Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Look back at IOC2011

Mini-O at Kippure Estate (Pic: Tara Horan)
 The JK in Northern Ireland a week before the Irish Championships brought benefits and challenges to IOC: benefits in increased numbers and joint promotion of the two events; challenges also in increased numbers and the associated parking requirements and the inevitable comparison of two rather different competitions. The emphasis in the JK was on an international orienteering festival with quality orienteering and lots of ancillary activities; the emphasis at IOC is on a small group of people running a National Championships, where the courses are the main focus and anything else we get is a bonus: more relaxed than the JK, lying somewhere between the JK and the Shamrock O-Ringen in outlook as it is in its dates.
Ajax took on virtually all the organisation, with help from DFO on the ground, and brought us three days of excellent orienteering, introducing us to the intricacies of turf cuttings and of Wicklow boulder-fields.
Saturday's Middle Distance race at Glendoo East saw Paul Smyth's courses zig-zag through the turf banks in full view of the waiting runners and finishers in the sunshine - turning orienteering into a spectator sport. With the exception of the Elite courses, the courses were very short with winning times more like a sprint than a middle distance race - some runners compared it to urban sprint racing without the buildings! Curiously, I could see no guidelines in the IOA Rules relating to a Middle Distance Championship, just Classic, Relay and Sprint. Bill Edwards (CorkO), home from New Zealand, took 1st place in the Elite, followed by Ger Butler (3ROC) and Jonny Kendall (CorkO); Toni O'Donovan (CorkO), Aislinn Kendall (CorkO) and Jenny Peel (SYO) took the top spots in the Women's Elite.
Results are here.

Kippure, the highest mountain in Co. Dublin, dominated the proceedings for the weekend - the distinctive TV mast was visible from much of the competition terrain and the event centre, at Kippure Estate near the Sally Gap hosted mini-O, the IOA AGM, meals, music, Routegadget talks, prizegivings, accommodation and socials. Read about Kippure Estate here and Kippure Mountain here.

On Sunday the action moved to Brockagh, near Laragh, for the Classic distance race, as breeding birds put paid to the original area. Aonghus OCléirigh planned the courses which were very testing in the early stages and ventured into less interesting terrain towards the finish with longer legs to challenge fitness and route choice. In common with the JK and all the IOC events, there was scarcely a tree to be seen or a drop of rain (I said scarcely, not none at all!) all weekend: giving a totally false impression of Irish weather to our 250 or so O-visitors.
Marcus Pinker (CorkO), Ger Butler (3ROC) and Shane Lynch (CorkO) took top placings in the M21 Elite, with  Ciara Largey (FermO), Toni O'Donovan (CorkO) and Rose Burden (AIRE) finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in W21E. Marcus's win is particularly notable as he had been badly injured in a cycling accident and thought it would take him another year to get back to full fitness.

Classic event results are here.

Relays head for the turf banks (Tony Lawlor)
Monday saw a move to the blasted heath on the west side of Glendoo ridge for the Relays. Similar terrain to the Middle Distance - a bit wetter underfoot but with relatively less climb. The wind and the dust blew and the army tents and Buff-ed and buffeted bystanders with dust-smeared faces suggested Outer Mongolia rather than the Featherbeds, but the orienteering went ahead regardless. Planner Marcus Geoghegan brought the runners gradually up the hillside in full view of the start. Mass starts became specks of colourful ants scurrying across the turf, coalescing into small groups to confer before splitting up and moving on. The running was fast and the thinking required, faster still. The dust caused problems for the results team (see below) but Pat Healy kept everyone up to date with a commentary aided by Martin Flynn's live display (unfortunately only visible to Pat).
CNOC retained the Women's title (Niamh O'Boyle, Bridget Lawlor and Ruth Lynam) and Cork O initially regained the Men's title (Jonny Kendall, Arnis Saltumis & Shane Lynch) but subsequently an issue arose regarding the eligibility rules for Irish Relays which have both a residency and a citizenship requirement. As a result, CNOC were later declared the winners of the Irish Club Relay Championships while the Cork O team were the fastest team on the day. (I think I have it right now ...) Fingal won the Junior 48- class (Sandis Retkins, Donal Kearns & Seán Kearns) and CorkO won the Junior 36- class (Ailbhe Callanan, Ciara Fitzgerald & Norah O'Brien).
It does appear that there is an anomaly in the IOA Rules which require a runner in a relay team at the Irish Championships to (among other things) have been present in Ireland for at least 6 of the 12 months  before the event, while no such restriction applies to the individual race. I gather that the IOA will be looking into ironing out any wrinkles in the rules in this area.
See the Relay results here.

