Local mountain biker to represent U.S. at international orienteering championship

August 14, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Rebecca Jensen trains for the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships by riding through trails at Issaquah’s Grand Ridge Park. For this photo, she set a camera in the trees and put it on a timer to get the shot. Contributed by Rebecca Jensen

Rebecca Jensen loves mountain biking.

The only reason she moved to Issaquah in 2010 was to take advantage of the trails around the area.

“I moved here because I didn’t have a car, but I wanted to go mountain biking,” she said. “I love that I can ride to Grand Ridge Park from my house and ride some awesome trails.”

Now, Jensen, 27, will join a group of women from the Northwest who will represent the United States in the 2012 World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships in Veszprem, Hungary.

Mountain bike orienteering, or MTBO, is a relatively unknown sport in the United States. The sport, which combines the skills of navigation and bike riding, is popular in Europe, where it originated.

MTBO is part scavenger hunt and part race. Competitors are given a topographical map with certain checkpoints, or controls. Armed with just an old-fashioned compass and a map, participants must navigate their way through the course, finding each checkpoint.

What’s unique about orienteering, though, is that competitors can choose to take any path toward the control points. For racers, this means a path could veer off-trail through shrubs and foliage.

“It’s about map-reading and making decisions on the fly, and choosing what you think is the best route,” Jensen said. “So that’s kind of a game, it’s not just navigating to a point but making a decision as to which way you think is the fastest way and executing it.”

Jensen has been cycling for years. She won numerous awards while cycling for her Whitman College team. After graduation, Jensen and a friend rode their bikes from Oregon to Virginia on a three-month trek.

She doesn’t have any expectations about her performance in Hungary, but she hopes to learn from the experience.

On the Web

Learn more about orienteering and watch videos of Rebecca competing at www.runbosco.com.

“My expectation really is to learn a lot, not just about the sport itself but about competing internationally,” she said.

Mike Schuh, of the Cascade Orienteering Club in Seattle, has been coaching Jensen for the event. Schuh put together a course through Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, where Jensen has been training.

“My goals for her are to have fun and to learn about competitive orienteering at the highest level,” Schuh said.

He added that Jensen has been a great pupil.

“Rebecca is smart and inquisitive, enthusiastically asks very good questions, and quickly absorbs new knowledge,” he said.

Jensen sees her participation in the event as a way to bring exposure to the sport.

“It’s really about creating excitement and awareness about mountain bike orienteering,” she said.

Her commitment to the sport’s exposure is evidenced by her site, www.runbosco.com, where Jensen posts video footage of her orienteering races, giving beginners a taste of what the sport is about.

With a camera attached to her chest, Jensen goes through her thought process as she navigates a course. After the meet, she uploads the footage, intersperses commentary and adds marked-maps as visual aids.

“I’m not making any money off of the site but I want to convey the excitement that is orienteering,” she said. “My No. 1 goal was to make orienteering as approachable and beginner-friendly as possible.”

It’s a sport for everyone, Jensen stressed. From beginners to experts, orienteering is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and experience an unforgettable adrenaline rush, she said.

“To convey the excitement and the adrenaline that happens with any kind of orienteering, I tell people I feel either like a fugitive or some hero in a movie that has to find the next thing and it becomes really urgent,” she said.

Jensen and her teammates will be the first team to represent the United States at the competition, which runs from Aug. 20-25.

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