EYOC 2018 Ireland Team Report by Alan Elwood
Veliko Tărnovo Bulgaria
Ciara Silby W18
Cliodhna Donaghy W16
Aidan McCullough M18
Andrew Elwood M18
Dan McDonnell M18
Cathal Lane M18
Peter Reed M16
Liam Cotter M16
LEADERS – Edith Bridcut and Alan Elwood
EYOC Organisation and Competition Delivery
Although communications from the organisers prior to the event had been somewhat
patchy, their delivery of the competition and provision of all the requests made of them by
the Irish team was very eﬀective and eﬃcient. This included arranging the minibus to collect
the team from Soﬁa airport on arrival, the provision of the hotel from the day of arrival, the
allocation of training maps and advice on the use of the best training areas, excellent model
events and the minibus to take the team to Bucharest on the last day. During the
competition itself the leaders’ brieﬁngs (in which the organisers set out plans for the next
day and answered questions emailed in earlier or asked at time), allocation of transport
and provision of meals worked extremely well, with all days running more or less to the
timetable and without incident. The party and prize giving on June 30th Jun was an excellent
event with plenty of food and entertainment which the team really made the most of. The
courses were very well planned and delivered, being exactly as advertised in the bulletins.
The start and ﬁnish areas were well set out and delineated, with shops or food stalls
available as well as plenty of water. The only limitation was in terms shelter from rain, which
26 Jun 18 Departure Day
Having all met up at Dublin airport at 0645, some of us having been on a bus from Cork since 3 am, we took the obligatory photos before proceeding through security. Although the ﬂight was slightly delayed we arrived safe and sound in a cold and grey Soﬁa. The forecast indicated that it would soon start to rain and may not stop it seems until we departed! And all in the week Ireland had tropical weather. Not often you get oﬀ a plane from Dublin and arrive somewhere colder and wetter. On a positive note the minibus, which we had arranged through the organisers, was waiting for us at the airport and we made our way to the event centre (also our hotel) in good order, arriving by 1900 local time (2 hours ahead). The team went out for a quick run before grabbing some dinner, relaxing and, after a quick chat about the next day, heading to bed. The hotel was basic (class B) but suﬃcient, with rooms containing three beds and ensuite facilities. The food was also basic but plentiful and provided options for vegetarians, although it paid to be there on time or else other teams were likely to clear all the food provided.
On arrival the organisers had given us two sprint area maps but we had actually asked for one sprint and one forest map to train on for the next day, as our ﬂight times meant we arrived a day early. However, a quick chat with Gregor, from the Bulgarian Orienteering Federation and Secretary General of the Organising committee of EYOC, that evening and we had that all sorted; devising a plan to make the most of the Wednesday training opportunity before then taking part in the organised model events on the Thursday.
27 Jun 18 Training Day
After a good breakfast the team headed out to undertake some urban sprint training in a local village about 3 km away using one of the maps provided. The ﬁrst challenge was to get there. This entailed a jog along a steep uphill section, for 1 km, through a thick forest before a 1 km downhill trot on a path that ran alongside a road. All this had to be done in visibility below 30 m and oﬀ any map we had! Great for waking us all up. Still we made it from the hotel to the village green in good order. The team then undertook a series of exercises, commencing with relocation drills, moving to attack points at speed and ﬁnishing with a steady pace route selection challenge. After a quick pastry (thanks to Edith) we headed back the way we had come, admiring the views now that the mist had cleared, and arrived at the hotel in time for lunch. After a ﬁlling meal and a couple of hours oﬀ we then undertook a forest O training session with the aim of just understanding how the map related to the ground and ﬁnding out how runnable the terrain was in reality. The team did this in pairs, undertaking a talk O as they progressed round a 3.5 km course. This proved to be a very useful session and helped people get their heads into the mapping and the tough ground. After a gentle forest walk to cool down we retired to the hotel for dinner and rest.
28 Jun Model Day
In the morning, following breakfast for all, we caught taxis into Veliko Tărnovo to do a bit of sight seeing and buy some gifts. We were prevented from visiting the major (perhaps only real) tourist attraction, the medieval fortress of Tsaravets, as this was the location for the sprint race the next day and hence embargoed. Instead we had to settle for a trip into the tourist shopping area. This proved to be very quiet at 0900, so we had it all to ourselves. After some short wandering about the leaders found themselves quite by accident sitting down to coﬀee, Bulgarian pastries and a chat while the team explored. We met up again back at the tourist information oﬃce for 1200 before heading back to the hotel for lunch for all, less Alan who had just eaten 3 kg of Bulgarian cheese bread. The accreditation of the team then accomplished the oﬃcial athlete passes and goodies (EYOC headbands and towels) were handed out, along with the SI air cards.
