Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Like Learning a Language

Look at that pile of maps! Each one of those is a high quality mountain bike orienteering map and I rode on ALL of those in ONE WEEK! Nuts!!

Being able to travel to Hungary was amazing. Representing Orienteering USA was an honor. Congregating with 24 other countries for a World Championship blew my mind. But the really cool thing that I've never gotten to do before? Orienteer for a week straight! Honing orienteering skills is really like learning a language, since immersion does wonders for rapid development!

Many of us review our route choices after a meet and summarize the lessons to be learned that day. "I need to work on my memory," or "I need to always plan my exit and roll through controls faster." But the lessons learned by orienteering day after day are harder to articulate. It's not so much that you're learning to "do this, not that," instead, you are carving out pathways in your brain that make the process of orienteering familiar and faster. To make it automatic, so that each decision requires less thought. In language, the words fall out of your mouth before you've had time to translate it in your head. In orienteering, route choice decisions are made quickly and with confidence.

So even if you don't have the opportunity to travel abroad and compete in a world championship-- look around you, what mapped areas are nearby? You might be able to orienteer for 7 days straight in your home state!

Charting Progress

The chart below shows my training hours and activities since I (Rebecca) returned from Hungary. There are a couple things I like about this graph:

One- that the week of August 25th, the activity was pure mountain bike orienteering (purple).
Two- all I did the week after Hungary was go paddle boarding once (light blue). It was awesome!
Three- my hours are following a nice progression, so I'm getting back on track for the winter season!
Four- the next week that will be added to this graph will include a 9 hour rogaine, which will be a huge spike on the chart! I'm excited to log that entry. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This sport is awesome!

Greetings everyone! I was going to title this post something about today's final race but decided to name it how I really feel about this sport :)
I'm sitting in the hallway of the hostel where we recently found a wifi hotspot. I'm hanging out after my race - the Long Final race. It was not my best performance but I'll take it. We were told we would receive two maps at the start today but only received one. Since I was first to start, I thought maybe I wasn't doing something right so I was frazzled. I had to refocus and get back into the "game". Not a big deal, I'm use to learning about this sport as I race. Halfway through my course, I made some errors and Steph from Great Britian caught up to me and we pretty much raced side by side. Occasionally we would choose different routes but would end up at the control around the same time. We were nearing the finish with about 3km left and my rear tire went flat, so sad. I had sealant in it so I chose to just pump up the tire and not change it. I had to do this a couple of times but made it to the finish. The finish of the long race and the finish of the World Championships ended in the town center of Veszprem with locals cheering as we rode through the streets. It was an awesome way to finish!
My bike is packed and I'm waiting for Rebecca and Abra to finish their races. We're going to pack as much as we can this afternoon so we can relax and have a fun time at the banquet tonight.  The Austrians said they have special costumes, this should be an interesting evening :)
Thanks everyone who supported us to Hungary, this has been AWESOME!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

MTBO Greetings from Hungary

 A few photos from earlier races ....

Rebecca in action

Abra concentrating

Sue and control scenery

Relay Tactics

We are gearing up for our team relay that will take place tomorrow (Friday). Each leg of the race will be about a Middle Distance length, which for the Women's Elite will be a 12k (if you take the optimal route!) with 12-14 controls. The course will be set in an active military area, so parts of the area will have deep, narrow ditches that were once used for tank repair, and some sections will be marked on the map with magenta to signify places where large amounts of old wire are strewn about. This is the first time since the 40's or 50's that this area has been mapped. An old orienteering map used to exist, but they think all copies have been confiscated since then.
The three of us spent a little of last night and some of this morning trying to choose our spots in the relay. We spoke to riders from both Germany and Sweden and found their placement tactics varied from each another. Anke from Germany suggested that the strongest physical rider with fewer orienteering skills might go first so they could follow other riders in the chaos of the mass start. Sweden is planning on having their strongest rider last so as to catch up any time that passed during the other legs. We also just found out from Great Britain that they'll be sending out their strongest rider and orienteer-er (you might remember her from planning out her first five controls at the start line of the Sprint course earlier this week...) first to start them off well ahead of the pack. Sue returned from the Team Leader's meeting tonight saying that the type of relay we'll be doing will basically disallow or confuse you if you follow anyone, so that's off the table anyway. Following anyone can be helpful and also devastating, as I sadly discovered on my twelfth control during the Middle distance race. I'm still getting over that mistake.

