7 March 2014

Early Season in Portugal

The season is approaching fast, it's just a month left now until World Cup second round in Spain and European Championships in Portugal in the beginning of April. An unusually early start for top competitions, for me at least.
While the first World Cup was already held last week in Turkey, I was leading in the season in Portugal, Viseu. For me it was the first time to orienteer in Portugal and I was amazed by the quality of the terrains. The orienteering hunger, that has been building up during the winter, finally found a release. Twelve days in technical rocky terrains and two organized multi-day competitions with strong starting fields (also featuring the O-Wizard) made the camp definitely worthwhile! First weekend, right upon arrival, the 3rd Mediterranean Championships with all individual WRE disciplines. And secondly, starting on the following weekend, the 4-day Portugal "O" Meeting with one WRE middle distance. Since I was in training camp and not on a competition trip, I chose altogether three races where I wanted to run fast: 1) MCO middle distance WRE; 2) POM 1. day intermediate distance; 3) POM 3. day middle distance WRE. I was not concentrating on the competitions, but rather on making the best of all the trainings and have a beneficial camp on the whole. What I was expecting from the competitions though, was that I should get a better flow with each race, so the last one would have the best performance.

Viseu countryside with a hint of spring in the air
The first O-start this season at the MCO middle went quite well. It was good to see that I had not totally forgotten orienteering, but was just very rusty at it. "Lots of small misses" pretty much sums it up. +4:27, 9th place.
Map, results, GPS tracking (excluding me)
The second day's long distance terrain was very challenging in many ways, even for someone who was taking it easy...

Viseu countryside with a hint of spring in the air
Between the weekends, I was using the trainings offered by O-Portugal, here are some of the trainings:
Sr do Crasto contours and control picking map
Mangualde dangerously slippery night middle map
Sr do Crasto middle distance map
Gestoso fell terrain long distance map
POM 2012 middle WRE (course of the year) map

Gestoso, the sun came out eventually...
At POM 1. day, most of the course went well, except for controls 10, 11 and 18. Early season amateur mistakes, I hope. +4:44, 5th place.
Map part 1, map part 2, results
The second day was a tricky one. Even for me, who was running at easy pace, it was often very hard to understand the map in the totally black parts (the printing quality didn't make it any easier either).
And so the day to test the technical abilities and get some feedback came at last. The partly extremely detailed terrain was a surprise, fortunately I could ease in to it quickly after the first leg. It went well until the 9th, when I lost the flow I had and started to lose seconds here and there. The culmination was the 16th control, I suddenly jumped too much ahead in reading the map and made a 2-minute mistake. After that it was an okay race, but not the same as the beginning though. Even if I had no expectations concerning the results, it's still frustrating to ruin a good performance with one major miss. Who is pleased with mistakes anyway?
The POM concluded on Tuesday with a very enjoyable long distance, which also marked the end of the camp.

Osku in nice Portugese forest
Now, getting to the causes of the mistakes... The problem at these races seem to be more psychological than technical. I usually started well, then caught somebody and if I'm stuck with him, I seemed to be unable to ignore that and I couldn't fully concentrate on my own performance. I'm also somewhat glad that this happened, now I know better what I need to work on before the season really begins.

So what's next on the agenda? I'll be preparing for European Championships of course, but it looks like there won't be any official competitions before the World Cup in Spain, Murcia, just less than a week before EOC. At least while the competitions in Turkey for me seemed like a joke, the World Cup terrain in Spain looks very promising in offering real challenging orienteering competitions. Too bad that the races are less than a week before the EOC, making me choose only the middle distance race in Spain for an optimal preparation. Nevertheless, looking forward to it!

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