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mardi 11 août 2015

World Orienteering Champs 2015: The campaign of Scotland

  • Not exacly as planned last preparation...
This year, without any European champs in the spring and rather late WOC. There were a good time to prepare and focus to this main goal of the season. After a dens period of competitions until the world-cup round of June (link...), there has been a good period without important races that allowed a good training period. In the end of June and the beginning of July, I had still planned to run few rather important competitions in Finland as secondary goals and also to keep some good competitions routines, before to go back to Scotland for a 3rd and last training camp for the WOC final preparation.

Well, that was the theory. In fact, it didn't exactly go as expected: During a small evening competition (though, where the winner got a bicycle...) in Finland on the end of June, my knee decided to do a battle against a big stone, and obviously lost the game. After that (as much as two days later), I had planned to run two sprints competitions in the row (Huippuliiga and Fin5 stages) preceded by 1 sprint training especially to get a good WOC simulation. I know I can be quite stubborn, so of course I run them. (It was not so painful when warm, at least in the beginning, and finally the knee didn't like it...)

KRV Middle distance course
After that, one little week of alternative trainings skipping few competitions was not enough to heal properly and I was up to run one competition week (Kainuu-Rastiviiko) that I finally decided to reduce to only two races: the two last stages of the Huippuliiga series as a secondary goal of the season. (Winning the two previous year, I had quite high ambitions). These races were also selection races for the Finnish WOC team so it meant good competitions, and probably some similar caracter with the Scottish style of terrain. There again, while I decided that I would run, the pain was not a problem, and I actually think (or thought) that it was not too bad. However, toward the end of the last race, I fall down (quite common in orienteering) on the sensitive knee: PERKELE (the knee didn't like it at all!). I was still able to finish the race but the performances was not enough to win the overall Huippuliiga series this time and I had to be happy with the 3rd position.
Kainuun Rastiviikko:  (GPS Middle / GPS long)  (Results)

 The following week was already the time for the last WOC camp in Scotland where the idea was to simulate the WOC program (in theory: dens WOC program = heavy camp). This time the medical staff forced me to play smarter than a stubborn enthusiastic athlete, so I had the frustrating duty to skip mostly all the trainings and to take care of the injury. A bit frustrating at this time, but surely the smartest solution to be able to run WOC in good condition while only two and half left to the beginning of WOC. Finally, in July, I've spent much more time in the swimming-pool than in the forest, even though as the ones who got the chance to see me (trying) swimming know: I look more like a fish out of the water that a fish in the water...

"Toutes les routes mènent à Romme" ("All the roads lead to Rom"). The last preparation was not exactly as planned, but the most important was secured: be able to run with full capacity the D-day(s)! Good timing! (merci Jeff, the French team physio!)
  • The Scottish world-champs
              > Sprint qualification:
I was quite reassured to start the championship with a qualification race, especially to evaluate and fix the current level after a rather chaotic final preparation. I could indeed realize that the competition routines was not so smooth leading to lose of contact while reading the map at wrong timing trying to find inexistent traps caused by olive-green or fences... The speed also had to be "unbridled". Anyway, the result was enough to qualify to the Final, the goal of the day.

              > Sprint relay: 7th
Good speed, good motivation to run after other runners and on an almost unknown terrain (no existing map before) and interesting courses with varied route-choices and partly tricky navigation = It was really fun to run and to catch up teams struggling for a podium position. Finally, we finished 7th that we have to be satisfied as our current level.
(World of O analysis - TV replay)

              > Sprint final: 33rd
The feeling was a bit different as the sprint-relay: a good old map that could be used to simulate every courses possibilities before the competition, the city allowed to visit making the feeling to be at home while running. Anyway, the orienteering work as to be done during the race to handle the challenge. After the 3 last WOC sprint final disasters (2012 where I jump over the spectator control, 2013 I also jump over a control before realizing one loop later, 2014 running in wrong order in Venice narrow streets), I still managed to do worth or as bad: the train went out of the rails already at the 3rd control that I passed (but realized later), then the battle to the medal was already finished and I was not able to put the train back to the rails making all possible mistakes in sprint like deciding bad route-choices and going in the wrong alley...
(World of O analysis - TV replay)

               > Middle:
Rest day for me for me, at least that was the plan: Not easy to stay calm while watching the French team-mates doing the show, and great to see Lucas Basset on the podium.
(World of O analysis - TV replay)

