This past weekend was very British. Of course, the British championships were held both in Sprint and Middle, but with the added occassion of Queen’s 90th birthday celebration, and the Sprint being held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, we were entertained by the flypast, as well as quintessentially British weather (meaning: heavy rain).
From a competition perspective, the Heats (where starts were delayed by 20 minutes) were a bit of a letdown – felt too easy, definitely would have been a runners course. The highlight was control 20, which was the Olympic rings:
Whilst navigation was mostly (too) easy, I did make mistakes:
- Coming out of Control 6, I started to plan ahead which meant I noticed too late that I was past the house corner and could now run towards the control.
- Out of 14, I was close to going out of bounds: I was just in time warned by someone (luckily) that I was about to enter the OOB area so I corrected and ran along the seating area, but that meant I was distracted so entered the ditch overgrown with vegetation too low. I had to go back out and look for the control further up.
- There were several places where I had to jog slowly because the logical route was very narrow and I could not pass slower people in front: the pond bank to 12, the bank down and up to/from 18, and to/from 20.
With all of this I wasn’t fully happy and quite sure I left at least a minute in the course, so was very surprised to learn that I won my heat! I am sure the organisers had a nightmare with the park authorities and do not envy the planner – nevertheless I have to say even in hindsight not all the OOB area is clear on the map. For example, near No. 14, the OOB marking is bound by a “vegetation boundary” dotted line, not a solid line. Whilst strictly speaking it isn’t an ISSOM requirement, I think it hinders legibility because the OOB colour is very similar to “rough open”, and on the ground these areas did actually look like the rough open you’d find in marshes, for example – and also looked (at least to me and at sprint speed) like the vegetation in the marshes near 11-12-13 which was a crossable area.
I also do not understand the planning of the placement for No. 17: it was at the end of a short “dead end” into an OOB area, but all those OOB marked areas on top of the bridge were similar vegetation areas (like flower beds), so I had to run around the flower bed and double back again. As the strip of the vegetation was very narrow (maybe 1m), it was very inviting to just jump across the OOB flowerbeds, which was of course forbidden, but as the control was clearly visible from the other side, I can not see any other reason for placing the control in there than to tempt people to jump across. There was no added navigation difficulty, nor route choice options, and only added about 10m extra running (if that). I would argue there would be nothing lost if the control was placed on the outer tip of the vegetation.
It is then not surprising that many were disqualified from the heats. Including one of the favourites in our class, Roger G.
All the protests around disqualification etc then pushed the start of the finals out, in the end by more than an hour. This was enough for the very British weather to arrive, with a massive downpour! Whilst I ended up starting in a bit of lull in the rain (it did get going again in the middle of the run), I had to fish out the map from under standing water in the map box.
An appropriate signage next to the start!
The finals were very different from the Heats. We were in the Olympic Park proper and many more navigational challenges were finally introduced:
- I had started slow to make sure I got the planning right, and concluded that I should stay high on the way to No. 2 to avoid the long steps down and up. Now, once I got to No. 1 I noticed that the map wasn’t completely accurate, as the steps weren’t going all the way – in fact it was a lot more runnable with 3 steps and about 10m level pavement alternating. However, part of the plan was to stick to my decisions as a principle as avoiding hesitations is key in sprint.
- No. 3 – I expected the control to be visible from below in the parking lot, but it wasn’t – I then followed an elephant track in the high grass up the bank to the monument even though I suspected it will be too high for the control. Once there, I looked around and could not see the control, I had to jog down and be right next to it before I noticed. A further 15-20s lost, and by this time I was over half a minute down and only 3 controls in the course. This duly caused me to be just a bit off my concentration and for a couple of controls I just lost my flow, and was therefore too hesitant and just too slow.
- I picked it up from No. 11, where exiting the control I saw Geoff chasing me down for 2 minutes as I was running back up the path. This somehow caused me to get myself together, and although knowing his speed I fully expected him to run past before No. 12, I was surprised to see him more behind as I was going back up the bank out of 12 (as he later explained he made a mistake and took a longer route to 12 than I did). I managed to keep him behind me until the underpass between 16-17.
- From here, I tried to keep up with Geoff but was very keen to keep on top of my navigation at the same time. This meant that I was slowly losing touch (he is just too fast for me), last saw him across the bridge on the way to 21.
In summary, this was a final that I ran without any major mistakes, but very hesitant and in a lot of places just not concentrated enough and too slow. I considered it an OK run but not a great performance. So to me great surprise I managed to be placed 2nd and so a silver medalist!