Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Post Orienteering Stress Disorder

As this years European tour has come to a close I can't help but feel a touch of sadness. When you wake up at home after weeks of excitement and adventure, the routine bowl of cheerios just doesn't have the lustre it used to. I usually get hit by a bout of Post Orienteering Stress Disorder at the end of the summer. The more fun I've had, the worse the POSD. Thankfully the Fall schedule promises action so a cure is on the way.

O-Ringen Stage #1
The summer of 2013 brought a wealth of new experiences for me: an enlightening week of training with a new coach, three WOC races and five days of O-Ringen Super Elite. Every race challenged me to and occasionally beyond the limit of my abilities. I was better prepared for this trip then anything I've undertaken before and it's a good thing too. We ran over mountains, across kilometer long swamps, we hunted flags on vast hillsides covered in rock, traversed endless miles of spongy energy absorbing moss, all with thousands of onlookers cheering us on. It was an incredible month with many highlights.

Boden was my third O-Ringen and without fail I was blown away first by the scale of the event, then the incredible orienteering and finally in the results. They say O-Ringen is the King of orienteering events and I'm inclined to agree. There was something special about running H21-E for the first time that set these races apart for me. A course that takes Thierry 90 minutes is no casual affair! Now run two of them plus a sprint, middle, long and that's O-Ringen Elitsirien. Challenges like these are what drive you out of your toasty bedroom on the crisp January mornings when 'sane' people stay inside. Each day was full of personal triumphs: new most difficult long, first big spectator sprint, hit competitive speeds at an international long, scale a cold war fortress, a spontaneous lunch with Per Forsberg, clean socks every race... the list goes on. This video from O-Ringen TV nicely portrays the atmosphere of O-Ringen.
Photo courtesy Attackpoint
Of course the main purpose of my trip was the Worlds. For athletes involved, the entire year revolves around this one competition. A fact that both amplifies and alleviates the emotions that swirl as the week progresses. This year we made a conscious effort to tackle the psychological challenges of WOC. A subtle and complex affair that paid big dividends considering the average age of the team this year was 24. Learning to Orienteer in Canada, it is difficult to overcome the 'European factor'. I was bewildered when I started racing competitively at the 2009 JWOC in Italy. Five international championships later and at last I am beginning to feel properly competitive overseas.
Searching for Orienteering Enlightenment
To succeed at this unforgiving sport requires a long list of skills. We're familiar with the technical and physical sides. You go out training, run intervals, etc... But how does a person deliver when it really counts? Following through requires confidence, a dangerously fragile emotion in this sport. After Vuokatti it is clear to me I still have a lot to learn from sports psychology. This year was a definite step in the right direction but there's still work to do.

If I could have seen the path that orienteering would take me ten years ago I would have been stunned. There are a lot of dedicated and passionate people that have helped me along the way. Thank you. Here's to the next ten thousand controls!

3 comments:

  1. Well written Eric. A nice read!

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  2. Couldn't agree more, Eric! Even after 40 years, we find that there is still so much to learn in this sport.
    We really enjoyed watching all the Canadians in Vuokati, and then having the chance to run the same terrain.
    After 20 races in Europe this summer, we also found re-entry to Canada to be almost surreal.

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