Thank you very much for the money towards clothing and cross country spikes. Last week on results day I secured my place to study industrial design at Loughborough University. So I have used the money to get myself the warm kit and spikes needed for up and coming cross country season. This is something which would have been very hard to do without your help due to huge costs of University. I will use the kit during training and races and I am now getting prepared for European cross country trails in Liverpool in November and then other important races in early 2016 such as Nationals and UK inter counties.
Apologies for the tardiness of this report- I have been on almost one continuous trip to train in terrain in Wales, Scotland and Switzerland, and I now finally write from home. This year’s European Youth Orienteering Championships was in the continental terrain and Urban climes of Cluj-Napoca, the capital of Transylvania in Romania. Blind optimism that the weather would be significantly better in Romania was frustrated when we were greeted by rain- for three days solid. In this time, we had a short trip out to the Long Model event the day before the long- what was clear is that some shoes with good grip would be needed to clamber up some very steep clay banks, reminiscent of terrain in the Forest of Dean.
The next day started early, as I had a 9.17 start (7.17 BST) on the 8.3k course with 300m of climb. I started solidly, navigating well through some technical sections which were definitely not present in the model event, and only dropping 30s due to mistakes for the first part of the course. My largest error came on the long leg- after drifting out of the control, hitting what was basically an impassable gorge of mud, I had to go round before losing my line again towards an open section, having to readjust and gain height. 3 minutes gone. Towards the end, my brain started to flag and I made some more small mistakes descending into a large valley. In total, I lost around 5 minutes and finished in 30th, which was a considerable improvement from last year (32nd) when I take into account the fact that I am now a ‘bottom’ year.
The relay was completely different, as the majority was open with dense patches of green, with a small area of forest similar to the previous day. I knew that I had lost some fitness after a period of illness prior to EYOC, but on my leg (3rd) I certainly felt it- the sun was beating down as my legs were trudging up the hills. I made a large mistake to #3, so despite gaining 2 places over the first two legs, I lost four just to that control! After navigating cautiously through some very rough green towards the end, I regained two places to retain 10th place.
Unusually, the sprint discipline came last, and was probably the most disappointing for me. Again, I had an early start (9.01), so I was making the first footfall out on the course. Nothing was really going wrong; I was running and navigating well until 200m from the end, where I made a very basic mistake to the run in control- a complete concentration lapse which cost me 20 seconds and 16 places. Although the gravity of the error wasn’t apparent to me initially, as other competitors started to come in it became clear that I had blown a potential top ten finish, so I was rather annoyed with myself (to say the least). However, the result as it stood was not one that I expected in the sprint discipline, which I would not say is my strongest distance. It was certainly a valuable lesson learned the hard way!
All in all, it was a great experience for racing against some of Europe’s best and I would like to once again thank the John Taylor Foundation for their kind contribution towards the cost of this trip. It is one thing to race against athletes in the UK and another to compete against the best in Europe (and arguably the World)- EYOC has definitely raised my ambition to being selected for the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Switzerland next year.
This summer a group of 11 British athletes travelled to St. Moritz in the Engadin valley of southern Switzerland. The 2016 Junior World Orienteering Championships are to be held in the area so this camp provided the perfect opportunity for us to gain experience of the terrain types we will face in a years’ time. The importance of orienteering in similar areas to those in which we will race cannot be understated. By the end of the week we hoped to have a grasp of the mapping style, what certain features looked like on the ground and how they were mapped. We would also discovered just how physically demanding the competition would be; with steep rocky slope orienteering, not to mention the altitude of over 1600m.
We flew to Milan Bergamo airport on Sunday. This gave me just enough time to drive the 7 hours home from the final day of the Scottish 6 days, pack, repack and grab a few hours of sleep before jumping on a train to Manchester airport. Travelling took up the entire day on Sunday and we eventually arrived at St. Moritz youth hostel after what seemed like hours of torturous hairpin bends where nothing but our headlights pierced the stormy Swiss night. On awaking we were greeted by the breath taking peaks that surround the town on every side. Everyone was tired after a tough week of racing in Scotland so we chose to go for an easy run to explore the town and do a lap of the lake. We also discovered the towns’ running track, free and open to all. Whilst we did a few running drills and stretches we watched elite athletics stars from across the world training framed by the imposing mountains that overlooked them. St. Moritz has become a favourite high altitude training camp for endurance athletes, used by the likes of Johnny and Alistair Brownlee. We were lucky enough to be joined by Jackie Newton and Bashir Hussain both experts on physical conditioning and training and racing at altitude. On Monday afternoon we got our first chance to run in the JWOC relevant terrain, this time it was middle relevant. The course was technically and physically challenging but most notable was the amount of rock underfoot making running difficult and running whilst reading your map near impossible.
