Monday, April 17, 2017

The final race of the Flying Pig weekend was the sprint. This day was divided into two races, an urban sprint and a park sprint. The two time from the races were added together for the results. To get these two races in before midday the first race started very early which meant we got to see the sun rise over the city!

The first race was very fast through the small town of Columbus. On my course most of the legs were straight forward with very little route choice. Only one control (12) had some route choice, either going north or south around some buildings. Made a mistake here by taking one route, then thinking that route was blocked off, making me change when I didn't have to.

Most of the courses controls were in this area
In the parkland sprint there was a bit of forest orienteering in the start which transitions to parkland. A bit over half way through the course there were two route courses right after another which forced some split second decisions. I had a very good race except for another another small route choice error by taking a only slightly shorter route but going though lots of green.

Last part of the race in the parkland

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Spring" wakeup call - Desert Run

On February 25 & 26 HPP Members Pia Blake, Emma Sherwood, Adam Woods, myself Graeme Rennie, and a crew of our GVOC friends descended to central Washington State for a two day middle-long combo at the famous climbing area Frenchman Coulee state park.

The 'Desert Run' is a lightweight home-brew style orienteering event that was very high on my list of favourite events from last year. Last year the Sunday terrain had been completely new to me and the weather had been perfect and hot. Though this year wasn't quite the same conditions (0˚ instead of 20˚) it still did not disappoint. There is a good group of friendly faces (with enough high level competition), some great courses, and some new and different challenges. What more could you want?
The 'Arena' on Saturday - Hardly any snow!
Saturday was a gorgeous, cold day. The Elites ran a 5.2km middle that started with some excellent technical orienteering amongst some cliffs then transitioned to some more open legs towards the end. I really enjoyed this race as it is a type of terrain that I am quite unfamiliar with and posed some new challenges.
Technical Start for the Middle Distance
The HPP members results for this race were:
Graeme Rennie - 33:57 (1st Man)
Adam Woods - 44:23 (5th Man)
Pia Blake - 48:32 (1st Women)
And unfortunately Emma Sherwood had to bow out half way due to injuries.

Day 2 was a different story - There was a couple centimetres of fresh snow covering everything and snow fell the whole time. The Elites ran an 11km long. The most challenging part of the course for most people was a long leg from 8-9 across a large area of bland desert slope shown below. (2.5 m contours, 1:15 map). The bonus difficulty here was a thick fog that reduced vision to only 10-20 meters maybe. Crossing the nothingness in the snow and fog only to arrive at rows of identical seeming cliff features was a real challenge and my compass work was not up to snuff. If you want to see some of the large mistakes that were made checkout the route gadget links below.
Leg 8-9 was the Deciding Factor for Most People
Adam Woods however managed to stay on his compass and won this split in 7:25 (a mere 10:35 faster than me :p) but had made some mistakes earlier on that would cost him the race to Cascade OC's Nikolay Nachev and US national team member Will Enger. HPP results from the long:
Adam Woods - 1:26:48 (3rd Man)
Graeme Rennie - 1:44:58 (7th Man)
Pia Blake - 2:16:39 (2nd Women)
Emma Sherwood went out for a bit of a score-O - to experience the snow I imagine.

I had been quite sick and a long slog in soft sand in the cold was a tough day for me but regardless I came back grinning and excited. This race included a excellent ~60m descent (after #10 in the above photo) in soft desert sand, some excellent views, and a very cool river grotto. And despite my less than excellent run it was a truly enjoyable adventure - These are the ones where I remember why I orienteer.

Route Gadget and Results for the Long:

Route Gadget and Results for the Middle:

Monday, November 7, 2016

High Performance Program Applications Due Nov 25

Orienteering Canada's High Performance Program (HPP) is designed specifically to support athletes who wish to achieve excellence in international orienteering. The HPP offers coaching support, training opportunities, and other benefits that will assist athletes in achieving their goals. The deadline to apply for the 2017 High Performance Program is Nov 25, 2016.

