Friday, August 19, 2016

Readiness

It's the eve of the World Champs and the rest of the team is going over the final details for the sprints tomorrow. I'm not racing just yet but I still have that feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is it. There are no more Strömstad specific trainings, no more intervals for that extra speed or weight trainings for that extra power. All through the summer I have been keenly aware that WOC has been getting closer and therefore posing myself the question "am I ready?"

I've spent over a month in total training and competing in these terrains. I feel almost as much at home taking the highway exit for Strömstad as I do taking the exit for Turku. I fell in love with the challenge of the terrain last year during the World Cup and every training and race has had the goal of this year's WOC in mind. I used every single competition this year to imagine that I was actually running a WOC race. For the first time I had a final preparation training camp where we ran the exact same program that we would run at WOC.

When I remember all of this I can't help but admit that I have done everything possible to be ready to stand on the start line with a smile on my face.

I had the honour to be interviewed for the Portuguese Orienteering Blog and some of the questions really made me think. I had to think about how I have changed as a competitor and how my own expectations have changed along with that. When I won a bronze medal at JWOC 4 years ago I hadn't really been waiting for it the way that I've been waiting for my results this year. 4 years ago I was practically bouncing with excitement for being able to go out and race whereas this time I've suddenly found my head full of stressful thoughts of "what if's". So it helps to remember how it felt 4 years ago when my thoughts were focused on the race rather than already on the finish line.

I'm so grateful to be able to compete in these championships in a sport that I'm so passionate about. And we're all so grateful for your loving support. We're proud to be Canadian and we can certainly hear you cheering from here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Most of team Canada has arrived in Stromstad for the World Orienteering Championships. We have been doing a bit of last minute map training but many of the athletes have had several opportunities to run training camps in the area so they are very familiar with the area.
Will, Damian and Emma get ready to start their training
The forest is quite open with lots of bare rock, cliffs, heather, blueberries and chantrelles. It is difficult to stay on a bearing when you are stopping for a snack along the way.
Meghan and Louise picked loads of Blueberries in Oslo during the Nighthawk WRE event
 
Raphael taping together some maps to make a giant map of the middle/long/relay areas
This year the official accommodation is in a Swedish Camping area and amusement park. Some of the cabins (including our coach accommodation) is pirate themed but the team has a nice non-pirate house.
WOC starts with the sprint this Saturday. Emma Waddington, Will Critchley, Damian Konotopetz and Robbie Anderson will run for Canada. Tomorrow, they will have the opportunity to wander around the city for a couple of hours before it is re-embargoed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

World University Orienteering Championships recap

The World University Orienteering Championships took place last week in Miskolc, Hungary. There were athletes from 34 nations competing in 5 back to back  day of races. Canada was represented by Pia Blake, Emma Sherwood, Damian Konotopetz, Eric Kemp, Robert Aderson, Robert Graham, and me (Adam Woods).

The Sprint was my favorite of the 5 races. It featured a maze of uncrossable stone walls that were nigh impossible to navigate through at speed. I was proud to make it through the complex session without any significant time loss and finished in 68th, just behind Damian in 65th and Robert Anderson in 67th.

The Long was the race most of team Canada struggled on. Though long (14km for guys, 10 km for women) and hilly (655m and 420m climb respectively) it featured lots of beautiful white forest. Pia Blake had a tough race; She’d wrapped her ankles slightly too tight, but didn’t start feeling it until the race had started. Congrats to her for suffering though it for the 2:10:54 it took her to complete the course.

The third race was the exciting Sprint Relay, which delivered another unique and challenging sprint course. There were man made barriers and passageways through building you’d normally never have access to. There were over 50 volunteers out on course ensuring these passageways remained passable for the competitors. Emma Sherwood ran what she considers to be her best international race and managed to overtake the Japanese athlete who she’d started behind. However, though I really enjoyed the course, my race had multiple errors, including my failure to notice the short 12-13 leg. Emma’s triumphant sprint down the finish chute was ruined when the announcer casually mentioned that the Canadian team had mispunched.

