Wednesday, May 12, 2010

HPP Update, Will Critchley: Hail Britannia!

I arrived in Britain to start a Master’s degree in February, and immediately hooked up with the local club of Coventry, the “Octavian Droobers”, a club with an unfortunate name but impressive pedigree, having a very strong junior program and the home club of Britain’s best orienteer, Graham Gristwood. Unfortunately he’s not actually here, but in Sheffield!

From the first weekend I arrived, its been a cornucopia of orienteering opportunities! I competed almost every weekend since arriving, occasionally twice in a weekend. Amusingly, my first event was extremely foggy, which was exactly one might think of as stereotypical Britain.

Naturally, the club has been ridiculously friendly and accommodating, given my lack of vehicular transportation. Someone has always been willing to give me a ride to events, and one particular family was nice enough to let me live with them for a couple weeks while I found my own place to live. And, now that I have a place of my own, I live with a Swede who also used to cross country ski race! Sweet!

Being located in the direct centre of Britain means that no event is too far away, and few require much more than an hour’s drive. I’ve already orienteered around two castle grounds (pictured is Belvoir Castle), had intimate encounters with mud and brambles

(the much more aggressive equivalent to rose bushes), and explored intricate university campuses. Without question, the most remarkable part of it all is the sheer number of people who come to even local events. There are people everywhere, and I was pleasantly reassured that orienteers in Europe are equally nerdy as those in North America. :)

Just recently were the British Elite orienteering championships, held over two weekends at two different venues. The first was up north in the Lake District, just two days after I arrived back from Easter Break in Canada. (As a side note, I was on almost the last plane to arrive from N.A. before the aiport closed *phew*!) The Middle Distance was held in a very complex areas of tiny tiny re-entrants and spurs, which in my relatively novice mind, seemed almost overmapped! Routegadget Link

This race unfortunately included a high-speed encounter between my knee and large rock, which resulted in hobbling and swelling. Granted, the race was not going incredibly well at that point anyway, but it did have an effect on the next day’s event, the sprint, which I had very high hopes for.

The sprint qualification was a complex little housing area with weird shaped buildings and underpasses which always makes things a bit wackier. It went well save for when I overshot the road I was aiming for and ended up in the wrong overpass. Regardless, had I not made that mistake, I would not have made the A final, so clearly my running speed also needs to be faster. (Routegadget link). I also did a double take when I saw this photo.

Two weeks later were the Long Distance and the Relay championships at Cannock Chase. The long distance was relatively straight forward, which featured a quarry section which hosted most of the chaos of the race. While running through that section I saw everything, tears, group meetings, collisions, profuse swearing, and more tears. Pleasantly, I found that section relatively easy, and escaped unscathed. (Routegadget Link)

The final race was the relay, a personal first! I was paired up with the Halliday brothers, Matt having won the M20 in the long, and Dan placing 9th in M21. My apprehension was also increased when I got a call the evening before informing me I was now going to run the first leg!

At the start, most people took off like a rocket, and I calmly slotted in behind them. This was a relief because I had a vague worry I'd go insane and start running as hard as I can every which way like a chicken with its head cut off. Mid-way I found myself in around 8th place, with essentially all the runners in sight. Fortunately for me, I had already done the longer gaffles, so when we came through the spectator control, I was running in the lead pack of 2! While the wheels came off a little and another runner dropped me into third, I came through about 12 seconds back of the leader, and Matt & Dan held on to the 3rd for the Bronze Medal. Very exciting! Relay Routegadget

In retrospect, it really reminded me how much of a difference flowing through the controls actually made. I lose most of my time within the last 50 metres of a control, and with all these other people around almost guiding me into (and out of) the correct controls, it clearly made a massive difference in my performance. Now, if only I can replicate that while running solo!

Fortunately for me, the season never seems to end here. While I am transportation-less, people have been very generous and I expect to be orienteering regularly all summer long. While going to school is not necessarily conducive to great physical training, I am excited for WUOC in Sweden in July, and expect to make some great gains.


  1. Great to hear things have come into place for you over there. Keep working hard. Thanks for the update.

  2. Super update! Thanks Wil - exciting news and orienteering stories. Good luck with the studies and watch out for those rocks

  3. Sweet report Will. Congrats to the bronze medal!