British Orienteering Championships 2011

This years BOC was held in Wharncliffe and Greno Forest to the north of Sheffield, not an area I know well, it being 20 years since I last ran on it. After the week of pain after running M35 Long at the JK in Northern Ireland I had changed courses for the British Champs to M35 Short. Trying to run for 90 minutes in tough terrain on just one 20 minute run a week was just not possible, every joint and muscle hurting afterwards. That said, looking at the start lists I was a little worried I would look like a pot hunter. That’s the trouble with classic distance races at this level, if you don’t train its just an achievement to get round and I can’t afford to have a week off the bike with sore legs at this point in the season.

So M35 Short it was, but still it was pretty much as long and hard as the average brown course at a local event at 7.3km with 260m climb.

I started badly, trying to go straight through an area of scattered trees which was horrendous, reducing me to a walk. I nailed the next 8 controls until a small wobble at 11 where I was distracted and visited another control on the way in. The long leg on the course was next and after being forced to finally stop for a wee, I opted for the fast long path route round. Having chosen it, I put the hammer down to make the most of the running and did a lot of planning ahead. I had a couple of lucky breaks with 13 and 14 but I was being very cautious, even taking bearings, before fluffing 40 seconds or so on 16, a tiny pit which I was within 5 metres of the first time and didn’t see. My biggest mistake came at 18 as I was expecting it to be half way down a small re-entrant when in fact if I had just turned round I would have seen it on top in plain view. As always sometimes you just need to get your head up look around. It was then just a slog to the finish, more undergrowth and climb. I crossed the line a minute or so after Cath, and Chris P in the commentary van confirmed we were both leading – husband and wife M/W35S British Champs winners, that will be something local papers to get their headline writing skills into!

I did win by a fairly embarrassing margin, but looking at it again it is a real milestone following my injuries of the mid noughties, where my long term aim had been to be able to walk around a green course. I even won a pair of Smart Wool Socks for my efforts.

Dark & White Summer #1 – Teggs Nose

Teggs Nose has fond memories for me. I did my first ever Mountain Bike Score event there in 2005 or 6 with a brand new bike where the brakes failed on a decent towards the end!

This year I was late arriving having had battles with horrendous traffic coming through Stockport, so was a little flustered starting at 6.45.Would it still be light enough at 8.45 ? I stuck a little flashing red led on my camel back just to be sure.

I know the area around Teggs Nose and Macclesfield Forest very well and to be honest once I’d sorted an order in which to collect the controls, it was just a case of eyeballs out riding and very little nav, bouncing around on far too hard tyres on some of the rocky descents.

I felt great of the hills and enjoyed the fantastic scenery in the fine weather. I’m pretty sure I could even see The Wrekin and Shropshire hills in the distance as I climbed up to the Cat and Fiddle.

I started to feel a little tired on the climb to number 2 but half way up the hill from 3 to the finish my legs finally gave in and it was all I could do to keep going, watching the seconds tick away. I seem to remember the same thing happened in 2006 but then I was a lard bucket and off and walking !

In the end I had to miss the final 5 pointer out and was still 4 mins late, putting me down in 5th place.

Results available at

Will Purple Harry get off paintball paint ?

Thanks Purple Harry for continuing to support me.

True to their advert the Purple Harry products last longer than other well known brands, I’ve just run out of the bike cleaner, despite a winters use and still have ¼ bottle of maintenance spray left.

Purple Harry have also just launched some new branding, a much more distinctive black bottle and some smaller bottles. Rumour too that they are thinking launching a lube !

Its arrived just in time to get the paintball paint splashes off my bike from the last recce of Swynnerton Camp on Tuesday night where the British MTBO Sprint Champs are to be held this coming weekend!

Wiggle 6 Enduro 2011

Enduro events at Catton Park, organised by the same people as Mountain Mayhem are relaxed affairs and have a smaller maximum entry of approximately 450 riders. Just up the road from where I live, it was nice not to have too early a start on a race day, and, arriving on site, it was a case of just registering and sorting out.

The Wiggle 6 is a Parc Ferme event, meaning that each competitor or pair is given a pit in which to store their stash of food and spares, together with a nominated helper for the soloists if you have enough brownie points built up to get someone to sit in a folding chair for 6 hours…..

