This is a very special selection for me. Not only does will the championships mark the first real international senior experience for me, I am hoping it will be significant as 'the first days of the rest of life'. To say I haven't been struggling this year would be a lie. Hitting the end of my junior career while nearing the end of university came with an invisible brick wall; and with pressures to begin thinking of my career path both professionally and as an orienteer (very much opposites just now), I became quite anxious about life. With several other factors including an eye injury which threatened to be permanent, my head was set in a spin that lasted most of this year so far.
A slight turn for the better came with my birthday, and an unforgettable 51km run with Ali and Tim supporting for the first 43km(!) followed by a day at Teviot really lifted my spirits. I'm a sucker for making days and events much more significant than they need to be.
Soon though I was moving out to Halden, which although can be compared to opening the gates of heaven for any dedicated orienteer, it was not quite as straightforward for me in my condition. Don't get me wrong, the move brought a lot of excitement and optimism. But the days were dark, the weather was cold, I felt largely alone, and really struggled when additional illness and lack of fitness began hitting me mentally as well as physically. Especially at a time that training was one of the sole factors pulling me through every day.
However, no matter what type; annual or psychological; winters are always temporary. Days became lighter, airways became clearer, legs became faster and with time, my mind slowly descended back down to earth. The concept that time is the cure for all ailments may be clichéd but it has prevailed to be incredibly accurate in my life recently. I grew to enjoy my early rises, my commutes, my work, my food, my books, movies and contact with friends, and very importantly, for me, I began to actually enjoy my training again. A visit from my brother boosted things significantly too, with lots of skiing and orienteering in glorious weather that weekend. It certainly wasn't linear, but the overall trend was that I was improving.
Most memorably came a chance to finally do some proper cross country skiing in Nordmarka, north of Oslo. A goal to hit 50km was met with blues skies and a cool World Cup XC ski stop, as well as plenty of face-fulls of snow on the downhills. I even headed out again the weekend after for some even more beautiful conditions.
With increased fitness came increased confidence. With increased club and work attendance came increased assimilation. With increased training came increased endorphins and fitness. And with an increase in all these things, came an increase in quality of life.
My race performances steadily improved to climax at the JK last weekend, having flown back to Aberdeen for a few days before heading down to Birmingham for the annual event involving key selection races. The terrains were easy so I declined any optimism, thinking my physical fitness was lacking. And that's how it felt in the Sprint, and I finished a disappointing minute behind the win. But it's interesting what the right mental mindset as well as the correct people waiting at the finish line can do. Fast forward through the Middle, Long and Relay, I picked up 4th, 3rd, overall 3rd, and finally the JK Trophy with my EUOC Legends team of Alex and Jonny.
|Credit: Wendy Carlyle|
It was not about numbers for me though, as the experiences were incredibly uplifting and enjoyable. The middle was a solo, comfortable, contained effort. The long was a 15-round boxing match, helped by Jonny and Spongey, but not so much by brambles. The relay was a panicked mud-fest, but overall a great experience completing something I didn't think I'd get a chance to before leaving uni. A great story was also born when the relay trophy was almost forgotten at a McDonalds victory meal post-race.
|Credit: Rob Lines|
The time between races with the club and few days in Edinburgh afterwards was just as welcomed; the only downside though was that the grass was becoming greener on the side I was on, and so moving back to Norway began to feel like a difficult task. Luckily though, the feeling was short-lived and probably motivated by significant sleep deprivation. I woke up this morning to singing birds, blue skies and spring in the air. It's peculiar how close a relationship my mindset and the weather have had recently, but as long as it continues before fading away before next winter, I think I'm quite fine with that.
This weekend it's the Norwegian's turn to compete for selection spaces; and I will be running as an observer. There are some exciting weeks coming up including this one, with Tiomila and the Europeans on the horizon. Here's to a promisingly enjoyable new season; it's already massively surpassed any previous ill-felt expectations.