Report by Matt Hall, M16
This summer was the return of the Yorkshire Junior Squad tour; a week of events, strength and technical training run by both Yorkshire Squad coaches (including AIRE’s own Natasha and Neil Conway) and OK Ravinen members, including the infamous Nick Barrable, in the forests around Stockholm, Sweden, between the 18th and 28th of August. Around 20 juniors attended the tour; from AIRE, myself, Evie Conway, and Laura King (joining us on the Monday evening) were the only ones; other juniors attended from SYO, EPOC, HALO and EBOR. The week aimed to help get the juniors become accustomed to the much trickier, more technical Swedish terrain, and so help to improve orienteering skills both back home and in foreign settings – and, of course, to have fun.
Flying from Manchester to Stockholm Arlanda at 9:20am meant an early start for me – a 4:30 wake up call to ensure that Natasha (both my means of travel and the Yorkshire Squad coordinator) was in Manchester for 6:30, ready to greet and tick everyone off the list. Our accommodation for the first two nights (18th and 19th) was the Tullinge SK club hut, south of Stockholm. Despite sleeping on the floor (which, as orienteers, we’re used to), the hut was cosy and well equipped for the needs of any runner. Coaches and juniors both settled in quickly, setting up sleeping areas and outside playing the squad game within half an hour of arrival. We were later taken on a walk by Neil and Pete Tryner (SYO) to give us an idea of features and mapping and how it differs from what we’re used to, followed by an evening meal and an early night.
Today’s event was a long event in Hemfosa – my course was 5.5km, in 1:15000 scale, which I am not used to, and I was competing against 2 other Yorkshire M16s – George van Dam from HALO and Dom Dakin from SYO. On the bus by 7:30 (consistently on time, yet another contrast compared to back home), then 2 trains later, and we arrived – to a torrential downpour. On running my course, despite coming 1st out of the Yorkshire juniors in a time of 114 minutes (ouch), it wasn’t a very good result for any of us – the mapping would take a lot of getting used to (for example, marshes were patches of flat land as opposed to wet boggy stuff) and the overall harder terrain and more intricate technical orienteering gave us a hard time, and gave us an idea of what we would be in for in the rest of the week. The main mistake for me came in an area of intricate contours and craggy features (control 10) which, if not closely followed, becomes very difficult to relocate in. GPS routes were uploaded and analysed with the help of Neil and Pete upon arriving back – this post race analysis I found very helpful as the week went on and am now consistently using it in races back home.
We returned to Hemfosa for the Day 3 event; a middle distance event on the southerly part of the area. Only having 3.5km today was a blessing as my third early morning was already taking its toll on my body. The course proved to be just as technically difficult as the first, with me posting a time of 60 minutes, 45 seconds behind George; this time was mostly due to a catastrophic mistake which lost me over 15 minutes on my third control, in an area of lots of unmarked open and large crags and rock features, as well as accidentally jumping into a waist high stream (after not seeing the stream thicken on the map) between controls 8 and 9, and being mugged of my glasses by a tree at control 10 – not a great day overall. On comparing splits with my Yorkshire teammates it seemed that control 3 was just as much of a problem for them as for me. After the event we returned to the Tullinge hut and cleaned up, then travelled to our accommodation for the rest of the tour – the OK Ravinen hut in Nacka, south of Stockholm – where we joined up with Anika Schwarze from the JROS tour in Stockholm, and James Howlett and Helen Bowes (all EBOR) in the evening. Although our sleeping quarters were fairly basic (in the basement on a concrete floor), the hut itself was very well equipped, with a sauna, and very well located, right next to some great training areas and the bus stop. We quickly settled in and were ready for the next week of training.
Our first day of training began in the area around the Ravinen hut – which meant a nice 8am wakeup call. The area was different to Hemfosa, with the main features contours and marsh; still very technically difficult though. After a shaky start to the 3.5km course, I eventually settled in and posted an alright time – by this point I had begun to embrace and enjoy the Swedish terrain. To relax after training, we took a trip to the lake by the hut – which was perfect for swimming (lots of time was spent here) followed by a sauna, and then onto the evening training – first a sprint relay in the forest (an older junior paired with a younger one – I was with M14 Euan Tryner from SYO), where for the winner of the first two legs had everything but the contours and rock removed from their maps for the third and fourth legs – Euan and I placed first on the final results. Next came the evening strength training with Ravinen – an intense 1 hour core body strength session led by a Ravinen coach – followed by a Q and A with top UK orienteer Cat Taylor (providing helpful advice about pre-race preparation) which concluded a fun, but exhausting day.
Today began with a Yorkshire squad training in Dammtorp, a few bus stops down the road from the hut. The course was designed to alternate long and short legs, practising both, and done in a staggered pair, meeting after each long-short section to compare routes and struggles. Paired with Dom and shadowed by Pete and Nick, I felt much more confident running this course – Pete’s advice on taking the straight route where possible really helped me out and I took that advice into upcoming events. After a swim and sauna, we went into the evening training held at Telegrafberget by Ravinen – a turn up and run style event, where you can run as far as you want and are advised to redo any legs you made mistakes on. Taking the advice from Pete from the morning really helped me, and the number of mistakes I made was greatly reduced. Overall – a successful day of orienteering, as well as finding a very picturesque lake after the Ravinen training, upon which a photo opportunity could not be wasted!
Wednesday was a chance to show what we had learnt in two different events; first, a Luffarligan event, where it seemed every runner had a chair-rucksack, in Granby. Most of the squad ran the longest course, 4.9km in length, and, as an informal event (similar to a level D event), was taken to be a training experience rather than a full on race, and a chance to practise for the evenings regional event. Apart from a few small errors and quite dramatically overshooting my 7th control on the 1:7500 map, I had a decent race, and yet again Pete’s going straight advice helped here. Another swim/ice cream/sauna later (and with the discovery of a Frozen themed hat), we travelled to Velamsund to run again – this time, the south Stockholm regional finals. All of the Yorkshire 16+ juniors ran the same course (equivalent to W16) separate from the other competitors. The hat was to be given to the runner with the slowest run-in time to wear the next day, and so, fuelled by the idea of wearing it for a whole day, I finished with my first good result of the week, posting 26:59 for 3km – 3rd in the Yorkshire squad rankings (beaten by Alasdair Pedley, M18 and Dom) – with only one stand out error on control 5 (wrong crag).
Thursday brought with it a more pressing matter than orienteering – GCSE results day. I spent most of the morning worrying (turns out I had no need to, as I got the grades I wanted), and then got back to a training course with the Yorkshire squad near the Ravinen hut, doing a similar paired-up exercise as Tuesday, on (what I thought was) trickier terrain – although definitely good practise. This was followed by, of course, a celebratory swim, and then the Ravinen terrain intervals training – 3 minute intervals on terrain at race speed, 1 minute off, repeated 5 times for 16s, 6/7 times for 18s and 8 times for anyone older. The training not only highlighted how comparatively unfit I was, but also helped me to understand how the Swedes are all so good at terrain running!
After 6 days of running, we deserved a rest – and Friday brought with it just that. A leisurely 9am wake up, with swimming in the morning, followed by an afternoon looking at the Vasa museum (the Vasa was a failed Swedish ship which sank on launch and was salvaged almost fully in 1961), followed by an evening at Grona Lund theme park. Although coming into it I would have said I wasn’t a theme park person, I ended up trying most of the rides that stayed a sensible distance from the ground (albeit with some persuasion), and had a great time. This was followed by a beautiful sunset boat trip through Stockholm; an amazing end to an amazing day.
Our second last day of running was a chance to prove we had benefitted from the week of training in one of two events in Vaxholm, north-east of Stockholm. My course was 3.8km, which I completed in a disappointing 48 minutes – beaten by both other Yorkshire 16s. Some of the long leg controls I had inaccurate compass bearings and consistent timewasting in the control circle contributed to this – especially at control 5. I made sure that when we got back to the hut I properly did my post-race analysis to give me as much help as I could for tomorrow’s event.
After a less than perfect run yesterday, I was determined to make up for it by having a good run in the last event we had – a 5.8km long course on the same area as the day before. The course was very similar in many ways to the long/short course we ran on Tuesday’s training session, and this helped me to complete the course in 49 minutes – placing me 10th of 33 and earning myself a prize – a holdall which we discovered fully fitted Euan Tryner inside! Happy to have gotten a good result for the last race of the tour, we returned to the hut for, of course, one last swim, and packed up ready for the flight tomorrow.
Overall the tour was an incredible experience, one I could definitely do again, that seemed to improve my technical orienteering especially, as well as giving me more efficient training ideas and of course, having an amazing time with my Yorkshire squad mates. A huge thankyou from me to all of the coaches who organised us and kept everything running smoothly (extra special thanks to Natasha Conway for organising the tour and ensuring we keep our travel cards safe, and Jacky Dakin for her commendable cooking skills keeping us well-nourished throughout the week), and OK Ravinen for letting us use their hut and making us feel so welcome there throughout the week.