Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wellington Champs: Hills, sprints and jungles.

A few weeks ago now I made the relatively short hop back over the ditch back to NZ for the Wellington Champs. It was a good excuse to get home and see family and friends, whilst stretching the legs out a bit.

Well. Not sure about stretching out the legs really! It was a bit of a rude reintroduction after a decent break from proper training. Steep, tough Wairarapa farmland terrain, 3 sprints against in form juniors, and a short sharp and tricky middle; certainly left me in no doubt that my legs and brain are off-season!

The long distance certainly gave my poor recovering glutes a good work out - 70 mins of steep farmland, with long thick grass just to slow down the km rates! Not just physical though. Large mistakes were seen in both the men's and women's elite grades, including someone who'll remain nameless running off the map... I managed to take out the win, but had Laura Robertson hot on my heels 2 mins back.

Fences on the map... it may not be IOF guidelines, but courses
like this one are better without fences I think.
The following day saw NZ's first knock out sprint series. The prologue in the metropolis of Ekatahuna was run in driving rain and sleet, leading to some good slipping and sliding around in the parkland towards the finish. Laura and I had a good natured battle throughout the 2nd half of the course, after I caught her up a minute. She was to have the last laugh though...

Chasing down and overtaking Laura in the finish...

...only to be out-muscled on the line!

Conceding defeat and going for the other box. Fail.
Photos: Ning Teahan

The semis and finals were run in 6 person mass starts on the remapped Rathkeale college. After getting horrifically caught up in some not so passable light green, and trying to decapitate myself on some head high vines, I managed squeak in 2s ahead of up and coming junior Kayla Fairbairn to win my semi. However, I have no excuse for the result of the final - well beaten into 2nd by Laura Robertson. Not overly surprised, Laura has been continuously improving the last couple of years and was going to beat me sooner rather than later. Plus, being her coach I know exactly what speed work she did leading up to the races! ;)
Now I have some added motivation for training over summer!

A wicked video of the men's final can be found on youtube.

Semi-final map. Got completely stuck in jungle 2-3 and had to race hard
to make up for lost time.

The final. Got taught a lesson by the student!

The weekend wrapped up with a short and technical middle distance in the native bush of Jim Barr's Farm. Steady and careful was the motto of the day, very good advice...if you were disciplined enough to stick to it! Sarah Gray was one who managed to, pulling out 2nd place (and first NZ resident!). An awesome fun course.

>10 min/kms for the win.

All in all a great, all be it too short, trip back home. Full results here.

It looks like I'll be full on with PhD work, with not much time for structured training until the end of the year now. However I have fitted my trip to San Francisco for the AGU conference to include the Sprint the Golden Gate races. Should be a good little break, and come January it's full on training time again!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Aus Champs Part III: Caught in the Middle

The final weekend of the Australian domestic season saw the running of the Middle distance and Relay championships, both on the granite covered, brand new, Gibralter Hill map. Having raced as a proud Kiwi the previous weekend, I was back in my Australian disguise as a Canberra Cockatoo and ready to fight for both the individual and team National League titles. Personally, the weekend ended up being a bit of a mixed bag, but overall the venue, the atmosphere, and the tight finishes led to an awesome end to the Australian season!
If you can't be bothered reading this post, then it's worth just watching Graham Hammond's video of the middle and relay, here. Awesome stuff!

View from the arena. Spot the controls!
 Photo: Orienteering Australia

The Middle distance race on the Saturday saw our first introduction to the highly anticipated 'Gib' map. And it was as technical and physical as predicted, a really cool area. Unfortunately I didn't really do it any justice with my Middle performance! Too relaxed and unfocused at the start, the first half of the course turned into a comedy of errors on my part. I didn't give the map enough respect in the first couple of controls, and then took too long to get accustomed with the mapping style used with the innumerable granite boulders/cliffs/clusters/fields. Having said that, I did nail the first control - however, that's not much consolation, given I wasn't expecting to see the flag for another 50-100m when I came across it! Instead of slowing down however, I dived head first into the 2nd leg...until I found myself in an unidentifiable crop of granite boulders, much lower down the hill than I needed to be! Number 3 didn't exactly go well either, again, although in some small consolation, a lot of people couldn't make the map fit in this area.
Middle Course, no route. Larger image on DOMA.

4 minutes blown in the first 3 controls and I knew I had next to no chance of taking the win, especially with the technically accurate Grace Crane and Jo Allison in the field, alongside the speedy Hanny Alston.
Further mistakes on 4, 5, and was turning into a bit of a nightmare! By this time I'd been caught up 4 minutes by Jasmine Neve, who was on a good run. That gave me the kick I needed and it was as if suddenly the map made sense, the terrain wasn't too bad, and I knew how to orienteer again! I stayed ahead of Jas as we zigzagged our way through the granite detail back towards the finish arena. A confidence boosting second half of the course, which lifted me up to 3rd place in the final standings. Grace Crane took out the win in an impressive time, perhaps helped by a speed increase after almost standing on a brown snake! Jasmine Neve took a well deserved 2nd.
 Looking at the positives, I'm pleased that I picked things up so well in the latter half of the course, however losing 5.5 minutes in the opening 6 controls was inexcusable. And in this case I couldn't even blame my injured glutes - they felt as good as possible for the entire course! Just a bit of end of season tiredness mentally I think.
Over in the Men's race, Matt Crane took out the title for the Cockies, with Simon Uppill 2nd and the Kiwi trio of Matt Ogden, Tim Robertson and Nick Hann all within a minute of each other in places 3-5.
Middle Results

Putting Saturday away in the 'one-for-experience' bag, Sunday saw me line up for the first leg of the relay, running for the Canberra Cockatoos, and ready to put the demons of the previous day to rest! Everything was set for an epic last battle for the Australian National League, with the ACT and VIC women's teams equal on points after 11/12 of the season's races! Whoever crossed the finish line first of the two teams would take out the overall National League title. Not to be dismissed was also the impressive Tasmanian team, who'd be fighting for line honours.

Mass Start. Who's that idiot facing the wrong way?! Typical.

I absolutely love racing first leg, and this race was no exception. As I flipped over my map and saw the long first leg over to the other side of the hill and map, I knew I was in for a tough, fun race, and probably a world of pain! I picked to go around the hill first up - faster running and much, much less climb! Hopefully I'd save energy for later in the race? The entry to the first control was easy from below too, allowing me to punch about 30s ahead of Grace (TAS), who had taken the up-and-over route choice. Grace caught me on the way to 2 as I took a more direct, but much slower going, route, but again I snuck in ahead with an easier entry to the control. As with the latter half of the middle distance, I managed to pick off the following short legs without too much bother, and before I knew it, was faced with our 2nd long leg, headed back to the spectator side of the hill. Nothing for it but to pin my ears back and put on some speed, with a couple of the slower men's elite in sight to pace off.
Coming in to the spectator I knew I had a bit of a gap on the other girls, allowing me to slow down and focus on the final loop - in the same area that I had so much trouble in the middle. This time, thankfully, things went much smoother, with the exception of #8 - in the same patch as #3 from the previous day. In fact, it was recognizing #3's feature from the middle that led me into #8 eventually!
Relay course with route. Larger image on DOMA.

I tagged over to our second leg runner, Mace, ahead of Tassie in 2nd, and VIC in 3rd. A storming run on the 2nd leg by Aislinn (VIC), saw them take the lead at the final hand over though. Our final leg runner, Jo Allison led the chase, with 3 mins to catch up on Kathryn Preston. Setting the scene for a final show down, with the race looking like it was to go down to the wire!

A nervous wait ensued for those of us in the arena, with the first spectator opportunity 2/3rds of the way through the course. It was Kathryn who emerged first at the end of the 2nd long leg, to the cheers of the Victorians. However, Jo was having a smooth last leg, entering the control about 1 minute back. They both headed over the hill and out of sight, into the final technical loop, leaving us all on the edge of our seats. After much nervous waiting, it was Jo who finally emerged from the edge of the forest in the lead, but with Kathryn breathing down her neck a mere 50m back! As they both streaked across the open farm land through the final few controls it seemed that Kathryn was eating into Jo's lead. That was, until Jo recognized just what we were all screaming at her! One glance over her shoulder and she put the pedal down, tearing up the finish chute and bringing the Cockies home their first women's team title in years!

Minutes later, Matt Crane brought the Cockie's men's team in for a comfortable win too, taking it to three elite relay titles for the ACT, after Ian Lawford brought our Junior men in for the win, in the fastest sprint finish of the day - against Tim Robertson and the NZ team. All up, it was an amazing finish to what has been an amazing season for the Cockies - taking out 6 of the 8 National League titles (both Junior and Senior Men's individual and team titles, and Senior Women's individual and team titles). And an impressive return to the elite fold for Jo after a few years out starting a family!

Cockatoos. Winners all round. Where's ya shirt Lachy?!
Photo: Orienteering Australia

I was happy that after being doubtful to race due injury, I was able to compete at all these two weekends. And, thanks mainly to my early season form, managed to take out the Individual NOL title, just ahead of Grace. One goal knocked off the list, but there's plenty still to go!
Relay results

So that's it for the Australian domestic season! My body and brain is calling for a good break from structured training for a bit. The next NOL season starts in February, and it's shaping up to be the hottest contested yet. It will be a tough decision whether to go for back to back titles, or to miss vital NOL rounds in order to try for NZ titles at Easter. But that's a decision for another day!
Next up on the calendar is a trip back over the ditch to NZ for Wellington Champs this weekend. A chance to have some runs on the beautiful steep, open, farmland terrain I grew up with. But more just an excuse to catch up with friends and family. Can't wait! :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Aus Champs Part II: Back to School

With the Australian Champs run over two consecutive weekends, the days between are traditionally used to hold the Australian Schools Champs. Teams compete from almost all of the Australian States and Territories, (bar NT), and an NZ schools team is kindly allowed to compete (and dominate) each year. The schools competition is an awesome opportunity for the students to socialise, compete, and experience some high level events. The 3 trips that I made during my time in the NZSS team were some of the most influential trips of my orienteering career, and I know the team has been a driving force behind the ever increasing quality of NZ juniors coming through the ranks.

I didn't have much motivation to try and get PhD work done in between the weekends of racing, so thought I'd head out to the schools races, help out, have a run around, and keep a check on who my future competition is likely to be! And of course, being from both NZ and living in the ACT, I had two teams to support, meaning I could hardly lose!

Kiwi team. Australian parliament.
The week kicked off with the traditional live start draw on Monday night. I was invited along to conduct the random draw, which was a very cool experience! My job essentially was to sit on stage, in front of all the competitors, and randomly pull different coloured ping pong balls out of a jar - each colour corresponding to a different state. The corresponding junior would then come up to the stage while their team captain read out their bio, an entertaining ritual.  However, I was informed shortly before the draw, that due to the short time frame, the start list had actually already been job was to read the order of states off the pre-drawn start list, and pull the right coloured balls out of the bin in the right order! All while making it appear like I wasn't looking and selectively picking the balls! Honestly, one of the most high pressure situations I've ever been in in orienteering!! Only twice did I manage to select the wrong coloured ball. Not too bad I think, considering there were two slightly different shades of blue ball for VIC and NSW, and at a glance the maroon of QLD was uncomfortably similar to the black of NZ! But I seemed to get away with the slip ups...I think!

Anyway, with no complaints heard about the start draw, Tuesday saw the running of the Individual competition. The courses, on Wild Deer Sands, started off into tricky sand mining terrain, before emerging into some nice and vague Aussie spur-gully terrain. Concentration and tight navigation was required through the earlier stages of the courses, with accurate bearings and fast legs coming to the fore in the latter stages.

As they have for the last decade, it was the Kiwi team who dominated the results. No prizes for guessing who took out Senior Boys, with Tim Robertson leaving the field 5 minutes behind in his dust. Also at the top were Shamus Morrison and Nick Smith, with only Victoria's Matt Doyle able to break up the Kiwis at the top of the field.
An outstanding week from Nick Smith. Including taking
out M20E in the Aus Long distance
In the Senior Girls, Aussie JWOC rep Lanita Steer (Vic) took out the win, closely followed by soon-to-be-a-NZ-JWOC rep Alice Tilley. Again, the kiwis showed their strength in depth with all 4 senior girls finishing in the top 10.

Alice Tilley carving up the finish chute and taking 2nd
in Senior Girls.
The Kiwis had a much harder task in Junior boys, with Cameron de L'isle the best of the team, coming in 4th, closely followed by ACT's Ewan Barnett in one of the home state's best results of the day. At the top of the field, Simeon Burrill (Qld) and Patrick Jaffe (Vic) had a tight finish, with only 6s separating them.
Meanwhile in the Junior Girls, Asha Steer made it two golds for the family, with Winnie Oakhill of Qld 1.41 behind in 2nd. Katie Cory-Wright was top Kiwi in 3rd, holding off a fast finishing Tara Melhuish (ACT) by 2s in the tightest finish of the day.
Senior Boys course. Suffice to say, Tim smashed me.

Wednesday brought with it the relay competition, held on the adjacent area ,Timber Tops, and using the same wind-swept finish arena. Again, it was a great day to be a NZ and ACT supporter. The Kiwi's showed their dominance in all grades, leading from start to finish in the Senior Boys and Senior Girls. An incredible come back saw the Kiwi Junior Boys team come from behind to take out their grade, whilst, although the Junior Girls posted the fastest time on the day, an unfortunate mispunch saw them dsq. A very harsh lesson in a relay, that a lot of us can relate to!
And from my ACT supporting side - 2nd place in both Senior Boys and Junior Girls completed a great day of spectating, with Tara Melhuish posting the fastest leg time of the day, but not quite enough to reign in the Qld team.

Kiwi Senior Girls coming in to win the relay.
NZ took out 3/4 grades, with a fastest time but mp in the 4th.

All in all, the week was great fun. And that was just from a spectator's point of view! It's been 3 years since I last coached on a NZ national junior camp, so it was awesome to get reacquainted with who the current batch of Kiwi junior talent are, put some faces to names, and realise just how far they've come since I was last a resident kiwi! I was impressed by the motivation and dedication that was apparent, not just within the team, but also from the number of juniors who hadn't made the team, but had still made the trip across to run the spectator races and Aus Champs.
 The Australian Champs and Schools Champs is an awesome opportunity every year for both kiwi and aussie juniors to experience high level competition, as well an introduction to the atmosphere of being part of an international (or inter-state) trip as part of a team. It's done wonders for the depth of kiwi junior talent over the last few years, and it is one of the major reasons our JWOC results are constantly improving. So it was wicked to see the enthusiasm and drive of the juniors to get to the races, as well as the support and encouragement offered by their parents and club mates! Not to mention the organisers and all the team coaches and managers. I bet you're all enjoying a quiet, restful week this week!

 NB: The NZSS manager and coach are notoriously hard to photograph, too busy are they with managing, coaching, photographing and keeping track of 16 school kids! A week long mission, and my cunning tactics of distraction, however, resulted in success. Seriously though, these 2 deserve a massive thanks and congrats for their multiple years of dedication to NZSS trips!

Manager Anna. Tricked into a photo by Gelato.

Coach Derek. Distracted from camera by in depth orienteering discussion.

If I was left with one disappointment from the week, it's that I'm not able to make it to coach on the NZ Junior Camp this year. On the other hand, it has motivated me to continue coaching within ACT next year... hopefully I can help the ACT once again become top state schools team in Australia...If not beat the Kiwis?*

*Just kidding! Honest!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Aus Champs Part One: the Long and Short of it.

