Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flying Pig XV

The US spring orienteering season got kick-started the first weekend in April with the classic three-day event Flying Pig, organized by Orienteering Cincinnati. Below follows a report by guest columnist Nikolay Nachev of Cascade Orienteering, member of both the US Summer Orienteering and the US Ski-O Teams.

Nikolay is all smiles after winning Sunday's race

The past weekend I flew east to Cincinnati for the 15th annual Flying Pig orienteering event. This year the program included Middle distance race on Friday, the US Ultra Long National Championships on Saturday and another Middle distance race on Sunday.
The Cincinnati Orienteering club ( OCIN ) event is one of my favorite locations, and I have been using it to start up my summer orienteering season for several years now.

As for this year's event I just came back from Sweden competing for US in the Ski WOC, and was short on time to adjust to foot orienteering techniques as well as fight jet lag and heavy skiing legs. Surprisingly my running form was really good. I did not feel any sluggishness or heaviness in my legs as in prior Flying Pig years.
On Friday I did run strong throughout the course but made several navigational errors I am not proud of. As a first woods orienteering race for the season, my navigation was a bit sloppy and even though I tried to stay ahead in the orienteering, I was not precise with my compass, and did not slowed enough to look at details on the map. I end up 5 mins back from the winners with a 3 min mistake and multiple smaller mistakes.
Friday's blue course
Saturday was the Ultra Long US Championships race at Hueston Woods park and we had 19 km in store. I was excited as I was feeling in a good form and felt rested even after the hard race on Friday. Focus was not 100%. Started off the course a bit cautiously, but my goal was to push hard hoping the legs will last through the course. Made one big 3 min mistake on a short leg that I did not read the map correctly, and multiple sloppy small bubbles. But being behind or sloppy on my navigation did not stop me from being in control of my running, and there was a lot of it. In the middle of the course I felt that I am doing 10 K road race with pit stops every 4 – 5 mins to get in the forest pick a control or two and go back on the road. I think a more interesting course could have been created given the map and terrain.
The challenge with this course though was that the last 3 – 4 km we finally left the road and were doing all forest navigation. That comes to you as a huge surprise after running for almost 2 hours mostly on road more or less at orange level course with some compass bearings for spice here and there…
So some people made mistakes there, for me I lost steam and slowed down considerably after the 2 hour 10 min mark. Which is interesting as this is usually the length of my regular long runs in training.
Ultimately, Norwegian Anders Tiltnes on a college exchange program here in Texas was fastest with 2 hours and 1 min. Some 28 mins ahead of second place. Embarrassing? Not really… Anders is ranked 59 in the world, incidentally sharing the place with past world champion and multiple WOC medalist Mikhail Mamleev. On top of that looks like Anders is a Ultra long distance specialist as he finished 2nd at the Norwegian Ultralong Championships ahead of most of the Norway’s orienteering elite. Hope to see and race Anders again here in US in the coming months.
First for the US championships eligible and second overall was Maricel Olaru from Chicago.
I finished 2nd in the US Championships eligible runners and 4th overall.
Sunday was the second middle distance race at a more technical and a bit dense part of Hueston Woods park. This ended up one of my best orienteering races in recent years. In the morning I was really surprised that I was not stiff and I was able to get out of my bed just fine. This does not happen to me usually even after 1 hour 40 min classic distance races let alone after 2:40 mins ultra long. It was another confirmation that the long running miles and skiing sessions in December and January were paying off, as much as this sounds like a cliché.
My mind felt fresh and rested as well, as I was able to get two good nights of sleep not waking up from the jet lag at 3 AM feeling fresh as a pickle.
From navigation and focus point of view, I can not say I had a good orienteering flow or I was “in the zone” before or during the race. On the contrary, as I was in my start minute and about to punch the SI box the start guy was about to hand me the map and I realized I did not have my compass….. ooops… Ran back to the clothing bag to fish for my jacket where I had left my compass. So I waited and started at the next available empty spot. Also during the run I was slowing down ( coming out of controls to look at my map and decide or reconfirm on a route choices) more than I usually do and this was annoying me actually. I caught myself several times slowing down to confirm what I need to do next, or check whether my route is good, and kicking myself mentally in the butt at the same time why am I slowing….
At the last 10 mins of the course my legs finally began to complain from the 3 days of running, and it was a struggle to keep pumping. The last kilometer of the course did not gave any room for rest to navigate, it was all compass bearing running in the flat open woods…
As I came back I realized that I have came in first: edged the Norwegian guy by a smudge, and put more than two minutes on the next North American.
Sunday's blue course
Later I was thinking about my Sunday run and trying to recapture the essence and feeling of it. What was going right, what did I do differently:
Short term /day of race factors:
  • I was mentally rested.
  • Physically the ultra long have taken the nervousness, the edge and the over-excitement and I was calm
  • Following my compass religiously
  • Slowing to read ahead and plan more than I usually do.
  • Wearing my Cascade OC Jersey (see picture)
Long term factors:
  • Solid base through the winter (good endurance and race recovery for the third day of racing)
  • Ski O training (strength training done on the ski and in the gym)
  • Experimenting with running technique (heel vs mid foot strike)
All in all I can't pinpoint one single thing and say because of that I had a good race. As usual nothing is black and white, but looks like there is no substitute for hard work. And some luck may be :)
You can see all courses from the weekend, along with route choices at OCIN's Route Gadget site.
Results and splits from the weekend are available at the Flying Pig webpage.


Clare said...

Nikolay, Would love to hear more about your heel vs. midfoot technique comment. How important do you think this is in terrain running? Which are you advocating - heel or midfoot strike?

Samual said...

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