It has been quiet on this blog for a few months now, mainly because I have been busy and kind of questioned the point of blogging, largely the former. But now I feel it will be good to put down some thoughts and feelings regarding WOC and my preparations leading into it. My last post concerned Tiomila, well actually just before it, right before our dreams were devastated by old misfortune (no result in the end due to a miss punch). Since then it has been a mediocre (my performances anyway) round 2 of the World Cups (68th Long, 50th Middle, 14th Mixed Sprint Relay), Jukola (which we finished a fantastic 4th) and a few other smaller competitions. Work was quite intense through this period as we tried to finish off the project I have been working on before the summer. However, due to a really good working situation I could end work on the 30th of June and have all of July to focus on WOC, which began for me on the 4th of August with the middle distance.
I started the main preparations with 2 weeks in Rauland, Norway with the JWOC team who were competing. Fortunately they were happy with me tagging along, and I tried to offer some advice when I could. The scenery in Rauland was truly special, and some of the most inspiring terrain I have been in. Waking up every morning to the backdrop below, was a very powerful motivator for a tough training period. I wanted to have an “overload” period in order to improve the shape, and also to do something whilst the JWOC team was doing all their fun activities! It brought back some good memories of when I was running JWOC. During the JWOC week I competed in the 50th Sørlandsgaloppen, which offered some very nice orienteering. Because of racing and travelling, the training during this week was not the highest, but by the end of it I was still pretty tired! So my time in Norway was really great for my training and motivation, and seeing the JWOC team do so well made it that much better. Tim won the gold again!, and some others had really tidy performances which bodes well for the future. Thanks to the JWOC team, especially Jean Cory-Wright for all the good laughs and discussions.
After JWOC I travelled to Uppsala with “the AOTC cool c**ks”. Earlier in the year, I had offered those in the Auckland Training Group (AOTC) the possibility to come back with me and experience what it is like to live in Scandinavia (or Uppsala at least), and expose them to the vastly different world of orienteering here. It was a really fun week, filled with some nice orienteering, good food and awesome company. Thanks to Åsa Hedin and her kind family for hosting us. It was very fun to meet someone completely new from the club, but whom we had plenty to talk about! Next it was Oringen, which I was a bystander for, competing a couple of times in open courses and watching everyone else slog it out for 5 races. Albin and Rassmus were highly impressive in the elite class, and also there were some fantastic runs by the Kiwis throughout the week.
It was then time for Scotland, heading to Edinburgh, staying there and sightseeing/training for one day and then up to Inverness to meet with the rest of the team. We had a fun week before the racing began, longer for me as I wasn’t starting until the middle distance. In this week I did a number of solid technical sessions to become familiar with the terrain. The trainings confirmed what I had been told previously, that the terrain was nothing that special. I felt really comfortable in the terrain very quickly, even despite some strange mapping.
Going into WOC I was pretty happy with my preparations. Performing at WOC is not something that can be accomplished simply in a short in time, it takes years of dedicated trianing, however one key to the puzzle is fine tuning the preparations in order to be in the best shape possible come race day. I avoided sickness and injury which is a large component. But overall I think I did it the best I could for this year, but I have found some things to work on, regarding the preparations and in general towards my training.
One big thing I noted before the race was how ‘flat’ I felt. I think I had rested perhaps a little too much, and I maybe missed one key speed session prior to the races in order to remove the stiffness in the legs. However, I still managed a really stable middle distance race and finished in 26th position. I was only 3 minutes and 6 seconds after the winning time, which is progress on the last individual race I prepared for which was in the World Cups in Tasmania earlier this year. I lost significant time on the long leg, running a little too much in terrain and I felt the speed drop towards the end. As a result I missed that ‘kick’ in the last controls which is so important in middle distance. But on the whole, it was a nice day and a performance I am reasonably happy with!
Tim seriously injured himself the day before in the middle distance, dislocating his shoulder for the third time this year! Luckily Gene was with us and stepped up to run first leg. His preparations were not exactly optimal, and I could sense that he was quite nervous before the race. But he did an absolutely fantastic race, controlling his technique and the situation to come back in 12th position. Read about his race here. Shamus and I then did stable races (mine was actually quite average, but it was enough on the day), so we finished up in 16th position. The best ever result for a NZ 3-man relay team, which is pretty cool!
I ran the WOC long distance last year and I really suffered then, struggling with the distance and physicality of the course. This year I wanted to do better, and I thought that my overall increase in training volume would have had some dividends. Turns out, it didn’t or not very much. This year I finished in 46th position, a few places better than last year but still a monumental 28 minutes 27 seconds behind the winner. I am pretty disappointed with this, but I kind of realised that it will take some time and numerous more long races before I can even push for the entire racing time. I went into this race almost in fear of how long and tough it would be. I took a conservative approach in the beginning, which meant that I set a rather pathetic tempo from the start. I never managed to increase it, which I wanted to do. You cannot run conservatively in a long distance, you must push from the beginning which I failed to do. My orienteering was pretty good, apart from a stupid mistake in the butterfly and not picking the best lines all the time. The long distance this year was another tough day in the office, but also another big learning experience so I guess I can take that as a positive!
I am not a ‘beast’…yet, that was confirmed at WOC, but I am making progress in my training and orienteering. It is so demanding at the top level, again made more difficult with limited support by our federation, but that is the orienteering world I live in and as I have said before, it is all about making the most of the situation we are in. Playing the hand of cards the best way possible, even if the hand is not the best. It was inspiring to see Lucas and other younger guys do so well, emphasising that the good feelings do come again, it just takes time and a whole lot of hard work! One big bonus from this WOC is that NZ will move into the next division, meaning that we get two spots at WOC next year in Sweden. This makes it much more exciting as there will be more spots for us to compete for, and ultimately more kiwis on the start line.
I have learnt so much preparing for and competing at WOC this year. Now begins thoughts towards the future. One thing I will like to try is to spend a longer period in NZ to build a higher physical capacity. I think if I am to bridge the gap to the winning margins then I must become so much fitter, stronger and faster! It takes time, but I believe that significant gains can be made whilst being based in NZ for a longer period of time, especially with the optimal, summer training conditions we have there during the European off-season. Also a big motivator for me is spending time with kiwis, especially my family whom I haven’t seen for 5 months. I noticed this when I was in NZ in January-February, and I think is a big component for me to achieve what I want to achieve.
But that is the end of the WOC2015 project, and I move onto to other things. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and continue to support me. There are so many that I couldn’t possibly name them all, but just know that it makes such a big difference! Now it is less than 40 days until I head back to NZ, via the Australian Champs. It will be a pretty busy schedule till then with Night Hawk, DM and SM and also launching a new project at work. But I am really looking forward to heading home for the entire NZ summer, to see family and friends again!