Monday, August 10, 2015

Team bonding

 It's been pretty well documented that higher levels of team spirit lead to better results. In an effort to chase those better results, team USA had a team bonding session Wednesday afternoon. Team leader Ross made cookie dough, and we all rolled out, cut, and decorated cookies, generally with a Scottish theme. I think we discovered some previously hidden talents!

A great way to take our minds off of the pressure and stress in what is otherwise a very high-stress environment. Thanks for the idea, Ross!

The team getting into things. 

Some artwork - highland cows, Nessie, deciduous trees, controls...

More artwork!

This is a puffin. Ethan is really excited to see puffins. 

Giacomo made some sort of mermaid , apparently he heard there were mermaids  in Scotland. 

Alison managed to make bagpipes! And a haggis. We didn't know that was actually a critter. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Alison Crocker 15th in the Sprint Final

Spectators watching the coverage of the Sprint Final may have missed Alison Crocker's impressive performance on Sunday in Forres, Scotland where she ran her way into 15th place, the best individual result ever achieved by the US at the World Championships. Ali was largely overlooked by the video coverage and arena announcing and thus her fantastic result was a surprise, even to her.

                                                                                   Flying into fifteenth                                    Photo Credit: Ethan Childs

In the moments after finishing she explained that she had a small mistake on the second control but was satisfied with the rest of her race. The mistake occurred when she misread the control description, and expected the flag to be at the end of the wrong stone wall. She figures she lost 20 seconds there, and after that she really pushed hard with nothing to lose. When she crossed the line with several runners still to finish, she thought that she would be satisfied to finish in the top 30. The final result of 15 was a bit of a surprise.

Ali just after the race

Perhaps Ali's facebook update says it best:

World of O has a nice analysis of the race here.

Check out the split times here.

After the Sprint Final was over, Team USA did our best to avoid the traffic jam of spectators heading back to Inverness and instead headed out to celebrate with a fantastic dinner at The Abbey Inn in Kinloss.

Ali's next race will be the Forest Relay on Wednesday, August 5th. However, you can watch Team USA compete in the Middle Distance on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ali is ready for the Sprint Final

Hey fans! The sprint final is starting in just a couple of hours. USA's Alison Crocker is ready to go.

Sunglasses are optimistic for Scottish summers

You can read more about the sprint final here.

Ali starts at 17:19 local time 29th out of 45 starters in the Women's class. Full start list here.

The best result that USA has had in the Sprint Final at WOC was a 20th place that Ali ran in 2012 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Cheer her on here and on Attackpoint!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sprint Qualification: Team USA with a strong start. Ali Crocker to Final

Today's Sprint Qualification took place in the town of Forres, a town lying to the East of Inverness. The action started with the Women's heats with US runners Kseniya, Alex and Ali racing through the residential area around the town.

There were plenty of familiar faces in the crowd of spectators watching from the arena and also a couple that had official positions. Valerie was working her magic in the download tent and Sandy was out on the course, guarding a set of fence crossings that were created by stacking hay bales into a rough set of stairs. This spot was a great spot to spectate, as every heat had a long leg route choice going past her position. All in all, there was a great atmosphere for cheering on Team USA!

Kseniya, had the first start of the Americans, and she raced her course in 16:52, a performance that landed her in 29th place in heat 2. She said that she ran well, and was happy to have finished without any big mistakes. She was 3:21 behind the leader, Tove Alexandersson (SWE) and 1:37 seconds behind 15th position in heat 2.

First US finisher, first big smile

Next to start was Alex, running in heat 3. She had a time of 15:47, which was good enough for 21st place. She said that she did have a small error of running down a blind alley for a couple of seconds, but overall she was fairly happy with the run. Alex was 2:02 behind the winner in heat 3, Minna Kaupi (FIN) and a mere 34 seconds behind 15th position.

Alex and Ed 

Last of the women was Alison Crocker. She was one of the very last starters, which meant that when she finished, the annoucer, Per Forsberg could say with certainty that she was fast enough to make it through to the final! She finished in 6th position in heat 1, with a time of 13:40. Less than a minute behind the winner, Maya Alm (DEN). Ali was satisfied with her run and happy to qualify. This was her 6th WOC sprint qualification race and her 5th time making it through to the finals.

Ali compares notes with a runner from Hong Kong

There was only a short break in the action before the men's race commenced. Scotland apparently decided that things were far too pleasant, and as soon as the women finished running, a light rain started to fall. This meant that the US men, Ken, Greg, and Ethan were running in a light cool drizzle.

Ken finished 30th in heat 3, with a time of 15:29. 3:01 behind the leader Jerker Lysell (SWE) and 2:10 behind 15th spot. He was happy with his run and was greeted by a happy fan club including his very supportive daughters, Samantha and Elisa. Their opinion that Dad was still the best is a very popular one with this reporter as well. Ken narrowly edged out Canadian Robbie Anderson, who reportedly was suffering from a certain amount of gastric distress during the later part of the course and made a bee line for the port-a-potty as soon as he crossed the finish line.

Ken is one of the first to the finish

Next to the finish was Greg in heat 1. He finished 29th with a time of 14:32. The fastest time in his heat was the jaw-dropping 11:48 set by Yannick Michiels (BEL). Greg was 1:51 outside of qualifying and said that he was perhaps too amped up with the excitement of the race and the speed of using the SI Air. He ran right past the flag on control #2 without ever going to punch. Luckily he realized this and went back to correct it. Overall he thought he might have had 30 seconds of error and was still pretty excited to have just finished his first WOC race ever. Greg raced in a heat where running the expected winning time of 13 minutes would not have qualified for a spot in the final.

A slightly blurry Greg sprinting against Milos Nykodym (CZE)

Ethan was the last American out on the course. His finish sprint against Canadian Will Critchley created a very loud cheering spectacle in the arena. Ethan logged the fastest time of the men, finishing in 30th position in heat 2 in a time of 13:58. The winner in his heat Kristian Jones (GBR) ran 11:44. Ethan was 1:20 outside of qualification and he too was in a heat where merely running the expecting winning time would not have qualified you to make the final.

Sweatiest American of the day award goes to... Ethan!

Curious to see more? Take a look at this detailed page on the organizer's webpage which contains links to the maps and the results. 

Ali and Valerie at the download tent

Ali has qualified for the final, which will take place on Sunday. That race will bring her back to Forres and give her a chance to improve on her personal best 20th place finish in the sprint.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scotland - WOC 2015: Start your engines!

Hello Dear Readers! What better way to welcome you to Scotland than to provide you with a picture of the beautiful countryside. I am posting this after I drove north to join Team USA in Inverness, for the World Orienteering Championships. Over the next several days, I will be acting as the team leader for Team USA and bringing you updates from the athletes and the arena as the races progress.

Gorgeous scenery, heading into the highlands

Team USA is here in Inverness poised and ready for the first competition, which kicks off tomorrow, Friday, July 31. For an overview of the WOC week, look no further than the incredible post over at World of O, where Jan Kocbach has compiled a bunch of resources that will keep you close to the action. I will highlight in particular the link for the official IOF onlinecoverage. It is possible to buy a single (10€) or a weeklong pass (18€) and watch video and GPS tracking for all the races. Furthermore, it will be possible to post on Attackpoint! forums to interact with your fellow spectators, just be fairly warned that very little of what tRicky posts is serious. 

Another wonderful link found in Jan's article takes you to a Team USA overview page. Click on the Athlete photos to read a bit more about each runner.

Friday’s race is the Sprint Qualification. The women's race starts at 18:00 local time (10 AM Pacific/11 AM Mountain/ 12 Noon Central/ and 1 PM Eastern ) the men's an hour later. The six runners representing Team USA and their start times are found below:

Ken Walker Jr. (CSU, QOC) 19:02
Greg Ahlswede (DVOA, Escondite(ESP) ) 19:17
Ethan Childs (GMOC) 19:33

Kseniya Popova (HVO) 18:05
Alexandra Jospe (CSU, Trent-O(ITA) ) 18:14
Alison Crocker (CSU, CROC) 18:33

Complete start lists are published here.

To reach the finals, a runner needs to finish in the top fifteen places in their qualification heat. For the Men there will be 3 heats of 42-43 runners per heat and for the Women there will be 3 heats with 35 runners in each. The qualification is predicted to have a 13 minute winning time. The course will have 10 meters of climb over 3.7k/3.4k  Men/Women and the map is 1:4000 scale with 2.5m contours.

A special highlight for tomorrow is that these races will be the first World Championships appearances for Greg Ahlswede and Kseniya Popova.

When cornered and asked for a quote, Greg said, "Months of diligent preparation, and I'm ready to perform to my potential." Kseniya reluctantly offered, "I'm really excited to be here. And that's it."

Wish them luck as they toe the line tomorrow and fight for a spot in the top fifteen.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Team USA hits the 2015 JK

Over Easter weekend, I joined a small crowd of North Americans among throngs of British orienteers (and quite a few elites from throughout Europe) for the JK, one of the largest orienteering events in the UK each year. This year there were 3,300 entrants, racing four times in four different venues.  I met up with Sam Saeger, Ross Smith, and Alison Campbell from the US Team.  The common theme for all these runners except me is that they either live in Europe or are traveling there for a long period of time - I chose to come on a weekend trip, for some more international race experience in a very competitive field, and a sneak peak at some of the UK terrain before I head to Scotland for the World Champs this August.  Probably not the best race approach for this weekend, but a very worthwhile experience from the longer-term view.

Friday (straight off a red-eye) was the sprint race, at Lancaster University.  The university had many canopies between connected courtyards, leading to some interesting route choices and potential traps. Even the part of the university with "simple" geometry was tricky thanks to the course setting, which kept the runners bouncing around like ping-pong balls, never with much of a chance to read ahead.  I didn't fare too well on the combination of no sleep and a tricky course, making many mistakes, but every race is a learning experience, and I was able to identify some underlying problems in my sprint technique that hopefully I can fix before I race the sprint at WOC.  

