World Orienteering Championships 2021 – Czech Republic
A review and analysis of the Sprint races at WOC 2021 thanks to Cork Orienteering Club’s Josh O’Sullivan Hourihan
Sprint Qualification 3rd July 2021- Terezin
Preparation for WOC 2021 was different, both physically and mentally, it wasn’t ideal but it was as good as it could be given everything that was going on globally. It was a very long wait between standing on the start-line and failing to perform in Riga (WOC 2018) and getting another shot in Terezín. The original goal after WOC 2018 was Denmark in 2020 but due to Covid the goalposts moved to 2021 in the Czech Republic.
During the lockdowns and restrictions my coach in Donore Harriers kept me on course with structured trainings and a clear plan. He’s the mastermind behind everything. I would say I was physically in the best shape I have ever been in. Mileage through the winter went well with structured and sensible training including 26 weeks of 100mile/week average with big workouts and then speed work on top of that foundation in the spring/summer. I drew some sprint maps of areas around my side of Dublin that myself and Kev (since he’s in the neighbourhood) were able to run some trainings on. We did a “Stay @ Home Training Camp” on them over the Easter weekend. It wasn’t ideal but working on your O processes is working on your O processes, no matter where you are. I was lucky that I was able to rope in some National Team runners from other countries to plan trainings for us.
I flew to Prague and travelled north to Staré Splavy, near Doksy, on the Tuesday before the competition to get settled and get on some training maps. We had some time in Pevnost Josefov on the Wednesday and in Terezín Bastion 1, the Sprint Model, on the Friday. Pevnost Josefov was the first in person look at this fortress style sprint terrain, relevant for the individual Sprint races. The walls were bigger than I expected and the multilevel sections were tricky to get your head around. On the Friday morning the Sprint Model calmed my nerves somewhat as the printing was really clear and the map was easy to read and understand. There is a difference between reading it at jogging pace and race pace though! For those of you who don’t know the model map is usually in the embargo, it won’t be used for the race and it shows very relevant terrain and gives you a feel for how things look and how things are mapped. In this case what did the tunnels, levels and walls look like and how fast was the grass for running compared to tarmac.
I was able to get my pre-race routine of 20-25mins including a few 12-15sec strides done on the model map. This is what I do for all my races, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it! The rest of the day was filled with eating, a walk around the technical model to see how the start and control set up looked and some napping! It’s important to keep calm and relaxed while keeping the mind somewhat occupied, the waiting is the hardest part!
Sprint Qualifier day was an early start for the 3 of us; myself, Kev and Paul, with the alarm going off at 05:30 for breakfast and we were on the road by 06:45 to get the drive done and get into quarantine (not COVID related quarantine though!). I wanted to be in quarantine early to get the drive out of my legs, be calm and have time for something to go wrong. The only issue with being the driver on these trips is you realise you are one of the old guys on the team!
I did my usual warm up routine, nothing flashy and nothing ground breaking and as I stood in the first start box with the Finn and the Argentinian I felt a mixture of preparedness and nervousness. Nerves are always good though they mean you care and they keep you alert. I’d put in the work and it was now time for the big dance! Once I got the map in my hands it was like someone flicked a switch and the nerves were gone and I was in the zone. The start of the course (controls 1-10) was kind of “JK-sprinty-style” (technical term) which took me a bit by surprise, especially with the artificial barriers to block off roads which were open on the old map of the area. I was relatively smooth through this section of the course but I picked a wrong routechoice to #3 which ended up costing me. I ran the B alternate which was 50m longer and included more corners. It was a bit helter skelter in this section with 3 men starting every minute on the different heats and all heats having ~10 controls in here. Fast guys going in all directions!
There was a transition to the more fortress area and down into the moat. In here the planner had built some artificial barriers to create S-shaped routechoices and just generally try to impact your flow. We then had 3 quick controls before going into a routechoice to #18 (I ran the B alternate). I was slowish leaving #17 to see the alternatives as I could only spot one and I knew there couldn’t only be one for this kind of leg. I was happy with my choice but maybe in hindsight I invested too much time in making my decision.
