Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Home ground World Cup 2.0

World Cup 2015 is almost here! In two days time I'll find myself lining up for the second time in two years in what I could consider a homeground world cup.

The preparation for the two has been pretty different however. Where as two years ago I headed home about a month before the races in order to best prepare, this time around it's fair to say my mind has been elsewhere - in fact, it was a pretty big shock when I realised last Friday that the races were a week away!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Where Are Ya?!

Yeah, it's been a while.

Where are ya? It seems like a simple question. Yet one which over much of the past 2 months I'm not sure I could really answer! Physical training wise, it's been a stop-start period, with sickness, injury and work all playing their parts. And mentally, by the time I've shut down the thesis file at the end of the day, there hasn't been much juice left in the brain! That said though, I've stubbornly refused to work weekends (much), and with the advent of summer, they've been well used as I try to cram in as much exploring as possible before I leave Aussie! So, really, where haven't I been?!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Adventures in the Wild West

Spring time is my favourite time of year in Australia; nice temperatures (but still cold enough at night to justify nestling up with a mug of hot chocolate), a bit of a Wellington like wind going on to make me feel at home, and plenty of opportunities to get out of town at weekends with state championship season in full swing.
After multiple trips to the likes of NSW, Victoria, Qld and Tassie over the last few years, it was finally time for me to taste the offerings of the West Coast, both orienteering and tourist wise, with the Australian Champs held just out (relatively) of Perth over the last 2 weekends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Going Exclusive

Confession time:

Orienteering isn't my only sport.

Yeah sorry, hardly a secret, and not very juicy gossip. Apologies.

For the last almost 20 years, I've also played football. In fact, I once missed the NZ Sprint Champs to attend a football training camp. Crazy, I know.
Around 10 years ago, I made the decision that I wanted to make orienteering my primary sport, a decision I have absolutely no regrets about. (Let's be honest, I was never going too far in soccer anyway) But choosing orienteering hasn't meant leaving football behind. And over the last decade I've been incredibly lucky to take the field for two clubs, Miramar Rangers in NZ, and ANUWFC in Canberra, both of whom have been amazing in puttin up with my orienteering commitments and lengthy trips away midseason, and have allowed me to play top grade women's football.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When you don't know what to write.

Don't write.

Advice that may not work for a thesis...but that's for future Lizzie to worry about. It works perfectly in this case.
I'm well aware that anything I write here won't live up to my last post. So I've decided not to try. Instead, here's some pics from the last month. With the end of a long stint in the lab in sight, and the resumption of the domestic season, my PED is steadily on it's way out. So here's some (unasked for) advice to the latest batch of kiwis and aussies coming home from WUOC and into the arms of the awaiting PED:

If it has to be winter...

...Go find the snow.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

World Cup 2015: A guide to Australian Fauna

"How do you deal with all of the [insert name of deadly animal]?!", "How often do you see [said horrible animal]?", "Have you ever been killed by [unthinkable monster of a creature]?!"

All questions that I was asked multiple times while in Europe this year. And all very relevant questions given the upcoming World Cup races in Tassie, and Australia's reputation as a country where every animal is out to kill you. In fact, there's rumours that some national teams are hesitant in attending due to how teeming with snakes and spiders this country apparently is.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Post European Depression

It's 2 weeks already since I stumbled off the plane and back into the embrace of Canberran winter. It's been a busy two weeks too; with not much time left in each day once I've finished with all of my moaning and whining about how cold it is and how Canberra isn't Europe. Every year there's the same shock and let down, returning from a life of travel, training, racing and summer, to the every day reality of work, responsibilities and winter.

The official medical term is Post European Depression, and I was always in line to suffer a bad bout this year, after prolonged exposure! Unfortunately, sitting and watching SOW and Oringen hasn't exactly helped things, (I wish I'd started a drinking game for every time I saw a photo of the Matterhorn). However, JWOC watching did help alleviate the symptoms for a week or so. An awesome week from a kiwi's (and Wellingtonian's!) point of view: Tim becoming NZ's 2nd junior world champion in 3 years, Nick smashing out 5th in the middle, and the boys (Tim, Shamus, Nick) putting us on the podium in the relay! A massive effort from the whole team, and very exciting to see their hard work paying off! It's inspiring to see the juniors' motivation and drive, and how it's turning into results on the global stage. Now us seniors just need to lift our game to match it! ;)

Our most successful national team ever!

Once I'd finished with watching races, however, I had to find other ways to procrastinate around the tonne of work that I should be doing. So I've done a bit of reflecting on my trip as a whole. In short, it was everything I could have hoped for.

In the month or so leading up to leaving, I was seriously having second thoughts about whether trying to race WOC in my final year of PhD was a smart thing to do, let alone taking 7 weeks off to do it. I was stressed, run down, sick and had constant niggles, meaning I wasn't where I wanted to be either physically or mentally. However, I've come back mentally refreshed, healthy (first time in years post long-haul flight!) and motivated. My knee may still a bit bung post WOC middle and relay, but I've come home without a single regret about the trip or the time taken off uni to fit it in. Not only was it great to get a good block of time in Europe pre WOC, and to get some practice races in against top competition, which undoubtedly helped come WOC week; but I've also come home with a much more solid idea of what path I want to take post-PhD. Atleast, I'm told there's a life post thesis?

The race is on!

For all of those who asked me post WOC races if I was happy with my results, only to receive a kind of confused, dazed look and some uninterpretable answer, sorry! At the end of a race, my brain usually resembles a bowl of spaghetti, with computing power of a scrambled egg. Even more so than usual. Having had a bit of time to think it over, I guess my answer is multi levelled:
As a Kiwi, I'm proud of my results, and proud to be a part of a NZ team and wider culture that is driving each other and building our results and profile on the global stage. So yep, I'm happy on that level.
On a personal level, I left everything I had out on the courses (including part of my pants). Performance wise, I did as well as I could in the sprints, I just wasn't physically good enough. In the forest, I did parts great, but fell into familiar mistakes in other areas. The potential is there, but it didn't overcome the flaws on the day. So I left WOC feeling a bit bittersweet, the results were good, but they could have been better.
However, some wise people have reminded me to put things in perspective. I have to remember how I felt prior to leaving for Europe. So. Given where I was 8 weeks prior to WOC, my performances and results were more than I could have hoped for.

