Tuesday, July 5, 2011


On the 4th of July the Long Final took place here in Wejherowo. What awaited all of us competitors were 11.1 kilometers for the boys (+410m climb), and 7.7 kilometers for the girls (+285m climb). The day starts, as usual, very early in the morning, especially for those of us with an early or middle start time. Coming from our hotel on the 7:00 am bus makes us the first team along with Team Turkey to conquer the gym mattresses in the quarantine area. As the other teams, little by little, start populating the gym, there is still plenty of time to look around and examine the newly put up team posters and hopefully grasp helpful insight concerning the challenging task of determining what girls deserve a spot in the very competitive and sought-after USA Top Ten list (which is still work in progress as of today).

The quarantine naptime zone.

After various cycles of hydration and dehydration we make it to the pre-start area. My legs are still somewhat tight after running the sprint on the hard pavements of the streets of Lebork yesterday, but nothing a very slow jog with the warm-up map can’t take care of. A little unexpectedly, the woods all around the area look quite a lot more dirty (i.e. with plenty of difficult-to-run-through-undergrowth) than the clean rolling hills behind our hotel. The race will then confirm these first impressions and leave opportunities for a lot of fighting in the dark greens. After a real warm-up, stretching and last minute preparations it is already time for me to start.

Warmup area terrain. Not everything was like this, but more than expected.

The race presents itself already from the start (and as expected) very physical and fast-pace. 10 minutes in the race I am past the first 4 short controls placed along some pretty clean Polish hills. No mistakes untill there and a pretty good pace and contact with the map. After that the first long leg caught me pretty unprepared: I was trying to read it earlier on the early uphills, but it was hard to find a smooth way to reach the next control. I decided to go pretty much straight and just follow the reentrances up and down as they came at me. I had some trouble memorizing the succession of reentrances and had to keep slowing down to read the same thing again and again. Post race analysis made it pretty clear that going pretty straight on the right of the red line was actually the best route, and more confidence in my decision would have made my split better. After the long leg four more controls got you ready for another long leg, only after a cool more-uphill-in-the-white vs. trail-and-then-green short route choice. Two long legs and an easy butterfly take me to the last controls, all on the faster hilly terrain. I close my race in 1h 38 min, just about 30 minutes after the gold medal winner, the Norwegian Yngve Skogstad (01:08:49). The top runners, both men and women, are really flying out there and I am sure it would be a beautiful experience seeing them soar on those hillsides.

Overall, my greatest problems occurred during the long legs, and dealt with the ability to keep focus for long periods of running time. I also found myself slowing down excessively when alone in the woods and pick up the pace only when encountering another runner. Overall the whole team lacked the endurance in the run and experience in the navigation to perform at the top level. Nevertheless, we had today a great opportunity to savor this sport at its height and learn toward what direction our training needs to go. Here in Wejherowo Independence Day was definitely very challenging and yet fulfilling.

- Giacomo Barbone

Andrew in the finish chute.

Zach at the last control.

No comments: