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Varsity 2017, France




Date: 25-26th March 2017
Location: Fontainebleau, France
Saturday: Individual race
Sunday: Relays
Travel out on Monday 20th, training will be organised 21st - 24th.



Drongo's smallest trip yet (hint hint come on the next trip) happened this weekend, attended by just Ben and Dan (I hope you feel sorry for Ben). It was to Costa Calida in Spain. They booked a romantic gym floor along with many other orienteers, some of which didn't understand that the roof of the gym was actually waterproof and felt the need to put up tents inside.

The trip began well with the guy in front of us on the plane telling us to stop pressing his seat. Ben and Dan both became experts at opening and closing the tray tables as neither had brought anything to do. The old lady next to us clearly noticed, as she asked us to close hers for her towards the end of the flight.

After buying the excess reduction as a punishment for not having a credit card, our hire car took us to Cehegin where the gym was. Not before we had discovered that "via de servicio" doesn't mean service station, but rather a random small road leading to nowhere. It was late by now but a kebab shop was open so we settled for that, although Ben thought they ruined the chips by putting mayonnaise on them.

On Saturday was a classic race in the morning and sprint in the afternoon. On the way we picked up a Swiss hitchhiker, who had much better directions to the race than we did, which saved Ben missing his start. The classic race had a lot of low visibility but passable first, and some massive reentrants, making route choice important. Route choice was snap affected marginally by the location of the many water stations, which were important because despite being February, it was 15 degrees, and feeling even warmer with the sunshine. Dan finished in 2 hours 31, while injured-again Ben walked it in 3 hours 20, and didn't quite come last. We thought we saw Gustav Bergmann but apparently it was some lookalike.

This also marked the entrance of the infamous North Bohemian Youth Talented Squad, who Dan claims he knows, despite not being north Bohemian, young, or talented. He had organised an exchange of his beloved Czech bread for British shortbread, which worked well for both parties. Meanwhile Ben fell asleep in the sun wearing only two layers.

We then drove to the sprint, got off at the wrong junction and accidentally found the sprint car park. The sprint was super technical and one part was almost maze-like, and it was very steep. Men's elite was only 3.3k actual distance but was won in 16:04. Dan's run was alright and he only got caught by a Czech ex world champion starting a minute behind 1/3 of the way round, finishing in 23:34.

In the evening we had tapas, mostly seafood, which was very tasty.

Sunday was a middle race with a chasing start based on Saturday's results. This area was much more runnable with a mixture of forest and open, but with tricky contours in places. Dan finished in 50 minutes, and after a lot of warming up Ben decided he was good to run and finished in 47. Both were put to shame by a Czech M20 finishing in 40 though. It was much cooler today and windy, but at least we had one day of Spanish sunshine.

We then joined the junior squad from Czech on a visit to a canyon. It failed rather early when the bridge on the map was closed, but Dan swam and Ben picked up a massive reed so both were happy. As the gym was now closed, the coaches kindly offered us space on their floor for the night, and for us to use their awesome sand dune maps for some training on Monday. Their coach was Tomáš Dlabaja, who was in the Czech relay gold medal team at WOC 2012, hence it was rather interesting listening to their debrief.

In the morning Dan got up early to see the sunrise but there wasn't one, however he did find a training kite in the forest, followed shortly by a fast moving Daniel Hubmann punching it. The female juniors also discovered him shortly afterwards and were extremely excited to have a photo with him.

Ben then woke up and we went to Lidl, bought breakfast and 4kg of oranges, then had a slightly sandy breakfast on a very windy beach. We returned to the camp to go training, wearing o kit with Dan looking strange carrying a thank you bottle of wine (for the coaches) at this time in the morning.

We had a great pairs training in the sand dunes and caught up a Czech pair, then had some good racing with them for the rest of the course. Ben then decided he shouldn't push not being injured too much and Dan went out for two more sessions. One was a letter N outlined by a course, which Theirry had run at night in 16 minutes. Dan took 48 in the day and as he left the finish, realised that he hadn't actually found it.

We then went to the airport, drunk the litre of beer left in the boot (Ben had to drink more quickly to stop Dan having all of it), and ate several oranges each.

Next stop, Slovenia in early March!

Two for DrongO at Ox*ord (three thirds and a first)

Oxford Results | Shotover Results | Photos (Facebook)

As usual a group of people from DrongO and CUOC went to the Oxford City Race. Unusually though, the assembly field sported an OUOC banner, but not a CUOC one. In previous years this was the other way round. The race itself had to be one of the best Oxford City Races so far. It was planned to keep you thinking, and even on the longer legs if you didn't plan ahead for the shorter, trickier bits coming up, you would find yourself losing time on them. The courses visited the inside of some colleges and there was a control on the bridge of sighs. This meant that Ben W had seen the Venice, Oxford and Cambridge bridges of sighs all within a week.

On the Men's Open DrongO was certainly the best club, with Ben Windsor winning and James Hoad coming third. Sarah Gales also did well to finish 3rd on Women's Open. There was yet another DrongO 3rd place from Kevin Harding on Men's Supervets.

Following the race there was a combined DrongO/CUOC meet in the Gardener's Arms, a vegetarian pub, where plenty of tasty nosh was consumed. Hallvard, our Norweigian comrade who is now studying in St. Andrews, unfortunately didn't make it to the pub as his overnight 14 hour coach journey, followed by no breakfast and a race, hadn't left him feeling his best.

Most people then left - Natalie H was off to London for her birthday celebrations while fresher DrongO George Johnson went back to Birmingham and Ben S braved his second four hour stint of the day on the X5. The four CUOCers who came to the pub were spared the second stint by James who was driving to Cambridge for a dinner there. This left Ben W, Tom D and Sarah G who were staying for the race the next day. They visited the Natural History Museum and played guess which animal the skeletons were before looking at the sign. The evening was spent cooking brownies and curry at Sarah's house, followed by a good stretching session and a game of Linkee (Sarah, as usual with games, was the best at it, although we did surprise one of her housemates by telling her that Sarah didn't always win Bananagrams when playing with us).

After a very long night of sleep, the excitement of Sunday morning came when Tom complained that Sarah had not cut the Tiger bread straight. So Sarah cut it straight and ate the slice, much to Tom's disappointment at the volume of his lunch marginally decreasing in size. Then we drove to Shotover for Sunday's race, and it was raining. Ben decided that he would leave the car at 10:30 by which time his breakfast might have gone down enough. Fortunately it had stopped raining by this time, so it was only cold and not cold and wet.

