The pupils eligible for the World Schools Championships have been training hard for the selection races held over the British Schools weekend. This has involved some excellent technical training on Wednesdays after school. This training culminated in a weekend on Holme Fell, just north of Coniston, with Saturday night spent at Estwaithe YH.
Saturday’s exercises covered the area near Colwith. The terrain here is rough open ground with plenty of small hills and depressions. The bracken had mostly died back and it was reasonably easy to travel quickly. Unfortunately, the weather on Sat morning was horrible and pupils had to be focused and determined to complete the exercises in the strong wind and driving rain. Luckily the weather improved and some blue sky was spotted in the afternoon.
Exercises in the morning covered recognising contour features and planning ahead. Contour features were large and small, but were in part of Colwith Wood. The fallen trees and brashings made these features difficult to spot and some of the younger runners made a few mistakes. The planning ahead exercise tried to get the runners to start planning routes to the 2nd control once they knew where the 1st control could be found. This would enable then to flow through the controls without wasting time. In a race 5 seconds wasted at a control could see a runner losing by a minute. This exercise seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.
After lunch pupils moved on to working on relocation. Ulverston runners are NEVER lost, just sometimes misplaced and it is always useful to practice relocation when possible. Working in pairs, one runner would take their partner to an obvious feature on the map and ask them to find a control. The partner had to work out where they were and then take both of them to the aforementioned control. Again this exercise worked very well. The final exercise was a map memory task (also called a Norwegian exercise). Seniors looked at a map at the start and then had to find the next control without a map, relying on their memory. When they reached the control a second map would send them to the third & final control before they returned to the start. The juniors had the advantage of a blank map so they could thumb the position of the control. The area was very complicated and the exercise tested everyone.
In the evening everyone took part in a night event. This was held on the front lawn of the Youth Hostel in the dark (torches were allowed). The area was very small and barriers were put out to produce a labyrinth. The racing was fast and furious and everyone thoroughly enjoyed their first experience of micro orienteering.
Sunday was again spent on Holme Fell. This time we were based near the quarries at Hodge Close. This area is wooded with good contour features and plenty of marshes and streams. Two areas were used, divided by an almost insurmountable well, which provided much amusement as the less agile tried to climb over the stile.
In one area runners had to follow a line drawn on the map and mentally note any cones they found. This was followed by a small course focussing on different terrain features. The second area was used for relocation and simplification. Seniors found the area of map between controls was blank and they had to run on a compass bearing and then relocate when back on the map. Very daunting to start with, but they soon got to grips with it.
The weekend finished with a relay. Teams of three mixed ability runners had to decide which controls each would visit according to their strengths. A very close and intense battle ensued and it was a great way to finish the weekend.
A big thank you must go to all the adults who helped with the weekend (Mr Bragg, Mr Browne, Mr Brocklebank, Mr & Mrs Farley, Mr Price & Mr Wright). Particular thanks go to Mr Lecky Thompson who spent hours organising the training exercises. All the runners found themselves tested on their technique and benefited from the weekend.