The 2016 NZ Orienteering Champs marked my 12th NZ Champs in a row. Easter weekend is orienteering and the 4 days always means tough racing, exciting (often new) orienteering maps and a chance to see a whole lot of the NZ orienteering community in one place. For 2016 the event was hosted by Nelson Orienteering Club, with a sprint in Nelson central, before 3 days up at St Arnaud, on the edge of Nelson Lakes National Park.
No one ever comes to Nationals completely unprepared. My sprint orienteering in Rotorua, combined with some adventure racing training on topo maps at least meant the navigation process was fresh in my mind. As it turned out, the rougher, slower, tougher terrain training I had been doing for adventure racing actually paid dividends in the tough native forest of St Arnaud.
The four days racing were really well set in my opinion, with fair controls set in quite unique, technical terrain. The setters and controllers did a great job of avoiding bingo controls and using areas of the maps that were well suited to a nationals event. I thought I would focus on a few legs from the weekend and showcase some navigational challenges.
Sprint – Nelson Central, leg 5-6
This leg characterised alot of the course in the sprint. On the face of it there is a whole host of route choice from control exit right through to the end of the leg. However the crux of the leg really lay in identifying the detail around control 6. This required identifying the gaps in the impassable fence and reading the control description (fence, SE end). The risk was running into the impassable dead end just to the north of the control.
I ran this leg via the more southern route. I exited under the canopies, down to the road with the marked crossing point, then into the narrow alley beside the fence, I then entered through the gap in the fence beside the small building. Some others on the course took the more northern route – one which took them through the finish area. Unfortunately this control was out of sync, so exact splits are unavailable. I suspect the route I took was faster.
Middle – Black Hill, leg 4-5
The Black Hill map was green – very green. Green doesn’t mean bad, it just means a different approach was required. I was sloppy on 1 and 2 and punished accordingly with time losses. 3 and 4 were better, as I got a better grasp of the vegetation. For 5 I threw caution to the wind and bailed to the track, I was going to run full speed around the track and road to minimise my time in the green. The small spur would aid my control entry. I executed this well and ran second fastest on this leg.
Matt Scott 1.35
Tom Reynolds 1.46 (2)
Matt Ogden 1.47 (3)
Long – Big Bush, leg 10-11
The terrain for the long was real hard man territory. The hills were steep and large, the forest floor, when not thick in undergrowth, had a healthy layer of moss and windfall branches. Our course included a long leg between 4 and 5, the majority of the field took the middle track, emerging into the white forest just above 5. For the later starters this was a quagmire, with plenty of thick mud after recent days of rain.
On the way up the hill to control 8 I glanced at the next long leg from 10 back to 11. I didn’t want to fight the mud again nor did I fancy the big climb near the start of the leg that choosing the middle track required. My eyes were drawn south, to the 4wd track and road at the base of the hill. I liked the white forest descent after 10, as well as the flat contour for most of the leg. The entry to the forest would have to be via 18, but left a reasonably clear run up the hill to 14 and then on to 11.
After punching 10, I took off down the hill, trying to escape Gene Beveridge. The exit to the track was quite clean running and once out in the open I felt confident I had made the right choice. Apart from a wasp sting just prior to reaching the road and some thick areas of bush lawyer en route to 14 the leg came off without a hitch.
Tom Reynolds 17.21
Chris Forne 18.04 (2)
Tane Cambridge 18.13 (3)
Relay – Teetotal Flat, leg 6-7
The start of the relay was fast! A few open controls meant 3.30min/kms were in order for the first part of the race. Thanks to clean nav and a favourable split I had the lead heading into control 4 – though with a large part of the field breathing down my neck. By control 6 I was still holding the lead. Here I elected to follow the mountain bike track through the green area. The road to the north didn’t even occur to me. As I weaved my way through the forest I couldn’t hear anyone behind. I wondered what was going on – surely I wasn’t that fast. I tried to cut the corner before exiting the green and found myself fighting some tea tree. I pushed hard across the clear area towards the control, only to see Nick Hann, Matt Ogden and Gene Beveridge all punching infront of me. The had run the road, and in doing so easily erased my scant advantage.
This mistake allowed Nick to scamper off on his own – setting PAPO up nicely for their overall win in the relay. I held on for 3rd, a position that Marquita and Nick consolidated to keep North West Orienteering Club in 2nd and 3rd on the overall podium for the second year running.
A huge thanks to Nelson Orienteering Club for another epic nationals. St Arnaud was a great race location and I’m sure it will see many training camps and weekend events in the coming years. Bring on Nationals number 13 – Hawkes Bay 2017!