Back in another two years for a DrongO member to take a third consecutive Oxford City Race win?

Venice 2016


For the second time a DrongO group went for a weekend of running and sightseeing in Venice.

James H arrived first on Friday morning and went running. Sarah G and Harriet B joined later and the three went for pizza. Harriet tried to get a pizza and coke deal but found the coke was about the size of a shot glass. Ben W arrived even later from the definitely-not-in-Venice Ryanair airport. Harriet then met the DrongO mascot for the first time but did not appreciate Ben talking to it like it was a person. Our final trip member George arrived in the middle of the night, although unlike Sarah, he did manage to buy a boat ticket to the correct destination from the airport. George was orienteering for the second time ever and maintaining his record of never having orienteered outside Venice.

Our accommodation was a little apartment from AirBnb with a very friendly owner and some bottles of alcohol left there by previous occupants. The crockery was also kept in a cupboard which was a turned off fridge inside.

After a rather rainy Friday evening, Saturday was beautiful sunshine all day. There was time for a bit of tourism which included cat paintings and an airport architecture exhibition. We also discovered that if another DrongO member came who was taller than Ben, they would only be 29 pixels from the top of the image. Then it was on to the first race, which was in a grid-like seaside town, which also sported a shut serial killer museum. Navigation was not that difficult but there were some controls on the beach. James 3rd, 21 seconds behind the winner, with Ben in 4th. Sarah and Harriet were 7th and 14th (not last) in the womens. A local man holding a broom had some fun jumping out at competitors too. George stayed at the accommodation to finish some work, leading to somebody saying his life was s***. Harriet then continued to tell Ben his hair looked ragged and needed a wash, while Ben told Sarah her race pace was probably slower that James's steady pace and George told Sarah she had a dress which looked like fish scales. James somehow avoided this mesh of harsh comments.

After this we had some time to go back to the beach and go swimming, pretty good for November! We also practised running through shallow water since we suspected (falsely, it turned out) that some parts of the course might be mildly flooded. There was then some fun, leading to some excellent photos, trying to put shoes and socks on whilst standing on one leg. We saw possibly the world's smallest dog being walked there as well.

This was followed by the pasta party where we could have as much pasta, cheese and wine as we could, although the wine wasn't so popular since it was only a few hours to the main race. We then got a lift back to the boat stop with the Czech coach (which had about 50 Czechs and 30 Poles on board) and no empty seats, but they nicely let us sit in the corridor on the floor.

Back in Venice we recovered in the apartment for a bit before the main night race in central Venice. Sarah's prediction that George hadn't been outside and had eaten all the Toblerone was close, he hadn't eaten it all but had only eaten Toblerone and bananas all day. By this point Harriet had worked out how to recognise orienteers wandering around the city: if they had a down jacket they were definitely an orienteer.

The race was once again challenging, but different to last year with fewer long legs and more controls. It was tough to think fast enough to make every turn without slowing down. Nobody came last this time. Ben had a good run, and finished 17 seconds down on the winner in 3rd on men's elite. James got a bad stomach part way round and had to slow down, finishising 2 minutes behind in 9th place, but he did win the run in. In the women, Sarah rather consistently finished 7th again, while Harriet improved to 10th. George on Men's A ran the same course, coming 12/16 on his second ever course, but didn't quite manage to beat either of the girls. Next year!

Once everybody finished we ate post race pizza and beer at about 11pm, and George made up for earlier by having about twice as much as anyone else.

The Sunday morning race was further away and we (Ben) hadn't realised that the race transport timetable in the info pack was different to the one he had printed from the internet. As a result we caught a boat, expected a bus to meet us, and there was no bus. This left us with not enough time to get to the race by public transport before the start closed. But by taking two buses then walking (or for James, running) 6km, we would just make it. The huge tourist resort of Jesolo was deserted out of season and taxis were nowhere to be found. We went for it, Harriet carrying her pizza box and George dragging his wheeled case, and made the start 5 minutes before it closed. Harriet even recovered her sense of humour once we had started walking, and we decided that this walk would at least ensure her boyfriend Mark would have no regrets about deciding not to come.

The race had unexpected terrain for a sprint, large parts of it were forested in various shades of green, leading to both Ben and James making some mistakes, finishing 10th and 14th. George tactically started a minute before Sarah, then tried to keep up when she caught him. He did this successfully and even started reading the map in the second part of the course, but didn't manage to pull ahead again despite some valiant attempts. The extra competition possibly helped Sarah to get into 6th place this time, while George was 10th. Harriet navigated pretty cleanly but was outrun and finished 12th, but at least didn't mispunch like the last person on the results.

Our late starts meant that we missed Ben's part of the prize giving for the previous evening, but he got a nice plaque as a prize. Then it was back to Venice for some stiff-legged wandering and (more importantly) eating. On the way Harriet got her best view of the Jesolo waterpark yet, and excitedly made sure the whole bus knew how awesome and exciting the slides looked, and that her ideal day out would be at a waterpark.

After consuming various combinations of pizza, pasta, ice cream, and mulled wine, we headed our separate ways to the airports and George vowed that he was coming back next year. Looks like it's going to have to become annual then!

CUOC women's captain doesn't get up early for no reason

On Friday evening a DrongO realised it had cereal but no milk for breakfast, while a Helen realised it had milk but no cereal. There was a clear solution to the problem involving meeting at 8.30am at the athletics track. The Helen decided that a tasty bowl of milk was just fine for breakfast, while the DrongO came out of hibernation to flap round the track a couple of times before nibbling his bowl of dry muesli from the 100m start line.

London City Race 2016


The 9th London City Race was held on 10th September 2016, with accompanying races on Friday evening and Sunday morning. A rather large DrongO group attended.

Friday - Crystal Palace

The Friday evening race was at Crystal Palace Park, a park on a hill which was broken up by fences which gave some route choice, and also an small triple-layer section. In the Men's Open Ben W came first with Matthew V just behind in second. DrongO just missed out on all top three positions as James's duathlon skills didn't pay off (he cycled to avoid missing his start, arriving just in time) and he finished 4th. Then Ben S finished 8th and Roberto, who hadn't orienteered since the Venice race, missed a control out. In the women, the top (and only) DrongO was Fiona Petersen in 21st.