               > Relay: 3rd
This was WUOC 2010 to compare
The team was not exactly the one planned originally and it was finally decided just the previous day when our unfortunate international Philou had to withdraw his participation due to injury during the model-event. With a 2/3 different team as last year when we got the bronze medal, we were surely not among the favorites, but our motivation was anyway very high and we had some confidence from the memories of the WUOC (World University champs) 2010 when we got the bronze medal with a similar team. The race went almost perfectly: after a very good first leg by Vincent, and a very solid performance worthy of  WOC medalist by Lucas, I started the last leg in 3rd position just after the GB team at home and a bit before some hunting teams. Most of my race went quite well, but toward the end, lowering my attention cost me a mistake, and a decreasing of self-confident alowed the fast Norwegian to catch me with the GB close behind. Hups, getting tense! Then after pushing hard on the uphill, I made another mistakes where I got stuck behind fallen trees and the Norwegian took the opportunity to pass and get the silver medal. Finally, we were extremely pleased to cross the line in 3rd position rather far behind a strong Swiss team, and before the GB team who probably had big hope at home...
(World of O analysis - TV replay)

              > Long-distance: 4th
The last but not the least race of the championship leaded us on the marvelous and wild highland of Scotland. They promised a tough real challenge, and I think that they didn't disappoint us! My technical performance was not totally perfect but very satisfying considering the difficulties and I managed to push hard and focus all the way on this rough terrain. So it was truly rewarding to finish on the 4th position only 1'40 (after more than 1h40) behind Thierry Guergiou getting his 13th title!
(World of O analysis - TV replay)
(All WOC results and live center on the WOC web-site) 

To conclude, beside the good performances that make us extremely satisfied of the good effort done to achieve them, and taking account of the more complicated things that didn't work always important to develop; I can also say that I enjoyed the trip of this Scottish adventure. Thank you very much for all the supports and everybody who have contribute to make it true! Let's continue the adventure toward the next goals and to the 2016 campaign (maybe after a little break though)!

@ Pictures: FFCOrientation, World Of O, WOC 2015

lundi 8 juin 2015

World-cup round in Norway/Sweden: An important step forward to next WOCs

Last week, it was time for the world-cup round in Halden (Norway) and just on the other side of the border in Sweden. (Website) It was important step for the next two world championships, as the races were held in the same area as next years WOC on quite similar terrains. Furthermore, the competitions were used as selection-races to get in the French team for this years WOC.
It has also completed an intense competitions period for me included the Tiomila-relay in the Middle of May where I run the last leg for Paimion-Rasti, two Huippuliiga races in Finland where I struggled in a long distance at Prisma-Rastit (Tweet) and in a sprint at Särkänniemi-suunnistus (Tweet), the French club championship that we took a pleasing silver medal with Orient-Express 42 (Article club in French), the Finnish champs Middle where I didn’t managed to qualify for the final… (Article by World of O)

This world-cup round started with a tough long distance near Halden that I handle rather well taking the 7th place about 5’ behind the Swiss leader despite taking the wrong route-choice to the 2nd control that cost me already ~2’ to the best time and some other smaller mistakes or improvable things.


Then we had the privilege to run the 1st mix-sprint-relay world cup around the Halden castle that is dominating the city with a nice view over the fjord. The French team didn’t have its best day over-there: I lost quite a lot of time on my way to the 2nd control getting stock on the cliffs and looking for the control. Then my race consisted of  running as fast as possible to try to catch-up runners in front. We finished 8th nation)

On Saturday, there was a fast sprint in Lysekil where we had to decide decisive route-choices through the street of this nice little Swedish town on the coast line. Even if my speed was probably a bit slower than the fast Belgium Yannick Michiels who showed that he is able to read the map with his impressive speed (13’47’’/5km), my main times lose were due to bad route-choices.
However, the competition was finally cancelled due to punching-system problems influencing to fairness.
(World of O article) (+ Thank you 2D-rerun for the analysis:)

Last but not least, a tricky middle distance was ending this dense week where we had to keep clear mind despite burning legs on the steep up-hills and in soft marshes to decide the best way and to navigate through the rather rough terrain. It was quite a clean performance for me even if few mistakes while attacking the controls should have been avoided to get a top result. Finally in 10th spot, I can be satisfied.

 To conclude, this week gives us a reach experiences and teach us good lesson for next year. I think that I’ve putted a good basement, now there is still a long way to be done before to put the roof.
Next to come for me, few races in Finland and this year World Orienteering Champs in Scotland in the beginning of August (Website).

