SEEOC ’13 – Romania!

I am a lousy blogger. I’ve been postponing these for 2 weeks now, and a lot more is happening every day. Right now, I’m on my way to Istanbul with 3 friends of mine for the MUD RACE! I’m not going to jump to that story just yet, but the reason I’m telling you this is because our bus just broke down and we still have 230Km ‘til Istanbul. I don’t know how long it’s going to take them to repair it, or if we’ll have to hitchhike our way there but it’s a good opportunity to start blogging for a bit. So let’s back a few weeks now.

SEEOC ’13! We decided overnight to go to Romania for the South Eastern Europe Orienteering Championships. As I repeatedly tell myself and others, I am not that great at orienteering, or running. Although I would have been competing with orienteers representing many Balkan countries, I didn’t really care as I knew I would have enjoyed it, so I did more than I expected anyways. We would be a group of 4, from my team (METU Orienteering and Navigation Team) but a great friend (and a great soon to be World Ranked orienteer), Zeynep and I would be stuck with each other for the whole trip.

I took the plane from Ankara to Istanbul then to Bucharest. Zeynep got me a little worried as she arrived at the last minute to flight to Bucharest. Believe me when I say this, I love to plan ahead.  For those of you planning to come to Turkiye (Turkey) you have to let that go control freak rest a little for the trip. When I could plan ahead (meaning I have control over stuff), I try to plan every minute of the way, when it gets out of my control I try to roll with it. Usually living in the big city, you don’t have any control so I just try to do whatever I can.  The flight plans was something I had control over, but lovely friend who made a last second save was not J Anyways a little bit of adrenaline rush is good early in the morning. (Is it really?)

Arriving at Bucharest we rented a car, which appeared to have gone through a few accidents. The car was a bit too old, or so it sounded like. Not all the windows were working, and you had to find the right spot to close the glove compartment. Getting used to the car, especially driving it took a while (actually the whole trip) but we rolled through the streets of Bucharest and made our way to Ramnicu Valcea. We sang and laughed all way 🙂

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One thing that I have to mention is, except for a few knuckle heads, the drivers were really respectful to everyone. We came across a few road constructions where we had to stop for almost half an hour for each and no one took this out of the horn. Especially in big cities we have a lot of traffic noise, and nearly no one respects each other. I did see curious and bored people getting out of their car, a familiar view from back home, but the respect everyone had for each other really touched me.

Also, these long hours of waiting allowed us to focus on the houses and animals around. As well as these gravestones right next to the road. I don’t think I had ever seen such a thing. Apparently these gravestones are from the traffic accidents that occurred in the past and gravestones are there to remind people to drive safe and responsible.
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After we made our way to Ramnicu Valcea, and struggling to find out the traffic rules, parking spots we got our racing bids and found a place to grab a bite. We had our first race in 3 hours (we were expecting to have longer but the roads weren’t what we expected) so we decided to get some macaroni inside us. After being ripped off from a bank with low exchange rates, we ordered ‘penne arabiata’ which I knew was a pasta, what I didn’t know was the amount and quality of spice it had in it. I don’t eat spice, like ever! I have a sensitive stomach that doesn’t tolerate spice.  Adding a little spice to the adventure the pasta was soo hot! I managed to eat it, reaching beyond my limits and surprising myself. New experiences! That’s what the trip is for isn’t it?

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Our first race was a Middle  Distance with 6 Km. Following  a mystic trail to the start, I was well warmed up for the race, but it apparently my watch was a few minutes late so I started off with a penalty of 5 minutes. Being so warmed up physically isn’t always a good thing. I guess I wasn’t mentally ready to orienteer just yet, as I made a very easy mistake right after the first flag. Realizing the mistake I made, I chose to take a shortcut through thick bushes, which made me lose at least 10 more minutes. Self note: Don’t be so stubborn when you make mistakes. GO BACK and don’t make such a mistake at least for the rest of the race. I grasped the flow for the rest of the course until the part when we got to an open terrain with lots of thick bushes , full of thorns. That’s when I lost it again, coming back and forth in the same terrain looking for a feature to locate where I was. Looking back to it, I really regret not being more calm. Also, I had some trouble adjusting to the scale, however others had a few problems also indicating that the map may have been flawed, maybe it’s not ALL my fault.

