Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pre WUOC 2016 tourism

Well I think it's time I resurrect this blog don't you?! It's been a long year finishing up my masters course at Heriot Watt but loved it!  I'm now in Budapest doing a day of sightseeing before meeting up with the rest of the USA team. I decided I was sick of flying to a major airport but not actually seeing the city. I hadn't really planned my trip either though with my focus being too much on degree and graduation and parents visiting. So this is how my tour turned out! I got to Budapest at 10:30am (9:30am BST) after waking up at 2am to get to Dublin airport. (Thanks Colm for making sure I'm my sleepy state I didn't forget anything!) I decided I would just buy a 24hr Budapest card and see where it got me!  Free transport with the card was the selling point! So boarded the bus into the city center to find the Maverick Hostel to drop my bag.  Beautiful day but getting hot already! On the bus ride I saw a walking tour at 2pm included with the Budapest card so aimed for that as my first stop!  It was a tour of Buda which everyone said with the castel and hills was the nicer side anyway. The tour started at this holly tower next to an impressive church. Matthias church, gothic style architecture built under bela IV, but the tower was added by King Matthias hence the name. The lady giving me he tour was named Monika and was very knowledgeable about the history. Glad I went on the tour as felt like I would have never learnt as much just walking around with a book. 
The 250,000 tiles made in Pecs have a special glase on them to make them so colourful
  I then decided it was too warm out (was probably burning already at this point!) so went into the art museum also on the hill. I spent a good 1.5hrs in the air conditioning looking at art work. Some of it was very good, others I didn't think counted as art or just didn't appeal to me. With my Budapest card I could also go up to the dome at the top which was nice. 
This used to be an observatory when the building acted as a university
After the museum and a lovely €1 ice cream (mango sorbet!), I made my way down the hill and back up another (Gellert hill) to see the Liberty statue and citadel. Here is known to have the best view of the city. The citadel was built by the habsburgs in 1854 and survived until 1849 during the war of independence. Next to this the liberty statue sits and is one of the symbols of Budapest. 
View from top citadel
Liberty statue
After a lovely dinner of fresh pizza I decided it wasn't as warm out but still light so I'd try to see a few things on the Pest side. I took the trolley with my card down to the parliament and that was an impressive building!! It was opened in 1904 and is on a square called Kossuth Lajos. Apparently it's size was designed so large to represent the thousand year old history of the nation. It's dome is 69meters high according to Monika and is the same size now was St. Stephens basilica to show equal power for church and state. 
In front of parliament After I continued to walk along the Danube river and enjoyed the sunset across the hills and pretty colours. 
There was a sculpture along the banks titled shoes by Danube. Here sixty pairs of bronze shoes from the 1940s were on display to commemorate those who were shot into the river by the Hungarian nazis. It was cleaver and well done!
Shoes by the Danube
I then went back to the hostel only to be woken up early (2am!) by a powerful thunderstorm. It was meant to rain all day! Glad it didn't and I only changed my morning plan to visiting the city market ( built in 1896, most beautiful indoor market in Europe apparently) as indoors and not walking mad to another museum and the basilica. Had a chill breakfast and browse before heading back to airport for noon to meet more of the team. 
Central market hall

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WUOC 2014: Sprint Preview



This afternoon is the WUOC Sprint distance event. 
The event starts at 15:00pm Czech Time so 14:00 irish/UK time and 9am east coast time.
The venue is the village of Svaty Kopecek which is 12km from the event center in Olomouc. And the terrain consists of partly urban in the small town and then partly park forest with the addition of the Olomouc Zoo! The zoo makes things a little bit more interesting as there are some tricky places around inclosuers and also a small train that runs around the zoo that is not going to be stopped during the race and has priority. Hope I don't hit it! Also we are thinking one of the normally closed fences must be getting opened for us as it was said "Allowed crossing points through the fence are highlighted by ISSOM symbol 708." in the final details. So should be interesting!

 The women have 2.03km, 115m of climb and 13 controls. The expected winning time is 14mins. 
The men have 2.54km, 122m of Climb and 17 controls. The expected winning time is 15mins.

There is no arena passage either but we are ending in front of the main church of the village:

I am the 5th starter for the women at 15:35:30, which means I think I'll have some nettle crushing to do. Full leg cover is going to be needed. 

The rest of the USA starting times are: 
Charles 15:51:00
Hans 16:01:00
McKenzie 16:01:30
Tori 16:30:30
Jacob 16:33:00
James 17:13:00 

Here is the old map of the area as well for an idea of what we are racing in. The Quarentine is in a field off to the south east corner of the zoo

 There is also a Preview Video that some of the Organizing volunteer students made for us that can be found here:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WUOC 2014: Long Distance

Today was the WUOC long distance race. I was the last USA female to start but I wasn't really too concerned about this race anyway as the game plan was to just run it steady and clean.

The Long distance race in most international competitions is known to be long and a tough physical race, and this one was no different! The women had 8.3km long course with a grueling 460m of climb, but let me tell you it felt in places it was a lot more than that!

A bit about the area: So Nectavské Údolí is a massive valley. The map is dived in half by the major valley and has a road and railway line running through it (and much to our disappointment we didn't get to ride in an old steam train to the event like the newsletter claimed :( ) Then off the main valley are multiple deep and curved valleys leading to very steep hillsides and distinct hilltops. The forest is mostly "high, clean and very runnable"  (if contouring along a steep hillside or climbing up a steep hill one defines as runnable sure!) There are also patches of dense woods and a patch network which is quite dense. Mostly major paths running along the hill sides.
From the warm up area - Photo by James
We had to be in quarantine by the first starter at 9am so it was a bit of a long wait to race for me. By about an hour before my start though I started warming up. Even the warm up map was quite hilly. I ended up only going to two controls on the warm up map and struggled with them so in the end just turned back. I didn't want to get frustrated before I even started nor did I want more climb than I had to do today. So tried to calm myself down after the disaster of the warm up, just kept telling myself "those are the two controls you messed up today, they are out of the way now" and some how that must have worked. Was the acceptable amount of nervous at my call up time of 11:27am. Although the call up lines confused me, will need to remember to read about the set up more for the middle.

As soon as I turned over the map my heart sank though. Long leg to control 2 no chance of getting into the map before having to deal with my least favorite part of a long. Thankfully there was an elephant track pretty much to control 1 so had some time to plan 2. Getting to 1 though was where I first found out about how lose the ground was on these slopes. Dirt just slipped out from under your feet. There was no way I was going to be happy about taking these down hills at speed. Made it to 1 and then down to the track to head towards 2. 1-2 was where I'm not sure I picked the best route but for the whole course I'm happy in that I picked a route and executed them all pretty much totally cleanly. So 2 decided you were going to have to climb at least once, possibly twice. I picked a fairly straight/left route for the first 3/4 of the leg and then once I hit the major trail at the hight of the control I just ran around the track and dropped into the control from the top. This is the leg I would like to see what others did though because one girl came into the control from the north with me and another from the west. Looking back at it there is once very around option to the right and up the stream but I didn't see it then. anyway it was clean so just kept going.
I had three girls vaguely around me for almost up to control 5. Took the lower main trail to three and in through the white green gap to the control. Then there was an elephant track for a good portion of leg 4, but also picked the pace up a little bit to keep the girls in sight so that I had an idea of where the track was going, and then saw the last girl in the group punch 4 which was nice. They all slowed down up the hill to 5 so ended up catching back up with them to pick our way up to clearing in-between the two main tracks. They pulled away again on the main track around the hill but I just let them go knowing I needed a steady race and that this wasn't the event I was racing full out. So didn't have the advantage of seeing them punch control 5 so got into the control circle and was very confused. I was standing in the green between the clearing and where I thought the trail was and just didn't see the control. While scratching my head looked far enough behind me to actually see a dad and his daughter at the water stop and THEN saw the control. Dop! Took the energy drink and headed off up the hill. But again felt like I hit the trail odd coming out of 5 so was feeling on the edge of confusion. Slowed it down but still when I hit the multi patch junction I was just that slightly turned around or maybe nervous that I almost headed off up the wrong track. But corrected before I even left the junction so not a big deal and dropped into control 6 fine. Then leg 7 was quite nice as the first part again had an elephant track for me, well once I saw it. Crossed the stream fine and started heading up the hill and just saw the green and yellow and thought "damn I don't really want to go through that!" and out popped an elephant track that lead me all the way around the top of the and through the yellow reentrant just like I was wanting to do :) Went to the second distinct tree and contoured into the control hitting it just fine!
Controls 8 and 9 felt a bit odd but mostly were compass legs anyway so didn't really matter. I could see 8 from quite a ways up the hill but it didn't seem to be on a feature and guys were going into punch it, but it was on my line so I was going to at least check the code, and oh yes when I got there is was mine. Then took it fairly slow to control 9 because i wasn't really seeing the trails I was crossing over but really should have just gone for it as the reentrant behind the control was distinct.
Now Control 10 was the first leg I know I picked the wrong route to! I went left and over the hill on the trails that way and in through a bit of green to the field. Should have gone right and there was no climb at all. Think I must have had my map folded too small or just didn't see the loop that far away from the line. Stupid mistake and lost time and leg energy there. But came through the spectator controls at around an hour so perfect time for a gel! Or so I thought haha.
Trying to take a gel while climbing up these crumbling slopes was not my best idea, but it took longer to down the gel than I thought. So it would have been a sight to see me one handed struggle up the hill while trying to one handedly squeeze the gel in my mouth. Thankfully Colm had gotten me the lovely ISO gels that taste great and don't need water so it was better than it could have been!

Leg 12 was just mean! I'm not really sure what the best route here was, So i picked a simple one i thought and went for it. Up to the second big trail on the hill. Along to the corner with the wet ditch junction. Slowly up the wet ditch, which at the top of it was where I saw a Swiss and finish girl trudging up behind me. Then up the trail to the left past the fenced area and around on the main trail around the hill to the top of 12 and in. Again almost falling/sliding on my butt down to the control as the ground was so loose.
Leg 13 was fine just contoured around to the ride and along to the hill top, getting another glass of ISO drink there. At this point I saw Tori Owen coming up the hill and so had her just behind me the rest of the course, but was trying hard not to pick up my pace at all and ignore her. I went back out to the main track and around to the kinda paved junction of trails. It was more just a field though. Then the lower trail all the way to go right along the spur and drop into the control. Where I was surprised to see a camera man standing not that far away from the control making finding the pit even easier which was nice. Elephant track out of the control to the main trail and all the way around the hill to 15.
Going down to the last control was basically an elephant track as well but I managed to still trip up on something and did a wonderful faceplant! Was really hoping the guy behind me wouldn't trample on me and glad no one could see us yet! Then had a fun wee sprint finish with tori to the line.

Overall I'm very happy with this run. It was clean and I think I picked mostly the right route choices for me, and executed them well. I ended up in 52nd place out of 86 and only 24mins behind the winner. I'm just hoping my leg recover fast enough to put in an even better middle race. My For goodness Shake Strawberry flavor recovery drink was soooo nice when I finished :)

Full Results
Better Map

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

WUOC 2014: Sprint Relay

Today was the WUOC Sprint Relay in the town of Kroměříž (53km from Olomouc). This is the first time that the Sprint Relay has been run at WUOC and it had a different format than at this years World Champs. We ran the four legs of the relay in the order of female - male - female - male. But all of the legs were exactly the same length and control numbers. Bit interesting but it was a lot of fun! The USA team was Tori, Jacob, Me, and Charles.

The adventure started with a bus ride to the town and straight into the Quarantine of the school. This was fine although a bit tight for space to sit down as instead of say the gym to all pile into we were in three or four different classrooms. But we settled in and started getting changed to race. There was a slight debate on what kind of shoes to wear for this race though...

Background of the area:
the map covered the area of part of the town whose history is almost 9-hundred year old, and a garden. The garden is part of the Archbishop's Chateau. Kroměříž was apparently owned by bishops and later by the Archbishops of Olomouc from the first part of the 12th century. They used the Chateau and gardens mostly as their summer residence to show their aristocratic rank. The current Chateau is apparently one that was rebuilt in the 17th century after the Swedish Army destroyed the first one. The garden is a masterpiece showing the European garden art from the 17th century. It is not just flowers though but also consists of some wooded sections, a few ponds, statues, and even a mini zoo! It has been named one of the most attractive places in the Czech Republic.

Tower of Chateau in the middle from the square
So yes the debate on shoes was because of all the park area and did was want more traction, which was made even more of a concern with the fact that is was trying very hard to rain again an hr before start. I ended up just saying meh with cobbles and grass I'm going trail shoes. I was more concerned about how small my running shorts were :/ Apparently I'm not an XS any more haha. Once attire was sorted it was time to warm up, this is where I found the hallway swarming with angry coaches. The Organizers originally weren't planning for us to be able to warm up other than the time in the prestart. We weren't having that! Eventually it was decided that Athletes could go between the Pre-start area and Quarantine no both. Whew! So off to warm up! I was so glad to find out that my shin wasn't bugging me at all while warming up and felt even better once some dynamic stretching had happened.

Gun went off at 3:30pm and Tori was off! We could just about see the spectator control and final control from the prestart. I warmed up a little bit more but kept an eye out for her. Tori managed to have a great run coming in with a group and handed off to Jacob. Jacob was one of the few people that decided to race in long socks and when I finished I was thinking he wasn't so crazy after all, many stinging nettles were out there! :/ Sadly though he also had a bit of trouble at the start of the course so was a bit later than we were expecting. I was a bit worried while in the pen to start that Ireland had come through and not Jacob :/ but thankfully Jacob wasn't too far behind and I went out just behind two girls.

Right aim for this race was to be steady and clean. Nothing big just keep us in the race. And that was mostly what I was able to do and picked up I think 2 places :)
My leg 3 course

From looking at the start and embargo we knew pretty much what to expect coming out of the start and even was able to look at the church on street view that we would see first. That was nice and I had the short gaffel for my number 1 easing my way into the race. I had a small bobble going into control 2. Came into the garden and was actually a bit confused by the out of bound streaming. I was prepared for a hedge flower patch in front of me and to go right of it, was just maybe a bit overwhelmed to see that much tape. And oddly the only place I remember seeing tape. Anyway hit control 2 just a bit backwards into it. Took a deep breath and on to control three. It was the first longer leg and a right-left routechoice. I went left and think it was the right pick, even with having to bridges to sort (I had "run" that leg almost exactly on google street view). This is where however we found out that the fields weren't as nice as at least I was expecting. They were more like cut tall grass fields but the cuttings left in rows. So slower to 3 than I thought, oh well. Then to 4 thinking back a straight route might have been better but saw all the elephant tracks going off right towards the bridge over the small stream so took that and the path almost to 4. 4-5-6 was just a follow the elephant tracks from the 2 previous legs. Now ah control 7. This is where I most definitely took the wrong route, although executed it cleanly. I should have gone right around the lake and along the path to the first bridge and across to the control. But instead I followed the Hungarian girl that caught me off to the left and across the field to the further bridge and right in. She pulled away from me but I did't actually see her punch a closer control but think she must have as it was an ok route for one of the other gaffles. Not mine sadly ops! 7-8-9 was mostly clean. Overran 9 to the end of the white patch to the corner of green as I saw a control there and was like "oh green veg change with white must be mine!" nope it wasn't turn around to find mine well tucked into the green. This is where though Ánie from Ireland had been just ahead of me into 8 so was trying to reel her in. So picked up the pace a little bit to 10 to see if I still could. Up the steps to the hedge next to the chateau. Then spectator control making sure I had picked my exit route before turning the corner for everyone to see me. I just saw Ánie at the control she was close. Punch and turn around to go back down the little alley.

So I almost tripped myself up going down the alley as the rest of the map had been so flat I wasn't expecting the tiny steps down it to be there! Anyway had a clean finish loop through the town and came into the arena just after Ánie to hand over to Charles.

Charles had a decent race keeping us in 22nd place with a nice sprint finish! So 22nd team out of 25 and 12:50 down on the winners. I was happy also to be 17th on my leg apparently. Although not really sure how much you can compare the splits with the gaffeling.

On to the long distance tomorrow!

WUOC 2014: Sprint Relay Trial Race

The Sunday afternoon of WUOC consisted of a test Sprint Relay race. This is a new distance for WUOC that got added this year to keep the championship that same as the WOC format. The Sprint Relay involves a 4 person-mixed team running a forked sprint course. At WUOC the format is female-male-famale-male. The course today was around 2km, with an expected winning time of 8-10mins per leg. We entered one official team who ended up placing 15th with a time of 41:23 only 5:31 off the winner. Running order was Tori Borish, Jacob Grant, Me :) , Charles Whitaker. Full results found HERE. Most teams however were using this as a learning experience as many of us have not run a sprint relay before. Also quite a few teams had not arrived to the event in time from traveling to the Czech Republic, so the real race I think will be very different with more top teams in a pack and running full speed. So excited!

Leg 3
Tori had a great race on first Leg coming in with a pack. Sounds like she had a clean run but was getting pushed about at the controls with everyone wanting to punch the one SI box. So sounds like elbows out in places! Then Jacob ran a nice second leg, with what also sounds like a fairly clean run handing off to me with a few people not super far behind a pack. I had not the best race but I think I had prepared myself for it to be more complicated than it was and not prepared for the scale :/ Bobbled the first control not going far enough but quickly hit the closer control not my number, looked up and saw mine straight ahead. Almost over ran control 2 as wasn't thinking it was going to be next to a bench and didn't see the trail straight away. Most of the other controls were straight forward I just wasn't running all that fast. Also thinking I had the longer forking compared to some of the girls around me, although only about 4 controls were actually forked which surprised me. Handed off to Charles and he had a solid result to round of the race.

This is also going to be our official team for the WUOC sprint relay. So it was nice to practice running as a team as well. I think we all can have strong runs and do quite well for us. 
Team warm up :)

We learnt a lot and are excited for the real sprint relay on Tuesday.

Monday, August 11, 2014

WUOC 2014: Long training

Sunday morning the team piled into the car to go off to the Long model event. It was about a 40min drive away but through some pretty countryside with twisting roads. The model map area was on a map called Sládkova skála and the women's course was 6.9km 170m 11c

ditch/vegetation change between S/F
the clearing of the finish looking towards road

I decided I was just going to steady run this course and see how I was feeling in terrain. It was made a little bit harder since there were no controls out but that only really stopped me at 3 of them (3, 9, 11) where I wasn't 100% sure where the control might have been hung. But other than that I was feeling like I could move and read the map well.

Some of the things I wanted to invetigate:
1) how steep it actually was going to be. Since the middle/relay is really flat and the long in meant to be steeper.
      -      So It was a bit steeper but nothing I couldn't easily run up (thank you hill running and base training!) However have been warned that the actual Long area is a bit more steep in places then this map.

2) Was the Vegetation and trails as obvious as they were in the middle model and good to use for navigation?
      -      The vegetation and trails visually seemed to be very similar to that of the middle model. However, what I would have expected to be yellow at times felt a lot more like open rough. So for example ended up running through a small field in the middle of the woods and it was actually harder to run though than the white woods around it :/ so not sure how you can tell how fast some of the vegetation is going to be but possibly a thing to shuffle around then run through.

3) How to possibly deal with the long leg? what kinda long leg does the course setter like? as the model event was planned by the same person who has planed the long distance race.
     -      I'm feeling like I actually picked an ok route for the long leg, however I did not execute it very well. I think one is going to need to find the fastest easiest way to get near the control and power fast to there and then slow and precise into the control. Or possibly for me even break it into "2-legs" find a point half way along my route navigate to there, and then to my attackpoint and into the control. I could see me zoning out if the long leg is really vague though.

So the first control was easy enough but learnt that I'm going to need to look up when I get in the area of the control if it is a distinct tree because one needs to find the leafy tree vs the pine. The second control I decided I would try cutting through some green to see if it was any faster because I had the first big road to hit. It was actually not too bad but I think that was because A) the darker green was so thin and B) because the lighter green the trees were pretty much planted in the lines the direction I was going, Think it would have been a bit slower going 90º the other way. But once I hit the road I was on the trail connecting me to the next big trail and that was actually smaller than I was expecting so will have to watch out for openings for trails fully in green I think. I then got a bit turned around coming off the big control. COMPASS ALISON! silly mistake and ended up going along the trial into the control, but in a way thinking that might have been the better attack anyway.
Then 3 - So the plan was to go right of straight. I wanted to hit the trail running along the green patch SW of control 9. use that to hit the road, pretty much hit #8 cross over to the next big trail, down the reentrant to the stream and up the hill close to the junction to cross over the two other trails and then slow into the green. Well I never hit that trail ended up pretty much closer to control 9 and then was sloppy from there into the control and confused by what the knoll actually was :/ Nightmare as not any more confident about long legs now. But here I did it without fully not knowing where I was.
Then tail end of 4 to5 was also an issue for me. I managed to get myself turned around with my compass and then the vegitation wasn't matching up the way I would have liked. I needed to have looked at my compass a bit better before heading into the green as didn't find the trail I was wanting to but thankfully hit the trail running along the hill and into the control fine.
I sailed through most of the other controls only having to really stop about 9 and 11 just not sure I was actually on the exact feature but was in the area. Hoping that if it was on a knoll because they were all very small that I would have seen the control anyway. Same with control 11 as the reentrant that I'm very sure it was meaning to be was SUPER shallow.

So overall learnings. The Long is going to be a bit hillier - and I hear even more so than this model map. It is going to be not as nice underfoot to run through the woods - and apparently this model map was the nicer section of woods. So from both of those things along I think I might be picking trail options if trying to go through green more so than battling my way through. On the long leg I have to stay focused the whole time. The whole course I need to look at my compass a bit more than I did for this run and be more precise with my bearings. I think however my running ability I should be fine with the distance and climb though which is nice :) 

Next up the Sprint Relay!

WUOC 2014: Opening Ceremony

WUOC 2014 - Opening Ceremony in Olomouc

WUOC Officially begun tonight after the Opening Ceremony in the city center. There was no traditional team parade through town this time, and ceremony started with all the teams seated in the inner courtyard of one of the university central buildings (I believe the Library?) which was once a military complex. We did however get to have a little bit of a parade, all the teams walked across the stage, in the spotlight of an otherwise dark quad. 

Sadly there were soft, intermittent rain-showers during the ceremony, but the organizers were ready for worse providing us all with small plastic ponchos red, white and blue like the colors of the home team. We at first were confused though because we only saw red and white so everyone especially our Japanese friends and neighbors were making mock white and red poke-balls out of the containers. It wasn't until we opened them we realised they were ponchoes. Which I quite liked as added a bit of warmth and kept my legs dry :) 

To start off the ceremony there was a local kids and female choir who sang the Czech anthem, and also the anthem of the FISU, the international federation in charge of all university sports. The little ones were so cute to watch :) 

We then had many speeches made in both Czech and English from the various presidents of federations and organizing committees. And later on in the ceremony the all important student oath and officials oath were taken by a local czech athlete on the Czech team and an official from the area. This is to promise that we play by the rules, and do not cheat or dope. 

We then had two dance performances from local dance groups. One group performed a small show centered on red-dressed girls dancing around macho soldiers. The west point cadets on the team I'm sure could appreciate the uniforms, but can they dance even smoother?  Guess we will find out at the banquet! 

The best part of it all though, was a short light show on the side of the building. It used the details of the windows and facade as backgrounds to a orienteering-themed game of lights and colors. This was to celebrate and preview the home-made medals created just for WUOC. They are unique pieces made by the local Winter biathalon Olympic Medalist, Gabriela Soukalová. At university she studied metal work and metal design. The medals feature contours and a compass-needle, the perfect design for honoring the winner this week. The process apparently took her three or four months! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

WUOC 2014: Middle/Relay training

--> This morning the team went out to the Middle and Relay training area to have a go at understanding this Czech terrain. Most of the team have never been to the Czech Republic before, but we do have two that went to the spectator races of WOC 2008. Hopefully I have managed to soak up all the knowledge I can today.

The woods seem to be VERY open in places and then VERY green in others. The first view that we got was of a mix of it all and really was not a bad example of the area. So got on the shoes (toe seemed fine with my o-shoes as well which was a relief!) and headed out. 

I had a few ideas of things I wanted to really take some time to investigate and truly understand the mapmakers way of mapping.
1)   The vegetation boundaries and all that comes with “The Colourful” areas
-      Specifically I had heard that the Czech like to put controls hidden in the dark green areas on say a small yellow clearing or white spot. I wanted to A) Understand how to tell the difference between the yellow and white spots B) figure out how easy they are to tell from “A distance” C) how easy they might be for attackpoints into smaller one close by with the control in it.
2)   The track network
-      Specifically how useful the individual tracks/rides actually are
-      Also is it easy to notice I’ve crossed over a medium size track
3)   The Ditch networks
-      From the old map and from the newsarticle one could tell there was an irregular network of drain ditches in the area. The question was how easy are they actually to see in the terrain as they had been described as “Permanently without water, clogged, but visible close by”. For some reason that had alarm bells for me to make sure I understood how they were mapped and how to use them.

The guys had a slightly different course to try to avoid everyone running the same thing.
The first few controls I took quite slowly and also spent some time chatting with Tori Borish and then Tori Owen (Canada) joined us as well. I think that was really helpful to get me to really stop and think about things while actually standing in the areas I was interested in. So for instance Tori B and I basically walked to #2 and tried to see what the difference was between white/yellow/green in that area. To be honest is was quite hard to see the yellow vs the white. But the green and the track was pretty obvious. On this leg at speed I would probably trust my compass and go on a bearing for it since it is a short leg.

Leg #2-3 was nice because we all stopped at 4 to talk and had each by chance taken different routes to 3. Tori B went fairly straight to it. I legged it around on the train and then Tori O did a bit of both for one of her attempts (she ran the leg twice) taking the trail to start and then the ditch. From hearing the difference in time for tori O between track and straight I think I’m going for the track approach, but following the ditch along at the end I think was a very good idea as I didn’t have a solid attackpoint sorted for getting off the track.
            -So Tracks are decent and found easily
            -Ditches you almost need to be on top of to see. They are shallow but distinct. Could easily follow the ditch from the trail along to the control but wouldn't have seen the ditch from that far away.

Leg #3-4 again I stopped at 4 to look at more of the ditches. Actually getting to the control was easy enough. Quite quick to the main track and clearing and then actually used the green and broken ground of the ditches as a funnel into the control and hit it pretty much dead on. 
            -Going back to look at the ditches though they seemed way more complicated to be able to read at speed. However the bigger almost stream like ones are quite easy to pick out so will use them if needed. but thinking about trying to avoid much fine navigating with the ditches. 

Leg #4-5-6 the three of us looked at vegetation change again which was useful. I used the two white patches in the green to lead me into #5 and that worked perfectly. Although think you'd have to really pay attention to what is white, these weren't horrible. The yellow was also again more kinda grassy which helps. The green getting out of 5 onto the track was also quite easy to push through but can get you zig zagging so will need to be careful. But in this section the kinda line of forest was in the direction we wanted :) Then spent a while talking about the open around 6. I can see what the newsletter meant about "it feels yellow" although I would have almost called it rough open. It had long grass and smaller evergreen trees in places. But looking up it was clear sky! 
            -So yellow open is very useful to use as it is a distinct change in the forest, however don't get it in my head that it is the nice short grass super fast running. Although not slow either. 

From here we split off and I took the rest of the course at a faster pace. nailed 7-8-9 which was nice. using the aiming off and precise compass work and totally head up! You could see fences from MILES away. Then 10 was the first one I was slower deciding a route for. In the end I went in from the back and not from the trail wanting to see if it was actually a valid route. And actually if the control was any further from the track I would have possibly even said it was the right decision. but the track junction/veg change was a distinct feature to cut in at, if that wasn't there I'd have also picked my route. Easy straight in, and saw the control right away, and not that much slower I don't think. 

