I wish I could give away my secrets. But I won't! Something has clicked these last few months. Ski-Orienteers might call it the 'Love Factor', others might call it luck. I prefer to call it preparation.
On the morning of the sprint race I was feeling nervous, but with focus. Usually a good combination and it's rare I can feel like this two days in a row. I knew what to expect from the course. Technical orienteering, lots of cutting across the fast open land, with some challenging controls requiring planning and care. I knew that maintaining focus would be crucial to success, but also that everyone would make mistakes. The winners would be those who held it together the longest.
In the start looking at the map I realised that flat biking and avoiding the hills (which I remembered to be brutal from 2009) would be the key to my race.
I was surprised to catch my 2 minute woman from Sweden at the 3rd control. We alternated the navigation for some controls before I pulled a small gap. Riding with someone certainly helped us both to increase our speed and maintain control of the orienteering.
The course was as expected. Plenty of short cutting and route choice being the key of several legs. Having coached for 2 weeks in Scotland, I found I was on top of my foot o skills which helped no end. Several other training sessions from Scotland helped too!!! But I can't give those away either :-)
I made my first error going to the 8th control where as I cut across I drifted to the left, but I realised quickly and knew I had to turn right to find the control. Then again on the 13th, I lost concentration and didn't have a full plan. As I rode, I became confused with the paths, and opted to ride around the only path I could see on the ground and which I knew where it was on the map. The junctions before it were too confusing and I risked making a bigger mistake. Instead I played it safe and deliberately carried on biking into the mistake, taking the path further north from the control and then turning back south once I could see my control. I perhaps only lost 20 seconds here, but it was better than losing a minute.
In the final controls I was hurting. I slowed my pace a fraction which allowed me to think more clearly and avoid further mistakes, but it did mean the lead slipped away to 20 seconds or so. But again, better to not make a mistake, than mess up the final controls.
I finished with a 2 minute lead over my nearest competitor and couldn't stop shaking with adrenaline after having had one of the best races of my life. I didn't think it would be enough to win, but I thought a top 6 was within reach. Little did I expect silver, and my first WOC medal. It's been 4 years since I last won a medal, so it's taking a while to sink in!