Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Surprise! What did I get myself into?!

How I hope not to end up. ;)
Hello from Texas!

Sarah here, and while I've spent plenty of time on 2 wheels, I've never participated in an MTBO event. The world championships will be my first experience and boy do I have a lot of random ideas of what mountain bike orienteering will be like.

I imagine MTBO is somewhat like texting while driving - you should keep your eyes on the trail, but you're too busy looking at the map. How could anything possibly go wrong?
Ok, so maybe it won't be that bad! I hope.
This year's WMTBOC takes us to Poland. The northeast side of the country in BiaƂystok to be exact. How cool is that?! I'll be racing in a city I can't even pronounce! Let's take a gander at the country of Poland.
We'll be neighboring with Belarus.

Boom! So we land in Warsaw this Saturday and Nathan and I get to meet our teammates. All of us finding each other sounds like a challenge already. Maybe some guy will be standing there with a sign?
We currently have 2 very sweet rental vans. One for the people and one for our 9 bikes. Rumor has it, these may be manual transmissions. I hope our international DL holders brushed up on their driving skills.
The drive from Warsaw to our hotel will be a couple hours. Then the fun starts! We have a week of training camp to get us in gear. Both physically and mentally. This will be my first real exposure to an MTBO map and the actual terrain the map covers. I have my fingers crossed and my breath held for a very exponential learning curve.
All of our team will be at the training camp. It will cover (I think) all possible scenarios. What could these be? I don't know. I'm assuming getting lost, keeping direction, missing a punch, etc. I wonder what happens when you crash so hard you break a map board. Does that even happen? How much finess and skill do these racers have?
*Please don't let me be this guy*
See, my mind is already running off on a tangent. I'm hoping to find what works most efficiently for me as far as riding and reading the map. I know being able to practice will be the biggest help and having others around me to exchange tips will be icing on the cake. Either way, I'm PRing.
All in all, mountain bike orienteering sounds like a recipe for fun. The use of maps require the cyclist to be quick thinking in route choice - helping muddle the strict competition of who's the strongest. Brains AND brawn! I must admit, this leaves me at a disadvantage compared to my experienced teammates and competition. I have been practicing reading a map while on my bike, but I know it's not the real deal. Training camp will give me a chance to thoroughly practice with a MTBO specific map and to see what I am up against. Being a competitive cyclist, I feel my fitness should be comparable. However, my lack of map-on-bike and MTBO map time will leave me a bit slower than the average racer if I'm not careful.

Training with pain.

"Training" for this event has been interesting. Nathan and I have spent many hours on the bike, but we do not have MTBO specific maps of our home state. We've taken road and AR maps for the area and have set out with random check points - using only the roads/trails on the map. I've learned to use key features that the map gives me as landmark points. These help notify if I am close or have maybe passed my point. I've grown very familiar with using elevation as an indicator on the map as well. While the MTBO courses are said to be relatively flat, I'm sure it will be significant enough for this flat lander to use as course indicators. We've also practiced exercises for spending more time looking at the map. We can thank our fellow Team USA members for those drills!
Training with maps.

Another new feature for me is the SI card. An electronic punch. What an upgrade from a paper passport! I think this will allow us to roll through the check points quickly. I am very excited to experience these new concepts at training camp and to apply them in the World Championships! Everything I learn will help make me a more skilled and competitive MTBO racer for the upcoming years.

SI Cards for quick checkpoint punches!

Be sure to check back after WMTBOC week. I will be posting another blog comparing and contrasting what I think the race will be with what the race really was! Wish us luck!!!

Sarah Ginsbach


  1. LOVE: "Either way, I'm PRing". You are too awesome. I posted on Wink's blog but will ask here also- do you do this as a whole team? or solo? or teams from within USA team?

  2. Wink and I are both competing with the relay team. 3 men make up Wink's team and 3 women make up my team. This means we all do the events individually, but the times are combined. Or something to that effect. So we all do the sprint, middle, and relay distance. Only those who qualify or are chosen do the long distance. If I understand it correctly, at no point are we racing "with" each other. It should be fun!