Happy New Year to all US Team fans!
This week's course review brings us back to spring 2008 and Tiomila, the legendary Swedish 10-person relay, which was held next to the Rosersberg Castle north of Stockholm. Boris ran the 4th leg, the famous "Long Night" leg, for Team CSU (Cambridge Sports Union), the first ever North American team to race Tiomila.
The weather this week-end was very un-Tiomila-like: 15-20C during the day and well above freezing even at night. We watched the women's relay in the afternoon, getting to cheer for Sandra Zurcher as she ran away from Simone Niggli on her leg.
After Ross Smith's start on leg 1 I went back to the military tent and crawled into my sleeping bag outside under the stars, relaxing and listening to the reports from the forest. I dozed off for about the half-hour it took the leaders to get from the spectator control to the finish, and that was all the sleep I got.
After Ross and Matthias Mahr ran the first two legs, Brendan Shields did a solid job in his first-ever Swedish orienteering experience and exchanged to me in 293rd place and 88 minutes behind the lead, just a couple of minutes behind Jesus Orienteering Klubb from England's Oxford University, catching which became my first goal.
Somehow, right from the start of my Long Night, I felt great. My legs felt light, and it took very little effort to focus on the orienteering. The constant pain in my glute was the only reminder of my less-than-impressive orienteering season 2008. The brand-new lamp battery I bought two weeks ago gave me confidence that I wouldn't run out of light, but I turned it to low power on all the trail and road sections anyway.
Here is the map with just the course:
And here it is with the routes:
[On this map, Boris' routes are marked in red, and the alternatives he considered in magenta.]
S-1: Leaving the start triangle, I saw a bunch of lamps heading left across the field, taking the around route choice on trails. I went right instead, running by myself, and stuck closer to the line, taking the small trail north from the first aid station. There was a moment of self-doubt when I cut into the green forest heading to the northwest and towards he control, but that was replaced with a boost of confidence when I saw the reflector and JOK's Ian Cumpstey punching just ahead of me. In retrospect, this was a pretty risky approach, with no clear attackpoint in the night, but I had done a lot of night training that winter, and this was practically home terrain for me, so I was confident.
1-2: On the looong leg to 2, I didn't really see any route choice and went pretty straight. I felt like I needed to break this leg up into shorter pieces, and my first goal was to hit the road near the aid station, which I did almost perfectly. The next aim was to hit the second road at the bend, where the trail comes off to the NE. I just missed it, but checked the direction of the road and knew I was off to the right. I then drifted off line trying to catch the road to the southwest of 2, but recovered fairly quickly, knowing that I just needed to run hard to the road and not attempt to relocate in the vague flat woods.
2-3: Careful here, still all alone. Over the top of the hill to be safe, past the obvious cairn, and down.
3-4: Aimed a bit left to hit the top of the small ridge and then followed it down to the control.
4-5: Saw the two route choices to 5 and went left, on the roads and trails, rather than risking going through the fields to the north that could, for all I knew, contain waist-high grass. [From talking to other runners later and looking at splits, it turned out that the field route would have been at least a minute faster!] Passed one more guy shortly after getting on the road, but was then alone in complete darkness, just running along and enjoying the feeling. As I was contouring along from the trail towards 5, I suddenly looked right and saw a sea of lamps (10-15 of them) coming in from my right. Wasn't sure if I caught them or they me (probably the former), but it didn't matter.
5-6: I decided to shake them. Saw that they went more-or-less straight to 6, contouring along the steep slope, and so I took off on the trail route around, through the small field on top of the hill. I liked the road approach to the control and did not want to contour. A couple of guys went with me. Spiked 6 and saw the group of lamps coming in as we were on the way out. Excellent. Very happy with this leg.
6-7: Another route choice to 7: northern road past the shooting ranges or southern one with the indistinct trail as an attack. The guys I was with tried to convince me (in Norwegian!) to go south. I went north, not wanting to risk the indistinct trail not being there, and never saw them again. All alone the whole way to 7, through the empty spooky shooting ranges and along the hillside. Hit the long nose north of the circle, then climbed up to the top of the ridge to be sure of dropping down at the right spot.
7-8: Careful again on the short legs to 8-11, not losing any time, but hitting my knee hard on a rock on the way to 8 and having to walk for a bit. Annoying. Climbed the hill, which loomed gigantic out of the darkness, and aimed a bit left to make sure to hit the ridge leading me right to the control. (My thinking this whole night was to make my targets bigger - instead of aiming for a single feature with the control on it, I tried finding bigger or longer features that would lead me right to the flag, like the ridge here.)
8-9: Back up again, then down, keep the smaller hill to my left, then climb up, over the top again to be sure, and drop down.
9-10: Again wanted to stay high here, so left the control aiming a bit left to make sure I hit the hill. Up and down over the first three hilltops, then to the top of the third one.
10-11: Flying down the ridge. Almost got distracted by a control on a rock to my right, but checked the map and saw the clear spur I should be following. No problem.
11-12: Feeling great running through the meadow down to 12, trampling the occasional flower and spiking another control.
12-13-14-15: Just running, listening to the announcers and admiring the masses of lamps running in and out of the exchange area.
15-16: Finally, climbing the hill on the way to 16, I realized I was very tired. Lost focus twice on this leg and drifted north of the line for a total of nearly 2 minutes lost. I definitely did not have a plan for this leg and paid for it. Stopped when I found the control and regrouped, forcing myself to concentrate harder in this tricky area - would be a shame to ruin a good race towards the end!
16-17: Orienteered well to 17, but moving slowly, and staying with a small pack of a couple of guys I caught. A pretty easy leg: run down the indistinct trail, cut SW toward the steep hill, run around the hill, and attack into the group of small knolls on the other side.
17-18: Skirting the top of the big reentrant and trying not to drop down too low. Spotted the reflector from above.
18-19: Slow climb back up the hill, cursing the course setters for the unnecessary leg.
19-20: Picked a route that avoided climb, but did not have a safe attack - another sign that I was rapidly fading. Managed to contour ok, but was definitely relieved to find the flag.
20-21: Screwed up 21, going too far right and not being sure of myself. Relocated on the trail. About 50 seconds gone.
21-22: Went past the building and was momentarily confused by the steep earth bank / reentrant in front of me, which I had not seen on the map.
22-23: From there, all that was left was to slog along through the mud down to 23 and then leave it all on the run-in. As I was finishing, I realized that it was starting to get light.
I had been out for 114 minutes and exchanged to Greg Walker in 254th place. I was very happy with my run, even though my time was not particularly impressive (177th on my leg is nothing to write home about.) Still, I survived, orienteered well and ran mostly by myself. More importantly, I had a blast - long night at Tiomila truly is something special, and I am really thankful to CSU for giving me the opportunity to run it!