Monday, June 24, 2013

Tallinn Orienteering Week: Full of Variety

I have just gotten “home” (i.e., to Uppsala) from Tallinn O Week, which was all together terrific, and offered some very diverse races.

As the name suggests, it was a week-long (Monday–Saturday) event in and around Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.  I met up with fellow Canadian Jennie Anderson (from Orienteering Ottawa) and we stayed in a hostel right in downtown Tallinn, with a bunch of other orienteers from around the world.
Welcome to Tallinn!

Each day brought a new style of orienteering:

Monday – Sprint (park) –WRE
We jumped right in to the week with a World Ranking Event (WRE)  in Kadrioru Park, which includes the president’s palace and an art museum that’s surrounded by a labyrinth of ramps and walls (=traps!). This race was a blast, with fast running and tricky navigation around the aforementioned walls.  

Tuesday – Middle (forest)
I ended up running this one without a compass (that’s what happens when you neglect your pre-race-day routine) so I really had to focus on choosing strong handrails and attack points. The last few controls involved some of the steepest hills I have ever side-hilled across. It was also very thick, with deadfall, tall shrubs, and stinging nettle; the kind of forest that “builds character”…

Wednesday – Middle (old town)
Perhaps my favourite race of the week (or at least the one that most exceeded expectations) was the “City Race” through the cobblestone streets of the medieval old town. We used a sprint map (1:4000, ISSOM) but with distances and winning times for a middle. I thought that sprint-style navigation would be too easy at a slower, middle-distance pace, but I was wrong. The course was jam-packed with challenging route choices and the narrow, crooked streets did not permit any lapses in concentration. I had a few unnecessary hooks and curves, some small mistakes (ex: missed the passageway to control 2), and at one point I almost ran inside a restaurant by mistake, but overall I was happy with how it went. I tried to choose smooth routes, ones without too many zig-zags and with gentle slopes instead of steep stairs. Stairs slow me down a lot, whether I am going up or down them, and they make it very hard to read my map. An example of this is leg 6, where I took a slightly longer route but I was able to run the whole way and got a chance to read ahead. Jennie took the stairs instead, and says they were gruelling. 

Check out my route here: (class N21A). Which routes would you have chosen?

This race was fun not only because of the technical challenge, but also because it was exciting to run among centuries-old buildings and confused tourists. The pointed stone towers of the city walls look like something from a fairy tale, and all the restaurant greeters are dressed in medieval costumes.

On the way to control 12

Thursday – Middle (forest)
Since this was an informal race, I decided to do a shorter course to rest up for Friday’s WRE. I chose to run women’s 21C, and quickly discovered that it was not only shorter than 21A, but also simpler, with trails to follow the whole way. My day’s goal had been to visualize each control feature, so the easy navigation allowed me to focus almost solely on that, and it ended up being a good training exercise. After the thick forest on Tuesday, it was exhilarating to speed through some open, sandy pine forest.

Friday – Middle (forest) – WRE
Again a new terrain type, with ridges and depressions. There were small areas of thick deadfall, but also some heavenly, open, mossy forest. This was a classic middle that called for a variety of techniques: some simplification, some detailed navigation, some straight bearings…

Saturday – Long (forest)
The Tallinn O Week final was not a typical long-distance race. It was called the “100 CP” – yes, as in 100 control points. Only the men’s elite course actually had a full 100 controls, but my course (elite women) had 70, which was plenty! At 9.5 km, that’s an average of one control every 136m. As you might guess, it took a lot of concentration. A few times my thumb slipped from its place and I had to search for my spot again. Towards the end, the control codes and control numbers were all starting to blend together.
100CP Normal map (1:10 000)
To make things even more interesting, controls 24-52 were on a separate map (printed on the back side of our normal map), which was 1:5000 and contours (and marshes) only.
100CP Contours only (1:5000)

Our control descriptions did not fit in one column.

Besides all the fantastic orienteering, we also got a chance to do normal-tourist stuff. Jennie and I spent several days happily exploring the old town and going to museums. It’s a beautiful place, and I really enjoyed the whole trip. 

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