After a rough ride at WOC I wasn’t expecting anything less from running the Elite class at O-ringen. If anything the elite class at O-ringen is probably harder than WOC as its not just limited to 3 Swedes and restricted to 80 places. Having run at WOC I was granted entry into this grade and was soon taught a lesson or two in orienteering…
Day 1 started off with a World Ranking Long Distance, and it was long and tough. The navigation was quite technical in the circle and the terrain was very physical compared to our dulled down NZ standards. Straight from the start triangle it was uphill into blueberry covered rocks. I was really slow to begin with making sure I got the navigation right. Unfortunately I was thrown a bit by the terrain and then the Swedish mapping of knolls and boulders caught me out. I didn’t lose a huge amount of time but I was already behind the eight ball going into control 3. I took the correct route choice, hit my attack point, and all but nailed the control as I pulled up too early, pretty much one cliff no far enough. The confidence was low by this stage and some panicked relocation entailed and I got back to the same point 3 times without quite getting close enough. By this stage I was well out the back door, I thought about pulling the pin but my conscience got the better of me and I carried on. The longer I was out I more tired I got and more simple mistakes I made. It was rough but thankfully although I was close to the back end I wasn’t dead last. Not such a good day out.
Day 2 while everyone else was heading back out to the same area the Elites were the entertainment for the evening so it was a day spent hanging around waiting to race. The starts for the sprint were based off the results from day 1 I was starting pretty early on. The start podium was built up onto the athletics track with a big crowd in the stadium and packed all around the track. It was much like one of those scenes out of gladiator where you walked out through a tunnel into the arena ready for battle, enough of a buzz to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Once I grabbed my map the adrenaline was pumping and I was off! But most sprint standards this one wasn’t to tricky, but it still had some good route choice and a big crowd all around the map to watch. My legs didn’t like me running really hard at the start and by the time I was heading to the second control they were feeling a little bit lacking in energy. I made some good route choices but the 11th control was not so flash and I lost 10 seconds. It was hard work and I felt like I ran ok which was the polar opposite from the day before, finishing up in 50th place, well away from the bottom of the result list.
Day 3 was held after a well needed rest day, again a long course and this time 1km longer than day 1. I held it together almost for most of the course. I faded towards the end and made one silly mistake and then took a poor route choice dropping a heap of time without feeling like it… I was much more happy with this race a better all around complete performance. But I still got smashed, and realised that we just don’t race in terrain non-stop like that back home very often if at all. I thought I was strong in terrain but really I am pretty weak compared to some of those top guys.
The next day was middle distance day in the same area with a very welcome shorter distance of 6.1km. I physically was too shattered from the day before and never really got going and then faded even further. Ross caught me up halfway around and I had one little burst of speed left, I could keep up with him on the uphills but anything in rough or downhill terrain he was just that bit faster. Eventually he got away and I was left to pick myself up and drag myself through to the finish. Technically I had an ok race, but unfortunately I didn’t turn up physically which was a real shame as it would have been a real fun course to smash out fast.
I only just missed out on the chasing start being a few minutes shy of the 90min behind cut off. After a disaster on day 1 and a physically shattered performance on day 4 it was always going to be hard work to make that start. Anyway I wasn’t alone and was the first started in the non-chasers. I was quickly caught by my 15second chaser. Unfortunately for both of us we were low on confidence and made the mistake of thinking each other was right and we both lost it on about the 5th control. Afterwards I made an effort to race my own race and got away. After a couple of dumb things I flipped back into an orienteering mode which I felt like I was getting into some flow for the first time in a while. I finished up alright in the end, maintained my overall standing or 3rd last so about 52nd overall in the end.
The whole experience was definitely an eye opener. Aside from World Champs and apart from a couple of Elite races after WOC in France and Switzerland these races were by far the biggest and the toughest I had raced in. It was really good to race a hard race without the pressure of the World Champs hanging around in the background. I definitely benefited more from these races than I think I did at WOC to, which is ironic to a point as if I hadn’t run at WOC I wouldn’t have made the grade either. I know now that often I do pick good route choices, I just struggle to physically compete in terrain. I will need to work on this for sure when I get back in NZ.