O Log - Orienteering in Spain

[17-Feb-04] 

    Here is my Spain, Lorca Area 04, Classic Distance (M21E) map.

    Here is my Spain, Lorca Area 04, Middle Distance (M21E) map.

    Here is my Spain, Costa Blanca (Guardamar) 04, Classic Distance (M21E) map.

    Here is my Spain, Costa Blanca (Guardamar - Dunes) 04, Middle Distance map.

    Just returned from an orienteering trip to Spain. Two weekends with classic/middle format; winner of each weekend determined by total time (no weird weightings); training camp in between.

    The first weekend was in the mountains northwest of Lorca (Murcia), which in turn is northish of the Costa del Sol. I believe it was a bit at altitude (~1000m), not much, but I think I felt it on day 1. From the highway, the landscape looked like something you might see in Utah or Nevada, without sage, but similarily colored grasses.

    The terrain was mix of plantation pine, wild pine, cultivated almond tree orchards, and rough open rocky, craggy areas that were somewhat detailed, and some gully areas. The terrain was intensly physical, and visibility was poor. Even in the "rough open, scattered trees", the viz was next to nil, it seemed (tall grasses). I could not distinguish between rough open scattered trees, and medium green, either in terms of runnability or visibility, in many cases. I was constantly tripping and falling thru these trees, and tripping over grass clumps.

    I ran a mediocre to decent race in the classic (13.3K), and one of my best ever international 21E races in the middle. I see about 6 min booms and some (possibly severe) route choice problems in the classic, but I'm not sure what I could have done about the booms. They were due to viz and I had solid attackpoints in all cases. I had game plan of careful of the attack due to the viz. Beyond my ken presently, but I may have more to write about this later in the week. I won't call them bingo controls yet. I know I was within one meter of one (that's only about 39 inches for metrically challenged readers), and lost 3 minutes. Confidence perhaps. I was a whopping 50 minutes off the winning time, 10 per K or so, but the best I can see is about a 10 minute improvement. Being physically prepared to run in physically difficult terrain is the biggest culprit, I think. Not something we train for in the States (at least I don't).

    The middle (5.7K) was odd as it was a chase start seeded by the classic results. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I didn't follow anyone, and hardly saw anyone, except that I intentionally used the fact that there would be a stream of runners as a way to attack #6. I boomed #7 and #12, but the total did not exceed 60 seconds, probably 50 of that on #12, where I did not pick up the drainage that contained the feature for some reason. I don't particularily care for short races, but I was in a zone for this one. I'm not sure if it was easy; it seemed easy, but when you are in a zone, it always seems easy. It was in the same terrain, on the same map, but seemed less physical.

    My time was in the high 8s per K, about 14 minutes off the winning time. The one thing to note was my time per K on the long leg #3, was over 10, so a big chunk there. Looking it over, I'm not sure how much, if any, improvement is to be gained by dropping into the orchards. They had been tilled to loose dirt, and were not as fast as they look.

    Couple other notes -- I thought the map printing was not as good as it could be. I could hardly see the light green at race speed. Good thing it didn't really matter much. This map also contained the first use of the "forest runnable in one direction" symbol that I had ever encountered in a race, but I did not see it at race speed due to the light printing.

    The second weekend was on the Costa Blanca, Guardamar, where JWOC '02 was. In fact, one of the training days was a rerun of the men's middle JWOC final in the dunes (more on the training later in the week, perhaps).

    I ran ~7.5 min/k in the classic (12.5K); anything under 8 is good by definition. I was ~27 min off the winning time. The terrain was again more scraggly pine, with stray orchards and open fields, and hard-packed rough open. The terrain didn't seem nearly as phyiscal as the Lorca area, and the times/k reflected that, tho it looked the same from the map and just from looking at it. Not sure I understand that, but whatever. Course setting and less climb, perhaps. I could have been in the sixes here, I think. I both blew route choice and boomed the long leg, and got bitten by what I was calling a bingo control at the time (#18, pit in dark green, no mob, no viz -- more on that another day). I analyized this race in excrutiating detail using times per k for each leg, etc, and figured to have lost 5.76 min in booms, and 3.71 min in hesitation/route choice/slowdown due to skill. I'm happy with it, I suppose.

    I ran ~7.5 min/k in the middle (5.9K); anything under 8 is good by definition. I was ~16 min off the winning time. This was intensly technical sand dune terrain just one beach north of where the JWOC '02 middle was held. Of all the beaches I trained on during the week, this was the most difficult, IMO. There was no underbrush, hardpacked where it was forested, yet sandy where not, so speed varied, but overall very fast.

    This may have been my most remarkable race ever, perhaps my best race ever, relative to my skill, despite a couple of booms. Does one define best race as time lost to booms, time per k relative to the field, or success relative to skill in the terrain type? Well, it was my best by the latter def, anyway, especially since the winning time thru this stuff was an unbelieable ~4.8 min/k.

    Historically, I have been remarkably horrible in forested sand dune terrain (part of the point of this trip was the chance to train in it for a week). For me, this race was all about throttling myself down to my speed of competence. I could run perhaps around 5/k or so, but could not navigate at that speed. It was a remarkable show of restraint -- I really felt like I was walking at times. But I maintained contact most of the time, and reestablished well and was diciplined in not outrunning my skill. I've never done that in a dune race before. The training helped, certainly.

    To make matters worse, tho, I had some sort of eye problem where I could read the map fine but could not focus at distance. The terrain was blurry. I'm scared of this and never had it before and hope it was circumstantial. It cleared up about 30 minutes after the race. But I had to deal with the double whammy of this condition plus stressing over having this condition, while trying to read this stuff. As it got worse, I boomed a couple of contols (#13, #14), but from that point on, fortunately, the course seemed to get easy and I made it thru. I thought the first part of the course was intense and the hardest part. Nonetheless, this was an intense mental experience, and at least I can say I had a race in dunes that was not a disaster.

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