Thursday, June 21, 2012

Running with 1200 others? - it's the Venla relay!

This last weekend I got the chance to run in one of the largest orienteering relays in the world! Venla is the women's relay run before Jukola. On a side note, I learnt the background story from my amazing host family the Raitanens. There is a finish story written in the 1800s about the 7 Jukola brothers which is why there are 7 legs and it's called Jukola. The Jukola brothers had a sister and her name was Venla.

I ran the first leg for DVOAs team. It was crazy at the start. You went in to the warm up area, got your emit brick cleared and checked and then the size of the event hit you. The warm up area was huge! there was a long wooden fence built for the map exchange and not signs of every 10 numbers like in the states if we had this but by the 100s! Then while warming up you noticed all the cameras placed around the arena. Video cameras on long arms to get right over the runners like at big sports events. But that's when I realized - this is a big sports event! This was going to be shown on tv in Finland and Sweden. I started to get a bit nervous then, my starting position was in the sixth row! 6 out of around 52!

We all got to the start line and the countdown (in two languages) began. At 1 minute to go we got our maps handed to us. At 30 seconds to go you heard hundreds of garmin watches being started "bleep bleep bleep". By 15 seconds to go you could really feel the energy of everyone wanting to go, like race horses in there box before a big race. Then... BAM the gun to start everything off. I was told it was loud and sounded like a cannon going off, on the start line the loud sound was ignored after the first hint of the sound, the focus had already turned to "get to the start triangle first". Which considering it was ~1km just to the start that would be a challenge. It seemed to go on forever! Felt like a cross-country race in a way. Tons of girls, elbows flying, everyone jostling for position and two nice hills. And the real race hadn't even begun! Here is a Link to Wyatt's Video of the start of the race

Leg 1 - My quickroute
By the start I had lost my 157th place but I wasn't worried. I was worried when I hit bare rock before my control though! Some how I had gotten pulled off my line and the sinking feeling of "I have no idea where I am" came. But there were LOADS of others just the same. People forming groups once they realized they were looking for the same control. You just hard "72? 72?" "31? 31?". Eventually after quite a bit of sweep searching and almost turning to go back to the start I found 72, my first control. I knew now it was going to be the hard task of keeping focused, pushing the first control out of my mind, and resisting the urge to just run to make up places.

The second control I over shot but was fairly quick to recover. But at that point I knew I had to push the race out of my mind and focus on the task of one control at a time or I would keep over running. The rest of the course went much better. Few bobbles, so far from a clean run, but respectable after my disaster of one. And for the first time ever it was not my speed or my navigation that was fully holding me back, it was the line of people going to each control! Now having the line there helped my confidence in navigation, so helped a lot. But found myself trying just as hard to pass people and move ahead. I apparently passes over 300 teams from 1 to the finish. Now one might be thinking "why run with so many people? What's the fun of that? There is no challenge of navigating" well I'm going to disagree. It was a new challenge of making sure you were picking the right line of people to follow, picking which trails where made by orienteers and which were on the map, and the main thing to not get panicky with so many people out there and just run your own race. Plus it was pretty cool to drop out of the woods and on to the bridge into the finish with so many people around.

I passed off to Sandy F who had a very clean run gaining us more places. Then it was Dasha's turn to go out of leg 3, who gained even more places and came back with a smile on her face. Then the stormer of a run came from Zan to land the team in 543 place. GO DVOA!!!

After having a great time racing Venla it was time to stay up all night to watch JUKOLA! CRAZY!!! So many lights.

Now the count down to WUOC! Off to Ireland to train before hand. Arriving in Spain on the 29th for the model events. Please don't forget about my ChipIn on the right hand side of this page. I want to thank everyone who has already supported me!

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