What did you do in the WOC, Daddy?

The World Orienteering Championships, now an annual event, is the competitive pinnacle of our sport. This year the Irish team travelled to Hungary in August to face the challange. Here the team tell us how they fared in the different disciplines.

Well done and thanks to Dave Healy, Shane Lynch, Neil Dobbs, Ciara Largey, Ros Hussey, Colm Hill, Ruairí Short and Nick Simonin.

We also had representatives at the World Trail Orienteering Championships where Alan Gartside, Wilbert Hollinger and Cian O’Reilly formed the team in this intense discipline. Interestingly, Wilbert was a member of the first ever Irish World Championships team in Scotland in 1976 (with Wally Young, Pat Healy, Paget McCormack, Eileen Loughman and Monica (Turley) Nowlan).
The World Orienteering Championships – 2009 Hungary – “My Experience”, from the Irish Orienteering team.
Middle qualification – David Healy
I trained for thirty minutes the day before this race for my first time in Hungarian terrain. My main focus is WOC 2010 but I needed to come to Hungary to get experience for the next years’ races. When the start beep signalled my start time I had fifty meters to the flag to look at the first few legs of my race. However, I didn’t get past planning the first leg. Leg number one was downhill with some contouring. Anytime a planner gives you a first leg with downhill running it’s so obvious that they want you to make a mistake. I made this mental note and held back on the gas a little, thumbing my map and following my plan. After passing some local farmer near my attack point gathering sticks he threw his arms in the direction of my control and said, in Hungarian, something like “they’ve all run in that direction, so go go!”. I came a little high to the flag, about 10 seconds of a mistake. So in my head as I punched I made a point to congratulate myself for a very good start to my WOC 2009 campaign. The rest of the race was uneventful. There was one very dangerous control placed in light green, but I slowed down and hit it well. There was a photographer at a control flag later on, I got distracted and ran out of the circle in the wrong direction to lose 15 seconds in error.
In my two races at WOC (middle qualification and relay) I made three minutes of mistakes in total, this I am happy with and proud of. And secondly I was proud that the Irish relay team did three similar runs (between 7.6 to 7.7 minutes per kilometre). We had no goals for this race, perhaps we had an unspoken goal of doing clean runs. We did alright to achieve the clean run goals, a step in the right direction for improving our relay results and with lots of room for future improvements among myself, Nick and Neil.
Middle qualification –- Shane Lynch
I line-up on the start line alongside the two other hopefuls in heats one and three (I’m in heat two). Clock ticks down. Last few thoughts are same as what I have been saying to myself all morning, plan and stay in contact with the map. Final beep goes, the three of us pick up our maps and set off. I have a short leg to a charcoal burning place (looks like a platform). It’s a straight forward leg; there’s a large re-entrant ahead to the left of the straight line, and the platform is on the spur on the far side. I make my plan, rough compass bearing aiming slightly right and high of the control, look for the large re-entrant on the left as I run, when I reach the far side look down hill to see my control and if it’s not in view, fine, just head down hill along the spur until I hit it, all this planned in the instant after I locate the triangle and the circle for number 1 as I pick up the map.
The three of us run similar lines from the start control, too similar, their first legs as I later find out are long ones but crucially and unfortunately for me both of their controls are lower down the hill, the bearing they take is low of my first. However, it WOC it’s high paced, I’m running alongside Leonid Novikov, I’m influenced and instead of focusing on my own race I veer to the left with them, believing I am running the bearing I chose myself, I pass the re-entrant, I hit the spur, I look down the hill, no control, no worries, I set down the hill, still no control, the others have run on, I hesitate, confused, run around on the spur, no plan, time ticks on, one minute lost, focus gone, frustration comes, I realise I have gone low of the control, on the way back up hill to punch I’m filled with all sorts of emotions, annoyed, frustrated, I see the next starters arrive as I finally reach the first, already two minutes down. I think I must claw back time… you can’t claw back time. Think this and your race is lost and mine was at number 1. I pushed for the rest of the course, but without focus and without plans. I made more mistakes and there was no flow or rhythm. I finished the race almost 15minutes down on the top qualifier, and 8minutes off my perfect race time. This was much too much time lost on the fast open terrain that we competed on. I came 32nd out of 38 in my heat.
Luckily, I had another race in the sprint which went better, I ran cleaner with fewer mistakes and my limiting factor in this race was running speed and not orienteering technique – this is the way it should always be in my opinion. I also got the opportunity to run the Hungaria Cup (supporters event in conjunction with WOC) at the end of the week, I competed against many of the other internationals who were not running WOC races on those days. I ran clean and fast and beat people who were much higher placed in my middle qualification heat – I could put my demons of that race to rest!
I am reminded of Ernie Lawrence who introduced me to orienteering he always said something like “Always make sure you take the first control steady and without mistakes”.
Neil Dobbs – middle qualification
It was great to see four WOC-debutants in the Irish team this year after their strong performances in the Irish Champs last May. With a larger-than-usual men’s team, I was selected to run the Middle and Relay.
The Middle Qualifier was not in overly technical terrain, and guaranteed top-notch mapping would make it easier than the training areas. However, with thirty minutes of orienteering ahead of me which would colour my thoughts for the next twelve months, the pressure to perform on the day was scary. One false move or a bit of bad luck and the record book wouldn’t be kind. Thankfully, on the day I had a technically very good race. Physically I didn’t have zip in the legs, so I was surprised and happy as I lay on the ground hearing Gueorgiou hadn’t finished yet – about 5 minutes down, compared to 7 last year. It turned out I was in a nasty heat and would need to knock another 2:30 off my time to have qualified. I guess that’s what happens when WOC is in “easy” terrain.
Ciara Largey – middle qualification
First race of the week was the middle qualifier. Not usually my strongest race so the aim was not to think about my speed but focus on navigating cleanly and coming away with a race I could be proud of. My impression from the model event was of endless beech trees, good visibility, lots of point features requiring good compass skills. Potential pitfalls were overshooting controls, vegetation changes (not always obvious) and veering off my compass. But all of this I felt able to handle and with a 9 minute call up there was plenty of time to settle my nerves, forget the crowds and other runners and focus on my own race.
I started well – a downhill leg to a boulder. I set the compass, kept my head up and eyes peeled and spotted it from about 40m. A short contour leg to the next control and I was well into race mode, picking up speed. Next was a long gradual climb then a descent into a large re-entrant to another boulder. I was a little hesitant but needn’t have been – a camera woman lurking in the trees gave it away. I look at the map for the next control, 500m of contouring through denser trees with reduced visibility. I was nervous starting out, this leg could give me difficulty and indeed it did. I followed what I thought was a vegetation change, pace counted and descended, hoping to spike my control. Alas, no such luck and much searching ensued. More time passed and I seemed no closer to locating my control. I was becoming even less sure of where I was, repeatedly relocating and trying again with no success. Starting to panic now… where is it? Eventually I was so distraught I hung on to the next runner to come past who led me out to a control further away that I could relocate from and work backwards. At least I was still on the map… I had no idea how much time had been lost, finally punched my control and put it out of my mind aiming to finish the rest of the course with as few mistakes as possible.Thankfully that was the end of the green area and I ran well from then on – making a plan for each leg, checking my compass, using the good visibility to my advantage and spotting the relevant features well in advance. Middle distance is a tough technical test in orienteering and the legs were varied, testing contour skills, speed control, compass work and minor route choices. I ran steadily, remembering my pre-race plan and made it to the finish without further mishaps. I knew my blunder at the fourth control would be a costly one but I was unprepared for just how much – almost 20 mins lost! Aghh! Hardly an elite performance… A further punch in the stomach was the knowledge that without this mistake I may have qualified for the final, but instead I was well down the field with an abysmal overall time of 50.58 mins for a 4.1k course. It’s not easy to shrug off a bad performance at a World Championship – seeing my name near the bottom with the Ireland flag next to it, reminding me who I’m representing, really gets to me. Especially when I know I can do much better. However, at least I know that it’s possible. This is the highest level an orienteer can compete at so it’s never going to be easy. Just meeting that challenge is something I’m proud of, but it’s not enough. So it’s back to the drawing board for next year, because I’m not done yet 😉
Rosalind Hussey — Long Qualification
The long qualification was quite a spectator-friendly race. They sneakily took us down to begin in the assembly field via 9min of pre-start, about 1km of jogging. Then just 6 controls into the course I was back at the spectator control before disappearing into the forest to take on the second half of the course.
I didn’t start this race filled with confidence due to an unsatisfactory performance in the middle distance the day before, so took it super slow and careful on the long leg to #1. The long uphill was killing me after just several minutes! The direct, but careful, approach worked quite well and I spiked the control. Had a welcome downhill to #2 and then on down to the first drink-station. Gulp, gulp. Fought through the light-green (pretty high nettles and thorns, but with tracks that earlier runners had produced making my progress easier) uphill to #3, kept too low contouring around, but realised when I hit a pit just south of my feature and headed directly up to the control.
