Orienteering 18:18  3.3 km (5:33 / km)
shoes: Inov-8 F-Lite 230
NAOC Sprint, M35 on RedX Course, 1st place.
This was the last championship race of the year for me (3x US Champs, 3x at NAOC), and this was easily the second best performance of the six races, only behind the US Middle Champs, which is probably the best race of my career. I didn't write about that one on AP, unfortunately, but I will go through this race step-by-step.
Prep: Physically, 2016 is probably the best of my adult life. However, in the lead up to SART, I didn't run very much. Mentally, I felt like I was prepared, since I'd made a bunch of ISSOM maps this summer and designed 5 of the 6 SART courses. I thought about pulling a Team Denmark and making a map of Dartmouth, but I didn't have time, so I just looked around campus on Google Streetview, which definitely helped me on #10. Also, on Thursday, I followed the rules and walked around without a map and without testing route choices. That said, I only explored the cemetery, because they said that there would be checkpoints and routes through there, and from aerial images, I couldn't really see well in there. I'm glad that I went in there, because I was expecting a standard cemetery without any hills. However, I quickly learned that it was a non-standard cemetery with some steep gullies in there.
Because I was unaware of the steepness of the cemetery hills, and the soft pine needles on the ground, I didn't bring my beat-up x-talons on this trip; I brought my sticky f-lites instead.
I had an early-ish start, and combined with the long-ish drive from the house in Vermont and the long-ish walk from the parking lot, I didn't have time to eat or use the restroom before the race. I was able to warm up a little bit with some short strides.
The call-up process at NAOC was 6-minutes long. At the first line, there was brand new snow fencing marked on a map, which was useful to know. They also mentioned construction equipment near the go control, which wasn't that useful (you could already see it from the arena, and it wasn't really in the way). Unfortunately, they did *not* mention the temporary "wet paint" road signs and tapes, which definitely impacted my course. Apparently, they were put up on Wednesday.
I also opted to use clear tape for the description sheet, instead of my holder. I figured that since they had tape in the call-up, and since there's ink residue in my description sheet holder, I'd be able to read descriptions better if taped to my arm instead. But I didn't think about how skinny my wrists are and it was a bit amusing to figure out how to best tape the long sheet to my arm. It ended up working best to tape along my forearm, instead of around like I usually do.
#1: I pretty much nailed this one. It was a long route-choicey leg right out of the gate, and one of my strengths is reading and nailing the first control. I immediately noticed that it was either around/through the cemetery, and since I did my homework, I knew that around was going to be faster, flatter, and give me ample time to read several controls ahead. By the time I got to #1, I'd figured out everything I needed to do through #6. So in addition to winning this split, this route and execution allowed me to win 3 more splits through #5. 1st place by 11 seconds.
#2: I went left on this one, but I didn't turn as hard as I needed to around the SW corner of the building, resulting in running an extra 15m distance from the straight line here. I was able recover in time, though, and I correctly went to the right spot at the lower level without any hesitation. Because of the imperfect line, I probably lost ~3 seconds on this one. 4th place split, 1st place by 9 seconds.
#3: I stayed low/right on this one. I encountered an unmapped wall I had to descend here. 1st place split, 1st place by 14 seconds.
#4: Plenty of time to figure out the "trick" to this one (inside corner). I thought maybe I had to use the thinner-than-spec stairs behind, but since it was an inside corner, this wasn't an issue, after all. 1st place split, 1st place by 24 seconds.
#5: Again, plenty of time to figure out the "trick" (under a canopy). I actually overran this one just barely, because I was looking ahead. Lost ~1 second. 1st place split, 1st place by 30 seconds.
#6: I flowed through #5 and then around the right side of the large building to #6. It's not the shortest route, but I believe it's the fastest because it didn't have any stairs or sharp corners. 2nd place split, 1st place by 27 seconds.
#7: Straightforward leg, except I overran it slightly (just like #5) because I was reading ahead. Lost ~2 seconds. 5th place split, 1st place by 26 seconds.
#8: Another straightforward leg. I hesitated for a second inside the circle because the flag was hidden behind two trash bins. Lost ~1 second hesitation. 4th place split, 1st place by 23 seconds.
#9: Went left. No time losses here, but not as fast running as others. 5th place split, 1st place by 22 seconds.
#10: Went left. I don't remember any issues here, but my split looks suspiciously slow. 5th place split, 1st place by 15 seconds. After a great first 5 controls where I won 4 of 5 splits, then Tommy of OOC won 3 of the next 5 splits and cut my lead to just 15 seconds.
#11: I went right around the first building, left around the second. Best route, and another 1st place split. 1st place by 21 seconds.
#12: This one was a little awkward because it went perpendicular to a "wet paint" area with tapes up. It wasn't marked out-of-bounds, so I just went through it all (there wasn't an easy alternative). 2nd place split, 1st place by 22 seconds.
#13: I ran back around both fences and through the canopy (left). 2nd place split, 1st place by 23 seconds.
#14: Super easy leg. I had the 8th fastest split here, but everyone was within 6 seconds. 1st place by 21 seconds. I would have removed #13 from the course design. It's addition by subtraction. Also, this might be a good time to mention that this course had a lot of 3-checkpoints-in-a-straight-line, which I try to avoid in course design because it encourages accidental skips. This course had more than I can ever remember: S-1-2, 5-6-7, 7-8-9, 12-13-14, 17-18-19, 19-20-21, and 21-22-23.
#15: The run through the spectator leg. They announced me in first place M35, which wasn't too surprising since I was the 4th earliest start and the fastest guys were all behind me. 6th fastest split, 1st place by 19 seconds over Nick Duca. I remember watching Nick through the spectator leg later. They announced him in second place, but I wasn't sure how much of a lead I had. I was a little worried here, because I lost more time on the second half of the course, and that's where the forest was, and Nick is a much better forest runner.
#16: Between the buildings. 5th place split, 1st place by 18 seconds.
#17: Straight! 1st place split, 1st place by 1st place by 18 seconds.
#18: Biggest mistake of the race so far. I went left around the building, and bam, a huge cliff in front of me. I stop to look at the map, then see, duh, a cliff. I find a way up on the right end of the cliff. Lost ~6 seconds on this one. I'm glad this one was going uphill, because the speeds were slower. Had this been downhill, I would have lost more time here because it would have been easier to get sucked into a trap. 5th place split, 1st place by 18 seconds.
#19: Biggest mistake of the race overall. What worked out is that pretty much everyone else made a much bigger mistake here. I went left of the two small buildings, then curled around the vegetation and my thoughts were "ok, now down the hill until..." but at this point, my thoughts stopped because there was a rope fence up here, and also a statue of a guy sitting on a rock. It looked so much like a real person that I thought it was a person checking to see if people were illegally crossing the rope. By the time I determined that I could cross the rope, I forgot where my thoughts were and I punched the control at the foot of the cliff right here (my control was also foot of cliff). The code didn't match, and then I went back to thinking "ok, now down the hill ALL THE WAY DOWN to the theater thing. So I went down all the way and punched. 2nd place split (somehow), 1st place by 49 seconds. Tommy from OOC lost over 4 minutes here. Nick lost 90 seconds here. I only lost about 8 seconds, actually, because the extra control was literally on the way down to where I was going.
#20: Pretty straight on this one, even going straight through the white woods. I approached the flag from the left (via parking lot) and I caught a glimpse of the flag in the woods so I knew where to go. 2nd place split, 1st place by 55 seconds.
#21: Sigh. I'm a moron. This control was visible from the road, so we saw it the night before while walking to dinner. I saw it in the morning while walking to the arena. And yet I ran by it, thinking it wasn't mine. The cliff was a few contours below the building, so it wasn't obvious that the building corner was right there, so I kept running right by it, but then I realized that the code was mine, so I turned around. ~5 seconds. 7th place split, 1st place by 51 seconds.
#22: This was a pretty interesting leg for this late in the course. Unfortunately, the "#22" printed on the map was obscuring some detail from the left-most route. Leaving #21 a little bit flustered by overrunning it, I got pushed out to the road more than I would have wanted, but maybe the slope of white woods wasn't that fast, I don't remember. At this point, it was either straight through the walled building plaza or take the risk running all the way left (under the "22"). Looks like my route may have been the best. Going right may have been slightly shorter, but it had some forested slope. I'm curious where James went on this one, since he was 6 seconds faster here. 2nd place split, 1st place by 55 seconds.
#23: Left. 2nd place split, 1st place by 57 seconds.
F: Finish chute. 6th place split, 1st place by 57 seconds. Probably should have pushed this a little bit harder, actually.
At the end of the race, that's 25 seconds that I left out there (2.2%), from essentially full-speed, best-route sprint orienteering (and I'm being really picky here). I think it's safe to say that this was one my best ever sprint performances, at least for a sprint that actually counts for something.