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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Course of the Year: Jukola, a kiwi perspective

As some of you might have noticed, last week World of O named Jukola this year's course of the year

I was actually lucky enough to be in Finland for Jukola in June, having just run the first round of the Nordic Tour near Helsinki. And I have to admit, it was probably the best course I've run this year, it was definitely my best race in terms of placings anyway! So I've taken the liberty of sharing with all of you my course of the year; leg one of the Venla relay.

With the help of some handy contacts, Todd and I managed to set ourselves up with runs for the South Yorkshire club at Jukola. Which was neat, and meant that we got to wear snazzy tiger pattern tops. It also meant that I got the chance to run 1st leg for their 2nd women's team. Which i didn't mind in the least, I was stoked just to get a run! and in a mass start of 1100 women! eek!

So before I knew it, I was lining up in the biggest mass start I've ever seen (until I watched the Jukola start 7 hours later). Now I honestly don't know what the largest field I'd run in before was, but safe to say it was about 1/10th of the size of this field...and it wasn't a mass start. As South Yorkshire had never had a 2nd women's team before, we were unranked. Meaning that, lucky me, I got to start towards the back of the pack! 961st place to be exact. When the moment came to line up with our maps, all I could see was rows and rows of women in front of me, and a row and a row behind me!

Luckily for me, I was about 3rd from the end of the row. So when the gun went off, I grabbed my map from the line above my head, elbowed my way across to the side (you really do have to sharpen your elbows the night before these events!), and powered down the side of the mass start...like a tiger... yes, i went there.

The actual start triangle was a good 500m from the mass start, which enabled me to pass, well, more people than I've ever passed in a race before. From the triangle we entered the forest proper, and everyone had to kind of form lines to get through the passable bits of bush. I found that to pass the hundreds girls still ahead I had to hop out of line and bush bash my way through, lucky I'm used to NZ bush bashing!

After all the craziness of the start, I messed up the first control, hitting it too high, thinking the girls below me were heading to a different split. Little did I know at that point that there were actually only 2 first controls, so over 500 girls were heading to the same control as me! Number 2 I hit alright, but again, 3 was a mess, and I dropped over a minute.

After that, things calmed down a bit, and I found myself jumping from group to group as I worked my way up the field. By the long leg to 6 I was in a group of about 8 girls about the same pace as me, although I still felt a bit faster. Having said that, I was a little worried when I found myself leading the group to 7, did they realise this was my 4th day ever running in Finland? Would they follow quite so confidently if they knew? And with those thoughts in my head I hesitated and didn't hit 7 as cleanly as I'd have liked.

Turned out that didn't matter so much, as by 8 I was away from the group, I realised later I had a different split but I remember at the time running along and suddenly spotting my control to the right, whilst the others all kept going in a long line. So on to 9, where a familiar back popped out in front of me from the trees. After about 10s I realised it was Maja Alm. Well that's about when I realised I wasn't having such a bad race. And we stayed together until the last couple of controls...when my lack of experience with emit let me down and I couldn't get the freaking thing in the control!

Maja completely dominated me in the finish, but that's alright, as is obvious from the picture, i don't think I could have gone much faster down the chute... It wasn't until after we finished that I realised she was in the top ranked team. Must have been a bit of a sight to see teams 1 and 961 coming down the finish together! In the end I came in 36th, which I was stoked with, somehow I managed to pass 925 girls in the forest?! Not quite sure my 2nd leg runner was so stoked, she wasn't expecting me for a good 20mins!

So all in all a wicked experience, plus I got to watch Jukola proper, the men's race later in the night. (when it started raining and everything turned to mud...) A huge thanks to the south yorkshire crew for letting me run for them. And if you want more Kiwi views on Jukola, Todd O, Chris and Em, and Keith Agmen were also there!.

And finally, for those of you scared of bulls (as a number of us are in NZ, for a good reason), how about this for a last control?!
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