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 !

A Crash Course on Sportident for COBOC…..

UK orienteering clubs use 2 types of electronic punching and timing systems, Sportident and Emit, with Sportident holding the major share. I have been involved with Sportident systems and kit since 2000 when it was first introduced into the UK. Originally my involvement was just with Chasers, but I have also worked for Sportident UK as an event consultant for several years.

Since 2006 several of the smaller West Midlands Orienteering clubs have taken the plunge and invested in their own kit, rather than hiring as they did before. I have therefore been helping Wrekin Orienteers, Potteries Orienteering Club and now City of Birmingham Orienteering Club to get their skills up to scratch to enable them to run events on their own.

So Saturday morning saw me knocking on the Stamp family door at 8.30am (waking them up) trying to retrieve my mobile phone which had the details of where I was supposed to be that morning, having left it at the club dinner the night before (sorry Iain!). I had decided to combine the trip down to Sutton Coldfield with a training ride, so off I went. It was a fairly pleasant ride…until I had a coming together with a car which came straight over a crossroads into my path with no time to take avoiding action.

My GPS plot afterwards showed I was doing 25kph at the time, and the car was accelerating across the main road along which I was travelling. I managed to turn slightly and crashed into her wing mirror and passenger door managing to lean onto her mirror as she slowed and took me round the corner into the side road, before I fell off onto the pavement. I was a little shaken but there was no damage to myself or the bike. A couple of other motorists stopped and ran to help, which was extremely kind, as were their offers to drive me home. The lady was very apologetic, almost in tears, saying she just had not seen me. I didn’t get stroppy or anything, there is just no point, she will be more careful next time so we all went our separate ways. I have posted a little diagram for those that need the full facts 😉

So a little late I arrived at Sutton Parks Outdoor Ed Centre and spent the day bringing a good turnout of COBOC members up to speed with the Sportident hardware and then Autodownload, the event software. After a lengthy explanation of the various components and some classroom practice they put out a small course and ran round deliberately making mistakes so we could practice using all aspects of the software, whilst I stayed in the warm drinking tea and trying to resist the enormous box of biscuits. Back from their run around we downloaded all the Si Cards and practiced the safety checks, query resolution and getting results out ready for the Internet. Job done it was time to get back into smelly cycle gear and ride home without sitting on the floor again.

Mark Stodgell ( stodge )

Eat Natural Website – News Item

The following appeared on the Eat Natural Site a couple of weeks back –
When you see the blackboard, use the arrows in the left hand corner and scroll through the stories!

Mud, sweat and orienteers…

Stodge, Eat Naturalist and Orienteer emailed us the other day. If you are like me, you may be wondering ‘what on earth is an orienteer?’. I’ve since found out that orienteering is a ‘challenging, outdoor adventure sport that exercises both the mind and the body’. The aim is to navigate between control points on a map and decide the best route to complete the course, in the quickest time by jogging, running, walking (or even in some cases, mountain biking). Sounds brilliant but I think I’ll stick with my car and SatNav for now, if that’s OK? Stodge is also a keen cyclist and he sent in this picture of himself at a three hour, mountain bike orienteering event in December.

After Dinner Speaking !

After the first choice of a local football manager fell through, I became the guest speaker at my orienteering clubs annual dinner and prize giving evening. Invited to talk about my experiences in Lithuania last September, I thought the easiest way was to hit the PowerPoint and show them a few photos & video clips to keep them entertained while I talked.
I started by giving a bit of an explanation about MTBO, Trailquests and a bit of history before getting into the trip to the European Champs. They seemed genuinely interested, and I don’t think I lost anyone to the land of nod, which I was happy with!
I finished with two stories which I will also share on here:

On the way to the sprint event we got stopped for speeding. I’m still not sure what speed we should have been doing as there were very few signs, however the policeman who stopped us seemed to be booking me for doing 83 in a 70 zone. His face, when he realised I was a Brit driving a Latvian car in Lithuania, was a picture. As we were at an event all day I had left all my papers back at the flat so had to pass off my Youth Hostel Association card as my driving license, which, incredibly, worked. He even wrote down the number! Continuing my luck, I then succeeded in negotiating the fine down to about £30, though I’m not sure it ever made it to the Lithuanian Police’s bank accounts. Suffice to say we all drove a little more conservatively for the rest of the week, and we heard of several other teams getting booked, too.

Staying in the same complex as us was the Swiss team. Being very keen, one of them went out one evening for a run. Unfortunately he ended up running into Russia (the border was only about 3km distant) by mistake and got picked up by the border guards. Cutting a long story short it ended with one of his team mates bringing his passport to the border and an exchange took place…..

So my story telling over, it was time to present the trophies, shake lots of hands and kiss a few cheeks!

Event Report – Dark & White Winter League # 5

The weather forecast and note on the Dark & White website warning of snow, made me wonder if I’d even get to the event, but dawn brought good conditions for rnd #5 of the winter league, centred on Macclesfield Forest.
I decided to have a good look at the map rather than dashing off this time as there were lots of route options available.

Deciding I didn’t fancy riding into the wind on the open moor and wanting a downhill finish off I went up towards Teggs Nose on an a clockwise route. On the way to #10 I was so engrossed in sorting out the finer points of my route I wasted 2 mins by riding straight past it. The climb up Teggs Nose by #10 has some history for me. I bonked on it at the end of my first ever Trailquest back in 2005 and was late back, suffice to say the reason I missed the control was I climbed it much much faster this time 🙂

I rode well, keeping an eye on the time and really thought at one point getting all but one of them was a possibility, however on the way to #2 on a slippery singletrack I had a minor off and bent the rear mech hanger slightly. Other than not being able to get top gear and a bit of chain noise things seemed OK so I carried on.

The crosswind on the Cat & Fiddle road was scary, but it was more uncomfortable when I turned to face it on the way to #15.

Then came the nightmare every mountain biker dreads, a major mechanical miles from anywhere. At the top of a very steep climb out of a farm the chain sucked badly and the rear mech hanger finally broke 🙁 Arrowed on the map

As this is now the third time on this bike over the years it is lucky I carry a spare. It’s one of those irreplaceable get you home bits that is mostly bike specific, so you can’t scrounge one. The heart rate and GPS plot shows I lost 6mins 20 secs, which to be honest isn’t bad considering, although my hands were freezing when I finished.

So back on the bike I was then on a serious mission to get back on time. I did a fair bit of head scratching but decided to stick to the original plan and bag the points. I however stupidly wasted another 4 mins by playing safe on a map correction as I was unsure of a right of way, so rode around on the roads.

The final climb back over to the finish was painful with me giving it everything, I necked a gel just before I started up it and I think its what kept me going.

So I ended up just over 7 mins late, losing me 11 points after riding 49km with 1650m climb. Looking at the results, if I hadn’t had the mechanical I would have probably won. I am really chuffed with the result and now seem to be able to keep up with the big boys ! The hours of winter training now seems to be paying off.
Full results available here

Mark Stodgell ( Stodge )