Friday, July 14, 2017

JWOC Finland - Competition week

The JWOC week is well underway. We've had a few tough moments but overall it has been a phenomenal experience so far.

Our first goal is to make it the start line with everything that we need (there is a long checklist of things to remember) and so far we have succeeded (touch wood). We were all a bit nervous about having to wear GPS trackers. The thought of having people back home follow your dot around a screen is rather daunting and there was lots of moaning from the boys about having to wear GPS vests. Getting to see exactly where we went after the race is pretty cool though so we've come to appreciate the little black box that they put into our back pockets at the pre-start.

The Middle Qualification race was a challenging one. The terrain is tricky and we all had one pretty big mistake. The rest of the legs were executed fairly well and so there were lots of positives to take from our races. We all qualified for the C finals. In the afternoon, Coach Sarah got to run a course in the Fin5 which she was really excited about. She also found the terrain very tricky and slow going and was able to appreciate what the team was up against in the morning.

The Middle Final sent competitors straight into a really detailed area.  This caused some problems for us but there were still some decent results. We then hung around to watch the A-final in the afternoon. We had a great spot on a gentle grassy slope overlooking the arena passage and Reece provided us with amazing snacks. Watching the best juniors in the world cruise past is very exciting! The vibe was pretty epic, especially when home favourite Olli Ojanaho came running in to claim gold.

Next up was the sprint - the race that we were all looking forward to the most. It rained most of Tuesday night and it was pretty miserable when we woke up. This meant that there were some seriously slippery sections out there. If you don't believe us, check out some great photos of people landing on their bums here. Both Christie and Andries had nasty falls but despite this they both produced fantastic results. Christie had one of the best performances by a South African lady ever and is only the 3rd SA lady to dip below 130% of the winners time in a sprint at JWOC. Andries also managed to join the 130% of the winners time club. Carl had a very solid run and kept fighting all the way into the finish. Once again we stuck around to see who would take the medals home. We were very excited when Tommy Hayes from New Zealand claimed silver in the competitive men's class. It's always great when our fellow Southern Hemisphere orienteers do so well!

We were all grateful for the rest day We had a good night's rest then went exploring. Another trip to the Orienteering shop was non-negotiable and then we went for Pizza followed by a trip to the Pyynikki Observation tower and where we had big ice-creams. The moment of the day was when Andries almost dropped his whole ice-cream on the floor but used his mad cricket fielding skills to save it inches from the floor. We laughed for a good 5 minutes :-) The fail of the day was Coach Sarah and Manager Andries missing the first part of the team leaders meeting (it was at a different time than it usually is). Luckily they were there for the most important part - the info about the party. And the Canadian coach was kind enough to fill Sarah in on the rest.

The Long is certainly not our favourite race, but we had good plans and had no major mistakes. The boys were a bit disappointing to miss their goals but both were pretty close to achieving them and improved massively from last year! Christie wasn't too happy with her race but her result was fantastic. Still waiting for stats from the team statistician (Tania).

Tomorrow is the relay! We have entered a men's team with Andries running first, Christie second and Carl will be bringing us home. Be sure to check out the GPS tracking

Sunday, July 9, 2017

JWOC 2017 Finland - Day 6 and 7

The team has had a busy few days! Andries finished writing exams on Friday so he and his family have now joined us in Finland. On Saturday afternoon we took him out to a middle relevant training area. He coped very well considering he was half asleep when we picked him up. The mosquitoes were very annoying again and despite large amounts of repellent we all got a few new bites. Sarah was especially grumpy as one got her on her forehead.  We then headed back to the Swart's place for dinner which was amazing (we didn't eat pasta!) followed by a few games of Uno and hot chocolate. We had an early night in anticipation for a busy Sunday.

This morning we moved out of our little chalet. The nice people at reception didn't make us pay for the lost knife and returned Sarah's passport - Phew! We moved into our rooms at the Murika institute and completed our accreditation. There was great excitement as we were reunited with friends from all over the world. There wasn't too much time to catch up though as we needed to get to the middle model. The map was more runnable than expected so that's good news! The forest was very busy with many other teams checking out the terrain for the final time. We then had lunch before heading off to the opening ceremony at an amusement park. After the opening we went to the sprint model, then back to our accommodation for the technical model where we tried out the touch free punching which will be used in the Sprint. It was then time for dinner and Sarah and Andries Senior went to the team officials meeting which was followed by a team meeting.

Start times are as follows:
Andries: 9:13 --> 8:13 in SA
Christie: 10:05 -->9:05 in SA
Carl: 10:09 --> 9:09 in SA

The format for the middle quali is slightly different this year. We know who is in which heat and therefore instead of starting 3 women together and then 3 men a minute later, they are starting a man and a women together every minute. This means that there is a 3 minute gap between people in the same quali. As usual the top 20 in each quali will run in the A final on Tuesday, the next 20 in the B final and the remaining athletes will race in the C final.