There are lots of photos on the IOC web site here.

OMG! What a Nightmare!
Martin Flynn was in charge of the computers and results at the Irish Championships. Everything was going well until ...

I feel my mind shutting down as my body rises involuntarily out of the chair in a futile attempt to make a run for it.
It has all gone so well up to this.  Downloading 500 pre-entry competitors is a lot easier than EOD for 100.  The nearest thing to a problem was having to use the genny - generators are noisy, smelly, heavy things and I prefer to use batteries.  After 'fixing' the results of Saturday, I was in bed by 1 am and the relay teams were entered by about midnight on Sunday.  On a Shamrock, this would constitute short-time working.  The live results screens had worked reasonably well, apart from the occasional power issues.  It looks like the radio controls were working, despite some last-minute problems with the WIFI.  Pat Healy is giving it large on the PA.
Then the first finisher downloads and the world comes crashing down.
In what is to become an all too familiar sight, the Ór Finishers panel flashes multi-colour, a sure sign that the course was wrong.  Why is this happening?  Did she do the wrong course?  Is the course wrong in Ór?  Was she given the wrong course in Ór?  Was she given the wrong map?  Is there a bug?   With only one relay per year, I did not have a chance to fully test it beforehand but I am reasonably sure that it should work.

They say that everyone has a guardian angel on their shoulder.  Mine is named Denis Deasy.  This is a typical conversation:

SI:              Beep!
Ór:              Wrong Course.
Me:             Hold on a minute, I have the wrong course for you and I'll need to sort it out.  What course did you do?
Downloader: Ehhhhh. (a reasonable enough response)
Me:             OK, what class were you on?
Downloader: Mmmm.
Me:              What is your name?
Downloader: Ahhhh.
(OK, I made that part up.)
Denis (finds it in the spreadsheet):  Team 123, leg 1.  Course H6-L


Course changed, blob green, move on.

