Friday morning and the day of the sprint rolled around pretty quickly after all the waiting early on in the week. My legs were fairly stiff to begin with and I was slightly worried about how I would get on. A nice long warm up soon fixed it and I was ready to go.
I expected the crowd to be huge as according to the organisers the Arena seats had all sold out. As I dropped into the arena I was a little bit surprised how few people there actually were! I started just behind a couple of Colombians and a Brazilian which got talked up on the start podium…but when it came my turn the commentators were no longer interested, so I got a very quiet send off which allowed me to focus on the task at hand. I quickly figured out the first few controls were short so I made sure that I was accurate and may have sacrificed some speed early on but I think it was time well invested. Once onto the long leg the race became about accuracy, preciseness of route choice, and running flat tack. I wasn’t able to keep pace with the top guys and had very similar splits to Chris, dropping about 3-4 seconds behind each control in running speed. Unfortunately for me Chris had a burst of energy near the end while I began to fade in the heat. Chris gained 3 seconds on me and I dropped 8 to him to just slip in ahead of me by 3 seconds. We ended up right on the edge of the chasm with only seconds separating the 25 or so in front of us and 45 seconds back to the ones behind us. At the end of the day though I was happy with my race. I felt that I executed the race well, made a couple of route choice errors but did not drop more than 2-3 seconds on a few controls.
Day two we headed into the Jungle. It was pretty rough going in the jungle with spiky bamboo shoots in what would be otherwise nice forest. I was an early starter in the men’s race but we still coped the heat of the day running around 12pm. I started out really well, I took some good route options and they paid off. I was 2mins behind the top guys at the spectator control around about 60% of the way through the course…however about the 30min mark I began to fade again in the heat. Then I tried to cut a corner, ended up further along the track than I though and had no good attackpoint which caused a mistake which cost me almost two minutes. By this time the runner behind me had caught me up and I forced a number of errors on myself as I tried hard to run to put time back on him. In the end I reckon I forced at least another minute worth of mistakes and ended up finishing just behind him anyway. I was a little bit disappointed with that mistake, it turned what could have been a solid top 20 placing into an average run, nothing special at all and finished in 28th place only a few from the bottom really…Chris was about 3mins behind and finished 20th so it shows I am capable of doing as well as him but I just seem to lack the race experience.
The final day of the World Games was relay day for us in the Man, Woman, Man, Woman format. After Saturdays middle distance race we decided that Chris would be more likely to be reliable whereas I was more likely to be faster physically, so Chris went first, Rachel second, then Me and Georgia to finish up. Chris ran really well and came back in touch of the leaders plus blood streaming from his head and a Bamboo spike in his leg! Rachel seemed to run ok but she had all the long split controls and visited both the splits on more than one occasion. Rachel handed over to me with Edgas Bertuks not too far in front. I figured I would never see him again but I was solid on the first four controls where as he appeared to have made some small errors as I saw him at 4 looking a bit confused. We had similar controls for a while, but then he chose to go through the green whereas I went round. He got away from my sight and I was left to navigate round the last bit alone which I really enjoyed. I was not feeling super fast on the hills but I continued to keep contact with the map and was ahead of myself in the planning which I need to do more often. I enjoyed the fast downhill run into the finish where I handed over to Georgia.
Before the race we had a wager going with what we thought was a pretty even match up with the USA. Chris established a lead on the first leg, then Sam Sager pulled the deficit back on second leg allowing me to have a buffer of about 1min on Ross Smith on third leg which I managed to extend by about a minute and a half…we were hoping Georgia’s head start of 2.5mins on last leg would be just enough to hold Ali Crocker off who is well know to be pretty fast. Unfortunately for us, Ali caught a glimpse of Georgia on the running legs at the end, Georgia did well to hold her off and punched the last control before Ali but in the finish sprint we ended up losing by 1/100 of a second…. A well matched race within a race. The Swiss walked away with a gold medal, the Danes took Silver and the Austrians ran a good race to complete the red and white trend and take out third.
The closing ceremony was held that evening which was an experience in itself. There was pretty much no traffic on the roads as the streets had been closed off, there was police everywhere, along with our 4 transit officers and police escort! Once at the Stadium we were made to wait for over an hour outside the stadium while the snipers on the roof next door kept watch and the Helicopters circled above. Once it was time for us to enter we walked out through a tunnel to 50,000 spectators, cheers, taking our pictures, waving etc, a really cool experience! As close to the Olympics as I can imagine. The ceremony had some weird speeches then lots of Salsa dancing (Cali is famous for it) and some awesome fireworks!
The World Games was heaps of fun, an amazing atmosphere and something to remember! I don’t think any random people will want to take their photo with me or ask for my autograph any time soon… so now I can imagine what its like to be an All Black! Apart from the Colombian people we meet it was really fun just hanging out with all the other orienteers from the other countries who we traveled with trained with, watched other sports with, saw the sights of Cali with etc, etc. At World Champs everyone is serious, the teams are big and there is not much talking going on, but throw a bunch of orienteers into a foreign country for almost all of us and it’s a totally different situation. But in saying that it didn’t take away from the competitiveness of the competition, as there is only two people from every country the quality of the racing was very high, making any mistakes highly punishable!
PS: Having a bit of trouble getting my photos onto my computer… will update when I can figure out how to get the photos off my phone!