When I finished I was in 6th place out of 10 men in my heat but in the WOC Quali a lot of “favourites” look for the early start block in order to maximise the recovery time in between the Quali and the Final. I went away and collected my bag, got some water on board and did a cool down with Paul and some of the British team only to come back and see that I had been bumped down to 17th place and missed qualification for the final by 12 seconds. On analysis later I found that my wrong decision on the leg to #3 cost me 13 seconds when compared to the Lithuanian who finished in the final qualification spot, 15th. After a quick look at the splits I was in the top 15 times on 23% of legs and the top 20 on 59% of legs. In short I was close……but crucially not close enough and at the end of the day you either qualify or you dont.
On review, despite it not being the result I was aiming for, it is still my best result at WOC and I’m proud of my performance. I prepared as best I could given the circumstances and I gave it all I had on the day. I pushed hard to be right on the limit of control throughout the race, sometimes it just isn’t quite enough.
The goal now shifts to WOC 2022 in Denmark. My athletics based training will remain the same as myself and my coach have been working together for 3 years now and I trust his guidance and judgement 100%. We both operate in the mindset of – if you can’t run at close to the high pace that these top guys do then in sprint it really doesn’t matter how good your map skills are, you won’t be there at the business end. I’ll be planning to get some trips to Denmark for some races and training camps while also making use of any options I have available to me closer to home.
Thanks to everyone for the support through the journey, for sharing training miles with me, for any pointers or advice, for planning courses and trainings and for all the good luck messages and positive vibes in the lead up to WOC. It is very much appreciated.
Josh O’Sullivan Hourihan, orienteer, athlete, member of Cork Orienteering Club and Donore Harriers AC
WOC 2021- meet the team
I’m Conor Short, I’m 29, and I’m running the middle and relay this year. I’ve been orienteering for as long as I can remember: my parents used to carry me around courses in a baby carrier. This year will be my 7th time running WOC.
Training for this WOC has been a bit funny, I’d normally prefer to get to the terrain for a training camp anything from a year to a few weeks before WOC. This year I’ve not been able to travel until a couple of days before the middle race, so I’ve been doing as many orienteering training as I can on Irish maps to get tuned up.I’m really excited for the Czech terrain. They have beautiful forests, and I’m hoping the technical sandstone terrain will suit me. One thing I’m focussing on this year is to try to block out any distractions and concentrate on my own race. There’s a lot going on at WOC; people in the forest, TV cameras, and a lot of pressure and excitement. It can be difficult to tune all of this out, so this year I’m aiming to start the races with a more relaxed frame of mind.
Offer your support and follow Conor on instagram at conorshort
I’m Colm Moran, studied Electronic Engineering but more recently have moved into teaching and I’m currently teaching secondary school maths in Oxford.
I got into orienteering like most people do, through family, in my case my Mum. I started training more seriously for it around 15 or 16, and spent a year in Sweden improving my technique after school.
Nowadays I’ve upped my training volume and I’m running about 10-12hrs most weeks. Being in Oxford it’s not as hilly as I’d like, but it means the distance is good, and I was doing 130-140km per week through most of winter, and I’ve also been fortunate to get some more orienteering work done in the last couple months.
Looking forward to WOC a lot! My shape is as good as it’s ever been which makes it exciting, and I’m hoping the unique terrain and less travel will have levelled the playing field between stronger and weaker orienteering nations due limited training opportunities in Czech Republic. The terrain looks really exciting and I can’t wait to get into it!