Throughout the rest of the week we trained in areas relevant to all the disciplines, Long, Middle, Sprint and Relay. Each evening we participated in group discussions about the areas we had run on. These sessions were led by Mark Nixon whose technical expertise and international racing experience helped to identify what made the areas unique or not and how we could best prepare ourselves to perform well in such terrain. We ran a long distance model course in groups each taking different route choices and decided that large route choice legs would play a vital role in deciding the ultimate race winner. Possible track routes, straight options and amount of climb would all factor into decisions about which route was quickest. Making these decisions in oxygen debt and under the pressure of racing is difficult so by trialling different routes and throughout the year looking at Swiss races and route choices we can help form an idea about what makes a route quick and safe. Ultimately this will make the decisions during the race a lot easier. The Sprints were classic European old village areas with small alleys, irregular buildings and open squares. The middle and relay will be technical with rocks and complex contours, though will have fast sections between the small hills. Picking runnable lines through the terrain that also allow for easy navigation will be key to a good performance in these areas.
The trip was a lot of fun as well as vital for preparing for JWOC. Each day we swam in lakes or iced our legs in glacial streams. There was great team spirit and I think everyone began to dream of the perfect race next July. I’d like to thank the Coaches Mark, Jackie, Bash and also Allan Bogle. Without their hard work and dedication such trips would not be possible. I’d also like to thank the John Taylor Foundation whose generous grant helped to make this trip a reality for me. The grant has helped me to prepare the perfect training plan for 2016 and taken me closer to my goal of a top 20 at the Junior World Championships.
Finally I have included three things I will do this year to help me perform if selected for JWOC:
- Practice rocky slope orienteering – In Sheffield where I study areas such as Wharncliffe and Loxley common will be great to practice on.
- Get Fit – You simply have to be at peak fitness to handle the double hit of steep slopes and altitude. Hill reps, strength and interval sessions will be vital to get my body ready.
- Study Maps – Route choice is going to be key in a way unlike it is in British orienteering. Other than perhaps the Forest of Dean we don’t have many areas where round-about route choice and amount of climb is so crucial. To combat this I will look at how the ‘Continental Kings’ of orienteering do it. Looking at races and finding whose route was quickest and working out why will help get me ready for a Swiss style long distance.
The Junior World Orienteering Championships 2015 was held in Rauland, Norway in July. I had already been out there a month before to do some relevant training so I felt prepared. The team travelled out a few days before the races started to give us some time to settle in and visit some relevant training areas. The first race was the sprint which I wasn’t running in order to allow me to focus more on the forest races. I stayed behind at the team accommodation to rest up for my first race the following day.
The next day was the middle qualifier for which there are 3 heats with the top 20 from each to qualify for the A final. I knew that to qualify I didn’t have to do anything special, just have a solid race. I started steady but navigated well around the first few controls. But then the mistakes came. I can’t work out the exact cause but it was something in my head that wasn’t right as I know I can orienteer better than that. I think once I started making mistakes the pressure got to me and I found it hard to get back into it. It was not a good run and I finished somewhere in the 20s so did not qualify for the A final. After finishing 11th in the middle distance last year it was quite hard to accept that I hadn’t even made the A final this year.
The following day was the middle final. The long distance race was my main focus for the week so I had the tricky decision of whether to run the middle final to get a bit of confidence back or not run it to be better rested for the long. I decided I needed to run it and it went much better. I had a few time losses from non-optimal routes but on the whole it felt a lot cleaner and I finished 6th in the B final. Under less pressure I can still orienteer!
After a rest day, it was time for the long distance. Again I started steady and the first 3 controls were good. Number 5 was a very long leg so while trying to plan my route, I made a mistake at number 4. I shouldn’t have let that happen but I recovered well to run the long leg quickly. However after that it went downhill again with a few costly mistakes. I finished strongly but over the course I had lost a lot of time and finished a lot further down the results than I would have hoped. However the day wasn’t a total loss. It was very exciting for the whole team to spectate and cheer as Aidan Smith finished in 4th place, the best long distance result ever for a GB male at JWOC!
The week finished with the relay and I ran the last leg in the GB girls A team. Our first leg runner did a great job to come back in contention but unfortunately our second leg runner lost a lot of time so when I started I was a long way behind. I started in a small pack and at the exact same time as the Irish team so it was nice to have a friend on the start line! I had a really good run and an exciting race all the way around with the New Zealand team and we overtook Denmark 2 and Switzerland 2 which was satisfying. The result wasn’t what we wanted but I at least had finally had a run I was really happy with!
On the whole it was quite a disappointing week for me. As it was my third JWOC I think I was really feeling the pressure to deliver results where as in the past I have approached international competitions much calmer. This was my worst set of international results yet but I will learn from it and I still have one more chance left next year.
