Saturday, 22 September 2012

World Cup Long race

The World Cup Long race was the final race of the season and my 5th competition this year (out of 9).

I woke up this morning feeling incredibly lethargic and tired. The ride to the start didn't help the feeling, but it was a nice morning for 8km. However, it was cold. I decided to race in my arm warmers and thermal as I hate getting cold, and as I hit the first deep stream crossing, I was glad for my choice.

I started conservatively, and got the first control well. The next 5 controls were something of a mess. My head wasn't with the navigation at all, and I lacked motivation to push hard. Clearly the last 4 weeks after WOC, and little training have taken their toll on my legs and brain. I kept stopping to check where I was and to make sure I was on the path I wanted. I didn't make any mistakes but the hesitations were costing time. To the 5th, I made a right hash of my route choice, going left, then cutting back across the straight line to the right. I ended up riding close to an extra 2.5km, which on a 1:20thou map doesn't look too bad. Until you start counting the km's! 

Shortly after I saw Karolina LTU who started 3 mins behind. She was a little lost and my route out of the control led her in to it. It gave me the kick up the backside I needed and finally I found some motivation. It took her from control 7 to 16, a good 1/3 of the course to actually catch me, but the doglegs in and out of controls told me she was slowly gaining. We came together at the end of the butterfly, and then alternated navigating and riding. For some controls Karolina led, and for others I did. Riding together gave me some aggression for the final 30% of the course, and finally I found some flow to my orienteering. A small mistake towards the end lost me 15 seconds which I didn't pull back in the the last 500m. 

I finished in 17th place, a small improvement on yesterday and a very mixed race - 40% bad, 20% better and 40% good. 

But, despite disappointing results, I now know what Estonia looks like! Knowing how to ride in the terrain and the mapping styles, the rideability and contours is an advantage for next year's WOC over those who didn't come to these races. There's still a lot of work to do in preparation for next year, but the ski-O season will provide a welcome break from biking. 


Friday, 21 September 2012

World Cup Sprint

The final round of the 2012 World Cup is as far east in Estonia as one can get before hitting Russia. In fact, the border is less than a 1km away from our accomodation in a small village, Varska.

The sprint race was held early this afternoon around a small picturesque town named Rapina, about 22km north of Varska. A typical eastern european town with houses spread out, numerous parklands and even a small castle.

The map the organisers provided showed a fairly basic looking area, but I had a sneaky feeling the town would be more complicated and the map would be detailed between the buildings.

I prepared fairly well for the event but as usual, it always comes down to the race on the day. With urban sprints races not being my strength, I was anxious to have a good race. The first control was as expected, but I then lost 10 seconds to the 2nd by going into a farm yard rather than turning right infront of the buildings. A quick turn around and I was back on my way. The next few controls went without a glitch, but the early 10 sec mistake dropped me from 6th to 18th. I pulled back a few places through the easier forest section, but then was unsure of the best route choice to the 6th control. I didn't want to go back the way I entered and then go the long way round on the road, so instead I took the path that followed the straight line between controls. At this point had I turned right at the main track instead of left I would have met the road 50m away and gained a few seconds. But in turning left I then cut across some more fields and ditches losing 30 seconds despite the route being shorter. Speed is everything in a sprint race, and I was still a little in 'Hungary mode' where going straight was fast.

I dropped back into 18th here and was then met with the long blast-it-fast sections on the road. The controls looked more complicated on the map than they were, so the fast riders had a real advantage here. I didn't lose anymore time until a brief directional problem to the 10th where I couldn't find the track I wanted and did 2 sides of a triangle, again losing 20 seconds.

The 13th (always the 13th!) was my biggest problem. I was going straight, weaving a little through the out of bounds flowerbeds, but keeping the direction good. As a result of cutting through I had a few tree branches to deal with. One tree was particularly overhanging and I (with all my wisdom) thought brushing between the two larger branches would be a piece of cake. Sadly the tree had other ideas and wasn't going to move. I went through the tree branches while the bike stayed on the other side! As I grabbed it and jumped on I realised there was a problem with the cassette/derailleur/chain. The back wheel wasn't turning. I couldn't work it out until I saw the back skewer was undone and the wheel pulled out. I put it back in and carried on.

I finished 18th, but, as in Hungary, the results were pretty tight. Last year I was 9th in a sprint race 2 minutes + behind the winner. Today 18th and 2 minutes behind. The level of competition really has got better in the womens class and every small mistake counts. Despite making some mistakes, I'm pleased to have been riding fairly well and always refocussing after a problem. Normally one mistake leads straight into the next, so to refocus in such a high intensity stressful environment is a plus.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

MTBO Falun

When I started 2012 I hadn't planned to do many MTBO events. WOC was on the cards, but really just go there and race rather than try to do anything special.

My MTBO races this year are as follows:
Cannock MTBO (UK)
Swedish Champs Sprint/Middle/Long
WOC Sprint/Middle/Long/Relay
and now the MTBO in Falun yesterday.

The Falun event was for me a training race. There were no medals to be won. No national anthem to be heard. A field of 5 women on the elite course. And a chance to ride my new 'local' forest. Get to grips more with the roots and rocks.

