Ski WOC 2011 Results and Commentary

Main website for Ski WOC 2011

Alex Jospe's blog: http://alexjospe.blogspot.com/

USA team blog (foot-O, ski-O, trail-O, whatever): http://usa-orienteering.blogspot.com/

Comments from Orienteering USA president, Clare Durand:

Congratulations and thanks to everyone on the ski-o WOC team for your
performances, hard work, and sacrifices of time and money to represent the
USA.

Ali Crocker, Alex Jospe, Cristina Luis, Greg Walker, Scott Pleban, Nikolay
Nachev, and Adrian Owens

And also our Juniors who competed at Ski-O JWOC back in February:
Kestrel Owens, William Frielinghaus

Ski-O is awesomeness!


Commentary below is by Peter Gagarin, CSU

Results of all races:  http://www.skiwoc2011.com/index.php?en&subj=18

Monday--opening
Tuesday--sprint
Wednesday--middle
Thursday--sprint relay
Friday--rest day
Saturday--long
Sunday--team relay


Sunday, March 27

A great way to finish the week. All 6 of our skiers had really good days. And Alex showed how good she is, started in 6th after Ali’s opening leg, Alex came in in 5th, just the 4 powerhouse teams (Sweden, Norway, Russia, and Finland) ahead of her, and not that far ahead of her. Good for her, and good for all of them.

A little more from today’s relay, the last event from this year’s Ski-O world Champs.

First, a good solid result for the men, highlighted by Adrian Owens final leg. I’d have to do a little research to be sure, but I think this is the best they have ever done. (Well, I just checked out the 2007 and 2009 WOCs, and the men were about 55% behind in the relay both times. This time they were 35% behind. A huge improvement.) They may have been overlooked a bit given the women’s results, but this has been a big step forward for the men too.

Second, today was the best race of the week for Alex Jospe, our best ski-orienteer in recent years. In her words:

This marks the first-ever ski WOC relay where I've been excited to race it. Especially after Ali's finish yesterday, I knew that I might be getting the tag in a position I'm unused to...

Ali came through in 6th, just behind Finland, Czech Republic, and Switzerland, a bit behind the leaders. I caught up to Switzerland after a quick map pickup, and she wasn't going super fast, but, she had a nice wide rear end for drafting behind, so I hid in her draft down the windy big trail, and then again across the marsh, where we passed the Czech girl. Liisa Antilla passed us early, and she was on a mission, I couldn't have gone with her. I had longer forks for 2-4, but I nailed them, and was chasing Ladina (SUI) back across the marsh, and re-passed the Czech girl, who had also been on the shorter loop.

Unfortunately, things tilted upwards after that, and I got slow. About how I felt climbing Mt. Washington. Josefine Engstrom (SWE) flew by me up the climb, and I didn't even try to match her pace. Sigh. Anyway, I could see Ladina the whole way up, and I made contact as we double poled across the top of the hill - I may be unable to climb, but I can double pole. Then came the awesome downhill, and although I lost contact around #10, it was just for a brief instant, and I didn't lose any time, although it was certainly risky to keep skiing just then... Dropped Ladina on the downhill, and came blasting into the finish only to find that I had gone too fast, and Cristina wasn't quite ready yet. It was only 10 seconds or so that I was waiting, but of course that feels like three minutes.

Cristina headed out, and we were anxiously taking splits to see if she'd hold on to 7th - I'd brought us in in 5th, but the Czech and Swiss girls caught up quickly. She did a pretty awesome leg, ending up less than twice the leaders' time, and holding onto 8th (Lithuania got her somewhere on the climb - they never saw each other). This may be the best-ever finish for the US women in a ski WOC relay - I think we were 8th in Japan, but that was out of 8 full teams. This year we beat Belarus, Hungary, Great Britain, and Japan! So proud of my team. And so happy to end the week with a clean race.

I can't stop smiling about how the ski-O team did. And they got a lot of new fans this week.

So the question is, what next? How to move forward? Both in terms of taking advantage of this success and building more for the future. Both in more people doing ski-O, and also in more stars. Because the two go hand in hand.

