Yes, I know it’s not yet 2014, but each year, once December hits, I’m so desperate to get to the MTBO season again that my brain switches into ‘2014 mode’! So, today consisted of many ‘firsts’ for the ‘new year.
1) My first time with a map since MTBO WOC in August (aside from a small foot-o race on a map I made, which doesn’t count!)
2) My first ski-o of the new season
3) My first tears of the new season
4) The first time I only fell once on a course
5) The first time I kept up (sort of) with some faster skiers (but not necessarily faster orienteers).
My main issue with ski-o is that while I can find the best route, and follow the best route map memory, I just can’t get there fast enough or with enough control to actually enjoy the experience. HJ was a little disappointed I decided not to go to the World Cup in Finland last week (partly because he wanted ‘one more nation’ to compete in the races, but also because he wanted me there). I had decided not to go because it was a lot of money to spend to have a bad time and most likely cry during/after. (It makes me sound weak to say I cry after most ski-o races, but the experience can often be rather ‘distressing’ for a novice skier to have to ski such technical tracks. Not only that, but I can navigate really well, so it’s upsetting to put so much effort into training and yet still be so utterly sh*te). So, this weekend at Sjusjøen form the first ski-o competitions of the season for me.
It had snowed a lot overnight and during the morning. The races started at 2pm just as the snow stopped, and I got back from a 2hr ski session a couple of hours before I started (because the dark mornings just don’t entice me out of bed), so I was frantically scoffing food and drink which is hard when I’m nervous.
Ironically, while I get nervous before ski-o races, it’s not for the same reasons as in MTBO. I get nervous because I hate the hills – I can’t go up or down, and because I always fall over. It’s a very different kind of nerves that make me more ‘talkative’ and panicky.
All the snow had made the singletracks incredibly soft and loose. Thus, with my feeble (but developing) upper body strength, going up hills posed a more significant problem than normal. I quickly realised this wasn’t going to be the flat race HJ promised. Instead I was presented with a map containing a writhing mass of green and contours. Panic.
The first control was ok. But the second presented a problem with a steep and twisty descent and some sharp corners at junctions. Fortunately I’ve done some work strengthening my snowplough muscles, so I could push my ski’s apart and use the edges to brake better than last year. My HR uphill was zone 4. Downhill it was zone 5, such is my panic and fear of the descents. But I successfully (?) made it down, and even miraculously negotiated the corner at the bottom. How, I have no idea, but a harder push on the right ski and somehow I made it around, heart-in-mouth, with a look of pure fear on my face.
Some easier controls before heading back up the hill. Then came the big big hill, which took 5 minutes for a 250m leg … I made the technical shortcut downhill and got my control. I had a crash on the way to the 7th when I was trying to slow down for another skier in front of me and got my ski’s caught around the snow. Amazingly I made it down the rest of the hill, slowing enough to reach across, punch the control and check it had registered, before going on. I’m lucky to had good map memory, because I have no chance to read the map on anything apart from flat terrain, so I took the sharp scary corners and found the control. I had a small miss to the 9th, when I was expecting a singletrack straight ahead after the dotted path, but instead I just came across a T-junction, where I was on the joining track. I turned left thinking instead it was a ‘left-right’ junction, but ended up almost back at control one. Then I remembered the terrifying descent. I managed it again and the same corner at the bottom. Heart-again-in-mouth-pumping-at-199-bpm!
From here it was easy orienteering and skiing so I was far happier and managed to build some more speed. Until I hit the road, when I struggled to control the ski’s with my tiredness. I finished 28th, just over 31 minutes, and 13 behind the winner. Considering the tough conditions, I’m so pleased to have finished in one piece and to have only had one fall is great! But I still finished in tears because I can’t say I enjoyed the experience (expect for control 10).
Many thanks to the organisers for putting on the race today, the conditions were tough with snow much snow (30cm) falling in the 12 hours immediately before the start. It makes making the singletracks hard, but at least they were in a ski-able condition. (if you can make tomorrow flatter without any contours, that would be great!) Thank you too to the start and finish officials who stood out in -3°C for several hours! I hope your fingers are not too cold.