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!