Thursday, August 23, 2007

WOC 2007: Phew what a scorcher.

So far the week has been hot. Today it go hotter. The spectators could look forward to four hours in a field with temperatures in the high 30s and no shade. This was probably only marginally less physically tiring than having to run 18 kilometres with over 500m of climb as the men had to do. We got an early lucky break when the organisers suddenly found an extra bus to take people direct from the hotel to the event, rather than having to brave the metro again. The bus dropped us off at the entrance to the Ukrainian Museum of Folk Architecture and Life, a huge open-air museum consisting of cottages and churches spread around semi-wooded countryside. Those of us who stopped to take photos of the two windmills near the entrance found we needn't have bothered, since the event arena was dominated by five windmills on a hill top, with a sixth acting as a spectator control. Somehow the organisers managed to squeeze the spectator control and map exchange into a tiny corner of a huge field, so photo opportunities and spectating were not what they should have been. Helen, James and Peter spent most of the day sheltering under a makeshift tent made of towels over a fence post near the last control.

It was clear from early on that the courses were long and tough. The commentary team hinted that there was one leg of over three kilometres: this later turned out to be predominantly through or round a built-up area. Early starters looked hot and tired as they ran down to the windmill for the map exchange and the final loop, and were significantly down on predicted times. Gradually the times got faster, as they are bound to do given the reverse start order from qualification, but there was seldom any real excitement in the field. It was probably just too hot.

In the women's race it was business as usual, with the top 6 being no surprise at all. What was a surprise was that Kauppi and Jukkola took exactly the same time (80:17) to give Finland two gold medals, and that they both beat Simone by well over a minute. The splits show Jukkola lost 10 seconds running the wrong side of the building at the last control, but they then both did 22 seconds (fastest time for any woman) down the run-in. Helen Winskill ended up 32nd and Pippa Whitehouse 42nd.

In the men's race two big names dropped out before the race (Lauenstein ill and Lakanen injured), and seven more failed to finish or were disqualified. Matthias Merz of Switzerland took his chance to do a Thierry (who had opted not to run the long) and won by a huge 3:38 margin. As with the middle, there was then a large group, with ten runners in the next four minutes. Jamie Stevenson finished 9th and Jon Duncan 18th.

We couldn't face any more time in the heat so left before the prize ceremony and headed for the beach again. It's a day off for the big boys and girls tomorrow, but we get a chance to see what the sprint qualifier area was like. Strangely the whole of the sprint qualifier area is on the long race map, and provides an interesting comparison of a 1:15,000 map and a 1:5,000 sprint race map.

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