Matt: This is Facebook, Michael.
Michael: Yeah well just pretend.
Matt: Could we leave the fireside chat for the pros like Darren?
Michael: He did look so comfortable there in front of Jamie's fire.
Matt: He won’t be looking comfortable after this weekend.
Michael: Good segway. That’s what we’re here to talk about. TONIC. You’re pretty confident in your claim that Riverhead is something special. Why?
Matt: There is a simple answer. Challenge. As orienteers we are in continual pursuit of maps/terrain that challenge our technique to its very limits. Every time I run in Riverhead, I find new challenges. From the beautiful forest floor which saps your energy to the low visibility, head height, native vegetation which means that you can be standing next to a 5 metre hill and not be able to see it. The map is close to perfect as well, therefore you can have full confidence that any mistakes you make will be of your own fault. But in addition to challenge, another emotion will be invoked this weekend. Pleasure.
Michael: Nick Hann has completed the mapping. He's young but produces great maps?
Matt: Nick 'the mapping genius' Hann. I am quite confident that he is one of the finest mappers in NZ, if not the world. His eye for detail, and attention for the rules, means that he produces fair, legible maps which just look awesome! You can read about the Riverhead map at the back of the TONIC bulletin. The basemap was poor, due to the dense canopy, but the final product is close to perfection!
Michael: You've been up there doing plenty of testing of the map and courses yourself?
Matt: The map is perfect, the courses are perfect! I have put maximum effort into this event. There are some legs in the long distance with route choices I just have no idea which way I would run. I figure that makes them good route choices. The courses have been thoroughly tested; I have been to every control site multiple times. One session I was running the prologue courses as intervals. The challenge in orienteering is always, you versus the course setter. I wonder if anyone will beat me this weekend! The controlling of the event has also been thorough with Greg making sure that the courses are enjoyable as well as demanding.
Michael: You've anticipated my next question about the course setting. Sometimes it's hard to cater for the full range of courses but you think you've made the event enjoyable to the non-elites too?
Matt: Yes definitely, in organising a big event like TONIC it’s important not to focus on just the elite courses. Of course, I have spent the most time on the JWOC trial courses, but I have spent the rest of the time equally across the remaining courses. For example, I ran Red 6 to gauge its physicalness in order to deem it appropriate for the oldies. The white, yellow and orange courses have a spectator run through in the prologue, probably a first for orienteering! But I love each of my courses, and I think they have been set so that everyone will find some enjoyment in the forest!
Michael: The JWOC field probably has its biggest depth for a long time. As a previous winner what does it mean to have so many vying to follow in your footsteps?
Matt: It is inspiring to see so many juniors coming through the system. It is a credit to the hard work and dedication of people like Mike Beveridge. I cant wait to see the next Junior World Champion from NZ! However, it is going to be tough for the juniors over the next few years as they head into battle in scandi terrain. The thing that inspires me most though from these juniors is the passion that these kids have for the sport! If you love the sport then you will be with it forever!
Michael: The Men’s JWOC team will feature a number of orienteers who have already competed at that level with Tim and Nick pre-selected. What do think the selectors will be looking for at this trial?
Matt: Clean, stable runs. The trials are not so important for them, however the setup will be very similar to JWOC with warm up maps, separate start times etc. So it will be good an excellent opportunity to practice 'big race' orienteering.
Michael: Completely agree. I think some selections will be based on recent results stretching back into late 2013. You note that JWOC is moving into the Scandinavian countries for the next few years. Any tips for those selected when planning their European trip? What helped you to success?
Matt: Plan and train in relevant terrain. For example, this year those who are thinking about running JWOC next year should consider going to Norway on a training camp. It is more relevant and can be just as fun, if you get a group of people, as competitions like Oringen etc.
Michael: Tell me about the sprint. Gene's planning. You've seen the courses?
Matt: I have test run the course. It is a fun sprint with some good route choices. The area is not that complex, but Gene has done a good job with the course setting. It will be an awesome opening to the TONIC weekend.
Michael: Any picks for the weekend? Who’re picks in the M20E categories?
Matt: I have a feeling we might see very different podiums each day. My picks for the three races are Cameron for the sprint, Shamus for the middle and Tim for the long with dark horses Devon, Matt, Tommy, Ed lurking in the background.
Michael: And for the W21Es? Hawkes Bay all the way or will the Auckland locals dominate on home turf or perhaps the lasses from Wellington?
Matt: I expect Kayla and Alice to dominate the sprint, but the middle and long will bring the field closer together at the top end. Behind Kayla and Alice there are a whole group of talented girls. It will be interesting to see how they handle Riverhead.
Michael: Well thanks for the chat Matt and best of luck for the weekend. The weather looks like it has joined the party. Looking forward to hearing from the event each day. Wish I was there!