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!