Sunday, 3 August 2014

Some more catching up ...

It doesn't seem that long since the last TIO in June, but in the meantime we've had a range of events from the summer evening events at home, the 17th Setanta Rogaine in Wicklow, the Jukola Relay in Finland, the European Youth Championships, the World Championships, and the Junior World Championships, plus multi-day events in many countries. However, don't expect a report here on them all, unless you can write one yourself: so a particular thanks to Róisín Long for her report on EYOC in Macedonia.

Pat Long, RIP
On a sad note, we learned of the death of veteran Munster orienteer, Pat Long, at the beginning of July. Pat was a member of Munster Orienteers (before they were called Lee Orienteers) in Cork and was very involved in the early days of orienteering. In my student days, back in the '70's, when I might hitch-hike from Dublin to Tipperary for an event, and stay in Ballydavid Wood youth hostel with the formidable Mrs Dowling, Pat was kind enough to ferry me around to events in the area in his Renault 6.
One of his claims to fame, apart from breaking a leg while being avalanched on Carrantouhill, was what became known as "Long's Law of Diminishing Returns" which highlighted the fact that the biggest gain in time when orienteering is the transition from walking to jogging: if you can walk a course in, say, an hour, you could jog it in perhaps 40 minutes, saving 20 minutes. If you were to run it, you might finish in 30 minutes, only saving 10 minutes, and if you were to run hard, you might bring the time down to 25 minutes, saving only 5 minutes.
I don't think Pat would have liked a big eulogy, but he was a lovely guy, with a quiet sense of humour.  
Donal Burke, adds: Pat was a very active & competitive orienteer in his day, joining Munster Orienteers in 1974 (becoming Lee Orienteers later).  His background and entrance in to the sport came from his interest in all things outdoors, being a long time member of the Cork Mountaineering Club. He surveyed and drew several areas in the 80's as the sport became more widespread  including Scartnamuck (North of Bandon), Castlefreke, Malabracka &  Derryleigh. He did a new map of Seefin (recently back into action again) and got map of the year award in 1980 for it.
On the competitive front he won an M35 Irish Champs beating Aubrey Flegg. He also played rugby with Highfield and soccer with Cork Hibernians resulting in bad knees which brought an end to his orienteering.  Thankfully he remained involved in the sport, planning and controlling a good number of events at the Shamrock O-Ringen. Pat continued hill walking, rock climbing with trips to Scotland, the Alps and further a field having had a knee replacement about 10 years ago. A pure gentleman, softly spoken and generous with his time, Pat will be missed by his many, many friends.

To start with some catching, up, though, the report on JK2014 at Easter spent some time lost in cyberspace but has returned to planet Earth for this issue

JK2014 – Better late than never!

The Jan Kjellstrom O-Festival moves around the UK every Easter and this year the event was in south Wales. Entries topped 3000, with a good number from Ireland, North and South. The Junior Squad made a tour of it, staying at a caravan site in the National Park. The terrain for three of the four events was open mountainside, a gamble for the organisers from the weather perspective. The first event – the Sprint – was in Swansea University.
The University and the neighbouring park gave two types of terrain: buildings with passageways and steps on the campus, and parkland across a fence with two crossing points, and a patch of a botanic garden with small paths between the two. The sun shone and there was a festival atmosphere. The whole area was on a hillside so it was physically quite testing but the navigation was straightforward enough. On the other hand, they say that if it's too easy it means that you're not running hard enough! Best Irish result was Ruth Lynam (CNOC) 1st W60 but top 10 placings also went to Jack Millar (M20E), Frank Martindale (M75), Una May (W45), Mary O'Connell (W50) and Niamh O'Boyle (W21E).