Ironically I spent a portion of the race wishing I had: a) a back tyre with grip that wasn't bald, and b) a full suss bike. Bumpy bumpy bumpy!

From the start I didn't quite feel 'in the zone' mentally. I was hesitant to the first control, and lacking aggression there after when biking through the rough stuff. I got my direction wrong on the way to the second and ended up slightly in the OOB area. I had crossed a road but couldn't see it on the map, and looking up I could see the buildings that I thought I wanted. It was only when I saw the pond, I realised the road wasn't on the map. It turned out that the road was on the map it didn't have a border to it which meant it was impossible to see the difference between paved and open. My biggest mistake was on the way to control 8, where I missed the left turn and ended up on the edge of the out of bounds area. I relocated and found my way the 30m back to where I wanted to be. I followed the track, crossed a stream and then ended up at a junction I shouldn't be at. Relocated again, decided not to bike down the river/track/mud-fest and went around instead.

The race was wrong route choice after wrong route. I was seeing the fastest ones and knowing they were fastest, but then always taking the slower routes. Mentally it's a game to not get distracted by my bad decisions. By the 13th control, things started to pick up. I was biking more efficiently and building a bit of speed. I was climbing more aggressively and taking the faster route choices.

In reality it was only the middle section that was lacking from 8 to 13. It's something to work on over the winter. Often in my 'less motivated' races I learn more about my orienteering than in those I do well.

The course also involved two downhill sections which were timed as 'King of DH'. I was 3rd on the first in 3.33, the winner took 3.20, while I won the second in 1.32 with 2nd place in 1.34.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Moving ...

After WOC, I flew straight back to Scandinavia to move into an apartment with my boyfriend and three other Norwegians.

After 2 days of packing his stuff (of which some is returning to Norway, some got thrown and most got kept), we were just about ready to move stuff to the new apartment. A brief trip back to Norway for a wedding, and we were back in Falun moving boxes and bags and skis and bikes and ski repair stuff and bike repair stuff and desks and furniture and curtains and pictures and 500 DVD's.

It was an epic move. My stuff consists of two medium sized bags containing clothes, bike stuff and tools. The rest of the 12 car journeys was Hans Jørgen's! We found close to 50 ski hats, so if anyone needs any for the winter then you know where to find free ones ... ;-)

I'm now living here in Falun for the next 10 months and then we'll see what happens. I say 'living' here, but in reality I'm starting to live something of a gypsy lifestyle travelling around from Norway to Sweden and back again!

WOC Long distance

It's about a week and bit late, but I've been pretty busy!

After my mechanical in the middle distance race, I dropped from 4th to 25th, so I knew I was riding fairly well despite not having done a huge amount of training. Originally I had planned to focus on the relay first leg and have a good race before cruising the long distance at the end of the week. The plan changed after the middle, so I focussed on the long race and cruised the relay instead.

The day of the long race was marginally cooler than the rest of the week. With a 5km ride to the start and quarantine starting at 1130, I knew I would have 30mins or so to chill at the start. I had managed to focus myself for all the races bar the relay and I could feel the mental fatigue creeping in during the morning of the race. I wasn't as nervous as on previous days, and I had no idea how my assault on the long distance would go.

By the time I reached the start line I was in the right state of mind again. I changed my route choice to the first control and opted for a longer but 'faster'  route. In Hungary, with such dry weather there was little difference between medium, slow and difficult biking tracks/paths, so in fact, going on the 'faster' tracks was slower if you had to bike further. A small mistake to the second control when I turned left too soon, but judging by the GPS I realised before many of the others who made the same mistake.

At 2 I met my 3 min woman, and then had caught her by 3. We rode together for a few controls but with different butterfly forkings I saw a chance to get a gap. The winner Susanna Laurila caught me on my second loop as she was on her first, and I was impressed with her graceful speed as she got a small gap on one of the small hills. Once back at the central butterfly for the 3rd time I was back on my own and so it remained for the rest of the course, which from there on was just a matter of fast riding rather than involving any navigation. The main navigation consisted of right or left route choices.

The map change was 80% of the way around, as we entered Veszprem from the north. I was fatiguing quickly at this point and struggling to get any speed on the fast, flat, marked sections which totalled 1.5km. I lost a few places here and a minute or so. By the final control I was down by a second to one of the swiss girls, but a couple of track standing punches and Team GB cheering gained me a couple of seconds to finish a second up on her, in 9th place.

9th is my personal best result in the long distance, and I'm pleased considering my 2 months of training for WOC revolved around sprint and middle training. I certainly felt tired towards the end, but thats the nature of lack of long distance training.

Impressively a mere 10 minutes separated the top 32 women. A close time gap I have not known before, and even more impressive when you think that the majority of competitors wouldn't have been caught or catching others as in other years. The MTBO field has certainly got stronger in recent years, but the nature of the flat Veszprem terrain allowed tight competition and close results.

I'm pleased to be 5 minutes down this year, compared to 30 mins last year and near front of a tightly packed group.