Wednesday, 20 February 2013

European Ski-O Champs

With a week or so to go to the European Ski-O Champs, I decided to get a late entry for the sprint and middle races.

W21E middle distance
I immediately regretted the decision when I realised the terrain was far hillier than I first thought. But Ski-O seems to be excellent training for MTBO so it was worth going. I was also one of the team leaders for Norway again so ended up helping for the Sprint Relay, Long and Relay races. In addition I had a boyfriend to support (who later won two gold's, one silver and two bronze).

First was the middle race, around the highest 'mountain' in Latvia, Gaizinkalns, which stands 61.6m higher than the hills surrounding it, although it's actual height is over 300m.

The course was long for a middle (in comparison to those I've done this season), 7.4km with 250m of climb. Essentially the more climb on a course equals higher chance of crashing/falling/penguin steps!
So needless to say, I was nervous about the challenges the course the would bring.

The first controls were ok. I took a longer route to 5 by going left, but to avoid the best route which had a steep climb on it. Being an early starter meant the step hills would be narrow making life much harder for me, so I opted to go up the hill with the gentlest incline. Control 8 was possibly one of the worst on the course, I took a wrong path for 30 secs, and also couldn't stop at the junction with the control so ended up disappearing off down the hill for a minute or so!

On the 13th control, mixing in with my 32-36th place splits was a little gem! 19th fastest on that leg, mainly due to being able to navigate in the technical sections! The next controls were ok again, so more crashes and falls, and surviving some of the icy descents. The end of the course had a sting in the tail with a small loop around which included several steep steep hill climbs, just to finish off my arms in case the planners didn't think I'd be tired enough by that time!

A few days later was the sprint distance with the start and finish immediately in front of our cabins. I was looking forward to this race, as there was due to be 70% wide pisted tracks which means I can maintain speed and move a bit quicker!

W21E sprint (solid line = race route, arrows = re-race route)
After some hassle at the start, I messed up the first control losing 40 seconds but missing the junction. I then opted for the wider track route to number 2 but was met with a steep climb right at the end. I made some further mistakes to 6 and 7 but didn't lose a great deal of time here. I also finished 45% behind the leader, a vast improvement over the middle distance's 80%.

The following day after the relay I headed back out on the sprint course to test route choices. It's not very often in Orienteering that one gets the chance to re-race the course in the same conditions. I leapt at the chance and decided to take alternative route choices to the actual race and was pleased to finish in 18.44, nearly two mins quicker than the actual race and 35% behind the leader. The main areas where I saved time were controls 1 and 2, 6 and 7, 11 and 13. It was fascinating to see the difference between route choices when my skiing speed was the same. I also found I was more confident going round the course again as I knew there was nothing out there I couldn't ski. I got to spend a bit more time getting to grips with skidding out of narrow tracks onto wide ones and vice versa.

The next day I also re-re-raced the course, but new snow overnight slowed the conditions so I was 20 seconds slower than the re-race. Interestingly the first few controls I was 30 seconds up, but thereafter I was making the tracks again as no-one else had been around those tracks, so I lost a few seconds on each control. I would think, if the conditions had been the same, that I would have skied faster still.