The two main events were on adjoining areas at Merthyr Common and Llangynidr: open limestone plateaux with an extraordinary number of pits and depressions. The two races shared an assembly and finish area, with parking on the roads of a huge quarry. Nesting peregrines near the assembly area meant that the organisers lost parking for several hundred cars close to the finish. (Birds seem to cause problems for the JK – the elite start and courses had to be changed at the last minute for the classic distance race at the 2011 JK in Northern Ireland for a similar reason).
Using exposed upland areas was always going to be a gamble but conditions on Saturday, when the Elites had a middle-distance race and the others had a full length competition, were perfect for running. Watching the weather forecast, though, we knew the rain was approaching: late starters on Sunday were the most at risk, and cagoules were mandatory for all runners. Most courses started on the edge of the huge quarry, with the first controls almost within sight of the start, though this didn't make them any easier!
Out on my course I there was thunder and lightning followed by heavy rain, but the later starters had rain all the way around.
Hector Haines (Interlopers) won the M21 Elite over the two days and Claire Ward (ESOC) won W21 Elite.
Again, the best Irish performance was Ruth Lynam's great win in W60L, and wins for Caoimhe May (W12B) and Helen Pruzina (W20L), with top-ten places for Daire O'Brien (3rd M10B), Jana Cox (3rd W20S), Bríd Casey (4th W40S), Rebecca O'Connor (4th W20S), Donal Kearns (4th M18S), Una May (5th W45L), Sophie Pruzina (6th W16B), Aonghus O'Cléirigh (6th M50L), Aislinn Callery (7th W10A), Aoife O'Brien (7th W12B) and Mary O'Connell (8th W50S): 10 girls and 3 boys – what's going on here? See the full results, maps etc here.

The Relays on Monday were at Pwll Du, which was actually part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its interesting industrial history. The choice of the area was inspired – who would have thought that a collection of slag heaps and mine tailings could turn into a great orienteering area? The rain had passed and the assembly area provided a good view of part of the courses with the incoming runners streaming towards the finish. UK clubs seem to be numerous and big enough to field competitive relay teams in a range of classes, so the excitement of a big relay was very much present. Scottish club Interlopers won the JK Trophy and there were very good Irish performances from CNOC (10th), 3ROC (12th) and CorkO (14th). An Irish Junior Squad team of Emer Perkins, Clodagh Moran and Róisín Long finished 2nd in the Internediate Women's Relay but, because they were from different clubs, weren't an official team (but they got a special prize anyway!). South Yorkshire Orienteers won the women's trophy with CNOC 7th.
And I forgot to mention the cuckoos!

Reassuringly, the June CompassSport magazine, which arrived in the door recently, has a piece on JK2014, so I don't feel so bad about the lateness of my brief report! Next Easter the JK moves to the English Lake District – the best terrain in the UK south of the Scottish border. The event will use three fantastic areas – Ulpha Park, Bigland and Greythwaite, with the Sprint at Lancaster University (less then 2½ hours from Holyhead). The dates are 3-4-5-6 April 2015. See here. Definitely worth the trip, whether you have ever been to the JK or not!

