Orange

Although I had no major orienteering training or races in the last month, I thought I would write a short account of what I have been up to. I spent the last 5 weeks in Orange which is a town of 40,000 inhabitants a couple of hours inland from Sydney. I was working with Goldseekers Orienteering Club and was hosted by four lovely families.

I organised and set the courses for four orienteering events for Goldseekers including a bush event, a night O and a sprint event. I also spent time coaching in two schools and organised a schools gala day so in total delivered orienteering to 220 students. My other main task was to map Orange High School. I have never done any mapping before but I was surprised by how quickly I picked it up and was very proud of my final effort.

In terms of training, my running has been consistent and I’ve been doing two strength and conditioning sessions a week. My slightly crazy and very spontaneous idea was to enter the Carcoar Cup Trail Marathon the day before the event. I went in with no targets other than completion so was very surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how good I felt. Although I have no plans of competing over this distance in the near future, it was a good confidence boost about my endurance abilities and I was delighted to finish 3rd female. I have written a detailed write up of the race on my training diary (4th Nov) https://www.attackpoint.org/viewlog.jsp/user_18115/period-7/enddate-2018-11-04.

I visited Gumble for the day which is one of the best orienteering areas in Australia. It is going to be used for the Easter 2020 carnival and I was asked to test run on the map. It was challenging granite terrain and I really appreciated the advice from former WOC athlete Eric Morris on how best to orienteer in the terrain.

I will spend the next 3 months in Sydney and hopefully I will continue to enjoy my trip as much as I have done so far.

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From ‘then’ to ‘now’…

This blog post is an attempt to briefly describe my orienteering life right from when I first started up to now. Here goes….

I have no recollection of my first orienteering experience because my parents took me to events before I could even walk. My mum was introduced to the sport by a high school teacher, went on to compete for the Scottish Junior squad and continue orienteering with the active club at Oxford university. She then introduced my dad to it and, naturally, they took me and then my brother along too.

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Orienteering is sport that is truly designed to cater for all ages and abilities. So, after a few years of completing the string course (the course for the youngest children), I moved on to ‘proper’ courses where one of my parents would follow me from a distance to check I was okay. In 2008 I completed my first solo course which is a momentous occasion for any junior orienteer.

As I got older, I started to make some friends through my club (Forth Valley Orienteers) and attending competitions like the Scottish Championships, the Jamie Stevenson Trophy and the Junior Inter Areas. I began to really enjoy orienteering and look forward to the next events.

In 2013, I was selected for the Scottish Junior Orienteering Squad (ScotJOS) and this was the best thing to ever happen to me in orienteering. It allowed me to strengthen the friendships I had already made in orienteering, make new friends and improve my orienteering hugely. We had 5 training weekends a year, a fortnight tour every second year and the opportunity to represent Scotland at Junior Inter-regional Championships and the Junior Home Internationals. ScotJOS epitomises all my favourite things about orienteering: seeing my friends, training and racing in a positive, fun environment and travelling to new places across the UK and abroad. I recently ‘graduated’ from ScotJOS after 6 years and I am now looking forward to representing the Scotland Senior Team.

I attended Summer training camps through the Junior Regional Orienteering Squads at Lagganlia in 2014 and Deeside in 2015. I met lots of new people through these camps and orienteering every day for a week really improved my ability. This year I was invited to coach at the Lagganlia camp and it was lovely to see the juniors having the same experiences I had.

The World Schools Championships 2015 was held in Turkey and this was my first experience of international competition. As well as being a fantastic week away (we stayed at an amazing hotel on the beach) and a chance to meet other junior orienteers from around the world; it was also useful preparation for the GB international races I would run in future. It exposed me to quarantines, event transport and racing in a completely new environment. To top it off I was able to win the Middle and Long distance races which I was delighted with.

When I was 15, I was selected to be a member of the British Talent Squad. This has helped me to structure and focus my training towards the international competitions. I have attended 4 training weekends and two longer camps every year through the squad and this has allowed me to improve my technical skills as well as to learn about race preparation and analysis. I have two years left in the squad and I hope it will continue to be as useful to me as it has for the last three years.