Offer your support and follow Colm on instagram at colmmemaybe_yo
Josh O’Sullivan-Hourihan, 29, Cork Orienteering Club and Defence Forces Orienteering, I will be competing in the Sprint & Middle at WOC 2021 in Czech Republic. I’ve been orienteering for as long as I can remember. I started out with local events in Cork and then eventually progressed to the Irish Junior Squad at 16/17 and I began to get more competitive and focused on the sport. WOC 2021 will be my 5th WOC. It’s a long way from my very first orienteering event when I was 2-3months old in a papoose carrier strapped to my mum in Garretstown! My training is quite athletics based. I train with Donore Harriers and I run workouts on Tuesdays and Saturdays. My weekly mileage fluctuates between 60 – 115miles (~100km – ~185km) a week depending on the time of the season and most of my workouts and my miles are run in the Phoenix Park. After being injured in 2020 I added S&C and mobility work to my weekly training structure. During the lockdowns I drew some sprint maps around where I live so that I could use these for technique/process training in the absence of training camps and races. I’m excited to get stuck into WOC2021, it has been a long 3 years since Latvia and this will also be the first WOC where I will compete in one of the forest races. It will be my first time in the Czech Republic and the maps look fantastic so I’m excited to get out there and get the final preparations ticked off in the coming days.
Offer your support and follow Josh on instagram at joshoshourihan
Paul Pružina, 24, Sprint, Middle, Relay, I’ve been orienteering since about 2010. I started with family at LVO events then started doing training weekends and races with junior squads (NI and Ireland). I ran at 3 JWOCs (2015-17) but this is my first WOC.
Normally my training is almost all running on trails about 120k a week, with some XC intervals and hill reps. I’ll orienteer as much as possible, ranging from once every couple of weeks to twice a week, as well as training camps once or twice a year. This year I’ve been injured though, so have been doing very little running since March, with a bit more cycling and a lot of S&C.
I’m excited for WOC – I’ve been in the terrains a couple of times in the past two years and they’re really great places to orienteer. It’s disappointing that I’ve not been able to train like normal in the lead up, but I think all my strength work will help make up for a lack of mileage.
Offer your support and follow Paul on instagram at ppruzina
I’m Kevin O’Boyle, 29 years old, and I’ll be running the Sprint race this year at WOC 2021! I’ve been orienteering my entire life, my first competitive appearance being in the under 4s buggy championships on the Curragh plains 😂 my entire family are keen orienteers. This will be my 4th WOC.
My training is fully running based, and usually clocks in at 80-100km/week. This includes 1 interval session (with Donore Harriers) and usually a wander in the mountains too. Training is my passion and no day is complete without it.
WOC this year will be super interesting to be at. I’m very grateful it’s on after a long drag with no racing! On a personal level I feel I have never come close to my goals at WOC. My goal for orienteering in general is to qualify for the Sprint Final and rank in the top 45 sprinters in the world regularly. The first time will be the hardest! This year’s race is in a very technical sprint area with level changes, battlements and tunnel systems. In racing, nothing comes close to SprintO for me. It is intense, adrenaline flowing high-stakes racing with everything on the line on split second decisions. So here’s to a good one out in the Czech Republic 🇨🇿
Offer your support and follow Kev on instagram at orienteerkevo_
Check out Darren’s post for links on how to follow the athletes as they race over the coming days.
Photo credits; Conor- Lindie Naughton, all other athletes – John Shiels, Action Photography
Belfast Sprint Camp 2020
Anton Hallor, together with Darren Burke and their counterparts in Northern Ireland brought together orienteers from across the country for the Belfast Sprint Camp.
Here Josh O’Sullivan Hourihan (Cork Orienteering Club), of late frequently found running with the deer in the Phoenix Park, tells us of his take on the training camp.
“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend 4 hours sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln
At a time of year when Finnish, Swedish, Czech and Danish athletes are on training camps in Portugal, Spain and Southern France a group of Irish orienteers, plus a Swede and a Scot, headed to Belfast for a Sprint Camp accompanied by Storm Dennis. We always like to do things a little differently here!
My physical training has been going to plan so from my point of view this camp was a chance to sharpen up, to put some of the theory into practice and to test out some race tactics, especially for the Knockout Sprint. I was lucky enough to be able to get some pointers/advice from Øystein Kvaal Østerbø (Norwegian National Team), Olli Ojanaho (Finnish National Team) and Otto Simosas (Finnish National Team) about how best to attack this new format from their experiences.
We kicked off the camp on Friday night with head-to-head racing on 4 short courses (1.1km – 1.2km) around the Botanic Gardens to simulate a Sprint Relay style race. A really fun way to start the weekend off and get straight into some maps. Head-to-head racing is probably something we don’t really do enough of.
