When I was in Scotland for my first PWT (or, oft referred to by the Euros as the PVT) event in September, at some point during the banquet, the organizers said that there might be another PWT this year, possibly in China. I leaned to the person sitting beside me and said, “If that happens, I’m totally going”. Though I had some steak and kidney pie in my mouth at the time and he may not have understood what I was saying, the point was, I didn’t care what I was doing, if I could orienteer in China, I would drop everything and do it. 6 weeks later, and I did! Despite moving halfway across England (think… Edmonton to Calgary!), starting an internship and having an exam the day after I get back, I hit China as the lone athlete from Canada to provide my unique brand of orienteering (Start à Get Lost à Repeat).
I arrived in Beijing to exactly what someone might expect from China, with very very low visibility due to presumably a combination of cloud and smog. The adventure immediately started when my friendly pick-up from the airport dropped me off at a building at the Beijing Sport University, lead me to the lobby with the smoking security guard, said “goodbye”, and left. Turns out there were people waiting for me down a couple of hallways, but there was some brief minutes of extreme concern being left in a random place in a country where absolutely nobody speaks your language. And, as it turns out, China is an extremely foreign country.
Once all the dust settled I found my place to stay; rooming with the Czechs, who were cool guys. For the next couple of days we had some opportunities to do some training and some sightseeing around town.
The second training was in conjunction with what appeared to be the school relays of the Chinese Championships at the Olympic forest, a fully man-made park just North of the Olympic venues. Looking at Google Earth its actually much bigger than we experienced, it’s a shame we only used such a small area.
Anyway, the event was an impressive sight, tons and tons of school children running around, all super keen about orienteering.
Many of them were pretty fast, but tended to lose time because they all employed the time tested strategy of “run really fast. Stop. Run really fast. Stop.” Still, it was a sight to behold, and the Chinese did really well with making the start exciting with a big mass start with a long run out before hitting the start triangle. It meant everyone basically left the stadium running. I took notes.
The next day it was our turn to compete as part of the Chinese National Championships sprint. It was in the same area, using part of the same map as well a new part. It was unfortunate because despite being a potentially fun and confusing area, it was probably not used to its maximum because the course was relatively easy. Naturally, I found a way to drop the ball on number 10, but despite that it was largely a runner’s course. I ended up 11th, but that was okay because of the caliber of runners that were there. As an “elite” orienteer, I probably had no business being there! I finished my standard 1:45 behind the winner, who happened to also be the sprint world champion. Unfortunately it also seems like the world ranking numbers didn’t think he tried very hard, and I didn’t get nearly as good world ranking points as I would have hoped.
Here’s the map of the race http://www.pwt.org/download/maps2010/China2010_1.gif . Legs 4-5 and 5-6 are indicative of the less than ideal course planning. But, regardless of that, it was still super fun, there were tons of people, and the Chinese deserve mad props for the event. Post-race, we all gathered on stage and stood around while several gazillion pictures were taken of us as a group, and we spent another 10 minutes taking pictures with people. I think my main attraction was that I was two feet taller than everyone else.
After of day of re-hydrating and visiting this…only kind of impressive wall-like structure in the middle of China, we had another race, a middle-distance-ish race at Bei Gong Forest Park, north of town. The first thing we did on race day was get stuck in traffic. For two hours. This also included missing the turn to the race and getting the bus stuck on a powerline. It should also be noted that the trip home took about 25 minutes.
The race itself was really fun, as per usual it took me three or four controls to get the hang of things, so I try not to look at the results list. Instead, I’m pleased about the fact that I hung on to the two Austrians that caught me, lead them for a couple of controls, and managed to drop them on occasion. Scratch the waste and I would have dropped a solid 3 or 4 minutes. The terrain was a kooky little mix of brush and open terraces. Here’s the race map: http://www.pwt.org/download/maps2010/China2010_2.gif.
There were holes everywhere which for most of the race I was convinced with graves, which made me terrified to fall in one. You’ll notice that there are graves marked on the map, so I was convinced all the other holes were empty graves too! Turns out they are apparently holes for new trees. But, at the time, definitely graves. I had to detract my mental opinions that I thought it was highly inappropriate to put a control on the dirt knoll that was made from digging a grave. Sorry China, minor mis-understanding. Also of note were the remarkably aggressive thorns of the Chinese countryside. The picture shows the size of the two thorns that were just about 80% into my leg. I had to stop after getting hit by one of them because I thought I'd just be bitten by something. Youch!
Post-race, I went for a jog up the mountain with Murray and got a solid view of the city. Now that the weather was finally clear, we got a fantastic view of the city, and it is very impressive. Rather than word it, here’s a picture:
At this point, there was still one more day of sightseeing, which included a fun little event which I think we should do sometime, a visit to the forbidden city, and the final PWT sprint at the Summer Palace. Part 2 will happen when it happens!