I got my first taste of senior success in 2016. My club captain, Jon Cross, selected me for the Women’s Open team for the JK (British Open) relay and despite being a little apprehensive, I was ready for the challenge. I was put out on second leg in 3rd position and had a solid but unspectacular race so I was surprised to come back in 1st. My last leg runner raced well to hold onto our lead so we were crowned JK champions which made me the youngest ever winner of the JK relay, aged 15.

I was selected to run for Great Britain at the European Youth Championships in 2016 which was my first GB international race. Including that I have now represented GB at 3 age groups (U16, U18 and U20), at 6 competitions and in 19 races. I have had some disastrous races and some fantastic races but, in general, I am pleased with how I have performed at international competitions. So far I have achieved two medals and two further podium places and I hope to add to this over the next couple of years.

That pretty much brings me to where I am now: enjoying my Australian adventure. Here’s hoping for more success, but, more importantly to me, many more incredible, happy experiences with orienteering.

Australian Orienteering Championships

The Australian Orienteering Championships 2018 were held in South Australia and combined the Australian Championships and the Schools Championships. I had been looking forward to this week for quite a while as it was my first proper set of races since JWOC. I decided to enter W21E rather than W20E as I wanted to practise racing over longer distances. The terrain looked to be very varied and the best athletes from across Australia were all racing, so it promised to be a fantastic week.

I met up with the NSW Schools’ Team, who I stayed with during the competition, and we drove from Adelaide to Renmark where the first few days were based.

The first race was the Australian Middle Distance Championships at Crooked Straight. The terrain was unlike anything I had raced in before with lots of complex gully systems on steep slopes and some vaguer plateau sections. I never really felt in control during the race but I managed to keep it together through the first half, only losing small amounts of time, and this was enough to put me in the lead just before the spectator control. However, after that the course moved into the plateau section and I struggled to make out the contour shapes and I didn’t stick to my compass enough. Some bigger mistakes through the second half meant I dropped down to 5th place at the end of the race. It was a reasonable start to the week but I knew I was capable of much better performances.

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Middle distance at Crooked Straight

The next day was the Australian Relay Championships in similar terrain to the middle distance and I was running first leg for the NSW Stingers. I got caught up in the mass start and didn’t take the time to read the map to number 1. I ran to a control but it wasn’t mine so then I finally stopped and relocated and then navigated to my control. Unfortunately, this had cost me considerable time and I was off the back of the group. I then orienteered really well through to spectator to catch back up to the front. The 2nd half of the race was in some seriously deep gullies (about 2-3m deep) which were honestly like nothing I’ve ever run in before. Constantly climbing up and down the banks was exhausting and made it really hard to keep in touch with the map. I got around pretty cleanly and was pleased to hand over in 2nd place. Overall, it was another average run with lots of room for improvement.

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Relay at Wiela/Bunyip Reach

The final race in the Renmark area was the Australian Sprint Championships. The race was held at Renmark Schools and lots of artificial barriers were used to make the best of the map. I felt a bit out of practice with sprint racing and was aware that there were going to be artificial barriers, so I took it cautiously to avoid getting caught out and only pushed when I was really confident. This tactic seemed to work well and I only lost time on one control when I didn’t spot a gap so ran the long way around which cost me 20s. I was delighted to finish in 2nd place which is my best senior result.

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Snapshot of the sprint at Renmark Schools
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Full focus during the sprint

We then drove to Adelaide where the rest of the week was based. The Schools’ Sprint, Long and Relay Championships were held over the next couple of days and I kept myself busy helping the NSW team to prepare and recover. I couldn’t resist having a run out in the managers’ race at Mt Crawford and was relieved to beat the times of the Junior Girls. This was in a planted pine forest and had some really tricky legs trying to hit a tree stump in a low visibility forest block.

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The Junior Girls Relay Course

Finally, it was Saturday and time for the Australian Long Championships. This was the race I had been looking forward to most as I wanted to test myself over a proper long-distance race. The map was Gumeracha Goldfields which comprised a variety of terrains including pine, native forest and open hill. Lots of the team had been getting ill so I was frustrated but not surprised to wake up feeling pretty grim. However, the sore throat and headache actually cleared up when I started running which was a relief. I had some medium time losses in the first half (2x1min) due to drifting on my compass and then I lost time on two route choice legs in the second half. The last section was very hilly and, looking at the GPS, I faded physically compared to the runners who finished ahead of me. My time of 1:20.21 was enough for 3rd place which I was really pleased with. The course was technically easy but had some good route choice and it was a tough physical test as the longest course I’ve ever done at 11km. I felt horrific for the couple of hours after the race, very ill and sick and tired but that cleared up quickly enough.

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Leg 5-6
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Leg 5-6 with the routes run as an example of the good route choice on the course
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Aus Champs Long

The last race of the week was the South Australian Middle Championships on Keynes Gap. I considered not running as I was feeling rough but the area was too good to miss with a ridiculous amount of rock detail. Unfortunately, my throat got a lot worse when I set off and I felt exhausted right from the start. I orienteered hesitantly but managed to avoid any serious time losses. I finished in 5th place, a couple of minutes off the pace, but I was just happy to finish the course. I’ve never felt worse than I felt at the end and it took a good couple of hours to feel human again. I think the combination of hard racing, getting ill and staying with the schools’ team (so having to spend all day for 8/9 days at the event, then having team meetings and presentations etc.) led to this level of exhaustion.

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SA Middle Champs

Overall, it was an amazing week: I got to race in a complete variety of terrain, meet lots of new people from the Australian Orienteering community and explore another state.

 

First Stop: Perth

The first part of my trip is over already! I have spent a fantastic 3 weeks in Perth getting my first impressions of Australian life and orienteering here.

I have started getting into my training regime, with a rough week of a long run, intervals, a tempo and a terrain/easy run during the week and then orienteering races at weekends. You can follow my training here: https://www.attackpoint.org/log.jsp/user_18115 . This has been going well as my motivation is high at the moment and I have felt like I have been running well.

My first taste of orienteering in Australia was the last event in West Australia’s (WA) bush series. My plan was to keep it steady and just try to get used to the mapping and new terrain. I lost a lot of time at 2 and 14 near the controls but apart from that orienteered well and felt physically strong. There was some good route choice and I caught up another guy on the course who was running at the same speed as me, so it was interesting to compare lines in the terrain.

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My stay in Perth, completely by chance, coincided with the WA middle and long championships. The middle distance was at Jumbuck Hill and I had been warned that it was “not the nicest area”. It was roasting hot, seriously rocky underfoot and the vegetation made very little sense to me. However, the rock features were excellent, the course was technically challenging and there was big net downhill. I managed to get around the course with no major disasters and I was pleased to get the fastest time in W21A.

Jumbuck Hill

The long was at Ngangaguringguring (pretty cool name I thought) which, I realised when I picked up the map, was a forest with starkly contrasting sections of vague, featureless areas and steeper, highly detailed areas. Up to control 6, I was orienteering really well and was running strongly. At 7 and 10 I lacked precision but found the controls without losing a lot of time. I was very hesitant crossing the hill to 11 as the hill shapes were a lot vaguer and harder to see than I had anticipated. Then at 12, I was distracted by seeing the open area to the south of the leg and on 13 I was distracted by another control. So, it was a disappointing end the course, but it was enough for the fastest time of the day.

Nganguringguring

Aside from orienteering, I have been trying to see and do as much as possible. This has included visiting Rottnest Island and the Pinnacles; doing Trees Adventure and indoor skydiving; and meeting lots of lovely people.

I am now in Adelaide for the Australian Orienteering Championships. This is a whole week of racing and I am really looking forward to seeing how I get on.

My Australian Adventure

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At Edinburgh airport with my 13.5kg of luggage for the next 6 months

 

I’m writing this blog post whilst on a plane from Abu Dhabi to Perth, Australia. This morning I left Edinburgh for 6 months training, competing, coaching and travelling down under. Having first heard about the Australian Orienteering Coaching Scholarship in December 2016, it seems slightly surreal that I am finally on way to fulfil my long-held aspiration.

I spotted a link for it on Facebook, clicked on it and was instantly hooked (read about it here). As my family will testify, it was pretty much all I talked about for that Christmas holiday. Once I had convinced them I was serious about applying, I got to work on my application. This entailed creating my first CV, writing a letter about why I wanted to go and answering a questionnaire. I applied in September 2017, looking to start in September 2018, which is a lot earlier than necessary, but I wanted to know if I was successful or not before applying to university (as to whether I was applying for direct or deferred entry). I was offered an interview by Orienteering New South Wales and then completed two Skype interviews hideously early in the morning. To my delight, I was offered (and immediately accepted) a scholarship to work with Orienteering NSW for 6 months.

map_of_new-south-walesThe last year has flown by and my schedule is looking a lot clearer than it did this time last year. I will firstly spend a few weeks in Perth with some relatives and I will also compete in the West Australia Champs. Then I will travel to Adelaide and spend a week working with the NSW schools team whilst racing in the Australian Champs. After that I will move to Orange, a town a couple of hours drive inland from Sydney, to stay with my first host family for 6 weeks. I will spend the next couple of months in Sydney then move up the coast to Coffs Harbour to finish off.

My role involves introducing orienteering to beginners, working with juniors of all ages and abilities, organising and running club training sessions and event organisation. In return for this, I get put up by orienteering host families, receive a financial scholarship and get the opportunity to explore a new country. Seems like a good deal to me!

I am extremely excited about this and I will use my blog to document my adventure. I hope you enjoy following my travels!

Pre-JWOC 2019 Denmark

To prepare for the Junior World Orienteering Champs (JWOC) 2019, I spent a week in Denmark training with the British squad. JWOC 2019 will be held in Denmark so we went there in order to see what the terrain is like and learn how best to race in it. During the week we completed three long, two middle, one sprint and two relay style sessions.

On the first day we went to Vesterskoven and did long and middle training. The forests were amazing and were really fast to fun in. I was really excited after this by the prospect of spending the remainder of the week training in the Danish forests and hopefully being able to race against the best junior orienteers in the world in this terrain next year.

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Me at the final control of the relay training

On the morning of the second day we did a mass start race at Sønderskoven with the Swedish and Norwegian squads. This was my favourite session of the week as it was really fun and excellent training to practice high quality head to head racing. This is very relevant for relay racing, especially first leg. In the afternoon, the area that was available for sprint training was not similar to what we will be racing on at JWOC so I decided totreat it as a recovery session.

We went to Marseliborg for a long distance training session on the third day. Here I focussed on orienteering in low visibility forest as there will probably be sections of this at JWOC next year.

On the fourth day we joined up with the Norwegian squad and some of the Danish senior team to do some more mass start relay training at Sletten. It was again good to have live feedback from the other runners about which route choices were quickest and what was the fastest way to navigate through the terrain. In the afternoon, we went to Hjortsballe for a middle distance exercise. This had some areas of rougher vegetation and was the least relevant and least enjoyable training session of the week. However, the start of the course was excellent and really fun.

To finish off, we completed a long distance route choice training session. This involved completing the course in a group of 4 and comparing different route choices. This was my other favourite session of the week as the area was fantastic and it was very useful to compare the advantages and disadvantages of different routes.

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The final long distance route choice exercise

Throughout the week we managed to fit in swimming in the sea and lakes, playing mini golf at the oldest mini golf course in Denmark, watching Mamma Mia 2, lots of table tennis and a volleyball match. It was a very insightful but also fun week of training, and I feel a lot more prepared for JWOC 2019 after it.

JWOC 2018

The Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) 2018 took place between 9th-14th July in Hungary. I was selected to represent Great Britain at this competition which is for the best U20 athletes from around the world. This was my 2nd JWOC and I was hoping to improve on my results last year and also my good results at the Junior European Cup in October 2017, my most recent international. Last year at JWOC I recorded 19th and 20th positions in the middle and long distances respectively and had a bit of disaster in the relay, bringing the team home in 12th. In the Junior European Cup I won the bronze medal in both the long and sprint distance races but again had a disappointing relay where the team finished 9th. This year at JWOC I was racing all of the disciplines (sprint, middle, long and relay) and I thought the long would be my best chance at a top result.

