Regular Map Training

David Healy, in his own words, takes us through his year of running open training camps here in Ireland, his inspiration, motivation and how it happened. For many of us who have attended his sessions we are forever grateful and hope that he will be a trendsetter in a new wave of Irish Orienteering Training.

I, David Healy, put on ten open orienteering trainings last year. I was at my club’s AGM in early 2019 and was pleasantly surprised by the number of juniors in the club. It really shocked me how many there were active in the club. And so then my next thought was, ‘ here we go again… ‘. But not in a good way. I’ve been through the junior cycle myself here in Irish orienteering. I received a grand total of just one orienteering training from my club back in the day when I was a junior. That’s a common experience for Irish orienteers then and still is today. We have a great sport here in Ireland, propped up by the dedicated volunteer enthusiasts who draw the maps and organise the races; but one thing we’ve never done at all is organise regular club trainings. So rather than make some calls about it I decided to jump in and get my hands dirty. This is an account of what happened.

All trainings were decided to be open to all clubs and their members and funded by GEN towards the map printing. Brenda Hynes from my club was very encouraging and supportive in providing a sense of community at each training with snacks and drinks. What began as a few hot chocolates in Massey’s, snowballed into something really great after a run in the nature. There was community in this as much as a small reward! We had Creidhe O’Sullivan operate as the communications role for each event; Setanta, Cnoc and 3Roc kindly gave out their maps in support for this project. 

We did one indoor workshop and three outdoor trainings before the summer. The workshop took place in February and it was a teaching about course planning with the view to cracking the code to get inside the head of the course setter and improve our orienteering. We looked at the leg elements that go into structuring a course and what would make it easy/challenging. We analysed a WOC course from the 2018 long race. And we even did a simulated run around Leinsters Brockagh mountain inside a gym hall to highlight the need for reconnaissance trips when actually planning a race for real. But unfortunately no photo exists of our hard work that day. The venue was in Stillorgan where the Tuesday night circuit class is run by Mary Healy/Colleen Robinson for orienteers. And Brenda helped organise and provide snacks as always.

For the real outdoor orienteering training we aimed to do one a month for March and April. So we went to Massey’s twice to do “ghostO” compass loops to work on our compass bearings. And it was repeated on the second training to emphasize the need to get better at the skill.

So then we finished up in early June when the weather was at its best on top of the Kanturk ridge (Scarr mountain map) to practice our contour navigation. We did map walks, contour-only-map O courses and lineO exercises. And overall it was a lovely day on the hill top to train with the most difficult feature on the map within a ‘training environment’ mode as opposed to a racing one.

And then we broke for the summer. When we came back we were mostly in Pine Forest up to new years. We began by running a middle distance course I had previously planned for the Irish junior squad way back in 2015. 18 control flags in the forest for a training. We also had some beginners who I took out to find some of the easier controls and to work on the compass bearings a lot. We hugged a few trees that our bearings took us to and we even attempted the first leg of the middle distance together! A real orienteering adventure! 

During this period, after the summer, we did a map training every two to three weeks. I called that frequency “semi-regular training”. I wanted to get two trainings done in a month on average and we managed to do six altogether which brought the grand total of trainings to ten – 1 workshop + 3 pre-summer + 6 post-summer. The final training we did was on the Hellfire wood map where we did Star O relay intervals in December. Brian Rowe from GEN kindly ran the training for me that day as I was unfortunately busy tagging a January 2020 open training camp. 

And so then we broke for the end of year holiday season and new year. In November I also put on a private training on AJAX’s Carraignashouc map to test run a control picking exercise for an earlier version of the Glendalough O camp that I ended up abandoning in favour of Brockagh mountain as the venue. We had lots of strong seniors come run a tough training that day (some not in frame: Colm Moran, Conor Short). 

And that was a 2019, year long experiment. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this project and even the hiking that i needed to do to put controls out got me back to running at a level of once a week by December. Big thanks to people who helped put out and take in controls with me. I hope everybody who came had fun training in nature – most importantly. And I hope that people will try to insert more orienteering into their life. It’s good for your head, your heart and it’s especially good for your body to run in the wild. Although honestly, we do really need regular map trainings here…

Nothing ventured is nothing gained. 

David Healy GEN Orienteers

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Orienteering in Ireland
Orienteering Ireland, Irish Sport HQ, Blanchardstown
D15 DY62, Ireland