Last weekend the ACT played host to the Australian Long and Sprint distance orienteering champs. The races were my first since WOC over two months ago, and I was stoked to even make it to the start line with an intensive physio and rehab period to thank for getting me in any shape capable of competing following my glute injury! As a result I had no idea what sort of form and races I'd be able to pull off, and in the long distance in particular, even finishing wasn't a given. I'm happy to say then, that the weekend was a success, with two podium finishes, and a body that's still working and should be capable of racing again this weekend in the Middle distance champs!

Sprint Distance

Held around the well manicured ground of Canberra Grammar school, the sprint champs were a technical affair, with the courses contained entirely within the complex buildings of the school. This suited me fine, as I suspected that my lack of recent training would tell more on open running long legs than on decision making short legs! Warming up I could feel a bit of nerve discomfort in my glutes, but nothing too bad, and once I had a map in hand, I didn't notice any real pain other than the usual oxygen debt! It was reassuring to find within the first couple of controls, that my brain could remember what to do in a sprint, and the first half of the course slipped by quickly with few hesitations and no slip ups. With the complex nature of the course, and plenty of in-and-out controls, I was catching glimpses of Rachel Effeney, who started 1min ahead, from early in the course, and it was reassuring to notice the gap getting smaller.

Sprint Map 1. No route shown, as that would cover up most of the map!
 A difference in route choice saw me catch Rachel at 17. Fortuitous timing, given I physically hit the wall around the same time! Having someone to race head to head with meant I kept my speed up however, and despite taking some different routes, we were still together coming into the penultimate control. It would seem that I haven't yet learnt from my WOC mistakes though, as I made a mess of finding my way into the finish arena again, losing 15s on the last control! Despite the late slip up however, I managed to take the win for the day, with Rachel 50s or so back, and Hanny not far behind that. A boost for the confidence after a couple of months out, although, despite being ok throughout the race, within 5 minutes of finishing I'd completely seized up and could barely walk!
Sprint Map 2.
In the men's race fellow Kiwi and Wellingtonian Tim Robertson took the win, giving him his 2nd Australian senior elite title, at the age of just 17! His win meant a clean sweep of the senior elite grades for the Wellington O-gang, which is bound to be celebrated in due course with a potluck dinner and copious quantities of garlic bread.
On a serious note though, a huge thanks to those who arranged permission to map and use this area, as it was something a bit special. Hopefully we didn't flatten the sacred grass of the quad too much! And a big thanks to my much loved 3rd home family, who all showed up to support and spectate, despite a big night the evening before at the geology ball! An awesome effort and most appreciated! :-)

W21E race splits.
Check out a video of the day's action, thanks to Graham Hammond!

Long Distance

Following a thorough physio-over (It's amazing how far back in rehabilitation a 15min sprint race can set you!), and a relaxing (?!) evening at the ANUWFC end of season soccer awards night, it was an early wake up on Sunday for the 2hr drive down to Slap Up Creek and the Long Distance Champs. The race served up the tough classic granite terrain that we'd been promised and more. More fallen logs and debris to battle through, more close competition, more snakes than anyone anticipated (luckily I avoided or was oblivious to them!), more high quality and entertaining commentary and more great results for both ACT and NZ!

As expected, I found the long course tough and painful. I started off the race fine, and strung together 5 good  splits on the beginning short controls to get myself into the flow of the course. Unfortunately though, my lack of fitness, and lack of strength in my left leg, started to show in the longer leg to 6. And that's the pattern that repeated itself throughout the course, with the short legs causing me little trouble, but leaking time on the longer legs. I struggled to fight through the numerous fallen branches and logs on the ground, with every lift of the leg seeming a greater and greater effort as the race went on - leading to some very wide route choices as I looked for the easier running. Having the last start, and with Hanny and Grace in impressive form, it was a long and lonely race for me, only glimpsing a couple of other women on the way around the course. Thankfully though, I also didn't glimpse any of the tiger snakes that we'd been warned about. In fact, I'm yet to see a snake out in the bush since I moved to Australia...I'm beginning to suspect they're just an urban legend, like drop-bears? (I'm bound to see loads this weekend now though, having tempted fate by writing that!)
Long Route - decided all the fence crossings weren't worth deviating from
my chosen route. Kiwi upbringing for the win!

All in all, I finished really happy with my race - despite some sub-optimal longer route choices than I'd usually take, I felt like I ran well and cleanly through the majority of the course (8 excepted - where I literally ran a circle around the control without seeing it!). Hanny had a stunner of a race, cleaning up in 73 minutes, with Grace 2nd in 77. I snuck into 3rd place in 80 minutes, closely followed by Kathryn and the remarkable Jo Allison (only just starting up again after a maternity break and definitely one to watch out for in the middle this Saturday!).

Video of the day's action (awesome work again, Graham Hammond!) 

Fellow Cockie Matt Crane took out the Men's race, ahead of Simon Uphill (SA), and Kiwis Tom Reynolds and Nick Hann. Whilst yet more Kiwis to watch out for in the future; Nick Smith, took out an impressive win in the Junior Men's race, and Sonia Hollands placed 2nd in Junior Women.