The team then headed back into town to take part in the sprint model event. This was a useful opportunity for us, only somewhat tempered by the thunderstorm and downpour that caught us just as we started. After the team returned from their runs on the model and training maps, totally drenched, we grabbed the next bus back to the hotel, changed into forest O gear and headed out on the long distance and relay model event. This found us back in the same bit of forest we had trained in the day before but it was really helpful to have a chance to go back over the ground and map. Although it stayed dry by now it was very humid and the ground was extremely heavy and slippy, with clay like mud ﬁlling up the gaps between your studs. Given the very steep nature of the course this was not helpful and not without its hazards on downhill
Following a shower (very welcome by now) and some downtime the team met for dinner, after which the leaders updated everyone from the brieﬁng that had taken place for team leaders just prior to evening meal (and Edith handed out surprise biscuits she had bought to boost morale). Start times and bus information imparted, next on the agenda would be race day.
Race day morning had ﬁnally arrived. The team, following a quick visual kit check to ensure we had everything, set oﬀ in two groups to the quarantine area, one group departing at 0800 and the other at 0900. Quarantine turned out to be in an outdoor AstroTurf pitch with some cover for rain if you were one of the larger teams that got there ﬁrst. We were not. Fortunately it stayed dry for the morning, with just the odd threat of rain now and again. It was warm however and this, combined with the steepness of the course and complexity of the Tsarevets Fortress map, made for a testing race.
Once our ﬁrst runner was out Edith stayed in quarantine to ensure everyone got away and Alan headed to the ﬁnish to cheer the team on as they passed the spectator control, running down the long approach ramp into the fort, and to meet the runners coming in to the ﬁnish. Everyone made it round the course in good order and ﬁnished strongly in the sprint in. The uniqueness of the sprint location and the complexity of the map had necessitated a cautious approach to avoid a MP and had also required relocation skills to be employed by most at least once (good job we had practiced those) but everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and worked hard for their nation. We even all made it to the ﬁnish before the rain arrived again. As might have been expected teams like the Swedes, Finns, British, Hungarians, Austrians, and Czechs ﬁnished at the top of the rankings (no doubt they have no shortage of mapped medieval fortress on steep rocky outcrops to practice on). Perhaps surprisingly the M18 winner was an Australian, a country somewhat lacking in medieval historical monuments.
Shows you what can be achieved with the right investment perhaps.
The buses took us back to the hotel following the ﬂower ceremony at the sprint ﬁnish and the team had a shower, we submitted the entries for the next day, grabbed some lunch and then headed back out again to the opening ceremony in Veliko Tărnovo. In the evening the usual team leaders meeting took place prior to evening meal, after which the team prepared for the long distance race the next day.
30 Jun Long Distance Race
It was an early start with alarms going oﬀ at 0600 to get ready, have breakfast and be on the bus at 0700, following the obligatory team kit check. There then followed a 90 min bus journey along winding roads that passed through steep sided mountain valleys, over some suspect bridges and some daunting ridges. Finally, we arrived at the quarantine and were nicely surprised to ﬁnd it was a school, s ll in use as a residential English summer school for local primary school children. This aﬀorded not only plenty of cover should it rain (which it was to do) but also seats, tables, porcelain toilets and beds (for the Swiss Team who grabbed them that is). It even had a tuck shop and a kitchen serving up what can only be described as ﬂat doughnuts – only for the team coaches to sample of course. No self respecting athlete would be seen ea ting those. The local kids then ran about collecting the autographs of all the athletes – the trials of being a sports star. We had a long wait of close to four hours between arriving and our last runner going out, by which me the rain had arrived once more. This oﬀered a good chance to chat to other teams, such as those from New Zealand, Australia and GB, to see what way they approach EYOC and how they prepare for it. As some are from countries of equal size to Ireland there may be some parallels here to learn from, particularly as they are achieving good results with their youth.
The ﬁnish was on the side of a wooded hill, approached along a mud track that had something of the ‘Somme’ about it. There may even still be a few people missing in it. The set up provided a down hill run in from the forest, allowing the runners to appear as if from nowhere and race ﬂat out for the line, with lots of cheering to encourage them along. The courses were as was to be expected, physical and technical. Those nations with strong runners used to terrain and hill running and familiar with navigation in forest terrain did very well. This included of course Norway, Finland, Switzerland, France, Russia and Hungary. Each member of our team had sections on their course where they had to work hard to retain or regain map contact but, having remembered all their training, all did so and ﬁnished their courses. No easy feat. This was one of those events were a steady approach that focused on applying the right techniques in a disciplined manner to each leg saves time; as opposed to trying to go quicker and losing time to mistakes.
