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High Performance News #64 – April 2020
By Malcolm Ingham - Thu 30 Apr 2020 9:23pm

After 5+ years of writing HP News this is the first time I have had to put one together with absolutely no actual events or training camps to report on! It leaves me therefore to at least keep people up to date, as far as possible, with the likely implications for domestic and international orienteering as New Zealand moves from Level 4 Lockdown to Level 3, and, hopefully, to Level 2 in a couple of weeks’ time. As with other sports, although not as well publicised, there has been a bit of virtual orienteering activity, some of which has even involved running! Grateful thanks are offered to Devon Beckman and Lizzie Ingham for their reports on some of these. Enjoy.

Malcolm Ingham

(mandg.ingham@xtra.co.nz)

IOF Update

The International Orienteering Federation continues to issue regular updates on the status of events in the ever changing global coronavirus landscape. The latest (from 24 April) has extended the cancellation of all World Ranking events up until 31 July. It also lists those major events which, at this stage, are still on the calendar. From the point of view of possible NZL interest these include

World Masters MTBO Champs                       9-13 Sep          Finland

World/Junior World MTBO Champs              2-8 Oct            Portugal (moved from CZE)

European Youth Champs                                23-25 Oct        Hungary

IOF also still has the intention of holding WOC in Denmark on yet to be determined dates between 9 and 18 October, and JWOC in Turkey before the end of October. Whether these will eventuate will depend, of course, not only on border/travel restrictions but on progress against overcoming COVID-19 (Denmark currently still has ~150 new cases per day, Turkey 10 times that number).

At the beginning of April IOF Council voted that should WOC not proceed in 2020 then the first sprint WOC will be delayed until 2022. Despite this, word on the (unofficial) grapevine is that feelers are out regarding the possibility of sprints being added to the programme for WOC2021 in Czech Republic. If JWOC2020 is ultimately cancelled it was also determined that JWOC2021 will have a special class for those athletes for whom this year would have been their final year of JWOC. A final decision by IOF on these two events being staged in 2020 or not will be made by 1 July. An additional note from IOF Council is that the holding of Oceania 2021 will be dependent on the opening of the border between New Zealand and Australia.

ONZ WOC2020 and JWOC2020 Update

As noted above, it is still the intention of IOF that WOC2020 and JWOC2020 will be held in October with a final decision to be made by 1 July. Given the continuing situation with COVID-19, both domestically and internationally, ONZ will not make any final decisions about participation or team selections for these events before that date at the earliest. If WOC2020 and/or JWOC2020 do go ahead there will, in due course, be a new call for expressions of availability for selection, and, if necessary, re-scheduling of trials.

ONZ re-opening scheme

ONZ has also put out a guide for how domestic orienteering may re-open as we move down the COVID-19 levels (https://www.orienteering.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/ONZ-Guide-acceptable-Orienteering-Activities-COVID19-20200419.png). This indicates that local events may resume at Level 2, although travel between regions is not permitted and events must have less than 500 people. Clubs must also follow the ONZ guidelines for running events – removing areas where people might congregate, following distancing rules, and providing clean and safe equipment. It is only under Level 1 that Regional or National events may be held.

Guide to acceptable Orienteering Activities during Government Alert Levels

In accordance with these guidelines it means that the National Orienteering League cannot resume until we reach Level 1. The NOL has thus far been held between January and June, largely to provide a suitable competitive build-up to the Northern Hemisphere summer international events. In 2020 this will now, hopefully, move to the latter quarter of the year and will serve as a build-up to Oceania 2021 at which the winners of the elite classes in the middle and long distances will gain direct entry to WOC2021.

Australian Easter 3 (or 4) Day

The Australian Easter Carnival is one of the two major events on the calendar on the other side of the Tasman. With cancellation of the 2020 version, Jim Russell and Brodie Nankervis came up with a variation to be done on your home turf. Lizzie Ingham was one of a small number of Kiwis who participated and has filed (after arm-twisting) the following report.