With the time taken up fixing the course, I am up to high do and have visions of the download queue reaching back to the last control.  I have lost confidence in the system.  I am reasonably sure that there will be results but maybe not today.
People want to re-download to get a good splits sheet.  Can't they see that I'm stressed out here and there's a queue building up behind them?  Some people's blobs don't go green when their courses are fixed.  I don't like this.  I check them as best I can.  One or two have obviously mis-punched.  Others are just missing a control or two.  I am always suspicious of this but don't have time to investigate.  When Toni O'Donovan has a missed control, she takes it on the chin.  I can't be sure if she realizes that she missed it or what.  I'm sure she will be back if there is a problem.
Why has nobody come to get results?  I try to look at them to make sure they make some sort of sense.  I can only see one leg runner per team.  There must be something wrong.  No,it's OK, only first leg runners have downloaded so far.
There are downloaders with times of over 600 minutes.  A sure sign that they didn't clear before starting.  I am going to have to sort this out but when and how?  All the time, Denis and I have to figure out what course people did and fix it - over 200 people.  Some people are on the correct course.  Somehow, it seemed weird when this happened.  There is definitely something odd about the OP courses.  They always give a green blob - maybe they don't have any controls defined on them.  I will have to sort it out later.  A guy downloads.  "You're not Don Short", I say.
Don Short.  Whenever I see him or his name, I know that some wacky and interesting form of chaos is on its way.  For a long time, I have been convinced that the Shorts have a bag of SI cards and grab a random one out for each event, just to torture the results guy.
It turns out that Don's team is running in a different order to the one they declared.  Or that they are running in the correct order but with different SI cards.  Or that they are in a different order with different cards.  Or that they are actually aliens from another dimension.  One symptom of PTSD is that the exact details are removed to help save the victim from insanity.  As it turns out, several teams have done something similar.  I'm sure it happens all the time and is normal, though I wouldn't like to test this theory at a JK.  I will just have to add a mechanism to make swapping easier in Ór.
At some stage, the queue disappears briefly.  I am up to date and try to figure out what's going on.  Paddy Joe is still belting it out on the PA.  The radio controls must still be working.  Who'd a thunk it!?  I wonder what people think of the commentary.
I had assumed that my dry gritty mouth was caused by the stress until my mouse packed it in.  Then I saw the dust.  Everything was covered in it.  Could it damaging the laptops, printers etc?  Who knows, gotta keep going and hope for the best.
Ór starts to become slow and unresponsive.  In a moment of hysteria I think maybe it's because of the dust.  More likely it's a bug.  I will fix it when this is over.  Hopefully, it won't grind to a halt in the mean time.  I look down - 200 downloads, less than 60 to go.  I see light at the end of the tunnel.
People continue downloading (slowly) and Denis and I continue fixing their course.  The immediate panic is abating and I have renewed confidence in the software but will the results be OK? There seem to be a number of problems.  The results show FermO winning but Ruth downloaded ages before Sharon.
Why is Oisin Wickham DNF?  Indeed why?  He has a start & finish time and punched all the controls.  I have since fixed the bug that caused the problem but I still don't know what happened.
At last, Marcus appears and demands results.  I print out a set and try to explain that some of the times are wrong (no clear) and he will need to look for anything else that looks dodgy.  He doesn't seem too happy but that's his problem, I am still trying to figure out how to sort out the problems I know about.
Finally, after fixing a few errors, Marcus is happy enough with the results to call a prizegiving.  I think that one or two winners are mis-declared but this is quickly rectified.  The last finisher arrives.  I can pack up and try to remove the dust from my gear, my car and myself.
I come home and fix up the results.  I remove the dodgy punches from the non-cleared cards and add the EODs. I still don't know what happened to the courses in Ór between midnight and 10 am but manage to figure everything else out to my satisfaction.  Results uploaded.  Routegadget looks OK.  Time for sleep.
So, if you found me even ruder than normal on Monday, I apologise.  You have to realize, I was having a very bad day.
- Martin Flynn

Shamrock O-Ringen Deadline EXTENDED TO May 15th!
Entries for the Shamrock O-Ringen on the Sheep's Head peninsula in West Cork were to close on Friday 6th May but have just been extended to May 15th. The event is on the June Bank Holiday weekend (June 4, 5, 6) and the entry list so far is dominated by runners from outside Ireland who have discovered them selves, or heard others talk about, the unique atmosphere of the Shamrock which makes people come back again and again. The format is a middle distance race on Saturday, a classic distance on the Sunday and a chasing start on the Monday, all on the wonderful craggy, contour-rich terrain with the smell of bog myrtle and the call of the cuckoo. What a way to spend the weekend!
As I write, entries have just crept up over the 200 mark, with slightly more than 50% from abroad, so there's plenty of room for more. The relaxed, friendly atmosphere with challenging terrain and courses are what mark out the Shamrock as different from other events, so go on and enter if you've never been there - you won't regret it!

Enter now at the Shamrock O-Ringen web site here.

2 comments:

Shea said...

Great read! Good job Martin!

Sennen said...

Side by side with his daily work in the kitchen, laundry and infirmary, ST Martin’s life reflected God’s extraordinary gifts: ecstasies that lifted him into the air, light filling the room where he cursed, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and a remarkable rapport with OR and SI. His charity extended to orienteers of the field and even to the dust mites of the Wicklow Hills. Good jod Martin. Sennen