27 August 2010

Four starts in 48 hours

When finally getting back to Estonia, it was only a few hours before the first start on home soil. It was time for Estonian championships again, this time sprint and night.
The sprint course can be divided into two halves - the first part in the Tallinn Botanic Garden and second part in bushes next to it. The first part fit into the sprint criteria really well - the main characterizing words were fast running and quick map reading. I was doing quite well, even the speed wasn't anything to complain about. The only thing that could have gone better is the routechoice to the 9th control - it was faster from the left. When I passed the arena, I heard that I was doing well. When I entered the deciduous near-city "forest", I had no idea how the landforms drawn on the map would look like in the terrain. 17th was easy and so was 18th, or at least it should have been. II didn't understand much and the mistake was easy to come. I guess I should have taken the situation a bit more rationally and slow down more, but it's too late being smart now. Quite a few other runners missed this one too. With the next ones I was lucky, though I did not make much of the map and terrain. Then my luck ran out again. I was moving in the wrong direction and as I'm no sprint runner, it was hard to sense the scale and understand how far I had gone. I came out at a small wet clearing (not on the map) and understood instantly where I was, as I had been there. It was a very bumpy second half, even the last controls. I thought all my chances of winning were gone, but guess again! By some miracle I won! Not many runners had a clean race that day...

Photo: Which control is this?

The night champs was something I was waiting for. The map and the forest promised to be interesting and suitable for a difficult night-forest-fight event. The warm-up felt especially good, it's been a long time since I felt this good at an important start. I mean, the feet were basically running by themselves and they were as light as feathers. Now I was expecting a really good race. On the way to the first control, I even held myself back, just to get the rhythm going and be more aggressive later. Things were going smoothly, I was very confident and so I ran as straight as I could and avoid long routes around. At least this was my plan until... Until I was about to reach the big track before the second control. All of a sudden, it was dark as night. I thought that I had accidentally hit the switch of my lamp and so turned it on again. I could continue to the track and then the light went out again. At that point it was clear that the game was over. I tried to switch it on again for a few times just to be sure, bit it was hopeless. I couldn't run the whole course by switching the light on for a few seconds all the time. I thought that the battery wasn't charged correctly or charged at all, since it was sent to me from my home, where I hadn't been for two months. But I found out that it had been charged as I had asked it to be done. Turns out there is some technical failure either with the charger or the battery. I hope it's not the lamp itself. Too bad that a decent night competition in Estonia went to waste for me.
Map, results

Already on the next day (after 300 km and a few hours of sleep) I was participating at Malienas Kauss (Maliena Cup) with my brother and a few friends. Great two days in a beautiful pine forest - fast forest. No surprise that I was very tired on the first day's middle distance and so I made small mistakes with almost every control. I came out 2nd, a minute behind my brother. Map, results.
As the second day was a chasing start long distance, the hunt for the Maliena Cup began. The last time the Cup was in our family, was in 2003 when my father won. What's also interesting, is that the Cup has been won by different persons for the past nine years. Who wouldn't want their name to be engraved on it? I caught Timo in the 6th control and stayed with him until the 9th. I took the lead and tried to make a gap, which of course was very difficult. It seemed that I had a good lead before entering the forest again before the 14th, so that we'd lose eye contact. Timo took a faster way to 14th though and got closer again. I pushed as hard as I could and the last time I saw him was before the 17th. The Cup was mine! Map, results, total results.

Photo: Maliena Cup claimer and runner-up

Also worth mentioning that Timo lost the best finish split competition we had with our friends and has to buy me ice cream now.

