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!