We mulled over this a bit and have decided that Rebecca will finish up our relay because she has the strongest orienteering skills and won't have any issues if she's by herself in the middle of the terrain without anyone to fall in behind. 
Sue will start us off in the first leg as she feels more comfortable with the wrestling of the map to the map holder and the general excitement and nerves that will be present for the mass start. I'll be holding things together in the middle, and hopefully my sprinter's legs will help us hang with some of the other teams.

Only two days of racing left! I can't believe it's almost over. At this point I can't imagine the bikes without map holders on them, nor a race ending without someone handing me a bottle of sparkling water.

Rest Day Sprint

After a couple training days, a model event, the Long Qualifier, the Middle and the Sprint- today was a welcome rest day for the Elites! The Masters, however, were not resting but pedaling hard on a predominantly urban sprint course.

Needing to spin our legs and being immensely curious about the urban style of sprint mtb-o, we drove to the Masters course and nabbed some Women's 40+ maps once the course had opened.

Wow- what a cool place for a mtb-o sprint! Before we even reached the start, we were slipping and spinning up loose red gravel alleyways that climbed out of town and into the trees. We were in the hustle and bustle of a lakefront town just minutes ago and now on a secluded backroad.

Once we started, we decided to take turns navigating to each control which eventually evolved into us all going separate ways to meet at the next control and discover which route was indeed faster! It was a rest day, so we also took the time to take in a few hilltop views of the lake. Sue had the brilliant idea to do the 'superman' on her bike in front of such a vista while Abra took a photo. We also happened to be near a control which two young volunteers were "manning" while laying on towels in their bikinis. Maybe one of the easier volunteer positions.. The girls giggled and thought Sue was funny. They asked her to do it again so they could take their own picture!

We finished the day with a local microwaved hamburger and a dip in the giant thigh-deep lake. We're feeling refreshed and ready for the relay tomorrow!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Can U Spell OUSA?

Well, with the O surely implied even if not visible, here's MTBO Team USA wearing the official OUSA shirts and doing a fine job with the remaining letters.

This Ruin Looks Familiar

Our first day of mountain bike orienteering here at the World Championships was a Long (Qualifer), which emphasized the ability to make smart route choices on long legs. The second day was a Sprint, on what I would call a technical map, that emphasized quick map reading, quick decisions, quick execution- oh and quick pedaling too with a bunch of off-track travel thrown in. (The Sprint was really hard, and immensely enjoyable).

Today! Today was the Middle. Middle is known to be the race that emphasizes the ability to interpret 'map detail.' I thought this race would suit me well. Before I became part of the US MTBO Team, I would describe myself as 60% foot orienteer and 40% mountain biker. I thought this balance of skill would work well for me in the Middle, since I had decent foot-O experience which is all about map detail. I also thought it would be an ideal distance for my type of power and endurance on the bike.

I think my self-analysis was right. The Middle went (mostly) well for me! I had good flow and decent speed. I was able to plan my routes ahead of time, so I wasn't stopping at controls for 15 seconds to plan my next route. I wasn't doubting myself, but rode with confidence and always knew where I was at. I problem solved quickly, instead of blowing up. And I was so estactic toward the end of the race, that I rushed, misread the map, and navigated BACK to a previous control instead of the next one. "Hey, this ruin looks familiNOOOO!!!!"

Ah, so it goes in orienteering. After I shook off my grumpiness for my frustrating mistake, I realized that I was having a BLAST out there and I'm ready to do so much more mtb-o!

Now it's time to relax. Tomorrow is REST DAY!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sue Qualifies! And the Sprint Course..

Monday's Long Qualifier Course was all three of Team USA's first official MTBO competition. With 73 women competing, we were broken up into two heats and used two different maps. The top 30 riders in each of those heats moves on to the Long Final which happens this Saturday. And guess what?? Sue qualified! She nabbed the 30th spot in Heat 1, making her the first US MTBO-er to do so. Awesome. Rebecca and I are excited to see how she does after tucking a week's more of experience in her belt.

There will also be a Women's B Final for the Long Course, so the two of us will also get another chance to participate and try our hand at the Long Course. We're each learning so much each race that we can't help but improve every time.

Yesterday's Sprint Course was *rough* for me. It was essentially a Foot-O race on a bike, and I learned very quickly that my topographical map reading skills are pretty subpar. I made some crazy route choices, had to spend minutes comparing the map and terrain, and on the bright side of things, got to spend about an extra 50 minutes on a course where most people were done half the time. :) I put it together last night that my outrageous mistakes on the 3rd and 4th controls equalled a longer time than our apartment-mate, Emily's, entire race time. Emily is from Great Britain and an orienteering coach on the side of her day job. She was pumped for the Sprint and said it was 'her race,' so I can't be too disappointed. She finished in 22:07 and said she had the first five controls planned out while she was still standing at the start line. Wow. We've got a long way to go!