The Middle distance race was much more successful for Canada.  In contrast to the mostly white forest of the long distance, the Middle distance map was varying shades of green. However, though the forest looked nasty on the map, Damian correctly assumed that strait would normally be the fastest route choice. Sticking straight, and running fast resulted in a 30th place finish for Damian. Eric Kemp also ran a very strong race. Unfortunately, he was caught by a course setter’s trap. He was on the fastest route to his control, and only 30m away from the pit he was supposed to find when he came across the far more obvious women’s control. He was so close that he caused a New Zealand athlete to make the same error and a third member of the pack was flabbergasted to find they had mispunched.

The final race was the traditional 3 person Relay. Damian, Eric and Robbie Anderson formed Canada’s only official relay team, while the other Canadian athletes ran on mixed nationality relay teams. Robbie Anderson had good third leg to bring home the Canadian relay team to a 22nd place finish among the official teams. Similarly, Robbie Graham had an impressive third leg run to bring the MDA-CAN mixed team in 9 min ahead of team Canada. (Thanks to Roman Ciobanu from Moldova for sending out the MDA-CAN team in 8th after the first leg).

Finally, I would be remiss to avoid mentioning the Coaches Race. Patrick Saile followed the athletes’ instructions and pulled ahead of the other coaches off the start, arriving at the start flag in second place. He had the loudest supporters on the run-through, was supplied with sports drink and thoughtfully cooled down by large quantities of water. Though Patrick was unable to complete the course faster than world champions Simone Niggli-Luder and Ida Bobach, he had an impressive finish sprint. Flanked by Eric and I waving Canadian flags, Patrick crossed the finish line to chants of “CANADA, CANADA” from the Swiss team.

The Wold University Orienteering Championships in Hungary featured beautiful white forest and some of the most interesting sprint courses I’ve had the privilege to run. Thanks to all the organizers, volunteers and the city of Miskolc. The memories of WUOC 2016 will stick around a long time, motivating me to prepare for the 2018 WUOC in Finland.
Good luck to Damian Konotopetz, Eric Kemp, Robert Aderson at the Canadian team trials!



Friday, August 5, 2016

Sass Peepre Junior Training Camp



Between all the events happening at home and abroad in the last couple weeks, it is hard to keep track of it all. Things seem to have settled out a bit with WCOC, COC, JWOC and now WUOC coming to a close. BUT before you all go into orienteering withdrawal, World Masters is starting today and we still have WOC and NAOC to look forward to. 

It is so much fun to be able to see our athletes compete nationally against each other and doubly exciting to see them compete on an international stage. When watching a GPS dot squiggle its way across your screen while following a big international competition, sometimes you stop and wonder about the long journey they took to get there. One of the stepping stones for a lot of our athletes was attending the Sass Peepre Junior Training Camp when they were young. Below are two camp photos from the early 2000s. Bonus points for anyone who can guess the year! If you look close enough you can see many a familiar face including much of our senior national team! As well as those that have gone on to be orienteering Canada committee members and coaches! 

This is our camp photo from this year. How many future Canadian athletes, coaches and committee members do you think there are here?! 

This annual junior training camp has been happening for years with many volunteers coming back year after year (after year). Kitty Jones being the first name that comes to mind, but there are many more! Then there is the participant turned volunteer , like our head coach this year, Meghan Rance who has attended a countless number of the camps first as a participant (try and spy her in the old photos) and then as a coach. The junior camp is a great way to bring together youngsters from all across the country to make friends in a sport that doesn’t always have a big club in their home town. I know I have many fond memories of attending the camps. 

This year the camp was based out of  Cochrane AB. The training exercises were planned ahead of time by our head coach extraordinaire Meghan with the kids grouped according to their LTAD level. Throughout the camp there were orienteering exercises, talks from a couple of Olympians that were present (Mike Rascher and Joanne Woods) as well as presentations from some of the coaches and athletes present. Of course it wouldn’t be complete without some sort of fun dress up relay at the end!
 

Thank you very much to all of the volunteers that worked tirelessly to put this event on year after year and continue to legacy of this amazing camp!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

OO Cup 2016

Stage 1


     The 2016 OO Cup took place in three different countries this year, with one day in Italy, two in Austria, and two in Slovenia, exposing the runners to a plethora of different terrains. Runners were blessed with very complicated maps for the first two stages of the race which heeded it a necessity for contact to be kept all along the way.
      Personally my favourites, I will go into detail about the terrain type and running style that was exhibited in the first two stages, as each took place in a different country whose terrain varied completely.
      The first day’s course was a neatly constructed middle distance, where a majority of the running was in the complex forest while the rest of it was full of features that made it a pleasure to orienteer in. One long leg with route choice was included that required choosing the trail that one would run on and following it nearly all of the way to the control.




