EYOC 2018 Ireland Team Report

EYOC 2018  Ireland Team Report by Alan Elwood

Veliko Tărnovo Bulgaria

The Team

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 2018

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

was just about sufficient on the Long Distance event but not so for the Sprint.
EYOC 2018

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.

EYOC 2018

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.

 

EYOC 2018
29 Jun Sprint Race

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.

EYOC 2018

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.

EYOC 2018

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

EYOC 2019 will be held in Belarus from the 27 June 2019 – 30 June 2019.