Saturday morning was a parkrun with a twist. Anton had designed a puzzle for us to solve while running at speed. Over 400 turned up making this the biggest parkrun I’ve run in. The puzzle was a mixture of questions, a maze, finding logos and animals, doing maths and then solving a riddle at the end to reach the “finish”. During the run I was asked by fellow parkrunners if it was a course map so I didn’t get lost or if I was doing my homework! I spent the first lap glancing at the puzzle and piecing the steps. I was able to get a gap at the front going in to the second lap, which was the plan beforehand. It gave me some clear air and thinking time to focus on the puzzle without risking losing my parkrun streak!
( Josh maintained his streak finishing third and appearing once again on the Fast Running top ten park runners with a time of 16.28.- Josh was too modest to include this fact himself!)
The parkrun was to simulate the Knockout Sprint Quali race, and a Quali race in general as there is one for the “classic” sprint format too. Since I have embraced my nerd side I can say that, based on some number crunching, we will need to navigate cleanly and keep a footspeed of <3:46min/km (for men) and <4:10min/km (for women) to make the quarter final of the KO Sprint. In order to progress from the Sprint Quali the men will have to average <3:34min/km and the women <4:03min/km. These paces are only theoretical values based on bulletin information and results from previous years but I personally think it is a useful thing to be aware of when training. My mindset is that if you can’t run at these paces how realistic is it to chase a KO Sprint QF or a Sprint Final?!
After some refuelling and a short nap (the glamorous side of training camps!) it was back out for Knockout Sprint training for which Anton promised us sunshine. This is the newest WOC format and consists of a qualification race in the morning (which parkrun was to simulate), a quarter final, semi-final & final. The race winning times are ~10min, ~8min, ~7min, ~9min. We ran 3 mass-start “races” with the runner’s choice forking system and I was able to test out my 3 pre-planned tactics on how to get the most out of the 20 seconds you are given to choose the fastest forking. It was really good fun racing head-to-head again and I left the training a bit wiser as to how to approach this format with one of my tactics not working as well as the other two. That isn’t to say it is a bad tactic, just maybe needs more tweaking going forward.
Sunday was back to the “classic” sprint with a qualification race in the morning and a final in the afternoon. Both held in Belfast city, a map which is very very similar to that of Kolding, the area for the WOC Sprint in Denmark this year.
It was fast running with plenty of routechoice on almost all legs especially the longer legs which proved to be decisive. This is exactly how I expect WOC to be having read the bulletin, from my own experiences of racing the Fynsk Cup in Odense last year and also having considered the strengths of the athletes on the Danish Team. In the afternoon we ran in roughly reverse start order as it would be at WOC. The city was much busier now so it was hard to focus on the map while not getting run over/running over anything or anyone in the city. We managed to get in some quick after training analysis before the rain rolled back in…….again……
From my point of view, and I’m sure I speak for everyone in attendance, it was a fantastic high quality weekend camp that we are all leaving having learned some new things moving forward in our WOC preparations. Personally I still have a few more Cross country races and some more technical training to chomp on before the first WOC Selection race at the Jan Kjellstrom Festival 2020 in the middle of April.
Thanks Anton for making this happen and to Darren and LVO for organising permissions and use of the maps for the weekend.
Josh O’Sullivan Hourihan.
Meabh Perkins (UCD Orienteering Club) also attended the camp, although sadly injured she was unable to fully participate. Here follows Meabh’s account.
I’ve always enjoyed sprint orienteering the most, so having an entire weekend dedicated to sprint orienteering in Belfast was very exciting. Unfortunately, I am currently injured so I was only able to participate in a few of the training sessions that Anton had planned. For the rest of the races Clodagh (who is also sadly injured) and myself studied the maps, comparing our route choices, whilst the others raced.
It was very enjoyable to watch everyone sprinting around the place and cheering them on (admittedly not as enjoyable when it started raining.) The maps were extremely intricate and challenging with many possiblities of route choice. It was an extremely well planned and well executed training that explored many areas of Belfast city. All the athletes found it extremely beneficial.