But first, welcome to the great JUKOLA next weekend in Paimio! And if unfortunately you have a good excuse not to come, remember to watch the web-TV with English commentary. (Link)

mardi 23 décembre 2014

How a Frenchie has been able to survive one year in Finland?

After more than one year since I’ve moved to Finland, it was time to make an evaluation so I’ve written an article for Paimion-Rasti club-magazine and I wished to share it on that blog-post:

Even if I’ve traveled abroad quite a lot throughout the year for training camps and competitions, I have spent the major part of my time in Finland this year (~33 weeks/52 => 63%=more than majority!); and I’ve survived! I have even enjoyed my time here! How is it possible? ;)

                  Finland is an extremely peaceful country where the cities and people are close to the nature. One doesn’t feel too stressed by others or the quiet environment. Turku is especially nice because it is a fairly large city where we can find everything we need; but it doesn’t feel too big and oppressing (particularly for me as a French farmer). It's easy and fast to travel through, around and for example to get outside to the forest... I haven’t perfectly understood/discovered Finland and all the Finnish culture yet, but I think to have got some clues:

- Sauna is really important: Not only healthy to warm up the body when it’s cold, but also socially while plenty of things are said/decided in-there!

- Bathing in the lakes or the sea is really enjoyable: Either when it’s very warm outside to get cooler, or when there is a hall in the ice (also to get “cooler” but easier to go after sauna).

- Even if there is no (real) mountain, we can still find ski-jumping hill almost everywhere. And there is usually a worthy view from the top (at least, we can see all the forest around!)

- There are very nice landscapes, can be archipelago, lakes, bar-rocks, wild forest…

- If you love forests, in Finland you can be really happy!

- It works also if you like lakes (It’s no hazard if Finland is called “the land of a thousand lakes” even though there are much more lakes than 1000, there are not so many around Turku!)

- Frisbee-golf can be played everywhere in Finland whereas I have never seen it in France, and it can be really fun (Even if it might be easier to put the Frisbee on the tree than in the basket…);

- It might be quite dark during the winter, but there are plenty of lightened ski-tracks (with or without snow) so people can go out and exercise, and stay healthy.

- It can be really icy everywhere, then it’s much safer to drive a car with spikes-tires than to walk with normal shoes!

- However, coming from France, I wouldn’t say that the food in Finland is always the most “refined” that can be found. At least, for sure, it’s not the best place to find good fresh fruits (especially with reasonable prices).

- In addition, the weather is not always the best up-there and I have heard that the winter can be very tough (But that, I haven’t seen yet! :p )

- But the biggest problem in Finland for me (and other foreigners) remains the language! I can’t say that other languages as French are easier, but Finnish is so different to anything else so it’s almost impossible to be able to get few words of a conversation. And talking is still a mystery for me! Luckily, Finnish people can usually speak quite well English (At least much better than French people)!

An evaluation about my orienteering improvement should also be done to see if it is a good place to be as an orienteer: I feel much more confident and I think to know better how to run on Scandinavian terrains so I’m convinced that the good job with Turku training structure and the club has paid-off. My performances this season has been also quite satisfying, especially considering the quite big changes in my life (New situation, country, work…):
*  Medals on both WOC and EOC relay (Main goals of the season);

*  EOC individual performances were rather promising with 5th place in the long-distance and some good parts in the sprint (1 big crash though!);
*  WOC individual performances were disappointing, especially the PM in catastrophic sprint as the 3rd year in a row where I’ve jumped over a control during a WOC terrible sprint final.
(The long was partly good though, especially in the beginning);
*  The world-cup was not a main goal but it’s still important to run it well, however most of the world-cup events I’ve run were not really satisfying but still rather solid (top 20);
*  WUOC was quite a success with a gold medal in Long and bronze in Sprint (Not a main goal for me and not focus so well on it, but the WOC preparation was not too far behind!)
With Paimion-Rasti:
*  Tiomila and Jukola team performances were really promising. However some material troubles stop our way already on the middle of the relay during Tiomila and the top 10 was really reachable for Jukola but we finished close behind!
o   Finnish champion in relay,
(Also 1st in sprint but without getting the title as a foreigner)
o   4th at 25-Manna, (best result of the club!)
o   1st at Halikkoviesti.

Finally, I can say that Finland is a really nice place to be, especially as an orienteer. The Finns might look rather distant at first, but they can be very friendly, great and fun people with a slightly different but interesting culture than in France. On my side, I really consider that it was worth to come and I’ve even signed to stay at least one more year, while I know better the places, the system and the people, but it is still possible to learn and develop!