Warning: This is a looooong blog...
I was facing a quite tough program starting with 3 sprint-races in 3 days, and then the relay and long distance in the end of the week. The order of the races was also reflecting my priorities, with the sprint-relay and individuel sprint as most important, and the long distance as lowest priority. My training all year has also been focusing a lot on the sprints and the forest relay and not so much on the long distance, as the terrain and distance were almost as different as it can be.
The last couple of weeks with tapering went well even though I was not getting the good physical feeling as hoped, but that's just how it always is... I knew that my shape was very good and that I was well prepared.
The qualification was a nervous and not very good race for me. I didn't adjust the speed well in the beginning of the race, and did several small mistakes in the first part. After the long leg I was finding a better rhytm, but in the end I made 2 small mistakes. The speed was good though, and even with 25-30sec mistakes, I could finish 4th in my heat.
The terrain was quite suitable for a Sprint-qualification, and it was a good intense course. We didn't use much time on preparations for the sprint-qual though, as the focus was more on the sprint-final and sprint-relay.
Last years silver-medal, only 2,8 seconds from the gold, have been a big motivation for the Danish Team this year, to see if we could win it this year. The 4 of us have been running almost all the World-cup sprint-relays together, being in top 3 every time, so we have quite much experience in how to succeed. But the sprint-relays are often very close, and the small mistakes we did last year were fatal. So we wanted to be very well prepared this year.
I think I will make a blog later on about our preparations for the WOC-sprints, as they have been quite massive like last year. But this year my biggest focus has been on the preparations for the Sprint-relay. And since no map of Nairn existed before WOC I spent a lot of time during the winter and spring to make it. This year it was allowed to "tourist" around the sprint-embargoes, and I have spent many hours in Nairn (without a physical map of course - only in my head :)), to make the map as correct as possible. But it will be too long if I should write about all preparations now, I will do that later. Let's just say that the Danes were extremely well prepared before the Sprint-relay...
As a team we did an almost perfect relay, and it looks like we were the only one of the big favorites, who managed to complete the whole relay without big mistakes (more than 5 seconds). I guess that's also why the winning-margin was bigger than ever before in a sprint-relay.
Our tactic was quite clear, because we knew that Maja was in incredible shape, and if she would be in touch with the leading teams out on last leg, most likely no one would be able to beat her. The plan was to avoid mistakes and spend the time needed to do so.
Even though Emma had problems with her akilles since the World Cups in June, and didn't run much sprint on hard surface before WOC, I knew that she would probably get a gap on the first leg. At least I was preparared for it. The gap she made was luckily quite big, which meant that the chasers wouldn't get my back and make an advantage of it. Still, it's very difficult to run alone in front, because you know that running together is an advantage, and that everyone (including yourself) expect you to keep the lead. And I have to say that I have never been more nervous before a race than this one. I was shaking, and it was a relief to get the map and get going, even though I knew that 15 very uncomfortable minutes were waiting. But somehow I managed to keep it together all the way, and technically I did an almost perfect race. I was running very controlled and investing much time to look for artificial fences and other "changes" to my map. I had no idea if I was running fast enough, but passing the arena I heard that I was keeping the lead, and it was a good message to get. In the end the course was just about running, but even though I knew that it was simple, somehow I wasn't able to "let go" of the total control and just give everything, like in an individual race The chasing teams caught some seconds in the end, but it was a very good feeling running to the finish knowing that I had done a good job for team.
When Switzerland caught us in the end of 3rd leg, I was thinking that it was still open for the gold, but I assured myself that Maja would fix it on the last leg. And she did...
What a magical last 15 minutes of the relay, watching on the big-screen with Emma and Søren, how she got a gap and the gap just increased more an more. And being able to do the run-in together as World Champions, when everyone was cheering, is a moment I'll never forget.
Again I think the organizers had done a good job with the choice of terrain, and they did "surprise" us with some new passages and some artificial fences to make some good routechoices. The course was good and very varied, and the use of the sanddunes was actually quite good, because it was totally change in orienteering. Of course the last part of the course in the park was simple, but good for the TV-production I guess. The forking system also worked well and this year the course-setter had done a good job making the distances of all possible courses the same. So when you had a long forking in the beginning you would get a shorter one later on the course. That's the right way to do it I think, so you won't get the advantage of having the long forkings on the first two legs.
I knew that it would be a challenge to run the sprint-final the day after the sprint-relay, because the relay often is linked to a lot of nervousness and emotions, and it can be difficult to let go of that afterwards. Especially because we ran in the evening and didn't really have time to analyze the race fully before going to bed. We got a lot of attention after the gold-medal (including a doping-test for me), and it would have been easy to get carried away with the success. But I was prepared for this situation and already on the drive back my focus shifted to the following days race.
The feeling was good before the race. Actually my body and mind were feeling more ready than the day before and I was really looking forward to race again. We had done good preparations and I knew the town of Forres in and out, because the area was quite small (the organizer had early announced road-closings).
The sprint-relay was 4,3km with 45m climb and some slow surface in the sanddunes. The winning-time was set to 14:30, but the fastest times were a bit slower. In the sprint-final the last bulletin said 4,1km, 25m climb and mostly road, with a winning-time of 15:00.
