4 days of Sprint and Urban orienteering around Bo’ness and Denny!
Is it for me? Am I fit enough? Most importantly for me - Will it help my forest orienteering?
These were the thoughts running through my mind when I entered Sprint Scotland organised by Masterplan Adventure which included two full days of training and training races, a question and answer session, presentations by Matt Fellbaum and Oystein Kvaal Osterbo about their experiences at elite level in sprint orienteering and finally if that was not enough three sprint/urban races on Saturday and Sunday.
I really had no idea what to expect but the thought of four whole days immersed in orienteering seemed like too good a chance to miss especially as Lynne was keen to go too. We booked excellent accommodation close to Bo'Ness, allowing us to cycle to and from the events on Saturday.
Training was available from 10am - 2pm each day followed by a training race in the evening. Thursday was based at Hillpark Hotel in Rosyth where we were able to leave our kit - useful if bad weather was forecast. Luckily for us the sun shone.
We were provided with a variety of training exercises including corridor navigation, long legs training, repeated running of a short loop and starts training. I tackled the corridor training first to help me get into the map. On first glance it looked impossible - to my aged eyes just a bunch of squiggles on the map especially as the corridor became narrower the further round the map you ventured. Once the start was found following the corridor became totally absorbing and enabled me to shut out information that was not required thus simplifying the map. It was useful to go round the course as a pair allowing us to talk through what we were seeing and question each other. Interestingly, as the corridor became narrower I found that I was navigating faster and therefore able to move slightly quicker and as an added bonus my confidence rocketed.
We completed our training for Day 1 by opting to do the ‘Long Legs’ training. Ideally the long leg would be used to plan the route to both the next control and the short leg that followed. Initially I found remembering the route to the second control very difficult particularly as Lynne decided to remove my map and kept ‘encouraging’ me on to make faster decisions but gradually as confidence grew so did the navigating and memory.
It was excellent to have coaches (Chris and Graham) available who questioned, challenged and encouraged very effectively.
Day 1 came to a close with a ‘training race’ where I had the chance to test my newly acquired skills. It is so important to make the correct route choice looking for the fastest route between controls but also ensure that you don’t accidentally end up running into a blind alley or coming to an impassable fence for example. It is also really important to know where the control is situated on the feature, so always read control descriptions carefully. At the end of the day, I felt quite elated having completed my race in a reasonable time but more importantly for me, I was happy with my navigation and route choice. After just one day, I was noticing improvements in my orienteering ability, my confidence was soaring and I couldn’t wait for the next day.
Day 2 training was held at Denny Football Stadium and included exercises to encourage map simplification and routechoice. We were asked to think about how much information is required from a map in order to be able to find the controls and then we had to take the information that we required and draw it onto a blank controls map. Absolutely daunting initially but once again, I became immersed in the challenge and produced a fine map that only made sense to me as I selected the essential features that I required. No, I didn’t just copy the whole map down! It was with some trepidation that I tiptoed out of the stadium to try out my map. To simplify it, I drew mainly roads/ paths and junctions whereas Lynne had used the shape and angle of buildings. To my amazement my map worked for me and the satisfaction of finding the controls from my little map knew no bounds.
The second exercise involved making crucial decisions for route choice and involved fake barriers. This time, I flew solo. We discussed the route choice from 1-5 which made for good quick running and decision making. Controls 6-10 were close together and it was then that I realised that I had mistaken 6 for 9 so was momentarily disorientated. The training had given me the confidence to stop and re-locate quickly without going into headless chicken mode. Will this skill transfer into the forest? My challenge for the evening training race was to plan ahead and look up at the terrain which I executed well and I felt my running begin to flow.
The weekend saw us back in Bo’Ness for three races with two on Saturday and one on Sunday. My aim for the weekend was to run my own race and try to avoid distraction from the other competitors, to look up as often as possible allowing me to run faster and spike/hit all the controls cleanly. The two days of training must have paid off because I started the races as a calmer, more confident orienteer and dare I say athlete with a definite plan and as a bonus I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am looking forward to taking my learning forward to see if I can apply the same skills at the Scottish 6Days in Strathearn. Unsurprisingly, the first thing I did when I got home was to enter the Sprint Race in Crieff.
So to finish off:-
Is Sprint/urban orienteering for me…and you? Definitely. I would thoroughly recommend it whether you are a novice or an experienced orienteer. Focused orienteering has to be good and Masterplan Adventure organised a well thought out and exciting four days designed to develop individual orienteering skills.
Am I fit enough? Yes, I was because the training was designed to let me work at my own pace allowing me to challenge and compete against myself, pushing myself when I felt I could. What I loved was the fact that the training accommodated a complete range of age, nationality and ability.
Most importantly for me - Will Sprint/urban orienteering help my forest orienteering? Absolutely. Between now and the Scottish 6Days, I will be working on -
- having confidence in my own orienteering, running my own race and avoid being distracted by other competitiors
- Simplifying each leg and developing the confidence to move more quickly to attack points
- looking up from the map to the terrain to facilitate smoother, faster and hopefully more accurate progression from control to control
…this skill would have been useful in the café after the last race when I successfully navigated my way into the gents toilet - my sincerest apologies to the poor gentleman whose eyes locked onto mine in horror as he melted into the cubicle and I slunk out of the door.
Huge thanks to Masterplan Adventure and in particular Graham and Chris - I will return!
Lynne has written an article for the BASOC website
I hope everybody managed to watch the Adventure Show yesterday (Friday 28th June) where the JOK Chasing Sprint 2019 was live. If not a link can be found on the SOA website or BBC iPlayer. It was well worth watching providing a taste of what is truly an holistic sport.