Saturday, April 5, 2014

Getting Rowdy

After seemingly being on a diet dominated by sprint races for the last few months (Sprint Golden Gate, Sprint Canberra, Sprint NOLs...), the season felt like it really kicked off properly a couple of weeks ago, with Round 2 of the National League down in Victoria.

And what a couple of maps to kick off with! Throwing us straight back in the deep end with a middle distance on the world famous (in Australia) Rowdy Flat, and slightly more world famous (for those who remember the 80's) Kangaroo Crossing. Both amazing and unique areas, full of technical and physical challenge. I went into the weekend more than a little apprehensive, having been limited to very minimal training following my ITB flare up in early February, but hopeful that the cortisone injection that I underwent a week before would prove the turning point in my recovery!

Atleast Rowdy Flat, the site of the middle, wasn't going to challenge my running speed and fitness too much. But my brain and rusty navigation was in for a challenge!
The map was used for the Oceania Middle distance Champs in 2011, where gps tracking was used for the first time in Australasia. With entertaining results, given the incredible complexity of the gold mining area. All traces of the original gully-spur terrain have effectively been wiped out from the area, replaced instead with a dense network of steep cut gullies, which are often overgrown, and always confusing. And criss-crossed with a web of mountain bike tracks, which can either be a saviour or just further confuse/depress/infuriate the half-lost runner. Needless to say, navigation and map contact is vital. Running fast, less so!
Almost every one I've talked to has had trouble keeping in contact in this area, so somewhere in my rambling analysis of the race below, hopefully people can find some useful advice for next time row(n)dy. (Shut up, it almost works as a pun.)

You want me to what?!!
This part of Rowdy Flat scares me.
(Oceania 2011 W21E course)

So I was stoked to turn over the map and see this...
I've thoroughly enjoyed my last two outings on the map, and managed to keep track of myself 95% of the time. I didn't start so well this time around however, allowing Dave to lead me out of the start...but not the way I wanted. I corrected, but picked the wrong gully leading into #1, dropping 45s. I should have taken that extra few seconds before heading up off the flat plateau by the pond. But such a mistake is recoverable on this map...So I reset my brain and started again, with a lot more success. #2, 3, 4 and 5 went by with minimal fuss - just requiring frequent hesitations to make 100% sure of the map. The only moments of note came when Wendy congratulated me on what, in my mind atleast, was an impressive super-man like leap down the cliff out of #2 (probably more of a uncoordinated scramble, stumble, slide and hang on for dear life in reality). And when the wooden mtn bike bridge fell out from beneath me entering 5...too much eating not enough training evidently!

Phew! Made it through to 6!

As I exited #6 for the longer leg, I encountered Aislinn, Lise and Lauren all entering the control. A nice boost to know I'd caught up time on the girls in the first parts of the course. It seemed my brain could remember what to do after all!
One thing I've learnt on Rowdy flat is to use the tracks when you have the chance, as it's the only opportunity there really is to read ahead and sort out the trickier legs. Unfortunately, I was a bit too busy reading ahead on 6-7, and missed my exit off the track! The 3 girls behind me caught up as I hit the stream below 7. Again I should have taken that extra moment to think it through, the only option was that I was too low. However, along with Aislinn and Lauren, I turned the wrong way, down to 12, whilst Lise headed left and gave us the slip.
A couple of easier legs to 8 and 9 allowed some more reading ahead, however, I miscounted gullies coming out of 9, leading our little train awry on #10. This is the classic sort of mistake that it's very easy to make on Rowdy, even in the easier area we were in around 10 - the trick is to catch on that you're one gully wrong quickly. I think it's almost inevitable to make these mistakes on this map, but it's how fast you catch on and recover that defines who's at the top come the end of the race.

12 - 13 was a defining leg, breaking our little group in half. Having glanced at the leg whilst running on the track to 12, I again took the track option out and around, with Lauren choosing the same route. Staying out of all of the detail gave my brain a bit of a break, and allowed a look ahead at the next little bit in the scary maze of erosion gullies and mtn bike tracks. Lise and Aislinn disappeared along a straighter route, into the spaghetti soup of contour detail, the last I saw of them until after the finish.

Keeping it simple and clean.
 But how would you do the leg if it was #12-14?
Seeing #14 and #15 sounded alarms off in my mind. These two legs were the catchers - the last couple in the freaky area of the map. As a consequence I took them really slowly, practically walking. I nailed #14 (just up the track really and getting the right gully). #15 was a trickier prospect, heading across the gullies, in an area very hard to read on the map. Lauren and I both stopped a spur too early, costing us 45s. So frustrating on such a short leg! I was angry at myself for not trusting my initial thoughts more. But worse, I let it get to me, which without a doubt led to my bigger blow out on #16 - simplifying the leg a bit too much and getting my direction wrong exiting #15. This is the leg that cost me the race, coming in to the finish 20s behind Jas. A really well deserved win for her - I honestly don't think I've ever been happier on finding out just who beat me into second!
Purple: the plan
Red: the reality
Over the flat bit, up the bank, into detail....and...oh dear...
Full course. Better quality here. Results
All up I was happy with  my return to the forest. I didn't hear a squeak from my knee all race and the navigation was still there, if very rusty! The long distance on Kangaroo crossing the next day really exposed my lack of fitness, but that's the be expected when you've done little training! I won't write about that race here, as I just went well over word quota on the middle analysis, and had better save some words for my thesis!
But. Below's the map. And results. Great to see Jo back in the game!! Her and Hanny are going to be hard to beat come Easter!
Better Quality here.
The last two weeks have seen continuing improvement with the knee. It's taken a lot of work, and I have Cathy Hogg to thank for a huge amount of the improvement (and associated massage pain) over the last couple of months. We make a great team; I break myself, she fixes me :-) 
NZ champs and our WOC trials are over Easter in a couple of weeks time - I can't expect to be at full fitness for them, but it will be good to test myself against the other kiwi girls once again. And then it's full focus on Europe! Bring it!

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