Tuesday, July 22, 2014

JWOC Sprint

The first race of the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) was the sprint. After the first 3rd of the competition the rain started, very heavy and with thunder in the distance. Some of the area, especially the finish chute, become very slippery.

Our athletes were all pretty happy with their races. Here's their results:

Pia Blake - 16:49
Emma Sherwood - mp

Adam Woods - 17:53

Michael Svoboda - 18:05
Alex Bergstrom - 18:52
Trevor Bray - 18:53
Robbie Graham - 19:41

Full results, including splits, are available here.

Tomorrow is the long distance. All of our athletes are running again. It's a long start window, with the first person starting on 9:01am and the last around 2:30pm! You can view the start lists here, and follow along the results on the JWOC website. Unfortunately none of our athletes have been chosen to wear a GPS device for the long race.

Let's hear your support for our athletes. GO CANADA GO!

Monday, July 21, 2014

JWOC preview

This week our JUNIORS get their time to shine. The Junior World Orienteering Championships, or JWOC, are being held in Borovets, Bulgaria this week.

Team Canada consists of experienced and first-time JWOC junior athletes. Unlike WOC, all athletes are able to run in all of the races they choose to! Below is the team list. You can click on the athletes' name to view their athlete profile:

Pia Blake (Whitehorse, YT)
Emma Sherwood (Calgary, AB)
Alexander Bergstrom (Ottawa, ON)
Trevor Bray (Whitehorse, YT)
Robbie Graham (Ottawa, ON)
Michael Svoboda (Calgary, AB)
Adam Woods (Coquitlam, BC)

Our athletes have a packed schedule this week:
Tuesday July 22 - Sprint
Wednesday July 23 - Long
Thursday July 24 - Rest day
Friday July 25 - Middle Qualifier
Saturday July 26 - Middle Final
Sunday July 27 - Relay


From the JWOC website, it appears that GPS trackers will be given to some athletes for all races except the middle qualifier. However, I can't find any information on the JWOC site on how to view the races live. We'll keep you updated as information becomes available.

We'll be updating your throughout the week on the athlete's progress for each race, so stay tuned to the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and keep sending your comments of support and encouragement to our athletes on these sites too!


JWOC Sprint Prep

The JWOC sprint takes place on the morning of July 22nd  in Samokov. The map is 80 percent urban and 20 percent park. It's going to be a fast race!

The Alexander Bergstrom is the first Canadian runner at 10:22. ( 3:22 am in Ontario and 1:22 am in Alberta)
Trevor Bray is the final Canadian to race, leaving at 12:34. ( 5:34 am in Ontario and 3:34 am in Alberta)

Unfortunately none of the Canadian athletes were among the 80 juniors chosen to wear GPS's. 
However, you can check back soon to see photos  and get the athletes opinions of the race.

JWOC update from Emma Sherwood

The JWOC  team and I continued training on some of the maps that are similar to the terrain will be running in in JWOC. Yesterday we ran on the sprint-like terrain along with another session on the middle terrain. This morning we ran on Govedarci, a map that is similar to the long terrain. We rested in the afternoon but took a walk around Samokov, the town in which the sprint will be held.

Here is the map of Govedarci

The map mainly consisted of large areas with not very much detail (contours or other features) with other detailed areas with detailed contours inside. The trails and lines of rocky ground were challenging to identify. Fortunately, the forest was very open and runnable with not too much climb.

The practice sprint map was partially a large, open park area with man-made features, small pits and other point features. The other areas if the map were fairly straight forward city blocks with fenced-in out of bounds areas.

Although much of the town had a similar blocks and parks layout, on our walk around Samokov  we noticed some more complicated areas with fences, small buildings and canopies.

Tomorrow morning we are planning in the terrain that is relevant for the relay. It should be fun!

In general, training is going well for all of us physically and navigationally and we are excited for JWOC.

JWOC Training Update

The JWOC athletes have been doing a variety of trainings in preparation for the races that start tomorrow (Tuesday). Here's the latest update from our athletes:

"Thursday morning training was on the long distance terrain and a 1:15,000 scale map.Tthe terrain is very different from the middle distance; less details, less climb, and some areas with very few mapped details where a steady compass direction is important. After a few controls as warm-up the juniors raced the leg 5-6, and the controls in the feature less area.
Long leg is 5 to 6. Which route would you select?
The running going to be very fast if the terrain is the same on the long race.

Thursday afternoon we toured the town of Samokov where the Sprint race will kick-off the JWOC competition week. We are allowed to walk around and look at the town, but cannot train or use a map in the area. So we spent an hour walking around to get a feel for the area and the challenges we can expect on race day. 

The race area have three parts; a section with irregularly placed apartment buildings, a river crossing and some park land, and the old town with complicated streets and buildings, small parks and a market area.

An interesting note is that horse and wagons are not uncommon for transportation here and horses graze freely in the towns parks or along roads.

Horses everywhere!

Sunday was mostly a rest day for the juniors but in the evening we visited the Sprint model map to see how things will be mapped for the race, and to jog around to a few controls. 

The model map is of a somewhat run-down apartment complex with a mix of tall buildings and low concrete car garages, as well as a few children's playgrounds."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Full Scottish Experience

The orienteering train never stops, and after the World Championships in Italy, it was time to for a majority of the senior team to head to Scotland and begin to start thinking about next year. A short two hour's drive north of Edinburgh, the forests and sand dunes near Aviemore and Inverness are significantly more runnable (in my opinion) and open than the forests of Italy. This is quite nice since the orienteering seems far easier. Unfortunately it will bring along another inevitable reality: we'll all have to work much, much harder, and the races will be very physical.

Also, it never rains in Scotland. Ever.