Unfortunately over the 2 races we (NZ) lost out to the Australian Bushrangers in the trans-tasman test match, but by a close 2 points! However, we (Canberra Cockatoos) did manage to take out the Australian Champs team's competition in both the mens and women's classes, as determined from the long distance results. My dual roles as a Canberra Cockatoo and NZ rep meant that I had plenty of reasons to celebrate various results throughout the weekend. However it also led to some entertaining, more than slightly embarrassing, and well commentated uniform changes throughout the prize giving ceremony! Um. Thanks Blair!
photos: Orienteering Australia

Master of the quick costume change - although I think the grin is just me being stoked I managed to put my shirt on the right way around!

So all in all, a pleasing weekend of racing. The body seems to have come through alright. Or as well as could be expected really. I've spent the week supporting the next generation of Kiwi and Aus orienteers racing at the Schools champs, a report of which is to come. And tomorrow brings with it more NOL racing. Hopefully the body is recovered enough for it! Bring it on!

Oh. And the post-long distance catering was as good as I predicted. :-)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Australian Champs; National League Final and NZ-AUS test match

The next two weekends see the running of the Australian Champs in and around the ACT. As a current local of the ACT, I've been looking forward to the events for over a year. The areas offered look to be both challenging and exciting, and the races are shaping up as the climax of the domestic season, with the overall winners of the National League to be decided over the course of the two weekends. There's also the annual NZ-AUS test match to be fought too, so plenty to race for!
 Although I'll be heading into the races with completely unknown form, given far too much time spent injured and confined to the office/lab since WOC, the next couple of weeks are going to be good fun, and a chance to catch up with Aussie and Kiwi orienteers alike. The races will be painful, but the events as a whole should be awesome!
So what can we expect from the events? Following Jamie's post on the NZ squad blog about pre-race research, I've done some of my own to unearth what vital race information I could find. So to discover what the food choices are at the long, what the buildings are made of in the sprint, what the view is like at the middle, and a little about what the racing will be like, read on!

Saturday 28th; Aus Sprint Champs - Canberra Grammar School

The action kicks off this Saturday with a fast and furious sprint. Canberra Grammar looks to be a small map, full of tight, technical building detail. The school has 4 large playing fields, so there's bound to be a couple of running legs in there, but I think the crunch will be fast decision making and accuracy within the building areas. That's what I'm hoping anyway given how slow I was and how much I hurt in my first (and only) lead up sprint session at the weekend!
The terrain description doesn't offer many more hints, although according to the program some of the buildings are made of sandstone. Is there a special symbol for that?
There's large fields for both the Men's and Women's elite fields for the sprint, especially once the Junior Elites are included as well - so it's bound to be an exciting day, with tight finishes, and every second counting!
Start, Finish and spectator control all situated around the main quad

Sunday 29th: Aus Long Champs - Slap Up Creek

Sunday brings with it the Long distance champs, and what's sureto be a complete suffer-fest on my part. It'll be an early start as well, with the race based 2hours South of Canberra. So I might have to cut short my attendance at the ANUWFC End of Season Presentation night the evening before unfortunately! (Kind of mirrors my football season though, so perhaps appropriate!)

Anyway, the terrain description: "The area is a granite plateau between 1200m and 1300m elevation. There are sections of lightly timbered farmland as well as forested areas. The farmland is very runnable though steep in parts. The forest is almost flat with pleasant running through numerous granite boulders, knolls, minor streams and gullies."

Sounds most similar to Badja, which we trained on earlier this year - classic, physically challenging, granite terrain. Should be wicked fun, but tiring! (lucky then that the catering at the event for post-race nutrition sounds good - "soup, steak sandwiches, sausages, veggie burgers and wraps with tandoori chicken, beef or roast vegetables")

One of our Pre-WOC Badja trainings

Saturday 5th: Aus Middle Champs - Gibralter Hill

Possibly the race I'm most looking forward to. Most Canberran orienteers will have driven past Gibralter Hill at some point, and as is want of orienteers, will have looked out the car window and thought "That would make one heck of a map!". Soon we'll see if we were right or not! My guess would be, yes, we were.
One big hill, covered in granite detail, a clean run is going to require concentration and technical strength, especially with the tricky courses Rob W and Al Jones will have set. Visibility is good, so there's bound to be some good spectating of competitors as they weave their way through the detail towards the finish!
Seriously, the terrain description and pics just have me salivating over this race!

Sunday 6th: Aus Relay Champs - Gibralter Hill

The area looks to be so good that we get two goes at it! To find some more background info on the terrain, I employed every PhD's student's go to research method; I found Gibralter Hill's wikipedia page, from which some I've extracted some, uh, helpful, terrain details:
  • "according to Australian naval officer Stacey Porter, the view makes "a really nice outlook.""
  • "The hill is oval in shape and is made of igneous rock."
  • "In 1840, Jackey Jackey created a hide-out on the hill overlooking Bungendore."
With that sort of research, the race is pretty much already won! ;) The relay is the final event in the Australian National League, and with the Victorian Nuggets and Canberra Cockatoos still neck to neck in both the Men's and Women's catagories, it could well be the deciding race. So it's set to be an exciting last day of the season!


