Saturday, February 25, 2012

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.........

there was a runner. He did OK on the local scene - won the odd place and team prize.

He had a bit of a reputation for going out hard from the gun - sometimes he was just plain silly, like when he went through 2 miles in the Great North Run in 9.30 mins, still in the leading group!!

This runner also did a bit of track racing and trained twice a week on the track with a 800m/1500m group. His track racing was based on strength rather than speed - he still ran long fell races, mountain marathons and LDWA events over 25 miles, as well as road racing and orienteering events - in fact, a bit of a jack-of-all-trades (and master of none!).

So when racing 800m or 1500m on the track, our runner had to go out hard from the start. This meant that a hard start in road races actually felt comfortable - 5 minute miling compared to 4.15 minute miling - at least early on! Then he would drift back through the field.

After a few years of racing like this, our runner gradually eased back from a fast start, trying to set a steady pace, run comfortably through to half way or three-quarters, before finishing strongly. His ultimate race with this strategy was in the London Marathon - a pb of 2.39 (and bits), and a 36 minute last 10km. Positively slicing through the field! Great feeling!

A few years further on, and a slow steady start became the order of the day, gradually working his way through the field as the race progressed, hopefully finishing up running with people moving at the same pace. Quite a satisfactory way to race, at least mentally, but not that great for results!

But even this race strategy is starting to fall apart - our runner is starting oh so slowly and not making a great deal of progress during the race. Our runner is no longer even making the top half of the field in local fell races!

The nadir must have been last week at the CompassSport Cup match at Gilling Woods. 4 controls in, about 25% round the course, and our runner has already lost 7.30 mins to his better clubmates - 21 mins to their 13.30. OK, he only lost another 5 mins in the remainder of the course, finishing in 72 mins to their 59.30, but the damage had been done early on.

The chap who used to coach those track training sessions all those years ago always said our runner was never the same after he stopped going off hard.

Is the problem physical, mental or just plain old age? Who knows? But then, it would be nice to knw. And surely it's not a unique story!?!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

And now for something completely different.....

Ever since I saw Michael Palin visit the group Kodo in Japan as part of his Full Circle trip, I have had an interest in Japanaese Taiko Drumming.
Over the years, I have seen several groups in concert, in particlar the UK based Mugenkyo, who I have seen probably once a year for nearly 10 years.
Anyway, at one of their concerts, their leader Neil mentioned that the group run weekend workshops in a training centre in Lanarkshire. I mentoned this back home and I was given permission (!) to sign up.
So in 2010, I actually went on 3 weekends, and thoroughly enjoyed myself! On the third weekend, I was given an e:mail address of a group based in York, so just before Christmas 2010, I went along to one of their practice sessions.
Since then, I have practised with them on a weekly basis, and had some great experiences performing over the last year:
- at the York Railway Museum over Easter 2011, as part of the Japanese fortnight, celebrating the arrival of the Shincasen train at the museum
- at the Black Swan Folk Festival (as pictured)
- busking in York City centre
- taking part in the UK Taiko Festival in Exeter, including performing on stage!
- at a Karate Club annual presentation evening

In order to get to the practice sessions on a Sunday afternoon, myself and the rest of the family have had to make some compromises with respect to orienteering (sticking to events within 1 hour drive of York, taking two cars to events etc) and it's sometimes been a bit of a dash.

But after some 40 years of dedication to orienteering, sometimes to the exclusion of other things, I felt as though I needed to try something new and different - and I'm having such a good time, I certainly don't regret the change of emphasis!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Helping the helpers

I was reading through various posts on 'Nopesport' the other day, with particular reference to the recent 'Scottish 6-Days' event, and read one post by 'AlanB' which struck a chord, as someone who has been involved with organising larger orienteering events, and I quote verbatum:

'my other main responsibility, as a competitor, was to make life as easy as possible for the volunteers ....... That included arriving at each site in the direction laid down in advance, parking where I was told, and responding positively to any last minute changes. Any slight inconvenience, or having to wait in traffic queues for whatever reason, was as nothing when compared to what the organisers must have been through.'

I sometimes wish more people/orienteers would approach things with that attitude - or is it that some people feel they need to make a point by deliberately being 'different' - 'we are individuals not sheep' - but sometimes it helps everyone if we could put aside our individuality for the common good.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Great courses from CLOK Junior planner

Chris Mackenzie planned some great courses for today's CLOK event on Coate Moor, with it's central feature of Captain Cook's Monument.

The brown course picked it's way through the nicest bits (though I was pleasantly surprised how runnable virtually the whole area was today - the right time of year?), with some good longer legs with route choice, and some technical stuff to catch out the unwary.

