Last week I was in Finland for the start of the World Cup 2007 and for Jukola, the biggest competition in the world. The all new sparkly fantastic amazing 2007 World Cup opening premiere proved to be a big flop. The orienteering was ok, but there was nothing special about using the Jukola assembly area if there isn't go to be anyone there... It also seemed like more time had gone into making the race seem professional etc rather than to the maps. In the final there were 2 occasions when the men's and women's controls were less than 30m apart - firstly why bother? why not just use the same controls? - and secondly, when it is that fact that decides who wins the race (as it probably did in this case), surely that is not a fair and desirable situation.
Anyway, I enjoyed the races themselves - the qualifier was tricky to start with, then flat out running round the hospital grounds. The final was the opposite, with some flat fast running to start with, then into the more technical forest. I made a route choice error to the 2nd control, but apart from that I had a good first part to the race. I caught sight of Smola (my minute man) entering the forest, and caught him around number 11 despite a small miss at number 10 (which was later revealed to be in the wrong place - more great organisation...). He lead me into a couple of controls, then I passed him on the long leg up the hill. I was running pretty well, but the last control in the forest looked pretty tricky, and I attempted to read everything very carefully. I thought I was, and then suddenly I saw a control off to my left. It looked good and had a TV camera beside it, so I obviously thought it was correct ... but the code was wrong. After scratching my head for a few seconds and working out where I was, I managed to find my control and catch Smola again on the line. I lost around 15 seconds there.
I finished 11th, which is my best World Cup result (excluding World Champs last year), and so I was pretty happy, but slightly pissed off at the same time.
So then about 11pm I lined up with 1300 other hopefuls, waiting to get into the forest. I had run first legs at World Cup relays, Nordic relays and domestically, but never in such a big field, and I had heard horror stories about mad dashes to the first control, and getting stuck behind seemingly thousands of people rushing about.
When the bell went, it seemed like within a second I was already being overtaken by everybody, and I concentrated on just running as hard as possible. I managed to take a few glances of the map, but nowhere near enough to see anything useful. When we all hit the track, I could relax, read the map and also pass a lot of runners. I picked a really good line, and navigated really well to my gaffle, and managed to punch first. Then there was a really long leg to the second control. I ran that pretty well, and in front of the huge pack and got there first again. Then suddenly there were hundreds of people on other gaffles around, and I made a small miss to the 3rd. After that I was never at the front, but I was running around people I knew to be fairly good, and I knew that I couldn't be too far behind the leaders. I ran fairly well through the next part of the course, but then I made small mistakes at 9(+30 secs) and 10 (+1min) (lots of people did). Both times I relocated quickly and found the control without any problem. Then at 14 I ran to the wrong gaffle (+1min). After that I had almost a perfect race, no real time loss, and managed to claw back about a minute to the leaders ( 1.53 behind at 19, 0.50 behind at finish).
So I finished 50 seconds behind the leaders in 5th place, and managed to just beat my old friend and rival Anders Tiltnes into 6th place ;). I was satisfied with the result, and in general with the performance, but I still made a few mistakes that I should not have made.
Anyway, after I ran, my team held on to a top 10 spot all the way through, and Emil Lauri went from 7th to 4th on last leg, and almost snatched 3rd right at the end.
This result is definitely my best ever club result, and one of my greatest achievements.
And I won a bathrobe....