Friday, February 27, 2009

Team USA Profiles: Alison Crocker

Time for another profile! This time we get to present an athlete who has had great success at a high level in other sports before switching to orienteering just a couple of years ago and already starting to kick some butt. Here is Alison Crocker. Look out for her name at the top of some results lists in the next few years!

1) What's your name?
Alison (Ali) Crocker

2) What's your hometown?
Grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY. Currently in Oxford, UK, but going to move to Amherst, MA in October!

3) Marital status/ kids/ pets
My boyfriend returns from New Zealand tomorrow! For sure no kids though, and not really a pet person. Seem to be allergic to most of them. I like plants though- particularly those that produce yummy food.

4) What's your club?
OUOC - Oxford University Orienteering Club. This year I'm the President and Women's captain. We're organizing the British University championships in 1.5 weeks time, where we'll take on the orienteering powerhouses of Edinburgh and Sheffield Universities!

5) What's your birthday?
August 20, 1984

6) What do you do when not orienteering?
I am studying for my DPhil (=PhD) in astrophysics here in Oxford. I specialize in galaxy evolution, trying to explain why the galaxies we observe look the way they do. Mostly this involves looking at data on my computer, but every once in awhile I get to go somewhere cool and use a telescope (Japan, Holland, Spain x 2) to get more data. I also spend some time doing other sports- running, skiing, cycling.

7) How did you start orienteering?
I orienteered a handful of times while at boarding school in New Hampshire- one of the teachers there took a group of us to local meets, and I really loved it! But then I dislocated my shoulder while orienteering and my rowing coach said I wasn't allowed to do that again.
Six years later, I came to Oxford and met this guy on the running team (ok, my now-boyfriend!) who suggested I come along to a local orienteering event. I went and was completely confused for most of the way around, but had a blast (team members Boris and Kat were on this trip and probably remember). Then have been orienteering as much as possible since then!

8) What are your biggest orienteering successes so far?
I had great races as last years JK Festival of Orienteering here in the UK. I was 8th overall, combining the middle and long race, amid some really good competition. And I was really psyched last year to get my first World Cup point at the middle distance race at the O-ringen. It was a good race for me and squeaked into 40th place!

9) What are your goals for 2009? What are your more long-term orienteering goals?
Major goal this year is to keep improving. I've been a bit hampered by injuries in the past few months, but I hope to have top 10 finishes at British Champs and hopefully get to go to some World Cups sometime over the summer and place a bit higher than last year!
Long-term, I'd like to be consistently competitive internationally. Will definitely try to make WOC teams in future years!

10) What is your most memorable orienteering experience so far?
Probably last year's TioMila or O-ringen. Such a blast having so many people around orienteering, a great atmosphere, great terrain!

11) What are your favorite orienteering disciplines?
Think I like them all! Great to have the variety. I probably get most excited for sprints and relays as they're least frequent. Although I'm not entirely sure I have middle-distance races figured out.

12) What would be your ideal training session?
A full day, with no pressure of thesis hanging over my head, somewhere with really technical and interesting terrain.
It would start with lots of technical little exercises, line courses and control picks, then a map memory exercise before lunch. Then lunch and some time to hang out, preferably, in the sun with an ice cream van nearby... In the afternoon, more racing-focused, trying to go fast in the terrain, maybe throwing in a peg-relay at the end because those are always fun!

13) Can you describe a typical training week?
Whew. Don't think typical ever happens. =) If it did, it would go something like this:
Monday- 40 min run + club circuits
Tues- 50 min run (intervals session w/ running club)
Wed- club run 45min-1h
Thurs- 50 min club hill reps + hurdle drills (I run the steeplechase on the track)
Fri- off
Sat- running/track race/orienteering training/rollerskiing
Sun- orienteering event

14) You had great success as a cross-country skier before moving to England and starting to orienteer. Can you tell us about life as an elite skier? What do you miss most from competing on the skiing circuit? What do you not miss at all?

Ah yes, my other life - cross-country skiing! So cross-country skiing definitely was my sport before coming over to mostly-snowless England. I trained the whole year round, which is lots of running and rollerskiing in the warm months, then chasing the snow in the fall (far north and high elevations to start with), and then racing nearly every weekend all winter. The fall particularly takes lots of travel and I generally took the term off from my studies at Dartmouth to get to early-season snow. I raced for the US at Junior Worlds, U-23s, and World Cups.

I mostly miss the skiing out of the life of an elite skier. Cross-country skiing is really a wonderful sport. It's super-demanding physically, but is also just such a fun motion and you go fast! What I don't miss are the other things that go with being a skier- the endless amount of stress and money that goes into waxing skis, having to carry 16 pairs of skis with me wherever I went, and having to work so hard to avoid getting sick, which generally was unavoidable anyways.

15) Which are tougher, skiers or orienteers?
Oh gosh, unsure! Both wear lycra (obviously makes one tough!). But actually, I think there are two slightly different flavors of mental toughness. In orienteering, you have to push hard physically, but still have the ability to make sensible descisions, which is mentally very demanding. In skiing, you have to just completely surrender all mental faculties to being able to withstand the physical pain of pushing at your absolute limit. Different. But both tough.

16) What is the most annoying/scary/dangerous orienteering hazard?
Two things annoy me. I keep running into trees while reading my map (ok, only happened twice, but still...) Secondly, I often find exactly the deepest place to put a foot into a stream or puddle and end up chest-deep in water.

17) What would you take with you to a deserted island?
An axe. I like axes- I was a lumberjill on the woodsmen's team at Dartmouth. Or a 10m telescope with an integral field unit spectrograph. That'd be sweet too, but maybe less critical to survival!

18) Do you think you are weird enough to be an orienteer? If yes, illustrate with an amusing anecdote.
Yes. I think fractal broccoli is about the coolest thing in the world.

19) If you could be any orienteering features, which would you be?
Sand dunes! They're super neat, plus they actually move.

20) What kind of music makes you invincible against wicked course setters and Canadians?
Music is too distracting before racing for me! But based on a Dartmouth-ski girls tradition love country for post-workout.


Eddie said...

Hey, there's already an island with a 10M and an IFU! All it needs is dessert. Mmmmm, dessert.....

Janet said...

Oooh -- fractal broccoli IS cool! :-)

Alison Campbell said...

Great name ;) Hope this means i'll have just as much success at some point!