26 August 2010

WUOC, O-Ringen and WOC Tour in retrospect

I was really looking forward to the long distance. I had been on that terrain twice before - in 2004 I was up there skiing with Erik and Martin Blomgren and in 2006 as a training with OK Võru's friend club Stura Tuna OK. I knew this was something for me and I was more than ready for it. The goal: make the best race of the year. I had a much better feeling than I did at JWOC and it was finally good to achieve the state of good orienteering flow. I made a bad routechoice, but other than that I was doing fine. Somehow I managed to make a 2-minute mistake in the end. The control area just didn't feel right when running, no matter how many times I attacked the control. I went to check it out on the next day and I can just conclude that it was just lack of experience... That one control ruined a very good race, but I'm just happy that I had such a good feeling on the course. I placed 13th, but without the mistake I would have had the chance to reach the podium. Map and results.
The middle distance was a disaster. On the first half of the course it was "connection lost" all along. On the second half I gained some stability, but nevertheless I was too tired to run fast and occasionally even walked uphill. The course can be divided to two halves at the 7th control. I was 53rd when I got there and 28th in the finish. From the 7th control to to the end I lost only an additional 7 seconds to the winner, but he made mistakes and I did only a small one. The only victory that day was my best split in the finish - aah, a poor man's victory. Map and results.
The keywords of the relay? Just one - fast! As having been the best Estonian runner on the previous races, I was anchoring our team with Kristo and Timo. Kristo was probably the only one of us who was able to run fast on that day, but a small mishap on reading the map didn't allow to compete with the leading runners til the end and so he came out 13th, 4 minutes after the leader and 2,5 minutes after the 2nd place. Timo did what he could, but a mistake in the end cost some positions. There was a big group finishing and we were chasing it. I tried to catch the closest rivals, but it was so difficult. I was suffering the whole distance. The long and middle distances had left their marks. I had climbed a few positions and right before the last loop I was with Janne Haikka, Arturs Paulinš and Kiril Nikolov. But since I missed the 17th conrtol, I had no say in the fight anymore. We came out 17th, 14th country. Not our cup of tea. Map and results.

Photo: Skiing at Gyllbergen with Martin and Erik Blomgren (By Håkan Blomgren)

It was only one day of "resting" (actually travelling and a training on an official trainingmap) before the first day of O-Ringen. I wasn't ready for this event, except for a training with Stora Tuna in 2006 again right next to the 2nd day's map.
I decided not to take any risks this year and take all the time that I need to make technically clean races. In brief: The first day fulfilled its purpose and I was off to a good start. The terrain suited me and I was full of positive emotions. The second day began well, but I forgot my principle in the end and made two mistakes. Nevertheless, I was in for the fight. On the third day all the competing finally got to me and it hit me hard - I was so tired that I was reading wrong control descriptions and making many other bad decisions. I was no longer in touch with the leader, but anything was possible. This year, the resting day fit in my plan well, usually I want a 5 day competition to be a 5 day competition, not a 3+2 day event. I wasn't tired on the 4th day, actually, I felt rather good and fresh. The mind, on the other hand, was still tired and I didn't achieve any good rhythm and had to make a lot of long stops, which were necessary. I had some mistakes, but I'm sure I avoided some big ones. I was very surprised to have lost 5 minutes to the best time. I knew my time wasn't good, but this much? Maybe I was still tired, just didn't feel it. Now I was 4th in overall. While the first four days had been on very demanding terrains, the last day was from a totally different class. I started right behind Matthias Kyburz and caught him quickly. A stupid miss in the 7th and 8th let him go his own way and catch Gustav Bergman. I was caught by Rassums Andersson. My situation was cleared on the way to the 10th as we took different choices (to my advantage). I didn't see him again after that. This was my 12th O-Ringen and I have been 2nd three times and 3rd two times, but I must say that this was one of my best performances at O-Ringen so far (not counting very young classes). Since this year's competition the tightest of the last years, I got the 4th place. Though my last day was a failure, I'm pleased with my overall result!
Maps: day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5.
Results: day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5.

 Photo: some of my Norwegian fans came to ask for my autograph

WOC Tour
Now it was finally time to meet the fantastic Norwegian terrains. I was a spectator on this year's WOC and running the WOC Tour 21E at the mean time. The goal: enjoy orienteering! On the first day I was having the time of my life! I was so amazed by the nature and ran like a tourist lost in the forest. The second day was as fun as the first and I it already felt like home. So far, I was running on other fantastic maps also in the evenings, taking what I could of the Norwegian trip. I didn't expect much from the sprint, but miraculously I felt really good and had a very good result. It's a shame that the course was too simple and had no routechoices or very detailed reading. The best thing about the race - I beat the WOC sprint bronze in sprint! Since I was doing good also in the result-department, I decided to have a real competition race on the fourth day. Though (to my mind) this terrain was no match the the first two days, it was still a great experience. In the evening I went to conquer a nearby hilltop - Vassfjellet - with Peeter and Timo to enjoy the views. The training was good for me in the long run, but considering the next day's pursuit start, it was a mistake. I was so tired of the long climb that I managed to lose about 4 minutes to my closest rival Frederic Tranchand and he basically caught me in the end of the course. I speeded up as much as I could and lost sight of him. I finished 1:21 before him. Sad that the last two days were in the same area and even parts of the courses matched. Otherwise, I had a really great training camp in Trondheim! This gave me a lot of confidence towards the future!
Maps: day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5 and results.

 Photo: first attempt to reach the summit of Vassfjellet (by Andreas Kraas)

I feel more at home in Nordic terrains than I do in Estonian terrains. Strange, isn't it?