Category Archives: Event Reports

Andy Robinson completes Ironman UK

Huge congratulations to SLOW member Andy Robinson who completed Ironman UK on Sunday. In tough, windy conditions Andy completed a 2.4 mile swim in Sherborne Lake, 112 mile cycle around hilly Dorset lanes and a marathon in a total time of 15 hours 44 minutes – well inside his 16 hour target.

Here is Andy’s report of the event:

The bare bones are:
Swim 1:41:10
Bike 8:04:27
Run 5:31:29
Both transitions 26:54
Total 15:44:00
Position 1124 out of 1193 finishers and 1298 starters

Ironman has been something I’ve wanted to do since completing the HalfIM down in Sherborne in 2003. Firstly I had to wait for it to be upgraded to the full distance, and then I kept comparing the injury situation with the entry deadline and thinking better of it. But just before last Xmas I bit the bullet and invested the £240 entry fee. Yes that size of fee makes it quite a commitment from the start.

Training had 3 aims
1) Work out how to swim as far as 3.8km
2) Build up the mileage on the bike
3) Avoid running injuries.
1 I just about managed; 2 worked fine, but 3 was something of a disaster area. No sooner had I got the calves sorted out when the back went into spasm. Training for the 8 months to 31 August comprised 76 hours swimming, 149 on the bike but only 53 hours running. The first 2 had a progressive build-up while the last had random fluctuations and nothing of any length.

Still I had thought through race scenarios, developed coping strategies and was there on the start line. First action on race day was to get my back taped up. I’d being seeing Helen Westerby-Cox and she had come up with a plan, but with my wife being absent due to a recent hospital op, I had to find someone to put the tape on. Fortunately a guy called Mike from the orienteering club was there supporting some Serpies and agreed. He was most bemused at my instructions to stick this weird pattern of tape on my back under a flood light at 5.15 in the morning.

Strategy for the swim involved a new top of the range wetsuit, plenty of Ibuleve on the calves and a determination to swim through cramp. Added to this I was last into the water and headed straight for the back of the lake where people were standing up. It meant an extra 3 minutes swimming once the race started but that was preferable to 10 minutes wallowing about. Basically it worked and although cramp slowed me a lot near the end I was out of the water only slightly over expected time.

Into T1 and what to wear? I selected short sleeve top and thermal vest on the basis of some sunshine. It proved only just enough as there was steady drizzle at times on the bike. I’d wanted to enjoy the bike ride but the nasty NW wind and frequent drizzle meant that was impossible; especially annoying was the last 6 miles of each lap being into the wind. Again a bit over predicted time but nothing to worry about and confident of finishing.

T2 and time to unleash the secret weapons – a cheese sandwich and packet of peanuts – tasted good. I’d noted that people who finished near the end averaged 24 minutes in both transitions and was determined to take that time and use it wisely. I’ve done enough long distance things to realise that time spent on a quality stop to sort out food and equipment is often recouped many times over before the finish is reached.

Onto the run. The coping strategy here was to have sections of walking right from the start. So I walked up hills; I walked at feed stations; I walked at mile markers and did some sums. Never running more than a few hundred metres at any time. As a plan I reckon it worked brilliantly; the back tape did its job perfectly and some hip trouble I’ve had only started to take effect from 19 miles. Lap splits of 1-42, 1-49 and 2-00 show the effect of the hip trouble and blinding by floodlights after dark.

The crowds were brilliant – although very much thinner by lap 3, except for the pupils of the boys’ school who were having a whale of a time. Those left had all gathered at the finish and made the last 200m a very pleasant experience. After the race they look after you well too; medal, T shirt and photo dealt with quickly and you are ushered into the area for changing, massage, sandwiches and a curry (korma with mushroom rice).

Was it the hardest thing I’ve done? Definite no. I was in no doubt all day and therefore had reserves left.

Would I do another one? Equally definite no. The job has been done. The box has been ticked . Its time to move on.

Anne Straube wins World Trail-O Championships

Photo: Dave Gittus

Congratulations to SLOW member Anne Straube who won the Gold medal at the World Trail Orienteering Championships held in Czech Republic on 15/16 July. This really is a superb achievement – Anne managed to beat all the competition, including several very experienced Trail-O competitors from the likes of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and won overall after two tough days of competition.

Anne has regularly competed in international Trail-O competitions, and was the planner of the Trail-O at this year’s JK in the south-east.

Further information on the 2008 world championships can be found on the World Trail Orienteering Championships 2008 website. Full results from the event can be found here (PDF file).

Anne has written an account of the event in German which can be found here. A rough English translation of this (via Google) can be found here. Anne hopes to do a proper English translation for the next edition of SLOWprint!

Trail Orienteering

For those of you who don’t know much about Trail-O, the WTOC website describes Trail-O as follows:

“Trail orienteering is an orienteering discipline centred around map reading in natural terrain. The discipline has been developed to offer everyone, including people with limited mobility, a chance to participate in a meaningful orienteering competition. Manual or electric wheel chairs, walking sticks, and assistance with movement etc. are permitted as speed of movement is not part of the competition.

Trail orienteers must identify on the ground control points shown on the map. As this is done from a distance, both able-bodied and participants with disabilities compete on level terms. Proof of correct identification of the control points does not require any manual dexterity, allowing those with severely restricted movement to compete equally. Most trail orienteering events have classes open for everyone.”

SLOW members compete in JWOC and World Masters

Last week saw a number of SLOW members competing in world championships events for both juniors and veterans. A summary of the results is set out below.

Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) – Göteborg, Sweden

As reported in our earlier news article, Ralph Street was selected to compete for Great Britain at the annual Junior World Orienteering Championships, held in Göteborg, Sweden between 30 June and 6 July. He competed in a number of different races during the week, starting with the sprint race on Monday in which he finished a solid 114th place out of 172 runners in 16:26, just 3 minutes behind the winner.

In the middle distance qualifier Ralph finished 35th so missed out on the top 20 place required for a place in the A final. However he then went on to have an excellent run in the B final, finishing an impressive 6th position (just 2 minutes behind the winner). In the long race on Saturday, he achieved 100th position (out of 169), so a good improvement from the Sprint.

Finally, in the relay Ralph was running for Great Britain’s 2nd team, but had a storming run on the 2nd leg to finish 15th out of 57 on that leg (3 minutes ahead of the 1st team runner), helping the GB 2nd team to finish in an impressive 13th position overall, two places ahead of the 1st team!

Ralph wasn’t the only SLOW runner at JWOC – Ausra Miksyte was also competing for Lithuania. She finished an excellent 73rd out of 127 in the Sprint, and 30th out of 60 in the B final on the middle distance. She did not compete in the Long race, but rounded off the week running 2nd leg in the Lithuania 2nd relay team, who finished 21st overall (and like the GB team, beat their 1st team counterparts by a few places!).

Full results and maps can be found on the JWOC 2008 website.

World Masters Orienteering Championships (WMOC) – Leiria, Portugal

Andy Robinson at WMOC

Chris Robinson at WMOC

At the same time, a number of SLOW’s more elder statesmen and women were competing in the veteran’s equivalent of JWOC, the World Masters championships, held in forested sand dunes on the Portugese coast between 28 June and 5 July.

SLOW had 5 runners competing, with the best results of the week coming from the Leakeys in the Sprint race – Diane finishing in 14th place on W50, and Alan one place higher in 13th on M55. Diane also managed an impressive 19th place finish in the Long A final, with Alan finishing in 54th.

Andy Robinson finished 59th in the M50 Sprint (which was won by Guildford Orienteers’ James Crawford) and 62nd in the Long A final. Chris Robinson managed an excellent 31st on the W50 sprint and 57th in the Long A final. Anne May achieved 49th position in Long A final on W55.

Special congratulations also go to Elizabeth Brown (mother of SLOW’s Sarah Brown), who – while her grandson was competing in JWOC – completed a clean sweep of Gold medals in the W90 class, and was the oldest female competitor at the event!

Great Britain finished with their best ever performance in WMOC, finishing fourth in the combined medals table with 13 medals won. Sweden won 46, Finland won 25 and Norway won 16.

Finally a special mention to SLOW’s David May who was the IOF Senior Event Advisor for the event – no mean feat when living a thousand miles away! You can read a bit more about David’s involvement at the event here.

Full results and information can be found on the WMOC 2008 website.

SLOW finish 2nd in North Downs Way Relay

Owen Lindsell at the North Downs Way Relay. Photo: Nick Barrable.

For the second year running, SLOW had to settle for second place in the annual North Downs Way relay, finishing around 20 minutes behind a strong team from Guildford Orienteers who retained the trophy.

Caroline at the North Downs Way Relay. Photo: Nick Barrable.

This race is an annual relay, which has been running since the late 1970s, run along the entire 123-mile length of the North Downs Way – starting with the first leg from Dover at 5:30am, comprising 16 legs in total, and finishing in Farnham at around 8:00pm.