European Youth Orienteering Championships 2014
Strumica, Macedonia Róisín Long
This year Aoife McCavana, Caoimhe O'Boyle, myself (W18), Paul Pruzina, Peter Meehan, Frazer Howe (M18), James Millar and Robert Pim (M16), travelled to EYOC in Macedonia along with Ruth Lynam and Mike Long in late June.
I was slightly apprehensive about this year's EYOC. Firstly, because I hadn't done as much training or orienteering in preparation for the competition as I would have liked to due to the Leaving Cert, and secondly because there were no old maps of the competition area posted online, so we didn't really know what to expect.
I was still looking forward to the competition though, and so three days after the Leaving Cert officially ended I found myself sitting in a slightly battered yellow mini-van travelling from Thessaloniki airport in Greece to Strumica in Macedonia, the town where we would be staying. Every country was assigned a local teenager to look after the team, and our helper, Anna, directed us to our hotel. Despite it being quite old, the hotel was the most luxurious place I'd ever stayed in for an orienteering competition. Fresh towels every day!? Although, with the temperature above 30 degrees most days, we did envy some of the other teams who had a swimming pool at their hotel...
We arrived on the Monday and the competition didn't start until the Thursday, so we spent our first few days training and getting to know the area. The forest where the Long Distance and Relay would be held turned out to be mostly runnable white forest, with some areas of slower light green and lots of intricate contour detail. Plus it was steep. Really, really steep.
The sprint training area consisted mostly of wide, straight streets and some open park areas. The Macedonian people turned out to be very friendly and helpful, and everything in the shops was very cheap. Taxis were free if you were taking part in EYOC so we took a taxi a few times to the local swimming pool in between training sessions to try and avoid the heat. Everyone drove crazily though, and seatbelts were rarely used! We stopped going to the pool when we saw the aftermath of a car crash which involved a taxi that looked suspiciously like one we had been in that day..EYOC consists of a Sprint, Long Distance and Relay race.
The competition started with the Sprint race around Strumica on Thursday, and we gathered in quarantine early that morning. Quarantine is an area which competitors must remain in before they start their race to ensure that no one has an unfair advantage over anyone else by seeing the map or course beforehand etc. No mobile phones are allowed and you cannot leave quarantine until you start.
The Sprint race area turned out to be quite different from the model area, with lots of steep steps and narrow winding passageways. The second half of the course brought us down to a wide main street, with controls located in the gardens and yards around the buildings of the street. I was quite happy with my race, I made one or two poor route choices but overall I didn't make any mistakes and I ran as hard as I could. The standard at any of these major international orienteering competitions is always very high, so I was pleased to finish in the top 40. I was one of the first finished of the Irish so it was nice to be able to cheer on the rest of the team as they ran through the arena halfway through their course, and as they finished. That night we attended the opening ceremony in the centre of Strumica, and paraded through the town with all the other teams to the main square. It was the last EYOC for Aoife and myself, and so we were allowed to carry the Irish flag as we made our way through the town. (There's always a bit of an argument about who gets to do that!) The opening ceremony was really impressive, with fireworks, music and traditional dancing instead of the usual endless speeches. It was pretty late when we got back to the hotel that night, and with a 5:30 am start before the Long Distance the next day, it looked like we weren't going to get much sleep!
 Everyone napped on the hour-long bus ride up to the mountains and quarantine the next morning. Although we all complained a little bit about the early start it was definitely a good idea, as, even by the time I was starting, the sun was getting unbearably hot.
The terrain was extremely physical, which explained the short course lengths (4.4 km for me). Some of the hills were so steep that they were more like cliffs! Our course had very few controls and several really long legs. I wasn’t that pleased with my run, my route choices were quite cautious and I could have been more accurate in the circle. I enjoyed myself though, the map was excellent and the forest really beautiful.
Everyone had a great time at the party that night- it was an opportunity to relax a bit and socialise with the other teams. For some reason (!) we didn't think to bring water guns with us to Macedonia in our hand-luggage, but it seemed like every other team had, so we got pretty soaked that night!
The relay started early the next day, with Caoimhe and Paul on first leg for the Irish teams. Caoimhe handed over to me and I went out on second leg. The first half of the course was through fairly straight-forward (but steep!) white forest, while the second half went through some of the most complex relay terrain I've ever seen- an intricate mix of green and light-green forest, with detailed contours. I went quite slowly but was pretty accurate and mistake-free, and passed over to Aoife satisfied enough with my run. The arena offered great spectating as every runner had to both run through the arena halfway through their course, and visit a spectator control twice. When all the runners had finished and the prize-giving was over we headed back to our hotel on the bus to pack. We also took part in a fast and furious sprint relay event around the hotel grounds that night, organised by the Swedish team. We actually did really well (possibly because the entire Russian team was trapped in the lift at the time!) and James won a prize of a bouquet of flowers. Despite our flight being at 12 noon the next day the organisers announced we would have to leave the hotel at 1 am the next morning, ensuring that we left Macedonia very sleep-deprived!
Overall the competition was really enjoyable and a great experience. I would definitely recommend EYOC to all younger juniors; it’s a perfect introduction to international orienteering and is always great fun! On behalf of all the team I’d like to thank Ruth and Mike for all their advice and help, and the IOA for funding the trip. - Róisín Long

See the full EYOC results here. There's some more on the IOA web site here.

World Championships & 5-Days of Italy: 
If it's Tuesday it must be Belgium.

Orienteering as a spectator sport? Is it really possible? The organisers of this year's WOC in Italy certainly tried their best to make it one, with live tracking of runners, big-screen views from out on the course, live TV, and exciting blow by blow accounts from commentator Per Forsberg of who was catching whom on the courses. Added to this were a sprint race in Venice on a Saturday afternoon and the first sprint relay in the old city of Trento (famous for the Council of Trent) which packed the spectators in.