  
     On the course I had made a total of two big mistakes. One was near the beginning going into the second control and the second was at a relatively easy section as I was attacking the twelfth control. In the first case, I had made a good plan and executed it perfectly up to the control circle, where I misinterpreted the contours and did not have a very strong bearing. This caused me to slow down and veer a bit to the right onto a small hill from where I regained perfect contact of the map. This little hitch most likely cost me a minute of the race. The second mistake that I made was due to a failed speed change, as I ran into a simpler section of the map. I wasn’t in full contact with the map and was coming at the control a little bit high. When I came down to attack then I misinterpreted the scale and came down the wrong wide spur, and landed on the trail. Not knowing where I was I went left along it and cut up from where I could see the very large re-entrant, and could make my way back to the control. I lost a whopping  4 minutes due to that mistake. I believe that I made it because I was a little too high and I didn’t see the re-entrant in the control circle. When I saw a different one, then I had cut down to the right of it, and made the parallel error.

              For the rest of the course I managed to spike nearly every control therefore I must have been doing something right. I’m fairly good at using contours as reference points, and in this terrain that seemed to work very well.  To controls 1, 2, and 3 that tactic worked fine.  Locating 4 was trickier as there is a knoll and a bunch of cliffs in the circle; therefore in that specific case it was again better to look for the obvious re-entrant that it was placed in. A control that required lots of micro navigating would have been 5, where one really had to check off all of the features on the way to the clearing after they got onto the hilltop. After the clearing, I pretty much walked into the control on a hard bearing and with constant verification of features that were on the way, most notably the cliff.  For more complicated controls this technique nearly always worked.
     The transition into the simpler part of the course was easier and gave time for a portion of easier orienteering. At this point I was personally quite tired and had to brace myself for the rest of the course from control 20 – 21. The water control was also very motivating at this point in the course.  For the long leg I stopped, as always, for a few seconds and planned it out where I think that I was able to pick the best route choice.

22 – 25 became a bit of a dog leg, as I chose the same route out that I had taken in. In the last part of the course the most important thing to do was to keep focused on map reading and not to get lazy. It was easy to simplify a route choice too much and end up making a mistake. For the most part these legs were easier than the first part of the course, as there were more trails, and less details.


The Stage 2 map was the highlight of this year’s OO Cup for me.  The course planner didn’t hesitate to get right down to business when it came to it, staring the course off in the hardest section of the map.  On this map, the strategy that I went by was checking off each feature as I passed it, and stopping as soon as I exceeded my map reading speed. This way I was able to finish the course with a sum of 2 mistakes, adding to about 2-3 minutes.

Stage 2
     The Stage 2 map was the highlight of this year’s OO Cup for me.  The course planner didn’t hesitate to get right down to business when it came to it, staring the course off in the hardest section of the map.  On this map, the strategy that I went by was checking off each feature as I passed it, and stopping as soon as I exceeded my map reading speed. This way I was able to finish the course with a sum of 2 mistakes, adding to about 2-3 minutes.

     My first mistake happening on the way to 4, where I exceeded my map reading speed  on a bearing and stopped just short of the control to relocate, this took at least a minute as I stood there before I found the two large cliffs just N of the control.

     After that, I simply continued each leg with a more or less straight plan, which minimized the distance I would have to navigate and run.

     The only other navigational mistake that I made was a compilation of distance misinterpretation, compass laziness, and misreading the terrain.  On the way to 14 I was drawn into an elephant trail that was bigger than the normal trails on the map, and thus I began misreading all of the terrain.  I had also disoriented my map slightly and thus hadn’t been watching my compass. When I was about halfway to the point at which I realized that I was in the wrong spot, I should have noticed that I had gone too far without seeing any green.  Thus my mistake concluded with me cutting left, and relocating then going back to the control from there.
 
