Thursday, May 25, 2017

Clare Durand: "I'm the only serious Trail Orienteer within a three hour drive"

To talk about Clare Durand is to talk about resilience. It’s in Lancaster, in the desert north of Los Angeles, in the United States, that we’re going to find her. Clare studied Geography and Computer Science, worked for the government making military maps, worked on movies and television as an assistant director and taught Mathematics. She’s now directing local musical theatre productions, is an active volunteer with the Girl Scouts and is writing a series of children’s spy novels. Enough? It seems not. She’s also building a small business, organizing local orienteering races and training. In the midst of this whole bustle, Clare doesn’t neglect her own preparation, as she’s one of the most prominent and committed North American Trail Orienteers.

How did Orienteering came to your life? Why Orienteering and why not Gymnastics, for example?

C. D. - As a child, I was a competitive swimmer. But I stopped swimming at the age of 15 to have more free time. I did a single trail-based orienteering event during college with a colleague but didn't pursue it. A few years later, I had moved to the East Coast and attended a beginner's event that I read about in the newspaper and was hooked. I've always really enjoyed maps, navigation, and hiking, so it's no doubt this was the sport for me.

Do you remember when you first did TrailO? Was it love at first sight?

C. D. - I first did TrailO at a demonstration event in Wyoming, around 2000. I did very well. This was exciting to me, because I am not a naturally talented runner, which makes it more difficult for me to have high placings in Foot Orienteering. But TrailO was something I could really excel in.

What do you see in TrailO that makes it so special?

C. D. - What makes TrailO special is it's availability to people of all mobility challenges and it's purity as a map reading challenge. But I think it does make it difficult to get people practicing TrailO. Most outdoor enthusiasts want to be more active, and I'm sure it must be difficult for someone who cannot enter the terrain to understand the map in the same way that those of us who also do FootO can.

We are used to see you representing the US team in the World Trail Orienteering Championships. How do you assess your results so far? Would you expect something better?

C. D. - I've been disappointed to not have some higher placings, especially in PreO. I have had a few really excellent single day performances, but have not accomplished this for two days in a row when it counts. I've been encouraged by my continued improvement in TempO. Last year I came close to making the final, which is a big jump from being near the bottom of the standings in Italy. It's hard to keep up with the amount of TrailO that goes on in Europe. My competitors are getting much more practice. I also have never won the U.S. Championships in TrailO. That's a big target for me.

What is the most difficult part of being Trail orienteer in the United States?

C. D. - Lack of events and training opportunities. The U.S. is a very large place with very few Trail Orienteers. I'm the only serious Trail Orienteer within a three hour drive, so there is no one to help me train near home. Any local events are put on by me, but since I am also putting on most of the local Foot Orienteering, it leaves little time for TrailO. Similar conditions exist for most of our team members.

Please, complete the sentence: For having a strong TrailO team, the United States would...

C. D. - (…) Commit to having many more TrailO events throughout the country and have Trail Orienteering training camps. Our team is not attracting new people. We need to attract more new orienteers and especially figure out how to bring Trail Orienteering to the Paralympic population who might be interested in our sport.

You were the course setter of the 2017 US TrailO Championships, recently said held in Camp Sherman, California. Are you happy with your work and with the overall event?

C. D. - I was very happy with the course. The competitors had high praise and really enjoyed it. I did have to throw out one control, but this was fine, since I agreed with the complaint once I looked at the situation. I wish we had a better turnout. Less than 20 people competed in the Trail Orienteering events. The last time I set the U.S. Champs (2009), we had over 50 people compete. So this shows how Trail Orienteering is on the decline in the U.S.

What are your goals for the season?

C. D. - I am hoping to go to Lithuania, but am having difficulty fitting it in my budget, so I'm still working on that. A trip from California to Europe is very expensive. If I can go, my goals would be to have two excellent PreO days, possibly reaching the awards level, and to make the TempO final.

Would you like to share your biggest dream with us?

C. D. - I have many big dreams related to my different pursuits. I dream that orienteering would become popular enough in the U.S. that we would have events every weekend in every city. In TrailO my biggest dream would be to achieve the gold medal in PreO at the World Champs.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

C. D. - I think that it is difficult to attract people to TrailO because orienteering is an inherently active sport and TrailO is not. I sometimes wonder if we should develop some sort of Paralympic wheelchair sprint event to bring more athleticism to the Paralympic format.

Joaquim Margarido

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