Thursday, 10 July 2014

From flat, wet and crowded streets in Trento to very hilly and rocky terrain in Campomulo

Tomorrow I will run the WOC-middle distance, one of the highlights every year. But first, some words about the Danish silver-medal in the Sprint-relay.

The sprint-relay in Trento was a crazy experience because of a lot of things. Of course the format of the sprint-relay with many people racing around in narrow streets combined with challenging courses with forkings is creating a lot of extra nerves before and during the race than I'm used to. Add a lot of rain, making the streets slippery as hell, and a lot of locals in the streets, making it difficult not to run one person or more down during your race. But the most difficult thing for me during the race was the fact that we had a map-TURN and not map-CHANGE...
Emma did a good job on first leg sending me out in the lead some seconds before the chasers. I did well in the beginning, but was very careful in my running, trying not to slip when I was turning. Going into 3rd control through a small passage, I crashed into 2 men blocking the passage because they didn't move, even though I was shouting. They were very angry and shouted after me, but what the f... can you do besides continuing, when your running for WOC-medals? Actually I took a routechoice to 4th control going a lot around into the park, but I wanted to avoid running and turning in the narrow streets.
At the arena passage I was still alone in front, but even though I was well aware that we should have a map-turn, I didn't turn my map. Instead I threw it in the map-boxes designed for the finish and kept running looking for my new map, like in the sprint final in Venice. But nothing was there and suddenly I realized my mistake, and turned back to find my old map. Luckily two organizers was looking for my map in box, and they found they right one fast, and I could continue the race, without loosing more than 8-10 seconds. But I was pretty chocked, that I was able to do something that stupid, and I was struggling to find the control again. Towards the end I was caught by Yannick Michiels and he was running much faster and being more offensive in his running around corners, and I realized that maybe I was going too slow. He had the same forking in the end and I was able to follow him the last controls, finishing in 2nd place.
Right after the race I didn't know what to feel about my performance because, beside my stupid mistake, I had run a clean and very safe race, and were still in front of our biggest opponents. But maybe also too safe race and not offensive enough? I thought that maybe I have had the some short forkings, and when I followed Sørens race on 3rd leg I realized that he had the long ones. He did a good job though, still being  in front of Switzerland towards the end, but then missed a passage, loosing 10 seconds, and then having a long forking in the end, loosing 8-10 seconds.We had been in front all the relay but then suddenly, due too some mistakes and some long forking in the wrong leg, we were 18 seconds behind Switzerland.
Maja did a fantastic last leg, being clearly the strongest in the end. But she had long forking in the beginning and the gap to Switzerland was too big, so even though her finish was extremely strong, we were poor 2,8 seconds behind the winners.
Still a great results for us, taking the first Danish relay-medal for 10 years, but we were so close to the gold...

I think when you have a sprint-relay one of the most important things is to have forkings that don't differ too much in time. Or at least that the time difference on all the used combintions for one leg is very small. Because it is clearly an advantage to have long forkings in the 1st and 2nd leg, being able to run behind catching time on all the people with short forkings, fx when they slow down in turns and avoid people, or do small hesitations/mistakes. The advantage of being behind in the 3rd and 4th leg is much smaller, because the runners are much more "spread out"
, and you can't "run on backs" in the same way. We saw that in Imatra, when we were lucky with the forkings, and we saw it now, when we weren't lucky...
Also I didn't enjoy running in Trento at all! Slippery streets are something which are difficult to avoid sometimes, but the fact that it was almost dangerous to run with all the locals in the street, is a thing that could and should be avoided. It is not good promotion for our sport that we run down the locals, but you can't really blame the runners, because they are trying to run from start-finish as fast as possible, and they should.
Either you should close the city for people, or otherwise you should have hundreds of organizers in the streets, guiding people to avoid these dangerous situations. Or maybe you shouldn't even organize it in a city-centre like Trento, because it wasn't comfortable to run around a corner at all...

