So another championships is over, and I am feeling pretty satisfied with my work. PBs in every distance (by a long way in 2 of them), and 5 good performances out of 5. There is always room for a better race or a better result, but I would have taken this if offered 2 weeks ago.
I came into the championships with a niggle in my calf, so there was never any doubt that I would not run all 7 races, and I decided to drop the long, especially considering the hot, humid conditions.
The first race was the sprint qualification. I ran a good controlled race, apart from the 11th control which was on a boat! Didn't understand my description or the map, and punched a different control with a similar code, but recovered and qualified comfortably, 14 seconds behind the best. Really nice mixture of super-fast woodland, scrappy urban and sand dunes made for an interesting start to the week.
A couple of hours later the final took place in a really interesting venue - I have never done an international sprint race like it. There we good route choices, difficult controls in low visibility forest, very fast running on roads, and more sand dunes. I was satisfied with my performance, I made good route choices, and my only real time loss (other than the normal couple of seconds here and there) was on the 9th control where I was too busy looking ahead at the next control, and ran a line of buildings too far - lost about 15 seconds. I was really fast in the sand dunes in the end, taking quite a few places and finished 10th (but behind 6 Swiss!). Bodes really well for WOC and I consider this to be better than my 9th at WOC sprint '06.
I was really excited about the middle qualifier - I always enjoy the different stresses of qualification, and I thought this was going to be really interesting with difficult orienteering and lots of other runners everywhere. Actually, it was a lonely race as the qualifiers were very different and I hardly saw anybody. I again ran a safe race, pushed hard when I could, but really tried hard not to miss a thing, and I was really happy to be a minute down on the best of Thierry and Novikov.
After some last minute changes due to various injuries and illnesses, I was asked to run the last leg of the relay - something I have not done in an international since JWOC 2004! I was really nervous at the thought of going head to head with Merz, Novikov, Gueorgiou etc... - was more nervous than I usually get. Scott did the business on first leg, and Oli kept in touch with a really strong pack to send me out in14th just behind Novikov, Bortnik and Mamleev and with Osterbø and Krapivko. The pace was really fast immediately with Novikov and Mamleev stepping on the gas. For the first couple of controls, Osterbø and me just tucked in behind. As the gaffles started to hit, we also caught Haldin. On the 6th, Novikov had the shorter forking and got a little gap, but I really pushed it on the longer 8 and caught him again. I had a different gaffle to everyone around 8,9,10, but we all came back together for the spectator run through. I was right at the front of the group, but stopped for a drink so Novikov came past. I was feeling strong sat so sat on his tail up the hill to 16, then he had a different 17. We re-grouped on the way to 18, and I was no longer aware of Mamleev / Osterbø or anyone else. Running along the road to the second spectator, Novikov was looking over his shoulder and I could sense he didn't really want a race to the finish. I started to push the pace and took the front, then really kicked up the hill to the 3rd last. Really pushed the pace to the 2nd last and then gave it everything down to the last control. By this time Novikov was gone and he was looking over his shoulder for the next guys, so I could cruise into 8th place, but 6th nation and a new best ever result in the relay for GB at the European Champs!
That is probably physically and technically my best ever international race. I made maybe a 10 second mistake on the 10th control, but nothing apart from a couple of hesitations apart from that. I had 3rd fastest time on last leg after Merz and Gueorgiou. Looking forward to World Champs relay now!
Last race of my week was the middle final, and although I was mentally and physically tired (especially after the relay), I was determined to put in a good performance. My plan was to be as aggressive as possible and control the speed when necessary. The terrain was much easier technically than expected, and so it was more of a physical race, and I was struggling in the 2nd half to maintain my speed. I had a good race technically, although I am not sure I always took the best route choices with respect to the gullies and the green areas.
My 18th place is satisfying in some ways and frustrating in others. It was close to being my best middle distance performance at international level (definitely in a championships), so I am a little disappointed with the result, but on the other hand, it was quite an easy race and there are a lot of good guys! 1 minute faster would have been a top 6, and the way my body was feeling, I do think that on a different day I could have run that much faster even without taking out errors. Again it is really promising for World Champs, where the terrain will be tougher and more difficult.