Thursday, 23 August 2012

WOC Middle

After yesterday's result, I wondered if I could do it again.

Go for it, I thought.

And thats what I did. Until it all went wrong!

Picking up the map at the start I realised my expectations of a course full of route choice was incorrect, and that the course wouldn't contain as much climb as advertised. It was also a bikers course full of fast riding and easy decisions.

For the first 8 controls everything was going really well and I was neck and neck with a group of riders in 3rd-5th place. Surprising considering I'm not a fast rider.

To the 9th control there were many small paths leading into the forest and all were vague crossings. I came to one that seemed to be in the right place and a little bigger than the others, so I took it. Only to find it stopped 100m in. I ended up pushing/biking/hacking and charging my way through the scrubby forest only to keep finding tracks running perpendicular to my direction of travel and kept thinking one of them would be the track I was looking for. Eventually after 2-3 mins I dropped out on my track and made my way to the control. No real biggie I thought, just keep pushing and you can still get a result.

Sadly I didn't respect the terrain. Sticks and stones were flying everywhere as I was biking aggressively. Any one of them could have flicked up and caused some damage. What did the damage was a poor gear change moment in the same place as Pippa and Marika Hara. As the chain sucked it pulled my front mech round and resulted in being unable to ride in my big ring (this was the first time I had needed my small ring in the course). The damage was done, the bike was irrepairable on the course and I kept pushing but with the bike making some horrific noises. With the only accessible front gear and half my back gears not working I could either twiddle my legs or beast my legs, neither an appropriate choice.

Eventually I made it to the finish but having lost 3-4 mins on biking time and a 2-3 minute mistake. Bugger. Still at least it gets me worked up for the relay.

WOC Sprint

I wish I could give away my secrets. But I won't! Something has clicked these last few months. Ski-Orienteers might call it the 'Love Factor', others might call it luck. I prefer to call it preparation.

On the morning of the sprint race I was feeling nervous, but with focus. Usually a good combination and it's rare I can feel like this two days in a row. I knew what to expect from the course. Technical orienteering, lots of cutting across the fast open land, with some challenging controls requiring planning and care. I knew that maintaining focus would be crucial to success, but also that everyone would make mistakes. The winners would be those who held it together the longest.

In the start looking at the map I realised that flat biking and avoiding the hills (which I remembered to be brutal from 2009) would be the key to my race.

I was surprised to catch my 2 minute woman from Sweden at the 3rd control. We alternated the navigation for some controls before I pulled a small gap. Riding with someone certainly helped us both to increase our speed and maintain control of the orienteering.

The course was as expected. Plenty of short cutting and route choice being the key of several legs. Having coached for 2 weeks in Scotland, I found I was on top of my foot o skills which helped no end. Several other training sessions from Scotland helped too!!! But I can't give those away either :-)

I made my first error going to the 8th control where as I cut across I drifted to the left, but I realised quickly and knew I had to turn right to find the control. Then again on the 13th, I lost concentration and didn't have a full plan. As I rode, I became confused with the paths, and opted to ride around the only path I could see on the ground and which I knew where it was on the map. The junctions before it were too confusing and I risked making a bigger mistake. Instead I played it safe and deliberately carried on biking into the mistake, taking the path further north from the control and then turning back south once I could see my control. I perhaps only lost 20 seconds here, but it was better than losing a minute.

In the final controls I was hurting. I slowed my pace a fraction which allowed me to think more clearly and avoid further mistakes, but it did mean the lead slipped away to 20 seconds or so. But again, better to not make a mistake, than mess up the final controls.

I finished with a 2 minute lead over my nearest competitor and couldn't stop shaking with adrenaline after having had one of the best races of my life. I didn't think it would be enough to win, but I thought a top 6 was within reach. Little did I expect silver, and my first WOC medal. It's been 4 years since I last won a medal, so it's taking a while to sink in!

WOC Long Qualifier

Another hot day. 

As always the Long Qualifier for the women is just a matter of finishing. Although this year, with 73 women over 2 heats, some would miss out on a place in the final. But for the majority of athletes, finishing was the only goal.