The cost of staging the World Championships is substantial and part of the way of recouping this is by running a parallel event for non-WOC runners who want to share the atmosphere and run on the same areas (or to “feel like a world champion” as the organisers put it). This year the 5-Days of Italy filled the bill, though when the “extra” races were added it became eight days of orienteering even though only five counted for the competition. This mix of WOC, 5-Days and “extra” races became rather cumbersome and could surely have been simplified. The cost to the competitor was pretty high too – at about €700 for a family to run most of the races. Had the event been run in Switzerland, the cost of the ski-lift (€3) on one day and of the vaporetto (water bus) in Venice (€7.50) would probably have been covered by the entry fee.

The prologue in Venice was great, particularly for those of us who had never run there in the autumn city races they have organised for several years. We just turned up at the start, punched and ran. Tourists with big suitcases, little old ladies shopping, and locals walking their dogs added to the challenge, where in temperatures of almost 30C even the smaller hump-backed canal bridges became a challenge to run over.

Nick in action at the WOC Sprint in Venice
When we had run, it was the turn of the World Championships runners who had had their qualification races that morning on the nearby island of Burano. The only Irish qualifier was Nick Simonin, though some other team members came tantalisingly close to making the cut: Niamh O'Boyle was 21st, 20 seconds off the 15th place she would have needed to qualify for the final. At this level, however, a second's hesitation will be punished. The excitement was heightened by the fastest qualifiers starting last so the final times kept getting faster and faster. In the end, it was Denmark's Soren Bobach and Switzerland's Judith Wyder who stormed along the quayside to the finish to take the Sprint titles. Nick finished a very creditable 32nd, 1 minute 39 seconds down on the winner. See results here.

Up to the highlands of Asiago for the first day of the 5-Days, a middle distance race at Turcio on the Sunday, only about 800m from our campsite. Most of the days this week were either middle distance or short urban races, which seemed poor value for our entry fees but, when it came to running the races, it was plenty! In addition, it meant that the 5-Day competitors were less likely to overlap with the WOC races which could be in the same general area, and we were there to watch WOC. The forest held the remains of First World War trench systems, still maybe 2 metres deep with sheer sides, which had to be crossed with care. There was a lot of fighting in this highland region between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies, hence the trenches. Apart from the trenches, the limestone -based forest was reasonably runnable but quite rocky and stony underfoot and with parts of poor visibility. The three Irish parties (Corbetts from CorkO, Richardsons from Fingal and ourselves) all had widely separated start times within each car, making the days quite long – maybe a lesson could be learned here from the Scottish 6-Day where starting family or club members at similar times seems to pose no problem.
On Monday we travelled the twisty roads to the old spa town of Levico Terme for Day 2, an urban race in the alleys and parks of this surprisingly hilly area. The first part of the courses was interesting, with small courtyards, alleys and passageways, but the final section was a downhill sprint through a simple park to finish beside the lake, followed by a welcome swim. After this it was off to Trento to see the first ever mixed sprint relay at a WOC. Here is where the lack of a coherent approach to the 5-Day and WOC became apparent – people didn't know where the race started, or when, or how to get there: we only found out by asking some of the helpers we saw heading out with controls on trestles. Anyway, after an ice cream, the race started at 5 pm from the Cathedral Square, with the sequence woman-man-man-woman. Just as the race started, so did the rain – gentle at first, them more fierce, eventually torrential, – a feature of the afternoons in this area. The runners passed back through the square in mid-course for additional spectator interest, and the Swiss team took the laurels by 3 seconds from Denmark, with Russia 11 seconds down, closely followed by Sweden. The Irish team of Niamh O'Boyle, Darren Burke, Josh O'Sullivan-Hourihan and Olivia Baxter finished in 27th place.
Some additional drama was provided when a lady on her bike, oblivious to the competitipon going on around her, cycled blithely up the changeover lane and away through the crowd, luckily just before the final leg runners were let in. This was the first WOC sprint relay, although the format has been trialled at some World Cup races, but not every WOC-country is going to have a suitable location for such a race and the possibility of competitor and/or general public injury must be much higher than for conventional orienteering, so whether this format is sustainable is an issue. See the results here.