We're off to the Middle course today in new territory. Hopefully we'll get an update out soon!

First Photo!

Team USA from L to R: Rebecca Jensen (back; Cascade OC), Sue Grandjean (front; CROC), Abra McNair (CROC)

One photo from Hungary has made it so far through those pesky internet tubes - so here's Team USA MTBO,  plus a (new) friend from Croatia who just couldn't resist jumping into the shot.

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Race Done!

We did it!  We just completed our first ever Elite Mountain Bike Orienteering (MTBO) race and it just happened to be at the 2012 World Championships!  We all finished in one piece and so did our bikes - mission accomplished.
The day started out with breakfast at 7:30 and then we waited until 9:30 to load up in our sweet Ford Transit Van (looks more like a sprinter van) to head out to the race site.  Rebecca was first to  go at 11:44 so we had plenty of time but we are learning that it takes us twice as long since we are figuring out the roads and everything involved with driving in a foreign country.  Abra has pretty much mastered driving our sweet rig, even with 2 back seat drivers, and we made it to the venue with plenty of time to spare.  The temperature is intense right now - I prefer not to know what the actual temp is because I think I would whine a little (ok, maybe whine a lot) so I don't have a clue.  But I do know it's hot!  Maybe 90???
And we're off!  Rebecca at 11:44, Abra at 11:53, me (Sue) at 12:29.  My goal was to race cautiously so I don't make any major errors and I think I accomplished that.  I relaxed a little to control #1 so I can get comfortable with the map and then I slowly picked up speed along with confidence.  We had 10 controls and I definitely made some errors, but not upset at all.  There were a few where I knew I was close but just a little off and had to spend some time making sure I knew exactly where I was on the map so I don't do anything silly - I've done silly in the past.
Made it to control #10 and then sprinted to the finish!  Yeehaw, I'm done!  Went straight to the shade and Rebecca and Abra were there as well - TEAM USA, MTBO!  We talked about our errors and learned that one of our new friends made a 90 second error.  I think I made a 9 minute error, maybe more :)  She is probably not threatened by Team USA. 
We were all psyched about completing our first MTBO race and we all had a blast racing.  The singletrack was a hoot and the orienteering was so much fun.  I'm now scheming on how I can become a better racer...hmmm....
That's a wrap!  We were heading back to our van and saw the Croatia Team taking a team picture in front of their flag so we did the same.  One of their teammates even jumped into our photo.  It's been great meeting the other teams, I'm excited it's only day one of racing and we get to do this a few more times.
Now I'm back resting before spinning into the center of town to find some ice-cream. 
More to come later and hopefully some photos. ENJOY IT!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Challenges of International Travel

We haven't competed yet, but we feel like we've been orienteering since we set foot in the airport. Orienteering is essentially problem solving in new environments, after all.

Here's how our trip started:
  • Sue and Abra's bikes don't arrive in Budapest.
  • Rebecca's flight is 2.5hrs late.
  • The owner's manual is required to figure out how to put the rental van in reverse.
  • Does a circle with a slash in it mean "do not enter"?
  • Holiday weekend in Hungary = traffic.
  • We're in Veszperem! ..where do we go now?
  • No map, no one speaks English.
  • Kind locals hop in their car and we follow them to our destination.
  • Sue and Abra's bikes arrive, hooray!
  • Rebecca's rear tire won't hold air, oh no.
  • The local bike shop doesn't have the things we need.
  • The other local bike shop doesn't have the things we need.
  • Tire is ripped off. It takes all 3 MTBO USA Team Members to get it back on.
But don't worry, we're getting the hang of it now. ;) ..I just hope I don't get a flat on race day!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Meet the Team: Rebecca Jensen

Rebecca Jensen
Age: 27
Occupation: Sales Manager at a bike shop
Bike: Niner EMD (hardtail), Stan's handbuilt wheels, SID XX fork and a hodgepodge of other parts
Favorite map feature: Form lines, since it's the most revealing of the subjectivity of the map!

