Jukola is something every orienteer should experience. This was my third time at the massive relay in Finland, but each time has been so different. I have usually run first leg, but this time I was on last leg for NTNUIs third team. It wasn't exactly high pressure, but we are a good team that could get a good result and so we wanted to perform well. I did have some nerves.
All the warnings were that the terrain was green, physically tough, and mistakes would be easy to make and costly in time. Very exciting, even if thats not exactly the terrain that suits me. Our usually stable first leg runner, Ane, did well except for a large time loss (maybe 6 mins +). It was a shame for her, but I do not think I would have coped at all with a mass start in that sort of terrain, so I was still impressed.
We picked up places with strong second and third leg performances from Hanna and Natalie and I think I went out in around 90th place. I played it cool, getting into the map and hit the first 6 really nicely. There were lots of paths out in the terrain, so runnability was easier than expected, but it was a case of checking the compass all the time and ticking off features. I gained confidence and set off on a long leg towards 7. It was a bit of a gamble about finding the best runnability, but luckily tracks helped a bit. I was in full control, feeling very good, but momentarily took my mind off the control. I navigated straight into 11, spiked it, but sadly that was not where I should be heading.
Frustrated at myself, I hacked off back through the marsh and continued on. I got the next few ok, getting more confidence and running faster. I was with a fast group but I didn't want to rely on anyone. I came out of 10 a bit too fast and didn't manage to tick off the features well enough. I stopped short, a bit confused. At that point, Freidig's star last leg runner came storming past and I thought I better gamble and go further. Luckily the control was only 50m further on, so there was not major time lost. I ran strongly to 12, and despite a little wobble and landed up at the control with Freidig even though we took different routes. As we started on a longer leg to 14, I wanted to keep the pace up with Freidig, although it was faster than I could safely go. She had got out of sight in the low visability, so I just had to be confident in my compass and hopefully see her in the more open areas. The plan worked, as I landed up on the slope before 14 and looked to my left and saw her a bit behind me! I made a slight wobble into this control, but nothing major.
From then on it was fast and furious. I was desperately trying to keep the red shirt of Freidig in sight, but becuase of the low visability that was difficult. Therefore I had to keep contact with the map also. It was fun trying to push this balance. With 2 controls to go, I knew I mustn't relax. There were 3 of us together and it looked tricky. Despite identifying this, I didn't have a secure plan to 20 and I got messed up in the green and landed up a bit too high. I missed 21 quite badly, I was on line half way, hitting the stoney hill, but then came too far left and down, giving me a bit of a climb back up to correct.
It was a shame to lose time on the last two as navigationally I felt pretty solid up until them. It was awesome to run at a relatively fast pace in the last half, and it made me realise what I need to be doing when running alone.
We finished 82nd. We think 2nd best 3rd team! We were a happy team and enjoyed our night cheering on the boys. We got a perfect view of the mens start - video below.