  • Nov 25: Submission deadline for Application Package
  • Dec 5: Interim Acceptance
  • Dec 31: Confirmation
Further details of the application process are outlined in the Athletes Handbook. As such the Athletes' HandbookHPP Application Package and Athlete Agreement  have now all been published on the High Performance Program page.
All athletes wishing to compete at the World Orienteering Championships, World Games, World University Champs and JWOC  or in World Cup races MUST be members of the HPP.

Monday, October 17, 2016

N Eh O C

Middle - Robbie

The weekend kicked off with the middle distance at Storr’s Pond. Since the first starts weren’t until the afternoon, Jan Erik, Tomas, and I went out on the model map to get a feel for the terrain.

When I arrived at the start there was quite a lot of commotion. It seemed that everybody had forgotten something whether it was an SI, compass, or start time. Along with forgetting my own SI and having to borrow an ancient model 5, I also realized that I had forgotten something far more important… How to orienteer! My original race plan “medium speed, no mistakes” quickly turned into “full speed, full mistake”.

The technical loop of the M20 course. The forest was very nice and open and combined with all the trails around it was easy to open up the throttle in most sections.

I was lucky enough to get through the course with only bobbles and hesitations rather than any big blow-ups. After chatting with others after the race it seemed that a lot of us had gotten a little too excited for the race and made several mistakes in the woods. But that didn’t stop people from pushing hard right to finish line.

An epic battle between Jan Erik Naess and Graeme Rennie in the finish chute (Graeme won).

The first places in the elite category went to Emily Kemp and the one and only Thierry Gueorgiou who was closing his North American tour with NAOCs. It was exciting to see le Roi de la Course d’Orientation in action.

Some random French people.

Long - Pia

Next up was the long distance, not only grueling in terms of length, but also in terms of the map.  As noted in the event handbook, the flat and boring looking walk was deceptively calm and a complete contrast compared to the terrain.  

This map at 1:15 000 was one of the hardest maps I have ever read.

For the first couple controls every time I wanted to read the map I had to stop dead just to focus on the tiny rocky details. Around the 6th control I finally got into the flow of things, only to mistake a trail on the map for a series of cliffs, and the whole thing fell apart until I decided to just head north until I hit something I recognised.  

The long leg from the W20 course.

The last couple controls went by fast, and before I knew it I was running through the spectator loops, finishing the last couple controls and running down the really really short finish chute (4 second best time split!).

Adam rounding the corner in the finish chute.

After that, all that was left was to relax and watch the juniors boys finish and the exciting race in the seniors as they competed for the individual spot for WOC next year.

Sprint - Pia

Finally, it was the day of the sprints.  First off was the individual race on Dartmouth campus, a typical college campus with plenty of randomly shaped buildings and relatively flat lawns separating them.  There were some trickier sections with underpasses as well, but, on the whole, it was a runners’ course, and I was not 100% feeling it in the legs.

How would you go from 1-2 (don’t forget about the underpasses)?

There was another exciting competition in the elite classes, with two of our very own juniors competing among the elites - and holding their own!  The final positions ended with Canadian victories for both the men and women, with Emily Kemp taking 3 for 3 in the individual classes and Damian Konotopetz and Will Critchley both running faster than Thierry!  Jan Erik finished in a strong 7th place and Emma W in 6th.  In fact, she was in first place until the 9th control!

Emma W, Emily, and Tori
Photo taken by of David Yee

Ignoring the stares from all the college students wandering across The Green, we relaxed and recovered in preparation for the sprint relay.

Sprint Relay - Robbie

After the individual sprint, Hans Fransson eastern Canadian coach rounded up all the Canadian athletes and put together five teams. Four senior and one junior. We were all whisked away to the basement of a nearby building which would serve as our quarantine. We prepped for the race by coating ourselves with some tattoo team spirit courtesy of Emma Waddington.

Ready to race!

The race itself was very similar to the individual sprint through a similar area of campus. Not very technical but very very fast as a result.

The format of a sprint relay is 1st and 4th legs women, 2nd and 3rd legs men. Here is the mass start. Go ladies go!

The race was very tense with the lead being passed around between teams.But in the end, Emily Kemp brought her team composed of Damian Konotopetz, Will Critchley, and Louise Oram to victory.

Thanks to some great racing by everyone over the weekend, the Canadian senior team won the Bjorn Kellstrom Cup!

Full results and maps can be found at

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Back at it again at the BC Champs

The weekend right after a bunch of us HPP members headed to the NAOCs we went out again for some more fun orienteering competition, this time at the BC Orienteering Championships in Whistler, British Columbia. This consisted of a Model Event (run as a fundraiser by your HPP members) on the Friday, middle and sprint events on Saturday and a long distance race on the Sunday. Even though it was right after North Americans, we still had a large number of HPP athletes attend, including Pia, Nicole, me (Emma S.), Adam and Graeme. We were very happy to all be staying at the Whistler Athlete center, which was  a great accommodation with a shared kitchen, spacious rooms and convenient access to all of the maps.

Model event (Pia)

After Ben drove us up to Whistler, he dropped us off for a good 4 hours of control setting.  Once all the controls were set, we spent a happy two hours re-checking all of them, including a short nap in the peaceful forest.

Who knew control setting was so exhausting?
When did orienteering become so exclusive? 

Before long a plethora of folks had come along to run this HPP fundraiser event - thank you everyone who came along!

Middle (Emma)

The next morning started with the middle on the quite technical Brandywine Falls map. It consisted of complex groupings of lakes and cliffs and interesting contour detail, mostly through forest with very good visibility and moderate runnability. Before the event, we were surprised at how short the course distances were but they did end up giving the predicted winning times because the courses were very challenging, both technically and physically. In some places, the ground was quite rocky and difficult to move quickly over.

Despite (or maybe because of?) the challenge, this was genuinely one of the most fun courses I’ve ran this year. I’d say that getting to orienteer through the gorgeous forest with high technical difficulty was the highlight of the weekend. Scrambling up moss-covered cliffs and sploshing across marshes and ponds was an exciting plus for me, although some other orienteers found the physicality of the course quite tough.

W20 Middle course
Based what we’d learnt from the model event, I decided to have my goals be to keep in contact with the map and check off features, which turned out to be a pretty good strategy as there were many opportunities to become completely lost.

Sprint (Nicole)

An urban part of the sprint course

After warming up from a chilly post race at the middle we got ready for the conveniently located sprint at Cheakamus Crossing with the start 10m from the accommodation! This was the first sprint I have done that had both residential and forested areas which made it exciting! There was a long transition leg between the two areas that allowed for reading ahead and switching the orienteering brain from sidewalks to trails. The forested section was a dense area of mountain bike trails and there were a few approaches to tackling these controls - namely, committing to compass or counting the trails carefully. After the forest interlude it was back to the village, on the trail run back the need for mental toughness was apparent! Three quarters through the race and the thought of just being done starts to takeover. By refocusing on the next leg and planning ahead I was able to finish strong. Overall it was another great course on a brand new map to finish off the day of racing! The sprint definitely worked up everyone’s appetites for the lovely banquet dinner that followed.

The tricky forest section

Long (Pia)

With a walk to the start rivalling that of any major European event (4 km with 300m climb!), I arrived at the start of the long feeling a little out of breath.  This was probably due in no small part to my misreading my start time as 11:27, rather than 10:19, giving me less than the recommended 60 min to get to the start...  Luckily I made it thanks to a brisk uphill walk/jog!

This race started out in the little used but very fun Black Magic map - ‘open’ (west-coast white) forest with boulders, cliffs and hills galore.  This was for sure my favourite map used over the weekend.  I loved the runnability and complexity.  I wish I could have spent more time up there - it was so much fun to run in!  Apart from a small bobble on the 6th control, I was in control and just enjoying myself.  

How would you go from 6 to 7?

Next the course descended into the Lost Lake map.  This section was much greener and had many more trails which made for more route choice.  Unfortunately, the trails never lead where you wanted to go, leading to two main strategies: running further around on the winding trails or bushwhacking through the (somewhat difficult to get through) forest.  I did a mix of the two, and don’t think I always chose the right route, particularly on the longer legs.  By the end of the race I was tired out, but happy to have gotten one last good forest orienteering session in before the season ends!

Lots of route choice on this side of the map
We're all smiles after a fun weekend
After the long, we took a much-needed ice bath/ swim in this gorgeous lake right next to the finish
Overall it was a great weekend of fun and high-quality orienteering and an excellent end to this year’s racing season. Thanks so much to the organizers, course planners and all of the other volunteers for a great weekend!

-Pia B., Emma S. and Nicole W.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Team Canada wins the BK Cup at NAOC 2016

 (Back row, left to right: Robbie Graham, Eric Kemp, Alex Bergstrom, Emily Kemp, Damian Konotopetz, Will Critchley, Graeme Rennie, Louise Oram, Jeff Teutsch. Front row: left to right: Emma Waddington, Tori Owen, Jennifer MacKeigan)

The Björn Kjellström Cup, named after a Swede who was instrumental in introducing orienteering in North America, is a competition between the national teams of the USA and Canada at the senior level. Competition for the Cup is held every two years at the North American Orienteering Championships (NAOC).The BK Cup was first awarded in 1980.More info about the BK Cup is here.

Congrats to the US, the winners of the Future Champions (FC) Cup.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Living a Dream

How does one put "a dream coming true" into words? How does one describe the roller coaster ride of emotions, those memories that still bring tears to my eyes or the entire journey that led me to my best World Champs ever?

Photo: Ken Walker
When I found out that I would be in the top 6 in the middle distance it was just like a tidal wave of emotions swept over me and all I could do was hang on for the ride. Sobbing uncontrollably seemed to be the only way that I could process what was actually happening. Which is why during the flower ceremony my face is smiling but my eyes seem to be telling a different story. There was so much happiness, so much relief, so much amazement, so much stress that had built up, just so much of everything that there was no keeping it all in.

Rewind one hour and I couldn't have felt more calm and better prepared to take on the challenge ahead. There was nowhere that I wanted to be more than in those beautiful Swedish woods and all I needed was the map in my hands and I would be off. 

Photo: Petteri Kähäri

When I look back to that first part of the race I am amazed to realise that it felt like just my usual orienteering. I was making plans for each leg, looking up for the next features, making sure I was confident coming into the circle and if not I stopped to figure it out. The only extraordinary part about it was that it was all happening during a WOC race and that was something that I had been unsure of actually being able to execute. During the preceding months I had put so much importance on these races; I had so many expectations for myself and I was very aware of the expectations of others. It felt like a herculean effort to be able to put all that to the side and remember that the results of a competition fall into the category of things that I cannot control. I could only run my own race as best I could and then accept the result whatever it turned out to be. And that's exactly what I did.

The feeling of standing up on the stage for the medal ceremony, in front of so many cheering people... that is really indescribable. I had to close my eyes and open them again just to be sure that I wasn't dreaming.

Photo: Moa Gustafsson

From start to finish these World Champs were an adventure: the excitement of the Sprint Relay, the emotions of the Middle distance, the struggle and perseverance needed for the Long distance and the team enthusiasm of the Relay. The support and encouragements from everyone around the world has been incredible and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart! To all of my family, all of Team Canada and Orienteering Canada, all of those wonderful people from Ottawa to France to Finland who believed in me and so generously helped me along the way this is the best way I know how to say thank you... to make sure that everything you've given me and taught me is being put to good use at the top of the world.