Going back to the hotel, we checked in to our suit room. It wasn’t really cheap however it was a 3 room suit with a great view to one of the central streets. It was clean and big, so I enjoyed it a lot. The food wasn’t too good, but they had 3 different servings everyday and fruits/desserts on the side. A lot more than what I expected.

Let’s fast forward a little, as I am afraid you’re going to stop reading.
On the second and the third day we had sprint orienteering. I just love sprint orienteering, not having to deal with big hills, hard terrain and having to enjoy the places where people live in! I am not a sprinter, but I like to run fast and have the wind cooling me of the heat. In the mean time our ‘Masters’ from my team arrived, and the fantastic four was rolling the streets.
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What to eat and how much that was going to cost us was a big question keeping my mind busy. We managed to find a place right between KFC and McDonalds, which looked a lot healthier. SPRING TIME! I loved eating there, and the people working there as their smiles were heart warming and that they helped us a lot with our orders.
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On the fourth day came the Long Distance! 9.2Km ! Well with the mistakes I made and the hills I had to climb up and down I think I might have walked/jogged at least 16-17Km. I couldn’t complete the course in the allowed time and one of my flags were already removed when  arrived it. It really doesn’t matter to me that I have another ‘dnf’ in my record now because I know that one way or another I finished the course and beat the course planner! I learned a lot in this race as I had never ran with a scale of 15 000:1. A small map with lots of features in a long distance is very hard to follow up with. Now, I have faith in myself that I’ll do better next time I’m challenged with such a map. Criticizing myself, I was very much distracted with other orienteers around me. I chose to run faster instead of being more map-aware, which of course ended up me being lost in the middle of nowhere. Apart from that, I realized that I should pay more attention to contours and the landforms instead of following paths.

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We were very tired, so we rushed our way back to the hotel. My hopes of having pizza&beer faded away as the others weren’t as keen on pizza as I was. Staying with them and enjoying their company was more than accounted for though. At night we ran into another group of orienteers from Turkiye, who were more than willing to share their beers and company with us. After that tiring day, I went to bed early to get a good nights sleep and to get ready for the race of the day after.

On the last day, I felt very good and motivated to be there. Just before leaving the hotel we paid our respects to the church across the hotel. Listening to the priests’ prayers and lighting some candles, I again understood that religions are just a bunch of different words that keep us separated. It is the will, commitment and gratefulness that we have that forms the religion, and brings us closer to the one we believe.

The last day’s race started inside a museum of wooden houses. The spirit was high and all the national teams were excited to make up for the races of day’s beforehand and to make their countries proud. The route to the start was again very long, but I got to jog between country side houses and rivers that travelled between the trees. The path there was very steep and I gained a lot of altitude ‘til I reached the start. I made a few rookie mistakes which I regret deeply now but overall this being my last race I managed to enjoy it a lot. With the altitude I gained on the way up, I was able to sprint downhill near the finish and enjoy the thrill.

Zeynep and I following the orienteers from Istanbul Orienteering Group (IOG) made our way back to Bucharest. We checked in to ‘Hello Hotels’, for a very good price. The room was small but functional. It was  so clean, and comfortable. Although the city view wasn’t what I expected being on the 7th floor, It was a great room. Travelling on the streets of Bucharest we found 100Lei (25 Euros). We gave to a disable person on the street. He was very much grateful, and thanking us until we were so far that we couldn’t hear  anymore. We came across a statue of Mustafa Kemal ATATURK, the founder of the Turkish Republic. Not appreciating the great deeds he has done in Turkiye, it was great feeling to see that someone somewhere is still honoring is memory.
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For our last meal in Bucharest while  exchanging some money, we came across a Turkish restaurant. We ate kebab, and watched a ice-cream man show famous for a city of Turkiye called Maraş. ***One example of those shows*** In the morning, our navigation chose not to work so we had to use our navigation skills to find the airport; and well we got lost, bad. We spent an hour trying to find where the airport was, but it was a good experience to see more of Bucharest. Taking the plane back, our journey came to an end.
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Romania was pretty amazing, and I believe I became a better orienteer than I was. I got to know my teammates better, and had the pleasure to chat up with a few Romanian fellows. It was joyful to experience a church again.  Apparently I couldn’t try national dishes, but I will make up for it when I travel there without a race in the schedule. Last but not least, the chocolate filled beagles that I had for the last day will be a sweet memory until I get to go back.

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