With regard to the Tahoe events next winter, I just got the following from Ken Walker, Sr.:

“There will be 3 World Cup races (pending IOF approval of our bid) following US Champs the preceding weekend (also pending bid). Will be a total of 6 or 7 races at 6 great venues. A must-attend event for any ski-o competitors in North America. Likely to be a good draw for the Europeans as well.”

Excellent!


Saturday, March 26

Unbelievable — Ali Crocker takes 8th place in the Long distance World Champs. And Alex Jospe is just finished, 25th.



By now you all know about Ali’s amazing 8th place. But there was more going on as well.

First, the results:

Men:
1. Andrey Grigoryev, RUS 1:42:43
52. Scott Pleban, USA 2:26:43
55. Nikolay Nachev, USA 2:32:39
56. Greg Walker, USA 2:32:48
DNF Adrian Owens (broken ski)
67 starters

Women:
1. Helene Söderlund, SWE 1:20:52
8. Ali Crocker, USA 1:25:43
25. Alex Jospe, USA1:39:19
DNF Cristina Luis
48 starters

------------

Next, just to show that in ski-O, like in foot-O, everything does not always go as planned, even for the stars. Here’s Greg Walker’s report (and Greg, by the way, is a star wherever he goes in European orienteering circles because of his work developing the O’ game Catching Features):

Not the greatest race, but then again my longs rarely are. Weather was slightly better than usual, only snowing for half of it, and only somewhat insanely windy.

The highlights:

- The mass start had 600m of marked route and then climbed up over the bridge over the road, single file.

- The first control on each of our three loops was up at the top of the map, like a zillion contours up.

- I made a lot of bad route choices, I think because I was trying to avoid some of the narrow stuff, but the big stuff wasn't too fast anyway because it was soft.

- Second loop I took a route to the first control that did the whole climb on a snowmobile road, except it wasn't as wide as I was expecting, so it sucked a lot. I could skate, but couldn't get much glide with each stride. And by then it was too late to bail to a bigger trail. That was a long climb.

- Even with Scott on the equipment control on the second loop, but then I went high on a big trail to the next one, and he cut across the middle on the little stuff and gained lots of minutes. Never saw him again.

- Took another terrible route choice at the end of the second loop, I think I was only a couple trails away and a few contours below the control, and all it would have needed was a horizontal cut, which was probably already there. But instead I dropped down and around and came at it from the back side, which added lots of climb and probably many times the distance. It made sense at the time.

- Coming down a long steep hill into a t-junction I tried to cut the corner, but hit lots of powder too fast and faceplanted, mangled my map holder beyond recognition, and stabbed myself in the leg really deeply with a pole. I heard somebody coming down behind me and idly wondered if I was totally buried in snow and about to get run over, and then Nikolay faceplanted right beside me.

- I had gained a minute or so on Nikolay after the big climb on the last leg, but then going across the horizontal at the top my map holder, which I had managed to bend back so it was roughly pointing outwards and only listing 45 degrees to the side, blew open in the wind and the map went flying. Fortunately it was windblown and crusty, so I could sortof dp after it across the fields, though not too fast. Then Nikolay skied by on the trail below and gave me a look like what the hell are you doing on your knees digging around down in a tree well.

- Got another minute or so lead on him on the downhills to the bridge for the final couple controls, went through the second to last one and read the code as 60 and didn't think to much of it, it was in exactly the right spot. Got almost all the way to the last control and was looking at the map for that code, and saw that the last code was 50, not 60. I figured I just read it wrong, the codes are on translucent plastic tags hanging from the horizontal wires, with black sticky numbers on both sides. So when you look through the 50, the 0 from the back side is lined up with the 5, so it could be 50 or 60 or 80. This happened a few times earlier in the week too, so I figured I did the same thing. But I wasn't sure, and I figured I would be less pissed to lose a place to Nikolay than to mispunch, so I doubled way back (100m?) to check it, which burned a bunch of time and he got past me.

So I guess the good news was that I actually did have a lot of good skiing in there, some of the tricky downhills on the narrow stuff I pulled off quite flawlessly. And while I felt pretty trashed on the uphill dps at the end, I think I still ended up stronger than the longs of the past. But I had a couple out of control crashes, and a bunch of pretty bad tiredness-induced route choices that probably cost me lots of minutes.

