Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Oringen 2013

My first O-ringen has come and gone, and what an incredible series of races it was.  When I arrived at O-ringen town on the 18th of July, I was surprised by the sheer amount of people that were there.  That is, until I was informed that most people would arrive over the next few days and that this was, in fact, a small O-ringen with the population of O-ringen town being just under 10 000.  In other words, it was like half of Whitehorse had suddenly decided to get together and camp out on an old army airstrip.
Tent city, as seen from the sightseeing tower
The next day was spent going to a training area a few kilometers away and promptly getting lost in the maze of boulders, not unlike this year’s JWOC middle.  However, we survived the forest and the bugs, and were back in time for an early sleep in preparation for the Axa relay the next day.  Axa is for youth aged 13-16 and each region sends 2 teams.  I cheered on the Sør Trøndelag team as they ran into 18th place.

This year, O-ringen consisted of three longs, followed by a middle, and then a long middle (mine was 5.4 km-the elites ran over 10km!).  As I walked/ran the 4.3 km to the start of the first long, I was amazed at the train of people I was with.  As far as the eye could see, there were 4 or 5 people abreast migrating to one of 8 starts.  My two main goals for this race were to not get distracted by other runners and to take the first control slowly, giving myself confidence for the rest of the race.  The first goal I found surprising easy.  While I noticed other runners, I didn’t let them affect where I ran and how I navigated.  Unfortunately, the second goal was to remain unaccomplished.  I made at least 5 min of error, and was annoyed to realize (once I finally relocated) that I had run some 20 m shy of the control, just a little too low.  Fortunately, I was able to pull myself together for the rest of the race, although I was plain tired by the end of it all.  The race was also interesting as it was divided into two sections: a technically challenging and hilly section to start off with followed by a flat expanse of sand and confusing trails.  The trick was to switch techniques halfway through, which is easier said than done.

The second day dawned as a fresh start, and I was determined to have a better race than the previous day.  I was in the first start block, meaning that I started at 9:17 in the morning.  Unfortunately, I fell victim to the same error as the previous day in terms of the first control.  The second control was easy to find.  However, as I was running to the third, I began to feel quite sick.  I was able to run most of the way to the third before I started to feel so sick that I was unable to concentrate on the map and course.  I bailed to the first aid station and was given a ride back to the arena.  This was the first time I have had health issues while I was running and I promised myself I would not let it happen again by keeping myself hydrated and fed, as I strongly suspect those two factors to have caused my episode in the first place.  That evening, we got to watch the elite categories tough it out during the sprint in the center of town.  We went on a control hunt and found the race to be very spectator oriented: most of the controls had but a small circle of clear around them.  It was great fun to cheer on Eric, Emily and Serghei! 
The arena on days 3 and 4.
The ski hill in the background was fun to climb!
The third day of racing was preceded by a much needed day of rest.  As the last long, I was determined to make my two goals of hitting the first control and not letting others distract me.  Happily, I was successful.  Unfortunately-when looking back-I made a few sillier route choices on the longer legs.  I found myself counting contours as well-and groaning when I realized just how much I would have to climb!  I also (upon loosing contact with the map) lost approximately three minutes on the second last control.  I found two extra controls during my search, although I still can’t find features on the map which are in the right places for those two controls.

The middle turned out to be my best race.  I had a small deviation on the first control, but pulled myself together for the rest of the race.  I had minor deviations on controls 6 and 7, but finished the race in good spirits and elated with my placing of 46th out of 116!

The last day was a chase start based on your performance over the last four days.  As I had disqualified on day 2, I was ineligible for a place in the chase.  The race ended up being held on (most likely) the hottest day of O-ringen.  I visited three water stations on my course, and still could have used more.  Perhaps the most exciting part of the race happened at my second last control.  As I was coming into it, I saw the red hair and bright yellow jersey of Tove Alexanderson.  I had just punched when Simone Niggli came charging past me.  I attempted to keep up, but it will come as no surprise to all that I was unable to do so.  However, in the excitement, I lost my place on the map.  I was completely confused as to where I was, and finally decided to follow the stream of people, hoping that I had not missed the go-control, as there was a section of flagged route before the finish chute.  Luck was in my favour, but I hope that I am forever discouraged from blindly following world champions.  

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