Saturday was a middle distance race, at Ulpha Park and Barrow Fell. The first thing that clued me in to the fact that this was no North American event was the 2km uphill walk to the arena from parking, on a very muddy, rugged, farm trail.  On top of that, we had another 1.6km uphill walk to the start. I no longer have pity for folks complaining about a 400m walk to the start at the next A-meet! The terrain was a mix of "normal" deciduous forest, with moss-covered rocks and next to no groundcover, and completely open Fell. This was cool to orienteer through, because you could see for miles, but the terrain was knobbly and technical, with a fair amount of rock detail, meaning you couldn't just blast away in the right direction. It was a pity that the F21 course only had a few controls up there, I was loving it.  Unfortunately my brain hadn't quite turned on, yet, and I had a few disastrous controls, losing something like 12 minutes. Ouch. 

The long distance was up next, at Bigland. They had the old map posted in the arena, so I could see that we would get more open Fell running, which was really exciting. The area was totally socked in by fog when I started, which meant that the navigation got extra tricky on top of the fell, but with numerous stone wall crossings, it was hard to get too lost. The stone walls here are a thing of art - I'm used to decrepit New England stone walls that are sometimes indistinguishable from a linear rock pile - these walls are serious business here, needing multi-runged ladders to cross. The map had put a purple crossing point symbol everywhere there was a crossing style, making it easier to find the crossing points. Sometimes the fields were empty, sometimes there was a herd of cows or the occasional sheep, you never really knew until you got there. Always an adventure.

After the fell, the women's course dropped into a very technical rocky hillside. This felt similar to West Point in many regards, including long traverses through unmapped rockfields and gratuitous climbs over cliffs, but it led to some very fun orienteering! I had some company on and off, and was finding that I could run away from these girls on the uphills, but they were better in the technical stuff. With only 1 or 2 long legs, the long had the feel of an extended middle, which is not really my forte. Yet. Nothing like working on those weaknesses! I had been sort of looking forward to stretching it out on some of the long legs, but I guess that's not the style of course setting around here, and one purpose of the trip was to learn to adapt to that.

The final race of the weekend was the JK Trophy Relay, held at Graithwaite, a private estate whose property has a lovely map.  After more parking in a muddy field full of sheep, you traipse back toward the arena on a 1.5km muddy logging trail, and the arena was the perfect setup with a hillside for standing on to spectate and multiple visible controls on the opposing hillside in the open forest. Unfortunately, there was a very wet marsh between these two hillsides, and that marsh was the start and finish for the relays. I watched so many kids lose their shoes trying to finish that race, but luckily mine stayed on.

I didn't have a relay, as the only female CSU runner there, but I put up an advertisement on the board at enquiries that I was looking for a team, and it turned out that two junior women on the Irish team were short a runner, so we joined forces in the elite ladies' race, with me on third leg.  It was pretty impressive to watch such a big relay go off, and the "mini" relay for the under-14 juniors was pretty adorable too.  By the time my runner tagged me, the marsh was an absolute mud bath, and the forest was swarming with runners going in every direction.  So much barely controlled chaos, I love it! Thanks to the fantastic visibility in this forest, the navigation was pretty straightfoward, and I made a pretty clean run, except for an error on a control near the end where the obvious thing was to climb a hill and I didn't want to.  I survived the mud pit of a run-in with both shoes, and we were the 16th elite women's team, which isn't bad for two juniors and an American!

Overall, this was a really great weekend.  The races are so well run, and the courses so well set, that even when I had a crappy race, I had a great time in the terrain.  Everyone I met was incredibly open and friendly, adding smiles to an already great weekend.  I may not have achieved the WRE goals I had hoped for, but the experience of racing against the best out there can't be substituted, and I feel just that much more ready to face off against them again in Scotland after a summer of good training with CSU!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ski Orienteering World Champs!

The U.S. ski-o team is headed to Norway, for the 2015 World Ski Orienteering Championships.  We'll be arriving in ones and twos over the weekend until everyone finally gathers in our tiny little Norwegian cabins in the woods by Monday.

The racing action starts Tuesday with a sprint relay! Get loads more information from the website.

Monday: Model event
Tuesday: Sprint relay (teams of one man and one women, each doing 3 laps and tagging off in between)
Wednesday: Sprint
Thursday: Long
Friday: rest day
Saturday: Middle
Sunday: Relay

The men's team is Ari Ofsevit (CSU), Adrian Owens (GMOC), and Greg Walker (Truckee OC).  The women's team is Stina Bridgeman (ROC), Alexandra Jospe (CSU), and Anna Voegele (Truckee OC). The junior team is Michael Laraia (MNOC), Kestrel Owens (GMOC), and Melanie Serguiev (GMOC).  The team will be guided by the fearless Cristina Luis.

To follow the races live, navigate to the live button on the website, or click here. Theoretically, there will be video, GPS streaming, and live results and splits!

(exciting ski-o photo from 2013 - team members Melanie, Anna, Alex, and Stina pictured)