Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Orienteering on Newcastle Island

After Sage Stomp, I had a busy but good week. I got lots of errands and work done, got in some good training, kicked Gary's ass on the road bike, you know, all the usual things. :)

So, by the time the weekend hit, I was ready for some great but tough orienteering up on Newcastle Island which is just off of Nanaimo. However, on the Saturday morning, I was greeted with a flat tire on my car. Luckily, John, a friend and fellow orienteer, was also going up to the events and just got my message from the previous night. As one of my lugnuts was seized and thus, I couldn't remove the wheel, John came by and picked me up.

A short ride and ferry crossing on the 'harbour pickle' ferry and we arrived. The weekend is put on by the Victoria Orienteering Club and consists of two courses; one on Saturday and on Sunday. There were four categories to race in ranging from beginner to advanced and the winner in each would have the best combined time between the two days.

My main competitor for the weekend was Thomas Nippen, a very skilled and fast orienteer who trains with the Greater Vancouver Orienteering Club. I think in all of the orienteering events that I have done, I have never been able to beat Thomas even in a fun training event. So, I had some stiff competition.


After a nice warm-up run, Thomas and I worked out that he would run first and I would leave him a good time buffer so that we wouldn't overlap in our course. Starting closely behind someone is definitely an advantage since you can shave off course time if you manage to catch the person who will be giving away some route choices and control locations simply by their presence. However, since I don't particularly like to follow at all, I wanted to leave a big enough buffer that I would be on my own and allow myself to make all my own decisions. Thomas left the start and once I arrived I started in with an 8 minute buffer which I thought would be more than enough.

While I won't describe the whole course, I will say that I had one of my best runs ever. I was really focused, raced extremely smart, and was just dialed in on the map. One of the things that helped me was in the warm-up, Thomas gave me some great tips that were particularly relevant for this terrain. Since the bush is so thick with salal in areas, you are forced to really slow down which gives you an aerobic rest and time to read the map. So, once you hit any open areas or trails, you need to book it as hard as possible to gain time. This was an awesome tip since, in the past, I would really tend to work out my route on the trails and slow down. While slowing down on the trails can still be useful in certain terrain to take in the map, it's not the way to go if the bush is rough.

Everything was just going well and once I got to Control 9, I had Thomas in my sights! I couldn't believe it! I had almost gained 8 minutes! I pushed hard to the next control and finally caught him. From here, it was a push to control 11 and 12 and then into the finish. Thomas managed to pull away going to control 12 due to a slightly longer but easier route choice, but I was still super happy to run in just behind him and take 1st place.

Day 2

Day 2 did not go nearly as well for me. At the beginning of the course, Thomas and I both agreed that we would do a chase start; Thomas would start 8 minutes after me so if he caught me and finished first, he would win the weekend overall. I agreed and headed out on the course first knowing that he would be pushing hard behind me for the win. I hit the first control bang on but then had trouble locating the second control. I didn't feel quite as dialed and also made the mistake of not picking suitable 'attack points'. 'Attack points' are features that are close to the control that you navigate to first and then 'attack' the control by that known feature. Instead, I used the 'I'll just run into it' technique on a couple of controls which just never works well. I had another similar mistake at control 6 and coming out of control 7, I made a location error which took me on a much less preferred line that the one I had intended. At this point, I had made enough mistakes that I knew that Thomas would be right behind me.
I came into control 9, punched, and was just 30 feet away from the control when I saw Thomas coming. Shit. I knew that he had me then. From here to the trail was thick salal and while Thomas seemed to follow me at first, he started to pick his own line and was soon out of sight. I got to a trail, put on a hard push, and then only to blow it by again not attacking the control well (I was looking for a rootstock in a sea of many). I eventually found it, knew that Thomas was way ahead of me by now, and slowly picked off the last controls.
Lesson 500,000,000 (same as almost all my previous lessons): never give up or slow down
I came into the finish and Thomas was nowhere to be seen! Apparently, he missed the control that he saw me at, went all the way to the trail, and had to go back in. This was a big mistake and while he still ended up with a better time for the day, I ended up having the best combined time for the weekend!
Thanks very much to Richard and the Lay family, to Alan Philip, and to everyone who helped make Newcastle another successful weekend. Hope to see you there next year!


Thomas Nipen said...

Hey thanks for the race! Really impressive day 1 run -- national caliber orienteering for sure! Checking my GPS I noticed that my relocation on #9 lost me 8 minutes, so if you were to have had a clean race after #9 you probably would have won day 2 as well. Hope to race against you soon Todd!

Anonymous said...

Way to go Todd! You actually made an Orienteering race sound exciting! It even sounded better than the Pens vs the Wings series. Bryan from the MOMAR