This weekend was the British University and Collage Sport (BUCS) orienteering championships hosted by Edinburgh University (EUOC). The individual was held on Balkello Hill and the relays on Gullane Dunes. My preparation for the weekend turned out to be less than perfect as so far this year I have definitely concentrated on long distance (with 2 ultra races in the last two weeks), have done zero hours intervals and 70mins foot orienteering in total!
It's fair to say I was heading up for a bit of a run but, with a couple of new faces in Sheffield Uni Orienteering Club (ShUOC), had no expectations what so ever!
By Thursday plans were changing a bit as the start lists for Saturdays individual race were out and I was off second to last, a strong position to be in for someone who can run fast but not think fast! Hollie Orr was starting 2minutes behind me and it was inevitable that she would come past at some point, so my new target was 'how many controls can I get before I see Hollie'. This was a good target as it required me to concentrate and not mess up the first few controls!
However, before Saturday came I had to get through Thursday and a cycling test at Hallam Uni - how far can you get on a stationary bike in 30mins. This formed part of an undergrad dissertation and this first session was just an orientation session, no recordings would really be used. Helen looked a little exhausted after finishing and the guy before me sounded like he was working really hard when I arrived. So I decided to be sensible and save my legs for the weekend so as to get the most out of my start time.
This plan lasted all of 10minutes (warm up) as then I was told the distance other riders had got....and set myself a target. The max anyone had got was 20km and the girls seemed to be getting 18-20km so I told myself that if I could get near that I would be happy! Once I set off staying over 125rpm seemed easy...well for the first 5mins anyway...things steadied out to around 115rpm average over the 30mins I think and when I hit 20km at around 24mins I knew my plan of taking it easy was out the window, so thought I might as well see how far I could get! I managed 23.3km taking a comfortable lead on the study....
Needless to say this impacted on my leg speed on Saturday so I set off steadily up the hill thinking 'ow my quads'. I was very tentative with the first 2 controls but got them pretty accurately, sped up to 3 and then, en route to 4 Hollie came past! We both fluffed 4 a bit but I got there just ahead, then off to 5 and it was time to try out the staying in contact with the map whilst chasing Hollie part of the race. This lasted until control 8 where I couldn't see her, we must have taken different lines, but I was pleased with how I was navigating and keeping my head as I spiked 8 and headed off to 9. I lost a bit of ground on this leg as it was a long hilly one which my tired legs did not enjoy, but was about 200m of heather behind at control 9. Then came more leg abuse with deep heather all the way across to control 14 and that was it for keeping Hollie in sight!
My legs didn't really want to lift high enough to run over the heather well - a combination of tiredness and lack of terrain running recently - so I concentrated on the nav and spiked the controls, taking some reasonably fast splits along the way even though I felt like I wasn't moving. Control 14-finish was suddenly easy running again but I made the mistake of going a little too fast as the nav was slightly tricky here, I lost about 1.5-2.5mins on the last loop which was disappointing, but tore into the finish to take 8th place, 8 seconds ahead of Hazel Wright and 39 seconds ahead of Anne Edwards. If you had asked me before the race if I would be happy with this, the answer would have been a resounding YES!
It was a good day for the ShUOC girls with 2nd and 3rd place going to Laura and Anwen and me being third counter, we narrowly missed beating EUOC in the points race! A vast improvement on the last few years! And this formed our 1st relay team for the Sundays race.
Gullane Dunes was a big contrast to the previous days heather, it was fast runnable sandy terrain with lots of spikey greenery and densely packed wood....this got me nervous as this is a prime location for me to mess up - big time! Previous mistakes on such areas have ranged from 8-36minutes....so the girly briefing of 'take it slow, especially in the green and don't make any big mistakes' had me a little worried. I could either make or break the teams chances on first leg. I decided to make them and set off with the aim of not worrying about speed (not that my legs had much of this left) or anyone else, but just getting round cleanly, regardless of how long it took....it would be better than 36minutes of hunting on the wrong sand dune....
The pack set off at a very comfortable speed and after opening my map towards the back of the pack and working out where I wanted to cut off the beach I found myself swiftly up at the front with the EUOC 1st and 2nd teams. It appeared their target was the same as mine for leaving the beach so we raced up the dunes, turned left, approached the control.....and all simultaneously turned round 180 degrees and headed from number 2 to number 1.....doh!
At least everyone had followed us but it was a stupid mistake, especially with how confident I was that it was right....
Anyway, it meant a fast split to number 2, then from control 3-5 we (Euoc 1 and 2 and myself) got a gap on the rest of the field. I made a small miss on 4 of about 20s which meant I had to speed up to catch Euoc2 again. A couple of less than perfect line choices kept me just behind EUOC 2, and losing 10-20s on the spectator control followed by an extremely slow but accurate final loop (as I was paranoid about making mistakes on the last 3 controls) meant I handed over in 3rd, 2.5mins behind EUOC 1 and 1min behind EUOC 2.
I was very pleased to have kept it together on an area I normally would associate with a disastrous run, especially as I targeted the controls I thought most likely to be a disaster and concentrated on being slow and accurate. I had seen practically nobody out there, EUOC 1s gaffle was so different I didn't see them after the 4th control and I rarely saw EUOC 2.
Anwen was next out and was going well, pulling ahead into 2nd until the 13th control which proved to be the unlucky number (the main one I had targeted for caution) and she lost a few minutes. She stuck with EUOC 3rd team, handing over pretty much at the same time in 4th! Laura had a stormer of a run and at the spectator was about 200m ahead of EUOC 3rd team, not that she knew given the lack of sightings of other runners. Anwen looked about to explode for the next few minutes until Laura came into view still ahead, we had prevented an Edinburgh 1,2,3 on their home turf :-) finishing in 3rd!
I haven't really enjoyed orienteering properly in about 3 years, and as I enjoyed it this weekend it made concentrating for the entire course seem easy! This is usually where I fall down, but I'm hoping to keep on enjoying it for the JK and British champs which I think I will try and have fresher legs for!