(When and) How did you get into orienteering? What attracted you to it, or what did you find interesting about it?:
I had just moved back to the westside ("Seattle") after living in Walla Walla for 6 years, where I rode every road I could across rolling wheat fields. The roads in the city, however- were less inspiring. So I looked for activities that would take me to the forest and that's when an internet search led me to the Cascade Orienteering Club. I showed up to a local meet on a wet fall day with an old high school cross country friend. After an hour of laughing, sprinting, bush whacking and skipping gleefully through puddles, we both declared that we had to do more of it.

(When and) How did you get into mountain biking? What attracted you to it, or what did you find interesting about it?:
Having just moved to the Seattle area, I was on a mission to find a way to adapt to the landscape. Road riding became less enticing in the city, but trails offered respite. I also found that mountain biking really required me to not zone out but pay close attention the task at hand. It's therapuetic.

What changes have you made to your training plan to specifically prepare for MTBO WOC?:
I spent time at a local park on a map my coach, Mike Schuch, had made. The park is a dense web of trails, without any major elevation change- so it was a great place to practice the mental game of memorization that MTBO requires.

What bike will you be riding for MTBO WOC? Did you specially prepare it for MTBO WOC?:
I sold my 26" full suspension trail bike to build up a 29" rigid cross country bike- a Niner EMD. I am aboslutely thrilled with the Niner- as it's a rocket uphill and floats right across roots!

What have you learned about MTBO in your preparation for MTBO WOC that you did not know before?:
It's more common in MTBO to really STOP in your tracks to read the map, formulate a plan, then go. It's because in MTBO, you're mostly limited to trails- so once you're on a route, you're really committed to it, as your options to change directions are limited. In Foot-O one can change their direction any time without the penalty of having to backtrack.

When you saw the call for applications for the first US MTBO team, what made you apply?:
I was an avid orienteer and an avid mountain biker, but I hadn't really put the two together yet outside of adventure racing. This would be a new challenge! I'd also been daydreaming about opportunities to compete internationally, so it was the perfect fit!

What are your goals or expectations for MTBO WOC?:
Really, to learn. Since we do not have a MTBO A-Meet circuit in the USA- there is absolutely no way for me to measure myself against the competition before the event. Any results I earn will be benchmarks to improve upon next year. I've also had only a short time to prepare for the event. My expectations can't involve results, I can only learn more about the sport and the challenges and pressures of competing abroad.

Which event do you suspect you'll perform the best in?:
The Long event offers longer legs, which will give me more time to study the map between controls as well as use my fitness to pedal fast!

Meet the Team: Abra Star McNair

Abra Star McNair
Age: 29
Occupation: Transportation Demand Management Assistant. I work for Portland's Bureau of Transportation encouraging the people of Portland to walk, bike, carpool, and take transit more often.
Bike: A Frankenbike-esque version of Salsa's 29er El Mariachi. It used to be a fully rigid single speed and now has front suspension, a triple chain ring and sweet Stan's NoTubes wheels!
Favorite map feature: A reentrant, mainly because I had no idea what it was when I first had one on a race map, and now will never forget.

(When and) How did you get into orienteering? What attracted you to it, or what did you find interesting about it?:
Sue is the reason behind why I started -- I had never heard about it until I met her. I really enjoy the sense of adventure I feel when I'm out in the woods having to make decisions for myself. I can't fall back on someone else, but instead have to retrace my steps and figure it all out. It's a good life lesson reminding me to take the time and really be sure about something. I often forget this in myeveryday endeavors. :) I'm also super competitive and love how intense I get when I hear or see others near me who could possibly be
on my same course.

(When and) How did you get into mountain biking? What attracted you to it, or what did you find interesting about it?:
Same as the previous question! I had only mountain biked a handful of times before I met Sue. I had always been interested, but never fully taken the plunge until she came around. Mountain biking really provides me a lot of 'Zen moments,' where I'm thinking about nothing else but what lies ahead of me on the trail, and sometimes this leads to profound thoughts or reflections I wouldn't normally have had.

What changes have you made to your training plan to specifically prepare for MTBO WOC?:
Map reading and getting used to reading the map on the map holder while riding. Sue and I have been watching YouTube videos of other athletes participating in MTBO events and will pause the video to try and quickly choose our own route before seeing what they do. I've also skipped some of our local short track races on Monday nights to go and practice using the map holder at local parks, because I know my map skills are much worse than my fitness.

I also don't normally hit the gym during the summer, but went back to Edge Performance Fitness for their Core & Conditioning classes to strengthen my core. It's my weakest link!

What bike will you be riding for MTBO WOC? Did you specially prepare it for MTBO WOC? Same as above, El Mariachi -- Most especially added Stan's NoTubes wheels to prepare for the thorny Veszprem terrain.

What have you learned about MTBO in your preparation for MTBO WOC
that you did not know before?: I'm learning that I have so much tolearn. It's really settling in how incredible the elite MTBO athletes are. I'm so impressed with how quickly and confidently they make
their route decisions while biking through bumpy, difficult terrain.They are the ultimate multi-taskers. And small things count.

When you saw the call for applications for the first US MTBO team, what made you apply?:
Sue gets all the credit for finding out about the event, but I was the one who really encouraged her to go and
apply. It wasn't until later that I thought about taking the plunge myself, and then it was with her encouragement. I decided to apply when I realized how incredible of an experience it would be, and how
exciting it would be to pair mountain biking and orienteering.

What are your goals or expectations for MTBO WOC?:
Definitely to try my best and not be frustrated if I am just blown out of the water. Like I said before, I have so much to learn about this sport, and am such a noob in comparison to many of the athletes we'll be competing against. I also have a personal goal to not skip over the #1 control, which I've had issues with during a few of our practice sessions. I find the start on the map and then somehow blank on #1 and jump
immediately on to 2! Yikes. So I guess my goal would be to breathe and really look at the map in the starting minutes rather than fretting over how fast I need to get on my way. I'm not sure yet where to set my expectations -- right now they're pretty low, but I'd like to come in with more confidence.
Which event do you suspect you'll perform the best in?: Sprints are usually my better half in the cycling world, but I'm not sure my map reading skills can keep up with my legs. I'm going to choose the
middle course as being my best performance -- more time to assess the
map and a length that feels more like a cyclocross race. I'll get to go hard the whole way and focus less on conserving my energy, which I imagine will be a concern on the longer course.


Susan Grandjean
Age: 38
Occupation: Shipping Specialist at Showers Pass
Bike: Titus Titanium HCR 26" Hardtail
Favorite map feature: The Rootstock!  Maybe because I like to say Rootstock.

(When and) How did you get into orienteering? What attracted you to it, or what did you find nteresting about it?: 
I got into orienteering first by ski-orienteering in 1989 and was a member of the CNYO club.  Then I tried foot-O second.  I found both to be mentally challenging and fun.

(When and) How did you get into mountain biking? What attracted you to it, or what did you find interesting about it?:
I did my first mountain bike race when I was in college.  I was hooked and after college continued to race and move up the rankings.  Recreationally, I have always enjoyed  the thrill of singletrack and being able to challenge myself on technical sections of the trail. My most favorite part of mountain biking is when a trail makes me feel like an ewok on a speeder bike from Return of the Jedi -

How have you specifically prepared for MTBO WOC?:
I have stepped up my core and conditioning classes during the week and also have been doing weekly MTBO training rides with local city park orienteering maps.

What bike will you be riding for MTBO WOC? Did you specially prepare it for MTBO WOC?:
I will be using my Titus hardtail but am using tire sealant for the possibility of off-trail riding that is allowed at MTBO WOC in Hungary.

What have you learned about MTBO in your preparation for MTBO WOC that you did not know before?:
I learned just how awesome it is to be a member of the first US MTBO Team!  Both, the orienteering community and the the cycling community have showed great excitement to see a team representing the US at the World Championship level.  And then there's another level of excitement from the cycling community to know it's an all women's squad!

When you saw the call for applications for the first US MTBO team, what made you apply?:
I love both sports and can only be sweeter if I can do them at the same time!  I learned about MTBO in 2008 and thought then how cool it would be compete.  Thanks to Greg Lennon and OUSA, my dreams are coming true.

What are your goals or expectations for MTBO WOC?:
With not a whole lot of MTBO experience under my belt, I plan to race a little conservative so I don't make huge mistakes.  I hope, as I get familiar with the terrain and the maps, I will take more risks and become more competitive.

Which event do you suspect you'll perform the best in?:
I really don't know what I will be best in.  But if I was to compare myself the the top competitors with more orienteering experience, I would say I would have better results in the longer distant events where rapid route choice decision making isn't as crucial.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Orienteering USA is proud to launch a new Team USA to compete internationally - MTBO Team USA.

Stay tuned for news of everything about our Mountain Bike Orienteering team - the racers, the races, the results and more.

If you can help support mountain bike orienteering in the US - where mountain biking was born - please do so by donating online now at http://orienteeringusa.org/onlinedonation. Make sure to select Team USA: Mountain Bike Team. Thanks for your support!