So, with the wisdom of hindsight, yes, satisfied with my results, thanks for asking!

 And now, for some full time stats from the trip! Yay. Numbers!

50 Days
5 Countries
63 Training Sessions
14 Races
30 Hours Orienteering
14 Accommodations
11 Room Mates

Some things were a little harder to quantify:
~80-90 Coffees
~40-50 gelatos/icecreams
Countless training partners/hosts/supporters/local guides and friends. Without you the trip wouldn't have been possible. I'm too scared to list you all, as I'm likely to forget someone, but you know who you are, and hopefully I've made it known in person just how grateful I am for all of your help! If not, feel free to slap me next time you see me, I'll deserve it.

And finally:
1 absolute legend. Greta, I don't know what insanity lead you to agree to 7 weeks of my company, and it will forever be a mystery to me how you lasted those 7 weeks without once punching me in the face. Thanks so much for putting up with me and my twisted sense of humour, my inability to interpret foreign bus time tables and my best attempts at Italian driving. For organising me, socialising for me when I was too tired to be capable of speech, dealing with me when I couldn't sort my shit out, and for ignoring me when I was just being a dick! Just the best team mate and travel buddy, hope you're recovering well and enjoying some fresh company now!

Super excited to be Lizzie free!
Once again, thanks to everyone who made the last couple of months what it was! Rest assured, I've discovered the ultimate cure for PED - planning my next escape to Europe! Watch this space :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Forest WOC

The middle distance. It's always been my favourite discipline, even if it's my worst going by results. As I'm often reminded by Jamie, it's the only distance I'm yet to win a NZ elite title in. But for me, it still represents the ultimate orienteering test - having to be 100% on top of everything for the entire duration of the race; technically, physically, and especially mentally. It's damn hard to balance everything and get it right on the day, but when you do, far out it feels amazing! So given the restriction of only having 1 runner in the long and middle this year, there was really only one answer when I considered which I'd rather run.

My middle mistakes are so well known/expected that the
actual GPS route from my middle mess at WOC last year
graces this year's TL fundraiser.
With a couple of days off post WOC-sprinting, I was champing at the bit for my turn to get into the proper forest stuff with the middle and relay. Having had more time in relevant terrain than before any other WOC or JWOC, I was feeling the more technically and mentally ready than ever. Physically, given early season injuries, I was in the best shape I could hope for too. (Thanks entirely to Cathy and the crew at Physiosport. Shameless plug cos they're awesome people, plus they let me use their fancy equipment for free (I like to think I pay in entertainment by performing ridiculous looking exercises in the middle of their practice though)).

In fact, if anything, perhaps I was feeling a bit too prepared. Better knock myself back a few pegs then. Literally. So I took the liberty of reducing my head size, courtesy of a rock at the middle model. Cos what fun would racing full intensity at altitude be, without a little bit of concussion and blood loss?! ;) Luckily, it was nothing too bad, but many thanks to Greta, Immy and Liz the GB coach for stopping to help, and reassuring me it was 'just a graze'! (plus a 5cm cut we later found on closer inspection). Not so lucky though, my right knee decided that with the distraction of the head wound, it could bunk off work, completely seizing up. After 7 weeks with no issues, it couldn't have waited 2 more days?! Nothing to be done about it immediately though, other than an afternoon spent balancing an ice pack on the head, and another on the knee.

Well on the way to my usual ouch map before
the race has even started then.

Having survived through to race day I finally found myself at pre race quarantine. As Helen Palmer mentioned (sidenote: thanks for the reference to my rock headbutting - high praise from someone who runs of cliffs!), it's a very weird atmosphere in quarantine. I never know who it's OK to smile at and who not to?! Some people are all good with it, some are too serious to even notice that kind of malarkey, and some give you the sort of look as if you've just offered them a taste of your dirty O socks.

Anyway, having successfully slalomed my way through quarantine etiquette, rambled my way through 4 paragraphs of blog, and sludged my way through the very steep, very long pre-start call up, I found myself on the start line for the WOC middle!

The first part of the course went well, perhaps driven by a good first control that felt just like at home: Up the hill, into a paddock of cows - all standard kiwi stuff. Follow the clearing, into the trees and around to a rock - classic Canberra stuff. Nice. A blip on #2, where things got a bit more European, but still smooth through to 5 - the only snag being the branch that tore open my pants. But who am I to deny the orienteering world an inadvertent glimpse of thigh?! Unbeknownst to me infact, I was in the lead of the race at this stage, leaving supporters at the event and at home in a state of extreme excitement!

Bella in a state of extreme excitement
Unfortunately, things unraveled a bit on #6. Although I executed my plan up to my attackpoint perfectly, I apparently forgot that the most important part is finding the little orange and white thing at the end of the leg! Running straight past the pit without seeing the flag and control minder sitting down in it, I then spent over 1.5 minutes doing a decapitated chicken impersonation around the circle.

Um. Oops?

Flustered, it took me the leg to 7 to try and recompose myself. However, I never regained my momentum or consistency, instead leaking time on the longer legs, and feeling utterly smashed on the hills. The climb out of the spectator was an absolute killer, with Jan waiting 2/3rds of the way up taking photos - just when you thought you were out of sight and due a bit of a walk! This is where I became aware of how close I was pushing my limit, which is when I become in danger of having anxiety attacks. As a precaution I backed right off for leg 13,  knowing that I could then manage the downhill legs 14 through to the finish without risk of an attack. As it happened, a frustrating minute mistake at #14 meant that I could recompose my breathing anyway, allowing me to push on to the finish.

