Saturday, April 19, 2014

Return to West Point

Last weekend I made the trip down to New York along with the usual Ottawa suspects. The time had come for the annual spring shakeup, West Point. My mission: To defend my title from last year. This round we were to race back to back classics, best combined time takes the cake. My maiden voyage into the forest this year, I knew the challenge was going to be finding the flow as quickly as possible. It was critical I stay vigilant and keep in control at all times.
Bull Hill Classic Day 1
I was looking forward to testing my new legs on what was sure to be a hilly experience. I wasn't disappointed. However I was careful to concentrate on my Orienteering staying relaxed and confident. I only ever pushed as hard as I was comfortable and stopped as soon as I felt slightly uncertain. On Saturday I accumulated some 5 minutes of hesitations, squiggled route choices and one or two mistakes. Crucially all were quickly minimized. Because of this I still managed a pretty good time finishing one minute behind leader Jonas Kjäll. A visiting Swede in the region, he carries some notoriety from his involvement in the Björn Kjellström scandal back in 2010. Comparing splits after the race it was clear we were both running at a similar speed. I had lost because of my two expensive mistakes. As usual for orienteering, the weekends victor would be the one who had the cleanest race the next day.
Jonas during NAOC 2010 Photo by Greg Walker
Unlike day one, Sunday's map had been modernized and promised to be everything I love about Orienteering. I was anticipating a much more technical race and my Orienteering style would have to account for the middlesque challenges we were going to face. I carefully prepared myself the morning of. At the start I felt calm and ready. I flipped over the map and immediately felt a smile floating up from inside.
Black & White Cap Mountain Day 2 Classic
The Cadets hadn't wasted any time before sending us straight into the hardest, steepest, most detailed section of the map. That being said, they had done an excellent job working with the terrain and picking out fair and appropriate control locations. The route choice was subtle, legs crossing over cliffs and cutting through the fast open forest. It was a rush, flowing from one control to the next. I wound my way through the rocks keeping a smooth steady pace, my confidence growing as I left flag after flag behind me. Reaching the last third of the course I was on my way to the final turnaround. Feeling in the zone, I drew from the frigid January tempo runs and the icy interval sessions.
Final Results
It was in this final stretch that I took back the one minute Jonas had from Saturday's race and an additional minute for the win. As it turned out he hadn't made any major mistakes either. A valiant battle Jonas!
Saying goodbye to them beautiful hills.
It was a great race and an overall super enjoyable event. I couldn't have asked for a better season opener. If the experience from this weekend is telling me anything, it's that 2014 is going to be a very fun year.

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