“Having passed over (being too late) entering the British isolation Easter O competition, and making a tactical decision (afraid of getting virtually smashed) to not enter the ONZ Catching Features Nationals, Easter was shaping up to be a long, boring, 4 day holiday. Then, late on Thursday evening, I received an emergency call from Tash (ed: Natasha Key): the Aussies were holding an Easter 3-day challenge, and she was afraid that maybe the Kiwis had missed the invite? The opportunity for a bit of trans-Tasman rivalry and banter was too great to resist. So, despite being half injured, and the fact that Catching Features and odd little orienteering puzzles would be the far more sensible option in my current state, I found myself lining up for the OA Easter Challenge.

 In true odd Aussie tradition, the 3-day challenge was actually a 4-day challenge. kicking off with the ‘sprint’ on Friday. This was a rerun of everyone’s school-days favourite: the beep test. The last one of these I ran was in the corridors of Moss Hospital (ed: Norway), as a part of my post-heart surgery rehab, so I was only marginally confident that I could beat my previous effort. In true “keeping it local” spirit, i used the patch of grass directly outside my front door, with the threat of decapitation by washing line ensuring that I kept my focus for the full duration of the sprint. More of an issue was the slippery dewy grass, which cut short my effort at level 14.1. As is happening more and more often these days, some whipper-snapper junior beat my effort, but I was happy in 2nd place, knowing that my strength and stamina would probably win out over the 4 days of the 3 days. More of a threat though was Tash, with her insane speed and significant age calculated handicap.

Fredo’s Strava world map

Lizzie’s turtle

Day 2, dawned bright and sunny (on this side of the ditch at least) for my favourite event, the middle. Today’s task was a mona fartlek – a classic Aussie our and back interval session, with points for total distance, and for how close to your start point you finished. Showing far more preparation than I usually do for an orienteering race, I mapped out a nice flat path on the streets around my house, before biking a warm up to make sure it was long enough. The preparation paid off though, managing 5.04 km, and ending up 5m from my start point. 2nd behind Aislinn on 5.05km, but further behind thanks to the 6 month age difference…I’ll take it as a compliment though as it means I’m yet to hit peak orienteering age!

 Day 3 was the long distance, with the challenge to make the best GPS art. It was never going to be a great day for me on account that (1) I failed art at school, (2) the topography and streets of New Plymouth don’t lend themselves to strava art, and (3) the Aussies had far more lax Covid restrictions, allowing them to do orienteering GPS art. Even without my weak excuses though, there is no way I could have got near Fredo’s (ed: Frederic Tranchard) masterpiece: mapping out a world map with his GPS. To be honest I was reasonably proud of my child like turtle, although apparently it took judge Aston (ed: Key) half an hour to figure out what it was…suffice to say I didn’t get many points.

Full focus, then, for day 4 and my true strength: the hill climb, how much climb can you get in 40mins, ending up where you started? Tactics definitely required for this one. Fortunately, I live on the edge of a steep valley, with the closest strava segment to my house entitled Death Stairs. Including the skull emoji, so you know it’s serious. After my technical failure on day 3, I played it smart for the final stage; waiting until afternoon so that I could get a handle on what kind of elevations the Aussies were managing. The bar was set high with Bridget’s 500m climb, but from my recon work I knew my death stairs took approximately 2mins to complete one round, and gave me approximately 25m climb each time, depending on how nice Strava was deciding to be. Game on. Suffice to say, it was painful and tedious, but at the end of 40mins, I’d completed 21 climb and descents of my favourite stairs, so crawled back up the bonus hill to my house fairly satisfied.

All that was left to do then was wait while the Aussies finished running up and down the stairs of their houses. Fortunately, given this Easter competition didn’t involve any long drive home, or tight post-race connections to flights, the wait for the results and prize giving was nowhere near as frustrating or nervous as usual. Worth the wait in the end though, to find out I’d squeaked the win, thanks entirely to it unexpectedly being only the best 3 out of 4 days counting.

 My prize? Never-ending glory, the satisfaction of beating the Aussies, and 3 days of epic stair climbing DOMS. Worth it. A huge thanks have to go to Jimbo and Brodie for organising the challenge, and Tash for the last-minute invite – definitely made Easter a lot more interesting than otherwise, and kick-started me back into training! (Or injured me more…the jury is still out until I can see a physio again.)

NZHipos Lockdown Challenge

As mentioned in the March HP News the NZHipos Lockdown Challenge was suggested as a way to keep our HP athletes motivated and active during the lockdown. It is now at the end of its fifth week.

Admittedly, many of our top athletes fill in training logs/dairies in other places, so the available spreadsheet is clearly only an imperfect snapshot, but things started with a bang with 10 people filling in their activities during the first week. Top comment came from (and remains) Monday 30 March: “AM: Stood in line for supermarket for 15 mins. PM: Stayed in bed to recover from this morning”. There were also a few suspiciously long activities which, despite the exhortations, possible stretched the staying local dictum. Maybe the novelty wore off, but over the next few weeks numbers dropped off until approaching the end of week 5 the number of active contributors to the spreadsheet was down to 5.

Well done therefore to Lizzie Ingham, Ellie Molloy and Dougal Shepherd, but special congratulations to Tessa Ramsden who, despite working frontline at Hutt Hospital, including periods of night-shifts, has still managed to be a regular contributor.

Again, as mentioned in March HP News, several of our elites were challenging each other on Catching Features, following the global trend in many sports to turn to the virtual in the absence of the real thing. In this instance, courtesy of Devon Beckman, this evlved into the 2020 Catching Features ONZ Champsionships! Never has a series of races moved round the country so rapidly: Friday in Wellington, Saturday in Woodhill Forest, Sunday in Hawkes Bay and then down to Wanaka for Monday! Many thanks to Devon, not just for his organisation of this, but for the following report.

With a small lapse in the domestic and international orienteering calendar as of late, including the postponement of the NZ National Champs, it was only fitting that a competition of equal if not superior calibre take its place.

Behold – the inaugural NZ Catching Features National Championships – held as a subset of the NZ CF O League. With competitors from around the country and world tuning in to compete, it was sure to be some fierce competition and racing. 

Without the physical aspect of orienteering, Catching Features peels orienteering back to its true technical nature and really allows orienteers to showcase their technical prowess, regardless of fitness. This was to be brought to the fore by some of New Zealand’s renowned technical masterpiece maps.

Catching Features ONZ Sprint – Wellington College

The Sprint distance was first up, held on the technical Wellington College. Used for a somewhat smaller event – the World Cup Sprint Final – in 2013, this year’s racing would see a return to the map for some, and a home ground advantage for others. With some close racing taking place, the top 3 tended to stand above the rest, with Nick Smith and Matt Ogden, the favourites for the weekends racing, commanding an early lead. However, it was not until one of the final starters in Joseph Lynch, hometown hero, that the race would be decided, as he roared up the finish chute to the cheers of the adoring fans, and took an emphatic win, well clear of his rivals. Was attending the high school for 5 years a factor in his success? Perhaps. But no one could take the victory away from Joseph Lynch and his first NZ CF National Title.

In the Women’s racing, overseas based athlete Laura Robertson put up a strong fight in the battle for gold, but in the end it was Briana Steven who took the top step, overcoming some early mistakes to finish strongly. Third went to a valiant Jenna Tidswell, or was it Will? We can never tell… ……And in the Men’s 45+, it was Michael Croxford edging out Dwayne Smith with a rare race finish for both athletes.

Moving to the forest and the Middle Distance at an iconic middle area, so iconic it even has the word in its name – it was of course Middle Earth. There would be no discrepancies between control descriptions and the map this time, as the 2012 Nationals Middle Distance map played a great host to a plethora of mistakes and time losses, even for our favourites.