In my defence, if I'd run, I wouldn't have been able to modestly
(half) cover the hole in my pants.
Photo: WorldofO Athlete Profile

At the beginning of WOC, my base goal for the middle was a top 20 result, so 20th =  just squeezes in as achieving that goal. It's both reassuring and frustrating to know that the result could have been a lot better if a couple of things had gone differently - but hey, that's the nature of the middle. It's good to know that the potential is there, rather than having the race of my life and still being 20th. The goal now has to be to take the control and smoothness from those first 5 splits, and extend it to a full race.

I also have to work on my scandi flop.
Still require the trainer wheels/fence at the moment.
Photo: Attackpoint

The aim for the relay the following day was simply for all 3 of us to have steady and safe runs. Following Greta's long and my middle races, we knew we'd all but achieved our women's team goal of lifting NZ up to tier 2 for 2015. The job was to now make that position safe, and put ourselves in good stead for 2016. Following her great run at Venla, Greta lead us out on first leg - making some mistakes but coming back with a grin on her face and still well in the pack in 20th place. As she remarked to me later "I just knew you're better chasing than being chased!", so all in the spirit of a good team race then :)

Heading out relaxed and ready on 2nd leg I had my most satisfying run of the week. Rather than busting a gut to try and catch teams up, I focused on going a pace I knew I could keep up the entire course whilst keeping the navigation steady. Lesson learnt from the day before I guess, and I found myself not just catching up teams, but cleanly passing them. Helped along of course by managing to have all of the short splits!

Coming in to the finish, I handed over to Immy in 9th place, just behind the Brits. It's a freaking hard ask, waiting all week for one race without building it up too much in your head. Plus having to support and put up with team mates (or at least me), as we go through our pre and post individual race demands and moods. So huge respect Immy, you were great all week, and then nailed your job last leg. 18th at the finish line, and securely up to 2nd division 2015. Mission accomplished!
Results Map

So that's WOC 2014. Following a not-long-enough party, a not-very-long last run, a plenty-long-enough last Italian drive, and two far-too-long flights, I'm suddenly back in the 'burra. Talk about a shock to the system - from living the orienteering life and racing WOC, to sitting at my office desk staring blankly into space! I'm sure there'll be a post tour analysis soon once the shock has worn off...I'll need the procrastination.

Can't help but notice it's not summer here...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sprint WOC

Although the official proposal of having separate sprint WOC and forest WOCs may have been shot down, with this year's schedule I've ended up pretty much having two separate WOCs anyway. Last weekend was all about the sprints, with the individual races held down in Venice on Saturday, followed by the Sprint Relay in Trento on Monday. I'm currently nearing the end of an enjoyable 3 day turn around, such a luxury compared to previous years' schedules! Yesterday I enjoyed the opportunity to cheer on Greta, Matt, some Aussies, and even a European or two, in the Long distance. Matt and Greta both did an awesome job, taking us a good step in the direction of promotion to being a tier 2 nation. Tomorrow it's my and Ross's turn to get stuck into the forest with the Middle.

Greta smashing the long distance.
(Just prior to smashing the last control to the ground)
In the meantime though, a 3 day break has given me no real excuse not to write about the sprints

Last Thursday we wound our way down to Venice from our training base in the mountains, singing our hearts out to the NZ 2014 JWOC CD, to make final preparations for the Saturday's Sprint races. Having picked up Matt, and run a bonus Treviso training enroute, we were finally a full complement, fully prepped, and ready for racing!

Sprint Qual: Burano

Saturday morning dawned bright and too early, with the prospects of a long hot day full of sprint action ahead. Having picked up (and immediately decided against) our packed breakfasts, it was into the car, on with the JWOC CD (off which we had now vetoed 50% of the songs), and on to the doge ferry (such boat, many water, wow!) terminal to Burano! We were pretty stoked to find ourselves organised, on time, and 3rd team in line to get on the ferry. Although, typically, still behind Switzerland.

The sprint qual on Burano didn't disappoint. Plenty of legs requiring quick thinking, some trademark Venice narrow alleys, and lots of colourful houses...which I probably shouldn't have noticed while racing! I had a clean enough race for a qual, missing an optimum route choice or two, and having a couple of hesitations, but nothing too costly. At first I was unjustifiably disappointed to be in 5th...until I saw that there was only 10 or so seconds between the top 7 in our heat - something not common in the women's heats, and great to see for the level of competition. In the other women's heats, it was business as usual, with some very large gaps at the top of the heats.

Disappointingly for us as a team however, I was the only qualifier to make it off Burano, through to the final. Reassuring however, everyone knew exactly where and why they went wrong - leaving us with confidence still for the sprint relay.

Beautiful and colourful houses. Not so beautiful and black me.
Photo: WorldofO Athlete Profile

Heat split results

Sprint Final: Venice

On to a second Doge ferry then, this time cram packed with finalists and their team managers/coaches/physios/doctors/chefs/hair stylists. Somehow, our overloaded boat made it across the lagoon, to disembark at Quarantine round 2. This time, we were held inside a naval base - complete with plenty of men in uniform, watching our every move. An hour of hiding from the heat, then it was time to warm up (not hard), zone in, and off to pre-start...
All set and ready for the biggest sprint race of the year...when the atmosphere was suddenly shattered by the loud entrance of a pirate party ship cruising along the waterfront. Ah, Venice, so classy!
You prepare yourself to deal with a wide range of situations at world champs. But I can honestly say that a pirate ship pumping out 90's pop hits at me all the way from Pre-start to the start line, was not one of my practiced situations! 
The distraction was quickly forgotten however, as soon as I was given my control descriptions. My hear plummeted as soon as I read the 230m taped run through, followed immediately by a map change...plain dead running, not exactly my strength. Nothing to do about it though, and before I knew it, I was out on the course.

When read carefully the sprint analysis at WorldofO tells everything there is about my race. I start off well, despite not realising the route choice to #3 until 5 steps after punching #2. I stay in the top 6 through to the run through, where I leak time on the faster runners. On every single route choice in the race, I choose the optimum route, which I was pleased with. Navigationally, I lose time to a hesitation on #12, turning into an alley too soon enroute to #14, and stopping a niche too soon on #17. All 3 of which were due to reading ahead on the course and not clicking back to the present quickly enough. Everything else is running speed, especially in #15 - finish, which contained minimal navigation and a lot of flat running.

Happy with the routechoices. Paid for the brain fade and leg fade though.

Coming in to the finish, it was a nice surprise to be called in as 2nd = with Tess Hill...although a slightly less nice surprise to then learn she'd actually beaten me by 0.1s ;) 13th once all was said and done, which is realistically close to the best I could have done on the day.

However, I was left a bit disappointed with the course to be honest. With the run through and finish chute, ~10% of our course was dead running without map reading. Add on to that the last few controls, which had minimal navigation...and really close to ~25% of the distance was just running.

A bit more pain face than game face.
Photo: Photo: WorldofO Athlete Profile

At my current stage, I believe I can make the sprint podium, if the course suits me. (Yet i'm always surprised, and humbled, when I realise others think this of me too!) Give me a technical course, and a hill or two, and I should have a realistic chance. However, given a flat, faster course with less map reading, my chances drop. But in orienteering, you can't decide what kind of course you're going to get. It's a definite goal of mine to get to the stage where I'm a podium chance no matter what the course.
Final Split Results

Sprint Relay

Having relocated from Venice to Lavarone - from party central at the beach to our new team hotel...which appears to be a rest home/hotel, Monday brought with it the sprint relay. New to WOC this year, the race promised to be exciting for spectators and runners alike. So down from the plateau we twisted and turned, listening on repeat to the 4 JWOC CD songs that we could still bear suffering. (Seriously, I think I rented the only car in Italy without an auxilary outlet?!). We had high hopes of a good result, with a strong team of Greta - Tim - Ross - Me.

Correct that: Strong AND good looking team.
Things went to plan on first leg, Greta sticking with the top pack and handing us over in a great position. From there however, the simple nature of the course, started to take it's toll - Tim, and then Ross, just not having the legs to stick with the super speedsters. By the time I went out, we were in 15th position, still a good position for us, and still with teams withing catching distance. I raced my legs out from under me, when the rain and perilous slippery pavers didn't try and do it for me. And by the end of the race I felt like I'd been hit by a bus...a situation which I barely missed in reality coming out of #10. However, 14th was the best we could manage on the day - a solid result, but again, one we were left feeling we could have improved on a lot...if the courses hadn't been so very technically easy. Especially on the girls courses, it felt as though there were only 2 legs with any route choice, the rest was running.

Overall I think I, and the team, should be proud of our sprint results, we did as well as we could on the day. However, in both cases we've been left feeling disappointed in the courses: this is the orienteering world champs, so please, give us some technical courses!

Sprint relay results

Having said that, the middle and relay tomorrow promise to be nice and technical. I'm the best prepared that I've been for a WOC middle to date, the aim tomorrow is to be calm, controlled and smooth. We'll see :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

WOC 2014; the Antipodean guide

They say the night before the night before is the sleep that counts, so perhaps it's a bit worrying that i'm awake at 6.30am writing this...or perhaps it's perfect prep for the early morning and long day that await tomorrow for the sprint races?!
In any case, with races kicking off tomorrow, it's past time I put up the details and program for WOC for the crazy people back home that stay/wake up in order to watch the progress of little Antipodean GPS sperm across your computer screen!

Unfortunately, the internet here in Jesolo is nothing to write home about, in fact, it's hard to write home about. So let's keep this brief! (Ha! Fat chance!)

If you don't want to read all this post (I don't), then just read the below paragraph. It has all the links you'll need anyway!
Live GPS viewing this year appears to be a pay service (17euro for the week, ~7euro a race), which you can get into from the WOC page. There's bound to be free(?) live results though, I guess we'll find out when races start - try the buttons off the live bit of the WOC info page.
 I also highly recommend heading over to worldofo, where Jan will no doubt do a much better preview than me! (Update, he has. it's HERE.) You'll also find a load of far more witty and interesting blogs than mine there, including the Aussie WOC team blog. And there'll be an informative and possibly-better-than-live-results live blog going on there throughout the races.

Team New Zealand. #gameface
Photo: Nic Gorman

As for the races themselves:

Saturday 9AM (5pm AEST, 7pm NZ) : Sprint Qualification

We kick off tomorrow with the Sprint Qualification, held in Burano, Venice. 3 girls and 3 guys from each country, 3 heats, top 15 in each heat go through to the Final.

Representing NZ: Our entire team! Matt Ogden, Tim Robertson and Ross Morrison. Imogene Scott, Greta Knarston, and myself.
In the green and gold: Lachy Dow (Canberra), Julian Dent and Simon Uppill. Rachel Effeney, Fel Brown and Hanny Alston (Canberra based).
Click here for the full NZ and Aussie team profiles. And, apparently, some 'hilarious' pictures of me. (Thanks Brendan, I'll take it as a complement!).
No GPS tracking for this one, but there should be live results and commentary.

Saturday 3.20PM - 5.30PM (from 11.20PM AEST, 1.20AM NZ): Sprint Final

The top 45 Men and Women will race off for the sprint medals in Eastern Venice, in what promises to be a memorable race. All of the teams will have had fun and frustration training in the network of alleys and canals of Venice, all whilst dodging tourist traffic. Hopefully the final will be similar, but with less collisions given it's a bit out of the main tourist stretch!
GPS will be in use, but not sure how good it'll be given the tightly packed buildings (although there could well be a fair proportion of open park running too).

Monday 5.25PM (1.25AM AEST, 3.25AM NZ): Mixed Sprint Relay

The first time this format is present at the world champs, this promises to be an exciting one! Run in the order Woman - Man - Man - Woman, the teams will go head to head throughout the streets and alleys of downtown Trento. Should make great spectator viewing, hopefully online as well as on the ground. And although the Danes and Swiss will go in as favourites, with a lot of nations putting out very strong sprint teams, it's anyone's race really. Be prepared to see some of the less heard of orienteering nations towards the top come the finish line!
In no particular order:
the NZ team: Matt Ogden, Tim Robertson, Greta Knarston and myself.
Australia: Julian Dent, Simon Uppill, Rachel Effeney and Hanny Alston.

Half time kitten. You've done well to read this far!

Wednesday 12noon - 5PM (from 8PM AEST, 10PM NZ): Long distance final

Up, up and up into the mountains, to the Lavarone/Asiago region for the forest events! Following the removal of qual for the middle and long distance, this will be the first time we see the consequences of the nation ranking system. A very small contingent of Kiwis, as both men and women are currently in the lowest bracket. The Aussies have an extra girl as they're up in 2nd division. The top nations will have 3 runners, and a lucky couple of nations will have 4 if they have a world champion or European champion in their team. The terrain will be beautiful, but physically and mentally challenging. Beech forest, rocks, cliffs, trenches, and plenty of hills!
Greta Knarston will feel the full force of the Kiwi support, whilst Hanny Alston and Vanessa Round will be out in the forest for Australia. In the Men, Simon Uppill will be representing the Antipodeans.
GPS is a go for this one :)

Friday  12noon - 5PM (from 8PM AEST, 10PM NZ): Middle distance final

A highly anticipated race for me, following a good rest after the sprint races! To be held high up on the Asiago plateau, amongst the numerous trenches and remains from WWI (and still plenty of hills :), this should be a highly technical race. The terrain is beautiful, based on karst topography, but with counter-intuitive man made contour and rock features, like cliffs facing the wrong way on hillsides. Accuracy and concentration will be key!
I'll be the sole Kiwi girl racing the middle, joined by Jasmine Neve and Vanessa Round from Australia, both of whom have joined me for training in the region in the past month, so hopefully we'll be sharp and well prepared!
In the men, it's Ross Morrison for NZ, and Julian Dent for AUS.

Saturday 1:00 - 4:20 PM (from 9PM  AEST, 11PM NZ): Relay

The final race of the week is the (forest) relay, to be held on the same area as the middle distance the day before. Be prepared for more intense head-head action, with high potential for costly mistakes in the tricky terrain (aka great GPS viewing). Whilst the top nations will be fighting it out for medals, the results will be vital for all nations; with points from the relay worth double those from the middle and long, and counting towards your nation's ranking for the next 2 years. It doesn't even bear thinking about the consequence of a mis-punch or DNF.
Lining up for the ANZACs, again in no particular order, are:
Women: Vanessa, Hanny, Jasmine (AUS), Imogene, Lizzie, Greta (NZ).
Men: Lachy, Simon, Jules (AUS), Matt, Tim, Ross (NZ).

Phew! So there you have it. All the training and prep is done and we're tapered, rested. and ready. Come tomorrow it's on with the game face and into the action! Can't wait!

The game face is also well rested and tapered.
Photo: Tallinn O Week

Monday, June 30, 2014

Italy 2.0

Following on from our brief Scandi tour, and mini holiday in Tallinn, it's been back to Italy and WOC training for team Grizzle.
Similar to Italy training 1.0, we adopted a couple of Aussies for the week  - joined in our adventures by Toph and Jas. They made great company and training buddies, but sometimes the cultural difference seemed to just be too great...

Aussies...I'll never understand them.

They also lost out to our previous companions of Ness and Lachy, as I couldn't think up a witty team name including all 4 of our names. Sorry guys, try harder with your names next time?

First up was a 4 day stint up on the Asiago plateau, hanging out in our cute little cottage, exploring, and sitting in the town square trying to spy other national teams.
Orienteers...Hanging out our laundry
in the middle of town.
Not sure if Toph spent more time training, or exploring
tunnels and caves?! :)

And of course, it would be criminal to visit the area without running up at least one mountain - so we 'ran' up Monte Cornetto, directly behind Folgaria.

"merely spectacular"

We also did a bit of middle distance training, and rock hopping practice.

 It was with a mixture of excitement and sadness that we left the mountains to head to Venice for a couple of days sprint training. Bidding adieu to Toph and Jas, we welcomed Lachy, and the Robertson siblings into the party car, and hit up some sprint maps. And it didn't disappoint - weaving our way through and around small alleyways, canals, and the odd tourist or a hundred.

Never in one place for too long, it was then off to Vittorio Veneto for the weekend, and our final WOC sharpening up - the Alpe Adria races. With the full Aussie team and 2/3rds of the Kiwi team there, it felt a bit like a European based trans-tasman test match! The weekend was wicked fun, with really enjoyable karst terrain. Open running and smooth navigating for the relay, a fast and fun sprint, and crazy intricate rock detail overlaid on physically tough karst topography for the middle. It was a nice confidence boost prior to WOC to take out the middle, just ahead of Helen Palmer, and to be 2nd, within touching distance of Hanny in the sprint. The commentary and atmosphere was entertaining, and we really enjoyed the hospitality of the organisers and the region, especially at the Gala dinner! It was really good to get some race practice prior to WOC kicking off!
Training and Race maps will be up on my DOMA once I have time.

Middle Podium
Photo: Andrea Cardosi
I'm not sure what the duty free limit is going back to Aus...but I think I may be over it.

Wanted: Friends!
...or we may not even make it to the WOC party...
(Team winnings from the weekend)
There's now just 5 sleeps til the first WOC race, time to kick back and taper! I'll put up a WOC preview and viewing guide sometime this week for the down-under clan. But in the meantime, anyone got good movie recommendations?!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sun, Mud and Snow

Once again I find myself kicking back in the Italian mountains, reflecting on an hectic last 10 days. This time however, the days have been filled with orienteering and travel, rather than work and organising, so can't complain!

Following our final WOC 2016 training session (and via the lolly factory shop...), it was off over the border and in to Norway to visit Halden.

Post training nutrition? Anyone?

Having heard that I'm looking to make the move to Europe in 2015, I'd been invited along to see what Halden SK has to offer. And I have to say, the people and place made an impression; Everyone was really welcoming, like one big family, The sheer number, and quality, of training opportunities was too great for my brain to comprehend, and even the weather turned it on for the couple of days I was there! Anyone who knows has seen my ghost fingers will appreciate that the weather must be stunning if I can survive a 5 minute swim without losing feeling in any of my extremities!
It was really cool and an eye opener to see just what the environment is like at one of the best clubs in Europe, and a completely different scale to anything I've experienced previously!

Bit nicer for swimming than ol' lake B-G!

Talking about a different scale... I then joined Halden on their travels to Jukola/Venla. For the non-orienteers who are somehow still hanging on to this blog ;) (thankyou!), Jukola is a massive club relay competition, held annually in Finland - about 1700 7 person teams fight it out for glory or fun. The race starts at 11pm with a giant mass start, and runs through the night, with the first teams finishing around 7am. One of the many awesome things about Jukola is the range of teams - from the top elite club teams fighting for glory, right through the range of ages and abilities, down to stags night and dress up teams. And the mass start is something to behold - in fact this year the start signal was an F/A 18 hornet...

Awesome to have a good group of kiwis and Aussies
to follow throughout the night too! Kiwi team some day?
 Venla is the women's relay, raced in the afternoon before Jukola, with around 1200, 4-women, teams competing. Although smaller than Jukola, the competition amongst the top teams is no less intense, and the mass start is an amazing experience to be a part of! Four years ago I ran first leg for South Yorkshire's 2nd team (Grace Crane ran 1st for the 1st team ;), starting from 976th, at the back of the pack, I had one of the most fun races of my life, finishing off in 36th. This year the task was a bit different, filling in at the last minute for Halden's 3rd team, and running last leg.
Orienteers and non-orienteers back home alike, I highly recommend flicking through the Finnish TV coverage of Venla (and Jukola). Great coverage including head cam runners following the action in the forest, the arena, gps, and a crash course in Finnish ;)

My race itself was a bit disappointing - a number of small mistakes dropping me well off the times of the top girls. It was a lesson in running the last leg of a big race - when to use the big tracks generated by the previous runners, how to get past the numerous slower runners that are clogging up the forest, and how to hold it together in the last few controls...none of which I did particularly well! We finished off in 57th place - the top placed 3rd team, with the 1st girls coming in 6th and the 2nd team in 40th. Overall it was an awesome week, I really felt part of the family and was sad to leave by the end of it. So a massive thanks to everyone, (but especially Anja and Eva) who made the visit happen, and made me feel so at home! We'll see how the next 6 months play out, but if it's anything to go by - I found myself doing PhD work yesterday, despite being on I must have picked up some good motivation to get the thesis finished!

Spot the odd one out!
Photo: Halden SK

After a long Sunday, and a good bout of shoe cleaning (apologies to the cleaners at the Helsinki hostel for the state of our bathroom!) it was off down to Tallinn for a bit of relaxing, touristing...and orienteering. After hearing Jules and Fel rave about Tallinn O-week, I was keen to take part this year, and the first 3 days fitted perfectly into our schedule, with a sprint on the Monday and the city race on Wednesday. Unfortunately however, the last couple of weeks training and racing caught up with my body on the Monday. The first part of the course was fantastic fun, based around a maze of fences in the farms of the open-air museum, However, coming up to the spectator leg I could feel one of my anxiety attacks coming on, so was forced to stop and walk the 2nd loop of the course. Apologies to those watching GPS replays back home who thought I'd done an ankle or broken a leg!

Fortunately for me (but unfortunate for what was supposed to be summer), the weather on Tuesday turned on Wellington worthy winds, rain, and...snow?! Which suited me fine, as I had my best sleep in months, and stayed at the hostel all day! I also got my Jukola-mud coated clothes cleaned for me. Which led me to belatedly wonder what the hostel workers must have concluded on receiving my numerous sets of muddy orienteering kit (read: pyjama like clothing)...and then finding physio thera-bands attached to the feet of my hostel bed?! Oh well...I'll probably never see them again! I hope.

Anyway...On Wednesday I awoke feeling a world better; venturing out to be a tourist, and running the city race in the evening. Infact, in holding back on the pace and making sure my body could cope with the session, I managed to take out the win - meaning I have to find space in my already full pack for another pair of shoes! :) The race itself was great fun, and good practice at spotting hard to read gaps/fences. I made a few decent mistakes, far too many to call it a good run, but came away with a smile on my face having had fun, and happy with how my body coped.

I also got to play silly bugger on the podium...
Photo: Meelis Toom, TOW

So yeah, one busy week and a bit! It's now almost 4 weeks since I left the 'burra, and only 2 weeks until WOC kicks off! Time for final preparations, to really listen to my body, rest up, sharpen up...and find the local gelato store! ;)

Maps from the last week will be gradually loaded onto my digital map archive, for the fellow map geeks out there.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lessons in Swedish

When planning my European trip this year there were a couple of main options open to me for the leg of the trip following 3 Days of Trenches. Option One involved heading up to Kongsberg and the Word Cup races. or Option Two: Head to Sweden for some WOC2016 training with a group of kiwis.
In the end there wasn't much of a choice to make however; The former option would involve expensive entries/accreditation and accommodation, along with organisation. But just as importantly would push up the number of races I'd be doing prior to WOC, leaving less time for stable training, and increasing the chances of injury.
So the latter option it was then; to Bovallstrand for some WOC2106 training, a spot of crab fishing, and a small Wellington O-gang reunion with Magnus and Lisa, Junior Lara Molloy (who's doing an exchange in Sweden at the moment, and who I'll embarrass by linking her blog), and ladies' man Mattias.

We went to a wildlife park full of awesome animals.
And this is the only photo I took.
Given that the usual Kiwi WOC campaign involves coming over to Europe 2 weeks before races start, and trying to fit jetlag recovery, terrain familiarisation, and taper all at once, it felt like a complete luxury to be on the WOC2016 training maps 2 years in advance! But definitely worthwhile, I took a lot out of the week, as well as some tired legs, and a few lessons:

Lesson 1: Being strong in NZ and Aussie terrain does not equal being strong in this terrain!

Boy did I learn that one fast! So much blueberry and undergrowth under foot and marshes to sludge through. The hills might not be big, but they are tough to keep running up...and down...which brings me to:

Lesson 2: Faceplanting is allowed.

Subclause: If you time it to be into the blueberries, not onto the open rock. Yep. The same soft ground and undergrowth that makes it hard to run, also makes it soft to land when you (or rather I) inevitably faceplant. Belly flops also work, however, blueberry bushes do scratch.

Lesson 3: Cliffs. All the cliffs.

Whilst Italy is known for it's cliffs, I quickly learnt that Sweden has just as many. They may not be as impressive, and there's usually always a way up or down, but they do have a habit of jumping right in front of me in the middle what seems like every leg! I can only assume that with more practice I'll get more clued on to their ninja ways and avoiding them.

Lesson 4: Micro-routechoice.

The terrain is flipping tough, but it can be made easier if you can pick out the easier lines to run through the undergrowth and topography. Unfortunately, when I tried to do this, I'd often end up losing contact with the map, or off direction. Guess I'll just have to come back and train more here! ;)

Lesson 5: Training with controls is easier than without.

After being spoilt with tapes and flags at our training's in Italy, it was an extra level of training to have no tapes out in the terrain! I'll blame that for my slow km rates...

An invaluable week, however it will take a lot more experience in this sort of terrain to be truly competitive come 2016. Something to work towards! On the serious side, maps from most of the trainings can be found on my DOMA. On the lighter side, it was a hugely fun and relaxing week of training and touristing - massive thanks to Mags and Lisa for letting us join them for some of their summer break. We also had good fun messing around taking a new title photo for this blog - hopefully to be seen soon, once I've been airbrushed ;)

And lastly, a shout out to Magnus's parents for letting us use their summer house, hugely appreciated! And no, I didn't break the washing machine this time! ;) 

Stage 3 of the tour done, on to Halden and Jukola next!

Local attractions: Old rock carvings boasting about the size
of their fishing catch.

Noah's Ark: The snow leopards are amazing. But we still don't
have any evidence they actually have a lynx. Sneaky fella!

Crab Fishing. Followed by crab racing.
(much more successful than 4 years ago!)

Recovery sessions in the sea.

WOC2016 training done! Bring on the races ;)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Week One, Part Two: 3 days of Trenches

aka. The Adventures of Captain America and the Lachness Grizzle

With the arrival of training buddies and a car, and our first set of races imminent, it was time for things to get serious. Well, up to a limit.


In a supreme show of dedication, Alex Jospe, our native Right Hand driver, had made the trip over from the states for a long weekend of training and racing. So on Saturday morning it was off to Lavarone for a bout of training, prior to the afternoon's sprint relay. We finally bumped into another team out training - the Danes getting in a morning session too. It was with relief that we found the Eastern part of the Lavarone map was much more runnable than our previous trainings - probably half due to the map and half to getting acclimatized to the time-zone and altitude!

Full map

Training was followed by a picnic and naps in the sun, as all good trainings should be. Apparently not the done thing in Italy though, going by the number of looks we got from passing motorists?!

Recovered from training and food, we soon learnt that Alex loves switchbacks. Fortunate given the shortcut that we'd been given down to the sprint relay - a crazy single laned trail that zig-zagged itself down what was near enough a sheer cliff-face. Every time we came face to face with another car, one of us would have to reverse back along the narrow road and pull right up to the cliff/precipice to let the other past!

Amazing views when you could look out from between your fingers though!

Still alive, and amped up following our car ride, we piled out of the car in Pergine for the mixed sprint relay. Entered as an Antipodean team, with Greta and I running the female legs, and Lachy and Vanessa running the male legs, we were unfortunately not allowed to enter under our official team name: The LachNess Grizzle. Overcoming this disappointment however, the relay was good fun, and good practice for WOC. Greta had a great run on 1st leg, bar some confusion in the spectator run through. Lachy and Ness then held our position well, especially given Lachy was under the weather, while Ness raced against the boys on a bung ankle after rolling it on a flat path early on (it's always the flat paths that do it!). Heading out just behind a couple of other teams, I had a rude reintroduction to European town sprints, making 3 errors with uncrossable walls throughout the course. It was a timely reminder just how different these maps are to our usual Tasman diet of university sprints. Stupid errors aside, I ran a good race, and clicked into the terrain in the 2nd half of the course. I managed to pull us up a couple of places, finishing off in 8th - with the race taken out by the stacked GB and Aussie team. results

Full map
We then celebrated our first race in the usual style - gelato, followed by exploring the nearest castle! We then worked our way back up our favourite road, to our new digs, just outside Asiago.

Please let no cars come the other way...


Sunday brought with it the first forest race of my Europe trip - a middle distance on Valgiardini. I was really looking forward to racing against top level competition again, with a few countries such as the Finns and Czechs using the races as trials. However it was equally great to be able to line up without any pressure on my performance. My main goal for both the middle and long races was to go steady and accurately, get some race practice in the terrain, and hopefully pick up some good world ranking points to help my start position at WOC. And that's exactly how my race went, nothing spectacular, but solid. I was hesitant and a bit scratchy to start with, but as my confidence and accuracy increased, so did the speed. I was happy with 10th place, a good result, but with plenty of room for improvement, just right for a first race over here! I'll put it down to the pre-race breakfast of bacon, eggs and cheese!

Pleasantly surprised to have a start ranking high
enough to deserve gps tracking!