This paragraph is really boring, so you can click on the picture instead of reading if you like. Unfortunately the awesome campsite which we stayed at last year now closes at the end of August, so we downgraded to the floors of James' newly purchased flat and Fiona's parents' house. Ben W and James cycled back to his via a non-optimal route (guessing which way to go isn't always right). Ben S got the train and Sarah G joined having missed the race due to Oxford-London bus delays. Silly place to live really, the three coming from Cambridge got there fine. Our French department Raphaelle (who is in Bristol for 3 months with work) and Cedric (who came over from Paris) joined too. Matthew and honorary DrongO Phil (Matthew's brother) went to stay at Fiona's.

Saturday - London City Race - Rotherhithe

Saturday was the main race in Rotherhithe. With rain forecast it was uncertain as to how slippery things would be, but the rain held off just long enough for most people to run. The planner's pre-race comments were well founded - it probably was the best London City Race ever! Less touristy than usual, but definitely the most interesting with very little dead running. In the Men's Elite James H got on the podium with 3rd place, the winner being 4 minutes ahead and an international Finnish runner. The top DrongO woman on elite was Katrin Harding who finished 12th, while Sarah Gales came 4th on Women's open. We think her excellent fashion sense helped her along the way.

Other top 10s were Ben W and Matthew V in 6th and 9th on Men's Elite, Fiona P and Miranda L in 7th and 8th on Women's open, Cedric F in 9th on Men's Open, and Eric Roller and Matthias Mahr in 8th and 9th on Men's vets.

The Bens and James then took Matthew for his first ever warm down jog, during which it started raining and hopes of having dry running clothes afterwards were lost. This was followed by the traditional (well, it's happened once before) Beast Pizza at the Dicken's Inn. There were 17 people who consumed 5 beasts - recently wed DrongO Andy Prochazkova (Strakova), her parents and husband Pavel joined us as well as Fiona's parents.

After the meal we had nothing to do but the internet informed us that there was a Brazil Day celebration in Trafalgar Square. Raphaelle and Cedric decided that l'art was more interesting so hopped off to the Tate Modern. Before that though, Cedric, having accidentally got into a different carriage to everybody else, decided that instead of waiting for the next station he would change carriage immediately, giving him chance to comically dive back in through the tube doors.

Walking from the tube station to Trafalgar Square, Matthew and Phil decided that they wanted some free newspapers to put in their shoes later to dry them. But they took newspaper-taking to a whole new level, as shown in the photos. They then proceeded to spend the next couple of hours trying to get rid of them, often by putting them in other people's bags.

It was raining at Trafalgar Square and there was a strange woman with a purple veil singing and wiggling around on the stage. There was a lot of very tasty looking Brazilian food too, but everybody was too full after the Beasts. Then we discovered the paralympics section which had a 20m(ish) running track and wheelchair basketball. Ben W and James ran the 20m. Both forgot to start their Garmins for it though. It looked like it was precisely timed because there was a big display, but actually it was just a woman with a stopwatch. Then we had two excellent matches of wheelchair basketball, which was really fun!

Then it was still raining, so we went to a pub for a bit, then went back to our respective staying places.

Sunday - Soho

Sunday was an early start for the race around Soho. The start was just next to Covent Garden - starts were early to avoid the crowds. The race was the easiest navigationally of the weekend but was also quite exciting running around well-known places in central London. There was one tricky part which caught people out (and lost James the win) with the muliple levels of the indoor part of Covent Garden. James continued to improve his position with 2nd place, only 16 seconds off winner Severi, the Finnish international. Ben W and Matthew V were then 4th and 6th. Other top 10s came from Eric Roller (4th on Men's Vet), Sarah G and Fiona P (2nd and 3rd on Women's Open), and 9th from Ann Roller on Women's Vet.

Assembly was in a bar which was part of a university, which was serving some very popular bacon sandwiches. Ben kept finding bits of newspaper in his bag, attached to his bike, and anywhere you can put newspaper really. And they kept reappearing.

The rest of the day was spent watching street performers in Covent Garden, having lunch in a pub during which Phil paused looking at pictures of cute dogs to learn French, and watching the final stage of the Tour of Britain. The DrongO banner made it onto TV! James then kept up his tradition (also second year now...) of running home on Sunday evening.

Looking forward to doing it again next year!

DrongO gets flooded


On 20-21st August, four DrongOs (Ben W, Zuzka S, Matthew V, Fiona P) met in the Lake District, along with two of Ben's friends from work. On Saturday, they walked in pouring rain through paths that had turned into rivers from about 12pm-4pm. When they left, they were parked in a camping field. When they returned, it looked like this. Remarkably all the cars still worked afterwards!

Overnight the DrongOs had a wild time playing articulate on the floor at Matthew's house before going to sleep. It was lucky Matthew and Fiona didn't tell us about everything they did in Scotland or they wouldn't have been able to win the all plays.

On Sunday the four DrongOs went training on whatever this area is called. They did trains exercises using CUOC's reflective drainpipes which were on their way back to Cambridge. The rough open area had quite a bit of bracken on it. Ben and Matthew thought it was excellent fun. Zuzka and Fiona thought the bracken was horrible (especially Zuzka).

Czech 5 Days


The recent Czech 5 days saw a rather large DrongO attendance, although not all as one group. Indeed, some DrongOs managed not to see each other at all during the event. Blanka and Mark Collis, who now live in Prague along with their two kids, were there for the whole time staying in Blanka's mum's huge converted barn. This was conveniently a short drive away from where the races were. Ben and Vicky Stevens also attended the whole week staying at the event campsite, while half-DrongO Andy Strakova was also camping there with her Czech club. Ben Windsor, Dan Safka, and Stan Fort came just for the weekend.

Days 1, 2, and 3

Days 1, 2, and 3 were good. Although apparently days 4 and 5 had the best maps and the best weather.

On Friday evening Ben W arrived into Prague on a slightly late Ryanair plane. He would stay at Dan S's house just outside Prague for the night before driving to the race the next morning. At 00:05 Ben called Dan and Dan was in a club having consumed precisely no alcohol. They were aiming for the last train back at 00:18. At 00:16 Dan arrived at the train having checked exactly how far it was from the club so that he could run and arrive at just the right time. At 00:17 Ben arrived after a short delay in working out where the platforms were. Between 00:18 and 00:52 Dan talked about scooters and how his desk couldn't be too near to other people at work or he would distract them by asking them what they were doing.

