Somehow I avoided the effects of jet lag and had perfect sleeping patterns from day 1 in Sweden. This was especially convenient as day 2 was my first race day. I arrived at O-Ringen at midday in the intense summer sun, the hottest week Sweden has had so far this year and caught up Rob, Marquita, Renee and Matt after a short training and a swim.
This is the training map I ran on with some friends from Stockholm which was relevant to stage 3 of this year’s competition. This was my first run in 3 days so it is always interesting to see how the legs feel as often time off does strange things to me. My navigation was ok in this training which was good for my nerves.
After another good night’s sleep I hit the start line of O-Ringen for the fourth time. It took me 4 controls to get into the terrain and to get my rhythm going but when it did I felt confident despite the unfamiliar terrain. There were a number of important route choices in the first stage, most of which I got wrong – going straight was significantly slower for 11 and 19 and I lost a lot of time on these legs. Overall I was happy with my navigation on this stage as I only had problems at 2 controls and had learned a lot about the speed of the forest, knowledge that I could take into the second stage to help me make better route choice decisions. Physically I didn’t feel great and my hamstrings were cramping after being worked much harder than they ever would in the New Zealand forests I am used to. This was also the first time I had raced again Matt Ogden since February so was an opportunity to reignite our rivalry.
Hearing the sound of the commentary getting louder and louder through the final few controls as more and more people emerge from the forest to descend upon the finish control is a very special experience and makes it so obvious just how massive this sport is in Scandinavia.
Stage 2 was held on the same area but featured less hills and more low visibility forest. I made much better use of the tracks and roads on this stage, and I was running a lot better than the previous day. I also only experienced cramp near the end of the race. I still finished 11 and a half minutes behind the leader after a pretty good race. The difference in pace is mainly due to the stony ground which those who live and race in Sweden are much better at running over quickly. I had extremely sore toes from stumbling on the stony ground already. Matt started only 2 minutes before me and I was excited to pass him on the way to control 12. I finished pretty strongly and put 5 and a half minutes into Matt but still couldn’t get close to the winner’s time. I really enjoyed this race because of the variation across the map and even across single legs.
The third stage of O-Ringen was a middle distance on beautiful piece of sand dune forest with open and sandy areas. This terrain was very natural for me and I found my flow very quickly. I was going very well until number 11 where I lost 3 minutes doing a pretty serious parallel error. I also had the contours in the control circle backwards in my head so was having a lot of trouble relocating. I ran the rest of the course well and finished in 34th place. Matt had a good run and finished in 5th place meaning he was beating me by half a minutes after 3 days of racing. I was in 8th place before my mistake so I know my speed is good in this terrain but at full pace may navigation is still unstable, but always improving.
I am currently staying with Matt in Uppsala and have reliable internet access so I will get the final 2 stages from O-Ringen up online tomorrow plus a more in depth look at stage 4 which was my favourite.
Well done to all those at JWOC!