Wednesday, August 14, 2013

World Games: The Races

The first of three blogs on my World Games experience - my view of my races.

Sprint: Easy and Hard, Fast but Slow

Of course it looks easy, because it was. Any beginner with a few Saturday afternoon introductory events under their belt could have got round without too much bother. But that doesn't mean it's not a valid race. When it's easy it just means you can run more of the course at top speed and the margins become even tighter. And thus, it was also a hard, hard race. The sun was directly overhead and temperatures in the shade were in the 30s. On the long route choice legs I felt slow and tired but unlike at WOC where I panicked a little that I was too slow this time I just relaxed <this is as fast as I can go, so I better just go at this pace and accept the end result>.

Sprinting. Photo: IOF

At the spectator control I heard I had the new fastest time, one second ahead of Khramov. <Ok, that's good but there are still lots of top runners who started after me and Khramov hasn't been on top form this year>. By now I had nearly caught my one-minute man Martins Sirmais of Latvia. As we ran to the 16th control he turned in too soon. I knew he was too early and I carried on to the gap in the thick green where there should be a path to take me to the control. I turned in as soon as the terrain changed - grass now rather than thick bamboo. But this isn't much like a path - and no control at the end. <Damn.> Panic reaction- back out and find the path, back in 10m further on and hey presto, there's the control. <Damage limited.>

Excerpt of the Sprint map. 16 cost me a medal, I didn't notice the green dot in the rough open was separate to the green and turned in before it.

But not enough. That mistake, which flashed past in the blink of an eye, almost certainly cost me my first international medal. I finished in 6th place, a mere four seconds behind bronze medalist Jerker Lysell. My split at the spectator control held up well with only eventual winner Mathias Kyburz going faster.

Usually 6th place would gain recognition as a "podium" result however at the World Games only the top three are rewarded so I had to take consolation for my lost medal by celebrating my first "pseudo-podium".

Sprint map: without route - with route

The next day was the middle distance in a recreational park SW of Cali. I tried to race it like a double length sprint but I lost some time fighting in the green and in the heat. Despite this I finished in 14th place which I was reasonably happy with.

Middle map: part one without route - part two without route - part one with route - part two with route

In Colombia thicket means THICK!

Finally came the relay which was probably the biggest aim of the week for the British team. We know we can sprint, we know we are all in good shape (all getting a top 10 individual result at both WOC and World Games) and we know the new Mixed Sprint Relay is a discipline where we want to fight for medals in the coming years. But none of us have ever run a sprint relay before so there was still an air of uncertainty as we lined up on Sunday.

I ran the first leg, the same as at WOC. However my tactics at WOC were quite different. In the technical Finnish forest I wanted to be near the front but not leading so I could observe the race and benefit from the other teams. In a sprint situation I thought that other teams could be more of a distraction than a benefit so as we set off I had a simple mantra to follow: "Get to the front - and stay there."

This turned out to be easier than expected as the planner had made the gaffling at the start quite uneven - something I am not impressed about but more on that in a later blogpost. So after four controls I only had Gernot Kerschbaumer (AUT) and Carl Kaas (NOR) for company. A small miss on the fifth where I misread the uncrossable fences meant I was chasing again but quickly caught up in the green at eight. I was clean from there to the finish and Gernot and I were able to run away from Carl. I was leading as we crossed the line but I think Gernot actually managed to sprint past me to handover first.

The next hour or so was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. First Cat dropped the Austrian girl and extended the gap to the other big teams to over two minutes <We could do this! It could be gold!> before getting reeled in a bit by the spectator and then passed when she made a mistake near the end <but it's only Switzerland and Sweden ahead, and the Swedes don't have a complete team>. Once Scott was out news came through that the Norwegian team were disqualified <one less team to worry about> and I learnt the Danes had lost big time on leg one when Tue got a thorn wedged in his big toe <definite medal on here with Nogs and Swedes out and Danes behind. Not much we can do about the damn Swiss now but the silver is there for the taking>. Then news came through that Scott had dropped time at the radio controls. Kyburz was pulling clear and the Scandi teams were breathing down our necks. Scott held on to send Tessa out in 2nd place with the Czechs and with Maja Alm of Denmark hot on her heels. <get away from the Czechs and its a fight with Maja for the silver - but a medal feels almost certain>

I could barely watch or listen, I was so nervous as she set off and the news that the Czechs had made a big mistake early in the final leg didn't help much either.

I was listening 5 minutes later though when the commentators announced that there had been another disqualification.



Scott mispunched on a gaffled control in the woods (#6) when he ran down a ditch and didn't see his flag and carried on and found the wrong one. In the dark jungle it was easy to mistake a knoll for a boulder and several teams did - us, Norway, Sweden and Czech Rep all MP'd on this control. With 26 controls in <20 minutes checking codes, which were only on the descriptions on the map is tricky. On my own leg I only managed to check some codes as I was half way through the next leg. Clearly this is something we need to work on before next time.

Tessa would have finished in the bronze medal position, had she been allowed to finish at all, but I had to go and stop her at the penultimate control so as not to confuse the spectators or TV audience.

Sprint arena nestled at the foot of 4000m mountains. Security advice was that we shouldn't go exploring as the "farmers" might give us a frosty welcome.

There wasn't much we could do but accept the result. I had bittersweet feelings when the Austrians were presented with their medals: happy to see some new faces on the podium but deep down knowing that it could so easily have been us. It just serves to remind us that come sprint relays in the future we have to treat them with the same respect and focus that we do individual sprints, making sure we do everything right to get the best result we can.

Map: no route - route

No comments: