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Last summer in Finland the World Championships sprint had a new feature: the planner used many metres of temporary fencing to make the event more of a challenge. It worked quite well. But, perhaps made over-confident by that success, the planners of this week’s World Cup sprint event in Finland used even more fencing. Now, okay, a little bit of fencing here and there isn’t a bad thing. It can plug holes that you wish weren’t there, and it can give pause for thought to runners who are familiar with the area, but do we really want to change Sprint-O into Maze-O? It’s expensive and time-consuming, and the end result is just a little bit silly.

p.s. Well done to Team GB for coming 5th in the relay :)

Watch the World Cup sprints (Finnish TV)

GPS tracking (“World Cup Imatra”)

Check out my 13.1 km Run on Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/139521827

Check out my 7.8 km Run on Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/139254898

Using the new Routegadget http://www.hoc.routegadget.co.uk/rg2/

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After entertaining Sandwell Valley’s sheep at 7 a.m. it was off to the Wyre Forest. The access road was decidedly dodgy but Andy and I helped Barry to keep it drivable. As far as the orienteering was concerned I made a couple of unnecessary detours and came a disappointing 20th. Some people coped better with the brambles and brashings!

Photocall today for the event at the end of the month

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Congratulations to this year’s West Midlands League winners: Warwickshire, a.k.a. Octavian Droobers. The final scores were:

Warwickshire (OD) 6,970 points

Shropshire (WRE) 6,719

Worcestershire (HOC) 6,314

South Staffs (WCH) 5,987

North Staffs (POTOC) 3,862

Birmingham (COBOC) 1,703

When was the last time that the Droobers didn’t win? Over the last few years HOC and the Chasers have usually been the challengers but well done to Wrekin for pushing OD hard this year. The Chasers are still a strong team but I’ve noticed that they seem to have become a bit more parochial in the last couple of years, concentrating more on all their many local activities except when it comes to a few major events.

Congratulations also the individual champions: (Athletes with perfect scores are highlighted in bold.)

10 Enys Lloyd POTOC Pippa Smart OD
12 Adam Mardling WCH Charlotte Cairns Smith WCH
14 Alfie Bullus OD Ellie Bales POTOC
16 Stephen Elkington OD Gemma Cairns Smith WCH
18 Daniel Kotecky OD Beatrice Falga OD
21 Ondrej Bajgar OD Katie Lewis WRE
35 Allan McKinley HOC Amy Sarkies OD
40 Chris McCartney OD Sharron Richardson WRE
45 Clive Richardson WRE Lesley Ross OD
50 David Williams HOC Claire Bushnell WCH
55 John Embrey HOC Jane Stew OD
60 Geff Trewin HOC Hazel Waters WCH
65 Barry Houghton HOC Sheila Carey OD
70 Brian Morris WRE Hilary Simpson OD
75 Roger Hailey OD Alison Sloman HOC
80 Frank Smith OD Beryl Pay WRE

Next year’s league fixtures have recently been finalised and are as follows:

Jan 12 Brandon Wood, Coventry
Jan 19 Sandwell Valley
Feb 2 Beaudesert, Cannock Chase
March 30 Chillington Hall, Stafford
April 27 Breakneck Bank, Wyre Forest
May 11 Mansty Woods, Stafford
June 8 Titterstone Clee Hill
June 15 Brueton Park, Solihull
Oct 19 Dudmaston, Bridgnorth
Oct 30 Cannock Chase

so the League will be all done and dusted much earlier than usual. Nice to see 3 areas I haven’t run on, plus the mighty Titterstone :-)

The bane of every poker player is variance. You can be playing well and yet your Aces can still lose to the 7 and 8 of clubs. Or you can guess correctly that your opponent is losing, only for them to get the card they need on the river.

So it is with orienteering. You can have prepared perfectly only for it to turn out that the course setter or mapper has a completely different worldview from your own. Or you can be running really well and get 199 out of 200 things right, and still lose thanks to a moment’s loss of concentration. (Meanwhile your foe got 20 things wrong but got away with all of them.)

Relay races are gaffled so that people can’t just follow each other round. By the end of the race, each team will’ve done each gaffle the same number of times, to make it fair (ish), but sometimes you know that if you’d had the other gaffle your run would’ve been better (or worse). Today, Britain, Norway, Sweden and the Czech Republic all mispunched at the same pair of gaffled controls: 52 and 67, out on the far part of the course (The top A and B on the map). Each runner might’ve been okay if only they’d had the other control on their map.

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But poker is also about psychology. You bet £10 with your pair of nines, hoping that you’ve judged the moment when your opponent, holding jacks, doesn’t want to take the risk.

Perhaps what we saw in that Colombian jungle this morning was an example of what Poirot called the Psychological Moment. 52 and 67 aren’t easy to mix up, in ordinary circumstances. In a stressful competitive situation like a gold-medal sprint relay, where you’re pushing yourself to the limit, the planner has (accidentally?) been very crafty by putting the two controls on similar features along on the same ditch, on the part of the course where you’re beginning to think about the route home.

At the point shown on the map, Scott Fraser has just run past his own control and is about to punch the wrong one. Around him are three other teams that won’t finish the race. Denmark, who appear to be eighth, go on to win the Silver medal half an hour later.

So four expert orienteers were defeated by psychology and variance. But they’ll fight back another day.

One of the biggest events ever organised by the Birmingham University club took place 40 years ago, on 4th February 1973.

(Small) Prize Quiz: How many participants do you think there were at the event? I’ll announce the winner when I get back from Hungary. No cheating!

In ’72 they’d they put the Mermaid on at Clun, but they picked a new, closer area this time. An area that they mapped specially for the event and which has never been used since. If you read the event report you can see the reasons why, the main one being the fact that several runners went into the Out-of-Bounds area, angering the farmer. Whether the farmer has forgiven us yet, 40 years later, I’m not sure…

I guess the club committee did what I’ve sometimes done: get out your OS map and look for big blobs of green. And halfway between Kiddy and the Lickeys, there’s a nice group of woods, separated by country lanes:

chaddesley chaddesley routes buoc2 buoc1

Some titbits from the results:

In those days, as you can see, the age classes were completely different, with the oldest being M/W50. M21 was the biggest class, unlike today when it’s probably M60. (There may be some sad logic to that…)

There were quite a few clubs that don’t exist any more, like SOLOS (the Solihull club), and the schools that took part included Alsager and Tividale comps.

The winner of M21A was Mike Down of SOKI, clearing 10.5 km of wild Worcestershire woodland in 65:40. Other finishers on the elite course were T. Thornley (5th), P. Carey (19th), D. Peel (51st) and T. Foxton (59th).

On other courses we find: P. Palmer (4th M35), P. Pay (mp M35), M. Lucking (6th M17), A. Pickles (17th M15) and S. Hale (1st M12).

I hadn’t realised that the Careys started orienteering so long ago… Sheila was second on W19A, behind Beryl Blackhall.

There was a good turnout of scouts on the 4.1 km M15 course, the slowest time being an impressive 3:12:16.

I like that the M19 results include; “Also competed: A. Bailey, Retd” Clearly it wasn’t me, I was a 6 year-old, probably playing in my Congleton bedroom at the time, but I wonder who he was.

After Friday’s sprint there was a Q&A on the World Games O Chat when Annika Billstam, Andrey Khramov and Alison Crocker answered a few of my (and other people’s!) questions…

The weather…

AK: It was cloudy today, and hot, but not extremely hot, so it was OK. I think everyone suffers in hot weather, but I maybe a bit less than many.

AC: For me, the weather was not so much of a problem today. We have similar temperatures and humidity in the US, so I’m pretty used to it, maybe it even helped compared to others!

AB: The weather was hot today, around 30 degrees. I never thought about the heat during my race and it was not a problem for me. I think it was harder for the men who got more sunshine. Heat can be a problem for some athletes.

The course…

AK: The course was extremely easy. I made zero mistakes! But towards the end I became tired.

AC: The course was technically easy, but hard physically. You could run very hard in the urban sections, but then had to think a bit more back in the park, I think it was possible to make mistakes there. I had a technically solid run, if a few hesitations, especially in the first three controls. But I had the strength to run fast today, and that was important! One thing you had to be sure about in the urban section was to find all the ways to cut through the open yellow areas to save distance. So initially two routes might look similar, but if one allows you to cut more, that will be the faster way. I do look at old maps, especially sprint maps before sprint maps a lot, but not specifically evaluating route length, that might be a good idea to do more of!

AK: Today it was important to find the right trees. When you run fast you see a lot of trees, and you need to know which ones are “distinct”, and on the map. Also it was important to not make small mistakes of 3-5 seconds. Today I tried to look for the open areas next to the blocks of buildings – there you can take shortcuts. Other than that the route was as fast regardless which way you took round the rectangular blocks of buildings.

AB: The course was easy but I think the coursesetter did the best he could with the area. The challenging parts were to get the controls in the park in a good flow and be in advance in your orienteering the whole way.

On the development of O…

AB: Well, I think things will happen for sure. I hope that the long distance will stay intact, but I guess we will try some more different ways to find the perfect format for sprint. Maybe some new distances will show up as well. I think that we will have one Sprint-WOC and one “Forest”-WOC in the future.

AC: I think it’s important to keep orienteering orienteering, but so far things that the IOF are doing to make it more TV friendly haven’t taken it too far. Sprinting is fun, and having more of it at WOC will change things, but the middle and long races are still there. And the GPS is great just all around, it makes it much more fun both for TV and computer spectators. Training camps in Europe for young orienteers from other countries is a great idea, but probably cost will get in the way. If more can be organized locally, it might even be more helpful!

And does Annika get to take the Pink Cat back to Sweden?

AB: I would love to!!!! But I don’t think so. I got the pretty mascot of the games though : )

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