O - Race 35:58  *** 6.7 km (5:22 / km)
16c shoes: VJ Bold 2018
WOC Relay - Last leg, 6th place.
The Ralph Street delivery service has been remarkably effective over the past few years at putting me out in good positions, 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th place have been tried. This year Peter and Kris went for the going out in 2nd strategy, we hadn't really talked about exactly what position I should go out in but I back their decisions completely and felt confident. However, it had appeared that the other teams had got the "let's get close to the front on last leg" memo, so there were 10 teams within 92 seconds.
After much dithering through the first flat and green section, including some sledging. For the non cricket fans amongst you,
"Sledging is a term used in cricket to describe the practice whereby some players seek to gain an advantage by insulting or verbally intimidating the opposing player. The purpose is to try to weaken the opponent's concentration, thereby causing them to make mistakes or underperform. There is debate in the cricketing world as to whether this constitutes poor sportsmanship or good-humoured banter."
I have certainly seen various forms of gamesmanship at the sharp end of the orienteering world but never anything verbal before. I am not sure how I feel about it, it will be interesting to see if it appears again in future situations.
Anyway, by the run through we were down to 8 teams within 85 seconds, with 7 of them within 30. Routechoice after the arena, went round. I felt there was very little in it for me, and I was happy to chase Gustav and Vojtech on it. Found my forking fine, saw Robbie in front (and guessed therefore that Norway was also in front), and saw Frederic for the first time, also just a bit in front.
A couple of tricky looking slope-o legs followed and the boys behind seemed fairly content to follow my navigation, which is always nice and encouraging. At that TV we were 9 teams within 49 seconds.
I then had the middle forking with Gustav on the next leg, it felt like we had better control than the guys I could see on my left into our one. However, we then probably made a mistake, instead of climbing up to the open we contoured, through the left hand fork, and dropped time to those boys and the ones who had had the right hand fork, and had gone up.
With the long leg back to the arena looming I felt that this was business time, so I worked hard to close the gap before it started. I wanted to do the path route, I had heard on the arena commentary from before that it had worked well for the first leg. It looked pretty 50/50 to me, but once I saw the path looked good I wanted to take that choice, and it helped that everyone else took it as well.
The pace on the path felt actually quite ok, but once the hill came I realised I was pretty cooked. Together with Miika we search for a bit of a flatter route slightly to the left, it got a bit tough with trees and the soft ground and Matthias, Frederic, Robbie were all away. This left myself to fight with Vojtech. I thought I had the edge on the flat stuff but as soon as I hesitated a fraction I realised he was still right on me, we were neck and neck and then I was just behind at the last control and even though it felt like I closed a bit on the short downhill once it ramped up to the finish I just couldn't get any closer.
It is almost certainly the most cooked I have ever been after a race. I was pretty lost for words and running on a weird mix of adrenaline, caffeine, dehydration, sugar, eggs, couscous.
I still really don't know exactly how I feel about this race, well obviously I am gutted. But in comparison to 2015, 2016, and EOC this year, I don't know where it ranks at the moment.