After some general chat and the obligatory Cycle Shack team photo we all lined up ready for the Le Mans style start, 800 metres of running to get into the pits to pick up bike and camel back.

I decided, being probably one of the stronger runners present, to go for it on the run and get a good position and avoid some of the potential single track traffic on the first lap.

Without over doing it I cruised into the pits in about 7th place but lost a fair few places in the transition as my “pit” was in the furthest corner.

Although I did not set an alarm on my HR monitor, I had decided to keep things under control by not letting it go over 170 on the first few laps, so as people flew past I kept it sensible. The tactic worked, though, as I hardly got held up at all on the first lap and it will be interesting to look at others split times when the results are available.

I carried 2 litres of ZipVit Sport on my back and a load of bars and stayed out for just over 3 hours before pitting for the first time. The course was mostly single track or hard packed grassy farm tracks with very little gravel road. The single tracks were tight, narrow and fun but some of the farm tracks were horrible, almost corrugated. One particular descent was awful, shaking the fillings out of your teeth, even on my last lap after thousands of wheel passes.

Cath and Holly appeared in time for my first pit, and together with my jam sandwiches made me feel quite chipper as I went back out, though soon I was suffering, particularly my bottom from the constant pounding of the hard rippled terrain. Two laps later I was in again for more food (creamed rice and pears this time) and a little stretch before going out for what I thought would be my final two laps. As 5 hours 30 ticked past and I thought I was out on my final lap I got a renewed lease of energy and my aching bones seemed not quite as bad. For the first time in many hours I felt like I was racing rather than suffering again and put the hammer down intending to finish a few minutes past the 6 hour hooter. Not keeping a careful enough eye on the clock and getting sucked along by a couple of riders trying for one more lap I stupidly crossed the finish line 9 seconds before the hooter went. Cursing I went out and struggled round another lap, but this time with no liquid left I slowly ran out of steam. The laps do tend to feel shorter towards the end of the race and my last lap was no exception. With the two climbs out of the way I was soon cascading down the final singletrack and on to the fast grass and in to the finish 6 hours 37 minutes after starting, and in 25th place (making one place on the last lap, so worth it after all!).

On the whole course I was punished on my race hard tail on the rippled hard mud tracks. My bum, back, feet, arms, everything just hurt, strangely my feet really hurting the most. Its the first time I have ever felt myself wanting for a full sus and 2.4 tyres.

Great event but perhaps I might give pairs a go next time

Wiggle 6 2011 results will be available on the Provelo website soon.


Relay day at the JK was just a bit of fun for us, our first as a family team, with Holly on first leg, Cath out second and me on anchor. Holly had a shadow as an orange, going on light green standard course for a 8 year old is a little over the top, still we ended up mid table which was good.

I spent most of the Relay day however in the commentary van so thought I’d give an insight into what goes on behind the scenes.

Originally I was meant to do just a few hours over the weekend joining in with a small team of invited ‘volunteers’ to provide commentary at the 4 days which make up the JK, however I ended up doing far more, due to no shows and some late arrivals of my colleagues.

The JK is slightly different than say the British Championships as although it is a UK premier event it is also a family orienteering festival with competitors ranging from 8 to 80 and abilities from Britain’s best Elites to recreational orienteers just happy to get round. Together with the commentating I also found myself acting as an MC, announcing birthdays, information, call ups and sponsors adverts.

Getting a balance between following the elite classes, the top runners in non elite classes and general commentary and MCing is difficult but I tried to strike a balance that should have kept most people happy.

Chris and Andy

Inside the commentary van we have pages of information: start lists, programmes, bios, adverts and squalking radios. We also have 6 laptops in front of us, often with two windows open per screen all showing information about the runners about to start, those punching in at ‘radio’ controls out in the terrain, both mid-course and those about to enter the finish tunnel and final positions.

At an elite only event it is fairly straight forward to follow one class at a time but the JK relays were a baptism of fire for the newbie commentator trying to follow the action and provide information to the event arena.

Imagine doing all the following on your own at the same time which I found myself doing at one point:

Keep an eye on the clock, announce call up for map issue, announce the Women’s elite relay starts, commentate on the mini relay finish, take notes from people appearing at the van door, sponsors adverts, keep an eye on the radio data for the male elites about to come into the spectator control etc etc etc…

Oh and try not to say anything daft, try to pronounce Irish names properly and don’t swear !

Eventually I got some help and things calmed down a bit but it required immense concentration.

I’m not sure I or in fact Cath and Holly are ready for me to provide full on commentary for a whole event yet, it’s a big commitment and makes competing too a little difficult, particularly on a weekend which for me was meant to be a holiday, but I enjoyed it and would consider doing it again.

JK Day 3

I was a little apprehensive going into day 3 after looking at the map the night before, discovering it to be essentially a steep grassy mountain covered with contour and rock detail. Waking on Sunday morning my legs were in a terrible state, every muscle and joint hurting after 85 minutes of dune bashing the day before. Since my foot operation a few years ago the one thing I still cannot do is contour on steep terrain, just small amounts of it causes too much pain and risks bringing back sesamoiditis in the remaining bone.

Still, I decided to give it a go, and started OK plugging away uphill through the first few controls, slowly but steadily. However, I totally fluffed number 5, losing about 5 minutes stumbling around after the first bit of contouring and also being distracted by the fantastic mountain and sea views.

I hooked onto the back of Ian Marsden for a while but could not stay with him, particularly as the contouring got worse (anticlockwise being particularly bad for me) and my heart wasn’t in it.

After number13 I found a lost junior girl, cold and crying after taking a crossing point not on her map, put her straight ,and afterwards decided to bin it and miss out the contouring loop 15-19. I cruised down the last few controls struggling with the steep terrain but enjoying the views and atmosphere rising up the mountain from the finish arena.

I think after this weekend I should stop trying to aim for classic distance foot orienteering and stick to middle and sprint events which are more suited to my lack of running training, a little pot hunting at the British on M35S me thinks 😉

Results for the weekend are available here ….

JK Day 2

The day started overcast and windy with rain threatening, not good or an area right on the coast. The assembly area looked out over the dunes towards the end of all courses and whilst doing a commentary stint before my course I saw many competitors milling around in the ‘zoo’ of controls, losing precious time at the end of their runs.

After getting carried away and spending too long in the commentary van I had a mad 5 minutes getting changed and putting in contact lenses before legging it to the start with just 2 minutes to spare before my allotted start time.

After a quick blast across a manicured army firing range we were out onto the dunes proper and a baptism of fire on this complex terrain, a long leg right across the map. I was going OK, legs a little stiff after the sprint of the day before, but then lost contact with the map. I carried on deciding I would relocate when I got near the sea. However, I relocated on the wrong feature and I carried on in a classic parallel error. Arriving at what I thought was the dune I wanted I thrashed around for a couple of minutes before finally sorting out the 5m contour interval in my head and that I was some 150m off to the east. Looking at the splits browser graphs all the top 6 except Roger Goddard made mistakes on number one, showing that even after a big error you need to keep your head and are not automatically out of the race.

The dunes here were much more physical than those we are used to in the UK mainland such as Penhale or Merthyr Mawr, not only the use of 5 m contours indicating the bigger hills but the vegetation was much harder to make progress through.

As I wound my way round the dunes I found myself being pushed left and right off course by the undergrowth, I’m not sure if it was that bad or whether I just didn’t have by brave goggles on but I took a couple of roundabout routes at times to avoid it. The middle part of the course went out into some faster running terrain, particularly number 11 through 17, where we even got to run on an army golf course! The clever course planning mid leg on the way to 18 threw us back into the complex dune structures. I deliberately reigned in the speed but still wobbled on the way in.

By now my legs were starting to protest. I might have the heart and lungs to run a classic distance orienteering race but one 25 minute training run a week is not really enough preparation. The technical and physical difficulty did not let up, and even the last control to the finish was uphill and into the wind.

I was shattered and thought perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew in running M35L but was pleasantly surprised by the results to find I was 5th, and 3rd Brit.

Day 3 of the JK moves to open hillsides that have never been my strength, particularly now my foot, post operation, does not enjoy contouring across steep slopes but the views will be fantastic and judging by the climb we should be going up and down and not across too much!