I cruised around, losing 3 mins or so through a mistake and a poor route choice. Still, I finished 7th which is reasonable and only about 3 mins down on the heat leader. It puts me in a decent start position for the final.

Once back home, everything came down to focussing on the sprint. Having been focussed in the qualifier for the long, I knew it would be a tough job to do it all over again. The last couple of years I have struggled to focus for races which has resulted in poor results as I’m more easily distracted.

WOC - The Build Up!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a race report. Having decided to take a year away from MTBO to refresh mentally, I’ve not done many races. Throughout the Winter and Spring I was ticking over with training, doing what I wanted rather than having any focus. It was fine for a couple of months to have no pressure or stress but then I started to feel aimless.

In May, a day before the selection deadline, I announced to the selectors I wished to ride at WOC. I’ve always enjoyed MTBO in Hungary, and the World Championships were being held in and around Veszprem where I competed on one area in 2009.

I started training with a goal. A top ten finish in Sprint and/or Middle. In June I moved to Norway for a couple of months to travel around with my boyfriend, train hard and make a map. My first MTBO races came about 3 weeks after I started training properly in the form of the Swedish MTBO Champs in Stockholm. A few bike/leg/brain problems and I knew I was performing poorly in all 3 races. But in the middle there was a glimmer of race focus.

For two months I trained hard. A camp in Finland with some mind blowing maps. Some training in Mora. I was doing more training than ever before - but I’m not going to give the secret away!

Finally things felt like they were clicking into place.

I went home and then coached at Lagganlia/Kincraig for 2 weeks. It was tough finding the balance of training, enough biking and intervals to keep ticking over, usually early in the morning, and not so much shadowing that I did too much training. Fortunately an ankle injury saw me take a few days out which helped keep down the running hours. I managed to stick to the plan. I don’t know what the other coaches thought, but possibly “crazy” and “obsessed” came into it!

Straight after tour I flew out to Budapest for an organised camp with some other teams. The organiser had done a brilliant job of planning one session per day, but with the possibility of more training which was self planned. Again I didn’t give in to temptation and stuck to my training plan, and stayed out of the sun.

Finally we drove to Veszprem and sorted out everything for the arrival of the rest of the team later that evening. With another day of training it was simply a matter of staying calm (being team leader means life is never calm) and out of the sun.

Scandinavian Summer

Sometimes it’s great to do something without giving it much thought.

Two weeks later I was on the plane to Oslo to spend two months in Scandinavian with HJK, mapping, running, MTBO’ing, Jukola, SM MTBO Champs, O-Fest etc. Everything you can cram into 2 months ... I’ll be doing it!

Spending some time in Scandinavia gives me greater opportunities to train for WOC. Having been selected for MTBO WOC in mid May, I’ve increased my training and set some goals. Which is what I need. Having some structure is considerably better than dossing around with training: ‘I’m too tired’, ‘It’s raining’, ‘Too much work’. Most excuses under the sun have been given over the last few months.

But here. The MTBO training opportunities are many. The chance to learn Norwegian. To things I’ve not done before. In previous years I’ve not done as much MTBO training as I needed to perform well. So this is a chance to get some MTBO practice in high quality, mind boggling terrain. 

Of course, to get to the stage of training properly, I had to make some mistakes. The Swedish MTBO champs ... many mistakes. Stupid rookie mistakes. Wandering around a forest and a marsh for 7 minutes. Not something I should do. But yet, I am clearly out of practice and lose my logical MTBO head when the terrain gets a little more technical. 

Then there was Jukola and staying awake all night to be bitten by mosquitoes, and getting wet in the rain. I wasn’t running but was attempting to organise a team of 7 guys! But they usually want to stay in bed at 3am...! The day before Jukola I had been out training around some Finnish roads, which ended in a pretty awesome fast interval session for 2 hours. Just what I needed to clear my head.

New Blog

Given that my website won't work at the moment, I doubt it has for a while but I've been a bit slack with the upkeep, from now on I will use this blog. At least until I can get it working!

I'll transfer across the last few postings.