Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sun, Mud and Snow

Once again I find myself kicking back in the Italian mountains, reflecting on an hectic last 10 days. This time however, the days have been filled with orienteering and travel, rather than work and organising, so can't complain!

Following our final WOC 2016 training session (and via the lolly factory shop...), it was off over the border and in to Norway to visit Halden.

Post training nutrition? Anyone?

Having heard that I'm looking to make the move to Europe in 2015, I'd been invited along to see what Halden SK has to offer. And I have to say, the people and place made an impression; Everyone was really welcoming, like one big family, The sheer number, and quality, of training opportunities was too great for my brain to comprehend, and even the weather turned it on for the couple of days I was there! Anyone who knows has seen my ghost fingers will appreciate that the weather must be stunning if I can survive a 5 minute swim without losing feeling in any of my extremities!
It was really cool and an eye opener to see just what the environment is like at one of the best clubs in Europe, and a completely different scale to anything I've experienced previously!

Bit nicer for swimming than ol' lake B-G!

Talking about a different scale... I then joined Halden on their travels to Jukola/Venla. For the non-orienteers who are somehow still hanging on to this blog ;) (thankyou!), Jukola is a massive club relay competition, held annually in Finland - about 1700 7 person teams fight it out for glory or fun. The race starts at 11pm with a giant mass start, and runs through the night, with the first teams finishing around 7am. One of the many awesome things about Jukola is the range of teams - from the top elite club teams fighting for glory, right through the range of ages and abilities, down to stags night and dress up teams. And the mass start is something to behold - in fact this year the start signal was an F/A 18 hornet...

Awesome to have a good group of kiwis and Aussies
to follow throughout the night too! Kiwi team some day?
 Venla is the women's relay, raced in the afternoon before Jukola, with around 1200, 4-women, teams competing. Although smaller than Jukola, the competition amongst the top teams is no less intense, and the mass start is an amazing experience to be a part of! Four years ago I ran first leg for South Yorkshire's 2nd team (Grace Crane ran 1st for the 1st team ;), starting from 976th, at the back of the pack, I had one of the most fun races of my life, finishing off in 36th. This year the task was a bit different, filling in at the last minute for Halden's 3rd team, and running last leg.
Orienteers and non-orienteers back home alike, I highly recommend flicking through the Finnish TV coverage of Venla (and Jukola). Great coverage including head cam runners following the action in the forest, the arena, gps, and a crash course in Finnish ;)

My race itself was a bit disappointing - a number of small mistakes dropping me well off the times of the top girls. It was a lesson in running the last leg of a big race - when to use the big tracks generated by the previous runners, how to get past the numerous slower runners that are clogging up the forest, and how to hold it together in the last few controls...none of which I did particularly well! We finished off in 57th place - the top placed 3rd team, with the 1st girls coming in 6th and the 2nd team in 40th. Overall it was an awesome week, I really felt part of the family and was sad to leave by the end of it. So a massive thanks to everyone, (but especially Anja and Eva) who made the visit happen, and made me feel so at home! We'll see how the next 6 months play out, but if it's anything to go by - I found myself doing PhD work yesterday, despite being on I must have picked up some good motivation to get the thesis finished!

Spot the odd one out!
Photo: Halden SK

After a long Sunday, and a good bout of shoe cleaning (apologies to the cleaners at the Helsinki hostel for the state of our bathroom!) it was off down to Tallinn for a bit of relaxing, touristing...and orienteering. After hearing Jules and Fel rave about Tallinn O-week, I was keen to take part this year, and the first 3 days fitted perfectly into our schedule, with a sprint on the Monday and the city race on Wednesday. Unfortunately however, the last couple of weeks training and racing caught up with my body on the Monday. The first part of the course was fantastic fun, based around a maze of fences in the farms of the open-air museum, However, coming up to the spectator leg I could feel one of my anxiety attacks coming on, so was forced to stop and walk the 2nd loop of the course. Apologies to those watching GPS replays back home who thought I'd done an ankle or broken a leg!

Fortunately for me (but unfortunate for what was supposed to be summer), the weather on Tuesday turned on Wellington worthy winds, rain, and...snow?! Which suited me fine, as I had my best sleep in months, and stayed at the hostel all day! I also got my Jukola-mud coated clothes cleaned for me. Which led me to belatedly wonder what the hostel workers must have concluded on receiving my numerous sets of muddy orienteering kit (read: pyjama like clothing)...and then finding physio thera-bands attached to the feet of my hostel bed?! Oh well...I'll probably never see them again! I hope.

Anyway...On Wednesday I awoke feeling a world better; venturing out to be a tourist, and running the city race in the evening. Infact, in holding back on the pace and making sure my body could cope with the session, I managed to take out the win - meaning I have to find space in my already full pack for another pair of shoes! :) The race itself was great fun, and good practice at spotting hard to read gaps/fences. I made a few decent mistakes, far too many to call it a good run, but came away with a smile on my face having had fun, and happy with how my body coped.

I also got to play silly bugger on the podium...
Photo: Meelis Toom, TOW

So yeah, one busy week and a bit! It's now almost 4 weeks since I left the 'burra, and only 2 weeks until WOC kicks off! Time for final preparations, to really listen to my body, rest up, sharpen up...and find the local gelato store! ;)

Maps from the last week will be gradually loaded onto my digital map archive, for the fellow map geeks out there.

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