And finally, because we can’t not read it given the results, here are some words from Ali about her race:

Woooooooooooooooooo! 8th! So so psyched! =) I was hoping to crack the top 20 again today, so super-duper happy with at top 10 result!

Gosh. So how'd it all go? Unfortunately don't have my GPS track, because wasn't seeded in top 20 this time (depends who the top teams actually put in each race). But no big mistakes, biggest one was just into the final control before the bridge before the finish, went the wrong way around the houses, which is probably how I gave up 7th place...

Anyways, started not too strongly, probably was in 20th going over the bridge, some chaos involved in that as some girl skied on top of my ski and then fell down, ah well. Then was a looong uphill climb to the first control. I started just skiing by girls steadily climbing up and think I got to my first control (was forked) in 5th. Some were confused by the forking, had to stop and readjust their plan, happy that I had stayed in contact the whole way up!

Then cruised around the rest of the loop, sometime in contact with other skiers, sometimes not, always doing my own thing, not getting distracted by other forkings. There was a really fun downhill right towards the end of the first loop, screaming down a little narrow trail ending in a big trail so you really didn't have to worry about too much speed, awesome fun. Came into the map exchange, apparently in 4th! Not that I knew it at the time. Then was a super gimp getting my map in the map holder again, missed getting energy drink and the Swedish girl who ended up winning passed me right then.

Second loop, think I had the slightly longer forkings, so gals were catching me a bit, also might have been tiring a smidge. =) Did the uphill with the Swede, Helene, and Czech, Helene was faster, but I was about the same speed as the Czech. Through the equipment control, got a little sports drink there, and then on. My forking took me across and then up higher than the first time, Marte Renaas caught me on the flat crossing bit. I wasn't losing time much on the small trails, just a bit, and more when I was really studying my map.

Then down the hill, to one little control just off the big trail that the Russian just in front of me missed and was coming back up to, sweet! Should be able to get her, if I can stay ahead the few controls on the south side- so I was studying that bit really hard skiing on the big trail right to the control before the bridge again, and oops!!! missed the left turn and when the long way around the group of houses. So the Russian was ahead of me again. =( Ah well.

Executed the final 3 controls perfectly fine, heard gals in back of me and could see the Russian in front, so was definitely pushing, but I don't think much ground was given or taken.

On finishing, found out I was actually in 8th! Cool! I knew by the numbers on the bibs around me that I was doing well, but not exactly where, so happy with that place for sure! Woo!

Such a fine day.

[NOTE: A video interview with Ali is linked from the Home page -- catch her excitement!]


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Today was the Sprint Relay, a new event. One team per country. Each team composed of one man and one women. A mass start. Each does 3 legs, so 6 legs for the whole thing, but very short legs.

And like Wednesday’s Middle distance, held is a serious snowstorm. But, as they say, orienteering is an outdoor sport, and we race rain or shine, or in this case, snow and wind.

Skiing for the USA were Greg Walker and Ali Crocker, with Greg leading off. Now Greg has been the best of our guys, but even at that he has been about 40% behind the winner in the sprint and middle, whereas Ali has been a good bit closer to the best women. So there was the expectation that Greg might fall behind quite a bit, and then Ali recoup a little, and so on throughout the 6 legs.

Which is what happened to some extent, except Greg had his best day ever at ski-O, so he was falling behind a lot less than expected. And Ali was still skiing great. And the final result was a 12th place finish of the 23 starting teams, and just 3 minutes out of the top ten. That’s a terrific result.

Leg 1 — Greg off, the pace is intense, he comes in 19th, but he’s just 30% behind (15:11 vs. 11:40), excellent.
Leg 2 — Ali has her best leg of the day, 10:53 vs. a best time of 10:15, 6% behind, wow. Moves the team up to 10th.
Leg 3 — Greg again, his best leg, 14:08 vs. a best of 11:10, 26%, team now in 14th.
Leg 4 — Ali again, must have had a small miss this time, 12:53, but the team back up to 12th.
Leg 5 — Last time for Greg, 14:48, another good one, team back to 15th as the men’s competition is fierce.
Leg 6 — And the final leg for Ali, another good one, 11:29, got the team back to 12th. 11th was only 30 seconds ahead. Getting 10th would have required 6 perfect legs. But they were awful close.

Full results as usual are at the event website: http://www.skiwoc2011.com/index.php?en&subj=18

Here are some comments from Greg:

Sprint relay. Awesomeness. Sprint relays are so fun. You get to go ski really hard for a little bit, then rest for a bit while Ali does some work, then ski really hard some more, then rest more, then ski more, then shiver and change clothes in a windy snowstorm. Since the loops overlap and are on the same map each time, each leg you get to know a little more about the area and it makes you faster and more confident. The three legs were very different from each other, it wasn't just like simple relay forkings, but they still crossed the same terrain and junctions a bunch.

First leg was ok. I got to the other side of the big field and then tried to find a little trail up in to the woods, but missed it in the drifts and had to cut a ways across some other big drifts to get back on it. Which put me behind the Spanish guy, who was going just slower than I was, not really slow enough for me to get around, but enough that I was always on his tails. Also they lowered all the wires with the controls on them, so I caught a control (and the heavy touchless-emit reciever) in the face for a bit of a bloody nose, and also sent the hat flying. Had to turn around to get the hat, as it is fairly magnificent.

Ali had a rock star second leg and made up a lot of places, so I was just trying not to loose too many. Third leg went really well, I had an easy first control, both navigation and skiing, and everything flowed well from there. More climb in this one, so it felt tougher than the first, but everything was clean and the trails were all where they should have been.

Ali had a good fourth leg, then I was back out for the fifth. First control was in the woods a ways off to the right after the lake, but the wind and snow had kicked up so visibility was pretty low when I got there and I didn't want to risk missing the trail in like I did on the first leg. So I went up the big trail and cut over on some little ones (past the first from the last lap). This had some bonus climb in it, but hopefully didn't add too much time, and saved the risk of getting lost in a wide open wind swept field. All good until 4, when I dropped down into the field to get there on the snowmobile road, and ended up skiing directly into the wind. Not so fast. Also super cold. Clean until 7, where I skied through the control but the touchless-emit didn't register, so I had to turn around and backtrack (20 meters maybe? you overshoot by a lot when you're going full speed and expect it to register). Went back to the same control but it still didn't register, the whole emit receiver was dead (I was sure I got close enough the first time), but they've got two controls out at each one, one on either side of the trail (for going both directions), so I hit the other and kept going. Not sure what the time lost was, but it let the German guy pass me.

And from Ali’s perspective:

This was a blast! Despite wind and snow and drifts. 3 x cool little sprint course, different enough each time, although you were gaffled with yourself, so definitely knew the two common controls the 2nd and 3rd times around.

Greg took us off, sprinted into the wind, and handed off to me right with the New Zealand team and Spain I think. The first leg was probably my best, had a clean and fast run, with I think all the right route choices and passed a bunch of gals putting us in 10th.

All the team was super helpful in between, adding clothing to me between the legs, and storing it between. Adrian also gets points for coming over early and walking through the stadium to explain it to us, and Alex for keeping my spare gloves warm in her armpit. Warm gloves rock.

Second leg, I'm pretty sure I made one bad route choice, decided to go over a hill on a big trail instead of around on flats and a little trail. Little trails are perfectly fast on flats, would have been a fine option. I again just passed the Italian and Austrian gals coming into the finish to tag off Greg.

Third leg, clean, any route choice errors must have been small, and was killing it to catch the Italian woman at the end, had the routes to the last two controls memorized (we had been in this area each leg before) and was just going going going, but when I came into the arena, she had just made the curve to the finish, just too much to reel in. Afterwards, figured out that they mispunched actually anyways, making us 12th place.

Really was great fun and a good addition to ski WOC (fist time there has ever been a sprint relay.)

Tomorrow (Friday) is a rest day, then the Long distance on Saturday and the final relay on Sunday.

I think it’s fair to say that our Ski-O team is awesome.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Middle distance has finished. Ali Crocker was best for the USA again, another 18th place (excellent!), while Greg Walker was best for our men again.

One thing that strikes me is that the orienteering looks very hard, especially considering that you are on narrow ski trails and moving fast. Take a look at the GPS tracks and you’ll get an idea. Note also that Ali was wearing a transmitter today so you can watch her progress.

Oh, and it all took place in a raging snowstorm.

GPS tracking for the women is at:
Part 1: http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/20110323middleW1/
Part 2: http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/20110323w2/

And for the men:
Part 1: http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/20110323middleM1/
Part 2: http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/20110323m2/

Click the “From Start” button in the upper left and then the Play arrow and you can watch it as if it was a mass start.

Women
1. Polina Matchikova, RUS 39:52
18. Alison Crocker, USA 48:45
30. Alex Jospe, USA 59:45
45. Cristina Luis, USA 1:26:00
52 starters

Men
1. Staffan Tunis, FIN 40:13
51. Greg Walker, USA 58:33
60. Scott Pleban, USA 1:02:57
62. Adrian Owens, USA 1:05:17
67. Nikolay Nachev, USA 1:09:49
78 starters

Full results: http://www.skiwoc2011.com/index.php?en&subj=5


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sprint at the World Champs is done. Ali Crocker finished 18th, Alex Jospe 24th. Wow! Best ever results, I’m pretty sure.

Women
1. Tove Alexandersson, SWE 15:11
18. Alison Crocker, USA 17:09
24. Alex Jospe, USA 18:55
47. Cristina Luis, USA 37:09
53 starters

Men
1. Olli-Markus Taivainen, FIN 18:04
49. Greg Walker, USA 25:22
52. Adrian Owens, USA 26:55
53. Scott Pleban, USA 26:41
65. Nikolay Nachev, USA 35:13
76 starters

Full results: http://www.skiwoc2011.com/index.php?en&subj=5

GPS tracking for the women is at:  http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/20110322sprintW/

And for the men:  http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/20110322sprintM/

Click the “From Start” button in the upper left and then the Play arrow and you can watch it as if it was a mass start.

Video from the day is at:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/skio

With video of the women’s race (start at about 46:50 to catch our women in action):
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13490579

Full results and splits are at the event website:
http://www.skiwoc2011.com/index.php?en&subj=18

And more photos/video (including a nice photo of Ali finishing) at the US Team blog:
http://usa-orienteering.blogspot.com/


Monday, 21 March 2011

The Ski-O World Championships — an event held only every two years — is scheduled for March 20-28 in the Swedish mountains. First up is the sprint on Tuesday the 22nd, then the middle distance on Wednesday, the sprint relay of Thursday, the mass-start long distance on Saturday, and the regular relay on Sunday. Thirty-two nations are taking part, the most ever by quite a bit.

The organizers are trying to make the Ski-WOC spectator friendly, both in person and via the internet --

“Races at VM2011 will be broadcast live via web-TV which can be seen at this website (www.skiwoc2011.com).  Results will also be available on this website.  In addition, there will be a large-screen TV at the 2011 Ski WOC for the first time in Ski WOC history. GPS tracking will also be used for the top skiers to help spectators to follow the performance of their favorite ski-o heroes.

“TV broadcasts will start approximately 10 minutes before first start time each day as per the above schedule.  We hope to also produce short summary videos of each day’s events most days which will be available on this website when they are complete.”

Time difference to the East Coast is five hours, so most events will be early to mid morning in the USA.

US Team members:
Nikolay Nachev (Cascade OC)
Adrian Owens (Green Mountain OC)
Scott Pleban (QOC)
Greg Walker (CSU)

Alexandra Jospé (CSU)
Alison Crocker (CSU)
Cristina Luis (Tucson OC)

Here’s a blog written by one of our ski-O stars, Alex Jospe (currently ranked #75 in the world), which will give you an inside look at preparations for this week’s championships:
http://alexjospe.blogspot.com/

And also the USA team blog (foot-O, ski-O, trail-O, whatever) which promises to have some videos and who knows what else:
http://usa-orienteering.blogspot.com/

Note that it is really easy to leave comments on either of these blogs. Just because we’re a continent away doesn’t mean we can’t be cheering for the team, and sending cheers via comments on the internet is both easy and also really good for morale.

Let’s hope they all have a good week.