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. :)

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