The week and a bit of races include the Australian Secondary Schools champs midweek. These races a highlight of the NZ Junior calendar each year, as a NZSS representative team gets to compete alongside the Australian states. I'll be abandoning the lab and uni work for a couple of days and heading out to watch these events, as well as having a run around the courses afterwards. The 3 NZSS trips that I was a member of were some of the most memorable and influential trips I've been on and the events always have an awesome atmosphere about them. Given I've been absent from NZ and somewhat lost track of where the juniors are at, it will be good get out, meet and support the current batch of kiwi junior talent! Of course, given I've been coaching the ACT schools squad this year, there'll be a fine balance of kiwi and Canberran supporting going on! :)

Also Also...

The races are a part of the 100 years of Canberra celebrations, so there's a couple of additional events going on. Such as a flashback orienteering event on Mt Majura, complete with 1970's maps and, I hear, authentic retro controls. There's also the Capital-O, aimed at the general public. Unfortunately, there's no mention of an appearance of  Canberra's infamous Skywhale at any of the events...must have been booked out already. Shame, would have made for great spectating of the middle race!
Yes. That's real. #lovecanberra

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lazy bum

Injury can be a pain in the butt.

Returning to the cold Canberran winter following WOC, I was looking forward to a bit of downtime from training and orienteering. Perhaps even focusing a bit more on that PhD thing I've been working on in the background. Be careful what you wish for aye!

What's eventuated is a lot more downtime from training than I was planning, or really wanted. Back in the long qual at WOC I aggravated something in my left hip area. Although I didn't notice it in that race, by the evening it was painful as anything, and the rest of competition week was a matter of gritting my teeth and racing through the pain. (Not that I can blame any of my WOC performances on it, the problem in those races was in my head, not my bum!).
Post-WOC I decided to give it a relative rest, limiting exercise primarily to football training and matches, through which it was niggley, but manageable. However  3 football matches, 3 runs and a bike ride later, there had been no real improvement and it was time to bite the bullet and admit things weren't getting better.
Eventually I got in for an ultrasound with the local specialist, which identified numerous trouble spots in my gluteals, hammy attachments, and tendons. So many infact, that they were unsure just what was causing the pain and what wasn’t! A new ranking technique, involving sticking a big needle into painful spots and ranking pain on a scale of 1-10, didn’t help identify the ultimate cause of the pain either… probably because everything was 7-10 on the scale! Um. At least the session was character building? I guess?

In other news. I got a year older, and got to eat delicious cake.
(Cake credit: Laure)
What’s ensued has been a month and a half of no running, biking or soccer, and a long string of physio appointments (I should just set up direct deposit of my salary into the physio’s account, would save the extra step!). Injury for an athlete has been compared to going through a grieving process, or a bad break up. And I’ve certainly been through the associated stages of denial, anger, depression and, (eventually) acceptance.

The past few weeks I've worked on building up my bum muscles. I've listened to a lot of bum-based humour made at my expense. I've made life hell for those around me, who've had to listen to me constantly moaning. And I've got a fair bit of work done!

Fortunately, this hiatus from training has coincided with my PhD midterm review. Effectively the review involves writing up all of the work you've accomplished since the start of your PhD studies and defending it in front of a panel of knowledgeable people. If you do a decent job, you’re allowed to continue through to finish your PhD. If not…well! So, on the bright side, not being able to run removed my main procrastination tool, and I was able to shut myself in my office for 2 weeks and churn out my report. After 2.5 years, I can finally say that on Tuesday I presented, and passed, my midterm review! Woo! Now I have one year to finish all that work and write a thesis. Easy! Right?
Done! For now.
Debatably even more exciting, on Tuesday, I was also given the go ahead to start running again! The gluteals are feeling a lot more settled, if not quite 100% yet. Wednesday’s 8 x 2min running, 2min walking certainly felt good. Today's 2x10min running almost felt like a proper session even! Though it was worrying just how hard it was cardio wise to run for 10mins! I've got just over 3 weeks now until Aus champs, so we’ll see how things go. If things don’t come right in time they don't come right in time, but hell, I hope they do!
Field work. A big reason I chose geophysics.
Managed to find an excuse to get a few
 compass pics in the report too. Geek.

So yeah, it’s been a bit of a bummer of a couple of months since WOC, but things are on the improve! A huge thanks to Laure, Pierre-do and Malte for keeping me fed and relatively sane while I was writing up my midterm. You guys are amazing and I owe you a fair few dinners! And apologies to those around me, for my complaining and moping while injured. But let’s face it, my constant moaning has probably been balanced out by the potential I've offered you for bad jokes and puns about my injured, holey, behind! (of which there have been more than enough. Thanks.)

In any case, running or not running, I look forward to seeing and catching up with the orienteering crew at Aus Champs in 3 weeks. Can't wait!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chur Bro!

You'll read a fair bit on this blog and others about the commitment, sacrifices, and general stubbornness that it takes to (try and) be a top level athlete. It also requires one heck of a lot of support - both moral and financial. Even more so when you compete in a minor sport, representing a small country, living on the opposite side of the world from all the big competitions!
So for once, I'm going to stop blabbing about myself, and take the opportunity to thank those who have been invaluable in their support of me and got me to World Champs this year. So, in no particular order, the honours roll!

