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One of the ways to win a race is to perform at your best when it’s needed. That’s what I planned for today, and that’s how it worked out.
I don’t have much time for training nowadays, but I know how to use my time effectively and how to prepare for a competition. The last few months have all been focused on this event, on running a bit faster and climbing the hills without flagging. With a 3 minute deficit from day one I planned to give everything, all the way.
I started the 6.9 km course late, and knew the result I needed in order to overtake my good friend Oded Verbin, who beat me yesterday. The course was long distance style, which I like, but also technically demanding. I had a few small misses but nothing really bad, and at control 17 I already knew that I had won. Physically I felt fantastic, and I think I haven’t put so much effort into a race for years, but it paid off – first place in H40 in the Israeli Championships, for the fourth time (out of five attempts), at the age of almost 49.
The updated map of Ben-Shemen forest is quite good, but I didn’t like the drawing – too many black dots, and the contours still have the LIDAR squiggles. There were also a few significant unmarked features, most obviously a large cliff next to control 13.
A quick look at the split times gives me the impression that my competitors started quite fast but slowed down, and my splits get better (comparatively) as the course progresses. That reinforces my belief that my running ability made a difference.
My headcam video from the first day is now online here.
Most of my orienteering is for fun. I usually run H35 because it’s the longest (and therefore most enjoyable) course available, I don’t care about any rankings, and I do my best because the satisfaction of a good run is part of the fun.
But I’ve always loved the thrill and pressure of competition, and in this year’s Israeli Championships I had three choices: H35 (no chance of winning), H45 (probably win easily), or H40 – where there’s stiff competition but I am capable of winning and would be disappointed to miss out on the podium. I decided a long time ago that I would run H40, and that’s what I’ve been training for.
Today was day one – shorter courses than usual (“middle” distance) on a new map of an old area -Tarom / Tel Zor’a. This is actually my third championship here, after 1991 and 2005. The terrain is steep, stony and green, very green, and the running was slow, but the map is very good and the course was technical and challenging. I had a good run physically, but made a few mistakes, notably at control 9 where I lost around 3 minutes, and I finished third in 52:57. I ran with my headcam so there will be a video later on.
The top two are just over 50 minutes, 4th is less than a minute behind me, and 12th place is still less than 10 minutes back, so tomorrow is going to be thrilling. The courses in Ben-Shemen forest are longer, and some of the terrain is apparently just as tough, so anything can happen. I still hope to win, and definitely to stay on the podium.
We’re orienteering as a family almost every weekend now, if the weather is right. A couple of weeks ago we did a course in the sand dunes near the coast (with all four children). The highlight was that Matan (now 2 and 8 months), who has always been in a carrier on my back most of the course, decided after the first control that he wanted to walk by himself, and stayed on his own two feet almost until the end. It was great fun.
Roni and the three smaller children
Then last Saturday there was a national event at Segev. I ran early and then Roni arrived with the kids. The H35 course was long (10.3 km) and tough physically, but much too easy on the orienteering. Despite that, I enjoyed the run and it was a good rehearsal for the next race – the Israeli Championships.
We then did part of the family course, with Matan again choosing to walk by himself, and it was great (even though my legs were knackered from the race and I had to carry him when he tired). The children love the forest and nature, and of course looking for controls, and we don’t feel as if we’re dragging them with us to events because we want to run. This Saturday we’ll do it again…
A year ago, when I finished organising the third ever 100+ control event in Israel, I said that the time has come to participate in one, so someone else has to do the job.
Daniel Raz-Rotschild and Yochai Sheffi took it on themselves, and provided us with a 124 control event in Ben-Shemen forest. It wasn’t the most suitable terrain in my opinion, it was cold, the forest was soaking wet, and it was worth it – almost 3 hours of pure concentration and fun. Now I know what the other orienteers felt like when I sent them out on these courses!
Physically I didn’t have any problems (the course was 13.8 km), but the orienteering was something else. I can’t read a 1:10,000 map clearly while running, so in many cases I trusted my instincts instead of stopping to read the map (or the tiny control descriptions) with a magnifier, and usually it worked. I wanted to finish under 2.5 hours, but after losing 12 minutes to control 35 I gave up on that and my final time was 2:49:52.