 Early starter Matt Ogden couldn’t handle the pressure from commentary and made several mistakes early on, bleeding time to his rivals that he was unable to recover from. Nick Smith, the other race favourite, was the next to fall to a similar fate. As we have seen in real competition – it is about being able to handle the pressure mentally and not crack when you hear from commentary you’re up at the radios – but perhaps Matt and Nick still have a few more years experience needed to be able to conquer this unique skill.

CF ONZ Middle – Middle Earth

The same cannot be said for Joseph Lynch, however, who romped away to another glorious victory in the sands of Middle Earth – going back to back National Champion along with his sprint distance win. Jonty Oram with a tidy stable run slotted his way into second spot, with Catching Features regular Kyle Higham picking up the pieces and the last spot on the podium. 

The middle distance was all about who could hold it together and minimise mistakes, the sign of a true middle. In the women’s racing it was all Laura Robertson – a strong run to take the victory ahead of Briana Steven into second with Jenna bringing in a consistent 3rd spot. 

The men’s 45+ was a drawn out affair that saw course closure extended to allow at least 1 finisher – that being Michael Croxford, with Dwayne Smith forced to retire with control collection necessary before the next race.

The final individual test came with the long distance – much more about route choice and execution than running on the compass and fine technique. Also, attrition of the mind was key over a 30 minute real time race – a long time to be fully concentrated on your screen – and we saw this was the undoing of some race favourites.

 The Slump in Hawkes Bay was the chosen map – and it played perfectly to the course setting nature of a long distance, with some big hills, good variation of terrain and a big change from the terrain of Middle Earth.  Leg 5 – 6 pictured below was one of the key route choice long legs and played an early deciding factor in the fate of some runners. Surprisingly – none of the athletes took the fastest route (as deciding by extensive testing from the course planner) which was the red route to the north. Favourites were split between blue and purple routes, while some runners mistakenly took the Green track running route, resulting in large amounts of slow climbing at the end of their leg. 

CF Long – The Slump Leg 5-6

Joe Lynch, victor of the last two races, left the battle early with some mistakes early on that saw him drop down the rankings. Nick Smith started exceedingly strong and was a minute up on Matt Ogden around half way through the course. However it was the last quarter of the running time where the race was decided, as we so often see in a long distance. Nick Smith made a few small route choice errors, and this allowed a cool headed (for once) Matt Ogden to slide his way to the lead, a lead he never relinquished – taking his first NZ CF Title. When asked about the race, Matt said “it was a really tough day out there today, the course planner really challenged us with some fantastic legs and just being able to hold the concentration together for the entirety of the race was a struggle. I’m glad to be able to take the win today and my first NZ CF Title – probably my biggest orienteering achievement.” Second place went  to a consistent Jonty Oram, a battle which came down the very end with Nick Smith, who took 3rd place. In the women’s, Laura took a second title, with Briana only just holding off Jenna. Unfortunately there were no finishers in the Men’s 45+, with all runners having to be retired from course as a result of course closure.

CF ONZ Relay – Hikuwai

The final race of the weekend was the 2 person Relay – held at the infamous and feared Hikuwai map in Wanaka. Teams were formed from an array of alliances, but the clear favourites in the Smith Brothers ran away with a win, despite a poor performance from elder brother Nick on first leg. Team UCOC (Oliver Egan/Joe Lynch) slotted into second after some solid running on both legs, while team Wilting Bonars (Cameron Bonar/Will Tidswell) took home third, a great result for the two junior runners. Unfortunately team Nelson couldn’t replicate their win from Nationals 2019 – and DNF’d before the race cars could leave the garage. 

So that’s a wrap from the NZ CF Champs 2020 – a great weekend of racing across the country. Look forward to some potential racing to replace Queens Birthday 3-day on that weekend – hopefully with a successful live stream and commentary this time! 

ONZ Awards

 Finally, congratulations to Lizzie Inghamand Georgia Skelton who at the ONZ AGM won the awards, respectively, for best International performance of the Year and best Junior Performance. Lizzie’s award was for a combination of her WOC results and her four Oceania titles. Georgia’s was in recognition of her performances at the Junior WMTBOC including a podium finish in one race.

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