Friday, 10 May 2013

Wanted: Superhuman navigation skills.

Team Hadeland OL!
Wanted: superhuman navigation skills.
Must have excellent direction sense and be able to read map in technical terrain. Should not need to stop to read map, or mispunch!

With the European Champs approaching fast (those counting will know its a little over 5 weeks away), HJ and I decided to make the most of the excellent MTBO terrain Mora and Rattvik have to offer.

For those who went to the World Cup in 2011, the terrain hasn't changed. It's still rooty, steep, confusing, wet, and fun. Some of the tracks have changed rideability, but mostly, everything out in the forest is medium or slow.

My memories of the World Cup were all the women racing off up the ski track at the start, and then getting into the woods and suddenly thinking 'Sugar honey ice tea, where the fudge am I?' Of course, the next 5 minutes consisted of one rider hesitantly making their way in a direction, being followed by 30 or so women, before realising the map still didn't fit. Amusing in hindsight, a little like watching junior relay events when all the competitors stop at the start kite! I'm ashamed to say that I was part of the mayhem out there.
Rocks and roots, it's bumpier than it looks!

I went into the training knowing the pitfalls and traps of terrain like this. I knew to be careful. To always plan ahead. But thinking about how to MTBO, and imaging oneself doing it successfully, is far easier than actually being out there, as the map board shakes and rotates, as one clatters their way over the countless roots and uneven ground. Suddenly, just reading the map became hard, let alone trying to pick out a path to take.

And it is here that my job description comes in. Superhuman navigation skills, would be very useful here. But not just navigation. A superhuman sense of direction is what is needed most. Because, if you can ride in the right direction, actually getting to the control becomes a little easier. The map is one of those where, you look at it and think 'ok, there's a lot of paths, going NW-SE, and SW-NE, plus a number at 45° angles to these'. But, when the map gets rotated, all of a sudden, the tracks look exactly the same again! So when the mapboard is shaking, and the bike is bouncing, just trying to pick out a good route becomes nearly impossible. Just riding in the general direction for the approximate amount of time becomes the best plan of attack.

One of our courses

Not only did we decide to challenge ourselves mentally, but we opted for a physical session too, with several sprint courses with a few novel twists. We even made life harder and had no controls out. Meaning, I couldn't just ride blindly in the right direction and hope to see my control. I actually had to navigate. But, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. In fact, apart from a mispunch at 7, it was pretty good out there. There were no headless chicken moments, no 'I'm lost' moments, and actually, no 'this doesn't feel right' moments. I simply eased off the gas a little when I needed to get things right (which was most of the time), and pedalled harder when I knew it was possible (not very often).

Overall, it was a good little training session we did, and I'm already looking forward to the next one :-)