Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jukola Reactions: Ethan

The USA Junior Team ran in Jukola this year, and we'll be releasing some of the juniors' reactions to the relay over the next few days, supplemented with pictures of the race. First up: Ethan Childs' perspective on the race and his run.


The day before the race I wasn’t too thrilled. We had two days of training on Jukola training maps and the result was general disaster both days. I couldn’t understand the way the rocks or contours were mapped, and I was frequently struggling on controls. After hearing the girls’ report of Venla, I felt a little better, and then I did a warm up on the model map. That was clean, and it came down to being very careful on the compass and following the elephant paths. Thank god for elephant paths.

Venla starters

Front line of Venla racers

I started my race a little after one o’clock in the morning. Michael had a little trouble before me. The Emit radio controls didn’t broadcast his position until he hit the GO control, but fortunately I had jogged for a few minutes right before just to keep warm. One thing that I was worried about, though, was that I hadn’t eaten hardly a thing since 8:00, and I didn’t know how long my energy would last. In addition, my headlamp only lasts for an hour and a half at best on the dim setting. I miraculously managed to squeeze both extra batteries and my extra headlamp in my pocket, but that meant I had to pin the HammerGel to my bib number… which hung in such a way that it would swing and bounce off me in a most unpleasant manner. I also had to tighten my pants while running and frequently pull them up due to all the weight in the pocket, but lucky for me it was so light outside I never even had to change batteries. I probably had my headlamp turned on for less than 10% of the course, maybe even less than 5%. It was very bright outside, even at the darkest part of the night.

Crowd at the start of Jukola. As you can see, it's still pretty light out.

The first control was interesting: A 3-3.5km leg, not including the 1km run to the start triangle. What made it frustrating was that I was stuck behind slow people the entire time, and I could only get by them on open areas or roads. On the bright side, it meant very simple navigation. As long as I stayed in touch I was able to hit my controls safely. After hitting the first control I decided I had had enough of the slow people and would take paths off to the left or the right in order to get by them. I had trouble on the next control, but it was due to poor map-reading, but after that I was very smooth and fast. At one point I even ignored the tide of people and went my own route and spiked the control dead-on. The people were certainly useful, but I did a good job of paying attention and only using them to key me into the finer points. Editor's note: Route Gadget for all Jukola and Venla courses can be found at: http://routegadget.jukola.com/cgi-bin/reitti.cgi.

This didn’t last forever, unfortunately. I had taken my HammerGel before I felt exhausted, so it kicked in before the fatigue really hit me. I also got stuck behind more people, though, as some parts got to be a little denser, and then, close to the end of the course, I was jumping a ditch under a power line and my foot got stuck. Several thousand people had turned the small stream into a bed of deep mud, and I got all of it. The worse part was putting my hands out to stop myself, but they just sank into the mud, my map with them. When I tried to extract my map before it could get soaked my hand wouldn’t come out because of suction. After a few tries I freed myself, but I was covered in water and mud which slowed me down a made me feel noticeably colder than usual. I also had to take everything one leg at a time because I couldn’t get all the mud off the map. Fortunately it held together, but all I could read was whichever leg I wiped off with my thumb for that time. I still managed to finish strong and pick up the pace again, but not after crashing on some rocks after my second-to-last control. I didn’t feel any pain until after I finished, but I noticed later that my left knee was swollen and aching a bit.

After the race was another story in itself. I was tired, sore, wet, and I desperately needed food. I went back to the tent and gnawed on a frozen power bar (it got really cold during the night), and picked out some clothes so I could go and get a shower as soon as possible to get the mud off and warm up. I arrived at the place, watching the steam drift above the area they had set up for people to get clean, only to discover it cost three euros. So I jogged back to our tent, got money, and changed out of my wet clothes after warming up a bit (thanks to Izzy for volunteering Addie’s raincoat and Addie for allowing it). When I got back to the showers I paid and headed inside. As one might expect, there were naked men everywhere, but lucky for me I don’t really care too much, so I stripped down, grabbed a shower head, and soaked in the steamy goodness that was my salvation (I was really cold). Better yet, because this is Finland there were two sauna tents, and as long as you don’t have an issue with standing shoulder-to shoulder in a steaming room with at least fifty other men is was amazing. I remained in there until my drinking water got warm and my goosebumps were gone, which was probably around half an hour. This was also when I first noticed my swollen knee, but now I was warm and my knee didn’t really hurt at all.

The rest of my Jukola experience can be summed up by three things: Shopping, eating, and spectating. I saw the Jukola and Venla starts, and I watched as many of our runners as I could. I also checked out all of the stores and hit up some sweet sales, although there were some things I forced myself not to get (Like a 10 euro jacket), I did cave on others like a sleeping pad for the bare ground to spare my good one from being soaked. Eating wasn’t very exciting, but there was decent variety and it all cost more than it should. Still, having dinner or breakfast at Jukola with my junior buddies was a great experience. 

Junior team in conference after Venla.
Goofing around with the team :)
I also spent a lot of time taking pictures. I should have saved my camera battery for just our team, but I did save some at the end to take pictures of the winners finishing. I went over to the GO control to snag the best spot about an hour and a half early, and it was totally worth it when I got some shots of Thierry punching the last control and starting his way into the finish chute.

Thierry Georgieu in the finish chute!
Daniel Hubmann finishing
Notice, sleep was not part of my day. I got about and hour of sleep or so before the Jukola start, but I didn’t sleep again until after the chase start went out, and then I crashed hard. The sun came out and the outside warmed up, so I grabbed my cheap sleeping pad, moved outside, and took a nap. I slept like a rock.

All in all, Jukola was amazing. I sincerely hope I’ll be able to return and participate in it again.

-Ethan Childs

edited by Addie Nolan


Anonymous said...

Nice story!
Just a little precision, the 3€ fees were for sauna entrance, showers were free of charge, but I admit that the way it was made was quite confusing.

carlch said...

It sounds like Jukola is a place that you could reinforce some bad habits like following and not paying attention to the map. On the other hand, it sounds like the perfect opportunity to practice dealing with distractions and focusing on your own orienteering. Ideally, during your pre-race warm up you would remind yourself that there would be lots of people around but you need to do your own O', especially if the pack was doing something different than what you thought best.

Marko said...

A good read! A few points I'd like to make:
- 3€ was for sauna, showers were free (and saunas weren't even that hot this time)
- You're not alone: many Finns have also complained about the costs of the food (and parking as well)
- The night was indeed very cold, something like 0-2 C. The forecast was about 5-8 C - it was a lot colder than expected.
- It was bright but next year Jukola is more to the south so this was an exception. But wait till 2020, then it's organized in Rovaniemi - perhaps no need for headlamps

A few links in addition to the Route Gadget:
GPS: http://www.tulospalvelu.fi/gps/
TV: Venla http://areena.yle.fi/tv/2184297 Jukola http://areena.yle.fi/tv/2184300/ http://areena.yle.fi/tv/2184301/ http://areena.yle.fi/tv/2184302 (or in Swedish if you prefer: http://arenan.yle.fi/?q=jukolakavlen&sisalto=ohjelmat&media=video)
KopterCam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArpKAtnlIk0