Saturday, November 13, 2010

PWT: China Part 2 – Because if TV shows can draw a story out….

Post middle-distance race, we had a day off. Well, sort of. In theory we were all supposed to go and race at the China 100m orienteering championships, but it appeared to be decided that we would show up, but weren't going to do it. I was actually a little bummed, I’d seen a map of it before, and I wanted to do it! But, I was the non-vocal minority, so, we all showed up in jeans ready to watch, cheer, and then proceed to the Forbidden City to do some sightseeing. We were then informed that yes, we were definitely racing. To be completely honest, considering twice on this trip we had anticipating doing/not doing something and the complete opposite happened, so I actually brought my running stuff, but no one else did, so I didn't want to be the only one rolling up to the start line actually prepared. As you can see by the photo, it’s some of the world’s best ready to rock this race, completely unprepared.

I should touch on this race because while many of the Europeans were less than impressed by it, I thought it was a really great race idea. It was a super short race, about 800 metres, on a really small scale map. It took us about 3:40. After a qualifying round which appeared to take the top 24, they then had 2 mass start heats of 12 which appeared to be an A final and a B final.

Obviously there were several butterflies, and a bunch of changes in direction. It was not super difficult; I had some issues with figuring out which number to go to next, since one had 9/11/17 on it. Counting is hard! As a bonus, all of this was done in the shadow of the Bird’s Nest Stadium, a really great place to hold something like this. Anyway, I think with a little creativity with course making, you could make a great super-sprint a la skiing, with Top 30 qualifying, and then quarters, semis, and finals. It could be done in a particularly small urban area. Yet another possible way to make orienteering (albeit quasi-) seem a little cooler in our country. Check out the neat photo Murray took at this race here: Post race I did about think I spent about 20 minutes signing autographs, again I assume because I’m just really tall.

Afterwards we did the world’s fastest tour through the Forbidden City, somewhat to my chagrin, and then popped over to look around Tiananmen Square and related sites, got accosted by more “students” who want to show us their “school”, which is really just an attempt to sell us their paintings.

Sadly, our trip was nearing its end, but we still had one final race. Apparently it was originally supposed to again around the Olympic Stadium, but something happened and we went back to the Summer Palace to race there. There is no shortage of cool places to race in Beijing. Well, it was my first time in China, so its all cool. Except the bathrooms. Not cool at all. The race was basically held at the foot of a relatively round, though large, hill, with some nice buildings on top. If you’ve seen the map of the race from the PWT website (found here:, you can see we ran above the palace. The race was probably my favourite of the year, simply because of the neat location we were racing in, the sights along the way, and the different challenges we encountered during the race. It had a little bit of everything, and really felt like an adventure of a sprint race. I had a great time. I would have liked to be a bit faster, I made a bit of a mistake going from one to two as I followed the creek and saw a tunnel but read the map to mean it was blocked off, though on closer inspection later, it wasn’t, and I could have run right through it, instead of going back and around. Still, I beat some fast people, and was very close to other fast people, but still my typical 1:45 behind the winner. Curse you, 1 minute and 45 seconds! Here’s a photo I took in the style of Magnus’ photo from Trondheim (though photoshopped from two photos), looking towards the route from 8 to 9 and the tree where 9 used to be.

Eventually, it was time to fly back to England, but I, and everyone else, was immensely satisfied with the trip. We all had a lengthy discussion about how coming to China should be a more regular occurrence, that we would be willing to be more involved, perhaps by doing some map making or some coaching. Its worth noting, too, that I chatted with a bunch of the group (including a certain World Sprint Champ), and they all said they’d be super keen to come to Canada to do some orienteering. They were all very understanding of the budgetary constraints we face and couldn’t quite mimic what China has done, but they mostly came on the trip because it was a really great way to end the season anyway. Do some travelling, some racing, and just have a good time. I think that if we came up with some sort of two week mini-tour of Edmonton-Calgary-Canmore-Kamloops-Vancouver/Whistler which involved some racing, some sightseeing, and volunteers with beds along the way, we’d have some solid interest. I’m sure the same thing would be possible in the east as well. Let’s make it happen!

I’m happy to have checked China off my list of countries to have orienteered in. I ate more rice in a week than I think I have ever had in my entire life, and sampled many meats of which the source was entirely unknown. I can't count the number of times I heard "Hey beautiful man you want jacket I give you cheap price?". I think my lungs are significantly more charred after a week of breathing the air. We spent an inordinate amount of time on a bus stuck in traffic. Or in a taxi stuck in traffic, or shoulder charging my way onto the subway. Or hitting my head on everything. BUT, if the opportunity comes up again, I will be the first to book a flight. And you should come too!

And, of course, a big thanks to the Park World Tour, and Nordic Ways, a sports company that brings nordic sports to China. What a great idea! I wonder if they're hiring?