Wellington Orienteering Club

I can't speak highly enough of my home club. The support has always been there; right from being baby sat while my parents were at committee meetings (we're talking 20 years ago, just to clarify. I  manage without a babysitter now. Just.), coaching through junior years, moral support at every competition, both at home and overseas, and constant financial support through the years. Wellington Club has been far too good to me. Even now, while I live overseas and can't give back to the club directly through coaching, event organising, or even racing for the club, the support is still there.
I look forward to hopping back over the ditch in the coming months, catching up with club matters and club mates, and hopefully being able to contribute back to the club. In the meantime, here's a shameless plug for the Wellington Champs; over Labour weekend in October. Complete with the novelty and excitement of a knock out sprint for the elites - it's awesome to see the club being open minded and experimenting with different formats! Even if Eketahuna probably isn't exactly the place that was in mind when the spectator friendly format was first thought up!
2010 NZ Relay Champions...back when I was the same(ish) height as Nick!

Abominable O-men

My home-away-from-home club, with possibly the best club name around! Being small, the club doesn't organise too many events per year, but they're always more than happy for one of those events to be used as a fundraiser for WOC. So a huge thanks to Abominables, organising events is always great fun with you guys, and I can't wait to see the club in our sexy new dirtyd o-tops soon!
My design, thankfully not to be seen on the new shirts.

The Cockies 

(Canberra Cockatoos)

Training in the months prior to WOC included sprint sessions in the sleet, hail and thunder, long distance in the freezing wind, rain and granite, and night sessions without a light... Pretty sure I'd have opted for staying at home in the (slightly) warm without my fellow cockies to drag me out! So massive thanks to the crew. Can't wait for the next pide and map night, and getting stuck into prep for Aussie champs with you guys!* Time to wrap up the National League Titles! Also a massive thanks to the ACT government, who fund the Cockies. They're probably unaware that they're helping a Kiwi compete at World Champs, against Australians ;)

Cockies 2011.  How young everyone looks! (And where was I?!)

Eureka Orienteering Club

A club I don't actually run for! But definitely the club who helped me the most financially with getting to WOC this year. I haven't had the chance to write a report about it, but way back in April, I ran the Australian Ultra Long Champs, hosted by Eureka club, down around Ballarat, Victoria. The 15km women's elite course had 3 maps and 50 controls, set amongst the complex gold mining terrain of the area. It was an awesome event, requiring not only physical strength, but full concentration and technical accuracy for the 2hr duration of the race. I thoroughly enjoy pushing myself to the limit, so it's no surprise that I loved the race! Especially as we rarely get the chance to do such long distance orienteering races down this way. The only other ultra long I've taken part in is the Wayne Cretney memorial, known as the Winter Classic, and run in the Wellington region each year. And I've missed that with JWOCs and WOCs in the last 8 years, so it's been a while!
Third and final map. Others on DOMA.

The Ultra Long was run as a handicap competition, with the ultimate winner from the 4 elite classes winning flights and entry to an orienteering event of their choice up to $2500. Holding out fast finishing junior Brodie Nankervis, I managed to take out the overall title and prize this year, definitely my most profitable day as an orienteer! I benefited from the elite men having to deal with a 26km course though, a task I did not envy them for!
A massive thanks then to Eureka, for taking a huge weight off my shoulders expense wise this year! Aside from the prize and the giant novelty cheque though, the Ultra Long was an amazing race and day. Rumour is that the event will return in 2014, and hopefully will become a regular on the Australian calendar. I highly recommend that you get along to it, kiwis and aussies alike! An amazing event, and an amazingly generous prize, thanks Eureka!

Life goal: win giant novelty cheque. Check.

Team Lizzie

Last but definitely not least. What started off as a joke fundraiser in 2012, and has resulted in me not being able to walk around the department at uni without seeing my face staring back at me from people's coffee mugs. I've even had people first introduced to me exclaiming "You're that chick from the coffee mug!!". Ahem. Yep...
The original.
Thanks to everyone who's got on board and bought Team Lizzie bottle openers and mugs in the last couple of years. Apart from being good fun, it's been a profitable fundraiser too. Not quite sure what we'll make next year to top this year's product, but ideas are always more than welcome! (And if you missed out on a bottle opener or mug, I'm sure I can find you one still!).
Next year has to include a game face. Surely?
And of course, there's a lot of other, people who have supported me both this year and in the past. You know who you are, and hopefully how much I appreciate you! This year's WOC may not have been what I wanted results wise, but the support I've received before, during, and since returning, from WOC has been immense, and will be one of the driving forces that sees me return better and stronger at next years WOC. Chur!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Training Techniques

Looks like Jamie's spilled the beans and let my secret training technique out! Might have to upgrade to something faster to stay ahead of the competition now!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Post WOC 2013: Back to Reality

It’s been over a week now since I crossed the finish line of the final race at WOC. A week to reflect on and analyse the races, what went well and what went wrong. A week to recover from the mentally and physically exhausting ride that is WOC. And a week to start planning the next set of goals and competitions.

Where it all unravelled
If I’d written this post a week ago, it would have been far less positive than this post will hopefully be. WOC 2013 didn’t go as I had aimed, and worked so hard for. A week ago I was devastated about it; hugely disappointed and in no small measure embarrassed with my results (the long and middle anyway). Of course, I still am to a point. But the good thing about coming home from Europe, and catching up with friends and loved ones, is that you remember that orienteering isn’t all there is to life. (It may be a large part, but it’s not everything!)