Well, I can't really complain about having 2 WOC-medals in two races here in Italy, and still more chances to come.
Because tomorrow I will run the middle-distance and saturday the relay in the tough terrains around Campomulo. I know parts of the terrain, because I have been running on the old map 2 times (training camp with the national team in 2006 and 2009). I remember in 2006 I thought it to be some of the most challenging and difficult terrain I had ever tried. I also remember that the local orienteers called it "Symphony of broken ankles", because of the very rocky underground with holes and trenches from WWI...

The last couple of days I have been feeling really good in the model trainings and I'm really looking forward to race again the next couple of days. The middle-distance is maybe the distance I enjoy mostly, and if I do a good performance my goal about top6 is realistic.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

A dream come true

An individual WOC-medal has been a dream for me for a long time. Maybe I didn't expect it to be in the sprint that I should reach this dream, but nevertheless it was wonderful finally to be at the podium after the sprint in Venice. And in my first WOC-sprint!

I had been looking forward to yesterday since I decided to focus on sprint instead of long distance this year. I have always loved real forest-orienteering and if you have asked me 5 years ago if I should some day take a WOC sprint-medal, I would have laughed. But the sprint has developed and is now more or less always placed in urban areas, which makes the challenges quite different from forest orienteering. And over the last years I have also fallen in love with this kind of orienteering, and have discussed with myself several times if I wanted to focus more on it. Now it was time, and I haven't regret the decision.

One thing I like about the sprint is that a lot of the technical training can be done at home. In general looking at sprint-courses and learn how to see the fastest (and often shortest) routechoice in high speed is an important skill. But also looking at old maps from the embargoed area, and if there is no old map, maybe make your own and make courses, so you learn how to navigate in excactly this area.

In this case the old orienteering-map of Venice is in 1:7500, and even though most of the streets are on the map, it's not very accurate.
So to be perfectly prepared I decided that I wanted to make a new map to help me, but also the rest of the Danish Team. I have spent several months of this map. Most areas were quite easy to map because of good overview-pictures and extensive google street/canal-view. Going around Venice from google street-view and learning how the different passages and streets would look like have also been a great help to be able to navigate faster through the city. But some areas didn't have this feature, but from pictures of fx museums and the Arsenal taking by tourists, I have been able to map every corner of the embargo. It was very unlikely that we would go into these areas, but I wanted to be prepared for everything.

This is how my map looks like:

And this is how the competition map looks like:

So if you want to know how the Danes managed to do so well, this is a part of the answer. Since the beginning of the year, we have met every monday evening, and looking at different sprint-courses from all over the world. And we have been having competition about drawing the best routechoices fastest, to teach the eye to see it. After I finished the map in the end of May, we have been making WOC-sprint-final courses to each other every week. 

My race yesterday was close to perfect. I took all the best routechoices, except loosing 1-2 seconds to 13th, and lost 5 seconds on 15th, searching for the control too early. And I was able to execute my routechoices well, because most of the places I knew how the streets and passages would look like.
Of course the extra fences from control 5-8 very tricky, and the fact that the course went out of the embargoed area 2 times(!), but otherwise I knew exactly what to do all the time.
I wasn't my best physical day though. I have always been struggling to run in hot conditions, and yesterday was no exception. But I fought all the way and even though I wasn't strong enough in the end to fight for gold, I'm very pleased with my performance. Of course I was only 4 seconds from becoming World Champion, and it's impossible not to want more when you are that close. But I will get other chances...

And when your not able to take the gold yourself, there is nothing better than to see a team-mate and a very good friend on the top of the podium. We have pushed each other very much this spring in training and competition, and hopefully this will be the start of a new generation of Danish male-orienteers taking WOC medals.

Already tomorrow is a new chance for the Danish Team with the Sprint-relay in Trento. We have a very strong team, and with Maja on last leg anything can happen!