This year three juniors got the chance to travel to the Czech Republic for the World Orienteering Championships: AJ, Alex, and Diana.
Here is what they had to say about their experience…
At the beginning of July I got the chance to go to the Czech Republic and compete at WOC. I ran the sprint, middle and long race. My first race was the sprint, it went well overall, I did make a big mistake towards the end. Between my fist and second race was the sprint relay. It was fun watching the relay, and looking at the GPS tracks and seeing some of the top athletes compete. My next race was the middle distance. My race started out okay until I got to control 6 and 7. The problem was that I had a hard time reading the rocks, I don’t have that much experience on very rocky terrain like that. I was able to recover after control 7 and finish my race on a good note. The day before my last race was the forest relay. I had fun watching the relay, but sadly the weather was not the best for the athletes. It was rainy and dark and many had problems reading the map in the dark. My last race was the long race and it was my favorite race out of the three. When I did the long training and the model event before the race I fell in love with the terrain. The terrain had big cliffs that were much easier to read than the rocky middle race terrain. I did get tired around the middle of the course (control 7) which made me make some navigational mistakes throughout the second part of the course. I did finish the course and had fun even if it took me a long time. It was a good experience running the three races and seeing the best orienteers in the world. I learned a lot and hopefully one day I can go back to WOC with more experience and ability. It was also fun to hang out with the US team and get to know them better.
So I tried out to be on the WOC team for the USA purely because the trials were nearby and I have family in Czech Republic that I was going to visit regardless. I figured it was highly unlikely for me to make it, though, since if even a single other person petitioned to be on the team, I would have been an alternate. But, I’m very glad to have gotten this chance. Going to WOC before even going to JWOC feels… surreal. Just going to any kind of world champs feels surreal.
I ran the sprint qualifier in Terezín, the third leg of the sprint relay in Doksy, and the second leg of the forest relay in Heřmánky. The sprint was rough for me, since I’m not much of a runner, so I overestimated how fast I should run in the beginning, so I died out in the first half of the course. I think I did alright navigationally overall. In the beginning I made some dumb mistakes, but it was a super technical course. By the time I got into the map and got used to reading the details, I ran out of energy to run, so that was great. But running down the finish chute felt incredible, and I’m not sure if that’s because it was my first time ever finishing a race in the world championships or if I was just so relieved that the course was done with. Either way, the sprint went decent, but it was a great experience.
For the sprint relay, well, that was a time. It was in Doksy, which was a more traditional urban sprint map than Terezín was, which was a relief. But, as I was the last one to run from our team, well, I was the last one to start. Not gonna lie, pretty intimidating. The second to last person to start started at the same time Joe, our 3rd leg runner, was running through the spectator control. So I was out there completely alone, I didn’t see any other runners and the only cameramen I saw were already packing their things, which was a relief to me. This let me race super well, I was able to focus on not overdoing it in the beginning and my navigation was almost clean with the exception of a few minor mistakes. I really enjoyed this race so much.
The forest relay was, well, a disaster for me. I woke up already not feeling great, so that wasn’t a great start. But I still tried to give myself the rest I needed to run well, but that didn’t help unfortunately. On the start line, as Syd was coming down, I was ready to give the race my all and do my best out there. And I did my best out there, but my best was nearly not good enough for the terrain. It was incredibly hilly, which I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be that painful. I felt like passing out going up every hill, and the only thing keeping me sane were the blueberries (they were delicious). I got several anxiety attacks from seeing cameramen, which did not help with navigation. Every time I saw a camera I blanked out and just ran on the elephant trails that were already in the woods by the time I was running. When I was running through the spectator leg, I just went into the finish because I couldn’t take it, the terrain was way too difficult for me and my brain wasn’t cooperating. The only consolation was that we would’ve been overtime anyways, even if I finished. It was easily the worst race of my life, but you know what? I’m not mad about it. I felt terrible, but at the same time, not many people get to have the worst race of their lives at the world championships. This race just showed me what I need to improve- there’s a lot of improvement needed, but it really showed it to me with a giant smack in the face.
Coming out of WOC, I think it was a great experience. Difficult, but it was fun and useful. I now know that all those hills I’ve been trying to avoid for the past year really shouldn’t be avoided and I should, in fact, rather seek out more hills. And I need to do longer runs. But hey, now I have a whole year to improve, so let’s see how far I can get.
I didn’t have much expectations going into WOC. I felt pretty crappy and in bad shape before I even started racing. Pretty sure I was sick from overtraining the month before.
Anyways, the actual races didn’t go that bad. I started running the sprint qualifier which went OK considering how difficult the beginning of the races was. Never been a huge fan of sprints, but after racing I think I have more interest in learning how to be a good sprint runner (especially with the separation of sprint and forest WOC for next year).
So the sprint wasn’t bad. I made some mistakes and felt kinda crappy when running so I feel like I could pretty easily make up some of the 3 minutes I was behind the leader.
Next, I ran the sprint relay which was really fun. It was a bit embarrassing to be starting in last place BY FAR and I don’t think I want to see that happen again for team USA. But my mom got to tag me off and then I was getting hunted down by Gustav Bergman and Martin Hubmann which I thought was really fun and exciting.
Got to see that keeping up with the top runners isn’t as hard as I imagined, and I can get closer to their speed and confidence that I thought (which I saw again in the relay).
We had a rest day, then the middle, where I got to watch Thomas do quite well (especially in the qualifier). I was surprised by Thomas’s fitness considering his training in the last couple months, but I do know he’s been killing it the last year so in hindsight I’m not very surprised he had some good results.
The next day for me was the relay which was by far my favorite event (largely because it was in the forest, but also I love relays). Running with those fast guys and actually keeping up and navigating better than some of them was really fun! My fitness really hit hard after the first 10 minutes and I struggled to keep up the hard pace, but I blame a lot of that on the exhaustion that came with the overtraining. Still an amazing race.
Overall WOC was a really fun experience. I wish I was better prepared, but my goal this year wasn’t really WOC but JWOC so I’m looking forward to hopefully learning from my experience and being better prepared for Turkey in August.
In just a couple short weeks a bunch of us juniors will be back together in Tahoe for the US Champs, so be prepared for some fun-filled, action-packed blog posts!!