JWOC Middle Qualification Races – Aston into A Final

With journo David Jaffe at JWOC

Day 3 Middle Qualification:

During the rest day, the team had re-fueled with the traditional ‘afternoon tea’ with supporters (see photo) but focus moved quickly to the middle distance and a new area. These events are on a unique Hungarian terrain that they describe as “the Labyrinth”.   It’s still pretty flat with the irregular wind-blown sand dunes making all kinds of lumps and bumps.  Like the long distance, these maps have lovely open pine plantation but mixed in with sections that combine dark green and open in irregular blobs and shapes.  It’s like someone with bad green and yellow chicken pox has invaded the map (see world of O for maps). We are all using 2m contours because the shapes are so complex.  The green bits are juniper – prickly and horrible to get through. If the green and the sand dunes hadn’t created enough places to hide control flags, the Hungarian army then added “tank hides”, square ended gullies, to help the course setter. There were already plenty of evil control sites before that.

If you go through any of the green and it’s almost unavoidable, it’s very slow and you risk emerging with fewer clothes and body parts than when you went in.  Warren K gave me a tip before we started the public race– he pointed at the pine and said – “5 minutes/k” and then at the other stuff and said “15 minutes/k”.  I think 20 m/k would have been optimistic.  I was also caught out by the fact that the plantations don’t run in nice neat cardinal directions.  What were they thinking! Surely then can plant in a more orderly manner to make aligning the map easier?

As always, the Middle qualification has three parallel heats with the top 20 in each going through to the A final and next 20 the B final etc. Predicted winning times were 22 minutes but in the end were more like 25. Sub 29 minutes seemed like the time to get an A final berth. We were hopeful to get some A finalists after missing out last year.  Unfortunately, Rachel woke sick and unable to run. Caroline still looked good at the finish after some tough controls.  Joe Dickinson ran a great race after two months of a virus and was really happy with his run. Pat Miller ran a terrific first up middle and seems to be improving each day. Zoe M was only four minutes off the A final which was also a good first up effort in very physical terrain. Good efforts also from Alistair and Angus and we look forward to seeing how they do tomorrow in taking on the Labyrinth again.

Tara and Zoe D both came back with times that looked to be close to qualifying for the A final.  It’s an agonising wait as your name gradually slips down the leader board.  Zoe’s time would have made the A final in the other two heats but good runners finishing late in the day slid her out to 22nd. Asha said she didn’t feel well for much of the run and did well to get around and make the B final. Patrick had one bad control, a pit in the green.  He said he got to the middle of the circle and was within meters of it but just didn’t see it.  He held it together after that, but was disappointed than one mistake caused him to miss the A final as he has trained hard for this terrain.

Luckily Aston pulled out a blinder.  The commentary team said something like “Ah so Aston Key is not just a sprinter, he can do middle distance also and has a new best time on heat 3”.  He looked terrific and although he was pipped late on for the win on the day, he’ll be among the late starters tomorrow on what will be an even harder course.  We are looking forward to cheering on an A finalist this year and anything could happen tomorrow. He’s already had one top 10 place.

More tomorrow…

Full results and maps from the Middle Qualifier can be found HERE

and start times for the Middle Final HERE

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