Monday, July 2, 2012

JWOC team arrives in Slovakia

Greetings from the JWOC team in Kosice, Slovakia!  We have arrived for a week of training before competition starts.

Having been here a day, I can start to form some basic opinions about Slovakia. My experience has been limited to the city we're staying in, though. The city of Kośice is quite nice. The people are friendly, the streets are clean, the parks are pretty nice, and the food, at least in town, is pretty good. The biggest issue so far has been the drinking water which we have decided is not safe to drink. Thankfully this was not done through experimentation, and instead through inference. When our first team member, Nate O., arrived, he was tasked with bringing up our week’s water supply. It's quite hot here, though, so that’s about gone.

I got here the 29th of June.  We stayed at a hotel the first two nights.  We had been warned that there was going to be a wedding while we were staying there.  I assumed that meant there would be a lot of people there, but what it really meant was that we were kept up until 4 am with the loud music and partying, so I didn’t get much sleep, but it was entertaining.  The music was a mixture of traditional Slovak and western pop.  My mom and I went out the second day that we were there just to get a feel for the terrain; we did a middle course.  The next day, before going to our JWOC accommodations, we did a few legs of another middle course.  I got a better sense of what vegetation was like.  Dark green varied from skinny trees close together, to thorny bushes, and dense, low-to-the-ground foliage.  I learned what was marked as a ditch, and what was marked as a gorge, and I’m better able to distinguish between the two.
Sadly, Meg spent last night in the hospital because she was feeling very sick and dehydrated.  It would be nice to have her along for the training, but I’m happy she’s being treated.  I attempted to visit her twice, but was denied entrance both times.  She’s getting out tomorrow.  Don’t tell her, but we made a get-well card.

The first thing we did in Kosice was to stop at a McDonald’s.  I ordered a number six, a “Royal”, and, well, when I said six apparently they thought I meant six sandwiches.  I imagine the look on my face was priceless when they handed me six sandwiches.  I had a good laugh after that.  I had two sandwiches; Dad had one plus his own.  Three of them went bad because there’s no refrigerator.
We walked around town.  It has an old nostalgic feeling to it.  They have some good sculptures in a park setting, with beautiful cobblestone roads.  People seemed uptight about children playing in the fountains.  Maybe the tap water isn’t good to drink.
It was really warm at night.  We had to open the window.  You could not wear long pants pajamas.  There’s no air conditioning.  And no fans.

Erin has been a great coach so far (to my other coaches: you were all great, too). This morning, we headed out to the long training area, which in summary, is quite nice; very fast forest, lots of big depressions, and a whole lot of pretty-ok green. I'm really looking forward to the races because great, open woods are just a blast to run in.

Training for the long session was awesome as the Karst terrain is very imposing.  The map was Dievcenska skala (1:15000, 5m contours ~2008) about 65k west of Kosice.  Most of the karst depressions are 4-5 contour lines deep and a few are 7-8 contours deep).  I set a couple of streamers on a few features:  a depression (5 contours deep) and a "charcoal burning place". 

My impressions of the map are:
Very good contours
Trails in the terrain are more distinctive than the map indicates
Vegetation has changed (some small clear cut areas)
Charcoal terraces are smaller than in French Creek (5m diameter versus 10m)

Nate Lyons:
The woods are awesome.  We did 3 sets of controls with breaks to regroup in between.  I blew the first two controls, mainly because I thought two depressions were hilltops.  That was before I found out that there are no hilltops; or at least no steep ones.  The next 3 legs were significantly better.  I ran between depressions so my routes were very flat, and since the woods are so open it was fast and visible.  During the last set my knee felt a bit tight and a little painful so I backed off on the last control and jogged back to the van.  But I felt good about it and with a little care I think my knee won't be an issue.
I am definitely most looking forward to the Sprint this Sunday.  I think as long as I am mentally prepared, I should be able to hammer out a good run.  But we'll see.
Slovakia seems nice.  And while the people in the city seem somewhat somber relative to those in the US, it could just be a misinterpretation on my part.  However the cheap food (1 euro pizza slices) is definitely a plus.

Training today was smoother than my trainings earlier this week, up until control #5, where I made a huge parallel error on a trail.  I ended up wasting at least 40 minutes.  The original plan was to meet up at #5, so when I eventually got to it, I waited there for a few minutes until I heard a van beeping; I ran up to the road and saw Dan, my savior, who drove me back to the start.  What was going well before #5:  I was taking careful routes on trails, which worked very well, but it was much longer than going through the woods because of how runnable they are, and there’s not much climb because you can skirt the edges of the huge depressions.
We’ll go out on this type of terrain later in the week.  My goal will be to try not to be so cautious, to make route choices that are more efficient than the trails, to see if I’ll be able to successfully navigate the depressions.

The terrain was beautiful on the long course today.  There was lots of stinging nettle, unfortunately, but I can get over that.  It reminds me a lot of the orienteering map in Wisconsin, the Cat’s Meow.  You had to make sure you used the compass to get out of the depressions properly.  The open areas drained you; it was so hot.  I drank a huge water bottle when I got back.


Yesterday Erin held a team meeting. He talked about representing the USA, and making sure the team members are in a position to race well (sleep, eat...). The goal for this week of training is to get to know the terrain, not to push hard. Having said that, they did a long training today in 90+ degree weather plus a run in town, a hard track workout tomorrow morning to "sharpen their legs", and some middle training in the afternoon. After that they'll back off. 

Erin encouraged the boys to aim at the B final, and to think of this as a race against each other. Meg and Isabel will focus on having clean races. "Be excited!"

This morning they headed out to training maps Jašteričie jazero and Dievčenská skala. This karst terrain has many large depressions, and a mixture of forest, open land and thicker vegetation.

They are traveling in a rental van with Dan B as their chauffeur. At breakfast they decided that the first stop would be a grocery store, to supplement the meals provided at the accommodations.


carlch said...

Thanks for the posts. It's good to hear what you all are thinking. I see from the internet that the temps are in/close to 90's. Hope it cools off at night so you can sleep. Maybe next week will be cooler.

Samantha said...

Sounds like a fun time so far! Keep up the training, get to know the woods and then rest up before your first race!

Alison said...

Awesome to hear about the preparation, sounds like getting used to those karst-depressions is happening, stay cool and good luck!

Alex said...

Good luck y'all! The terrain sounds like fun, and it sounds like you're all fitting into a new country and a new culture just fine. Enjoy the racing!!