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European Youth Championships 2012


This year I was selected to represent Great Britain at EYOC, in Bugeat France. Leading up to the event I was excited but also fairly nervous seeing as it was my first international competition for GB.
On the day the rest of the team were travelling by Euro-star from London, I had a GCSE technology exam, so after sitting that at 7 in the morning I grabbed my things and headed for Leeds Bradford Airport. Training had taken precedent over revision for that particular exam so I was glad when it was over. Will Rigg another team member was in the same position so I met him in the airport. On the plane we decided to do some geeking exercises; looking at old maps and planning courses, we then discussed route choice. On arrival in Limoges, France we stepped out of the airport into 36 degree heat. In contrast to Leeds I was wondering if I would be able to run in this sort of heat. We then met the rest of the team and after collecting hire cars headed for Bugeat. After some appalling navigation, (getting it out of my system before racing...) we arrived at the event centre.
Instead of staying in the hotel with most of the other nations GB ended up staying a 15 minute walk away in some wooden chalets’ in the woods,  Which we quickly downgraded to shacks.  No more than 5 metres wide by 3 metres long, containing 4 beds, a small stove, fridge and 4 teenage boys. Within minutes our shack was a stinking mess. With energy drinks, recovery shakes, pasta packets and pot noodles we managed to generate an obscene amount of rubbish. After Dane Blomquists attempt at pasta I feared the worst but by attacking the mess with a knife and travel wash for clothes we salvaged the cooking pan.
We had one day to acclimatise and train before the competition began and we chose to run on sprint and long model areas. This was a good way to see how the vegetation and certain features were mapped. We ended the day swimming in a river to cool off.  That evening Jackie Newton, one of our coaches led a team stretching session and then we got to bed early ahead of the sprint race.
I had to wear GPS trac-trac unit on the sprint. I was informed it would be just like wearing a sports bra... Naturally a very useful bit of advice. When we arrived at quarantine (pre race area with no contact to finish arena etc) I collected my trac-trac unit and chilled out for a while as I was in GBR’s 3rd start block. Chris Galloway an M18 had raced at EYOC before and it was nice to talk to him as he had experienced this last year. I then started warming up before heading to the -8 call up. The start blocks lead you about 500metres from quarantine into a court yard at -2. You then headed through an undercover area and came up into the arena. This was pretty good at throwing all your focus as you were suddenly blinded by the sunlight and hit by the noise from the arena with people cheering you on. I had a good clean race and pushed quite hard in places but always stayed in control. I finished 21st and 1st British boy, considering my previous sprint pedigree I was really happy with the result.
I wanted a top 15 place in the long distance and was really looking forward to it. My race went well and I didn’t make any big mistakes but at times I was slightly hesitant and lost time over complicating some legs. It was also very physical but I was happy with 16th place, well done to Dane who came 7th on my course. Both my sprint and long distance results were good and are a good platform to work from on the International level. That evening there was the EYOC party which was a good laugh and opportunity to socialize with people from other nations.
The last day was a relay and my team consisted of Dane, then me, then Sasha Chepelin. We knew we were a strong team and could really perform well.  On first leg Dane had a great run bringing us back in 3rd with the leading group. There was a long run out to the start kite and it gave me a good chance to read my map. My first leg was long and very steep leading me to the top of a hill. After that the course took me over the other side of the hill and by then the relay gaffling meant I had no idea where my competition was. After a little mistake I caught a Polish runner and ran through the spectator control with him. The second half of the course was on another large hill although this time it was very rocky and entirely covered in low visibility trees mapped as dark and light green woodland. I pushed through the physical terrain whilst spiking all the controls and ended up running on to the run in with the Polish runner 20 metres behind. As I came in I heard my team mate Dane shouting that I was leading the race! I was really pleased and quite surprised to find out I had handed over to our last leg runner in first place. After a nervous wait Sasha came through spectator still leading with the Polish last leg runner. Unfortunately he messed up the last loop and lost a lot of time. We finished 7th. I was gutted but 7th is still a good result and Sasha had done well to hold off two European Champions up until his mistake.
I had a great trip and have come away very inspired to continue to train hard and work towards becoming the best possible orienteer that I can be. I not only enjoyed racing but meeting people from around Europe and having a great time with the Great British Team. I would like to thank our coaches, Chris for his technical advice, Liz for her organization and general hard work as team manager and most of all Jackie for putting up with the M16 boys in her car, although I think she secretly loved our music choice and banter. Also thank you to Airienteers and The Jack Bloor fund who helped to fund my trip.              
By Joe Woodley

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