The weekend prior it was back into some running, this past weekend it was back into some orienteering with the NZ Orienteering champs. As with most of the big events on lately the races were preceded by a major weather event… which made the flight (and landing) into Wellington that little bit more exciting!
Having pretty much sucked at TONIC three weeks earlier (and 2 weeks after GODZone) I didn’t have very high hopes for my racing ability this weekend. So with no expectations the pressure was right off, and it wasn’t until I was in the start box for the sprint at Ohakea that I even bothered to take time to think about what I was doing!
Straight out of the gate I was away, I located the triangle the control, the route to the control and sprinted hard, nailing it, and taking out the split for it too. I should have invested a little more time into the route for 2 but by the time I was away from 1 and had time to think I wavered a bit before running down the road as hard as I could. From that point on I was completely focused, orienteering well ahead of time and running in the present. There was a thick cloud of Smog from someone burning off that made breathing harder than it was already after still being in recovery mode from the weeks gone by. Unfortunately I made a small mistake near the end which cost me 30sec running into and out of again an out of bounds area/someones back yard… I figured because I had come in and out from the same point I had effectively undone my mistake and kept going hard to the end. Sadly going hard was not quite as hard as I know I can run and I was still feeling like I was missing that top 10%. Anyway turns out Tom and I for the second year in a row managed to tie, this time in the sprint and this time for 5th place!
The middle distance the next day was back towards Otaki, the scene of the first round of last years World Cup. It had been a long time since racing hard on a sand dune orienteering map for me, and straight into the fire I wasn’t coping that well. A mistake on the second control set me back 90sec, and then again on 7. Eventually when I was able to catch Tom back up, the race really began for me and I started to race well…. if only I could have run like this from the start. Tom and I were quite even, trading places with different routes here and then and then there was some blatant following in parts too. In the end I finished up in the mid pack, only 5seconds of 8th, but way back in 11th place.
The Long distance was supposedly “my” kind of terrain…. I wish I got a dollar every time someone said that! I struggled right from the get go on the long vague legs, but also lacking a bit of confidence early on. Chris caught and passed me 6mins quite early on and I was left feeling a little depressed by it all. I went through a period during the middle of the race where I was arguing internally with myself whether or not to pull out and go home, but something just made me keep going. Soon enough after the Map change I noticed some crashing in the bushes behind me and saw Tom again who had caught up 3minutes on me this time. I started to perk up a bit and we ran together for a bit until he hesitated and I over ran the control and missed it. I thought he was gone for all money but I proceeded to catch and then release him a few more times until I finally cracked and made a huge mistake aiming off near the end of the race. It was a rough 17.4km and I was pretty glad in the end that I had pushed myself to finish when I so easily could have sulked and made my way back to the finish. I knew thing for sure that evening and that was that was it was probably best to not run the night race.
When I got up on Monday morning Bryn asked me if I was going win today…to which I responded fairly flatly: No. I was drawn into the number 2 PAPO team as first leg runner, with Katie and Ed Cory-Wright, but right at the last minute Nick Smith who had run the Epic-ly long elite long distance the day before and was feeling a bit tired so he asked to switch down from the Number 1 team in exchange for Ed.
I wasn’t expecting much from this relay, I knew my speed wasn’t quite there and I also was fairly tired from the long long distance the day before… after what seemed like an eternity on the start line we finally got under way and the pace to the first corner was hot! I drifted down the field just waiting for the delay in my sore muscles to kick in! Once on the road I started to make my ground and slipped into the front pack as we cut into the forest. It was a fairly uneventful race through the forest, at this scale everything seemed really obvious and well defined. I kept in touch with the chase group behind Tim who was miles ahead until I had a long split out to the left. Nick Hann was there to keep my company and make sure I was on my game. He eventually passed in front of me on a shorter split with the other 3 boys in our group. I handed over to Katie only a few minutes down on Tim and even less on the rest of the chasers in about 7th place.
Katie was still right up there when she came back in the same position. She reckoned that she had an alright run and it looked like it too… but looking back at the time she did, she must have had an awesome run, she was right up there with those JWOC girls and only 5 seconds behind Helena in the number 1 PAPO team! She handed over to Nick, who only had 20 or so seconds to catch on Ed in PAPO1. Unfortunately for PAPO 1, while Ed was out there running around Chris worked out he had mis-punched on the 10th control and sure enough this was confirmed by the organisers. Nick in the mean time had managed to catch Ed, and those two had ran together collecting Matt Goddall on the way and worked their way into the front at the spectator control. Things really started to get exciting here and Nick absolutely was on a flyer through the forest. Katie and I watched from the spectator area waiting for a glimpse of Nick through the trees and without having to wait too long he appeared again. We had just enough time to jump into the finish chute to run with Nick to the finish line, but Nick was still flying and we had to sprint to catch him… but luckily he managed to slow down for us to cross the line together and win the race!
Ed wasn’t far behind, but sadly for Ed and unknown to him the dsq’ed PAPO1 team finished unofficially in second place, so if only Chris hadn’t mp’ed and we would have had a 1,2 finish for PAPO! Katie and Nick did an amazing job, both smashing out their relay legs, while I just made sure I punched all the controls in the right order and tried to get back as fast as I could. But once again it was awesome to be part of another relay team to win the Nationals!
Sadly Chris’ mispunch was not the only loss of the day however. Prior to the race we were aware that John Davies, one of the stalwarts of the Peninsula and Plains Orienteering club was quite unwell, but it was not until the late evening on Monday we found out that he had passed away. John was a life member of NZOF and PAPO, along with being instrumental in establishing PAPO almost 40 years ago and was part of the organising club which introduced the Club Relays way back in 1975 so perhaps it was fitting that we as representatives of PAPO were able to win this event in his honour. John was always friendly, very approachable, always made you feel like whatever you had to say was worth while listening too and had a great sense of humour. He will be sadly missed at any orienteering event you could think of cause it was always more than likely he would be there too!