Re-run the next day
I’ve covered my long and sprint races already. Then came the middle. The distance that I’ve worked towards the most in the last couple of years, and the distance I’d most like to succeed in over the next couple of years. Heading into the qual, my confidence was at a low following my meltdown in the long, but I knew that if I remained calm and focused  I’d qualify comfortably for the final. 
Unfortunately, that mindset lasted all of 1.95 controls. The GPS replay can tell the story as well as me – going right past the control at 2 and into the wrong gully, and then panicking when I didn't see the control. I picked myself up again, only to lose myself on the slope above 4. There I had the good fortune to look up as Simone steamed through (catching me up something silly like 10mins…). Unfortunately, the first time I've had the chance to race alongside the best in the world, and she made two uncharacteristic errors in a row! The end of my race was clean enough, but my chance of qualifying was long gone, well back in 20th place.
Still missed 5 the second time round

A gut wrenching result. I've felt few worse feelings than waking up on the morning of the race you've worked towards all year, and knowing you don't even get to run it.

As a team, we went back out to the qual area the following day, where I re-ran the first 2/3 of my course. Funny what race pressure can do to your brain. Rerunning the course I had no issues whatsoever – even taking 30s off the fastest split on the long leg. A day too late though.


The relay didn't go well for us as a team either. Orienteering relays are something special in that you can experience immense joy and pain as a team, on a level that isn't there for the individual races. Unfortunately this time Lara had a nightmare run on first leg, coming unstuck on #2. The mistake could have happened to any one of us, on any leg, but coming so early in the race it left us in the position of just chasing down what places we could.
It was a bit of a long, lonely wait in quarantine going out on 3rd leg. But on the bright side, I got to watch the finish of the women’s race from the change over area before I went out!
Emit High Five!
Photo: Attackpoint

So, personally not a WOC to remember. But not one to forget either, there's plenty of lessons to be learnt from my mistakes. And some positives still to be taken. My sprint, despite mistakes, was still a good result. When I was navigating well and holding my head together in the middle and long, my splits were reassuringly high ranked. For things to go well at WOC, you have to put everything together on the day. This time around, I was physically and technically well prepared, I just didn't show up psychologically on two days that counted. Highly disappointing. But. Shit happens. I can only go away and work on what went wrong, and come back next time stronger for the experience.


What has made my WOC results harder for me to come to terms with, however, is the effect they've had on NZ’s qualification spots for next year. As a team, we didn't perform this year, with none of us, girls or guys, qualifying for the middle or long, and a below par relay result. As a consequence, what was near unimaginable prior to WOC has happened, we've dropped down to 23rdranked nation in the Women, giving us only 1 spot in the middle and long distance races for 2014. I was almost in tears when I first read the rankings whilst waiting in the airport for the long flight home.
The way the qualification system is set up at the moment, if a country’s top runner performs, then they can pull their nation up to tier two, and open up a 2nd spot for their team. Alison Crocker and Emily Kemp are prime examples of doing so this year, having great results in both middle and long. I could, and should, have done the same. But no matter what excuses I could come up with, the fact is, I didn't perform.
So. Apologies to all the Kiwi girls. I know there’s a large group who are motivated and keen for Italy 2014 – it’s terrain (yep – terrain, so middle, long and relay!) that should better suit us Kiwis. So it’s gutting to know that we’ll have a smaller team simply due to two bad performances this year.

The contrasting faces of NZ Orienteering.
Kate I don't know how you do it?!
Photo: WorldofO Athlete Profile

But let’s use this as motivation to create a higher level of competition nationally. More pressure to make the WOC team can be a positive thing, and I know that if as a team we perform like we’re capable of, next year should see us up in tier 2. And with Oceania Champ spots up for grabs as well, Scotland 2015 should see a large, strengthened, and highly motivated Kiwi team. Tier One 2016 anyone?!


So yeah, thanks and goodbye WOC 2013! It was an amazing trip, with an amazing group of people. A huge thanks to the rest of the NZ team for an awesome and often hilarious week. Thanks to the Aussie team, who treat me as a pseudo-Aussie. You're not a bad bunch despite your ridiculous accents ;) And as ever, a massive thanks to all those back home and around the world who supported us the entire time. Even (especially!) when our little gps dots were running around in circles on their screens! 
Such a good looking team too.

Looking Ahead

For now though, it’s back to the ‘burra and my much neglected PhD for me. It can be a bit depressing heading back to winter and work, while others are off to the likes of Oringen, Scottish 6 days and World Games (why did I decide I didn't have time for WG?!). But like I said right at the start of this post, I’m privileged to have such great uni, orienteering and soccer families here in Canberra, who keep me grounded. 

Time for some relaxing and some football.
But maybe not at the same time.
WOC isn't everything, and I’m looking forward to a mental break from orienteering. There’s a soccer season to finish off, a PhD to make progress on, and a social life to pick up again! And when I feel refreshed, there’s the Australian Champs and a National League title to work towards in early October. Not quite the same as racing the World Cup Final in Switzerland, but a lot easier and cheaper to get to!
Jamie. I expect there'll be retribution for putting
this photo up...

Side note: Jamie has the NZ O-Squad blog back up and running. Read it, he's funny. :)