Another very steady run for me with all controls appearing where I wanted them to be. Really need to up the fitness level so that I can get my running speed closer to my orienteering speed!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

There must be something wrong with my orienteering technique because....

there was lots of comments, nay critiscm, of the map used for the recent CompassSport Cup round at Silton, but all of my controls appeared where I expected them to be!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Orienteering should be enjoyable - well said that man!

At the AGM of our Orienteering club last week (as part of the follow up to a motion last year on increasing membership and participation) we had a 'brainstorming' session. And there was one comment made which struck a cord with me - Orienteering should be enjoyable!!

(picture of the author in a fell race with a big silly grin on his face!)

Now what one person calls 'enjoyable' is not necessarily exactly what another would list, and it very much depends one each persons' perspective.

For instance, a long way to the start for one person is ideal for a thorough warm up. For the younger and older participants, it might be as long as their course, so might seriously increase the physical challenge to their limits. And for parents with split start times, it can be very difficult. From my own family experience, a long walk to the start can sometimes mean we just don't go to the event.

Some people like a good physical challenge - lots of climb or rough underfoot - the enjoyment comes from testing yourself and coming through it strongly - the calls for full on Classic distance courses are a case in point. For others, if it is too physical, then they can't enjoy the navigational challenges of the course.

On the other side of the coin, pandering to everyone's needs can lead to a proliferation of courses, with only a handful of people on each one - if enjoyment comes from competing against other people, and comparing routes and splits afterwards, then this goes out of the window if there are only one or two people to run against.

Some then argue for cutting down the number of courses - if you want to run a 10k or half marathon or a marathon, then everone runs the same distance - you don't run 10% less distance just because you're that bit older! It's good to have lots of people to compare yourself against - witness the limited number of courses offered at Urban-O events. It also reduces the workload for the event officials, surely making their jobs more enjoyable!

Of course, then some people like a bit of 'head to head' racing, whereas others prefer to run in total solitude, without distraction - total self reliance. Is 'using' other competitors all part of the game, or is it 'cheating' - the IOF seems to think that mass start classic distance races are the way forward for the World Championships.

I know you can't predict the weather, and access restrictions mean some areas are only available at certain times of the year, but bad weather on an exposed area can certainly reduce the enjoyment factor!

I guess that with Orienteers being so individualistic means that you are never going to please all of the people all of the time.

So if I were planning an event, here are some of the things I would try to incorporate, in an effort to try and make the event as enjoyable as possible for as many people as possible:

  • Start no more than 5-10 mins from car parking/assembly.

  • Finish as close as practical to the car park/assembly.

  • Find the nicest, most scenic and most runnable bits of the area and make sure as many people as possible go through them.

  • Use short legs to thread people through the nice bits and longer route choice legs to get people round the not so nice bits.

  • Find the interesting things and the nice viewpoints in the area - and take people there! Castles, sculptures, caves, ponds - anything memorable!

  • Try to minimise the climb, or at least the effort of the climb - zig-zag up or down a steep hill, or at least make the leg diagonally up or down the the slope - or at least give an 'over or round option'.

  • Try to avoid the bad vegetation - bracken, deep heather, brambles, tussock grass!
And my most 'enjoyable' event of the last year? I think it must be the North East Score Champs in Bishop Auckland Park - just about ticked all the boxes!!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Bad weather courses

Back in the Spring, I planned the courses for our club's annual Regional (Badge) event. The venue was Coate Moor, one of the Cleveland Hills which rise sharply up from the Tees Valley plain to over 1000ft. As the area includes grouse shooting moors, and lots of bracken, it is only available in February and March.

I had done some scouting around the area whilst planning a sprint race, so had some basic ideas about the courses. The mapper was plugging away.

Time constraints meant that my main planning visits were set for the Xmas/New Year period. But at the beginning of December, it snowed. And it continued to snow. And the snow stayed. Right through to the end of February - 3 weeks before the event!

So the controller and I did all of our work in the last few weeks before the event - no time to test run courses, just get the sites tagged and agreed. Tagging was done with 6 inches of snow on much of the area, and two weeks before the event we had to hurriedly leave the area in a hailstone shower before the access road became impassable!

I thought the courses might be short, and some people queried the lengths in the final details, but I felt I ought to err on the side of caution, given the exposed nature of the area.

The day before the event, it was wet and thick mist, but on the day, it was clear and fine, and many courses were won in quite short times. Nobody really seemed to mind - probably just glad of a run out after a spate of event cancellations.

If the snow hadn't thawed in the couple of weeks before the event, or if the event had been on the day before, there would have been some tired and cold people out for much longer. We could have had hypothermia cases, or had to call out the Search and Rescue Team.

But should I have erred on the side of caution and planned such short and 'low level' courses, or should I have stuck more rigidly to the guidelines and planned longer and more physical courses? Is this another example of the 'dumming down' of the physical challenge?

Thinking as a sometime Organiser and Controller, I would probably have advised my planner to do as I did. Better to be safe than sorry!