The orienteering season slowly comes to an end. Ater Switzerland last year it is apparently Italy´s turn again to hold the last Worldcup round in form of the European Sprint Championships in the region of Verona. Since ASOM, my ankle has been getting more and more stable so I dared to even run three forests races next to sprints in part holiday, part training camp in Latvia and Finland.
Returning to Latvia again felt a bit strange, it felt like coming home only that Anna and me both know that we don´t live here anymore and are officially on some sort of holidays here. Arriving at Riga-airport felt completely normal and also automated, I think it is probably my most travelled airport by now. But we had orienteering in mind when planning to come here. Latvian middle and relay champs, I personally planned 3 sprint trainings in Riga and ending with Finish sprint and relay champs. In contrast to last time in April, I managed all that door-to-door without injuries or other complications which, this year, I take as a success.
The Latvian champs were held near Ventspils and next to the Baltic sea in dream-terrain or as Rudolfs Zernis wrote ‘Latvian Lunsen’. It is similar to the terrain from EOC 2008 for those who know. It was just amazing terrain but obviously also technically demanding. As a result did the middle distance race had its good and bad parts which wasn´t really surprising given that I had no training in similar terrain whatsoever or even forest o-training since the last Worldcup for that matter. You really need a lot of confidence in this terrain to really execute your route till the very end and not get unsure and check similiar objects beforehand instead. With some takeaways from the middle I managed a quite decent race the next day in the relay on the last leg. I hadn´t run a last leg in a while so I wasn´t sure how it will go but our no-tactics-tactic worked out and I ran almost completely by myself with some hesitations here and there but always under control. Additionally, I tripped twice over some old fences lines hidden on the ground and swamp, on the latter fall nicely crashing my body on a tree stump.
The following week I travelled three times to Riga (we were staying in Tukums) for a sprint training, knowing people in the city came obvisouly quite handy, so big thanks to those people involved with my sprint trainings!
The sprint races in Finland were, let´s says educational. I ran the same competition weekend already in 2021, so I kinda knew what I signed up for but this time using normal punching with EMIT drove me crazy. The organizers picked great sprint-terrains in Lahti and created some great courses for the Elite in the qualification and final but they also failed on some other issues significantly. Read more on my Attackpoint post here, in the end I can only bow to those who managed the course well anyway.
I think the hassle at the start made me push too hard on the route towards control 3. I saw the two outside routes but expecting a route through the center so I started a center approach knowing that I can still switch without problems or additional time. I quickly saw the canopy gap close to 3. as well and therefore had found my route. I started running faster because it wasn´t really difficult from the map. I am not sure what really made me mess up in the end but after crossing the second road I was correctly on the left side of the garages and just had to turn left behind the last big building, instead I turn right and see an aritifical fence. At that point I was suddenly and completely unexpected out of the map, I never even noticed an artifical fence when planning routes so I was asking myself how did I end up here. I really couldn´t figure it out. At that moment it was just not present in my head that artifical fences are also (sometimes) drawn as normal fences, however I am still confused how it didn´t manage to relocate myself on the map. I guess, explaining those mistakes to non-orienteers might be difficult.
After the relay in Latvia I felt ready for the next one, even running 3. leg again. Unfortunately, we lost a bit too much time on the first two legs and I therefore went out more or less alone and with a bit of a gap to the good runners in front. I started well, and besides loosing 1:50′ on one control I had a pretty good race. At the same time I could maybe have gotten the team on a better place if I first of all didn´t made that stupid, big mistake and secondly pushed a bit harder. Always easy to say after a race but I left Finland feeling like I didn´t fight enough for the team.
Either way, the focus is now exclusively on sprint till EOC (6-8.October). I am looking forward to some great sprint races in Italy, hopefully with fair and safe competition conditions in the tight city centers before start wintertraining already.
Title photo: Mareks Gaļinovskis, Latvian Relay champs 2023