So shorter, less climb, faster surface, no advantage of running together, but still 30 seconds slower. And when the organizers put up quite many artificial fences in the sprint-relay, where mass-start and forkings should make enough confusion, we were expecting (or at least hoping for) a very tricky sprint-final. Everyone knew every corner of the quite simple town, due to the open embargo-rules, so it wouldn't make any sense not to make some changes (put up some fences). Otherwise it would just be a running-competition?
But we were dissapointed... When I looked at the control descriptions 1-2 minutes before my start, the last 8 controls looked a lot like being in the park, so maybe it would be a fast last part in the park? Anyway, my plan was to look for extra black lines on weird places on the map I knew. Not to 1st control, not to 2nd control and not to 3rd control? On the longer leg to 3rd control I realized that maybe there would be no changes at all, and this would just be a matter of running speed?
But no, to 5th control one of the passages was closed, I realized it too late and had too turn back, loosing 7-8 seconds. Otherwise I did a quite good race, but the course was easy and often the routechoices appeared not to differ much in time. It was just about to choose one, and put the map in the pocket, because you knew in your head where to go. I can't remember a sprint where I have looked so much on the map before the race and so few times on the map during the races...
I was especially dissapointed about the last part of the race in the park. Often it's on the last part of a sprint, you see differences and people making mistakes. This year it wasn't really possible to make a mistake on the last 1/3 of the course, out in the park...
The winning-time was estimated to be 15:00, but was won in 13:12... How is it possible to estimate so wrong? Or was it just to trick us?
If you look at the speed Jonas ran the course with an average speed of 3:13 min/km. Compared with last year, which was a quite fast sprint, the winning-speed was 3:33 min/km. This year we used touch-free punching though, but the speed still says a lot about the technical challenges of the course...
Maybe the organizers just want a close competition, by minimizing the challenges more or less to just running speed? If that's the case, they succeeded! But if you ask the runners, I think the majority would say that the course was too easy and boring, and not really suitable for a WOC.
But the course was as the course was, and I just wasn't good enough. Without the one mistake and two slow routechoices (12-15 seconds timeloss in total), I would have been close to a medal. But I'm simply just not fast enough on a course like this, compared to the 10 runners in front of me on the result-list. I was hoping for a better result, but I have to be satisfied with my performance which was quite stable.
If I'm focusing on the sprint next year in Sweden, I either have to be even faster or hope for a more challenging course, which often suits me better. Swedish sprint-courses are not exactly known to be very interesting and technical though (like the World Cup in Lysekil), so let this be a call to the WOC 2016-organizers. Now when you decided to open up the embargoed area, like this year, please do something to make it a WOC-worthy sprint.
Relay and Long Distance
I won't say much about my last 2 races. I was running the last leg on our relay-team and we were really looking forward to this because we had focused a lot on this during the spring, knowing that it would be the best chance for a Danish medal for the men in the forest-disciplins. That's also why Søren S didn't run the middle and that I was running the long instead of the middle, to be as fresh as possible. Unfortunately Søren B had to withdraw from the first leg after the middle distance, and Thor had to make his WOC-debut on the first leg... not an easy job. He struggled physically, and wasn't able to follow the best, sending out Søren more than 4 minutes behind. In a fast terrain like this and with short courses, you can't afford that, and even though we did our best, and did quite good races, it was all over before it started...
Before the long distance, my last long distance race was at Swedish League in the end of april, and I hadn't prepared much for this kind of slow terrain and climbing all year. When doing forest-orienteering in my preparations, the focus has been on the last leg on the relay, due to clear priorities.
So before the start I didn't really know what to expect, besides looking forward to a long tough race in a beautiful terrain.
I did a good race, with 2 mistakes (1½min + 45sec) and a bad routechoice to 9th (loosing 1½min). At the mistakes, I didn't understand the way of maping white, yellow and marsh, and made parallel-mistakes. To 9th control I'm surprised that I lost so much time not going left on the track. But the terrain was very different to anything we had tried before, so it was difficult to prepare for.
Otherwise I'm satisfied with my performance and that I was able to do most of it correctly. The only thing I wanted to change was my running in the first half of the race. I was quite comfortable and didn't push much in the up-hills, to keep the energy for the whole course. But I didn't feel much tiredness before the last long leg, and from there it was just going downhill. Maybe I could have pushed harder in the first part, but when you haven't preparared for it, it's difficult to know.
I was actually a bit surprised in the end of the competition that I wasn't higher ranked than 21.place, and more than 10 minutes behind. But it's also fair enough not to be higher, when you haven't prepared for it at all. My early starttime hasn't been an advantage either since the tracks got quite big in the end. I need to be higher ranked on the World Ranking if I want to have a chance of a top-position.
Even though the sprint-final course and terrain dissapointed me, I must say that all the forest-distances were of very high quality. The fact that none of them had spectator-controls is maybe not interesting for the specatators, but its nice for the runners because the courses don't have to comprimise with that. Especially the middle and relay would have been ruined with a spectator control. Also the long distance was a great choice of terrain and course. In total I ran 20m on a track, on the whole course, the rest in the terrain (I should have done more to 9th control though...), and its very rare to do 110 minutes of orienteering without running on a track.
And of course it was a great WOC for the Danish Team and it was a pleasure to be a part of the success. And the team is still young (except me?), so hopefully more to come...