Then we drove back to Dan's house, Ben went to sleep and Dan made apple strudel, which was incredibly tasty.

Day 4

Dan had persuaded Stan to come for his first ever orienteering in Czech Republic. Despite being Czech, Stan had only ever been orienteering with CUOC. So we picked him up on the way, and Dan gave Stan a slightly explicit postcard from Mooloolaba. Ben drove some of the way and Stan drove the rest of the way because Dan was too tired after his strudel efforts, and he said he liked navigating (which he did a much better job of than John O).

The orienteering was in a very runnable, gently undulating forest. It wasn't the most technical apart from a few rocky patches, but it was very enjoyable to run through. The assembly area was better than at English events as usual, everybody sitting around and chatting, clothing, food, drink and beer for sale, and music playing in the background. We discovered that there would be an AlcO in the evening and thought that it would be appropriate to join it. Dan also discovered some blueberries on his course so we went back there to pick them to make into a cake at Blanka's house.

The AlcO had 18 teams, and the format was drink a half-litre then run a short course. There was a warm up round. Then a round where the worst two teams were knocked out leaving 16. And so on, leaving 8, then 4. The winners were the winners from the 4. Except in the final round they had to drink at the end as well as the start. This meant that the winners had 6 beers, it was a pretty serious AlcO. RAFO also had two teams which went out fairly quickly, but one of their members joined the Czech commentator to provide some exciting commentary for any foreigners there. The later courses had controls in the middle of the lake too.

The DrongO team consisted of Ben, Stan, and a random Belarusian guy called Alexander. Ben and Stan decided that doing the warm up was enough and didn't really want to turn up drunk at Blanka's. Alexander decided he would just run the first leg of the next round on his own, and came back in first place having swum across the lake on the through-or-round route choice.

After about 3 hours the winners were finally decided, one of whom successfully parted the crowds during his celebration by throwing up.

Then we went to Blanka and Mark's. By this time it was too late to make cake, but Blanka and her mum had been busy so there was very tasty cake there anyway! Dan didn't want to drink out of a cup with the union jack on it, he preferred the "keep calm and carry on" one.

Day 5

In the morning we had breakfast and Dan mixed the blueberries with yoghurt to take with us as a snack. At some point we discovered that Stan Fort is going to Stanford to do a PhD next year, but decided not to have his new email address as stanfort@stanford.edu, which would have been awesome.

The area today was perhaps a little bit more difficult than yesterday, but quite similar overall. It was based at the event campsite. There was a lake right next to it meaning that you could finish the course and go swimming straight away!

Dan and Stan wanted to go cycling afterwards but Ben needed to catch a plane, so they asked random people if anybody had space. Amazingly, somebody was driving directly to the airport and gave Ben a lift all the way there!

Overall results for the people who actually ran all 5 days were: Andy W21A 18/31, Blanka W21A 26/31, Ben S M21E 31/38, Mark C M35A 22/24.

Sprint Scotland - Three Cambridge Graduates Fail At Connect 4


Day 0 (Arriving)

Results | Presentations

A small DrongO group went to Sprint Scotland from 14-17 July. The format was two days of training, two days of racing, all in excellent and hugely varied sprint terrains, with talks by some of GB's best athletes past and present. Graham Gristwood had clearly put huge amounts of effort into making it happen and making it good, and it pulled off very well.

Sarah G drove up on Wednesday morning to laugh at children getting soaked in torrential downpours on a summer camp, and Ben W arrived on a plane in the evening. We camped, and Sarah had to put up her massive tent on her own, but fortunately a man who was cutting the hedge offered to help her.

Day 1, Thursday, Sprint Training

It was warm and sunny for the three training sessions organised today. There was a 10k long training in Dunblane (during which Ben picked raspberries), then a half urban, half forest training in Bridge of Allan (during which we found it is better to run a bit further to do a long gentle climb than a short steep one), then an unusual rough open area with contours next to the village of Braco (during which Sarah refused to wear trousers and had rather tingly legs afterwards). The first session had artificial road blocks to make route choices much more interesting/difficult.

All three were excellent and analysis sheets printed on the backs of the maps provided chances to pick up on what you should practice in the next session. For lunch we had slightly warm macaroni pies from a local bakery and ice cream. We also visited the Andy Murray shrine in a museum (he wasn't there though). We then had time for a game of bananagrams on a drain cover in a park, which Sarah commented would be a good place for ants to orienteer (but actually they would find it difficult due to the repetitive nature of the terrain).

We decided to cook on the trangia in the evening: meatballs and Chinese stir fry vegetables in meatball sauce with pasta. It worked well and we cooked very efficiently because we had to get to the evening talk held in "the lesser Hall" - about orienteering philosophy and process by Kris Jones. As a sports scientist it had a flow chart which ended with Plan-Direction-Picture, the three things summarising how to orienteer well! James H arrived by plane later that evening.

Day 2, Friday, Train. Rain. Rain. Repeat.

Day 2 was based at Stirling boys club, which had the motto "play the game". There were three sessions all in different parts of Stirling, again all very contrasting and with analysis forms on the back!

The first was route choice around the old castle area, with some tricky to spot best options. A slightly drunk person told Sarah which way to go and she listened, ending up in completely the wrong place, good distractions training! The second training was around the newer city centre with a lot of shorter legs making it very difficult to keep your "buffer" full - your buffer is how much you have thought ahead such that if you were to drop the map, you would be able to keep running. The third training was three short sprint intervals around a gridded housing estate, not a difficult area but difficult to do fast!

It rained all day but we dried stuff a bit in front of a fan we found in the boys' club. After the training we had a few hours so we maintained DrongO's reputation by drinking precisely 330ml of cider each and playing articulate in the hall whilst it was still raining. Then it mostly stopped so we ventured up to the castle, but decided we would prefer to have seven ice creams instead of paying the entry fee. However we settled for just one ice cream each considering the weather conditions.

The we went to the modern centre and discovered table tennis, giant connect-4, and giant jenga. We played all three of course, but didn't manage to close the bottom of the connect 4 properly so all the counters fell out half way through the game. We also spent some time doing some proper analysis on our training maps, very helpful! The evening talk was by Murray Strain about "project Bolt" - how he went about trying to be the best sprint orienteer in the world. He flashed up map segments on the screen, simulating a glance at the map whilst running, showing that minimising map reading time is important for fast running. He also told us about how he did very large amounts of map geeking. And in the end, his WOC 2015 performance wasn't what he wanted because he was "safely good" rather than risking it and being right on the edge. We decided that he needs to be more dog.

Day 3, Saturday, Hallgen Races

Day three was two sprint races planned by Kris Jones, one of which was a world ranking event. At the last minute the order of the two areas was swapped. We had a conspiracy theory that it was to stop people map geeking in advance, but it turned out it was because of unexpected long grass being unfair on a WRE. The first race was a sloping, very complex, housing estate with lots of steps. There were many enthusiastic local children cheering people on. James finished 7th, 2 minutes down on winner Jonny Crickmore, with Ben in 11th having run reasonably cleanly but not fast. Sarah was 8th/12, 5 minutes down on the winner.

The second race was flatter and less technical but had an interesting section going into a meadow with grass as tall as Sarah. James had a haggis pasty for lunch which fuelled improvements and let to an impressive 4th place, 50s down on the winner (Crickmore again). Ben finished 12th and Sarah was 6th this time! Kris forgot to put a control out but nobody noticed. Ben missed banana time but it was OK because he wasn't running properly anyway.

Our analysis showed that Sarah can't do number 2 and should eat more raisins mindfully to solve this, but that James and Sarah were only beaten by people who had run for their country. Good work!

We had rather large pizzas in a nice cafe for dinner and a plate of cheese with a few nachos embedded in it.

Then there was the evening talk, by Heather Munro who is a DrongO (unknown by us before!). Heather's career is now as a mind coach and the talk was called "training the mind for optimal performance" and was mainly centred around mindfulness with a couple of practical activities including eating a raisin - it was very insightful. Also the idea of "flow" or "in the zone" where you are so at one with what you are doing that you just do it without really noticing - after hearing this Sarah decided that the reason why she couldn't remember which way she ran was because she was in flow.

We then had the obligatory final night party which went on until at least 10pm in the tent involving drinking beer from shoes. We nearly finished the 96 poppy-seed-filled mini pastries which Ben had made for the trip.

Day 4, Sunday, Grangemouth race

The final race and another world ranking event. The area was mainly a grid and wasn't as technical as Saturday morning, but still a challenge to run perfectly. Kris Jones had finally not seen the course before so was allowed to compete. He won by over a minute. James made some mistakes and finished 14th, a little over 3 minutes down, with Ben going round steadily to finish in 19th. Sarah was 7th, but only 3.5 minutes down on the leader this time!

Then the trip ended, Ben flew to Czech for the start of his three weeks off, Sarah drove back down south and James flew back to London to go to work the next day.

This really was an excellent multiday event, particularly the training part - there are not many chances for seniors not in the GB squad to attend top quality training and this was one of those opportunities. If it happens again next year then we would certainly recommend it!


As there was far too much to think about to analyse everything, we decided to concentrate on a particular part of our trip and analyse it: porridge making. You will see here how Kris Jones has broken down the porridge-making process into four main skills: plan, direction, picture, and route choice (click the image to enlarge). We gave each of these a score on each morning, and concluded that Sprint Scotland really improved our porridge-making skills.

PDPR Comments
Day 1 0000 Plain porridge, no milk or flavours, had to substitute with hot chocolate powder
Day 2 1000 Practised plan - bought milk and banana beforehand
Day 3 1010 Practised picture - imagined the overall porridge taste and included golden syrup flavour
Day 4 1011 Route choice improvement - considered adding meths, carrot, coffee, or crushed biscuits. Chose crushed biscuits which significantly improved enjoyment

Based on this, we still haven't quite got our direction sorted because we still managed to drop banana and oats on ourselves instead of into the pan, and allowed some hot chocolate powder to blow off the spoon in the wind. The next DrongO training will therefore focus on directional aspects of porridge making.

DrongO Fills Top Three Spots in a relay on the Harvester weekend

Harvester and Harris relay results | Sunday relay results

As if one overnight race wasn't enough, the weekend after Jukola five of the seven DrongOs who ran also went to the Harvester, and were joined by two more to make up the team of seven. NGOC had organised the weekend excellently and had even managed to make it into a triple relay weekend with an informal Harris Relay on Saturday afternoon and a small relay event on Sunday.

The area was very fast open land with varying lengths of grass and some areas of complex contours, as well as exquisitely-mapped bushes. Ben W set out on first leg for DrongO but made a four-minute mistake near the start of the course and spent the rest of it chasing down BOK's Adam Potter who had taken the lead. Ben and Adam came in together with a 7 minute lead over third place. Next out was the "freshest DrongO" Zuzka who was caught by FVO's Jason Inman, but held onto third place. Matthew went out next on the long (10k) night leg and was the only one to do it in under an hour, coming back with the lead, very closely persued by FVO and BOK. By this time CUOC's second leg runner had left!

Mark Bown held the lead on leg 4, building up an excellent 7 minute lead for Tom Dobra, who headed out fifth. Tom also held the lead despite losing 20 minutes to NOC's Andy Llewellyn, but he had a sufficient head start to maintain first position. FVO mispunched on Leg 5, but then it was DrongO disaster as Sarah mispunched on leg 6! Both teams mispunched on different controls, but both by going to a nearby control which wasn't the right one. Ben S then flew round the last leg to bring DrongO back as the third finishers, but disqualified. CUOC took about 3.5 hours longer than DrongO but didn't mispunch.

This meant that we couldn't retain the small clubs trophy which Ben W forgot to bring back, but it does mean that we are still eligible to win it next year! It's still a very promising result for DrongO and shows that maybe we can compete for the overall trophy in future years! And with a bunch more CUOC leavers this year we might be able to field both a women's and men's team!

