O Log - US Champs

[16-Sep-03] 

    Here is my US Champs '03, Day 1 map.

    Here is my US Champs '03, Day 2 map.

    I have mixed feelings about the US Champs. I finished 7th (US), 10th overall, in a very strong field. That's far better than I expected -- tho I didn't have any goals, Wyatt told me before the races that the 2 of us would be competing for 10th US based on ranking and the start list, so I made that my goal. (I never look at start lists before the race -- I think the distraction is more of a cost than the benefits). I should have finished 6th, and with absolute concentration both days, may have been able to finish 5th and made the team automatically (I think, anyway). Without looking at the splits its hard to know if I had a chance at 5th. Since I don't think perfect runs were in the cards no matter what, probably not. So I can sleep without regret and know I did much better than last's years disaster in Virginia.

    On the other hand, I didn't have fun, at least on day 1. Peggy said to me in the start triangle -- "remember, the goal is to have fun". And it was only my 5th lifetime race that I can say was not enjoyable.

    I think what I didn't enjoy was the terrain, the map, and the course setting. That doesn't leave much else. In retrospect, I think I have perhaps whined about the latter two more than was warranted. I was livid after the race on day 1, but calmed down upon reflection. I think the map could have been ok, and the course setting could have been ok, but it was the conjuction of the two that was the problem. In sum, I think the course setting required demanding concentration and map reading (which is usually ok), but the accuracy of the map was not up to this demand in many places. And you didn't know where it was good and where it was bad. The contour detail was flat out untrustworthy in places, which meant a fallback to vegetation, which I think the boundaries of which were too imprecise to be up to the task demanded by the course setter. Moreover, mobility and viz in the terrain were very poor.

    They said in the meet notes that the field checking was "better" in the circle. This is unacceptable. Some legs required detailed map reading for the entire leg, especially for those of us who don't pace count, and big feature navigation was impossible. These legs need precise field checking bag to bag. And anyway, I don't think the field checking was all to good in some of the circles. Yes, it was a tough area to map; in that case, you need different course setting and bag placement to work around the map's weaknesses.

    Probably more griping on the course than warranted, so I'll leave it there, as my biggest gripe was the actual terrain. I'd say about 7-8K total out of 11.5 of slash/bushes/whatever. Just not enjoyable. I think they should have picked a different area. I was almost ready to DNF on day 1 because I was not having any fun, but I am not a quitter so I toughed it out. Anyway, it wasn't as tough as the NZ champs from a physical and technical standpoint, so that race prepared me to be able to finish this one.

    I think I could also whine about the misleading winning time/misleading model. Just like doing some running before the race to warm up my bones, I do alot of mental preparation as well. I come up with a game plan based on the expected winning time, type of terrain, and my experience in the terrain. The EWT was 80min. That comes out to about 7min/k for the winner, so I put myself at the 8-8.5min/k ET, which puts me in the 90-100min range. (I ran 147 day 1). So I prepare for a faster pace rather than more of a goat or long-O pace. I knew from the model that there was no way they'd hit 80 EWT, but then the meet notes said the actual course was "less green" than the model. So who knew? I thought being an IOF event that these things had to be right -- like the controller made sure the winning time was as advertised, and spot on for what was meant as an IOF classic (which I thought was 90min, but I don't really know about these things). OTOH, would the world champion have run it in 90min? If so, I'm ok with it, because that is the way I feel these things should work. But it wasn't advertised this way. Also, the model showed us lots of vegetation reading, and the first leg was a long rock reading leg. Totally unexpected (but fortunately my experience in Kooroyaa, AU, prepared me). Why have a model then? I'm ok with that also -- tell me nothing, but don't tell me the wrong things.

    The one thing I did to properly was prepare myself for "shinny woods", in contrast with coming out with my 8min/k game. So that helped alot -- I was able to drop out of my fast game pretty quickly, but it had the effect of demoralizing me unnecessarily -- the thought in my mind that the field was running this thing at 7min/k did not help morale. They simply should not advertise grossly wrong EWT's, but I have to learn to ignore this noise and not factor it in to my pre-race plan. I only need to look at the terrain and my speed in it, and make preparations that way. That is all I can control anyway.

    Speaking of control -- one observation I had is that I felt I had very little control. One of my pre-race thoughts is "force a win", which roughly translates into take control, knuckle down, and read your way from start to finish. I've generally gotten good at that in many cases. In this case, tho, there were only a handful of controls where I felt in control. Much of the time I felt I was simply Zen orienteering from place to place -- letting fate decide how good a race I would have. Tho I believe there is a place for Zen O and that alot of O technique occurs below conscienceness, this does not add to the enjoyment of a race.

    One positive was that the altitude did not bother me. The altitude was 6200 ft. I am bothered alot in Laramie (8500 ft), but noticed I was not bothered in Idaho (5200 ft). So my point of being bothered is above 6200. This is good (tho I seem to remember being bothered the last time I was here). Perhaps my week in Kamloops (which I believe is around 4500), helped. I remember feeling bothered there, tho. One thing I did that was smart was pack 2.5 liters of water on the flight out, and I drank it all on the plane, plus whatever else they gave me. I also drank a ton after arrival. The extra hydration helped, I think.

    I had alot of energy day 2. This is good. I usually have my day 2 speed, which is bad. I was really gunning for some good luck and that 5th place finish, seeing as I was going into the race in 6th. I knew in this terrain anything could happen if I knuckled down and ran a good race, and that this stuff actually suits me better in a relative way than wide open, fast stuff. But I ran too hard and lost focus at points and had problems with the map, as on day 1 (but not as many). I felt in control most of the time, tho. #3 I have no idea how I boomed from so close with such a solid attackpoint (probably because my AP was an unmapped feature parallel to the mapped one). #4 the consensus was that the field checking was wrong. #13 I chose a left trail running route which seemed good, but never found the trail. Others who chose this route found the trail, so what is up with that? #8 and #19 were my loss of focus, but the time loss was not a disaster. On number #13, where I did not find the trail, I held it together and recovered well, and this saved my race. In the past I may have lost it -- I've improved in this regard.

    I caught up with Boris at #12, and then at #13 (after completely different routes). I was moving faster than he was, I believe. But I think I let him pace me thru the end of the race rather than just gunning it, or perhaps I just bonked at that time, or perhaps my mind said "safety in numbers". But we both played our own game on all the final controls. But I think it was more difficult to concentrate with him around. Two of my pre-race preps are "concentrate at the end of the race", and "ignore others". I'm good at both of these when I remind myself about them, but the conjunction of the two problems hurt me. I lost enough focus on #19 to cost me 6th place, I think.

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