JWOC training camp -Portugal

On the weekend of the 11-14th March, 3 prospective JWOC athletes, Darragh Hoare, Liam Cotter and Aoife O’Sullivan (all BOC) travelled to Portugal under the leadership of Jens Waechter (BOC) to get some orienteering experience in relevant terrain in advance of Junior World Orienteering Championships in July. Over the weekend, we squeezed in 7 maps, covered approximately 45km and got about 10 hours of quality orienteering in the Portuguese forests and cobble-stoned towns.

After an early start on Friday morning, we flew from Dublin to Porto and then drove a further 2 hours to our accommodation. After checking in and having some lunch, we put on our O-kit and headed to nearby Aguiar da Beira village for some sprint training. This hilly medieval village was filled with narrow cobble-stoned streets, many stairs, some rough open areas and offered plenty of route choice. After a quick debrief, we headed back to our accommodation to make dinner and further discuss our various routes. Jens spoke to us about the importance of recovery. We winded down with some mindfulness and then headed to bed for an early night.

In order to somewhat replicate what we’ll experience on race day, we decided to leave the house early each morning, this also allowed us plenty of time to come back to the house for a longer recovery period during lunch. Each map was conveniently located within max 20 minutes driving of our accommodation. On Day 2, we focused our attention on the middle distance discipline. Now before anyone gets the impression we went to Portugal to escape the Irish weather, Day 2 tells a different story. With average temperatures of about 4-6 °C and constant rain which only got heavier as the day progressed, it was certainly not a sun holiday. However, that’s not what we were in Portugal for, we were here to train and that’s certainly what we did. 

The first area we went to was described as being very relevant for both the JWOC middle qualification and final. Runability was very good in this area however, I found I was very cautious of the bare rocks and feared slipping in the wet conditions. I thoroughly enjoyed this intricate area and was excited to see the other terrains Aguiar da Beira had to offer. Our next session of the day took us to an area just next to the middle embargo on a map made by JWOC mappers, Janne Weckman and Timo Joensuu. This area was very technical and rather slow going with rough conditions underfoot. I learned the hard way that it can be very difficult to relocate in this complex terrain. The rain had really set in at this stage so we headed back to the house to shower, refuel and take some time to recover. During this down time we uploaded our gps tracks to quickroute to discuss route choice and learn from our mistakes.

Our final session of the day brought us to another middle relevant area mapped by the JWOC mappers. Putting back on our wet kit that afternoon and facing into pouring rain was difficult and I certainly needed some extra motivation. Darragh’s wise words gave me the extra boost I needed to hop out of the car; ‘Aoife just think about it, in an hour and a half’s time you’ll be even more prepared for JWOC and you’ll be warming up in a hot shower.’ We set off on another middle distance length course and I quickly learned the rain isn’t that bad once you’re out in it. I clocked in over 17k and plenty of climb by the end of day 2 and was looking forward to getting some dinner into me and then another early night. We also had access to a pool/jacuzzi at our accommodation that served as a nice recovery tool.

On our last day in Portugal we shifted our focus to the Long Distance and the 1:15,000 scale. Thankfully the weather had dried up, although it was still cold the sun was shining so we couldn’t complain. The first area we tackled was a 6.6k course focusing on long legs planned by the JWOC long distance course setter, Diogo Miguel. One of the biggest things I took from this training was that the vegetation can be brutal and I was very grateful for the elephant tracks that had been previously bashed through the dark green areas. 

Our next session was some O-intervals. Both mental and physical fatigue was setting in at this stage and I found I was making silly mistakes so I cut this session short to save myself for our final area. We ate our lunch in the lovely village square where we had parked the car, after having first bathed our feet in the ice-cold water of the fountain.

We ended the camp on a high with a final session in a contour, green and rock only map. I felt revived after having napped during our extended lunch break. I enjoyed being able to really focus on the contour details without any excess clutter on the map. It was a small but brilliant area and although I plodded around the course very slowly, I did so with a big beaming smile on my face. 

We certainly squeezed a lot into this short weekend and got a great taste of the terrain Portugal has to offer. I left feeling hungry for more and can’t wait to get back into this luscious terrain in a few months time. 

Thanks so much to Mike Long, Dave Masterson and Jens Waechter for organising all the logistics behind the training camp and to Jens for accompanying us on the trip, serving as chauffeur, coach and mentor. Thanks also to anyone and everyone who has supported the junior squad who helped part fund this trip. 

Aoife O’Sullivan W20, UCDO/BOC