Continuing with our series of junior team members reacting to Jukola--next up are Matt Stout and Izzy Bryant.
Our Jukola trip began Friday morning. After originally planning to head over to Jukola in two trips we decided to go over as a team on the 10 o’clock bus from Kuopio to the race site, which was a military camp. When we arrived it was cold and rainy. Everyone threw on all the layers they brought with them to try and stay warm. We checked in, picked up the emit punching devices, and found our 17-person tent. We headed to lunch and went through the stores. With the rain the ground had turned to mud, and everywhere you stepped there was more and more mud.
At 2 o’clock we went to watch the Venla start with Izzy as the first leg. After going through a few more stores and finding free sun glasses, Addie started the second leg. Midway through her leg I did the model map with Ethan, Connor, and Addison. Some time during the model, Anne started the 3rd leg of Venla. After coming back from the model, Ane, a Norwegian, had started the 4th leg, and Addie was having story time, reading a book out loud to everyone. At 6 o’clock the boys had a Jukola meeting going over how to pass the emits and when to wake people up. The order was Michael, Ethan, Erin, Addison, Austin, Connor, and then me. After the meeting we to watch Ane finish her leg and complete the Venla relay. Once we saw Ane finish we ate dinner and completed the 2nd half of window shopping we had done earlier. I bought a pair of o-pants for training.
|One of the tents at Jukola selling clothes|
After a few more hours of relaxing and trying to stay awake for the start of Jukola, the team went over to watch Michael start the race with the mass start. There were so many spectators trying to watch the start when we got there that the closest we could get was maybe 20 feet from the fence at the start corridor. A few people sat on others’ shoulders to see the start while others jumped up and down.
|Excited for the Jukola starts!|
Once the relay started at 11 o’clock, I went back to the tent to sleep. After putting layers that I had taken off earlier, I got in my sleeping bag and went to sleep. Throughout the night I woke up several times to people coming back. They all seemed slightly discouraged about how slow they were, but happy talking about the physicality of the terrain. Addison woke me up at 6:10 am, then Austin went out.
I headed to breakfast and watched Theirry Georgieu on the big screen run legs 15 through the end to win the competition for his team by only 10 seconds. It felt weird seeing legs of my course ahead of time, almost as if I was cheating. I headed back to the tent go dressed and got to my start early at 8:10. The mass start was at 9:00 and the last time Connor could make the handoff was at 8:45. Once I looked at the radio controls I knew he would not make the time, because at 8:30 he was 5k into his 10k course. I began to prepare myself for the leg 7 mass start.
The start was full of people and very fast. My first 4 legs went great but then I struggled with a few controls throughout the rest where the pack split, always seeming to have the control further past the other fork. I also messed up on leg 13, accidentally going to control 17 (long legs with lines intersecting) and got disoriented trying to get back to the elephant trails leading me to my controls. After that the people seemed to spread out and I felt like I was orienteering by myself instead of in huge lines. Once I returned to control 17, I hit a wall physically and was struggling to keep up with a group I had caught. The people I had just run past were now slowly marching behind me on the elephant trail trying to pass me. I pushed through and got to the GO control, and sprinted with everything I had left to the finish.
|Matt in the finish chute--it was a long haul!|
Thirsty and exhausted, I saw Erin and headed back to the tent with him and some others. As soon as everyone was back, we packed up and headed for the bus back to Kuopio. Everyone was exhausted, and slept for most of the bus ride back to Kuopio.
I think it is good luck to forget something before a race. It’s kind of like getting lost on the way to an orienteering meet, which is super good luck. Erin wanted to talk our Venla team through the map exchange thirty minutes before the mass start, so at 1:30 we all walked over to the arena together. Right as we entered the arena, I realized that I forgot something pretty important… my compass. So I raced back to the tent, grabbed my compass, and quickly made my way back to the arena to find Erin waiting at the entrance.
|Izzy wearing the new USA uniform in the woods at Venla|
I have been the first leg runner in the majority of the relay races I have participated in, but Venla was a completely different experience. For one, the warm up area was over a kilometer long and there were hundreds of other women warming up with me. There was also a huge crowd of people watching us. I was more excited than nervous while warming up, and the other competitors and their club members cheering them on were welcome distractions from the chaos soon to come. At eight minutes to the start the announcer called all of us to the starting line. I found my place and focused on clearing my head and enjoying the moment. Pretty soon the announcer called one minute to start, then thirty seconds, twenty seconds, ten… then BAM the gun went off and so did we.
|Izzy after finishing a run|
Photos and editing by Addie Nolan