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.

My first lesson of the week was just how far away from the rest of Australia Perth is: 2 flights and ~5hrs flying (too cheap to get the direct flight ;). Fortunately, thanks to the Cockie's level of success last year, and check on baggage allowances, I had some company for the flights.

True story: this is the 2nd edition of the trophy, designed to make
it easier for travel. Hmm.
First up was the WA long champs, and my second lesson of the week. WA vegetation is spikey. And can be pretty tall. Otherwise the gully-spur terrain was much like the E Coast, with some very vague areas requiring close attention to the compass. I was happy to stretch the legs out post-flight, taking out the win with Laura Robertson behind in 2nd, in what would become a familiar pattern for the week.

Third lesson: When it rains in WA, it RAINS. Very impressed
that my map stayed in one piece and with all ink in the right
place, seen as it was sitting in a pond of water at the start.
Following a lesson in Australian 'culture', with the AFL final, it was on to the Australian Middle Distance on Sunday. The course was great fun with a high speed start in the open gullies of pine (my memory thinks?) forest, before jumping from patch to patch of granite detail. I made 3 or so errors, but was very fortunate that Laura made the same mistakes on the same controls, nipping very close to my heels, but allowing me the win by 30s or so. Krystal came in 3rd, taking home the Aus Champs title (and a very large, travel friendly trophy!), as apparently the Aussies have given up trying to claim me ;)

click for a larger image.
Monday brought with it a sore throat, and the Aus sprint champs; my first sprint since WOC, and it showed, with rusty navigation and what felt like a lag between what my brain was thinking and what my legs were doing. Once again, it was 1-2 for the Kiwis, with Laura right on my heels, never more than 10s between us throughout the race. Certainly putting me on notice (showing no respect for her coach), but very exciting for NZ in the lead up to Tassie and future WOCs!

Racing done for the first weekend, it was time to relax and be a tourist, during the week. That, and trying to blow through getting sick. And getting some thesis writing done. Maybe.

First stop was my 2nd lesson in Aussie culture, heading to the Royal Perth Show on Monday evening with Claire B1 and Aislinn. Just. Wow. I mean, we have A&P shows in NZ, but this was something!
Sheep shearing, sheep dog trials, alpacas, the petting zoo, wood cutting, tractor displays, a blacksmith, the history of morse code, cakes (exciting to look at) and preserve (not so exciting to look at) competitions, dodgy carnie rides, dodgy carnie food, show bags, a guy commentating/explaining cow ovulation...what more could you ask for?!
Wait what? Pigs?
Pig weighing. Pig Racing. Pig Diving. Pig Washing.
I'm sold on this whole Show thing!

This guy could barely contain himself either.

Puts our Cake Friday to shame really.

Tuesday was spent exploring Fremantle, with Clare and I smashing Jimbo and the boys at tourist orienteering with the Fre-O. ;) And I managed to go up to knee depth in the waves at the beach without falling victim to a shark. Hard core.
Other highlights of the week included writing (so diligent!), playing house-wife to Aislinn (not hard in a serviced apartment...), catching up with old friends, and a couple of runs and a walk in Perth's King's Park. During which I found the 'flower' function on my camera. Such skill.

Unfortunately I hadn't managed to shake my cold by Saturday morning, however winning the Australian Long Champs was one of my two major domestic goals for the season, so I made the decision to line up at the start anyway, and see how the body felt once I got going.
Pretty fine as it turned out, and I was able to push along fine throughout the race. Once again the terrain was fast going, with areas of fairly dense granite, and plenty of small rocks under foot trying to catch your ankles out! Following a strong first 2/3rds of the course, (a route choice or two aside), I was allowed the luxury of easing up in the final few controls, making sure I didn't leave any chance of silly mistakes.

Coming into the finish, knowing that I'd finally wrapped up an Australian Long Title was a great feeling. I even tried out a smile.  

Turns out running and smiling doesn't work so well for me.
Apologies to all who had to witness that.
 Finally, Sunday brought the Aus Relay Champs. Unfortunately, I was the sole representative of the ACT Cockatoos Womens team for the weekend, meaning we lacked a relay team, and that the long distance was probably my last race as a Cockie. However, that meant that I was free to run in a Kiwi super team, alongside Laura and Alice Tilley, which made me somewhat the old lady of the team...not exactly a role I'm used to!
Laura and Alice, racing her first international elite race, set me off in the best position possible, about 10mins ahead of the chasers. All I had to do was not completely stuff it, which I just about managed ;) Rounding off a great week with another win, this time as a Kiwi rather than a Cockie.

Future WOC relay?
(Lesson learnt from yesterday about smiling in the finish it would seem)

Racing all done, it was time for my final lesson of the week: red eye flights back to the east coast are just about the worst (Europe-Australasia might be worse, just). Fortunately, we had the Qantas lounge, and the World Cup Final in Basel to keep us entertained until our midnight departure.

Go Ness!

The major lesson from the week? Far out our Juniors are amazing! It's always so motivating to see the rivalry, friendship and passion of the junior state teams during the Australian Champs. It was really cool to see all of the hard work that the ACT team have put in throughout the year come to fruition at the champs, and I know it must be the same for coaches of the other states.
Having been in Aussie for close to 4 years now, I don't know the NZ juniors nearly as well as I used to, but it's more than obvious just what talent, potential, and motivation they have, and it was awesome to get to talk to some of them and catch up throughout the week. How far NZ junior orienteering has come in the last years owes a lot to the likes of Derek Morrison, the Cory-Wrights and their predecessors, who bring the NZSS team over to Aussie every year, exposing them to more competition and different terrains.
It was awesome to have Alice, who's still at school, running up in elites with us for the relay. And great to see her nail it! But perhaps best of all, the fact that there were multiple juniors who would have been up to the task!
And lastly, huge congrats to Laura for a great week! A timely lesson for me in how quickly juniors can turn in to top elites! In which case, our WOC future looks bright, and I better keep an eye out over my shoulder! :)

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