Monday, November 01, 2010

PWT China

Flying half way round the world, to a strange foreign land, for a week of sprint orienteering? Oh, go on then!

When the opportunity to visit Beijing for a series of PWT races including the Chinese Championships arose I grabbed it with both hands. These are the opportunities that serve as small rewards for the hard work of the last year, and hopefully act as an inspirational springboard for the winter of training ahead.
Having never been outside Europe I was excited by the prospect of my first proper jetlag to deal with. Once we arrived at our hotel I dealt with it the only way I know how – by going for a run. A short 30minute jog to explore the local area. We were staying on the campus of the “Beijing Sport University” which featured 3 outdoor athletics tracks, 12 basketball courts, beach volleyball, tennis, climbing walls plus loads of indoor facilities. The whole place was buzzing with people and energy with impromptu rollerblading classes happening in car parks. A little later Scott and BJ arrived and we went out for another run, this time to a park a mile down the road where we could do some orienteering training.

The next day was the Chinese Relay championships. Us Westerners were not allowed to take part, but as the area was the same as for the following days sprint race we were allowed to run a training course along side them. It was a strange park area built as part of the Olympics (but not used for any events as far as I’m aware). It was mostly flat with more lakes and bridges and lots of big tarmac paths. The strangest thing was that every lamppost on the bigger paths had a loudspeaker broadcasting from it! It varied from classical music to a disembodied voice telling you about the park but you could easily imagine it spouting communist propaganda. Very surreal!

Before the race the next day was a lavish opening ceremony for the championships. This involved lots of speeches and a flag ceremony.  The race itself was on the flatter part of the park and involved mostly running straight through mixed parkland. I started well and was in 3rd place at the control before the spectator control but I rushed out of this one in the wrong direction and lost 15s and a bit of speed, eventually finishing 6th, 40s behind Mattias Muller – very similar to WOC. Another promising result and a good experience to build on.

Inside the "Water Cube"
Before the second race of the trip we had some serious sightseeing to attend to. The “Summer Palace” was fairly unimpressive due to the thick smog (a theme of the first few days of the trip) but a trip to the Olympic venues of the Birds Nest stadium and the Water Cube was very nice. The atmosphere in the Water Cube was awesome, very relaxed with lots of video footage of the Olympics playing in the background. One of the highlights of the trip for me has to be going for a run on the Great Wall. It was snowing at the time so there were less tourists than there might have been at other times but we still got at least one “Run Forrest, Run” comment – no escaping them!

Race 2 was the Chinese middle distance championships in a forest park to the west of the city. My middle distance results have been fairly unspectacular this year, so I was just aiming for a clean run with this one. The area felt a bit like Spain, with lots of semi-open spur gully terrain and old farming terraces. I ran very cautiously, never pushing the pace which seemed to pay off – I only made one wobble in the circle and despite finishing 5 minutes behind Kvaal I finished in 7th place as a lot of people made mistakes. This gained me 1 more WRE point than the sprint race so I guess it was an OK result!

The next day we spectated at the Chinese “100m orienteering” champs in the shadow of the Birds Nest stadium. The finals were 800m long, with a couple of butterflys and a 12 person mass start which made for some exciting racing. After the Chinese races we were asked to take part in a special “Elite” race which none of us were prepared for – we thought we were spending the day sightseeing so that was all the kit we had with us! However we quickly rolled up our jeans and stripped off the fleeces hats and gloves for the race. Nobody was taking it that seriously, but I’m going to forget that little detail as I beat Mattias, Kvaal and Scott to win my race!

The final race was a “PWT special” back at the Summer Palace we visited earlier in the week. This was a great little area of temples, rocky outcrops, hills and paths. My race didn’t go that well as I didn’t adapt to the non-ISSOM map very well, and I rushed some of the important route choices. It was the first “difficult” sprint race I’ve done for a while and it served me a lesson which I’ll have to learn this winter. Rasmus Djurhuus had a great race here to take the 500EURO prize from the big favourites. Ida Bobach completed a clean sweep of all the races in the womens tour.

After a final trip to the famous “Silk Market” and a great meal at a Thai restaurant owned by one of our hosts from Nordic Ways it was time for us each to head back West: inspired, enlightened and with more friends than we arrived with. We really were treated amazingly, from our hosts taking us to great restaurants to the endless stream of photos we posed for and autographs we gave to the Chinese juniors. Thanks to PWT, Nordic Ways and the Orienteering Association of China for giving us this wonderful opportunity!

No comments: