Injury Worries

My knee injury, which happened this time last year after I plunged my foot down a rabbit role while racing in a National, has recurred. The timing is unfortunate, as I’ve really come into fitness in the last few weeks, and seen my speed steadily increase. My injuries however always seem to happen after periods of relatively intense activity.

Unfortuantely I aggravated the injury further by attempting to run in the British Student Champs last week (more to follow on that.) The pain got too much after running down a bank and I had to bail out of a race I’d been looking forward to for several months. Even walking back to the start was exceedingly painful. Orienteering’s premier season really kicks off in a couple of weeks, so the timing just couldn’t have been worse.

Anyway I didn’t do any orienteering this weekend (I missed a club league event at Esher) and I’ve taken the last few days extremely lightly. I’m just hoping I’ll be able to run in the JK (Britain’s biggest event this year) over Easter. My form will have completely gone with no exercise in the build up, but that’s less important as long as I can actually make it into the forest!

C’est la vie.

Event: Parham Woods, Pulborough

Parham Extract 1District Event (SO), 29 Feburary 2004 – This was on a map not used for 25 years, and what a gem it is. I was running Brown (the top course) and after getting covered in tree sap following an initial few legs through very rough coniferous forest, the area opened out into a very nice, “lost forest” section that we were lucky enough to run through twice. I didn’t make many significant mistakes (save the one highlighted below) and had another good run – after last week’s good run also, I was starting to feel I’d found my form for this season. (And then I go and get injured the following day, more on that in a later entry…) The really pleasant section is shown in the map extract on the right. As you can see, it isn’t all that technical at all, but there’s enough in there to make it

Parham Extract 2My result: 8.24km/115m – 67:53 (8.2 mins/km). Full results are here.

One annoying mistake I made (annoying as it was a careless one and was just a result of me starting to tired near the race end) was overshooting on the approach to number 22. For some reason I forgot to check my compass, hit the
marsh leading into 23, and proceeded along that, expecting to find 22. Of course, 22 is actually not really in a marsh at all – more of a slight ditch, and so I had to retrace my steps – 60-90s lost there.

Event: Hindleap Warren, Ashdown Forest

Regional Event, 22 February 2004 – I turned up and ran the open short course (M21S) on this rather attractive map – my first experience of the delights of Ashdown Forest in the South Downs. The warren itself is nearly inpenetrable as it’s very thickly vegetated (or “green” in O-speak.) However the surrounding sections consist of extremely pleasant, lightly forested woodland. The area is quite steep for Southern England, and I was expecting a slow time (225m of climb for the short course is much more than normal) but I got around pretty fast. A couple of legs were so attractive, that if the whole map had been like this, I wouldn’t hesitate to place this forest in my Top 10 UK areas of all time.

Hindleap Warren extractI had a near faultless run, just a little slow as usual. The extract shows on of my favourite legs – on running from 9 to 10, I crossed the good open ground on the left and ran straight down the wide ride running east, peeling off at the last possible moment. The terrain was suprisingly heathery – it could have been part of Scotland.

My result, for 7.1km/225m – 57:42 (8.1 mins/km.) I finished 2nd which was a nice result and my highest for a long time. (Full results here.) It really didn’t feel like 225m of climbing at all. My energy at the finish though was somewhat tempered though by the thought of the impending 4 mile walk back to the train station.

My Ten Favourite UK Areas

Me in The Trossachs[This article originally appeared on my main weblog, but has been updated several times since.] I’ve been meaning to make this list for a while, as I’ve now run in around 150 areas around the country, in the last 8 or so years. Here are the top 10 UK areas I’ve run on, and the worst one too… Free to add your own choices as comments.

Right: A photo of me, aged 10, climbing in the Trossachs – long before I did any orienteering there! Below: A detail from the Trossachs map.

In reverse order:

10. Ham Hill, SW England
Fast but interesting with some odd statues and a nice view from the monument at the top of this oddly shaped hill.

