Ben Stevens decided he wanted to go to Spain or Portugal in the spring. After attempting to boycott both the CUOC Icenian and cross-country skiing weekends, he was coerced into attending the Maximus O Meet, which was (a) in spring and (b) in Spain, and therefore satisfied the criteria. Ben W, Harriet, and Phil also joined.
The trip started on Wednesday evening with everybody managing to arrive in Milton Keynes at about the same time to stay with Harriet, who for future reference has plenty of spare beds. However, if you wish to have a shower on the first floor, you need to sit in the bath because the sealant around the edge leaks.
We got up earlyish to drive to Stansted to fly to Milan in Spain. During the drive the car was either very hot or very cold, not because the car couldn't be set to a medium temperature but because Harriet, as Ben S pointed out, was behaving "like a 1970s microwave" by having the heating fully on or fully off with no modulation.
The subject of Paul also came up, and Phil announced that he wished he was fast like Paul was.
After finally getting the hire car and refusing the plethora of optional extras, it was 1h30 to drive to the accommodation. We stopped at a supermarket and it was still 1h30 away. Harriet enjoyed the fact that we could have cheese because she wasn't with Mark. Ben S wanted to do some tourism so we drove down some of the less pretty backstreets. Then we were still 1h30 away. 1h30 later, we reached the AirBnb.
It turned out by chance that the evening's night training was only 300m away. The night "training" was a mass start gaffled course, which definitely shouldn't have been interpreted as a race. It was a mixture of rocky woodland and urban. It turned out that a lot of top international athletes had come for these races.
Afterwards, Phil cooked dinner whilst Ben S went to try and get some photos of Harriet finishing. Harriet came back soon after having cut it short, as she was scared of all the dogs and rapists in the forest. She had also noticed how everybody had the same "orienteering smell" whenever somebody ran past her - with the Czech orienteers exhibiting this characteristic most strongly.
On Friday there was only a night sprint, so we had the day free. We ambitiously set off early in the morning to climb a 2001m high peak. It turned out that the small footpaths marked on mapy.cz don't really exist, especially when the ground is covered in snow and "Spanish heather", which it was higher up.
We reached an intermediate peak at about 1550m and decided to call it a day there. Harriet was very excited to find lots of free ice lollies hanging from some of the rocks, and Phil almost managed to eat an entire orange in one bite after lunch.
Once back down we still had some time before the race so drove down the road to a reservoir where the water was very cold, but Ben S was still very keen to swim there, although it was one of his shortest swims to date. Phil also had a quick dip shortly afterwards, and we spent a bit of time jumping around some rocks.
In the evening it was the night sprint race. There were lots of fast people there. It was a really interesting area, a town on a slope with lots of parallel streets, zig-zags and route choices.
We were shown that we weren't as good at orienteering as we thought, with Ben W, Phil, and Ben S finishing 38th, 47th and 66th of 67 finishers. Harriet beat all 5 non-finishers in the women's. We went for a spaghetti meal afterwards before heading back for bed.
Saturday was the long distance race, ony 5 minutes drive away. It was -4 when we woke up but soon warmed up once the sun was higher. The map had a lot of things on it, but it was very difficult to simplify and pick out obvious features, even on the long legs.
As a result it was 2 hours of intense navigation. It was a beautiful day to be out though. Phil twisted his ankle on the way to the start, but popped some pills and carried on.
Everybody made a mistake on the first control, including Meg Carter-Davies who lost 15 minutes (but followed it up with a pretty much perfect course). Harriet took 75 minutes to #1, which was the same time it took the winner to do the entire course. Phil, Ben W and Ben S got 52nd, 56th, and 67th of 74 finishers this time despite nobody having an espeically bad run!
In the afternoon we drove up to a pass at around 1600m and then climbed to 1976m through some more snow and ice. There were some spectacular views. Harriet turned back early to stay warm in the car, and slid down some of it on her bum. We're unsure if that involved sliding through where Phil had made some yellow snow on the way up.
In the evening we cooked again and Phil had to eat a lot of cream with his dessert to help finish it.
The final day was a middle distance on another technical area, lots of contours and rocks, with a mixture of open and trees. This was a chasing start, and Phil, Ben W and Ben S managed 56th, 64th and 68th of 82 finishers, while Harriet was happy to finish ahead of at least one person!
We just had time for a quick shower at the accommodation before heading back to Milan. We dropped Harriet at the airport who had an earlier flight, and the rest of us did some quick Milan tourism before flying home as well.