     In the detailed sections my orienteering was adequately sufficient to spare me of needing to deal with mistakes. On a leg like 17, I would make a solid plan and execute it nearly perfectly. In this case it was to come around the right side of the cliff on the hill, go on the left of the massive cliff, and on the right of the smaller one, cross the path, between the gap of the two cliffs, then cross the saddle with the rock in it. Just beyond that I knew that there was a clearing from which I could take a bearing noting the rock on the way out, and the slowing down into the area in the re-entrant, and finally finding the rock with the control. Most of the legs compiled of a long sequence of steps like that, in which if you left one out, you could make a fatal mistake on the whole for that leg.



 
     The last few legs seemed relaxing compared to the constant focus of the previous part of the course, as here you could simplify more and think just more about running.

     Overall the terrain was amazing, and the map was probably the most complex middle distance map that I’ve ever run on in my life.  The course planning was great, and the overall organization of the OO-cup was amazing. This event is one of those that elite orienteers definitely must go to at least once in their life!
 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

WUOC 2016 starts with a bang (of a canon)

Today marked the opening ceremonies of WUOC 2016.  Over the past couple days the team has trickled into Miskolc, Hungary and has explored the gorgeous surrounding terrain.  Most of said terrain is either broad hillsides with small point features or large, very circular collections of deep crater-like depressions.  The woods are (for the most part) very open and fast underfoot.

This year's opening ceremonies took place in Diósgyőr Castle.  We followed a jester to the moat of the castle, where the 'king' and 'queen' welcomed us aided by the firing of a canon.  I think we all jumped a little!  Upon entering the castle, the sound of medieval music filled the air and armored guards lined the passageways.  Once the speeches and raising of the flags was over, a juggler on stilts entertained us for a spell, before we were released back into the (rather boring) modern world.

Tomorrow marks the first WUOC race - the individual sprint.  For those wanting to follow along online, you can visit here.  Emma Sherwood even has a GPS!

Start times (local) are as follows:

Emma Sherwood: 10:15
Pia Blake: 10:25
Robert Graham: 12:04
Damian Konotopetz: 12:32
Adam Woods: 13:07
Robert Anderson: 13:38

Go Canada!

SOW you think you can orienteer!

Swiss O Week (SOW) 2016 took place in the Engadin valley in the eastern part of Switzerland, very near to the location of this year’s JWOC races. Because of this, many JWOC athletes also raced the SOW races, along with some other Canadians. HPP athletes racing SOW included Pia, Nicole, Emma W., Emma S. (me), Robbie G., Jan Erik, Tomas, Leif, Christian and Michael. There were some very good results by Canadians including top 25 results in their respective categories on individual races by Robbie, Leif, Jan Erik and Emma W.

Here’s a picture of Christian getting ready for his race in our the small section of the arena that we’d claimed:



This was a fairly big competition, with about 4000 competitors. Each day, everyone would drive or take transit to the arena and then proceed to one of three starts (as indicated on the bibs). Here are some competitors walking to the arena on the 4th day:




The format of this race series was 3 middle or long distance-type races, a rest day and then another 3 races. My favourite race was probably the last day, which started with some fairly physical legs before a map flip for forking and a more technical section.

Here is the D20 map for the last day. What routes would you have chosen (especially for 2-3 or 15-16)? You can see the route choices of a couple of the competitors including Pia and me here.





Canadians took advantage of the rest day by going exploring: hiking up mountains, wandering through towns, or even going to Italy. It was a really cool area with lots of fun things to do. This is a picture of Samedan, a town where many of the Canadian juniors and were staying.


The Engadin valley also had plenty of interesting orienteering terrain. Some of the days included a variety of different terrain types, such as high-up open, rocky terrain on days 3 and 5. The elevation was over 2000 meters above sea level on those days! Unfortunately, due to potentially dangerous weather conditions people with late starts (including me) did not get to race on day 5. Athletes took a gondola up to the start, and then raced through a very rocky area which had good visibility until the fog rolled in (as you can see from the panoramas that Pia took below):




All in all, it was a very fun week where we had ample opportunity to test our orienteering skills. For me and some other Canadians, it was a nice week too rest and recover a bit for upcoming events but still appreciate the awesome Swiss terrain! Most of the Canadian team is continuing on to other competitions such as the Canadian Orienteering Championships in Alberta or the World University Orienteering Championships in Miskolc, Hungary. Stay tuned for updates on those competitions!