9. Epping Forest East, SE England
There are several orienteering maps covering Epping Forest and I’ve enjoyed all of them. Epping Forest East in particular is a great area. I ran here in late Autumn, on a cold but sunny day. The forest is just beautiful, with lovely glades, grand old trees, little vegetation, and lots of open sections. It is also a devilishly technical area. I got severely lost when I was here, in a highly, highly confusing bit. Orienteers don’t like getting lost, but they do like maps that have to make them think. The area is all the more amazing considering it’s inside the M25, so it really isn’t far away at all.

8. Bigland, Lake District
A wonderful mix of steep, technical woodlands, large, detailed moorland, and open grassland making it a very spectator friendly area. Bigland is a big area, appropriately enough, and has a bit of everything. Despite a howling blizzard at one point, I really enjoyed my race there.

7. Holyrood Park, SE Scotland
Sure it’s hardly a very technical area, but it is steep, suprisingly big, the views are superb, and best of all it’s right in the heart of beautiful Edinburgh, right beside the new parliament.

6. Roseisle Forest, North Scotland
Superb running in this fast, coastal forest in Moray. The lack of vegetation on the ground means it’s easy to glide through the trees. The northen end is more intricate, the southern end is exceptionally fast. And there’s a lovely beach, stretching for many miles. Gorgeous.

The Trossachs5. Anagach Wood, North Scotland
This is a small but very attractive area, it’s flat with glacial moraines, and there’s a scattering of ancient pine forest mixed in with the newer trees. It has a very Scandinavian feel to it – the only downside is the large number of cold marshes!

4. Archerfield, SE Scotland
This was my first ever area, so this is a nostalga entry really. I ran a yellow and then light-green course the same day, back in 1995. Sadly, these days much of the estate is off-limits, but I’ve been back to the sand-dune bit recently for a ‘Hagasby’-style relay.

3. Burnham Beeches and Egypt Woods, SE England
Wonderful silver birches and beech woodland, flat but not too flat, dry and fast. I was injured when I was there, so had the time to walk around and apprieciate it.

2. Creag Mhic Chailein, West Scotland
I’ve only run here once, in the British Champs in 1996. I remember a very challenging course, but a lovely contrast between rolling, varied moorland, and broken, ancient Caledonian pine forest, with intricate morainne features.

1. Trossachs, Central Scotland
A beautiful area, both physically and technically amongst the toughest in the UK. Extremely steep and intricate, the map is a work of art to look at. I’ve never actually completed a race here without retiring, despite three attempts, so for that reason it is also one of my worst areas. But it is the number one area I want to return to – it really is worth travelling the length of the country to run here.

And my worst area:
Linn of Tummel, Central Scotland
A lovely place, but I spent an awful 2 hours falling down grassy slopes and then giving up, 50% of the way around the course, only to find about 10 blood-sucking ticks on my legs. Eurgh!

Varsity Match History

This is a table of the individual and team winners of the annual Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity orienteering match. The earlier races are compiled from the VM archive page on the CUOC website. See also OUOC‘s website.

This table originally appeared here in early 2003. It is regularly updated to include results from subsequent years.

Men Women
Year Team Individual Team Individual Location
1972 Cambridge Cardiff (BUSF)
1973 Cambridge Newcastle (BUSF)
1974 Cambridge David Rosen Buckinghamshire
1975 Oxford Tak Sugiyama Hertford
1976 Oxford Tak Sugiyama Lancashire
1977 Oxford Hilary Beck Cambridge Allyson Reed Cannock Chase
1978 Cambridge Chris Hurst Cambridge Allyson Reed Surrey
1979 Oxford Chris Hurst Cambridge Allyson Reed Wiltshire
1980 Cambridge Chris Hurst Cambridge Mary Ockenden Surrey
1981 Cambridge Martin Elgood Cambridge Allyson Reed Sheffield
1982 Cambridge Dave Nevell Cambridge Allyson Reed Surrey
1983 Cambridge Quentin Harding Cambridge Karen Birkinshaw Surrey
1984 Cambridge Quentin Harding Cambridge Sarah Kelly Derbyshire
1985 Cambridge Quentin Harding Oxford Cathy Smith Hampshire
1986 Oxford Rob McMillan Oxford Rona Yard Lancashire
1987 Oxford Steve Nicholson Oxford Ann Heyworth Swansea
1988 Cambridge Steve Nicholson Cambridge Ann Heyworth Alderley Edge
1989 Cambridge Steve Nicholson Cambridge Jenny James Cleveland
1990 Cambridge Simon Bourne Cambridge Jenny James South Yorkshire
1991 Oxford Paul Warren Cambridge Heather Monro Sussex
1992 Oxford James Pearce Cambridge Heather Monro Coventry
1993 Cambridge James Pearce Oxford Moira Hadwen Birmingham
1994 Cambridge Tim Lenton Oxford Jenni Adams Cumbria
1995 Cambridge Keith Graetz Oxford Jenni Adams Cannock Chase
1996 Oxford Duncan Archer Cambridge Ann Collyer Fontainebleau, France
1997 Cambridge Eric Roller Cambridge Christine Ashton Cumbria
1998 Oxford Duncan Archer Cambridge Catherine Ashton Shropshire
1999 Cambridge Mark Bown Cambridge Rachael Elder Merthyr Mawr
2000 Cambridge Alex Rothman Oxford Rachael Elder New Forest
2001 Oxford Mark Bown Oxford Rachael Holmes New Forest
2002 Cambridge Mark Bown Cambridge Rachael Elder Stockholm, Sweden
2003 Oxford Ed Catmur Oxford Pippa Whitehouse North York Moors
2004 Oxford Ed Catmur Oxford Pippa Whitehouse Wimbledon Common, London
2005 Oxford Ed Catmur Oxford Cerys Manning Stockholm, Sweden
2006 Cambridge Alan Elder Cambridge Helen Gardner Leith Hill, Surrey
2007 Cambridge Joe Mercer Oxford Helen Gardner Wharncliffe Wood, Sheffield
2008 Oxford Joe Mercer Oxford Helen Gardner Uppsala, Sweden
2009 Oxford Ben Stevens Oxford Liz Bridge Epping Forest
2010 Oxford Matt Halliday Oxford Anne Edwards Penhale
2011 Oxford Peter Hodikinson Cambridge Mairead Rocke Supi Hora, Czech Republic
2012 Oxford Peter Hodikinson Cambridge Mairead Rocke Burnham Beeches
2013 Oxford Peter Hodikinson Cambridge Jessica Mason Tankersley
2014 Stockholm, Sweden
Totals 20 O-C 22 20 O-C 20 15 O-C 22 15 O-C 22 40 Matches

Event: Swinley Forest, Bracknell

15th February at Swinley Forest, Bracknell (BKO) – The Concorde Chase.
1964a.jpgThis was off the back of a large hangover from the Valentines’ Night bop at Oxford. Fresh off the train, I was feeling a bit rough. The area was, despite being very flat, rather uninspirational, and dare I say it even, boring. Indeed, I really gave up bothering to get a good time in, about half way around. Although perhaps that’s just the alcohol speaking. Or the fact we were using the ungainly EMIT bricks for the electronic punching, rather than the de-facto standard, and more user-friendly SportIdent system. Oxford were out in force too though, so I had plenty of splits to compare with for my course. They also kindly gave me a lift back to Ascot – cheers guys!

My result: M21S (7.3km, 50m climb): 65:56. 9.0 mins/km. I really should have done better, but… I just didn’t care today.

The map extract shows one of the more interesting sections of the course – Control 12 was up a steep slope here. The area in general however was more tedious than it looked – very bleak, very military.

Event: Wimbledon Common, London

7th February at Wimbledon Common (JOK) – The Varsity Match 2004.
1961b.jpgAfter last year’s triumph with the Oxford team, and a half blue later, this year I was running for the
ex-Oxford club, JOK. Despite Wimbledon being down the road from where I live, I still managed to start late. The area is very nice, with some attractive, remote sections in the middle, though with a rather scrappy northern section. The courses made good use of all Wimbledon Common has to offer. No Wombles spotted, but the common was clean so they must be doing their work.