Since arriving on Tuesday the 15th, we've had the opportunity to head out on two training maps per day. Among them have been the wide open heather-y rolling hills of Loch Vaa and the sand dunes of Roseisle. The former maps actually feel mildly reminiscent of Rumsey in Alberta. Its relatively fast with very high visibility, but you can also run the risk of losing track of which hill in the distance you need to be running towards. In a way, it's easy. Unless you get lost. Then it could be hard. What makes it distinctly different from Rumsey, though, is the heather, the small shrubs that are underfoot through the open areas. They're not a major bother, all it typically takes is picking up your feet a bit, but over a longer period they can sap away your energy and make it progressively more and more difficult to run.

Roseisle, on the other hand, is one of those terrains that rather than run, you'd be more inclined to skip and frolic through. It's set just back of a long beach front, with firm ground and wide open forest. You can see a great distance but the hills are big and have plenty of detail to make it a challenge, and even more so at very high speed. Add in swimming in the only mildly frigid ocean and it turns out to be really great to visit. There is a similar map that has been embargoed for the World Championships, though from what I understand it may only be a reserve area. So, possibly not relevant, but relevant for fun. There's always fun.

I photoshopped in some trees to make it look more like a real place.
However, it has not been all-orienteering all the time. On Friday evening, we were looking into things to do on Saturday beyond just training - and we found one. The 173rd Tomintoul Highland games, which was a mere 30km away. As a bonus, they also had a hill race.  If you're not familiar with UK hill races / fell races, they're usually straight uphill and straight downhill, and more often than not completely off-trail. There may have been some initial trepidation, but eventually the enthusiasm took over and we all piled in the car to run up a big hill and maybe take in some local flavour.

And boy howdy, was there local flavour. Mostly in the form of bagpipes. But there was also highland dancing, tons of bagpipes, large men throwing your standard Scottish implements (logs, weights, hammers), bagpipes LITERALLY EVERYWHERE, "pillow fighting" (which is 4-6 times less hot than it sounds) and a remarkably long line for venison burgers.

We convinced Tori to enter the highland dancing competition. That's her in the middle.
The hill race involved climbing up the Tom Na Bat, the relatively small hill overlooking town, heading down the back side, climbing back up the hill, and then blasting back down and back into the games ground. It seems the most crucial part of the uphill route choice was trying to find some form of trail to carry you up the heather a little bit faster. Damian and I managed to find that trail about 1/3 of the way up and made a gap to the rest of the field. We ran the rest of the race for the most part together, though Damian was clearly stronger on the descents. In the end he managed to keep enough of a gap to take the victory, just a few seconds away from breaking the course record! I rolled in about 10 seconds later,  though not after a bit of a slowdown after hearing that we were supposed to be running anti-clockwise, and my brain suggested we were in fact, running clockwise. After the race, Damian was pleased, "I didn't know what to expect, and it was a weird feeling when were suddenly in the lead after 800 meters".

Eric getting dangerous. We ran down there. And then back up here. And then back down there.
Eric came in shortly after, polishing off a solid 5th place result. In the women, it was a tight battle with a runner from Edinburgh, but Emily eventually took the win, apparently owing in large part to her ability to run downhill very quickly, saying "I caught my competitor at the top of the first uphill, and then turned on the jets for the downhill and never looked back!". Coach Toni also absolutely slaughtered the first 500 meters.

Tom Na Bat Hill race > WOC relay

Damian and I also jumped into the "800 meter race", which was interesting given the grass track was mostly circular and also had a hill. Both of our legs were pretty much shattered and it was pretty ugly from about 25 meters in.

In all it was a pretty successful day for Team Canada, and we're all thinking of ditching orienteering for hill running. They call the Tomintoul Highland Games the "friendly games", and that was pretty much true. We met plenty of people who were very friendly, cheerful, happy that we were there, and unlike Italy, they didn't all simply have "cousins in Toronto". It was a great (and absolutely exhausting) way to spend the afternoon. Tomorrow its back to orienteering training. Or sleeping in.

Exhausting enough for a post-race leg soak in the River Spey!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

JWOC training

With so much action at WOC last week, we know you must be experiencing orienteering-competition withdrawl symptoms. Have no fear! The Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) starts next week in Bulgaria!
Team Canada, left to right, Pia Blake, Alex Bergstrom, Emma Sherwood, Michael Svoboda, Robbie Graham, Trevor Bray, Adam Woods, Timothy Chambers (representing South Africa), Raphael Ferrand, and Stefan Bergstrom

 Our junior athletes, joined by coach Raphael Ferrand and team leader Stefan Bergstrom, arrived in Bulgaria earlier this week to begin their final training preparations for JWOC. Athletes Emma Sherwood and Michael Svoboda actually flew in a couple of weeks ago and have been training with the US junior athletes since the beginning of July (you can read all about that training on Michael's blog post).
Emma Sherwood and Pia Blake

Here's the updates I've received so far from the team:

Adam Woods & Raphael
"The team has arrived in Borovets, Bulgaria and had the first full training day on middle distance terrain. It is very steep and full of deep re-entrants, but open forest will good visibility. In the afternoon the heavens opened up after only a few minutes in the forest, we were thoroughly drenched in a thunderstorm! You never know what can happen in competition, so it's good to train for all eventualities! After dinner we had a discussion about the terrain and the experience from today.
Middle distance model map
Discussing the events of the day
Training with Raphael
On the second morning, the athletes made another visit in the really detailed middle distance terrain, and today the rain held off although the forest was still damp. After lunch we had a well deserved nap then a visit in the nearby town of Samokov for a sprint training. Below are some photos from the sprint in a town park and adjacent streets.
What a good looking team!