I then had a bit of a horror to number 11. This is where I see the warning of needing to focus the whole time being VERY true. Took too sloppy of a compass bearing hit the veg change and wasn't sure really where I was. I thought I was much further right than I actually was, ran left a little bit as that was my plan and could then see the road. OPS! so instead legged it up the road and in through the rides at the side, while stopping in the yellow open confused for a little bit first. UGH. 

12 easy nailed but just a precise compass to. It was 13 that I had trouble again :/ But I had flagged this as my tricky control. My plan was to aim off left and hit the T-junction and in. Well I think I got too distracted by how easily I could move across the rides that my bearing wasn't accurate enough. Hit the area, went a little left didn't see it. Also didn't see the small clearing either so thought I was in between the two and then kinda swept a bit. Think I was much closer to the clearing then I thought though :/ 

Overall some very good training and think I've learnt a lot. 
team snacking and waiting for bus
And Canadian friends

Traveling to WUOC 2014

Well it was actually a really nice and easy trip to WUOC! It only involved a Plane, Bus, Train and car all which went like clockwork. No epic adventures like getting to WOC last year with 3 flights having to get changed because of a cancellation.

However the challenge this time around was packing everything for carry-on with Ryanair and Aer lingus. Which actually really shouldn't have been an issue because my uniform is with the team since I haven't been in the states so really only needed shoes and compass. The issue was then not packing too much so that I can fit everything coming back again! Oh and Gels/Liquids! When you want 3gels for racing (probably overkill but they are coming) Plus showergel ect. It is quite hard to fit everything in the zip lock bag #AthleteProblems haha.

It did all fit... JUST!
Got to Dublin airport with LOADS of time so decided a coffee was in order and then got a chance to sit in the really cool new chairs they put in the waiting lounge for when your waiting for your gate number. They are circles! and soft and just rather comfy and normally ALWAYS taken! So took my chance during a middle of the day flight to try them out. I approve! Although possible not as much as the guy in the grey one next to me totally passed out, bet it made for a good nap but I personally would be afraid of missing my plane!
Plane to Prague!

Enjoy my coffee and repping the HWU hoodie

 Got to Prague no bother and enjoyed doing some last minute reading about the competition and writing out some things to expect for each race. I'm going to try very hard this week to have a list of things to expect from the race and what tools I believe would be good for battling challenges or just getting through the course. I'm hoping this will help me focus a little bit better before each race on something specific that I can control and that it will get my head in the game a bit faster. So having this time on the plan to start these lists was extremely helpful! Although I'm sure I should have done it sooner when looking at maps, But the news articles were also really helpful! 
With step one of landing in Prague complete it was on to step two: Finding the WUOC guide to get tickets for the rest of the journey. That was really rather easy and he accompanied me right up to the bus stop and helped me get on the right bus, Super helpful. I even got a little map drawn for me of a good place to eat in the train station because I was going to miss dinner.
The Prague train station - well the old part of it - was really nice! Stain glass windows and everything. Then the train arrived and it was a kinda modern version of the older trains with the seat compartments. Reminded me a little bit of the train from Anastasia
On the train.


Made it to the Event Center and accommodation then at around 10pm as it was quite a long train ride (around 2.5hrs). Apparently though Ian our team leader had been getting quite worried as to where I was because he thought I was getting in at 1:30pm. Ops! That's when I left Dublin. But went and said hello and panic over. Most of the team was asleep before I arrived, But I opened my room door and much to my happiness I found Tori Borish! YAY roommate! So we had a nice chat to catch up before I attempted to fall asleep. The room is student accommodation and it was really hot last night despite having the window partly open :/ There is also no internet in the rooms so down in the reception now to use the WiFi. Hopefully it will still be this easy to get internet to keep posting!

Another thing that I finally got was my shinny new kit! Having ordered it in the spring and only just got it I almost forgot what I had ordered haha. It is VERY red, white and blue/ stars and stripes! And sadly the bottoms are a bit tight, maybe I am no longer and XS :( Or I've just gained calve muscle from all my hill racing this summer? Yeah I'll go with that!

(Hopefully) Coming up: Middle and Relay training/thoughts