Control 35 was a mess, and it took me 6-7 controls afterwards to recover my flow. I couldn’t distinguish between any of the green stuff on the map, attacked it three times, and found it while wandering around after the third time. According to the GPS it was located correctly, so I have no complaints and should probably have walked in properly by compass and pacing from the path junction after a couple of minutes.
Thanks guys, and thanks to all your club members who helped out. Your record won’t stand for long – I’ll get bored and set up 150 controls within a few years…
This area, about 15 minutes from home, was first mapped about 20 years ago, then again in 2006, and now has a new map made using LIDAR by Ziv Noiman. Basically it’s a steep slope with some rocky features, but there are some nice contours and now that the embargo for the first race there is over I have an excellent training area available when I feel like it.
Saturday’s national event was physically tough, but fun. The 1:7500 map was easy on my eyes, the undergrowth was nonexistent (no rain yet), and the course was very good. I ran H35 and finished 4th, so I don’t yet feel the need to race at my own age. Maybe when I’m 50…
I especially liked the long leg – something which we usually don’t have, because the courses aren’t really long. I didn’t like the lack of water – only at control 14, after almost an hour of running, on a warm, dry and windy day. I felt strong, had a good race, and finished the 8.1 km course (with 390m climb) in 71:45.
Afterwards Roni arrived with the kids and we walked the children’s course (about 1 km), which was excellent for Alon – short enough and with interesting controls. There are quite a few national events in our area this season, so we can travel to some of them in two cars. One of us will run early each time, and then the rest of the family arrives and the children can enjoy the forest instead of being bored while both of us run in turns. Next season will be easier, because Matan will be bigger and we’ll have to carry only Yael, so one of us can walk the family course with all three smaller kids while the other is running.
Last weekend I organised a mini-rogaine (only 4 hours) in Birya Forest, which is a very steep and very nice area that contains three separate orienteering maps. My work was divided into two parts:
- Mapping a small extension, planning and marking controls, and redrawing parts of the existing MTBO map (which I made ten years ago).
- Using my BI (Business Intelligence) skills, which I usually get paid for, to create a dynamic analysis of the results on Tableau Public. Most of the preparation was done in advance, with a sample data set, and after the event I just had to switch the data and add some finishing touches.
The results, of both efforts, were successful. 180 orienteers enjoyed the event, in almost perfect weather conditions, and there were none of our usual mishaps (controls stolen, emptied water controls, not enough maps, etc.). The feedback on the results was good as well, and the nice thing is that I can now reuse the code for future events. Below is a sample screenshot, and clicking on it will link you to the interactive results – all the explanations and headings are in English, but the team names are in Hebrew.
The IOF recently published an article about an orienteering project in Palestine (http://orienteering.org/map-project-in-palestine/), around the village of Battir in the West Bank. It made for interesting reading, but the last paragraphs are frustrating:
“After converting the orienteering map, Hervé Quinquenel hoped that someone could take the orienteering project in charge, but sadly he could not find anyone competent and motivated enough in the area. The hope is not lost though:
– My dream is to find someone that could bring orienteering to life in Battir certainly, but also in the surrounding areas. Imagine the old cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem for the World Orienteering Sprint Championships. They would surely be incredible places, exclaims Hervé Quinquenel.”
Battir (the blue circle on the map) is located right on the official border between Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy (the dashed line). Just across that border, 1 km to the north, is the map of Yad Kennedy, which has been used several times for orienteering events. Even closer, to the west, is the forest of Mavo Beitar, which was partially mapped in 2007, until the Czech mapper Tom Novak was attacked and injured by Palestinians (apparently trying to steal his car) and quit the job. He hasn’t returned to Israel since. Last week there was an orienteering event in Efrat, a Jewish settlement within the occupied territories, just south of Battir. And of course there are several maps in the western part of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, unless there is a major change in the situation, there is little chance of cooperation with the orienteers in Battir. For us Israelis it is considered unsafe to travel into Palestinian villages, while they would need special permits to cross the border into Israel. There are several organizations that promote relations between Israelis and Palestinians and could probably set up some sort of cooperation, but someone would have to get them involved.
Meanwhile, we can dream. And maybe the next time we visit Roni’s relatives in the village of Ora, just north of Battir, I’ll open up Hervé’s map and a pair of binoculars and try some armchair orienteering.
Stuff I did (not blog about) during the summer:
- 16th April: Our annual club relay. In my opinion it was nothing special (wrong type of terrain for this time of year?), and for the first time I wasn’t club chairman so I didn’t have to organise all the teams. My team finished 5th in the open category, our women won for the fourth year in a row, and for me the highlight was Roni leading our second women’s team to fifth place while over 6 months pregnant.
- 19-20th May: I participated in the Mountain to Valley relay race, which is basically a 24-leg, 215 km trail run for teams of 4, 6 or 8. I was the fastest runner on our team from work, and one dropped out, so in the end I ran 4 legs instead of 3. My first leg was a really fast and flat 11 km, but the interesting part was running legs 14-15 at night – 17 km, mostly in forest on the orienteering maps of Zippori and Shimshit which I know very well. I finished with leg 23, which is also on a map (Kfar Hahoresh) but mostly an uphill slog, so not fun.
- 4th June: There was supposed to be an event in the Circassian village of Kfar Kama on this date, and I had just finished the map. It’s a very nice village with some intricate winding alleys, so I had agreed to do the work even though I don’t really like sprint mapping. At the last moment, someone woke up to the fact that it was the Ramadan month, so the event was postponed to September, and then somehow it got called off altogether. I’m sure the map will be used one day.
- 26th June: ISOA general assembly. Matan was born on the day of the assembly two years ago. No such luck this time…
- 14th July: Yael is born.
- 15th July: End of season prize-giving, swimming pool and sprint course at Sarid, which is very near home. Roni was resting in hospital and the boys were with their grandparents, so I had permission to go. The course was nice, but it’s too hot here in July.
- 29th July: Ziv Noiman, our “General Secretary” for over 20 years, celebrated his 50th birthday with a 50-control training in the town of Kfar Yona. Still too hot, and too long as well (I ran about 9km on the course), but at this time of year any orienteering is refreshing. I’m planning something more impressive for my 50th birthday (a 50 km relay?), but there’s still some time.
- 10th September: We had this Saturday reserved for the Kfar Kama event (see 4th June), so in order not to waste it I had three weeks to plan and execute a small forest event on my map of Birya West, which is high enough in the hills to mitigate some of the heat. Going out into the forest was fun, and there were over 200 participants.
- 23rd September: I ran a 15 km track race “Beshvil Habanim” organised by the Druze community on Mount Carmel. My time was just over 75 minutes – I run faster, but there’s a very steep uphill near the end which kills off the pace (total climb is over 300m).
- 24th September: Yael’s first orienteering event. We did the family course at Ilaniya – Yael (2 months) on Roni, Matan (2) on my back, Alon (5) on his own two feet, and Ayala (13) independently with a friend.
- 1st October: A small training event on Yokneam Slopes, which is very near home so I went. The map had paths removed, so it was quite challenging. It’s probably one of the least suitable areas for removing the paths from the map, because much of the terrain is steep, green, featureless slopes with paths contouring around, but at this time of year you take what you can get.
I’m working now on a mini-rogaine in Birya Forest on November 5th, and of course gearing up for the start of the competitive season. With three small children, we’ll be picking and choosing our events even more than last season, but I hope to reach most of the national events and compete in the championships.
I haven’t blogged for half a year, but I’m still here and orienteering. The summer was long and mostly O-less, but our new year has just arrived and I’m gearing up to face all the new challenges and get out into the forest as much as possible.
The greatest new challenge: Yael, my fourth child and second daughter, now 3 months old. Note that I now have a full mixed relay team, but that doesn’t make getting to the events any easier.
I’m also feeling my age (48, for those of you who’ve stopped counting). I took a really long break from training at the beginning of summer, because I felt my body needed it, and I’m trying out some new training methods for my running. At the moment everything looks good, but I still haven’t decided if I’ll compete this season in H45 (probably not – too short), H40 (where I’ll be competitive), or H35 (the most fun, but no chance of a podium).
Work is a challenge as well. Over the past year I’ve phased out gradually from a fixed position at one customer to consulting for multiple customers, some far away and some from home (though I’m still working for the same company). This means my schedule is different every week and can include lots of travelling. Roni’s schedule will also be a mess, though easier, once she finishes maternity leave in a few weeks: she’s finishing her studies as a maths teacher, starting to teach, and still two days a week at her old job. She’s also back running and cycling for her health (and fitness, very soon), and that has to fit in with my training as well.
I’ve made a few new year’s resolutions, and one of them is to stop neglecting my blog, so there will be lots of updates coming up. Next: a brief summary of the last 6 months.
This rogaine started a year ago, when it was cancelled due to the heat and air pollution. I immediately informed Itay Manor, who I am coaching and is one of the best orienteers in the country, that he should plan on participating, because Roni and I were already planning another child and I knew we wouldn’t be able to run together.
Then it was decided that the national team would have a training camp with their foreign coach on the date of the rogaine, and a month before, after I finally gave up on my efforts to get the date changed (and we weren’t the only team affected), I was left without a partner. I called up Ronen Shurer from my club, who is probably the closest to me in ability (we’re almost level in the H35 rankings), and he agreed readily. A week later his employer rescheduled a business trip for that date, and I was alone again.
After a few phone calls to potential partners from the orienteering scene, I started thinking “outside the box” and checked up with Veronika Ulychny, who is in our work team for the Mountain to Valley relay (coming up in a couple of months – 8 runners, 24 legs, 200+ km) and theoretically the second fastest on the team after myself. She’s younger than me (30), runs marathons and goes trekking and climbing, and she agreed to participate as my teammate with only two weeks notice.
So there we were on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, with some light rain just starting on a cloudy day, ready for an 8-hour rogaine. I was as ready as I could be, hoping to hold up better than all the previous times, praying that Veronika could run in terrain as well as I expected. I also knew that we were going to battle Noam and Naomi Ravid, as usual, for first place in the “mixed” category.
Our planning was based on an estimated straight line pace of 4.5 km/hour, or 36 km overall. The route we planned was 34.5 km, so there was margin for error, and we had a plan for extending it if we were really fast.
We could have won. During the race I made three orienteering mistakes that cost us 11 points, and we lost to Noam and Naomi by 9 points. None of the mistakes would have happened if I’d had an experienced orienteer such as Itay or Ronen beside me, but Veronika was orienteering for the first time in her life. She can read a map well, but obviously I had to make all the decisions and I didn’t expect her to have the confidence to second-guess me on any of them, though I consulted with her and explained all the route choices.
First, we missed our first control, number 81 (8 points). It was in thick forest, the map had lots of missing features, and after looking around for a few minutes with a few other teams I decided to cut our losses and continue. The planner has admitted to being partly at fault, and the features on the map are too small for my eyesight, but we didn’t get the control and that’s it.
Secondly, I made a parallel error at 83 (stopped for gel after a steep climb and restarted somewhere else…) and lost around 10 valuable minutes.
Third, I decided to skip control 53 between 93 and 84 (the only actual change to our plan), but didn’t notice that the new route needed only a small detour to collect no. 33 (3 more points) as well.
After about 6 hours my knees started acting up, and my running ability slowly deteriorated to the level where I had severe pain running downhill and a bit less on the flat (we weren’t running uphill anyway). Luckily the last hour was mostly uphill, and Noam and Naomi went past us at the last control (74) so we knew they were in front and I could walk the steep downhill to the finish, where we arrived with two minutes to spare.
We finished 5th overall and 2nd in our category with 122 points. It rained only at the start, we dried out after a couple of hours, and the weather was perfect (cool and cloudy) the rest of the time. My GPS logged 49.1 km and almost 1300m climb, though Veronika’s died out showing 49.5 km about 15 minutes before the end, so maybe we ran over 50. We filled up with water only once (at E), and ate lots of gels and some other stuff.
Veronika was magnificent. Physically she held up much better than me and was skipping around at the end as if she’d just finished the warmup. Her shoes were not suited for terrain, but she didn’t complain even once. She was on my heels wherever I led her into the bush just like an experienced orienteer. In the first hour something got into her eye and she carried on for the rest of the race with one eye mostly shut, despite our best attempts to wash it – afterwards the doctor diagnosed it as a scratch and gave her a few days off work… She also had one bad fall (it looked bad to me) and carried on as if nothing had happened. I’ll be eternally grateful to her for agreeing to come on this adventure at such short notice and enabling me to participate.
Next year Roni will be back, even if it’s just at walking pace, and I’ll be with her. I went further than before this time, despite being a few years older, and I know how to get even better, so maybe I can still run a painless rogaine before I get too old.
Thanks to Pavel Levitsky for the planning, and to Noam Ravid for the mapping. Let’s hope that there are many more rogaines like this one!