Championships where Alan Gartside, Wilbert Hollinger and Cian O'Reilly formed the team in this intense discipline. Interestingly, Wilbert was a member of the first ever Irish World Championships team in Scotland in 1976 (with Wally Young, Pat Healy, Paget McCormack, Eileen Loughman and Monica (Turley) Nowlan).

The World Orienteering Championships – 2009 Hungary – “My Experience”, from the Irish Orienteering team.

Middle qualification – David Healy

I trained for thirty minutes the day before this race for my first time in Hungarian terrain. My main focus is WOC 2010 but I needed to come to Hungary to get experience for the next years’ races. When the start beep signalled my start time I had fifty meters to the flag to look at the first few legs of my race. However, I didn’t get past planning the first leg. Leg number one was downhill with some contouring. Anytime a planner gives you a first leg with downhill running it’s so obvious that they want you to make a mistake. I made this mental note and held back on the gas a little, thumbing my map and following my plan. After passing some local farmer near my attack point gathering sticks he threw his arms in the direction of my control and said, in Hungarian, something like “they’ve all run in that direction, so go go!”. I came a little high to the flag, about 10 seconds of a mistake. So in my head as I punched I made a point to congratulate myself for a very good start to my WOC 2009 campaign. The rest of the race was uneventful. There was one very dangerous control placed in light green, but I slowed down and hit it well. There was a photographer at a control flag later on, I got distracted and ran out of the circle in the wrong direction to lose 15 seconds in error.

In my two races at WOC (middle qualification and relay) I made three minutes of mistakes in total, this I am happy with and proud of. And secondly I was proud that the Irish relay team did three similar runs (between 7.6 to 7.7 minutes per kilometre). We had no goals for this race, perhaps we had an unspoken goal of doing clean runs. We did alright to achieve the clean run goals, a step in the right direction for improving our relay results and with lots of room for future improvements among myself, Nick and Neil.

Middle qualification –- Shane Lynch

I line-up on the start line alongside the two other hopefuls in heats one and three (I’m in heat two). Clock ticks down. Last few thoughts are same as what I have been saying to myself all morning, plan and stay in contact with the map. Final beep goes, the three of us pick up our maps and set off. I have a short leg to a charcoal burning place (looks like a platform). It’s a straight forward leg; there’s a large re-entrant ahead to the left of the straight line, and the platform is on the spur on the far side. I make my plan, rough compass bearing aiming slightly right and high of the control, look for the large re-entrant on the left as I run, when I reach the far side look down hill to see my control and if it’s not in view, fine, just head down hill along the spur until I hit it, all this planned in the instant after I locate the triangle and the circle for number 1 as I pick up the map.

The three of us run similar lines from the start control, too similar, their first legs as I later find out are long ones but crucially and unfortunately for me both of their controls are lower down the hill, the bearing they take is low of my first. However, it WOC it’s high paced, I’m running alongside Leonid Novikov, I’m influenced and instead of focusing on my own race I veer to the left with them, believing I am running the bearing I chose myself, I pass the re-entrant, I hit the spur, I look down the hill, no control, no worries, I set down the hill, still no control, the others have run on, I hesitate, confused, run around on the spur, no plan, time ticks on, one minute lost, focus gone, frustration comes, I realise I have gone low of the control, on the way back up hill to punch I’m filled with all sorts of emotions, annoyed, frustrated, I see the next starters arrive as I finally reach the first, already two minutes down. I think I must claw back time… you can’t claw back time. Think this and your race is lost and mine was at number 1. I pushed for the rest of the course, but without focus and without plans. I made more mistakes and there was no flow or rhythm. I finished the race almost 15minutes down on the top qualifier, and 8minutes off my perfect race time. This was much too much time lost on the fast open terrain that we competed on. I came 32nd out of 38 in my heat.

Luckily, I had another race in the sprint which went better, I ran cleaner with fewer mistakes and my limiting factor in this race was running speed and not orienteering technique – this is the way it should always be in my opinion. I also got the opportunity to run the Hungaria Cup (supporters event in conjunction with WOC) at the end of the week, I competed against many of the other internationals who were not running WOC races on those days. I ran clean and fast and beat people who were much higher placed in my middle qualification heat – I could put my demons of that race to rest!

I am reminded of Ernie Lawrence who introduced me to orienteering he always said something like “Always make sure you take the first control steady and without mistakes”.