Middle: map, gps replay, results


Having picked up a post travel sickness, and given I won't be running the long at WOC, I was unsure about running the Long distance on Monday. However, if I learnt anything from the middle the previous day, it was that this terrain tracks quickly, especially if a bit wet - a late start at WOC will be advantageous! So I was keen to pick up what extra ranking points I could. My motivation took a nose dive when thunderstorms rolled over the event centre half an hour before my start, however, I told myself to harden up and soon found myself waiting on the start line. As with the Middle, I was scratchy in the opening controls, dropping time in the circle on 6 of the first 8 controls - perhaps distracted by the remaining scraps of snow? Which was a bit of a novelty, but also made visualising the contours much easier! I wasn't too surprised when Riina caught me up around #9. As it happened we were well matched for pace, to-ing and fro-ing throughout. By #16 there were 5 of us, including Ida, who was smashing it. The pack running resulted in the last few controls being high paced, leaving me fairly wrecked at the finish line! A good test, although a tough one given my lack of long distance prep. 8th place, which again, I was pleased with, even if my legs didn't really work for the rest of the day!

I swear Ida's barely puffed?! ;)
Photo: 3 days of Trenches
Long: gps replayresults

Following the 3 days of racing, it was time to bid goodbye to the mountains for the while. And what better way to do so than with some farewell switchbacks...and gelato...and vast quantities of pasta?! Lucky we're training a fair amount what with the quantities of gelato being consumed!

...and somehow the road gets down there. Don't ask how.
A huge thanks to all that helped us out on this first leg of our trip: Matteo, Cossimo and Giovanni for their local knowledge and our trans-tasman cousins for their company. And a huge thanks to Alex for driving us around the events and providing brilliant company! (She has a damn good blog too, which is bound to soon have her side of our weekend on it, have a look! :)

Next stop: Scandinavia, and a reunion of the Wellington O-gang!

So immature, but.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Team Grizzle on Tour: Week One, Part One

Total Italian Immersion

After months of preparation and anticipation Team Lizzie on Tour officially kicked off last Monday! Following 24 hours of flights, (+1 extra hour for my bag...just to build the anticipation a bit more), I met an equally exhausted but elated Greta in Milan, and Team Lizzie morphed into Team Grizzle. Following a seamless train journey we quickly arrived in our base camp for the week: Rovereto. We decided that the best way to prepare ourselves for WOC 2014 was to make ourselves at home in our surroundings…total Italian immersion! So it's been a week packed with gelato, pasta, coffee, pizza, mountains, touristing, resting, more gelato, and the odd training! Such a tough life!


Arrival in Italy was celebrated by a quick stretch out of the legs around Rovereto, which we quickly agreed would make an amazing sprint map with its countless small alleys and numerous underpasses. Our festivities continued late into the early evening, with a dinner of gelato followed by pizza. Yes. That order. However, the highlight of the evening has to have been the deep jetlagged sleep.
Oh hello!


Breakfast was followed by further exploration of town, accompanied by wide grins as we congratulated each other on our decision to come to Italy early this year. This was followed by further amazement and disappointment that there's no sprint map of Rovereto, as we managed to explore more hidden alleys as we attempted to refind our hostel. On the appearance of a bit of rain, our afternoon training was flagged in favour of a 2nd jetlag recovery day. We instead opted for an evening jog up to the war memorial, which resulted in the discovery of a giant picturesque fence blocking our way. So we continued up to the Peace Bell (the largest ringing bell in the world as it happens)...which we discovered closes at 6 and has a large fence around it. Highlight of the run however was surviving our first instance of crazy Italian drivers...narrowly avoiding being run over by a blindly reversing driver in a large empty gravel car park. Phew! We celebrated our survival with pizza and gelato. In that order, so obviously a bit less jetlagged!
Just the best photo. Not sure what Greta's growing out of her head.
And well, atleast my arm made it into the frame! War memorial looks nice though.


In the spirit of true Italian immersion, Team Grizzle transport for the week was the Trentino public transport system. Fortunately Wednesday’s strike only affected trains, and so we happily hopped on our Team bus to wind our way up the narrow mountain side road to Folgaria and our first proper training. Taking the front right hand seats afforded us the best views of the road side precipices, an experience heightened only by our driver’s skill at texting while driving J But all was forgiven when I realized her ringtone was the super-mario tune.
Our team bus is bigger than your team bus. ;)

After all that excitement, the training was quite fun too. Although a bit steep for a jetlagged body! The highlight was discovering there were controls out on our course, real luxury! Although the fact that I discovered this at #2 probably means I wasn’t where I thought I was at #1… MAP.
Training day 1. Classic kiwi tactic, training with a map printed off someone's DOMA 


My long-lost high school German skills remained long-lost, resulting in us temporarily waiting for a bus that only runs at weekends. Oops. Luckily Greta figured out our mistake, relegating me to never being in charge of bus time tables ever again. Not to be offput, we used the morning to visit Rovereto’s war museum, a sobering reminder of the history of the area we’ll be training and racing through over the next month.
Second time lucky, in the afternoon we caught the Grizzle team bus up to Lavarone Rochette for a middle length training. Again the legs and lungs felt a bit like lead for much of the training, but were fast enough to get us back to our bags before the heavens opened! We drank coffee, dried off and waited for the next in our fleet of team buses in the hotel-du-lac whilst the hotel owner told us legends of the Swiss and Swedish teams training in the area. Map.
Training Day 2. Just broke 10min/kms. Woohoo!


To celebrate the imminent arrival of our first batch of training buddies, along with the luxury of a car, we took a rest morning and a final team Grizzle bus trip out to Riva del Garde. The climb up to the castle to get a primo view was a bit sharp for a rest day, so we decided against the bonus 2km walk with 500m climb required to get the premium view from the church ;) We then set a speed eating record at lunch in order to get back to Rovereto in time to meet our Aussie contingent...and wait 3hrs for Alex to arrive in our team car! One lesson learnt this week: it turns out that foreign credit cards just kill Italian computer systems, be it rental car companies, supermarkets, or hostels!
Not bad.

 Just where will that stress ball go next?!

Finally a full complement, and even able to fit ourselves and all our stuff in the rental car(!), we were all set for Part Two of our Italian training week adventures...The 3 days of Trenches races. Stay tuned!