Jukola first leg, it went to plan.
Jukola Leg 1
According to science, you shouldn’t do interviews immediately before engaging in competition as it puts unnecessary mental strain on you. I was already a little bit stressed beforehand because I had slightly misjudged how long it would take to change shoes mid warm up, and then had some GPS related faff, so the added stress of “Hi Ralph, can we have a quick word with you?” on the way into the start area was not ideal. I then made the claim that I was not going to get lost, which was of course was the plan, but I could then picture my GPS running around and around the depressions playing the Benny Hill Theme and my interview claim. “Well if we are leading on the last leg I am pretty sure that we’ll win” also came to mind. My sense of unfairness decreased significantly when I was stood on the start line with 3 minutes to go and Otto Simosas was getting interviewed by YLE next to me.
After starting fairly fast on the last two Jukola first leg outings I decided to keep it a little more relaxed this year and was aiming for a top 10 – top 20 kind of position. However, mid-way down the runway I found myself working pretty hard and struggling to be inside the top 50. Fortunately, a lot of these people dropped back by the first track junction and so I was able to settle into my goal position going through the first felled area. I managed to resist the urge to shout abuse “Don’t you know who I am” at the idiots who kept cutting me up.
I ran on my own for the next section before joining up with the pack as we meandered our way towards the first control. I missed my intended route into number I was worried I had lost quite a bit of time so was relieved to come in just behind Carl (Bækkelaget). A simple control next and then a trickier control and I realised then on my way to 4 that I was still up with the leaders. Found the next couple fine and was into the open still with the leaders.
A couple of longer difficult controls next and I didn’t run particularly well, failed to execute my own route plan but was good enough to keep controlled and in contact with the map. Into the next block of open I was still up with the leaders. Kris came up behind me midway through the open, which was fairly horrendous (the open, not Kris), and we both then decided to go around to the next control, which I think we might have gained a few seconds on but nothing more.
A spectator control (took a gel) and then a small, difficult to find correctly but fairly easy not to lose lots of time on, control. I got confused going into the green and missed a little bit having to come back in from behind. This put me what felt like a long way off the lead, so I was quite happy to then find myself totally alone on a routechoice and able to run at my own pace. Caught back up to where I was before my mistake and into the next open area I was again able to see the leaders.
Thankfully there was then another forked control so again I was able to run at my own pace and pushed to catch up IFK (who had been leading the majority of the race). I was then expecting the pace to really crank up as we approached the spectator control and the final few minutes of running. However, it stayed pretty sedate (which I thought was maybe a smart decision of the big teams, to just get in with the group and not shed time stupidly so close to the finish). Finally, Kris cranked the speed from the second last and I went with him. He was first to the finish line, and I was first to the map handover, we can call it a draw for the leg win.
It wasn’t as hard as expected because there was basically no forking at all. 4 forked sections on first leg (1 double control) compared to 5 last year (2 doubles) and 5 the year before that (3 doubles). The killer being the huge long unforked section between 4 and 11 which kept the teams far more together than expected. Also no typical Jukola forking into green.
We finished in 5th place. We avoided any Jukola ending mistakes (+3 minutes) but made too many in the 1-3 zone to be up and fighting for the win. I wonder if I should have tried to be more aggressive, rather than being content to sit in mid pack, but I am only wondering that because of where we finished.