Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Sprint/Middle/Long US Orienteering Championships

Way back last fall, Ed and a couple other big thinkers decided that CSU wanted to host the sprint/middle/long individual US championships for orienteering. We had a new map being developed of Lynn Woods, and we finally had the full map (all the way around the reservoir) of Middlesex Fells, and we thought we could do an updated map of Franklin Park, to have three pretty exciting venues. We went about securing permits and coercing talented orienteers to set courses for us, and after a bit of a battle with the sanctioning committee, who basically just don't like our terrain, we were set to go.

Ed has a bit of a perfectionist streak in him. This meet was going to be perfect, or he would break himself trying. Giovanni, another CSU member, was the other meet director - basically, they both wanted to be meet directors for this thing, and we figured, heck, let 'em both do it! The problem, or maybe blessing, is that both Ed and Giovanni are very technologically-minded, and they had all sorts of new innovative things they wanted to try out at this meet. In the end, most of their ideas came to fruition, but there were a couple that we just didn't have time to do.

I was registrar, which meant that I got to deal with all the whiners, but this was a good lesson in patience, and in biting my tongue before snapping at people who were really driving me up the wall. "Of course you can have the 10:34am start time. I understand that 10:28am won't work for you. Let me see what I can do". The majority of people are very pleasant to work with, but it's those few brats who stick in your mind...

The competition was held over three days - Friday through Sunday, at three different venues: Franklin Park, Lynn Woods, and Middlesex Fells. CSU is a small club, and most of our members are in the M/F21+ class, the elites - most of us wanted to run in the US champs. This stretches a small number of volunteers over a huge task list, and everyone who did volunteer, did it to excess. We couldn't have made the thing go as smoothly as it did without the blood sacrifices of all our volunteers. Well, hopefully not too much blood, but certainly plenty of sweat and tears. Ok, maybe not even that many tears - just my own, on Sunday morning, pre-breakfast setting up the arena in the dark with the frost on the grass chilling my toes. Thankfully, Ken went out and acquired me some McGoodness, and it was hot and greasy and filling and delicious.

Friday morning was a potential disaster. Ed and I had been scurrying around since 6am, loading equipment, carrying equipment, driving places, and Giovanni and Katia had been scurrying around since 6am, acquiring our rental truck, our rental tent, and all the rental tables and chairs. Unfortunately, the rental place couldn't get the truck until something like 8am, and so the truck, loaded with tent and chairs and stuff, didn't arrive at the arena until close to 11am, with the first starts slated for 1pm. To make matters considerably worse, when Ed and I arrived at Franklin Park, the field in which we were planning to set up the tent was thoroughly soggy, and the groundskeeper waiting for us refused to let us drive any vehicles across the grass.

The tent had to go in its designated spot in the middle of the field for a bunch of reasons, so, we started carrying out all the equipment. It was ~200m walk, through soggy, muddy, grass, and we had about twelve people carrying however many thousands of pounds across this field. Thankfully we had two dollies, but we were cutting it pretty close with getting people registered and the arena set up before race start. In the end, the day went fabulously, and pretty much everyone had a really great time - except one guy, but he's an inveterate complainer, so we had no choice but to mostly ignore him.

Of course, at the end of the day, we still had to carry all that equipment back to the truck, and thankfully a handful of non-CSU runners stuck around to help us out. We would never have made it to the evening packet pick-up without their help. Actually, Ed almost didn't make it to the evening packet pick-up - his truck wouldn't start after we'd loaded everything up. We shifted all the registration gear into someone else's car, put me in the car, and I headed up to the meet headquarters, leaving Ed alone in the dark with a finicky truck to figure it out on his own. He got things working and arrived shortly after me, but by 9:30pm, when we finally got a chance to escape and have some dinner, we were both pretty wiped.

The racing was fast and furious, and visiting Canadians definitely gave the American runners some competition. Above, Carol Ross and Hannah Burgess sprint in to the finish - Dave Yee photo.
Brendan Shields, course setter, enjoying all the praise people had for his courses. Dave Yee photo.
Morning scene: piles of boxes in a field.

Ali Crocker in the finish chute - Ali made it three for three wins this weekend - champ! Dave Yee photo.


Greg Balter and Peter Gagarin manned the microphone all weekend - and they did an excellent job, especially with the elite runners' announcing. Dave Yee photo.

Ed doing what he does, and fixing problems. Dave Yee photo.

Saturday was another early morning, but thankfully we didn't have to carry the equipment very far - just unload the truck and set up. It made things go much more smoothly, and there were far fewer snags through the day. The US Junior's team set up a concession stand as a fundraiser, and that was highly possible, as was the US Senior Team's meet-and-greet - people were invited to come over and talk to the team members about their routes and orienteering in general, and people seemed to really like that. I didn't get much of a chance to partake, as I was manning the registration table, but everyone seemed really happy with the whole day, meet workers included! Saturday's race was a World Ranking Event, and that definitely attracted some foreign blood - we had Canadians, Americans, Swedes, Germans, Ukranians, Czech, and Irish racing in the elite race.
Meet and greet the US team, and talk about orienteering - a typical orienteering huddle. Dave Yee photo.


Tent set-up. Good times.

I feel like this photo catches the American orienteering scene really well - four runners, all on different courses and in different classes, approaching the spectator control on the middle distance race. Dave Yee photo.
Then Neil blasted past the slower runners. Dave Yee photo.

Bernie helping the juniors at the concession stand. Dave Yee photo.
Gary Richter showed up with his Icebug trailer - it was nice to have some vendors around, added to the buzz around the arena.

Kseniya showing the anxiety that you feel during an orienteering race - so much pressure to not mess up! Where do I go next? What is my attackpoint? I need to be running faster! Ahhh! Dave Yee photo.
Middle distance women's WRE course.

Saturday night was the banquet, and awards - the top three US contenders got medals, but the top three overall got prizes, and the prizes were sweet - a puzzle made up of the map from that day! People really liked the puzzles. The banquet went over well, and the food was tasty. We also all sang Larry Berman happy birthday, which I think he really appreciated.

Sunday morning dawned clear and frigid, and Ed and Giovanni made the decision that we didn't need to erect the tent. This decision was extremely well-received by the volunteers, and we quickly set up the arena and eventually the sun came up and melted the frost. By that point I had digested my McMuffin, and found another layer of clothing to wear (over jacket and down vest):
The Walker boys taking care of electronic stuff. Greg was trying out the new fashion of sideways headlamps. Apparently it's less ideal for actually seeing things in the dark.
Eric and Ali, champions for the day, handing out awards to all the other classes.

The race went very smoothly; apparently we were old hands by now, and we managed to get most people their awards before they left, so that was good. By the time we packed up and left, we were feeling pretty good about the entire weekend. I think I'm glad that we put on that meet, but I'm not sure I can handle doing it again for another couple years.

And Jess showed up Sunday afternoon, after rocking out in her xc running race earlier in the day! We went on a control pick-up hike, and I know I had a good time catching up.


Samantha said...

Fantastic post :) Fun to hear it all from your behind the scenes view. I only wish I were there to help you! I wonder if next time CSU shouldn't do a US Champs, because then more of the members would be willing to skip racing that weekend. And then, as the saying goes, "Many hands make light work." Well done to you and Ed for all your many, many, MANY hours of hard work!

Alex said...

We missed you guys. Probably would have been a lot easier if it hadn't been a championships, but now we sort of have a handle on how to do this sort of thing, hopefully it'll go smoother in the future, whenever that future is!