I woke up this morning feeling incredibly lethargic and tired. The ride to the start didn't help the feeling, but it was a nice morning for 8km. However, it was cold. I decided to race in my arm warmers and thermal as I hate getting cold, and as I hit the first deep stream crossing, I was glad for my choice.
I started conservatively, and got the first control well. The next 5 controls were something of a mess. My head wasn't with the navigation at all, and I lacked motivation to push hard. Clearly the last 4 weeks after WOC, and little training have taken their toll on my legs and brain. I kept stopping to check where I was and to make sure I was on the path I wanted. I didn't make any mistakes but the hesitations were costing time. To the 5th, I made a right hash of my route choice, going left, then cutting back across the straight line to the right. I ended up riding close to an extra 2.5km, which on a 1:20thou map doesn't look too bad. Until you start counting the km's!
Shortly after I saw Karolina LTU who started 3 mins behind. She was a little lost and my route out of the control led her in to it. It gave me the kick up the backside I needed and finally I found some motivation. It took her from control 7 to 16, a good 1/3 of the course to actually catch me, but the doglegs in and out of controls told me she was slowly gaining. We came together at the end of the butterfly, and then alternated navigating and riding. For some controls Karolina led, and for others I did. Riding together gave me some aggression for the final 30% of the course, and finally I found some flow to my orienteering. A small mistake towards the end lost me 15 seconds which I didn't pull back in the the last 500m.
I finished in 17th place, a small improvement on yesterday and a very mixed race - 40% bad, 20% better and 40% good.
But, despite disappointing results, I now know what Estonia looks like! Knowing how to ride in the terrain and the mapping styles, the rideability and contours is an advantage for next year's WOC over those who didn't come to these races. There's still a lot of work to do in preparation for next year, but the ski-O season will provide a welcome break from biking.