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Aidan Smith โ€“ Orienteering – 2010

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EYOC 2010 and Cairngorm Camp


EYOC is the European Youth Orienteering Championships, for M/W16s and 18s. It comprises of a Long, Relay and Sprint race. I was selected to represent Great Britain in the M16 team. EYOC 2010 was in Spain, in Soria, a city in the mountains about 200km north east of Madrid. This was my first time representing GB, and so had all the associated nerves, anticipation, and of course the excitement of getting GB kit.

t was a brilliant experience of international racing. Things such as quarantines, pre starts, warm up maps, not seeing the finish beforehand, were very different to what is normally found in orienteering events in the UK, so it was good to get used to the way races are run internationally.

In the Long distance I finished 15th. Iโ€™d been having a very good run through the first half of the course, and was 2nd at the 7th control. Then things sort of fell apart. I lost concentration on the way to 8, and as the terrain had changed and become much rockier, I needed both hands to climb the rocks so wasnโ€™t map reading. I reached the top of the main block of crags unsure where I was. I thought I was too far south, so headed north. Five minutes later I returned to the top of the crags, ran 2m further and saw the control. I then rushed the next control trying to make up time and was very sloppy with my navigation throughout the rest of the course. Part of the difficulty was that I just wasnโ€™t used to having courses in such complex terrain where I needed to concentrate for a full hour. Often in Britain their will be sections of path running where you can switch off, but not here. Another problem was that I had no idea what the competition would be like. I had no idea I was in 2nd at 7, I thought Iโ€™d be much lower down, and after my mistake I thought I was out of the race all together, when I still managed to finish in the top 15. If I get to EYOC next year I will be a lot more confident that I can contend for the podium if I run well and that I am fit enough, something I could only learn from experience.

In the Relay the GB M16 team finished 16th. I was running last leg of the relay. Our first leg runner came in about 5 minutes behind the leaders and a minute behind the pack. Unfortunately our second leg runner had, in his words, โ€˜a good run apart from one 20 minute mistake.โ€™ This meant I set off on last leg very far back and we were out of the race. My thoughts were already turning towards the sprint race the following day, so I held back a bit to conserve energy. It was still a fun day though, as the area was brilliant, and completely unlike anything in Britain. It required a different approach to navigation as it was often faster to run round rather than straight. It was also my first experience of running with a GPS tracking harness, which took a bit of getting used to, but will be something I will have to do more and more if I continue to compete at an international level.

In the Sprint I finished 14th. The Sprint was the last race of EYOC and I hadnโ€™t put too much thought towards it, as I didnโ€™t consider sprint races to be my strength. I ran well though, taking good route choices and pushing all the way, losing maybe just a couple of seconds over the whole course. I was happy with my run, even as I dropped down the leader board. I was slightly in awe of the winnerโ€™s time though, he was 1min40 quicker than me, and Iโ€™d had a near perfect run. It was a real eye opener to how fast some of these guys can run. It was also interesting to see that in the Sprint Iโ€™d had a near perfect run and finished 14th, and in the long Iโ€™d had a really bad run and finished 15th. In the sprint I couldnโ€™t have been closer to the winner than I was, whereas in the long I could have won a medal with a perfect race. This was useful to see where my training was working and what needed changing for next year.

All in all EYOC was a brilliant experience of racing at an international level. Thanks to the Jack Bloor Fund for helping support me so that I could compete.

Later in the summer I went to the BOF Cairngorm Talent Camp at Badaguish in Scotland. This was a training camp, focusing on consistent performance. There were a lot of classroom sessions, and considerably less forest time than on previous camps under the mantra quality not quantity. This camp helped me a lot with mental strategies for racing as well as providing some good technique training. It was useful to practise orienteering in some of the best forests in the UK, and I focused on improving my concentration over a longer period of time in complex terrain. The camp allocated everyone individual coaches for the week, which was really useful and helped us get more personalised training exercises. Thanks again to the Jack Bloor Fund for helping with the cost.