From a social element, it was an extremely fun filled weekend. Despite the awful weather, everyone was in high spirits (possibly due to the delicious Boojum that fuelled us for the weekend) and there was a great sense of community within the team. It was lovely to see everyone and was, overall, a great weekend. I’m very much looking forward to the next training camp where, fingers crossed, I might actually be able to fully participate in the training.
Thank you Anton for a wonderful training weekend!
2019 Major Events Conference
Confessions of a Parkrun-a-holic!
Many orienteers will know Josh O’Sullivan Hourihan (or Josh OSH) as a regular and passionate orienteer at events around the country as well as representing Ireland on the World Orienteering Stage, Josh also participates in cross country and endurance races, here and abroad. Here Josh confesses of his addiction for the humble, weekly Park Run!
For those of you who may not be familiar with the Parkrun concept it is a free, weekly, timed 5km in parks all around Ireland (and the world). It’s a great way to meet new people, make friends, there is always a great buzz around them and, like orienteering, they are suitable for all ages and all abilities whether you run, jog or walk. All you have to do is register online once, have your barcode printed out and be ready to go for 0930 when someone says go, it really is that simple!
I ran my first Parkrun in 2016 in Tramore Valley Park, Cork, and in October of this year I became a member of the 50 Parkrun club which entitles you to a special parkrun t-shirt and also, at Waterstown Parkrun (my local) anyway, celebratory cake – which as we all know is the most important part! My coach and I treat Parkrun as a fun threshold/tempo session and I run it before breakfast and on tired legs depending on the weeks training load. If you want to be competitive it is always a good challenge to try and make it into the fastrunning.com top10 fastest times in Ireland on a Saturday. Normally anything under 16:45 will get you in there.
I would say Parkrun has been a key “workout” in setting new 5km (15.24) and 10km (31.47) PBs this year. It has acted as a gauge of where I am physically during a training block on the same course throughout a year. For example in 2018 I averaged 17:49 (19 runs) on the Waterstown course with a best of 16:51 and in 2019 I have averaged 16:59 (21 runs) with a best of 16:04. But also, seeing other parkrunners out having fun, being active, improving and setting new PBs throughout the year, no matter what pace they are going, is something fantastic to feel a part of.
As well as running it regularly I have also volunteered to help with pre-event set up, which I can use as part of my warm up, and bar-code scanning. Volunteering is an integral part of the Parkrun culture and it’s a fun way to pass a Saturday morning and give back to the running community. This keeps the event going, makes sure everybody gets to run and is a great way to meet people and be part of the Parkrun family.
Waterstown Parkrun recently had the Parkwalk initiative to get people out and active on Saturday mornings and on the 1st Parkrun of each month they organise pacers for different times, and if there are extra volunteer pacers there are personal pacers, for anyone looking to run a specific time. I’m sure other Parkruns do similar to keep everyone motivated no matter what their goal is. There are also junior Parkruns becoming more common around Ireland and these are 2km and are suitable for the 4-15yrs age group.
Parkrun has grown globally and is something you can do even when on a trip abroad. I’ve run the Tokoinranta Parkrun (Helsinki) twice and I briefly held the course record. It is on my to-do list to go and get it back, currently it sits at 16:18. I’ve also done Parkruns in exotic locations like Navan, Athlone and Castlerea!
Parkrun is free, for everyone and forever so you’ve no excuse not to lace up and get out!
Find a Parkrun near you here!
And don’t forget to print your barcode & register under your orienteering club too!
Many thanks to Josh for his confession !
Irish Orienteering Championship 2018- Sprint
Josh O’Sullivan Hourihan gives us an insight into his IOC 2018 Sprint race.
Irish Orienteering Championships 2018 – Sprint
Sligo IT & Clayton Hotel
As with every year IOC 2018 was a main target race for this season. This year was always going to have a high quality field as nobody travelled to EOC 2018 in Ticino, Switzerland due to a clash of timings. It was the largest M21 field I have seen at an IOC Sprint (feel free to correct me if I am wrong) which was fantastic.
