Friday, May 31, 2013

Domestic O Season 2013

Good Friday to May Day, bank holiday to bank holiday. Five weeks, ten races, all in the UK. That was my domestic season this year. Three sprints, two each of middle, long and relay and a 5km road race. Everything beforehand was mere playing and now it’s done I’m regrouping with another training block before the international season*.

And how did it go? Two disqualifications, one 6th=, a bronze and silver and FIVE golds. Or in pictures:

So all in all, pretty well. In fact, since only one of the #Fail’s was directly my fault, let’s redraw that:

Two mispunches? That is the harsh reality of the results. At the British Relay champs our first leg runner Alan Cherry mispunched when he visited the wrong gaffled control and didn't check his codes. But that does a disservice to Alan, who has been a stalwart of the successful Interlopers relay team in the last couple of years. In fact, the one time he wasn’t available last year we were gubbed and when he ran for Oxford Uni at BUCS this year, they won as well!
So ignoring that and a sloppy mispunch (all my own fault) at the 37th control of the JK Long (out of 38) it was a fairly successful season. I defended my JK Sprint and relay titles (with help from Alan and Oleg on the latter) and added the British Middle and Long distance titles to my CV - not bad for a ‘sprint specialist’.
I’ve added a fair bit more forest work to my training this year and it was nice to see this reflected in my results. That said, the middle distance title was somewhat unexpected. After 9 full seasons in the senior ranks I’ve never bothered the podium in any major middle distance race (JK, British Champs or WOC selection race) - compare that with the Sprint champs where I’ve been a serial podium botherer and you’ll see why I was surprised:

Of course, there were a number of people missing at both of the forest British Championships for various reasons. At the middle distance champs I only had to beat one of the 6 who were ahead of me at the JK (Rhodri) while the fields were even weaker at the Long champs due to the clash with TioMila.

It’s a real shame about the clash with TioMila. My honest feeling is that my middle distance result would have stood up in a stronger field but that my time in the long distance would only have been top five - bronze at best - in a full strength field. However the history books only say who won not who they had to beat and it’s my name on the list for 2013. I’m now in an exclusive club of male orienteers who’ve won the full set of daytime British Titles - Sprint, Middle, Long & Relay. Jon Duncan & Jamie Stevenson are the only other guys to have done this since the sprint champs started 12 years ago. So far, no one has done the full slam by winning the British Night Champs as well. In addition to Jon and Jamie, Oli Johnson and Matt Crane are close with just the Sprint title missing. Indeed Oli missed out on the ‘career slam’ by just one second at last year’s Sprint championships. Craney is somewhat further away (i.e 10,000miles away in Canberra). This leaves the obvious question: Will I ever with the British Night Champs? I think to answer that I need another pie chart:
2014 - unlikely as I think the British Nights is going to clash with the Scottish XC Championships (and more importantly the Trotter Dinner). There is a possible scenario where I get injured mid-winter and choose to hide in the forest rather than getting a hiding at Falkirk.
2015 - possible. The calendar looks more favourable so perhaps I’ll dust off my headtorch and have a go.
2016 - I’m not sure I’m going to look at a map for all of 2016. If I do, it’s highly unlikely to be in England, at night.
2017-2020: the twilight years: lured back to the sport after a year in the mountains perhaps this will be just the kind of domestic challenge I need.
Never - do I think I’ll ever be the best night orienteer in Great Britain (rather than just the best person to go to BNOC)? Probably not (night training not really being my greatest pleasure), so there will always be someone with a better claim than me - they just have to turn up and stop me! An alternative version of ‘never’ could be if Scotland votes for independence next year and I become ineligible for the British title – I’d have to go for the Scottish-slam instead (I don’t think I’ve ever won the senior Scottish Nights title either).
I could of course have made this much neater by winning last year when I did the English National XC/British Nights double (two races in 6 hours totalling ~24km) and only narrowly got beaten by Mark Bown but that’s in the past now and my run that night really didn’t deserve to win either!

On the roads I had a successful run at the Scottish 5km Champs on a Wednesday evening at Silverknowes. In gusty conditions I decided to ignore the clock and try and win the race. After a tactically sound showing I finished second, narrowly beaten by Andrew Butchart who managed to get a gap on me with 1km to go that I couldn’t close despite a 2:46 final kilometre. Andrew has gone on to run a 3:46 1500m (i.e. much faster than I’ll ever run) so I don’t feel too bad about this and the 14:37 I ran in the 5k knocked one whole second off my road PB (and was within a second of my track PB). Those PB’s have always been set in July in the week or so before WOC when I’m in top class physical shape:
So it’s clear to me that when I’m more triangular than rectangular I’ll also be more golden than silver. I think that’s proven by the chart above.

But I think my best run of the domestic season was in the JK Relay. After running 98.7% of the individual days races (plus 1.3% of someone elses course - damn you #37 in the long race) I was feeling pretty beaten up on the morning of the relay. After Alan seemed to lose a lot of time on first leg I’d written off our chances of defending our title but Oleg had a flyer on second leg to give me something to run for - a medal at least. After a fast clean start I’d reeled in and dropped the leaders (a Belgian team and SYO) but still had Gristwood and Crickmore for company. Crickmore got dropped at a gaffle in the second half (Alan had taken one for the team by having the long gaffle on first leg) and I managed to slowly pull away from Graham on the final loop to anchor Interlopers to our third victory in a row.
The fun thing about this was the reaction I got from some of my rivals, particularly the younger guys who I’ve not had many relay battles with. They seemed genuinely surprised by the time I’d run. It made me realise its been a few years since I’ve needed to pull something special out on last leg of a relay. Back when I was a young senior I’d regularly run good leg times in my many battles with ShUOC and SYO – better than anything my other forest results would suggest I was capable of. But in the last few years I’ve had to run far more defensively after my teammates have done the hard work on the early legs so while I’ve been winning relays it’s been somewhat more relaxed. So for me, running 4.5 mins/km to win the JK was normal – for everyone else it might have been a surprise!

*I’m actually publishing this blog at the end of my mid-season training block, en route to the Nordic Orienteering Tour which kicks off in Oslo tomorrow. I hope to update this blog more regularly over the summer with more irreverent chat, unnecessary charts and stories of my successes and failures along the way. All apologies to American ultra runner Dakota Jones for pinching his blog-with-charts style!

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