All athletes will have GPS units so be sure to sure to check out the live tracking on the JWOC website. Happy tracking and thank you to all our fans for the support so far!

Friday, July 7, 2017

JWOC 2017 Finland - Day 5

So after we finished writing the blog last night, the Sun - yes you did read right the Sun - of all things decided to pop out from behind the clouds and we thought that it would be rather scenic to go down to the lake and get some pictures of the view with the Sun in it. What was planned to be a 5 minute walk to the lake ended up being a 2 hour sit down on the pier to wait for Sun set. It was completely worth the wait, even though Sarah was hiding under so many layers that she "looked like a marshmallow". With the Sun down, we decided to head to the comfort of our accommodation and beds.

To make sure our legs would not be too exhausted for JWOC week, we took today slightly easier and rolled out of bed a little later than usual. With breakfast out of the way, we made our 15 minute journey to an area that had both Sprint and Middle training maps.

The training started off with a short control picking exercise where we planned our own courses on an all controls map. The map looked all nice and white and we were all hoping for the best... the keyword there was hoping, because that was totally not the case. The vegetation was super dense and green, which made getting anywhere at a pace really hard. Quite a few comments were passed that the area we ran in yesterday was nicer and more enjoyable than today.

Once we had met back at the finish, we decided to do a quick pit stop and tyre change (change of shoes) and head out to the sprint area. The sprint map was not the most technical and the main aim of the session was to get used to running on 1:4000 after a 1:10000 map. The plan for this session was to do multiple intervals with a high speed chase race in the last interval at the end.  The first intervals went well with quite a few variations in route choices which made for some interesting discussion. The second interval was unanimously aborted as it was in similar forest to the earlier session. Instead we did a team map walk to get to the next start. The last interval was a chasing start to add more pressure to the training. Christie went off first but was soon caught by Carl (15 seconds behind) due to a hesitation right by the start. Sarah did not catch the others due to the fact that she had forgotten to add a control to the others maps and consequently did an extra leg. Carl found that bare rock is still very slippery, even in a sprint environment as he almost repeated an incident from the national training camp where he hit his head against a boulder.

After wrapping up today's training, we headed back to the accommodation to prepare our lunch. On the menu was Quesadillas which were our first hot meal for lunch and for some might have been a little too hot. (Christie almost died, while Carl and Sarah thought it was only a little spicy).  We then proceeded with our daily ritual (napping) and later took a stroll to the nearby K-Market to stock up on the essentials (Oreo ice-creams and Fantas).

We headed to the pier and decided to be brave and test the icy waters. We only were able to get in as far as our shins before getting too cold. We called this our "ice bath" and then proceeded with our yoga/stretching.

Today's supper was a mix and mash of all the types of left over pastas that we had from the previous nights with some ham and sauce. Thankfully we seem to have finally mastered the use of the worlds smallest pot for cooking. With the sun still going strong, we have decided to have an evening of leisure and relaxation.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

JWOC 2017 Finland - Day 4

The morning greeted us with a chilly vengeance and with much self motivation, we emerged from the warm embrace of our beds to begin our day. Today's drive was about 45 minutes and Sarah finally seems to have gotten the hang of driving here: we drove on the correct side of the road the whole time and didn't miss the turn we had missed twice already.

Training today was on a long relevant map which meant 1:15000 (Queue collective groan). The main issue with the 1:15000 we found was that reading detail, especially within the circle, was virtually impossible without physically stopping. Coach Sarah had planned a course which consisted of some short and some long legs. We all started off strong with only a few major blunders (not to mention any names... Carl... doing over 2 km to the second control and had to revisited the start). The map was considered the most technical of all the training maps but we all seem to have handled it considerably well with all of us commenting that we had managed to get into the map by the end of the session. Overall, it was a good session besides from a few drops of rain and Christie being attacked by a vicious tree that managed to stab her in the eye.

Once finished the training, we thought we would stick to our lunchtime tradition and eat next to a lake. After the attempted murder of a teddy bear (we drove into a residential area to try and get closer to the lake and Sarah almost drove over a teddy bear in someones garden) and the rain threatening to pour down, we decided to abort that plan and retreat to the warmth and comfort of our accommodation.

After lunch and a well deserved nap, we decided that it was time to 'tourist it up'. We took a trip into Tampere and visited the Central Square and Cathedral which lead to some traumatic experiences with the parking metres. We also visited a cafe that is renowned for its donuts and of course had to sample the donuts.

On returning from being tourists, we did our daily dose of yoga on the pier. On the menu tonight was Spaghetti Bolognaise, where Christie shed a few tears for our lost onions that had to be sacrificed.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

JWOC 2017 Finland - Day 3

The morning started at 8 o'clock in complete daylight. We have yet to see any darkness on our trip. We took a 45 minute drive to the training for the day - it was a middle relevant area that once again was on the edge of the embargo. Within the first 5 minutes of the day we had already driven on the wrong side of the road and had missed one of the turnoffs (We blame google maps).