With a gap of 5 weeks between the JK2018 Sprint in MOD Stafford to IOC 2018 it gave me some time to prepare more on a physical and technical level. Since the start of 2018 I have been getting good feedback from training sessions along with technique camps such as the Bergen Sprint Camp earlier this year in Norway. One of the key things I have learned in recent times is the importance of the “nerding” process prior to a major race. In this vein I did research using Google Maps, Open Street Map, Open Orienteering Map, Google Street View and there was also a map of the area (used in 2014) on the Sligo Orienteering club Facebook page which I didn’t find, but Conall mentioned he had located it.
Race day for me is normally initially a nervous start but then it changes to excitement. I fuelled well before the race in the same way as always and I warmed up in the same way as usual. My legs felt a bit heavy, but from experience I know not to worry about this on a race day. I checked out the start during my warm-up (which can be useful to know if possible), it was exactly where I expected it to be based on the information given in the final details.
I noticed (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one) none of the controls were on the inside corner of anything which could be deemed un-crossable (fenced, walls, hedges) when in the start boxes. This limited, though didn’t rule out, the chances of any traps set by the course planner.
As everyone in the start area noticed the start headed east and around the building, easy section of dead running to get into the course. The early part of the course was relatively straightforward but in that it was important to run flat out. The early route choices from 3-4 and 4-5 were relatively even but I took the right hand option to 4 and then left to 5 in order to avoid corners and the steps.
The next section through the spectator loop and to control 8 was a footrace. At control 8 it was myself and Nick joint in the lead in 4:56 with Paul just 3 seconds behind. Coming in towards control 9 I saw Shea and Conrad so this perked me up a little bit to keep the speed high and chase hard. Control 10-11 was a simple left (~240m) or right (~215m) routechoice, I think most guys took the right hand alternate (?). Again there was a routechoice presented from 12-13. Here Shea took the routechoice back past 10 while myself and Conrad crossed the river which was ~20m longer. I lost 1second to Shea on this leg, 2seconds to Eric and Nick and 3seconds to Kev (although I am not sure which routes they took).
Simple nav through 14-15 although I didn’t quite spot the kite at 15 and then messed up punching losing some seconds. I made another small error running to 17 where I saw the crossing point symbol on the map but the line was across the gap, this meant a quick stop and map check before going through the gap, maybe just 2-3seconds lost here. At this stage I was breathing pretty hard from the high paced running but the last section through 17-18-19-20-21-F was straightforward and I could see Shea and a few of the others a bit ahead so kept working as hard as I could. I was able to post fastest splits to 19-20-21 although not fastest on the all-important run in!
Immediately after finishing I had the feeling it had been a good run (being within 5sec on all splits), I mean there were not many places you could go wrong out there, but I went straight to download to ensure I hadn’t done like 2 weeks previous in Dungarvan and missed out a control. All OK on the read out and at the bottom it said I was currently in 2nd place which lead to a nervous wait for the later starters to come in (Kev, Colm M). Tightly bunched results list and nice to have a BOC 1-2 for the first time in M21 (I think?) !
This was my first Senior national podium place as an individual after (too) many years of trying, 20 seconds behind Nick and just 8 seconds ahead of Paul. The progress had been coming in the last few years (2015 – 7th (+45sec), 2016 – 6th (+39sec), 2017 – 5th (+31sec), – 2018 – 2nd (+20sec)) it was just a matter of piecing it all together when it mattered. I’m sure many will feel (myself included) that it wasn’t the most tricky of sprint races but you can only race what is put in front of you and it is the same course and same challenges for everyone out there. As was said after the JK 2018 Sprint, if it’s easy you aren’t pushing hard enough.
My season continues next weekend (hopefully) with the NIOC Sprint and Middle Distance championships held by FERMO but with the obvious longer term goal of the WOC Test Race in Latvia (6th July). This is plenty of time to fine tune some technique issues and also to progress further on the running speed side of the game.
Well done to everyone who raced and to SligO for organising this years IOC Sprint.
Keep training, keep racing, keep smiling and here is to bigger and better things!