Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Vancouver - The Original Sprint Camp

Its been nine years since the first Vancouver Sprint Camp, a cavalcade of sprint races and training sessions over a weekend organized by the Greater Vancouver Orienteering Club. In its ninth iteration, its grown from being an excuse to have an intensive weekend of training, to a rather huge endeavour, featuring two training sessions and 6 SI timed races, which includes a relay, farsta, and a setup and chase finale. This year's camp, for the first time, eclipsed 100 attendees. Before anything else, go check out their sprint camp page so that you can begin checking flights for next year. There are few other annual events in North America that has consistently drawn as large and as international a crowd over the past 10 years as has the Vancouver Sprint Camp, and the club & organizing team deserve props for making it happen!

One of the biggest concerns going into this year's sprint camp was the weather. I can think of one other ubiquitous "sprint camp" that pretty much always features +3 degree temperatures and copious amounts of rain. Although Vancouver's climate is not dissimilar to that, we were instead treated to blue skies and slightly cooler temperatures. Honestly, though, would you rather be in 3 degrees and raining, or -4 and sunshine? Put on a hat, for goodness sake. Its currently -24 in Edmonton. This felt like a tropical island to me.

In fact, Friday's race, in downtown Vancouver, I wore shorts.
Exhibit A: Shorts. (Photo by Chris Oram)
I'm not quite sure how new maps seem to constantly materialize in Vancouver, unless new parks are magically appearing from thin air. It seems like every year, there is a collection of brand new sprint maps to race on. Saturday was an exhibit that, with several brand new sprint maps. These included Mundy Park, a zig zagging course also featuring far, far too many out of control off-leash dogs, and a sprint relay in the tiny Blue Mountain Park, which generally convinced everyone that, hey, sprint relays are fun and aren't going to ruin orienteering! Thank goodness for that. It was touch and go for a bit there.

Its the demise of orienteering. You can really see it in their faces. (photo by Adrian Zissos)
There was an interval session at the strange and varied residences of Lougheed North, a place that could easily be mistaken as European for its narrow passageways, staircases, and buildings that look remarkably identical, but which suddenly switches to apartment areas with canopies, dead ends, and uncrossable walls. From what I hear, though, the asphalt around that area is kind of hard. I don't recommend falling on it.

Also, watch out for horses. (photo by Chris Oram)
The day wrapped up with what is usually considered the pinnacle of fun, the farsta event, a one-person mass start relay with all manner of chaos. Another mass start race that's popular with everyone? No forest solitude here, and still fun? This goes against everything the internet says! Hume Park was a small one, but with a deep set of ravines perfect for crashing down and hammering back up. You really need to resist the temptation of paying attention to anything else other than yourself, your map, and where you need to go. Simply finishing without mis-punching is an accomplishment in itself. If you haven't done a farsta yet, ask yourself why, and then go organize one. You won't regret it.

The Farsta also provided ample Euroflop training.
Sunday's classic setup and chase morning proved to be, as per usual, a good one as well. The setup at Byrne Creek was a varied course that suddenly switched from forest legs to urban legs and back to forest legs, and chase at Deer Lake North was your classic urban sprint, where you should finally hope you've learned which symbols are crossable and which are not, and that it is always, always crucial to check your control description. Is it inside corner or outside corner?

Although it doesn't quite get the same world-O press, the original sprint camp in Vancouver features 10 sessions over one three days, which is almost twice as many training opportunities than that other one. There's also significantly less rain, a much, much greater variety of terrain, more varied race types, and did I mention, way less rain? Although its true there are no world champions giving any evening talks at the Vancouver Sprint Camp, we did have a chance to meet and chat with Canada's top marathoner from the London 2012 games, Dylan Wykes. And did anyone in Europe learn the meaning of "Smart Trombone", "Egoism Lining", and "A Inhuman Blend" at their sprint camp?

I doubt it.

Think on those a while. Maybe you'll figure it out.

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