I had been on a training camp in Hungary last Summer with the GB squad to prepare for the challenges of the terrain and heat. We found it was very different to racing in the UK so a group of 10 of us decided to go on another preparation camp in March. These were both very useful as they allowed me to practise orienteering in similar areas to those I would race on at JWOC. After a series of selection races in April the squad was finalised and we arrived a few days before the competition started and after a couple more training sessions in relevant terrain I felt well prepared to race.

The first race was the long distance and at 10.2km, it was the longest ever female long race at JWOC. One of the main challenges I anticipated was the heat, with July highs averaging 30 degrees and sometimes rising to 35, but fortunately it was notably cooler than this so I didn’t have any real problems with the temperature. I started well but then made some costly mistakes in the middle section. I finished cleanly but my time of 70:49 was only enough for 38th out of 147. I thought I might have placed higher but I wasn’t running fast enough to compete with the top 10 and my mistakes dashed any hopes of replicating my top 20 from last year.

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The next day was the sprint and despite some previous good international results in sprint, I didn’t think I would be fast enough to break into the top 15 even with a clean run but I wanted to get as close as possible to that. I had been sprinting well so far this season and from looking at the area on Google maps, and training on similar areas, I expected it to be a fairly straightforward course so I felt like I could give it a good go. However as soon as I picked up the map I realised how wrong I was. It was the most technically challenging sprint I have ever raced and particularly in the first half I felt like I made  lots of small time losses and had none of my usual flow. I reassured myself that everyone would be losing time and if I didn’t make a major mistake and kept pushing physically as much as I could then I would still be able to get a decent result. The second half was easier and when I finished I knew I hadn’t had any disastrous controls but also knew my race had been scrappy throughout and that I lack the pace to compete with the very best. I was therefore very pleasantly surprised to discover that my time of 17:44 put me in 17th place. However I quickly forgot about my own race to celebrate the hero of the day, Matthew Fellbaum, who finished in 2nd place to equal Britain’s best result at JWOC.

The middle qualifier was the next race, with the top 20 in each heat qualifying for the final. The middle terrain was the most challenging and very different from anything I had raced in before so although I had recorded a top 20 result in the final in the middle distance last year, I didn’t have any real aims for this year other than to try to have the best race I could. I lost time in the harder first half and I couldn’t make up for it in the easier second half so I finished 22nd in a time of 30:46 which meant I just missed out on qualifying for the final. However, I was actually pleased with how much I had improved in the terrain since first trying it last Summer.

Not qualifying for the middle final meant that I had a day to rest up for the relay. I have had plenty of good international individual races, and plenty of good national relay races, however all 4 of the international relay races I have run for GB have been horrific. So I was really hoping to break this trend and have a strong run in what promised to be fast race. I was running 2nd leg with Fiona Bunn on 1st leg and Chloe Potter on 3rd leg. Fiona has had some excellent 1st leg runs in international races before but after a small mistake early on she came through the spectator run through (about 10 minutes from the end) only a minute down on the leaders so very much still in the mix. It wasn’t long till she was coming down the run in having clawed back more time on the leaders and up to 8th place. I knew I wasn’t far down in time on the leaders or a podium position (top 6 in orienteering) and I wanted to give Chloe the chance to fight for a top position. I had a pretty much perfect run until the final loop where I lost concentration and lost about a minute on the wrong hill. I handed over to Chloe delighted to find out we were up to 6th . Chloe had a quality race, mixing it in with the top girls as many nations keep their best runners for last leg, and even though she scared us all by narrowly missing a control and having to go back for it, she brought us home in 4th! We were all buzzing with the result which is the best Britain has ever done in a JWOC relay.

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Getting on the podium in the relay was a fantastic way to end the week and it left me really excited to try to improve again for JWOC 2019 in Denmark.