Lots going on…

Its a busy time for me at the moment both at work, and at home with birthdays and weddings, events and planning (oh and there is a kitchen to finish at some point !).

I had a great chat on the train to London last Wednesday night with a chap who noticed I was course planning for the MTBO this coming weekend. After a while explaining all about the sport we got round to talking about him and his fitness and in particular the fact he had given up smoking in February. I found it extremely difficult to keep a straight face when he told me the reason for giving up was that he found himself taking stronger and stronger cough mixture when he had a cold at that time, in order that he could still have a fag and it was making him feel ill !
Last weekend saw Walton Chasers staying in Hawkshead Youth Hostel in the lakes for it’s annual pre season technical training. Although poorly attended, compared to previous years, those that made the trip north got to run in some of the most intricate contoured forests in England. After lots of training exercises on Saturday Cath set a very tough ‘training championships’ course for the Sunday that really stretched people. In fact I was the only one to get round the whole of the long course, the GPS showing I had done 515 metres of climb, but the experience of running in such intricate contour and rock detail is invaluable to orienteers normally used to competing in fairly simple Midlands forests and should put them in good sted for the coming racing season.
We called in at Wilfs on the way home and luckily for me there was a big demo day going on in the car park. I got to oggle lots of expensive bikes whilst Cath and Holly got to stand in the lunch queue !

Ive had a fairly easy week on the training front as I have been planning the MTBO ready for Sat 21st and am competing on Sunday at the National League Trailquest in Sheffield. As we have a houseful of mountain bikers staying for Friday and Saturday night I hope Cath doesn’t get too fed up with lots of ‘bike talk’ but it should be a great weekend.

Event Report – Hendesford Camp District Event – (Foot O)

I was very tired on the Sunday following organising theTrailquest, but was determined to get a run on an area that although I know well I had never competed on. The day started with bright sunshine and a stiff wind, the later making life uncomfortable at sportident download which I had to set up before racing.
The map I knew was A3, 1:10,000 which was a bit of a tablecloth to carry and fold. I think we should have offered a 1:15,000 option on the Brown and Blue, something to think about for the next event.
As I walked to the start I wondered if I should have put on another layer, as I was just wearing a thin club short sleeve racing top, but decided I would soon warm up once I got started.
The course was good, with lots of turning and varying leg lengths, including one huge leg straight across the area. I made a couple of daft route choice errors towards the end of the course which lost me a couple of minutes but kept up the effort till the end, however with 5 controls to go the wind picked up, the sky went dark and it started to snow / hail. Even running hard I became extremely cold and wished that I had put that extra layer on and probably would have retired if I had been near the beginning of the course.
I finished and found a download tent in crisis as the main server had failed. It was entirely my fault as I had forgotten to plug it in to the power 🙁 Adrenaline took over and I got everything working again (thank goodness Autodownload uses a proper database so no results were lost) however I got even colder in the process and started shivering uncontrollably. I ended up in the car for the next 1/2 hour heaters on full trying to warm up. Lesson for the future listen to the weather forecast.
I was pleased with the result and for the first hour I was running well, although I spotted from routegadget that I lost quite a bit of time on #11 and #13 with my daft route choices. Results and Routegadget available here…

Busy Weekend !

The last couple of weeks have seen me busily preparing for the National League Trailquest I organised this weekend. The specialist 1:30 thousand map of the Chase, originally developed by Peel Land Surveys needed extending into some new areas and lots of updating as the foresters have been busy doing what they do best: making lots of mess!

We had a major setback with our club laser printer on Friday whilst printing maps. A huge yellow stripe appeared on everything, so we made a decision to dive up to Altrincham to pick up the new laser we are purchasing off my employer. Unfortunately, this put me really behind with my control putting out. Holly and Cath kindly put out a few controls for me (Holly on her new Isla Bike, telling me the next day she pulled her first air on a rooty section), as did Neil (putting out controls, not pulling air), but this help still left me with 21 to put out. I ended up buying a weedy torch from a garage and took till 10pm to get them all into the forest.