My result: Men’s A (11.4km): 100:15. 8.8 mins/km, not too shabby I thought on the back of no exercise, but a bottom 20% result due to all the l33t Oxford runners about, and the fact that the course got dark for my final three controls.

The map extract above shows one of the more interesting (if green) parts of the course. I overshot quite badly coming to Control 3 – due to the intricate brown detail mixed in amongst the green – and also at Control 4 – this was a case of just climbing too high up the rather subtle slopes. The yellow area shown is part of a golf course, which we weren’t allowed one, hence the rather interesting shape.

I missed the relays due to mis-timing the distance to Waterloo… So the GS-JOK team ended up with one member doing the first and last legs. Sorry Alan!

January Training Log

A very lazy month for orienteering, characterised by either not bothering to get out of bed for events, missing crucial trains, or turning up on the wrong day for the event… I also lay low to nurse a minor injury – my chest muscle, believe it or not, got strained in the Yellowcraigs event in December, causing much worry and needless concern (the pain was in the region of the heart!) As with most muscle injuries, staying indoors and taking it easy was the cure. I did however finally get around to going to the company gym that I had signed up for in November. And very nice it is too. I overdid one of the exercises though (often happens for a first time in comfortable surroundings) and felt it the following day.

Event: Yellowcraigs, East Lothian

28th December 2003 at Yellowcraigs (ELO) – The Festive Frolic.
I’ve probably orienteering at Yellowcraigs the most of any map – perhaps 10 times (The Frolic’s an annual event, always on this map, and I’ve been orienteering for very nearly a decade now.) This year the event was a one hour
score, but you had to solve a riddle for each control, then visit them in alphabetical order (you could have visited them all randomly and then re-run in the correct order, but this would have doubled the race length.) The clues were pretty hard, and I didn’t get further than “P” before running out of time. The best strategy in retrospect would have indeed been to visit all the controls in tight order, note down their letters and then re-run the course in race order – while it would have been the winning strategy it would also have been very tiring! Needless to say, a former club contemporary and British Team member, Murray Strain, would have won this event easily, but for a technicality. Indeed this is probably the only event ever where I finished further up the scoreboard than he did…

My result: 16 controls in 59 minutes. The results are here.

No map extract I’m afraid as I’ve left my map at the family home in Scotland…

Event: Westerham Chart, Sussex

Westerham Chart Regional Event (DFOK) on Sunday 7th December 2003
121203_1619detail.jpgLast weekend I was at a district event near Westerham – a very attractive village in the
North Downs just south of London. Just south of Westerham is Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s country estate. A prominent statue of the leader lies on Westerham village green.

The orienteering itself ranged from the mediocre to the superb. I had a pretty slow race, this was because several times during the race I stopped to let people that were following me around, get ahead. There’s few things worse in an orienteering event than people following in your footsteps, while you do the thinking. Orienteering is, by design, a rather unsociable sport, and the best performances can happen when there’s no one else out on the course. Any
advantage gained by spotting competitors around control points is normally more than compensated by minutes wasted being distracted by people on other courses, running in all directions.

The map was in several sections, interrupted by various country lanes. The start and finish area was in a superbly technical section, with a melee of paths and vegetation changes guaranteed. It was a shame this area wasn’t used more for the longer courses. The middle section was running around (not through!) a hugely intimidating area of inpenetrable forest, or “dark green” in orienteering lingo. The extract below shows one such bit of green horror. This was followed by a fast but unmemorable section along flat, easy paths and clear forests, returning through an interesting, very physical section, sadly also underused, to the intricate section for the end.

131203_1618green.jpgIn all, it was a slow performance by myself, mainly because I was trying to improve my technical skill (tough to do with others following) but also because of a nasty chest cold I’ve been suffering from a lot recently (no, parents, I’m not dying, just very unfit.) The weather was great for orienteering – very cold and frosty, but sunny.

My result: Brown, 7.7km – 75.02 (9.7 mins/km). The results page is here.

This weekend I’m taking a rest from orienteering, but I’m hoping to compete in a final event next Sunday in Southern England, before heading back up to Scotland for a Christmas break.