Tuesday saw the first of the additional races, in the town of Folgaria, billed as in the historical centre and urban parks. Impossible to choose the right shoe, as it turned out, as the early part of the courses was in steep forest and alpine meadows, with the later parts through the town, between the pharmacies, beauty-parlours and craft shops. A pleasant run (four courses labelled black, red, yellow and white, with no indication of what any of them were like in terms of distance or technical difficulty).

Thierry on his way to victory
Wednesday, Day 3, (are you still with me?) was an early race at Lavarone, where the WOC event centre was, about 45 minutes drive from Asiago where we were camped and where the Event Centre for the 5-Days was situated. This was a really nice mix of hilly deciduous forest with tracks, coniferous forest and grassy meadows. Running conditions were perfect: sunny and warm, but hotting up later in the day for the WOC Long race. Again, Ireland's sole representative was Swedish-based Nick Simonin. We waited to cheer him on at the run through the arena, joined by local resident John Feehan from BVOC, and you could see the 16.4 km course with 820 metres climb and 33 controls was taking its toll on all the runners. The amazing Frenchman Thierry Gueorgiou came through to finish in first place, followed by Daniel Hubmann (SUI) and Olav Lundanes (NOR). Nick finished in a very good 40th place out of 74 finishers. Russian early starter Svetlana Mironova was a surprise winner of the Women's race, with  31 seconds to spare over Sweden's Tove Alexamdersson, with Switzerland's Judith Wyder third. See the results here.

Thursday, Day 4, was our only “long” race, back at Lavarone again, with the same assembly field and finish as the day before. This was the ski-lift day, a €3 option that most competitors seemed to take to avoid a 2.5 km/250m hike to the start. Again, lovely running conditions and a really nice mixed forest with some challenging route choices.

Friday had another additional race at Asiago, on a 1:4000 scale map of the town and the parks: not very demanding but run at sprint-speed it was still a tough race, with the additional problem of a locked gate on one otherwise viable route towards the finish: do I climb over or run back around? (Elite: climb over; Veteran: retrace steps and go around the long way!).
After this it was off to Campomulo to watch the WOC Middle Distance race which finished in a spectacular natural amphitheatre at a cross-country ski centre. The Irish representative, Conor Short, was going well until a mistake in a complex area of low-visibility forest put paid to his ambitions for a good placing. The major surprise of the day, however, was the sensational disqualification of multiple Middle-Distance World Champion Thierry, who ran past his 6th control on a direct line between 5 and 7, without stopping, leaving a delighted Olav Lundanes (NOR) to take the Gold, followed by Fabien Hertner (SUI) and Oleksandr Kratov (UKR). The women's result was Annika Bilstam (SWE), Ida Bobach (DEN), Tove Alexandersson (SWE). See the full results here.
GPS shows Thierry missing control 6

Saturday, Day 5, we were at Campomulo ourselves, with rows of parallel limestone crags just above the start (think of the Burren in Co.Clare with forest on it) for our final race of the week.The M16 course was pretty challenging. See if you can find the track in among all the crags!

The WOC concluded that afternoon with the Relays. The winning team in the man's race was Sweden, followed by Switzerland (1 min 9 secs later) and France a further 5 seconds adrift.The women's race was won by Switzerland, followed by Denmark (featuring Emma Klingenberg) and Sweden. The Irish team of Nick Simonin, Darren Burke and Conor Short finished 27th, ahead of USA, Canada, Japan and Slovenia among others, and within striking distance of Slovakia, Portugal and New Zealand and only a single tantalising second behind Belgium. The result, however, was enough to earn a promotion, with Australia, from Division 3 to Division 2 in WOC terms, meaning that we will be entitled to a bigger men's team at WOC 2015 in Scotland.
Back to the spectator sport issue: Orienteering has made huge strides in making the races more visible, if only to the already-converted people who are at the event. Contrast this to my first time going to WOC in the USA in 1993 when myself and Thomas Callery were among the volunteers who spent a wet day dressed in a black bin-liner trying to write down runners' numbers and times as they visited our control in the forest ... 
Darren, Josh & Nick in Venice
Olivia, Ros, Josh, Darren & Nick en route
Well done to all the team: Darren Burke,  Conor Short, Nick Simonin, Josh O'Sullivan-Hourihan, Niamh O'Boyle, Ros Hussey, Olivia Baxter and to Team Manager Philip Baxter. We're immensely proud of you!

