Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hola from WUOC in Alicante, Spain

The WUOC team is in Alicante Spain to compete in the 18th World University Orienteering Championships which is taking place from July 2-6th

Who is on the team?

John Hensley Williams, McKenzie Hudgins, Keith Andersen, Alison Campbell, Charles Whitaker 
For more information about the team such as clubs and team please look at our bios on - Orienteering USA: WUOC

The Opening Ceremony was last night to kick off the competition. The teams lined up and walked into an open-air theater. We picked Keith to carry the flag since he is the eldest and is doing a great job at being both a competitor and our team leader. We were announced before sitting down to enjoy the welcoming speeches promises by the athletes and judges to abide by the rule, and a performance. The performance consisted of a dance routine with fire and ribbon dancers. "they were really neat!"- John
"It was the first time that it really sank in that I was representing the USA and I was beaming with pride the whole time" - McKenzie when asked what her first opening ceremony was like.

The Long Distance
Everyone competed in the Long distance today. It was held on the map Pantano de Tibi, which is North west of Alicante. It was 1:15000 with 5m contours. The girls had 6.8km with 19 controls and the guys had 9.8Km with 22 controls. The big thing today was climb! It was mountainous terrain where the slopes just crumbled under you. Also there was the battle of how early could you start before it really heated up. 

Women's B course - Alison and Mckenzie Ran this

Men's B Course - John ran (Charlie ran A- butterfly)

I had a decent run for me as lost time really only in route choices and the crossing point. I took the start of the course slow to get into the map and I think that paid off. I was feeling really strong in the  middle/butterfly section. Controls were just showing up exactly where I was expecting them to. Then I got to control 14, drank water and made for the crossing point. This crossing point though I feel was unfair and should have been streamered. You either were lucky and hit the trail or got stuck and could lose loads of time! I was unlucky in this case being one of the first out, I got stuck. Pulled a chinese guy out of the brambles and then he had to help me up the far side once we crossed. It wasn't orienteering and it wasn't fun! Then after that experience didn't pick the optimal route to 15, but clean navigation. The rest of the course was fine. I'm now excited for the middle with how the short legs of this went. 

I was a little nervous going into the race as I don’t have as much experience as most of my competitors but this race was definitely a big confidence booster. I took more time reading the map than I usually might and did a little more fine tuned navigation to avoid making the big mistakes which would have been much more costly in this race due to the large gorges and slippery hilly terrain. I really enjoyed the map though. I usually took the safest route and went leg by leg. By not getting lost or making any errors that were too costly I definitely feel good about going into the sprint and middle. I’m going to try picking up the pace overall and continue to break the long legs down into more manageable chunks which has been key in avoiding costly errors here.

John - 
The day started off cool enough. Alison, Keith, and I caught the 7:00am bus to the event site. The bus let us out at the bottom of a steep climb to the start area, just a taste of what the rest of the day had to offer. Getting settled at the top we were quickly greeted by Hugo, an event organizers 120 pound brown Great Dane. He was quick to let anyone with their guard down learn just how much he could shed and slobber in a short period of time. He took a particular liking to the Hungarians before he was led out of the start area after protest from some of the coaches. With the dog gone the starts soon followed, and being the eight male starter for the day I was soon headed for the 20 minute call up line for the model at which I was greeted with another 60 meters of climb to the remote start by a radio tower at the top of a hill. The tower itself was surrounded by a fence that contained a dozen or so yapper type "guard" dogs. All in all, not the most ideal environment for a serene start process. However the fence's end gave way to an encompassing view of the terrain of the competition arena, a mix of tree-covered northern slopes and precipitous fight-filled gorges. With a course containing nearly 700 meters of climb the name of the game was stay high, only gaining or giving elevation when it was necessary, a rule that lead to my choosing more circuitous flat paths to my destinations. Even so, by point 17 I was tuckering out. My energy was waning and my desire for a goo, gel, wild date, anything was filling my mind. From here on, the promise of fresh fruits and snacks at the finish became the decisive force compelling me towards the finish.

Charlie - 
 After practicing on the terrain the previous couple days, I felt fairly comfortable in the environment. The terrain here is very similar to that of southern California, and therefore I was initially worried about encountering cacti in all the brush. Luckily, I have not encountered any hidden thorns when running through all the landscape. The only terrain issue I ran into during the long was how unexpectedly loose the soil was, but after adjusting to a half-sliding method down the hills, traversing through the terrain wasn't all that difficult. At the start of the long race, I was excited to start running finally and almost skipped the very first point. After my initial jump start, I settled down to run a smoother race. I'm looking forward to picking up the pace for the sprint tomorrow and seeing a greater part of Alicante.

Keith - 

I started off the race with the mentality that I would keep it in control and everything would fall into place and I would finish the course with a respectable time.  At the first control I felt confident about the route I had selected to the 2nd control, and began to execute.  As I neared my Attackpoint, I was running down hill at speed, which was tough given the loose footing and solid knee-high bushes/grass that could trip you up easily.  I handrailed a large re-entrant, which was covered with trees, thus limiting my visibility. When I emerged from the trees, I saw a road ahead of me.  I suddenly became unsure of whether I had navigated to the correct re-entrant. I bailed out over to a spur where I could see the terrain better.  At this point I realized that I had been correct all along, but I hesitated and it cost me some running time.  Ready to shake it off, I finished the control and got to control 3 fine.  I realized it would be much faster to take trails to 4, so I started off feeling good about my plan again. Following the trail, I reached a spur I thought I could take down to get around the large hill that 4 was on the back-side on.  This was my first time seeing the steep cliffs and ravines that I was expecting to look alot more tame.  I stood looking across, wishing I could fly since I knew where I needed to go, but had a small (or in this case massive ravine) problem in the way.  Frustrated, I saw a trail heading west that headed toward a less precarious section of the ravine and just decided that I would try and cut it as short as possible.  I ended up having to crawl, climb, and claw my way up the steep slope, at several points sliding a few feet back down.  I was cursing my route choice and the ravines now.  I finished the control, then tried to get back in the saddle on number 5 and 6, though at this point the heat and sun were getting to me.  Running to 7 I was able to follow a flat path for quite a while, which was a relief for me, though my brain was still bonkers.  I completely mis-read where the contours close to 7 and thought that it was one gigantic climb, rather than thinking that I should be shooting for a saddle and then getting to the control.    As a result, I decided I would get a majority of the climb out of the way all at once, opting for a steep slope that would become more gentle near the top.  Again, I was on my hands and knees, clawing my way up, grasping on to any vegetation I could to gain traction in the loose soil/rock.  After reaching 7 I was pretty shot, but I rejoiced when I saw the water.  That gave me a little bit of a mental boost and I was off doing my first butterfly loop.  I felt good through there, though I knew my body was still exhausted.  The second loop didnt go as well, because once again, I second guessed myself.  I was following a spur down to control 13, but suddenly felt like I wasnt sure if I had already passed it, so I turned around, re-located, and then ended up sprinting back down to the control.  14 was easy, and 15 I was a bit high on, but I was counting ditches and knew I had missed my control, so I turned in and found it. At point 17 I was ready to get it all back together and finish strong.  I saw they had us going down a steep ravine at a crossing and then up to a trail, so I ran down the ravine where the trail was obvious, and then climbed up.  There were several options part way up, and I figured all of them would get me to the top.  I was wrong.  I couldn't see the slopes because of the intervisibility lines, and I was thinking I would just follow my compass to a goat path that would take me up the ravine.  I never found one.  I debated going back, but my stubbornness got a hold of me and said if I keep pressing West, I'll find a way out.  there were several girls that had just caught up to me after I had forked the wrong way and so had they, except they decided to turn around; I kept going.  I slid across side-hills, precariously holding myself out of the thorns that lined the bottom of the ravine.  This was extremely slow going.  Eventually I ran out of side hill and it was down in the thorns I went.  I was suspended off the ground by a few vines that I slid into, so I removed myself from them and threw myself at the stream bed which was very muddy, but had far less thorns to worry about.  I sloshed through until I saw an out, which gave me mixed feelings.  I finally knew I was going to survive the gauntlet of sliding down steep loose rocky hillsides/ravines and thorns and muddy creek beds, but I was still traumatized from the experience (it takes quite a bit to get me to that point).  I crawled up this hill, again clawing my way to the top using any little nooks that I could put my hands and feet into for support.  I got to the road and then took it to the trail headed up the hill I was looking to hit.  Found my trail intersection and then side-hilled down to 18, ran to 19, went around to the north going to 20, went way West to the trail to 21 and did my best to keep my legs moving through 22 and the finish, as they were starting to cramp up.  

I was really hoping I could keep my head out there and pull off a solid race.  I knew I had quite a few factors going against me; namely that I've never been my best in extremely hilly terrain, in the heat, in the bright sun, and on a 1:15000 scale map.  The plan was to run the ridgelines/spurs and pick good attackpoints that would keep me from doing the same thing I did in Sweden, where I lost 20 minutes on a single control trying to relocate.  I didn't have that problem here.  Most of my time was lost due to the ravines that I found myself on the wrong side (bottom) of, as well as a little bit of hesitation when I wasn't 100% confident where I was.  The terrain really chewed me up and spit me out today, but I'm anxious to see if I can make some route planning adjustments for the middle and start hacking away at those lost minutes.

Comment about being a competitor and team leader:  I'm doing fine managing both, since there is no overlap.  The only added burden on me is the responsibility to wake up from my siesta an hour earlier to get to the meetings.  Our team is well behaved, so my life is easy; and we've made a couple allies between ourselves and the Swiss, Canadian, and Irish teams.  Looking forward to the next few days!

The Sprint
Tomorrow is the sprint in the heart of Alicante. It is planned to start at the castle on the hill and run down into the old town. The Quarantine starts at 3pm with the first start at 4:30pm. It is said to be fast! 2.25km for the girls with an expected winning time of 14mins. 

The USA Starts are as followed:
Alison Campbell  16:35:30 (306)
Keith Andersen  16:39:00 (110)
Mckenzie Hudgins 16:50:30 (321)
Charles Whitaker 17:01:00 (132)
John Hensley Williams 17:23:00 (154)

Lets go!


Brendan said...

Yeah Keith!

carlch said...

Way to perservere Keith

Boris said...

Great job in the tough long distance, guys! Thanks for the updates, and good luck in the sprint tonight!!

Alex said...

Wow, that's a helluva race! Tough going, but every race you get through that beats you up that much just makes you tougher for the next one. Keep rocking, y'all!