Neil Dobbs – middle qualification

It was great to see four WOC-debutants in the Irish team this year after their strong performances in the Irish Champs last May. With a larger-than-usual men's team, I was selected to run the Middle and Relay.

The Middle Qualifier was not in overly technical terrain, and guaranteed top-notch mapping would make it easier than the training areas. However, with thirty minutes of orienteering ahead of me which would colour my thoughts for the next twelve months, the pressure to perform on the day was scary. One false move or a bit of bad luck and the record book wouldn't be kind. Thankfully, on the day I had a technically very good race. Physically I didn't have zip in the legs, so I was surprised and happy as I lay on the ground hearing Gueorgiou hadn't finished yet - about 5 minutes down, compared to 7 last year. It turned out I was in a nasty heat and would need to knock another 2:30 off my time to have qualified. I guess that's what happens when WOC is in "easy" terrain.

Ciara Largey – middle qualification

First race of the week was the middle qualifier. Not usually my strongest race so the aim was not to think about my speed but focus on navigating cleanly and coming away with a race I could be proud of. My impression from the model event was of endless beech trees, good visibility, lots of point features requiring good compass skills. Potential pitfalls were overshooting controls, vegetation changes (not always obvious) and veering off my compass. But all of this I felt able to handle and with a 9 minute call up there was plenty of time to settle my nerves, forget the crowds and other runners and focus on my own race.

I started well – a downhill leg to a boulder. I set the compass, kept my head up and eyes peeled and spotted it from about 40m. A short contour leg to the next control and I was well into race mode, picking up speed. Next was a long gradual climb then a descent into a large re-entrant to another boulder. I was a little hesitant but needn’t have been – a camera woman lurking in the trees gave it away. I look at the map for the next control, 500m of contouring through denser trees with reduced visibility. I was nervous starting out, this leg could give me difficulty and indeed it did. I followed what I thought was a vegetation change, pace counted and descended, hoping to spike my control. Alas, no such luck and much searching ensued. More time passed and I seemed no closer to locating my control. I was becoming even less sure of where I was, repeatedly relocating and trying again with no success. Starting to panic now... where is it? Eventually I was so distraught I hung on to the next runner to come past who led me out to a control further away that I could relocate from and work backwards. At least I was still on the map... I had no idea how much time had been lost, finally punched my control and put it out of my mind aiming to finish the rest of the course with as few mistakes as possible.

Thankfully that was the end of the green area and I ran well from then on – making a plan for each leg, checking my compass, using the good visibility to my advantage and spotting the relevant features well in advance. Middle distance is a tough technical test in orienteering and the legs were varied, testing contour skills, speed control, compass work and minor route choices. I ran steadily, remembering my pre-race plan and made it to the finish without further mishaps. I knew my blunder at the fourth control would be a costly one but I was unprepared for just how much – almost 20 mins lost! Aghh! Hardly an elite performance... A further punch in the stomach was the knowledge that without this mistake I may have qualified for the final, but instead I was well down the field with an abysmal overall time of 50.58 mins for a 4.1k course. It’s not easy to shrug off a bad performance at a World Championship - seeing my name near the bottom with the Ireland flag next to it, reminding me who I’m representing, really gets to me. Especially when I know I can do much better. However, at least I know that it’s possible. This is the highest level an orienteer can compete at so it’s never going to be easy. Just meeting that challenge is something I’m proud of, but it’s not enough. So it’s back to the drawing board for next year, because I’m not done yet ;-)

Rosalind Hussey -- Long Qualification

The long qualification was quite a spectator-friendly race. They sneakily took us down to begin in the assembly field via 9min of pre-start, about 1km of jogging. Then just 6 controls into the course I was back at the spectator control before disappearing into the forest to take on the second half of the course.
I didn't start this race filled with confidence due to an unsatisfactory performance in the middle distance the day before, so took it super slow and careful on the long leg to #1. The long uphill was killing me after just several minutes! The direct, but careful, approach worked quite well and I spiked the control. Had a welcome downhill to #2 and then on down to the first drink-station. Gulp, gulp. Fought through the light-green (pretty high nettles and thorns, but with tracks that earlier runners had produced making my progress easier) uphill to #3, kept too low contouring around, but realised when I hit a pit just south of my feature and headed directly up to the control.
I kept it clean for the next few controls, but managed to get stuck in dark green for quite a while on route to #5. Silly, unnecessary route choice. Took a bad line to #10, not sure why, but decided it was best to correct this error by going through another, larger, more dense patch of green. Oh those nettles stung. They even got my nose! But I managed to spike the control, hoorah. Lost another few precious seconds running past my control in the "forest of many distinctive trees", but realised quite soon. Other than a messy route trying to avoid dark green to #14 causing a bit more time-loss, it was quite clean to the end.
Was relatively happy with my performance today, but have learned that I need to be much stronger and more aggressive on the hills when it comes to future WOCs. The heat was another major factor during these races. It was important to keep well-hydrated in order to concentrate and keep pushing hard."

