Written by Alex Jospe
The World Orienteering Championships just wrapped up, in Trentino, Italy, and I was racing for the U.S. Team in the Long Distance Final and on the relay. I brought both the Oroc 280s and the X-Talon 212s, but ended up doing all my racing in the Orocs, thanks to unending wet weather, as the metal dobbs offered perfect traction on the moss-covered rocks and leafy forest floors in the rain.
The Long Distance Final was held on the beautiful Lavarone plateau, at about 5000′ of elevation. Definitely a ski lift or two crossing the map! I had an average sort of race, a solid navigation with a few small bobbles, but it was nothing spectacular. I tend to suffer badly when racing at high elevations, and this was no exception, but I was quite pleased that my average performance appears to have drastically improved since last year! Even though my legs didn’t quite feel ready to show up on the day, I came in 52nd with some of my best ranking points of the year. I found the course setting was really fun, with some good route choices and some interesting more technical bits. But the altitude compounded with the hilly terrain left me pretty whipped!
I had a few days to rest after the long, and then it was time for the relay! To me, running on the relay at Worlds is the highest honor you can bestow upon an athlete, and I was really excited to represent my country and have a great race! Unfortunately, our first-leg runner made a pretty large mistake on her third control, and she came through the arena passage quite near the end of the pack. Uh oh. Luckily, she took the same approach that I like to take to racing, because it ain’t over til it’s over, and she pulled in an amazing second half of her race, holding even with the leaders and bringing us right back within striking distance of a big pack of countries!
Sam tagged to me and I took off hunting, and thankfully discovered I had slightly better legs than in the long, though I still couldn’t breathe. Arrrrgh altitude!! By the arena passage I had pulled us in to 15th place, and had quite a few other ladies that I kept seeing in the forest, as we all bopped around to our various controls. Orienteering mass starts often have “forked” controls, which is a method to split the runners to keep it from becoming a boring old cross country race. I kept seeing the same women at all the common controls, so I knew I was having a solid race, and the main thing in a relay is to make sure you don’t blow up and that you go to all the controls, so I kept the effort within the safety zone. Two teams snuck by me on the final climb, as I wheezed my way to the top, but I managed to hold pretty even, and tagged off to our anchor leg runner in 17th place. She was having a great run, picking off teams, until at the penultimate control she unfortunately made a pretty big mistake, and we slipped back into 17th to finish there.
This is a totally cool result, not least because we managed to hold off Canada for the unofficial north American contest =). I know we could have had a better day, but rubbing is racing and orienteering has a very large stochastic element to it. Things could have gone so much worse, that sometimes you almost hope for an average result, because if you aim too hard for spectacular you may end up with catastrophic. I am leaving the World Champs hungry for more, and excited to battle it out with the Canadians again at the official North American Orienteering Championships in October!