O Log - Relay Champs

[09-Jul-03] 

    Here is Leg 1 with my routes.

    My club (DVOA) won the '03 US Relay Champs. I ran the first leg. Since I'll never be on a WOC team or seriously compete for the individual US Championship, I've always looked at this event as my super bowl. After winning the silver last year, I really wanted to make the most of this chance. I thought the field was stronger this year, but I thought our team, or at least myself, was stronger this year also. I didn't feel a medal was a lock, tho, as there were at least 6 other medal quality teams (CSUx2, RMOC, OK, BAOC, COC) and possibly some I was unaware of.

    It is unfortunate that the map was a bit dubious (I'll have specific criticisms of the meet later), but it was still a thrill, and since I often write about my failures here, I want to write about my near perfect run in the most important event of my O life so far.

    I'm often nervous before even club races, much less A meets or championships. Its interesting to note that I was not at all nervous about this race. I knuckled down and had a good race on the A meet day before, on a dubious map with dubious course setting/control placement. That set me up for some confidence. Since I was running what was billed to be a "yellow/orange" course, I kept telling myself it would be easy. I only ever have problems on very technical controls. Also, I told myself, the map would be better since it was for a championship, and they were not making excuses or comments about map quality. It was going to be little more than a trail run, and I wasn't going to be competing against any 0 point runners.

    I told myself it would be important to be back first. That would inspire the team, perhaps. I was not going to boom any controls, and stick to trails. I continuously visualized the perfect run and coming back first. I visualized the run thru the chute and the whole handoff process. I wrote about visualization once before, and feel it is useful.

    They were going to use forking. I told myself not to worry about other runners or get psyched out by the forking, just read the map, but on the other hand, be smart, the field was bigger than the forking combinations, as far as I figured it, therefore someone would be running with me.

    They lined me up between the two CSU teams (Karen and Danny). First control I was with Danny and Bruce Wolfe. Danny was in the lead but boomed and hit the road. I punched with Bruce.

    Second control ran the high trail with Danny. Bruce went low. We see the boulder from the trail junction, but it is in the wrong place. Danny says "big rock 202" and I say "its gotta be, its the only one". We punch somewhat ahead of Bruce. I was a little shaky on the first control, but I feel in sync now, and realise that if I concentrate I will have a good race.

    Trail run to the third control, behind Danny, with Bill Cusworth and Bruce behind me. Danny and Bill cut off after a while. This must be a fork. I don't know how far Bruce is behind me, and it feels like I'm running alone, which is what I prefer. I hope I don't see anyone again.

    Fourth control is another yellow level control, attack off the signpost. I see Bruce enter the forest as I leave. Its obvious he has the same map as I do.

    Still in the lead to 5. I start to feel hungry. Very hungry. I usually eat very heavy before a race, but ate very light before this one as it was so short. I regret this decision. I try to push as hard as possible. I'm not all that fast, so want to give everything.

    Six is my only mistake of the race. I decide the sidehilling route is better (and it is better in an individual race on a normal map, but not in this race). I tell myself this is a relay, and I can't take the chance of a two minute boom on this risky choice. I realise the map is dubious, and the vegetation is nastier than mapped, and tho I will probably be able to spike the control on the sidehill route, I can't count on the vegetation being right on the attack. I change my mind and run the road. It costs some 20 seconds, but I feel it was the right thing to do. I'm happy with myself for making the change. Unfortunately, I get behind Bruce, and vow to run hard to make it up.

    Seven looked like the trickiest control. I read ahead on the way to six and found the trail. I was smart and scoped the area a bit on the way to 6. I am still behind Bruce and cannot catch him. He disappears on the windy trail. I turn my ankle on the big hill going into 7, but still manage to get there almost as Bruce punches.