Once everybody had got various degrees of sleep there was time for breakfast burgers, a team photo (Sarah was too small to see over the banner), and then it was off to the Sunday relay for some people. We had mixed DrongO/CUOC teams entered on the Ad Hoc course, with the aim that the teams were of even overall ability. DrongO Don't shoot me came in first as Dave returned without being shot, followed by DrongO dibbers 1.5 minutes later and DrongO serious action (their final handover is in the video, there is commentary too!) finishing 26 seconds after them. So DrongO (and CUOC) got the top three positions, but since there were no prizes for Ad Hoc, we had to make our own podium. Each team also had a runner who came 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on their leg, so evenly balanced!

We're looking forward to next year's Harvester which is probably going to be organised by DrongO in the Lake District, look out for it!



Getting there

Results | Official photos | Ben Stevens photos

On the weekend 18-19 June, a DrongO team of 7 travelled to eastern Finland for the Jukola relay, the first time in history that DrongO has entered a team there. The team wasn't quite 100% DrongO since we stole ex-Bristol's Duncan Birtwistle for first leg.

Jukola is a huge 7-man relay which happens in June in Finland every year. The top teams are pretty much made of international level athletes so there is plenty of competition! There were around 1600 teams there.

We all arrived on Friday morning to lovely Finnish sunshine, and went shopping. Some of us discovered that the 23-cent tasty looking pastry actually had rice-mush on top and not custard. Then we drove 2.5 hours to a training area about 30km from the Russian border.

Mark had ordered some training maps for this area where kites were hung for the time leading up to Jukola. As we arrived it started raining. We all had fun running round the training for about an hour (you had to run or you got eaten by mosquitoes).

Next we drove into Lappeenranta for an all-you-can-eat pizza and lasagne buffet (perfect for orienteers) although we were ordered to leave at exactly 9pm when the shop closed. So we finally arrived at Jukola itself. The first thing we got to was a massive car park which was almost empty, since most people would arrive the following morning. Then there was a massive sign saying 2.7km to assembly. So we walked with all our stuff until we got to a field full of army tents, one of which we had booked to stay in.

Jukola - the race

It turned out that the army tent had no ground sheet, and with almost no wind the mosquitoes loved it. So we all enjoyed a slightly uncomfortable night of having the choice between being too hot inside a sleeping bag or being bitten outside it.

The next day was spent exploring and spectating at the assembly area - although "town" would be a better description. There was an array of marquees full of sports shops, a huge catering marquee, two bridges which runners used during the races and a gravel road leading to the assembly area built specially for the event. The women's Venla relay took place on Saturday afternoon which was exciting to watch, with GB's Hollie Orr being the second ever Brit to be part of the winning team (Halden).

It got windier and wetter as the day went on and once we had done the model event adjacent to the assembly area, many of us went to sleep again in the tent which was now safe from the biting insects. At 11pm it was time for our race to start.

Duncan Birtwistle was off on first leg, and with camera-drone flying overhead, 1600 headlamps blared off into the forest. We had been put in start position 581, and Duncan made up almost 500 places by the first spectator control which we punched in 98th. However he was overtaken by a few teams again and handed over to Ben Windsor in 211th. Ben had a reasonable run but with a lot of small mistakes, but made up a few places into 196th. Matthew Vokes took over for the 14km long night leg, running well against some very good runners and coming back in 215th. Next it was over to Mark Bown, who had run at Jukola several times before, who had a very clean run and brought us up to 184th. Zuzka Strakova was up next who, despite running against a field of men, navigated well and only lost 20 places. James Hoad ran 6th and very much enjoyed one of his cleanest runs, bringing us back up to 188th, albeit with a massive cut on his knee from slipping on some moss-covered rock. Ben Stevens was left on the final tough 16km leg. Ben also ran well but slowed down in the final section because it was so long, but still only lost four places to keep DrongO in a final top-200 position of 192nd! We're pleased with that!

The lashing rain which had continued all night was still going in the morning as we packed up our things. However, it finally gave up at around lunchtime as we walked back to the cars. Unsurprisingly the car park had turned into a mudbath and tractors were painstakingly towing cars out one by one. However, some cars were making it out by themselves so we gave it a go in our tiny hire car. Zuzka and Ben ran behind it and pushed and a couple of others joined in the push up the final slope, and we were free! James's opinion of our "rubbish" hire car was suddenly lifted!

After the race

Ben, Zuzka and James were staying on for two days to go walking whilst everyone else went back to the airport. By the time they arrived at Repovesi national park the sun was shining! Unlucky other car!

The national park was really nice with forest and lakes but still had mosquitoes. It had dedicated campsites where fires were allowed and dry wood was provided free! We made a fire and cooked sausages over it. On Monday we walked all day, but James's cut knee was painful so he took some shortcuts. There was a tower, a suspension bridge, and an exciting hand-powered rope ferry. In the evening he took the plaster off and it was green, and after talking to his doctor-parents we decided to go to the hospital. The hospital was almost deserted but that also meant it was almost deserted of staff, so the wait was as usual. No bad news for James, just cleaning and a new dressing. We then drove back to the airport, arriving at about 4am, and got our sleeping bags out for the night there!

On Tuesday Ben and Zuzka went to explore Helsinki while James went to a swanky airport lounge to wait for our flight in the evening.

Well done to everyone who ran and thank you especially to Mark for organising the trip! We're looking forward to the slightly smaller Harvester relay next weekend!

Science City Races - a DrongO event!


On 7/8 May 2016 DrongO co-hosted the Science City Sprints alongside WAOC. And DrongO's first event in the memory of younger DrongOs turned out to be a huge success, attracting 340 runners from far and wide.

The idea was a new one to sprint orienteering - two sprints, you are allocated a start time for the first one but you run the second one whenever you like, and the results are the sum of your times. The areas were quite different, with the Science Park being less technical and having longer route choices around buildings and hedges, while North Cambridge was an intricate maze of council housing. Ben Stevens joined WAOC's Helen Bickle to organise the event, and Ben Windsor newly mapped and planned on North Cambridge, and WAOC took charge of the Science Park map updates and planning.

The turnout of helpers was also excellent, in fact so many DrongOs were there that we had to turn away some of the CUOC volunteers from helping who we thought we'd need to top up helper numbers! Thank you to everybody who did their bit towards it!