This year SLOW found themselves 33 minutes Guildford behind after just 3 legs, which was not helped by Paul Whiston suffering a nasty fall on the 2nd leg which held him up for a significant amount of time (but thanks to Steve Clark from the Canterbury team for helping Paul out). The margin was reduced to just 10 minutes by the end of leg 6, but that was as close as it got, as Guildford gradually pulled away to eventually win by a margin of 22 minutes.

Well done to all the SLOW runners who competed for us, and in particular to the following runners who won their respective legs: Andy Hodgson (leg 5), Paul Couldridge (leg 6), Caroline Court (leg 11), Nick Barrable (leg 13), Mike Farmery (leg 14) and Owen Lindsell (leg 16).

Full results are now available on the NDW Relay website. Assorted members of the victorious Guildford team are pictured below.

Guildford Orienteers team. Photo: Nick Barrable.

SLOW teams compete in the Jukola and Venla relays in Finland

Start of the Venla relay – Diane Leakey running for SLOW is on the right.

SLOW team.

The Jukola event consists of two relays. The Venla relay for women takes place on Saturday afternoon with 4 legs. The Jukola relay starts at 11pm on Saturday night and has 7 legs. It is the Finnish equivalent of the UK Harvester relays but on another scale in terms of the number of competitors.

This year’s event took place near Tampere, about 2 hours drive north or Helsinki. Some of the team flew out a few days earlier to compete in the Forssa Games which is World Ranking Middle distance race and was a good opportunity to get some practice in the tricky terrain.

The team came together on Saturday morning via various routes from the UK including by ferry. The race arena was located at an aviation and motor sports centre which included a runway, alongside which, were about 300 army tents for teams to sleep.

A few people headed off for a quick run on the training map before the start of the Venla relay. The Venla Relay had 970 teams starting in a mass start. The first 200 teams are seeded and take the first few rows on the grid. A network of wires elevates each competitor’s rolled map above their head.

The event was televised on a Finnish sports TV channel and was displayed on a big screen in the race arena. The top teams carry GPS devices and their positions and routes could be displayed on a map on the big screen. On the first leg in the mass start for SLOW was Diane Leakey. The teams set off creating a cloud of dust and their progress is tracked through the forest.

Team information stands.

Each leg had about 4 radio controls and it was possible to views each team runner’s progress on computer terminals in the assembly area.

The SLOW Venla team had good runs ending in 501st place with a particularly strong last leg from Sarah-Jane Gaffney gaining 122 places!

In the Jukola relay were 1453 teams. Setting off the SLOW team at 11pm was Brooner. Although the sun had set it was not completely dark but head torches were required for the first few legs. From a position in the mass start of 1025, the team made steady progress through the field ending up in 683rd place. Particularly good runs were had by Patrick Saile, Seb Woof and Alan Leakey.

Team Results

Women’s Team Length (km) Leg Time Leg Position Relay Time Relay Position
1 Diane Leakey 7.1 1:19:55 512 1:19:55 512
2 Vicky Whaley 7.2 1:39:09 661 2:59:04 609
3 Chris Robinson 5.6 1:13:51 638 4:12:55 623
4 Sarah-Jane Gaffney 8.2 1:21:55 262 5:34:51 501


Men’s Team Length (km) Leg Time Leg Position Relay Time Relay Position
1 Andrew Brown 11.5 2:19:03 1165 2:19:03 1165
2 Simon Evans 12.3 2:29:10 976 4:48:13 1076
3 Patrick Saile 13.2 2:00:02 638 4:12:55 832
4 David Roach 7.9 1:43:10 1048 8:31:26 870
5 Alan Leakey 8.0 1:19:11 488 9:50:37 759
6 Andy Robinson 9.9 1:54:09 803 11:44:47 756
7 Seb Woof 13.8 2:14:30 613 13:59:18 683


Team information stands.

SLOW enjoy the Harvester Relays

Harvester 2008. Photo: Ian Buxton

The Harvester Relays are the UK equivalent of the major Nordic/Scandinavian Night & Day Relays. Those events get several hundred teams, while we had to make do with 59 teams this year. But that is still quite a few teams compared to recent years & the event was better for it. Even though there are not as many teams as in Scandinavia, the event still has a unique atmosphere and place in the UK orienteering calendar.

This year’s event was held at Park Wood and Naphill Common in Buckinghamshire, and was held the night after the JOK Chasing Sprint a few miles down the road, which helped to increase participation. Every leg on the relay had a spectator control in the assembly field towards the end of the course (see number 13 on the map extract below), which made for great spectating opportunities – cheering was going on right through the night!

