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Friday, 12 June 2009

Learning from the Ghosts of the Past

With some of our JWOC'ers heading over to Italy very soon I thought it might be worth listening to some of my lessons learned. Over the years many NZ juniors have headed overseas to JWOC embarking on an Orienteering initiation of sorts. I have heard many many stories of the epic courses, epic races, intense heat, hot girls etc etc...and in my one JWOC I experienced most of these including possibly my worst race ever. The JWOC Long 2005 in Southern Switzerland. Hopefully you wont go down the same track as I did after listening to what went wrong for me.

Here is what I wrote about the race a few months afterwards:

Thursday, the day of the long, I gave up the opportunity to have my ideal start time so I ended up in the last group, starting at 1:30pm in the heat of the day. For me the day never started well, I had a long wait most of which I had to do by myself. I got ready and had a run on the warm up map, I had trouble adjusting to the scale and when I got back was really nervous. The race started with the start triangle about 10 metres from the start line, which meant I never had anytime to sort the map out before having to orienteer. I made a small mistake on the first control then took off to the second and took a route choice option that had more climb but to me seemed the safest option. Anyway I got carried away when I cut off a bend in the road and didn’t come far enough down before contouring round and got myself way too far up hill to the left of the control. After some rock climbing and about 10 minutes of mucking around I found it. I just totally lost confidence from then on and continued to compound and dwell on my mistake. I just plain forgot how to orienteer. It was really hot and it was starting to take its toll on me and right near the end I even contemplated DNF-ing but I pushed on giving it every thing I had, even managing a respectable finish split. When I got there almost everyone had finished and was ready to go home, I was really wasted and just wanted to sit down in the shade and forget it all, the others in the team were all there eager to know what I did. I couldn’t really be bothered talking to them and got quite angry with myself. I think they realized this (after I biffed a shoe at a bank behind the tent and unintentionally almost took out Martin in the process!) and they all left me to catch the buses home; some of them had been waiting around in the heat for 4 hours or more. It was good as I had some time to reflect on what I had done, I checked my placing before I left, 128th not great but at least I finished which about 40 people failed to do.

Im not so sure now that 40 people DNF'ed maybe more like 20...but pretty much everything went wrong for me in this race. In saying that I learned more from this race than I think I ever did in the 5 or so previous years of orienteering prior.

Here is some analysis of how I set myself up for disaster:

  • 1st off I gave up my ideal start time out of courtesy to a more experienced orienteer in the team. I wanted the second middle block and ended up taking the first last block - Bad mistake already reinforcing to myself that I sucked and was not worthy of taking my ideal start time as his race was more important than mine.... I was never going to do well with that attitude.
  • Taking a later start meant that I had to wait for ages for my bus and my start. I got really bored waiting around cause I wasn't able to get away from the racing mind set. So when I got to the start area I felt lethargic as if I had already run my race....because I had over and over all morning in my head! Ideally I should have had a way of being able to switch off before hand.
  • When out doing the warm up map I under ran one or two controls (cause it was 1:15,000) and got it into my head that I sucked and wasn't up to doing well. I got overly intimidated by the warm up map....which was stupid because that's what the warm up map was for....getting into the map. So instead of being focused I was shitting myself.
  • The next fatal mistake was that I expected the start triangle to be a good 100m run or so, and my orienteering up until then relied on that time and distance to get into the map and sort it all out. That was bad planning on my part and it stuffed me up for at least the first 2 controls. I now have a way of dealing with a short start to start triangle distance.
  • After making these stupid nervous mistakes I proceeded to run with the attitude that this is hard, and I need to run fast to make it to the drinks control as in the program it mentioned drinks stations at 15mins, 30mins and 1 hour. So after 10mins of fluffing around I needed to get to my target time for hitting the drinks control. Another lesson learned, dont set target times for yourself as when you fail to make them, it just reinforces the negative thinking and too much negative thinking = sucky orienteering = you suck!
  • After reaching the Drinks at 30mins I was already feeling like a failure and was just pissed off with myself. Unable to leave these mistakes behind I just kept dragging them along with me and it really screwed me over for the rest of the race
  • Another mistake was running super hard through the spectator legs...I have to tell my self time and time again to calm down and not run these too hard, make sure you do take that drink and squezzy cause with out it I turn into a dead duck wobbling along.
  • The last two controls or so I managed to Man up...probably because I thought the suffering was nearly over...And even that was a bad attitude cause at the end of the day why on earth was I there if I wasnt having fun. Having fun is why I do orienteering in the first place....normal people dont travel half way across the world to suffer do they?
  • After finishing I let it get to me...and when you do that you are already starting to further reinforce the negative thinking for next time. Everyone has there own way of dealing with having a crap run and for me talking to others who are all happy and excited makes me feel even crapper. So I did do well in that respect as I stayed behind and left the others too it. It allowed me to reflect on what had gone wrong so I could fix it for next time. And I think it worked as in the relay 2 days later I had my greatest run to date.

Basically I set myself up to fail and looking back it was an incredibly easy thing to do. What I should have done was set myself up to run an Orienteering course, just like any other race. At the end of the day everyone who is at JWOC can navigate well (some more than others obviously), being mentally prepared is what sets the ones who do well from those who just completely wash out.
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