Three GB sprinters also turned up - Chris Smithard winning the Men's open (although he was beaten by the planner in North Cambridge, who perhaps had a slight advantage), and Charlotte Ward and Alice Leake getting top two on the Women's open. Along with Brian Ward they won the team competition of course. It was good to see a Newcomer's team from the OTC coming second, which was what the team competition was originally intended for! DrongO's SquaDRON GOld then made it into third position to win some rather tasty chocolates. Well done to DrongOs Tom Dobra and Katrin Harding who both came third on Men's and Women's open.

Amazingly none of the controls got stolen in North Cambridge (well done gripples) but several runners were frightened by kids jumping out at them from behind cars. Some course 1 runners were also slightly surprised to have a control in an enclosure where a man was hanging out his washing.

In the afternoon there was a picnic on Jesus Green at which the DrongOs outnumbered the CUOCs (impressive!), which was meant to be followed by Picnic and Pimms followed by Paul Pružina's Pilates, but that never happened. There was also too much cake so another picnic had to be organised on Sunday, which was sensibly preceeded by pilates.

There was also a formal at Pembroke in the evening which four DrongOs came along to and had a nice time, even if there weren't very many potatoes.

Well done and thank you to everyone who ran and helped! We're planning to organise the Harvester in the Lake District next year, so watch out for that!

British Long and Relay Champs 2016

Results and photos

On May bank holiday weekend a handful of DrongOs made their way to Brown Clee Hill in Shropshire for the British Long and Relay Championships.

Saturday was the individual long competition. The weather was slightly JK-like with the odd hail shower on an exposed hillside, but they seemed to stop by the time most people were starting. The car park was very impressive, and worth the extra pound of car parking to be able to drive in and out instead of slide. Helen Ockenden, who was CUOC's entire BOC team, finally met The DrongO and believed that he existed.

Most of the British squad had been selected to run at some races in Poland, and so didn't turn up. However, it seemed that Graham Gristwood had narrowly missed selection so had to run at the British champs instead, and won M21E by over 15 minutes. Matthew Vokes started 21 minutes ahead, and only just got caught at the spectator control about 1km from the finish of the 14.6km course, a valiant effort! This put him into 10th place. Other DrongOs Ben Stevens, James Hoad, and Tom Dobra came 13th, 15th and 22nd. Ben Windsor, who had somehow been seeded second, missed out most of the course because of injuries again. Meanwhile Chris Williamson was 3rd on M21S, Quentin Harding won M50L and Rob Campbell retired after pulling something in his leg.

The Women's elite had a slightly disappointing field size of ten, and Katrin Harding finished 6th. Anya Crocker was 7th on W21L and Sarah Gales was 3rd on W21S, while Jenny Peel won W45L.

We then went to check into our Travelodge. As we were checking in there was a continuous high pitched beeping in the background. The woman at the desk said it was because room 1 had pulled the red emergency chord, but when she knocked on the door the occupants hadn't answered, so she just left it. It shortly turned out that the room 1 occupants were our friends from JOK, and that Ian Cumpstey wasn't dead on the floor of the shower, he just tried to turn it on by pulling the emergency chord. What a JOKer.

In the evening we went to the pub which was just opposite. Our original gathering of five people turned into nine when we were joined by two Loughborough Uni people and two JOK people. Nick Barrable took 26 minutes to have a shower and get to the pub after arrival, which was better than his estimate of 40 minutes. He was already late though because he stayed for the prizegiving in the vain hope that one of the top three would be disqualified.

Everybody slept very well, and James didn't even have to poke Tom during the night. In the morning Ben, James, and Matthew returned to the pub for a rather nice cooked breakfast, while Sarah and Tom took up Nick B's offer of rather nice cereal and rather room-temperature milk he had brought.

The relays were in the same area although there were no DrongO teams. Matthew ran Men's Short for WCOC and the team came 2nd. James came through the spectator control in an impressive 3rd place on Men's Premier first leg, but lost a few places with a mistake in the final loop.

Ben then left and went back to Cambridge. Matthew left and went somewhere else. James, Sarah, and Tom stayed in the Travelodge for another night.

That afternoon a trip to nearby Ludlow led to the remaining DrongOs spinning upside down at high speed thanks to a funfair taking over the centre of the old town. Circumnavigating the castle then proved slightly more adventurous than expected - whether the crag should be marked as crossable or uncrossable is debatable.

Finally on Monday the urban race in Tamworth was reached after some slightly circuitous navigation to the event car park (possibly a sign of things to come with the driver's route choice). Sarah was dragged round by a pack of old men to dominate women's open, winning by over 5 minutes, and Tom had a good run to come 2nd on men's open.

Unfortunately a DrongO podium hat-trick was prevented by James having a slight issue reading control descriptions at the last control, though it did mean that it's impossible to tell if Nick Barrable would have been quicker or not.

JK 2016


Day 1 - Sprint

Results | Photos

A DrongO/CUOC group went to the JK on Easter weekend at the end of March. It started on Friday morning with four people from Cambridge meeting at Caroline Louth's house (who had offered us a lift there). Ben arrived with the CUOC guitar and the DrongO banner, and a few spare clothes to go with them. Lindsay arrived with almost nothing. Carrie arrived on time (pretty much). Helen P arrived too.

With Google's help we avoided the accidents on the A1 and ended up driving round the outskirts of Rotherham, which claimed to welcome us as we were a seat-full car. We arrived at Leeds University campus for the Sprint race, day 1 of the JK.

The sprint was on a small but complicated area with a few multilayer parts and a few uncrossable walls to catch people out, and many people had double-sided maps.

In the men's elite, Ben Stevens was top DrongO in 56th place, with Matthew Vokes four places behind after losing a minute by going under a bridge instead of on top of it. Tom Dobra was just beind in 61st. The women's elite saw some rather higher places with Katrin Harding in 19th and Anya Crocker in 23rd.

In the other classes, here are DrongOs who got in the top 10:

Alistair Hindle7thM40
Eric Roller7thM45
Quentin Harding1stM50
Rob Campbell2ndM50
Jenny Peel2ndW45
Mary Ockenden7thW55
Alison Harding8thW55
Sarah Gales6thW Open

After the race Carrie and Helen left us to stay with their families and Matthew V, Tom D and Sarah G joined us to stay in the much-more-fun caravan. A quick tesco shop later (which we thought would fit in a small trolley but didn't quite) and we went back to make veggie chilli, realising Sarah's dream of having it two days in a row since she had ordered it for the pub the following evening. The caravan was near a railway line, and Tom could tell which type of train was going past from listening to it.