Colm Hill – long qualification

For a race that’s going to be memorable I generally have a vivid memory of what time I got up and the breakfast I had before the race. In Miskolc it was early and a dam good breakfast of cereal, yogurt and good strong lethal coffee. The day had started the way I wanted it to. The drive to the event is a blur of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden as well as some bands that aren’t fit to be named. The pre event arena was a cluster of buildings. Pre start off to one side. Warmed up, camelback on, gels in the back pocket. All set to lock and load. About 20mins before my start the rest of the team enter the pre start arena. I bump into Roar and the usual race banter goes on. It was a shock that we had forgotten to blast out the Def Lep song Action earlier that morning to wake up Neil (he stayed in bed).

Into the start box... SI cleared. Slightly nervous but really excited. My legs are bouncing and my head is clear. Each of the 9 boxes was pretty big and most involved a steep climb. With 3mins to go we enter the finish area... The speaker is saying something but it’s lost to me. I see the start gate 30meters in front. This is it. I went through a hell a load of training to forget about the horror of the JWOC long the previous year. Run hard, run clean, finish in bits. The famous beep. Through the gate, map in hand, its game on!

First control is a long leg, guts of 2km. The route out to the right along the track jumps out at me like a sore thumb. As I run I look for other routes, I see one straighter but it appears to have more climb. I go with option A. Running along the track I no longer feel as fresh as I did in the pre start. Still running.... I see a blur out to my left; Matts Haldin is just cruising along, faster than I feel I can sprint. I suddenly feel as if I could have trained a lot more in the past year. I focus on the last part of the leg. Nothing sticks out. I feel like I’m going oxygen dead but I haven’t been running that hard so I ignore it. Down to the first control, and down...and down. Now I know I missed it. Not much to relocate off, except that nice track at the bottom of the hill.... so I drop 13 contours below the control and come back up again. Control 2 was fine, 3 was easy, and then running to 4 I begin to feel really tired. Body in shut down. Knock back a gel, no difference. Suffering up every climb at a slow pace. Other orienteer’s run past me and there is nothing I can do about. Running through spectator I hear that Merz has run it in 58ish. He pasted me at control 4. Objective changes to not coming last. Forget about posting a respectable time, that ended on the way to number one.

You need a WOC to show you where you really stand – everyone brought their A game, at least it seems everyone did, but me. There will be more WOC’s.

Ruairi Short – long qualification

I ran the long qualification on the Monday. I felt good in the lead up, eating right and plenty of food so I was happy. Also relaxed and having fun with all the people there.

On the morning all went well until I realised that the pocket in my trousers wasn’t big enough to hold my compass, gel and gummy bears so I stuffed my compass down my sock, which I regretted later. I came to the start boxes and all was good, they were amazingly steep but I felt good. Then I got to the -3 box and put my descriptions into my hold and it broke! So I was like okay they’re on the map it’ll be ok. Then I look and see I’m still wearing my watch. I gave that to the organisers so all was well. I picked up the map and ran to the start kite where the Norwegian and Estonian I started with stopped dead while I ran up the hill wondering why they hadn’t picked a route choice for our nearly 2k first leg! The Norwegian soon ran past me again...

My race then went fine, I was quite clean with maybe 1min30sec of mistakes at most. The other guys were running super fast past me it was tough to keep motivation but I kept going. I got confused at a few controls when I looked at my control descriptions holder and failed to see descriptions, but it was only funny.

My favourite part of the race was the flat bit after the spectator control where there were tons of single trees marked, I got all the controls really well while running strongly. Overall I found the course really tough and the winning times insanely fast but I’m really glad I went and experienced it!

