The Great Britain team traveled out to Rauland in the Telemark region of Norway on the 1st July in order to compete in the Junior World Orienteering Championships 2015. We spent the first few days getting used to the terrain and mapping in official training areas, and preparing mentally and physically for the upcoming competitions. This was particularly useful for me, having never orienteered in Scandinavia before, as it requires different skills and it was interesting to compare things such as running speeds in marshes and forest to assist with route choices later on.
My first race was the Sprint in the mountain town of Åmot. Due to an ankle injury which we now believe to be a stress reaction in the fibula, I was unable to run at my maximum speed for any of my races which was incredibly frustrating. However despite the sub-optimal physical preparation, I was able to focus on my navigation and mental preparation, meaning I gained a lot of valuable experience for next year.
I had no expectations for my performance in the Sprint and I just wanted to have a fluent run without mistakes, and to stay focussed on the navigation. Based on this target, my run was a success! I managed to execute each leg well, despite a few hesitations due to the tricky route choices (good course planning!). I took good routes (if not the best) to most controls, and it is only obvious that I lost significant time on 2 route choices. I finished in 34th place out of 135 and was 2nd British Girl. Although this year I was 2:30 mins down on the winner Simona Aebersold, I know there is room for improvement when my ankle recovers, and with some better route choices, so I aim for a top 20 position next year! All 4 British girls gained top 50 which was a great result considering we were all JWOC debutantes.
The middle distance is held over 2 races: qualification race and the final race on consecutive days. My aim this year was to qualify for the A final which required a top 20 position in my heat. Unfortunately on the morning of the race my ankle was significantly worse after racing the sprint so I was in pain on the rough ground and must have lost at least 2 minutes simply on reduced running speed. In addition I had lost some time near the beginning in an area of tricky green slope, and lost concentration on 1 control losing about 2 ½ minutes due to a compass error whilst making the transition from marsh to forest. After a tense wait, I found my final position to be 21st in my heat, an agonisingly close 5 seconds off 20th.
Due to my injury we decided it would not be beneficial to run the B final as there is no chance of a top 60 position and it could damage the ankle more. Instead I enjoyed watching those who were running.
I was spectating at the long distance too as I had not been selected to race it (partly due to the fact that long courses for W20’s are further than long courses for W16’s!!) The big screen in the arena showed GPS tracking and positions at radio controls whilst we waited nervously for our runners to come through the spectator control and into the finish. The day was particularly exciting as we watched Aidan Smith execute an amazing race to come 4th and to achieve the best British result ever in the mens long. It was certainly an inspirational performance, proving that we can beat the Scandis in their own terrain and gives me motivation for the future.
On to the relays: I changed from A team 2nd leg to B team 3rd leg on the physio’s advice as she didn’t want me to feel obliged to finish the race if my injury got worse (she had not actually expected me to finish the middle qualification even!). Unfortunately my teammates had a few disasters, meaning I had to start in the mini mass start. I rushed off and had left everyone in the mass start behind by the time I reached the start kite, even getting a joint fastest split on the first control. However the speed was not to last as I had a miss at the 3rd control which was in a tricky area of random knolls, and hesitated too early on some legs due to difficulty judging distance after a change of speed when transitioning between marsh and forest. As the forest was quite lonely, I didn’t have anyone to lead me into controls leading to some time lost in/near the control circle. I finished a bit disappointed, but aware that I had not mentally prepared well enough for the relay as I lost the focus on having a clean run and pushed for speed at the wrong points due to the team’s low position. I ended up 8th out of 19 on my gaffle, although I was up against some major contenders. I brought the team up some places, but it was not a great result!
Overall I had an amazing time. I am extremely grateful to The John Taylor Foundation for funding part of the trip as it has made this experience possible for me. I found it so inspiring and despite not being able to race at maximum capacity, I feel far more confident about my psychological preparation for the future, which is so important in orienteering. I got it right at times which gives me confidence, but lost focus at other times showing the impact on performance of not being in the right mind-set. I also thought the opportunity to race in such technical and challenging Nordic terrain was extremely useful for my development as an orienteer and I hope I will get the chance to race next year in Switzerland to improve my results, as well as to meet all my new friends again of course!