Day 2 - Middle

Day 2 of the JK was on Wass, a Yorkshire forest, so natually everybody expected it to be extremely brambly and horrible. But it wasn't! Or at least, the courses managed to avoid the parts of it which were. The assembly field was in a muddy turnip field with some bales of hay dumped which we could use to make our tents into nests. Matthew felt slightly frustrated watching some small children stealing the hay he had put there from outside our tent for their own tent. The DrongO banner did its job at telling people which of the many green pop-up tents was our one, and Ben's failed banana and chocolate cake still tasted good even though it needed eating with a spoon.

Ben W was the first starter on men's elite but wasn't running fast because his toe had been broken. However, he was still coerced into the commentary box when he finished so that he could tell everybody what he thought of the forest. His estimated winning person of GG was correct, but his estimated winning time of 32 minutes was three minutes too slow! Ben Stevens was again the best DrongO in 47th place, with Matthew V 30 seconds behind in 48th. In the women's Katrin Harding was again fastest DrongO woman in 27th place. We hoped nobody from the caravan would take too long or we'd have to get up really early on Sunday.

Top 10s:

Eric Roller10thM45L
Quentin Harding2ndM50L
Kevin Harding2ndM55L
David Hanstock10thM60S
Anya Crocker3rdW21L
Alison Harding5thW55L
(Photo - the Drongo apple crumble from Day 1 with the Drongo enjoying the custard)

After the race lots of people went to do the TrailO! For Tom Dobra it was a world trail orienteering championships selection race, for everybody else it was a chance to try it out, and most people seemed to think it was good, although not a replacement for foot orienteering! After the TrailO Matthew, Phil, Rowan, and Paul went for a drive to see a very long ford where the road basically went along the river. They also came across a white horse and some other monument-type things. Meanwhile Ben, Sarah and Lindsay decided to walk along a nature trail singposted as being 1.5 miles long. After about 3 miles they reached the pub where everyone was meeting for dinner just as the rain which had been forecast for the afternoon but never came finally hit. Matthew drove Sarah back through the torrents to get her car, where they found Tom Dobra still discussing the TrailO course with the planner over an hour later! The pub meal was very tasty and then we returned to the caravan. Rory joined us for the night to share Ben's bed.

Day 3 - Long

Day 3 was the long distance race at Kilnsey, a very fast area of open moorland, hence the men had 20.1km to run and the women had 13.4km. It was an early start with the clock change. It was Easter Sunday but Ben's creme eggs were forgotten in the car (they were demolished at a different time though). The weather was good most of the time, and even quite warm at times, but was interspersed with some very very heavy showers. The third of these was hail, and for those still out on the windy hillside it hurt! This let to several of the top elites retiring from their courses. Paul P of CUOC kept running and had red speckles all over his arms the next day, except for where his control description holder had been. There were buses from the car parking to the assembly area, and they were very efficient with very few queues!

In the women's elite Carrie Beadle (DrongO offer holder) came 13th, with Katrin Harding in 26th. In the men's Mark Bown was top DrongO as an M35, coming 22nd, with it being very close again between Ben S and Matthew V who came 38th and 39th respectively.

Top 10s:

Eric Roller4thM45L
Quentin Harding1stM50L
Kevin Harding6thM55L
Anya Crocker2ndW21L
Elspeth Ingleby9thW21L
Rachael Rothman2ndW35L
Alison Harding4thW55L

After the race we returned to the caravan to make roast dinner! There was quite a lot of chicken but Rowan made impressively light work of it. Carrie joined us for this night so Ben got to share his bed with Matthew this time.

Day 4 - Relay

Greeted by a night and morning of rain, as well as a slightly dubious looking parking field, it cleared up just as we were arriving at Day 4 of the JK, the relays. The DrongO team consisted of Matthew Vokes, Sarah Gales, and Mark Bown. The area was a reasonably nice forest with a section of urban part way round the course which was interesting. The team was 32nd out of 41 overall.

Looks like Matthew managed to pull a mask-worthy face again on his way out of some vegetation, captured well by event photographer Robert Lines.

This left everybody to say goodbye and look forward to Jukola and the Harvester relays, both of which DrongO will be attending!

Varsity 2016

Results | Photos (facebook)

Varsity 2016 was held on 5th March at Sutton Park, organised by our favourite alumni rivals JOK.

10 JOKers and 7 DrongOs took part in the alumni match. In the men's James Hoad was the fastest Drongo, finishing just over a minute behind JOK's Alan Cherry after having a fast run (and perhaps a bit of drag from some other randomer who turned up unannounced at the start). Seven minutes behind was Ben Stevens, coming third in the men's alumni match. Tom Dobra completed the DrongO men's team 8 minutes behind Ben.

Unfortunately all three DrongO women had opted to run women's B, which meant that DrongO had no women's team! However, this did give DrongO the three top spots on Women's B (out of three) from Sarah Gales, Jean Payne and Fiona Hanstock. JOK's Helen Hanstock just saved JOK from not having a women's team at all by being their only Women's A runner, so JOK won the alumni trophy overall!

In the real Varsity Match, Cambridge women won with Helen Ockenden and Zuzka Strakova getting the top two spots, while the Cambridge men lost with OUOC getting a 1-2-3 and CUOC's Paul Pruzina 13 seconds behind!

After the match we went back for the Varsity meal and accommodation.

Most alumni went home for the night, but along with CUOC, Ben Windsor, Tom Dobra and Sarah Gales attended the social and stayed on OUOC's floors for the night. Some people had the elaborate Varsity dinner in University College Oxford, whilst others had it in Wetherspoons. The boat race was won by OUOC and DrongO's one-person team had no chance.

On Sunday the relays were cancelled for being too far away from Oxford, so there was some training in Shotover.

Thanks to Ian Webb and his JOK helpers for some excellent orienteering on Saturday! Hope to see everybody in Fontainebleau, France, on 25-26th March 2017.

Sarah Gales has a good Sunday

Today Sarah Gales had a good Sunday. She completed the following activities:
  • Bought a Europe to UK travel adapter so she no longer has to fly to Stockholm in order to charge her headlamp
  • Got a lift with Roger Thetford
  • Completed a course with more than 24 controls. That's more than one control for each year of her life, and without even mispunching!
All in all, a great success.

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