Maps printed, everything in the car & it was a late night. Next morning I was at the Pine Cafe bright and early, the photographer was sorted, and competitors rolled up and started at minute intervals on their 3 or 2 hour challenge. I knew that we had 3 or 4 uber-fit individuals riding so designed the course as perhaps just clearable in good weather for the very best of them, however when the Whyte works rider Steve Heading turned up on a bike having ridden from home I realised it was unlikely he would do it. Steve is not really local, he lives in Matlock, and he rode home afterwards on a fully suspended knobbly tyred mountain bike: at least 45 miles each way plus the event – huge respect due!

The day was spoilt somewhat by one of the controls being vandalised and a couple of the older sportident boxes (used in case they went walkies) failing to register, but everyone seemed happy and I had some kind comments about the planning.  Controls in (thanks to those who helped), Cath had to put up with me & Jimmy Taylor (Whyte rider) talking bikes and geeky tech toys whilst we ate our well deserved curry before loading up the car ready to run the timing at Sundays foot orienteering event.

I managed to get a brown course run on Sunday (see event report) after setting up download, though returned to find I had forgotten to plug in the power for the server laptop, which had caused a few issues – whoops – but sorting it out got me so cold I had to sit shivering in Cath’s car for 30 mins until I warmed up enough to be a useful help again.

So overall a great weekend, and very rewarding to see people enjooying the fruits of the past few weeks work, but now I’m a little tired – early night tonight!

Event Report – Dark & White #6 – Bakewell

An early start for me today as I had to be back to supervise fourteen six year olds at Holly’s birthday swim party this afternoon (more tiring than a 3hr trailquest I think). Bakewell was very quiet for this tourist hot spot at 9.15 as I set off on the 3 hour score.  The map looked to cover a large area so knew I would be missing out a few and decided a downhill finish would be good, as would getting the big climbs out of the way early on.

I made a silly mistake at the start not noticing a road route to #4 losing me a couple of minutes but I made the larger error of climbing to # 8 and then trying to get #11 and #12 before getting into the area with the bulk of the controls. Evening binning #15 I knew I was going to be very late.

Im not sure why I went up to #8 as it is always a mud bath up there and I have avoided it in the past. I also know from experience the steepness of the climbs around Birchover which should have set alarm bells ringing. I think it must be that I am trying not to let past experiences when I was not so fit cloud my views on potential route choices, however this time I should have listened to the demons.

Committed to my route I had little option but to continue or come back early with a low score and ended up just over 13 mins late back and even made a silly mistake in Bakewell, flustered on the way in. (you haemorrhage points in lateness penalties once over 10 mins)
Looking at the distance covered I think if I had left #8 I would have had time to get #15 and probably not been late as it took me 25 mins to bag.
So down in 10th place, not a good result but taking positives it was a glourious day in loveley Peak District scenery and I feel pleased with the ride covering a good distance and climb in the time, even if I could have got the same points with less effort and not been late back 🙁
Stats – 60.5km – 1400m climb – 3hours 13mins
Results available here…

Stafford Borough Sports Awards 08

Most Improved Sports Performer 2008

A very happy Stodge has just returned from this years Sports Stafford Borough Awards with a nice shiny trophy for most improved sports performer !
It was presented by Olympian Gary Foord of Mammoth Lifestyle who was the guest of honour for the evening. Gary’s comment ‘ Mark had shed a lot of timber this year’ was great and I think sums up well my move from recreational to elite competition this year.
My Orienteering Club Walton Chasers seemed to clean up at the awards with many nominations and two more gongs. Jane Christopher won Best female Performer and Oakridge School, Best Team Performance.

Event Report – National Trailquest League #1

Endurance Life Coastal Trailquest – South Devon

South West based commercial organisation Endurance Life have been organising Trailquests for less than a year having made their reputation in organising adventure races and off road trail runs. Finding the £35 entry a little on the steep side, I had not yet competed in one of their 5 hour Trailquests, however the lure of the national trailquest league pulled me down to Torcross (the site of the tragic American WW2 ill-fated excercise tiger) for the weekend.

The first challenge after spending the night at my parents in Taunton was navigating through the dense network of narrow lanes on the way to the event by car on my own, a taste of things to come perhaps. Arriving a little behind schedule and slightly flustered I was a little miffed that they were giving out the full competition map and points values at registration, contrary to what was indicated on their event details. Although this seems a slightly odd picky complaint it allows those travelling short distances or prepared to get up at the crack of dawn the chance to totally prepare their route before they start, taking away much of the skill involved in route planning on the course. The map was 1:50 thousand OS, which does not have the fence/hedge lines of its 1:25 thousand cousin.  I have often seen competitors at other events busily scribbling on their competition maps using the 1:25 to add the extra detail with which to help navigation on potentially tricky routes. With the launch of the iphone and google earth it is also possible to get a quick look-see at all the control sites before you start, all in the comfort of the car.

Otherwise, the organisation was very slick and it was good to see them checking that all the novices knew exactly what they were or weren’t allowed to ride on, the map was clear and waterproof and the controls mostly well placed and described with lots of route choice options. Sportident timing was of course also used.

The event area was simply stunning, not a huge amount of off road but the intricate network of very narrow lanes hemmed in by huge earth banks was extremely challenging to navigate through accurately and safely at speed. Of course, there was also a hideous number of short steep climbs, particularly if you got it wrong.
During my pre event route planning I had decided on a clockwise route, hopefully avoiding any westerly head winds on the higher slopes, and leaving me with a loop to miss at the end if things went pear-shaped but I went out intending to try and clear the course. I immediately thought I had forgotten spring was on its way getting completely overheated on the first climb in my winter boots, bib tights and fleece but there was a stiff breeze on the cliffs which made me glad of the protection later on.

The views from the headlands down to the crashing sea 120 metres below were fantastic, well they were fantastic till you realised you had to get down there pick up a control and perhaps climb back out again, we even had a control on a waterfall pooring out onto the yellow sandy beach, although the lack of any map detail at this point had many hunting around like headless chickens.

Later in the course we had a route choice which included a ‘green lane’ that used a set of stepping stones only accessible at low tide accross a creek in the estuary, again simply stunning scenery.

Although I was going well, my legs started to get very tired after 4 hours in the saddle, my only stop being to wash some particularly sticky red mud from the bike outside some public toilets in Portlemouth using my water bottle as a high pressure hose! Then riding inland the climbs got longer and more undulating and I had to resort to pushing or carrying several times as I fought of cramps after I ran out of liquid.

A mistake in finding a track down to a carpark at the northern end of Slapton Sands lost me about 7 mins and I knew then I was on a mission to try and get back within the 5 hour limit and would have to miss out 1 control on the way in. The ‘sprint’ along the 4km straight road that atops the shingle bank that forms Slapton Ley and subsequent climb backover to Beesands was covered in a painful blur but I managed to end up only being 4.01 mins late, pushing me into 2nd place by 3 mins, as both myself and the winner gained the same number of points.

I visited some really idyllic rural locations, far away from the tourist beaten areas one normally finds in Devon and Cornwall, with chickens racing across the roads from small holdings unchanged for many years.
I will definitely be returning with the family to enjoy the beautiful vistas and atmosphere of this little known unspoilt corner of South Devon, but at a slightly more leisurely pace.

Stats : 5 hours 4 mins, 71.5km, 2000metres climb
Full results available here.

Event Report – Lickey Hills Orienteering Event (running)

My original intention had been to race a Dark and White Trailquest this Sunday (canceled due to snow), but thought that rather than 3 hours out in the cold on the road bike some technical training might be a good idea, hence the short trip down the M5 to Bromsgrove with the family.

Unlike most West Midland Orienteers I don’t know the Lickey Hills at all but was pleasantly surprised by this little wood, with lots of variation of terrain and lots of climb. The planner was from BUOC (Birmingham University) and I felt given the restrictions of the area she did a good job, however the map particularly the vegetation really needs some updating and is inconsistent.

I had a clean run with many fastest splits but my major mistake came at #12 when I came upon the top of a steep bank which I could just not find on the map anywhere, and wondered if I had really lost the plot. After following my mantra of ‘get out get back in again’ after a mistake, I came in again upon the same place, then noticing the bank marked under an out of bounds area, surrounded by a fence (which was missing on the ground) I quickly found the control –  3 mins lost….

I was fairly happy with the result of 7th particularly against some good competition but frustrated with my error, although the splits show that it is really my running speed on the hills that is losing me time.
Results here

Mark Stodgell (stodge)

Practicing for skiing next week

Not much news this week, but I thought I’d better start getting ready for my skiing holiday !