I was staying at the start line, looked at the time and then at my description holder, back at the time and again repeated 3 first control points’ numbers. Heard a beep, took the map and began my race. Fastly choosing the best route, dividing the leg in several parts until key objects, generalising orienteering process between them, each 20 seconds looking at the compass, predicting the view, passing attack point, slowing down in the red circle, punching and accurately leaving the point. Then repeat it 18 times and that’s it - long distance on Junior World Champs done! Sounds easily, but not in real life.
In fact your pulse, when staying only on a prestart, is already 126, in the forest there are already decades of strongest girls running and lots of them will start after you, watching live broadcast are hundreds of friends, relatives and just orienteering lovers, and you feel a huge responsibility to them and, moreover, to yourself, because after last year gold in relay and wonderful performance on the last leg you want more and know, that you can actually do it, you’ve been training hard the whole year, increasing your running and technique capacity, and now is the moment. You can barely breath.
Many sportsmen on JWOC have the same thoughts in their head, and if I had been thinking in that way, I would have never won. Here is the difficulty - to be able to forget these words and your ambitions and just enjoy the process. Turn your map to the north, take point after point - do, what you can and know by heart how to do. Most of juniors know what and how to do, but in the end lots of them show far not their results, because of lack of mental preparation. Turns out, that mental state is one of the key components of ideal performance. Let’s talk about it.
Being a member of Swedish orienteering club (what is a great part of my success as well) I have a nice opportunity to communicate with Swedish coaches, elite orienteers and just juniors. All of them have the same philosophy of orienteering, which really differs from our, Russian. The main questions after each race is not your place in the result list, but whether you are satisfied with your performance? If you are, then excellent, you’ve done all you could. I couldn’t understand them for a long time, but then I noticed myself being very glad with 17th place on Venla 2nd leg and clear race, but very self-critical with the 1st place on Russian champs and a minute of mistakes.. That’s why in my interview after finish of long distance on JWOC, when I couldn’t imagine which place it will finally be, I said that I’m super glad with my performance and will be as happy, If it turn out 2nd or 10th place, because I’ve shown my maximum in both speed and orienteering realisation. Of course, gold medal is an amazing reward for my passion and effort, but I run to feel such satisfaction as after JWOC long and I’m happy to feel it more and more!
Such a mindset I had on a JWOC week - enjoy my orienteering. On JWOC it’s too late to be nervous about your physical shape or shape of your body, you just have to trust your preparation throughout a year. You have to tell yourself: «I was training hard, especially in a snowy Moscow, have done technique training camps, took 1000 and 1 control points, sent all 12 reports to national team coaches, I’m ready!» And just enjoy, because many juniors are so stressful, want from themselves so much, that afterwards they can’t even remember positive emotions from JWOC - event they have been waiting for the whole year.
And what shall you do in this year? Mental state is an important part, but what about trainings and theoretical preparation?
First of all, you should go to the training camps, a lot of training camps. This year I have 10 months on camps out of 12, for example. You should find a Scandinavian club and come there with any opportunity to run line trainings and o-intervals from mass-start. Most of club trainings we run together, chasing each other, being pressured and so simulating all possible situations on competitions to be ready for them. Every week you should keep doing force sessions to maintain strength endurance. Then you should do running sessions in the forest, so to be used to a difficult ground and don’t pay attention to falling trees while racing. Of course, every day you should spend time for theoretical part. An old map of JWOC long I was analysing a month before, asking my club mates to plan new and new distances. As a result we guessed the long leg and where a diamond gaffling will be located, what helped me a lot, because I didn’t spend time on thinking about route choice and used the best tactics on forking. That’s how maps analysing helps, and talking about your own races, they should be analysed 3 times each to find all mistakes and understand all their reasons.
For example, in QuickRoute you can notice that speed on a slope was 7 min/km instead of desired 5 min/km. Understand, that you were running so slowly because of being unsure about the direction, after you came to the slope without any exact attack point, just «down there». Moreover, coming to the foot of the hill you are completely lost. Then you should come to the conclusion, that you often lose some time on slopes, instead of winning there, because you approach them without any attack point. It means that tomorrow you will run o-intervals with points on a slope, and the main thing you’ll keep in mind is to enter slope, being 110% sure where you are.
To win World Championship you should win it many-many times a) in your imagination, b) among your current rivals on the trainings. I mean, that you should put yourself in the same conditions as on (j)woc, simulate competitions to feel yourself confident and know what to do during real races. That’s why in Stockholm sometimes our coach runs behind us with a radio screaming loudly commentator’s words from the arena, announcing new leader, what makes sportsman in the forest feel super stressed and under pressure. That’s why we run intervals through the falling tress areas to adjust to bad runability, that’s why after track session we jump up and around hurdles for 40 minutes not to be afraid of any obstacles in the forest. That’s why we run line trainings, where this red line turns somewhere on a slope without any exact object near, so that you can only understand it with length. These diligently trained elements make up a perfect race.
Perfect race is when half a year before every day you make small steps towards big goal and then can’t believe that it’s you, who have done such a workload. It is a lot of self-criticism and always something you have to improve, to work on further. And of course it is discipline. It is an hour of high concentration, which you can handle only being very disciplined. It is when you force yourself to look once more in your map and compass, to run in each steep slope, when it feels like you can’t even walk anymore, force yourself run a bit further and enter a red circle only from an attack point, not earlier and not later. Calmly punch manually, when your SI-card stops working in the air-mode, calmly run last loop, when you show new best time on arena passage. It is hard, I know, but even those who can’t imagine it right now, can actually do it. You only have to believe.