Thank you very much for the letter that I recently got confirming that the foundation has agreed to support me for the 2016 English Fell Running Series. I really appreciate your help towards the costs. As requested I will forward receipts etc at the end of the season. I have recently started a blog and have thanked the foundation on my blog. The link to my blog is: www.jenniwillison.com
This is an update on my season’s activity and performances so far.
Unfortunately I have been suffering with a few niggling injuries for the majority of the season, but have still been training hard. I have had an ankle issue which has now cleared up but I’ve also been suffering with tennis elbow, which has hampered my ability to throw the javelin and perform my best in competitions. However, I still train regularly with James Marshall (Excelsior), doing weight and speed training, as well as training at the track. Over the winter I have regularly travelled up to Loughborough university to train with David Parker (GB Javelin Coach), which has benefited my technique as well as my knowledge on what is required to become a great thrower.
I have also been attending the AASE (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) programme in Bath. There have been 6 workshops since Christmas that I have attended covering things like planning, preparation, psychological skills, nutrition, physio screening & 1:1 mentoring sessions with former international athletes. There are 4 more workshops after the summer with a graduation at Loughborough in December. These workshops have given me a really great insight into what becoming an international athlete involves, and has been invaluable in my development as an athlete.
Even with my injury, I’ve improved my personal best a few times this season. I also managed to win the Devon Schools trials and made it into the Devon team for the English Schools Championships in Gateshead, held last weekend, where I came 8th. I was pleased with this as it was a high level of competition and I threw a very consistent series of throws most just below my PB while managing my injury. I’m working hard on trying to rehab from my injury and hope to be back competing at a high level in a few weeks time. I have already started planning my winters training with James and also have further trips/training camps at Loughborough over the winter.
Many thanks again for supporting me, I am extremely grateful as it has enabled me to do all that I have done and get the extra bit of coaching/ training required to become an elite athlete.
Once again I’d like to thank you for the financial support you gave me for my participation in JWOC this year. I’m pleased to say I had a good run in the sprint discipline to finish 44th. The relay didn’t go quite so well but the experienced I gained from it along with training opportunities I received whilst in Norway are unforgettable and will help me to develop as an athlete and improve for the future in which I hope to compete again for Great Britain. Without your support it may have been impossible for me to go, and so I thank you again for your help in enabling me to have this experience.
The picture is of me competing in the sprint at this years JWOC.
I write to give you an update on Jessica and thank you again for the financial support that you provided her with at the start of this season. It has been a busy but amazing year for her, achieving many of the goals that she set herself at the start of the year.
She participated in 5 of the 6 rounds of the British Biathle series competing against some of the most talented runner / swimmers in the country. Her highlight was coming home 3rd at the Northwest leg in Wigan gaining her first British series medal. Overall in the series through consistency and determination to travel to the events around the country she finished the season in 4th position in her age category. Jessica would have done the sixth and final leg which was a home event if it was not for the call up to the Southwest Triathlon Team who where competing at an event on the same day. She also retained her call up to the GB Biathle World Tour squad visiting Portugal in the summer break and achieving a fifth position in her age group event
Triathlon is the event she decided to take up this year as her new event building on Biathles. It has been an amazing first year finishing in the top 3 of a number of events in the area. She also competed in the South West Championship series and finished the year in 3rd position. The pinnacle of the season was her selection by Triathlon Southwest to be part of the Inter Regional Team to compete in the Inter Regional Championships at the U20 Festival of Triathlon at Mallory Park. The experience will live with her for a long time as she competed on the same track as older youths challenging for GB Honours to go to the ITU event in Chicago. The 12 strong squad did very well at this event although not taking any individual honours came away with the bronze team award.
The support you provided was greatly received, helping her to attend 3 residential camps through the year and buy equipment upgrades to give her the best chance possible in the Triathlon series.
The Biathle and Triathlon series have now drawn to a close and the training regime has now started for next year along with competing in cross country in the hope of retaining her Somerset vest for the inter area championship early next year.
I have attached a picture for use on your website if you wish and again just wish to thank you for the support you have provided which has helped make this seasons events possible.
Karl & Allison Hudson
The Great Britain team traveled out to Rauland in the Telemark region of Norway on the 1st July in order to compete in the Junior World Orienteering Championships 2015. We spent the first few days getting used to the terrain and mapping in official training areas, and preparing mentally and physically for the upcoming competitions. This was particularly useful for me, having never orienteered in Scandinavia before, as it requires different skills and it was interesting to compare things such as running speeds in marshes and forest to assist with route choices later on.
My first race was the Sprint in the mountain town of Åmot. Due to an ankle injury which we now believe to be a stress reaction in the fibula, I was unable to run at my maximum speed for any of my races which was incredibly frustrating. However despite the sub-optimal physical preparation, I was able to focus on my navigation and mental preparation, meaning I gained a lot of valuable experience for next year.
I had no expectations for my performance in the Sprint and I just wanted to have a fluent run without mistakes, and to stay focussed on the navigation. Based on this target, my run was a success! I managed to execute each leg well, despite a few hesitations due to the tricky route choices (good course planning!). I took good routes (if not the best) to most controls, and it is only obvious that I lost significant time on 2 route choices. I finished in 34th place out of 135 and was 2nd British Girl. Although this year I was 2:30 mins down on the winner Simona Aebersold, I know there is room for improvement when my ankle recovers, and with some better route choices, so I aim for a top 20 position next year! All 4 British girls gained top 50 which was a great result considering we were all JWOC debutantes.
The middle distance is held over 2 races: qualification race and the final race on consecutive days. My aim this year was to qualify for the A final which required a top 20 position in my heat. Unfortunately on the morning of the race my ankle was significantly worse after racing the sprint so I was in pain on the rough ground and must have lost at least 2 minutes simply on reduced running speed. In addition I had lost some time near the beginning in an area of tricky green slope, and lost concentration on 1 control losing about 2 ½ minutes due to a compass error whilst making the transition from marsh to forest. After a tense wait, I found my final position to be 21st in my heat, an agonisingly close 5 seconds off 20th.
Due to my injury we decided it would not be beneficial to run the B final as there is no chance of a top 60 position and it could damage the ankle more. Instead I enjoyed watching those who were running.
I was spectating at the long distance too as I had not been selected to race it (partly due to the fact that long courses for W20’s are further than long courses for W16’s!!) The big screen in the arena showed GPS tracking and positions at radio controls whilst we waited nervously for our runners to come through the spectator control and into the finish. The day was particularly exciting as we watched Aidan Smith execute an amazing race to come 4th and to achieve the best British result ever in the mens long. It was certainly an inspirational performance, proving that we can beat the Scandis in their own terrain and gives me motivation for the future.
On to the relays: I changed from A team 2nd leg to B team 3rd leg on the physio’s advice as she didn’t want me to feel obliged to finish the race if my injury got worse (she had not actually expected me to finish the middle qualification even!). Unfortunately my teammates had a few disasters, meaning I had to start in the mini mass start. I rushed off and had left everyone in the mass start behind by the time I reached the start kite, even getting a joint fastest split on the first control. However the speed was not to last as I had a miss at the 3rd control which was in a tricky area of random knolls, and hesitated too early on some legs due to difficulty judging distance after a change of speed when transitioning between marsh and forest. As the forest was quite lonely, I didn’t have anyone to lead me into controls leading to some time lost in/near the control circle. I finished a bit disappointed, but aware that I had not mentally prepared well enough for the relay as I lost the focus on having a clean run and pushed for speed at the wrong points due to the team’s low position. I ended up 8th out of 19 on my gaffle, although I was up against some major contenders. I brought the team up some places, but it was not a great result!
Overall I had an amazing time. I am extremely grateful to The John Taylor Foundation for funding part of the trip as it has made this experience possible for me. I found it so inspiring and despite not being able to race at maximum capacity, I feel far more confident about my psychological preparation for the future, which is so important in orienteering. I got it right at times which gives me confidence, but lost focus at other times showing the impact on performance of not being in the right mind-set. I also thought the opportunity to race in such technical and challenging Nordic terrain was extremely useful for my development as an orienteer and I hope I will get the chance to race next year in Switzerland to improve my results, as well as to meet all my new friends again of course!
EYOC 2015-Cluj-Napoca, Romania
After an afternoon preparing for the races with the model evets on similar terrains, I was really excited for the three races which lay ahead.
The first race was the long. Having been expecting high temperatures when racing, it was a shock (and a bit of a relief) to wake up to find it pouring down with rain and temperature in the mid-teens. I had a steady run and was 24th until the penultimate control were I was caught out by an impassable fence meaning I dropped to 32nd overall.
The relay was the next day. I was selected to run first leg and was excited about the chance to race against some of the best girls in my age category. Unfortunately I got really lost going to number 2 and lost about 9 mins, meaning there was no chance of catching up with the pack. I came back really disappointed and felt like I had let my team down. I was soon cheered up though by a piece of watermelon and the first day of good weather we had had since arriving in Romania. Our team finished 21st.
Final race was the sprint. It hadn’t seemed too warm when we had arrived but whilst I was warming up I realised it was going to be a hot and tough race. I pushed hard all the way round, and although I may not have found all the best routes around the course, I was happy when I’d finished. I placed 40th.
I had a really great trip; experienced incredible new terrains, learnt so many valuable lessons and made loads of new friends from around Europe. Thanks you very much for the grant which helped towards the cost of the trip, without such grants it would be extremely hard to compete at high levels and internationally.