Monday was the final day which meant it was time for the club relays at Naesby East. I love Naesby but I'm not a fan of relays 'cause I don't cope that well under pressure. This year I was in a team with Pete Swanson and Jeff Greenwood and we decided for the more relaxed, fun approach. Pete even had us wearing our numbers sideways. They both had an early plane to catch so there was a joke that Jeff had set the alarm on his watch to go off at a certain point and if he wasn't back by then he was going to turn around and come back and Pete would swing by with his car as he came into the finish and they'd race off back to Dunedin. Fortunately we didn't need that backup plan!
Anyway, I think we all assumed the terrain wouldn't be too technical and it would be pretty easy but we were wrong! I overheard someone commenting that this was one of the most technical relays they've done. This area, like much of Naesby, is an old mining area but unlike the rest of the area it's not covered in forest. Naesby (the forest) is often considered to be New Zealand's most technical map so perhaps it should have been no surprise that the open area was also technically difficult.
The start of the relay event
Anyway, I was running second leg which is the shortest of the 3. Pete was powering through the course so I didn't have to wait long before I was off. Started okay and got to the first control to find a few people standing around looking hopelessly lost (the first control is normally a split, meaning different people will have different controls but in a similar area). I ignored them and kept going. Was a bit tentative on #3 and ran to the wrong #4 to start with 'cause I was looking for a grey rock, not a dirt rock. Silly mistake. The next control was the spectator control...just head towards the noise! Easy!
Coming out of the spectator control I was aiming to head up the valley to #6 but ended up hitting the green. I backtracked, but not before leading a whole group of others into the green (they kept going but I relocated and got back on track...didn't see them after that so I must have made the right decision). It was all fine until the final control which felt a lot higher up the hillside than it was marked. I was reluctant to go too far up but there was no other option. Vegetation was real vague so it seemed funny. Oh well.
The run into the finish was funny though. I was so buggered but there was a group of people screaming at me to start sprinting so I attempted to put in some more speed but my legs didn't have any more left. But I ended up with a pretty good time and made up quite a few places so Pete was thrilled. Unfortunately Jeff didn't have a very good run (he wouldn't even talk to us at first when he finished) so we lost a few of those places I'd made up but it was awesome fun and made me like relays for once!
Can't wait to come back to Naesby again. I love it!
Easter Sunday was the National Long Distance Champs, also known as the classic distance. So the first ever W21E long distance race I enter has to be the longest distance I've ever seen for a women's course in New Zealand (although I could be wrong). 10.8km. Distances of orienteering courses always throw your average runner. This is not a 10.8km run. This is 10.8km along the straight line of the course. You have to find the best way between each point and normally this is not the most direct route. Trust me, this is no easy feat. You will run a lot more than the distance given.
Anyway, it had snowed on the hills overnight and it was freezing which didn't bode too well since the terrain looked to be very open and very exposed. I had to keep jogging on the stop at the start to keep warm.
I got a little confused on my way to #1 'cause there was a fence marked on the map (fences are normally left off the harder courses)...what was that doing there especially 'cause I could definitely see fences that weren't on the map too. Weird. It seemed too easy but it was my control so hey, I'm not complaining. Went a bit too far and too low down to #3 which was frustrating and meant the girl behind me caught me up. #6 - oh dear. It was on a boulder in a fairly feature-less area and I went too far and found about 3 other controls which weren't mine. I started heading up to relocate but spotted it. Everything went pretty well after that for a while (apart from climbing a barbed wire outrigger fence and getting my tights and the elastic on my sport ident stuck to it).
I was so glad I'd stuck a clif bar in the back pocket of my tights 'cause I was hitting the wall by #12 which was thankfully a drinks stop too. Still orienteering okay until my stupid route choice to #16 where I decided to stay on the left side of the river. Not a good idea and getting across to the other side proved difficult because of the cliffs. Then I went too far and had to go back.
From the finish looking out over the terrain. It was flat near the end so this photo is deceptive but the course went out to the tops of those hills you can see on the horizon.
The rest of the course was okay but I was shattered. A long course after a long weekend after 2 really hard weekends previously. I had to walk most of the climb from #18 to #20 which was frustrating because they were easy controls. Nice to have people cheering me on to the finish at the end though and it felt like quite an achievement to finish.
The second day, Saturday, was the National Middle Distance champs and let's be honest here...arriving at the event centre I was feeling pretty intimidated. There were these huge cliff faces stretching across the terrain and in the distance we could see the odd control flag. Plus it looked steep, rocky and intense! I warmed up with a few of the other elite girls while trying to remain calm. It was hard, especially when we saw one of the early W21E girls heading up some rather steep hill straight from the start triangle.
Actually, the first control wasn't too bad except for trying to find a way up amongst the clif faces and the adreniline got me up the hill. Fairly easy control too thank goodness. I struggled a little on #2 'cause I got confused with all the little valleys I seemed to cross that I couldn't see on the map. Found the track and worked backwards.
The next few were okay due to the fact that there were giant cliff structures to navigate to and around. Then came #6 where I ran up the wrong valley and got stuck in some gorse. #7 - don't follow anyone even if you know they are better orienteers than you, especially if you think they are wrong. They ran up towards the major cliffline and I nearly followed them all the way up before thinking that looked so wrong that it wasn't funny. It was further over like I thought.
After that I upped the pace to keep in touch with the other elite girl and some of the M20A guys. The controls weren't too hard but it was pretty physical and I was tired. Controls were fine apart from a bit of a shaky #13. But on my way to the finish I almost missed out #17 (the final control). What was I thinking!
Wicked terrain and fun course but I had my brain and my legs switched off for too much of it. Damn.
So, as has become tradition for Easter, I had the National Orienteering Champs and this year it was being held in central Otago. The first event is always the Sprint champs on the Friday afternoon. I've never been a fan of sprints and this has to be one of my worst sprint races ever!!
I took the first control nice and slow and spiked it perfectly but somehow stuffed up #2 by doing a 90 degree error which allowed the girl starting after me to catch me. I got to number #3 before her but confused myself royally by thinking that it couldn't be mine because I hadn't gone far enough. More silliness! Then stupidly followed her route to #4 instead of the perfect route round to the left along the track which would have saved heaps of time.
The rest was okay but I was just so slow and really struggled to get my head around it...like I couldn't get my brain in to orienteering mode. At least I nailed all the controls in the spectator area though! Rob V was watching on the hill and said I was one of the few in my grade who did manage to nail all of them. At least that's something! It's always so embarrassing when you can't find the control while everyone is watching you.
Looking down over the last few controls from the spectator area