I kept it clean for the next few controls, but managed to get stuck in dark green for quite a while on route to #5. Silly, unnecessary route choice. Took a bad line to #10, not sure why, but decided it was best to correct this error by going through another, larger, more dense patch of green. Oh those nettles stung. They even got my nose! But I managed to spike the control, hoorah. Lost another few precious seconds running past my control in the “forest of many distinctive trees”, but realised quite soon. Other than a messy route trying to avoid dark green to #14 causing a bit more time-loss, it was quite clean to the end.
Was relatively happy with my performance today, but have learned that I need to be much stronger and more aggressive on the hills when it comes to future WOCs. The heat was another major factor during these races. It was important to keep well-hydrated in order to concentrate and keep pushing hard.”
Colm Hill – long qualification
For a race that’s going to be memorable I generally have a vivid memory of what time I got up and the breakfast I had before the race. In Miskolc it was early and a dam good breakfast of cereal, yogurt and good strong lethal coffee. The day had started the way I wanted it to. The drive to the event is a blur of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden as well as some bands that aren’t fit to be named. The pre event arena was a cluster of buildings. Pre start off to one side. Warmed up, camelback on, gels in the back pocket. All set to lock and load. About 20mins before my start the rest of the team enter the pre start arena. I bump into Roar and the usual race banter goes on. It was a shock that we had forgotten to blast out the Def Lep song Action earlier that morning to wake up Neil (he stayed in bed).
Into the start box… SI cleared. Slightly nervous but really excited. My legs are bouncing and my head is clear. Each of the 9 boxes was pretty big and most involved a steep climb. With 3mins to go we enter the finish area… The speaker is saying something but it’s lost to me. I see the start gate 30meters in front. This is it. I went through a hell a load of training to forget about the horror of the JWOC long the previous year. Run hard, run clean, finish in bits. The famous beep. Through the gate, map in hand, its game on!
First control is a long leg, guts of 2km. The route out to the right along the track jumps out at me like a sore thumb. As I run I look for other routes, I see one straighter but it appears to have more climb. I go with option A. Running along the track I no longer feel as fresh as I did in the pre start. Still running…. I see a blur out to my left; Matts Haldin is just cruising along, faster than I feel I can sprint. I suddenly feel as if I could have trained a lot more in the past year. I focus on the last part of the leg. Nothing sticks out. I feel like I’m going oxygen dead but I haven’t been running that hard so I ignore it. Down to the first control, and down…and down. Now I know I missed it. Not much to relocate off, except that nice track at the bottom of the hill…. so I drop 13 contours below the control and come back up again. Control 2 was fine, 3 was easy, and then running to 4 I begin to feel really tired. Body in shut down. Knock back a gel, no difference. Suffering up every climb at a slow pace. Other orienteer’s run past me and there is nothing I can do about. Running through spectator I hear that Merz has run it in 58ish. He pasted me at control 4. Objective changes to not coming last. Forget about posting a respectable time, that ended on the way to number one.
You need a WOC to show you where you really stand – everyone brought their A game, at least it seems everyone did, but me. There will be more WOC’s.
Ruairi Short – long qualification
I ran the long qualification on the Monday. I felt good in the lead up, eating right and plenty of food so I was happy. Also relaxed and having fun with all the people there.
On the morning all went well until I realised that the pocket in my trousers wasn’t big enough to hold my compass, gel and gummy bears so I stuffed my compass down my sock, which I regretted later. I came to the start boxes and all was good, they were amazingly steep but I felt good. Then I got to the -3 box and put my descriptions into my hold and it broke! So I was like okay they’re on the map it’ll be ok. Then I look and see I’m still wearing my watch. I gave that to the organisers so all was well. I picked up the map and ran to the start kite where the Norwegian and Estonian I started with stopped dead while I ran up the hill wondering why they hadn’t picked a route choice for our nearly 2k first leg! The Norwegian soon ran past me again…
My race then went fine, I was quite clean with maybe 1min30sec of mistakes at most. The other guys were running super fast past me it was tough to keep motivation but I kept going. I got confused at a few controls when I looked at my control descriptions holder and failed to see descriptions, but it was only funny.My favourite part of the race was the flat bit after the spectator control where there were tons of single trees marked, I got all the controls really well while running strongly. Overall I found the course really tough and the winning times insanely fast but I’m really glad I went and experienced it!
The other event I ran was the mikrosprint. This was on the rest day before the long distance final and it was about a 400m course on a 1:750 map, very similar to orient-show. It was really fun with the winning time in my heat being 2:34(yes that is minutes!) and I was 2nd one second down! So I qualified for the final knocking out Oyestein Kvaal Osterbo, the Norwegian sprinter! The final was held about an hour later with all the crowd gathered around the control in the centre of the fountain! Standing at the start I could hear the exact time when the first starter jumped in from the raucous cheer! It again was really fun but I didn’t have nearly as good a run.