Once we had arrived at the parking for the training map (1km from the start) we were viciously attacked by a swarm of blood thirsty mosquitoes that were set on dining on our South African blood. We got ready at speeds that surprised all of us and started the jog to the start in the hopes that the mosquitoes would not be able to chase us. Luckily, they seem to be rather unevolved in that they were a lot slower than their South African counterparts.

On our way to the start we decided to hide our jackets at the finish because damn it is cold here. We then made the final trek to the start and began the first session of the day. Coach Sarah had planned a map walk to get into the map which we all did together. It seemed to be quite slow going as the map was so detailed in some places that it almost seems impossible to be able to read it at pace. We also used Carl as a guinea pig to go check if the marches were runnable - turns out they generally are, water channels however, are not. By the end of the walk we had all seemed to be able to get the general idea of the map to avoid getting too lost so we began the next session. It was a control picking course with some longer legs towards the end. We all had at least one major mistake but all managed to find the controls. Some general notes about the map: boulders are really helpful and visible, cliffs are CLIFFS - small cliffs are not even mapped and contour detail is not really that visible especially in the greener stuff.

Once we had finished the course, we hurried back to the car to try and keep the mosquitoes at bay and to get our wet shoes and socks off. Once again we decided to find a lake to sit next to for lunch as we were treated to such amazing views yesterday. We found a little pier and settled down for our peanut butter and ham and cheese sandwiches. The pier had small gaps between it's planks which we all consciously warned each other to be careful of because small things such as phones could easily slip through. Next thing we know there was a faint splash and there was a moment of complete panic in which everyone checked their pockets for their phones. It turned out to be the knife we had borrowed from the reception. Does Sarah really need her passport...

With a storm brewing in the distance and the wind picking up, we decided it was time to head back to the accommodation. The afternoon was pretty chilled: Christie and Carl played cards while Sarah planned tomorrows session. We then decide that we were going to have another stretch/yoga session on the pier as yesterdays one was so nice. We got as far as the lake before realising that the wind was just too cold for us South Africans before we headed back to our hut to do the session on the tiny porch.

Supper was the same affair as yesterday with the small pot and pan, but being the master chefs we are we decided to experiment and make Chicken ala pasta (Actually we just decided that we had brought enough pasta from home and didn't want to buy extra rice).

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

JWOC 2017 Finland - Day 1 and Day 2

After a very long Flight from Johannesburg to Helsinki, most of the JWOC Team arrived in Finland.
The drive from Helsinki to Tampere (pronounced Tum-pear-rare according to a friendly Finnish guy) was rather uneventful besides from the first five minutes where we were found ourselves on the wrong side of the road. We did seem to drive through three different weather systems - from sunny skies to a light drizzle to torrential downpour.

We arrived at the campsite where we are staying for the next week and were promptly handed the keys to the house and a packet of linen each. Needless to say the first thing we did was make the beds where we found to our great amusement, that there are holes on each of the corners of the closed side of the duvet cover for some unknown reason. We also found that there was absolutely no cutlery and crockery in the the house. We succeeded in borrowing some from the reception with a deposit of  a totally unimportant document - Sarah's passport. Let's hope we don't loose anything...

We took a short walk to the nearest shops to get basic rations for the next day and to get the blood flowing through our legs again after many hours of sitting. We were treated to some amazing views of the lake. For supper we unanimously decided that we were too tired to cook so we went to the pizzeria and were all impressed with our bacon and cheese pizzas. This basically marked the end of the day for us, even though at 10 o'clock the sun had shown absolutely no sign of setting any time soon.

After almost 11 hours of solid sleep, the excited team was up and ready for something we were all looking forward to - the orienteering shop. It was truly an orienteers paradise, you could buy everything orienteering from compasses to strapping tape to an orienteering board game. We collected the JWOC training maps and obviously bought quite a bit.

Our first training was in a sprint relevant area that was next to the embargo for the actual sprint area. We were all completely shocked by the sheer amount of stairs there were but quickly consoled ourselves after checking the actual map and seeing that there are not nearly as many in the actual area. We started with a map walk/jog - just to see how different things were interpreted and then moved onto five different intervals planned by coach Sarah. The area seems to be less technical than traditional European old town yet it still is technical with small paths and inlets.

We then decided to have lunch on the "beach" on the safe edge of the embargo and were treated to an awesome view of the lake. The water is beyond freezing with Carl and Christie only managing to keep their feet in for a few moments. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to card games and just general relaxing with a yoga/stretching session for Carl and Christie and a mini cross fit session for Sarah just before dinner.

Dinner was a rather interesting affair: the pot we had been given was tiny (it can only cook about 250g of pasta at a time). Dinner was therefore cooked in three stages with a short break in between each stage to run and get water from the ablutions. We also do not have any cooking utensils and therefore had to use a fork to fry the bacon.

The rest of the day/night had been put towards relaxing, planning tomorrows sessions and well to put in Sarah's terms "keep up the Fan Support" i.e. the blog and Instagram page (@JWOC2017_SouthAfrica)