The event has two races, an A class with 7 runners per team which started at 12.30am, and a shorter B class with 5 runners (and generally shorter courses) which started a bit later at 2am. There are also “handicap” trophies awarded within each class, which teams qualify for by having an appropriate combination of age/sex of the runners in the team, as well as a women’s category on the B class. SLOW had teams in the full spread of classes – the A open, A handicap, B open, B handicap, B women and B women’s handicap. Indeed, SLOW had more teams and runners than any other club, with 6 teams and a total of 34 runners! I had some difficult selection decisions to make, with a whole set of objectives. One of which was that everyone should enjoy themselves – I hope we achieved that. Thank you all for taking part & being part of the team spirit over the weekend.

Harvester 2008 Extract.

On the A relay, our Open team generally ran very well with some good individual performances. This would have been enough to put us in the top 10 overall, but unfortunately the team was disqualified for mispunching. It does happen, especially at night when you can be relieved just to find any control! (So always check those codes when running in relays!) However it didn’t affect the team’s attitude & everyone continued to run very strongly and enjoy the race with some good runs. The A handicap team was battling in the middle of the field coming an impressive 13th place overall, and the 4th A handicap team. It included a good performance from Simon Evans running through an injury and finishing 2nd place on his leg, and Alan Leakey bravely agreeing to run the long 9km night leg after a reshuffle.

On the B relay we did achieve a top 10 position overall, with the B handicap team of Jim Mallinson, Mike Murray, Chris Fry, Charlie Turner and Peter Haynes finishing in 9th place overall, 42 minutes behind the winners (and 6th B handicap team, 35 minutes behind the winners – the handicaps were very generous this year). Our women’s handicap team was 21st overall and 6th women’s team, about 45 minutes off the leading women’s handicap victors. Our women’s open team suffered a mispunch, but would have come 23rd. Our open team were 29th – this included a top performance from Richard Catmur (another one of our injured who did amazingly well) coming back in the leading pack, and Vince Roper and his super new headlamp (!) hanging on for leg 2.

If you want to practice night orienteering, then there will be a new series of low-key events in the south-east over the winter – check for details of events later in the year.

Thanks to Thames Valley OC for hosting the event. The full results of the event can be found here.

SLOW’s next venture into night & day relays will be at the Jukola in Tampere, Finland, on 14/15 June, where two teams of SLOW runners are taking part.

(Thanks also to Pete who had the tough job of organising our 34 runners into 6 different competitive teams, as well as handling the logistics of making sure everyone had a working headlamp! Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and it was great to see so many SLOW runners competing – we hope you’ll all be back again for the Harvester next year! – Paul)

British Championships

Andy Robinson punches the last control on Saturday at Culbin. Photo: Simon Branford

Many SLOW members made the long trip to Scotland for the British Championships in Culbin Forest, Moray, north-east Scotland on 19-20 April and enjoyed the challenging, technical terrain as well as the lovely sunshine and blue skies – a welcome change from the snowy conditions of the other major championships this year! Culbin provided some of the best orienteering ever experienced in the UK, with many experienced orienteers coming to grief in the tricky, intricate pine-forested sand-dunes.

Ralph Street showed he is recovering well from injury by taking the Bronze medal in the M18 Long class and also had a tremendous run in the Men’s Premier Relay, bringing SLOW back in 7th place on the first leg. The team of Ralph, Patrick Saile and Matthias Mahr finished a highly creditable 12th overall – first Southern team (and indeed first team south of Sheffield). The Women’s Premier team of Abi Weeds, Anne Straube and Carys Morgan also scored valuable UK Relay League points, finishing in 11th.

Ralph’s mother, Sarah Brown, was SLOW’s only other individual medallist, finishing 3rd in W55 Long. Top 10 finishes in Long classes were also achieved by Paul Whiston (9th M35L), Alan Leakey (8th M55L) and Diane Leakey (6th W50L).

Sarah Brown also had a great relay run, bringing the W50s back in first place on first leg, but the team of Sarah, Christine Robinson and Diane Leakey had to settle for Silver medals behind an in-form Lakeland team, which included Jackie Chapman, SLOW member and Treasurer up to a few months ago – thus ending SLOW ‘veteran’ ladies 12-year reign (!) as British champions.

Full results from the weekend can be found on the British Championships website.

Ralph success at British Elite champs

Ralph. Photo: Mark Cheesman

Congratulations to Ralph Street at the British Elite Middle Distance Championships & British Sprint Championships in the Midlands last weekend.

On Saturday, in the middle distance race at Hopwas he was leading M18 (& third best M20). On Sunday, in the sprint race at the University of Warwick he was one of only 20 men to qualify for the A final, where he came 14th and top M18.

Full results are available here.

Ralph. Photo: Mark Cheesman