Lunch was brought up to the ﬁnish and was welcomed by our team as each member came in, even if by then the chicken was cold! The weather was not much better and although a few gazebo style tents had been set up to provide cover these were just about adequate for everyone at a squeeze, which occurred every time the drizzle turned to a torrent at 20 mins intervals. Good job we brought the rain coats.
Having checked all our team back in we a ended the ﬂower ceremony and headed for the buses and the hotel to get a shower and get ready for the party. Before that however there was the matter of the relay teams to sort. Basing this on the long distance race results for the four M18 runners it was Andrew, Aidan and Cathal. As we only had two M16 runners and one W16 we entered Peter, Liam and Cliodhna as a M16 team. That left Dan (M18) and Ciara (W18) so we made an Israeli (W16), who needed a team, an Irish M16 for the day and entered a third mixed team.
Having returned to the hotel and freshened up the team got dressed for the world famous EYOC party. This was held in a faux Byzantium palace on the hill up by the area we had carried out sprint training on when we had arrived. There was an abundance of colour in the dress people wore, no end of team interpretation of National stereotypes and a bewildering variety of meat products to be eaten, a supply that vastly outstripped even the voracious demand of 500 hungry teenagers. The meal was followed by the prize giving and continuous repetitions of the Finnish national anthem as they had won gold in every category, only being forced to share it with Norway for the M18 category due to identical ﬁnish times.
There then followed a boisterous and very loud (if you’re a 48 year old) disco (is it still called
that?) which everyone got fully engaged with, dancing and jumping about in a massive scrum in the middle of the dance ﬂoor. Like penguins in the Artic those in the middle where at about 40 degrees C and had to come out now and again just to cool oﬀ. Like David Attenborough, the coaches were able to observe all of this from the safe distance of the balcony seating. At 2230 the music abruptly stopped, without the slow song those of us that grew up in the 80s had come to expect, and the lights came on. We boarded the buses after a great night and headed for the hotel and bed.
1 Jul Relay Day
The relay event was centred about 10 mins away from our hotel by bus. The assembly area was in a clearing between two wood lines and with plenty of space, given the sunshine that which had at last returned, to spread out our kit and let it dry oﬀ prior to the race starting. There was also plenty of time to prepare by checking out the start, map collection area, spectator control and ﬁnish. The organisers also provided a demonstration of the handover procedure which was extremely useful. The ﬁrst mass start for M18s, and our ﬁrst team, was at 1000, followed by the M16 at 1005 and our second team. Our third team, mixed with an Israeli runner, went oﬀ at 1020.
The courses were middle distance in length but with a lot of climb and once more in complex forest. The ﬁrst few controls were particularly tricky with a lot of short but very steep ascents, descents and countering. Again this was reported as a physical challenge by our team as they came in but they all had worked hard and completed each course. In the M18 our last runner, Andrew, managed to catch a couple of runners who had entered the spectator control before him, meaning the team ﬁnished two oﬀ the bottom. The M16 Team had a solid run across all three athletes and ended up with 6 teams below them. Once we were all in we hung around the ﬁnish to cheer in the Israeli who had joined our mixed team, learning the Hebrew for ‘go’ so we could encourage her appropriately. Then it was a quick visit to the chip wagon for some (no doubt the Finns were feasting on wild berries) before making our way to the prize giving. Once the closing ceremony had ﬁnished, a somewhat protracted aﬀair held in a nearby ‘band stand’ area, we jumped on the bus and headed for the hotel. A quick bite of lunch and shower later and we were on the minibus we had arranged through the organisers and heading to Bucharest. This turned out to be a slightly longer journey than expected, although uneventful, and we arrived at the hotel around 2000 hrs. Luckily, near the hotel was a great steakhouse and the tucked into a well deserved burger or half a chicken with chips, cheesy fries and roast vegetables (no doubt the Finns were on nuts and seeds by now). Then it was oﬀ to bed in the knowledge that no one needed to get up early as the next deadline to be met was the taxi to the airport at 1045.
2 Jul Travel Home
We all awoke feeling well rested, had breakfast together in the hotel and headed to the airport in plenty of time, having been warned of long passport queues. We were right to do so. Those of us able to check in online made it through security and passport control easily enough, and before the queues built up. However, a longer wait ensued to see which check in gate was to be used to get Ryan Air boarding passes for the younger athletes that had to be linked to Alan’s ticket. A lucky guess meant we made it to the top of this queue when the check in desk ﬁnally came up, otherwise it may have been fight. That said we all arrived at the departure gate with enough time to grab some food and our ﬂight was late in leaving anyway!
EYOC 2019 will be held in Belarus from the 27 June 2019 – 30 June 2019.