Now, Oviedo is in the mountains that cap off the top of Spain, but the competition, which was near Valladolid, was in the typical flat-as-anything central part of Spain. The terrain was really, really different from what I was used to. In addition to the lack of contours, the trees resembled - in my opinion – umbrella trees from Africa.
|A couple of the "umbrella trees" and the open forest|
Because they are so tall, have very few branches and are so spaced out, I often had difficulties telling open forest apart from meadow with multiple distinct trees. I found that the map from the first day resembled a paint-spattered canvas of yellow, white and different shades of green. In addition, there were a lot of small, 30 cm high rock piles that were identified as boulders on the map. This added a pepper-shaker feel to the map with at least 400 little black triangles.
The weekend was divided into two races. The first, on the Saturday, was a relay event. The team I raced with was comprised of Jimena, a local Spanish girl running the first leg, myself as the Canadian running the second, and Nils, a boy from Germany, finishing with the third. We made quite the international team! I managed to keep my act together for most of the race, although I lost it at times and had to bail to trails in order to relocate. I never realized how much I depend on contours. Without them, my whole orientation strategy had to change!
|This is the start of the relay. You can see one of the characteristic "boulders" in the bottom right corner.|
|Where are the contours?|
|Knowing when to leave the trail was the challenging part...|
The second day was an individual race. Thankfully, there were contours! I found out that I had been registered in the elite women category, which did not lower my nervousness level. I also found out that the contours were 2.5 m contours with many of them being form-lines. My course was 5.1 km long, and had only 65 m of climb! As I started the race, I found the 1:10 000 scale to be much faster than I was used to. The forest was so open that it took very little time to cover a larger distance.
|The finish shoot. Even for the smaller races, they have a huge blow-up finish gate!|
|They had an ambulance drive all the way to the finish. Thankfully, it was not needed.|
|A couple of people finishing.|
The individual race went a lot better than the relay. I enjoyed the difference in terrain, as the course took me through both an open meadow area as well as a greener area.
|The long straight meadows were actually sand tracks. Not quite the same as a well packed trail.|
The bridge crossing was a path cut through the dark green to allow for passage. A photographer was on hand to catch me land one footed in the creak and clamber up the opposite bank.
I'm really happy I got the chance to go to this competition, and I hope I will be able to go to at least one more competition before I return to Whitehorse.