Nick Simonin – sprint qualification
After the long qualification I was really looking forward to the sprint as it is a totally different kind of race. As sprints go I knew that I am weaker at forest sprints then urban sprints. Was feeling very relaxed in the pre start area but trying to focus on key things to get mentally prepared for the race in the correct way.
Once in the start box I was fully focused on my own race but also feeling the nerves as I knew I had a good chance of qualifying if I got things right. We started in the main arena and heard that there was big time gaps in the results. Meaning it was technical and physical nothing I hadn’t prepared for already. Picked up the map and was straight into it. Saw only one route choice to the 1st control in my eyes. Straight and aiming slightly left of the control. lost 10sec on the way when I got a branch in my eye and couldn’t see for a few seconds. Hit the big re-entrant looked right and there was a control. All I thought was this better be my control or I aim screwed for want of a better word. It was, now I knew I was in business. Short 2nd control, spike. On the long leg to the third I got a chance to look ahead and saw lots of short legs and knew I had to be clean and take it easy. During these legs all I was staying to my self was “focus on technique and forget speed. Punching the 6th control(radio) I was with the Norwegian who started to same time as me. This was the first time I thought I had a shout of qualifying during the race. Reached the 12th control and was basically mistake free.
The 13th was tricky as it was in light green and very detailed area. Saw a control in the same feature but didn’t think it was mine however couldn’t ignore that it was on the same feature. Checked the code and it wasn’t mine ”shit”. Looked at the map for a pit in the area near my control. Found it and saw where I was, 20-30m short and slightly off line. About 10 sec lost. Nothing major. Still calm but because I rushed my self going into the 13th control I didn’t get a lot of time to plan to the 14th and took a straight route. Not even seeing the easier but longer route choice to the left around on the track. Had a plan but couldn’t see my attack point and panicked ran left to hit the track where my control should be and thought I was above it but was actually below it and ran the wrong way down the track. Saw the Italian who started 1 min behind me and realised he was on his was up to the control. Turned and found it. 30sec blown. I knew deep down then I was out but still tried to push and no give up. Ran the last part of the race cleanly and at a high tempo with the Italian. Gave it everything in the run in.I heard that the Italian was in 4th place so I guessed I was just in the top 15 but knew more guys where to come.
In the end I missed the final by 4sec. I was a bit disappointed but quickly saw the positives. To be so close and making the mistakes I did showed me that I am not that far from making finals at WOC with clean runs. To conclude WOC was a great experience and will stand to me for next year. Would like to thank Ivan for giving me this chance to get much needed experience. Also Kyle for doing a great job keeping us in line. Cheers.
Neil Dobbs — relay
With the Relay five days after the Middle Qualification, I had plenty of time to recover and let the excitement build and to talk trash with our American and Canadian friends! Dave got us off to a good start with a decent first leg, and after Nick headed out I began warming up in the sunshine. The legs felt great, and all was good! There was a nice patch of shade by the spectator control where we could follow the race while keeping cool.
Seeing Nick come up to the changeover after another strong run, only a couple of minutes down on USA and CAN, had me happy and determined setting off. The Canadian runner strangely underperformed, and he was passed and dropped early on. The fifth control was tricky and a race-changer, with many top runners losing time here. I caught Eddie (USA) here, and drew close to a couple of other teams. After a few controls in a low-visibility area I got ahead of the runners around, and stayed there until the thirteenth control, where a one-minute mistake allowed them catch up. It being a head-to-head race, I didn’t push hard on the big uphill to the next until we split up as we had different route gaffles. I floored it from there to the spectator control without seeing anyone.
From there I took it safe and steady as the nerves rose and rose, which until the third last worked fine. The broken ground and vegetation here made it hard to distinguish the mapped knolls, and I lost some time here in the circle. As I scratched my head the Portuguese runner arrived. I spotted and punched first and flaked it off. Happily I had the power left to get the final two controls fast and cleanly and finish a job well done by the team. 22nd out of 37 teams was by far our best result since 2004 (in Sweden), although three meritorious teams (FRA, NOR, CZE) finished behind us due to stopping to help an injured Swede.
Details of the World Championships are here.
Next year’s WOC is in Norway and some of the team hopefuls have already been training there. Read about them in the Senior O-Squad blog here, ( … though on my browser it looks for a password as the site allegedly contains links to drugs, alcohol and tobacco – highly unlikely, if you ask me! JMcC)

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