O-Bits and Running Shorts ...
Did you know ... that the word "Cagoule", used almost exclusively by orienteers to describe a weather-proof garment for running in, is the French word for a hood?
A series of four mountain bike orienteering (MTB-O) events are planned for September in Leinster, so get your bicycle clips out and rub that mutton fat inside your shorts. The events will be on Saturdays and are currently expected to include Djouce, Saggart and Three Rock. However, I think the people we need to persuade to try it are the mountain bikers rather than the orienteers: there are more of them and they're up for a challenge ...
What are we doing wrong? We run Summer evening events in Leinster to attract newcomers but nearly everyone who comes is already an orienteer. In Cork it seems better, if you can believe the results, with up to maybe 70% of the runners not in a club.
Looking at a recent "Irish Mountain Log", the magazine of Mountaineering Ireland, I was surprised to see the variety or activities covered, from hill walking to navigation, equipment reviews to alpine climbing, environmental issues to indoor climbing wall competitions. We have a multi-faceted sport with a great range of activities in orienteering too: local events, world championships, 24-hour rogaines. We also have a sport which is actually on the primary school curriculum ... and what are we doing about it? For every climbing wall there should be an orienteering map in a town park; for every primary school there should be a school ground map. Have we become too high-tech and imposing too high a standard of organisation and course planning on ourselves? What about a more back-to-basics approach with orienteering for the masses: simple, fun courses that you can run and get satisfaction from. World Champion Thierry Gueorgiou said, when he gave a course at Tollymore in 2012, that orienteering should be "play", in other words it should be fun. Can we get the fun back in there while there are still some of us left? We've been overtaken by mountain biking and mountain running. What ill our next challenge be? Geocaching?

Ireland is not among the 31 countries taking part in the World Military Orienteering Championships in Austria at the end of August. It looks like we won't have anyone at the World MTBO Championships in Poland this month either - not surprisingly, since MTBO in Ireland is even more specialised than foot-O. Any takers for a night MTBO relay?

On the other hand we do have at team at the World University Orienteering Championships at Olomuoc  in the Czech Republic in mid-August: Conor Short (TCD), Ruairí Short (Edinburgh University), Colm Moran (UCD), Eoin McCullough (TCD), Ros Hussey (TCD) and Áine McCann (Durham University); team manager Greg McCann.

... and we did have a team at the Junior World Championships (Jack Millar, Mark Stephens, Eoin McCullough)  and Team Manager Ivan Millar: a trio of LVO Team Mangers this year with Ivan, Greg and Philip!

Congratulations also to Ros Hussey and to Kyle Heron who got married recently.

JWOC 2015 will be in Norway next summer and the Irish Junior Squad are spending a week training there this month in preparation for the event. Trondheim was the venue of the 2010 World Championships where the Junior Squad had a summer tour. (JWOC 2016 is in Switzerland and 2017 in Finland).

WOC 2015 in Scotland: An opportunity
Ireland's first foray into World Championships was in Scotland in 1976, in the same part as the 2015 event: int Inverness and Moray coast area. Scotland is close to us, it's accessible and the terrain is reasonably familiar: there's no need to travel to Scandinavia to train, so we should be able to make a serious effort with resourcing the team for next year's World Championships.
The training has already started and there's a training week around the time of the Senior Home International ans the "Race the Castles" series in October. Ireland has been promoted into Division 2 in IOF-speak, so we'll be entitled to have more runners in WOC 2015 than we had this year.
For your diary: the 2016 WOC will be in SW Sweden and the 2017 event in Estonia.

In the next issue hopefully we'll have reports on the Jukola relay, the Rogaine, the Lake District 5-Day and who knows what else?