Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NZ Champs 2014

Every Easter for the last 4 years I've had to face a tough decision: Stay in Aus for the Easter 3 (4) day competition? Or head back to NZ for our national champs? Both events are (arguably) the most prestigious of the year in their respective countries, and both offer great competition, usually on quality maps.

I had a fantastic time, and fantastic results at the Australian Easter competition last year, and was super keen to have a second crack at it. Especially with Lithgow being relatively close to Canberra, and with the Blue Mtns on the doorstep to boot. However, this year NZ champs had a couple of persuasive arguments on its side: My home club Wellington were hosting, making it a tempting and convenient trip home to see the family. And, more importantly, given my broad plans to move to Europe next year, I'm not 100% sure when I'll be home to race the NZ champs next. Also, as Jamie likes to remind me, an NZ elite middle distance title is one thing missing off my CV. (Infact, even a podium placing is missing, having messed up all 4 attempts to date!)

And so, 3 weeks ago I found myself making the now familiar 8 hour Canberra-Wellington commute. With my ever enduring father picking me up from the midnight arrival, and Wellington greeting me with nostalgic winds and pouring rain. Ah. Home!

The trip and weekend were great. The results: Can't really complain. The performances: Not exactly satisfying.
The weekend kicked off with the Sprint, raced around Ohakea Air Base - home of NZ's mighty airforce. A pretty special area to get access to, and although the building detail wasn't hugely complex, the courses were well set and made the most of the map. Although feeling a bit flat, I had a steady race with no mistakes, just a bit of time loss on route choice exiting the forest section of the course. I took out the win, with Greta 2nd about 30s back. We also won the honour of being drug tested by anti-doping NZ. The bonus being that we had plenty of time whilst waiting for the fluids to filter their way through our systems to compare splits and plan our Europe trip!

We weren't allowed near the hangars unfortunately.
Security was tight around RNZAF's top secret new planes ;)

Saturday brought with it the big one: Middle distance, and a return to Waikawa, home of the first World Cup race last year. I knew that a highly precise race was needed - so messing up the first two controls was never a good sign to start with! My race did improve from there, if still being scrappy. But that, and the confusion with compulsary routes in the last loop, was enough to drop me down the field. 3rd behind Greta and Piret. Not the result I was looking for, but my first NZOC middle podium. Small consolation though.
DOMA. Results.
Tania Larson (nee Robinson) has her name on the NZ W21E
middle distance trophy more times than I can count on my fingers.
When I first entered the elite grade, I had dreams of topping her number of middle distance titles...
At the moment I'd settle for getting my name on there just once!

Fired up and eager for redemption in the long the next day, I hit Fusilier with determination. And it worked. I felt strong through the forest, despite the amount of debris on the ground. Controls were turning up exactly where I expected them to be. And I was reeling in the girls that had started in front of me. And then it blew up. A short leg, 15-16, with 4 of us running near enough together. Such a short leg, and so many runners, I was lazy, assuming one of us would see the control and lead the others in. Nope. I then compounded my mistake with relocating wrong, not once, but twice. Before finally making 100% and nailing the control with a bearing and pacing. 10 minutes blown, which in any international field would drop me off the face of the results board.
It was then a huge surprise, to finish, utterly pissed off with myself, to then be told that I'd held on for the win! Not a title I can really congratulate myself for though I'm afraid. But it is good to see that my fitness and strength is there - I just need my brains to catch up!

Logic defies how I could lose so much time in such a small area.

The final day of NZ champs is always a highlight - the club relay. We don't get many (maybe 2 a year?) of these in NZ, so, whilst not quite Tiomila or Jukola, it's always fiercely fought. This time I was in WOC's 2nd team, behind the youth of Nick Hann, Ellie Molloy and Shamus Morrison in team 1. Don't ask me for the specifics, but the NZ relay is done as a mixed grades, mixed gender relay - so it's all about getting the combination of runner's right. As it happened however, Jamie and George had solid runs on our first two legs, sending me off in 4th place, behind not 1, not 2, but 3 North West teams. (Hats off, that club is doing something right!). Unfortunately, I couldn't consolidate our effort. I managed to pass 2 of the 3 teams ahead of us, but as is the twist with the mixed grade relay, who is best on which leg depends on the terrain. This year's area was open and lightning fast - giving me no chance against the M18s who were chasing me down! Although I spotted a flash of Nick Smith on his way through, taking PAPO on to the title, it turns out a couple of others used their ninja skills to slip past me too. Or were just too fast. Final result for us, 5th.
DOMA. Results.

Held in conjunction with the national champs were the NZOF (now Orienteering NZ) annual awards. I was proud and honoured to be awarded the Silva trophy for International Performance of the Year for my World Cup results. A tough call seen as we had a JWOC medalist in Tim Robertson! Once again, a huge thanks for all of the support I've received that has enabled me to get where I have. Be it the support coming from home in NZ, home in Canberra, or the many temporary homes I've had on my travels. Much appreciated, and hopefully I can do you all proud this 2014 season too!

Not a bad nationals haul for the Ingham clan: The 'nicest piece of firewood' award (aka. M55),
'Best at running tight clockwise circles on a broken ankle' (aka W55), The '12 year old aerobics imitation trophy'
(aka W221E long), and the 'best at running naked through the forest' award (aka. Performance of the Year).
Seriously, where do we get these trophies made?!

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