    At this point, with 2 easy seeming controls to go, I feel pretty good about things. Just collect to the road and pick these things off. I cannot catch Bruce in the forest. I cannot see a distinction between the white and green woods. On the road, its Bruce ahead, and Danny and Bill behind. I cut into the woods at the boulder. I think the boulder is the feature, but no bag. I panic a bit, and hear Bruce tromping around as well. That reassures me, he has a problem also. I read the description and its clearing, not boulder. But I should see the bag from the rock. Then I see a bag in a depression farther into the woods. There is no depression on the map, so I panic again. Where are we? I notice the depression is in what looks like rough open, not forest. Perhaps a "clearing"? I decide to check it out, and fortunately, it is my bag. But the land doesn't look like the map. Bruce still has not found it, so I try to sneak out.

    Eight is the GO control and I know where it is. It was hung right in front of my car as I was getting dressed. No problems now, just run as fast as possible, and let the rest of the team win this one. In first place by about a minute ahead of Bruce. No sign of Danny or Bill. Hand off to Hunter.

    Now the waiting. If Hunter has a good run, we should win. Try to account for all of the teams. No sign of RMOC, Bill, or OK. CSU and BAOC look like the immediate threats. Hunter is first thru the split control on the second leg. I wait on the road run -- first back is Suzanne from CSU, then Peter from the other CSU team, but then Hunter comes in just a few seconds later over the hill. Only about 40 seconds out of first! Fortunately no other teams seem to be in the picture. I was really happy for Hunter for having a good run. He was nervous before the race, and he, along with Greg's pre-race coaching, deserves alot of credit.

    Hunter hands off to Greg. Greg is running against Kenny and Ross Smith. I think Greg makes a 4 minute boom, but comes back about 40 seconds ahead of Kenny over the hill. We cheer him on. No sign of Ross.

    Greg hands off to Sergei. Boris goes out some 40 seconds afterwards. That is the race, no one else seems to be in the picture for the gold. Sergei is first thru the split control. What a thrill when we see him come over the hill first. We run him in.

    I really think it was the personal high point of my O career, even tho the rest of the team did most of the work. I've had a few disappointments in key races, but with one exception, have run well in relays. It really does feel good to have had a clean, strong race when it mattered, and for the team to also have had great runs. It does help to get on a great team, of course.

    I did celebrate a bit too much that night, and I paid for it with some rather dubious races later in the week. But that is a different issue. I told myself it was ok to celebrate for the first time ever. Having always been lame at sports, it really did feel good.

    Its a shame to criticize the meet, but it would have meant even more if some things had been more up to snuff. I think the map was a bit dubious. The thing I noticed is that things just weren't always seeming to be in the right place. Things would be at the wrong angle, or be too close or too far. I don't pace count, but I sing when I O which I think provides a rhythm akin to pace counting. Anyway, it seems to work in normal races, but this race features were sometimes out of sync. There was also a seeming problem around control #8. The contours and the distance both seemed wrong. Bruce is a great orienteer, and I think the same problems I noticed cost him more due to bad luck. The white vs green was a bit hard to follow also. I saw nothing with white runnability coming out of #7.

    I also have to question the format. The course I ran was the easiest, and with some controls at orange level, you have to call it an orange course. I think controls #7 and #8 exclude yellow and white runners from competing. #7 is tricky for someone who has not mastered orange, or perhaps even green. And while #8 is putatively a yellow control (forgetting possible map issues), the best route out of #7 requires cross country running with either a compass or a soft contour follow then collect, thru somewhat nasty woods. I wonder about a white or yellow runner being able to do this efficiently without getting spooked or nervous. I don't believe they need compass or contour skills at that level. They eventually collect on a road, but which road? Tough for them to execute the leg efficiently and confidently, I think, perhaps, but I dunno.

    Hunter took the trail on that leg. A slower, but much safer choice for the younger orienteer. But that is the point. Your 2 point F21 or M50 runner will execute straight cleanly, while your 2 point youngster will be at a disadvantage, feeling like they have to take the trail or having less confidence going straight. I wonder if there is a flaw somewhere in the system here. 2 points is not 2 points.

    Finally, I think they should have had a shorter course for the 8 point teams. I think our 4 point team finished about 2 hours before the first 8 point team was even back. The awards ceremony for the 4 pointers was done well before the first 8 pointers were even back, in any case.

    Well, despite everything, it still feels sweet to be a champion. But I have to forget about it and focus on my other goals now.

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