The other event I ran was the mikrosprint. This was on the rest day before the long distance final and it was about a 400m course on a 1:750 map, very similar to orient-show. It was really fun with the winning time in my heat being 2:34(yes that is minutes!) and I was 2nd one second down! So I qualified for the final knocking out Oyestein Kvaal Osterbo, the Norwegian sprinter! The final was held about an hour later with all the crowd gathered around the control in the centre of the fountain! Standing at the start I could hear the exact time when the first starter jumped in from the raucous cheer! It again was really fun but I didn’t have nearly as good a run.

Nick Simonin – sprint qualification

After the long qualification I was really looking forward to the sprint as it is a totally different kind of race. As sprints go I knew that I am weaker at forest sprints then urban sprints. Was feeling very relaxed in the pre start area but trying to focus on key things to get mentally prepared for the race in the correct way.

Once in the start box I was fully focused on my own race but also feeling the nerves as I knew I had a good chance of qualifying if I got things right. We started in the main arena and heard that there was big time gaps in the results. Meaning it was technical and physical nothing I hadn’t prepared for already. Picked up the map and was straight into it. Saw only one route choice to the 1st control in my eyes. Straight and aiming slightly left of the control. lost 10sec on the way when I got a branch in my eye and couldn’t see for a few seconds. Hit the big re-entrant looked right and there was a control. All I thought was this better be my control or I aim screwed for want of a better word. It was, now I knew I was in business. Short 2nd control, spike. On the long leg to the third I got a chance to look ahead and saw lots of short legs and knew I had to be clean and take it easy. During these legs all I was staying to my self was “focus on technique and forget speed. Punching the 6th control(radio) I was with the Norwegian who started to same time as me. This was the first time I thought I had a shout of qualifying during the race. Reached the 12th control and was basically mistake free.

The 13th was tricky as it was in light green and very detailed area. Saw a control in the same feature but didn’t think it was mine however couldn’t ignore that it was on the same feature. Checked the code and it wasn’t mine ”shit”. Looked at the map for a pit in the area near my control. Found it and saw where I was, 20-30m short and slightly off line. About 10 sec lost. Nothing major. Still calm but because I rushed my self going into the 13th control I didn’t get a lot of time to plan to the 14th and took a straight route. Not even seeing the easier but longer route choice to the left around on the track. Had a plan but couldn’t see my attack point and panicked ran left to hit the track where my control should be and thought I was above it but was actually below it and ran the wrong way down the track. Saw the Italian who started 1 min behind me and realised he was on his was up to the control. Turned and found it. 30sec blown. I knew deep down then I was out but still tried to push and no give up. Ran the last part of the race cleanly and at a high tempo with the Italian. Gave it everything in the run in.

I heard that the Italian was in 4th place so I guessed I was just in the top 15 but knew more guys where to come.

In the end I missed the final by 4sec. I was a bit disappointed but quickly saw the positives. To be so close and making the mistakes I did showed me that I am not that far from making finals at WOC with clean runs. To conclude WOC was a great experience and will stand to me for next year. Would like to thank Ivan for giving me this chance to get much needed experience. Also Kyle for doing a great job keeping us in line. Cheers.

Neil Dobbs -- relay

With the Relay five days after the Middle Qualification, I had plenty of time to recover and let the excitement build and to talk trash with our American and Canadian friends! Dave got us off to a good start with a decent first leg, and after Nick headed out I began warming up in the sunshine. The legs felt great, and all was good! There was a nice patch of shade by the spectator control where we could follow the race while keeping cool.

Seeing Nick come up to the changeover after another strong run, only a couple of minutes down on USA and CAN, had me happy and determined setting off. The Canadian runner strangely underperformed, and he was passed and dropped early on. The fifth control was tricky and a race-changer, with many top runners losing time here. I caught Eddie (USA) here, and drew close to a couple of other teams. After a few controls in a low-visibility area I got ahead of the runners around, and stayed there until the thirteenth control, where a one-minute mistake allowed them catch up. It being a head-to-head race, I didn't push hard on the big uphill to the next until we split up as we had different route gaffles. I floored it from there to the spectator control without seeing anyone.

From there I took it safe and steady as the nerves rose and rose, which until the third last worked fine. The broken ground and vegetation here made it hard to distinguish the mapped knolls, and I lost some time here in the circle. As I scratched my head the Portuguese runner arrived. I spotted and punched first and flaked it off. Happily I had the power left to get the final two controls fast and cleanly and finish a job well done by the team. 22nd out of 37 teams was by far our best result since 2004 (in Sweden), although three meritorious teams (FRA, NOR, CZE) finished behind us due to stopping to help an injured Swede.

Details of the World Championships are here.

Next year's WOC is in Norway and some of the team hopefuls have already been training there. Read about them in the Senior O-Squad blog here, ( ... though on my browser it looks for a password as the site allegedly contains links to drugs, alcohol and tobacco - highly unlikely, if you ask me! JMcC)


Marcus Geoghegan was one of a party of Irish orienteers who dared to go to Transylvania during the summer for a 3-Day ...

This is going to be easy. If I run as fast as I can and concentrate on the navigation then I should be able to make up for yesterday’s mistake and get into the chasing start on day three. After all, con
fusing a five metre deep erosion gulley for a small track is an easy mistake to make (it could happen to anyone), losing me seven minutes on a course that should have taken only thirty-five.

But today is going to be different. Except for the heat. Oh yes, the heat; thirty-three degrees and more. The incredibly steep climb to the start has left me soaked to the skin and dehydrated before I’ve even picked up my map. Our Transylvania 3-day event info recommends gaiters and full body cover, but yesterday’s forest was as close to orienteering perfection as you can get with open runnable forest, lots of contour detail, fast but tricky, so who’s going to bother with full body cover?

First control is a doddle, or at least it should be. All I have to do is run over to the *side* of that big hill, go around the little marshy bit and there I’ll find the control. So why do I run towards the *top* of the hill, ignoring that patch of wet-looking green vegetation lower down to my right? OK, put that stupidity behind you and concentrate on the second control. There’s a big patch of rough open to be crossed before re-entering the lovely white forest. Take it steady and use those tank tracks to guide you across the open area. We are in a part of the Romanian Apuseni mountains called the Poligon whose rusting mock trains and tanks betray the area’s previous incarnation as a soviet-era military training ground.

Back into the lovely white forest again. Next couple of controls are no problem. Fill up at the water station and then out again into the heat across some more rough open ground. Am beginning to realise why full-body cover was recommended - two inch hawthorn spikes can puncture an artery and, as Pat can testify, they’re not very pleasant when embedded in the top of your skull. Use small marsh as attack point for number five, all is going smoothly. Number six is a re-entrant about 150 metres from five. Navigate carefully. Blow it. Lost. Try to relocate off another marshy bit, control must be just over there. No, it isn’t. What’s that sound? Find a herd of goats in a nice shady copse avoiding the midday sun with the goat-herd enjoying some Euro-Techno on the radio. Beginning to get a blister but it’s only a small one, maybe the size of a 10 cent coin.

The best strategy now is to wander aimlessly for a few minutes, fooling myself into thinking that I know where I am. Find the techno-goats for the second time, desperately wondering which of the hundreds of blobs of green on the map is their nice shady copse. Beginning to get delirious in the sun, even with my indispensible French Foreign Legion hat and all of the water that I downed a few minutes ago.

Well, it’s only 150 metres back to the previous control so why not do the right thing and start the leg again? Cut your losses. Get half-way back to previous control, fool myself into thinking that I recognise where I am, repeat all of the mistakes that I made the first time and find the techno-goats yet again. Is that still the same tune? It all sounds the same to me. Repeat the “wander aimlessly” strategy but for some strange reason it still proves unsuccessful and includes a fourth visit to the techno-goats. Make “go back to previous control” decision again and get completely lost. “Oh for heaven’s sake!” (not exact words used), the two controls are only 150 metres apart!

Eventually find little marsh used as attack point for control five. Walk to number six. WALK, I said. DO NOT RUN. Anyway, running is becoming unpleasant as blister is now the size of a 20 cent coin.

Find number six at last. Funnily enough it’s in the exact place that it would have been in if I’d looked in the right place the first time around. That leg took me seventeen minutes, Dave did it in two. OK, put it behind you and start jogging to number seven. What’s that sound? So that’s where the techno-goats are, only a few ****ing metres from control six! I suspect that I’m now a worse navigator than Dizzy, our spatially disoriented car Satnav, who couldn’t find our hotel’s street and had to be saved from vehicular defenestration on a number of occasions.

Next few controls are OK, including something that is a first for me – orienteering through stables, the horses utterly indifferent to the sight of people running past their nice piles of lunch-hay.

Still a few more controls to get in the rough open, but soon will be back into that lovely white forest, with its grand-canyon gullies and clutter-free forest floor. Blister has now stabilised at €2, but dehydrated delirium prevents me from feeling the pain. Wonder if there are any bears in this forest? – we actually saw a European brown bear with her cub while we were driving over the Transylvanian Alps a couple of days ago; a real privilege.

Reach the finish after an epic 131 minutes, just in time to give a short Irish lesson to a Romanian orienteer who is doing a master’s degree in Irish Studies – it’s a small world. Brendan now knows why full-body cover was recommended; his choice of sleeveless t-shirt has left him looking like one of those self-flagellating monks from the DaVinci Code.

In the end “OK Paddy” wins three podium places with Mary O’Connell, Dave Weston and Hazel Thompson taking home some silverware (actually the prizes are vodka glasses). Deirdre O’Neill, Pat Ryan, Brendan O’Connor and I take home great memories of some complex, challenging and perfectly mapped orienteering terrain that is as good as it gets anywhere in the world.

Marcus Geoghegan

OK Paddy

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Wales pip Ireland at JHI

In a closely contested weekend of orienteering, the Welsh team increased their overnight lead of 3 points to finish 8 points clear of Ireland at the Ward Junior Home International last weekend. The competition was staged over two days on the complex forested sand dunes of Newborough on the island of Anglesey in Wales.
This competition, for M and W 14, 16 and 18 classes, gives juniors a taste of top class international competition, and the team dealt with the pressure very well, under the expert eye of managers Greg McCann and Ruth Lynam.
Unusually for a sand dune area, the forest features a rocky ridge with plenty of crags and lots of steep hills. Access restrictions are easing somewhat, so that this superb area (used for the 2001 British Championships) may host some more events - and it's only about 40 minutes from Holyhead!
Following podium positions for Cork's Niamh Corbett and LVO's Áine McCann, the Irish girls beat their Welsh counterparts in the individual race on Saturday for the first time. On Sunday, the Irish girls again finished ahead of the Welsh, but the Welsh boys picked up substantially more points than the Irish, spearheaded by Kristian Jones, who won the M18 class by more than 3 minutes.
After the first day the score stood with Scotland and England tied with 72 points apiece, Wales with 37 and Ireland with 34, so there was keen interest in the following day's Relays. England's strength in depth showed here, though, and the Sassanachs drew further away from the Scots to finish with 130 to Scotland's 112 points.
As usual, the main competition was between Ireland and Wales: despite the Irish girls scoring 14 to Wales' 6, the Welsh boys picked up 20 points to Ireland's 6, leaving the score at Wales 63, Ireland 54, so Wales again took the coveted Judith Wingham Trophy.
Niamh Corbett's 2nd place in W14 gave her the award for the best Irish performance.
The Irish team was: M14 Shane Hoare, Harry Millar, Jonathan Quinn; W14 Niamh Corbett, Clíona McCullough, Caoimhe O'Boyle, Jill Stephens; M16 Cillín Corbett, Eoin McCullough, Jack Millar, Mark Stephens; W16 Áine McCann, Deirdre Ryan, Andrea Stefkova; M18 Padraig Mulry, Kevin O'Boyle, Conor Short; W18 Laura Cox.
Jill, Caoimhe, Shane and Jonathan were being capped for the first time: a special mention to Jill and Caoimhe, who acquitted themselves very well, both running up a class.
Results are available on the Eryri Orienteers web site here. ("Eryri" is the Welsh word for what we call Snowdonia).
Next year's event is at Perth in Scotland, probably on September 13/14th 2010.

Still on the topic of Juniors, Northern Ireland hosts the Junior Inter-Regional Championships this weekend: more than 250 M and W14, 16 and 18's will converge on Slievenagore in the Mournes and on Belvoir Forest in Belfast for an Individual and Relay O-Fest for the eleven or so British O-Federation regions. This is the first time the event has been held outside England, Scotland and Wales, and will provide the competitors with a new orienteering challenge and the organisers with some practice in event logistics in advance of the Jan Kjellstrom events in the North at Easter 2011.

Ernie Lawrence
You may have seen the e-mail from Lindie Naughton informing us of the recent death of Ernie Lawrence. Ernie had been a teacher at Wilson's Hospital school at Multyfarnham, Co.Westmeath where he was involved in canoeing, orienteering and adventure sports generally. He was very involved in the Leinster Schools' Orienteering Association and was the man behine WHO (Wilson's Hospital Orienteers) which featured notable orienteers like the Foley-Fisher family and Shane Lynch. May he reast in peace.