Featuring reports on the Jukola Relay; news from the archives, JWOC Report …
Jukola Relay, Kuopio, Finland, 14-15 June 2014: Land of the Midnight Run
Any of you who have heard of the Jukola will know that it is a 7-person overnight relay competition in Finland each June. The race, which starts at about 11 pm, is preceded by the Venla relay, a four-person women’s race in the afternoon. This year there were more than 1600 teams in Jukola and more than 1200 teams in the Venla, and the organisers estimated that, with families and spectators, there would be an attendance of about 30,000!
Kuopio is an hour’s flight or about 6 hours drive north of Helsinki and the competition area was on Finland’s biggest inland island. I flew from Dublin to Helsinki via Stockholm, and after a couple of hours, an onward flight to Kuopio, where we arrived at about 1 a.m., and it was still bright enough to see clearly. We picked up the hired cars and drove another hour and a half or so to our home for the weekend, a wooden cottage by a lake in the forest. Arriving at 02.30, it was almost broad daylight again, just time for bed!
After a few hours sleep and a leisurely breakfast, we drove to the competition area, following the line of cars and camper vans on the same route. Big fields of cars, muddy after a few days rain before the event, and a huge array of circular green army tents for the teams filled the assembly area, with big white tends housing sports supermarkets and all the other ancillary services needed by a competition of this scale.
I was running on a London Orienteering Klubb team and there were also teams from Trinity College in both the Venla and Jukola.
I was to run leg 5, a 7.6 km leg, theoretically at about 7 am if all went well on the first four legs, so I wouldn’t need my headlight – just as well, as I hadn’t brought one. The evening was spent in the tent, estimating running time (worst and best case scenarios) and gauging when to eat and sleep. The ground underfoot was like a ploughed field due to heavy rain beforehand, and the wellies were out in force.The crowds assembled to see the mass start at 11 pm, with the warning that the start signal would be from an army field-gun but also with a fly-past from a Finnish air force jet fighter which came in right on cue, skimming the treetops and rocketing vertically into the sky with a heart-stopping roar, disappearing in seconds into a tiny spot in the distance: very dramatic! See a video of the start here … and here‘s another for good measure – less professional but capturing the feeling!
Just time for a doughnut and a hot chocolate, then into the sleeping bag, ready to get up for a 7 am run. It was so cold during the night that socks, hats and even towels were needed to keep warm. I woke suddenly at 7 am, alarmed that I might have missed my incoming runner, David Rosen. The plan had been for each incoming runner to go back to the tent and waken the second-next one while the intervening runner was in the forest. Due to some bad runs during the night, we were running behind schedule, so I was in plenty of time. Dressed, out into the early sunlight. A quick “Happy Father’s Day!” from Eoin, who I med accidentally on the road, and off to the changeover area to wait.
The sun rose higher and still we waited. The clock crept inexorably on and then it was time for the mass starts for the remaining runners: one for the 13.9 km leg 7 (including Eoin) and then one for the others, including myself and Ronan on Leg 6. The last mass start would actually be bigger than the first leg one. They removed the barriers and the runners lined up, two successive stampedes to the start control, 970 metres and 8 minutes from the start for me. Then the orienteering started …
Control 1, across the flat forest with drains and undergrowth, over the hill, across the marsh, up onto the second hill. What’s that crag doing there? I must be further right than I thought. Over the hill and follow the flat forest and up to the small re-entrant – not quite what I planned but OK. Control 2 – along the hill to the right, through the band of young trees and down the hill: slightly too low – climb up to the right – there it is! Leg 3 – short leg: around the hill and down to the spur – fine. Legs 4, 5, 6 … all fine. The area was quite hilly by Finnish standards, but not by Irish: the 7.6 km course had 285 metres climb and 17 controls. Runners going every direction, some on my course, some not.
|National newspaper coverage for Jukola|
The map has the three-digit control code printed beside the control number ( 1-283, 2-280 etc) so there isn’t too much opening and folding of the big map to see what’s coming up next. Missed No 8 by a few metres and had to come back up to it, a 1.6 metre crag in an area of crags. Back on track again- no heroics, just a jog with a map! Control 12 – easy, boulder, looking forward to a drink on the road just after it. take a bearing, take a drink, run into the forest on the elephant track – but where is the control? 200 metres from the track, on a hill, NE-foot, # 159? No sign of it. Back towards the drinks station and try again … same result. Is the drinks station in the right place? Run along the track but it’s vague in every direction. Go to the crest of the track and take another bearing … still no control. OK – get outta here. Head south, maybe see the shooting platform; if not, hit the small track. Suddenly, a little orange and white flash in the corner of my eye – I live to fight another day. 12 mins 30 seconds to do less than 300 metres – 1458th out of 1477 on that leg! Across the flat forest, up over the hill with the bare rock and crags, look down the big cliffs and know I have to go left a bit for No. 14, then follow the ridge down towards the final controls, the PA getting louder with every step. See the car parks and the tapes – nearly there. Make sure to get the last control right, not like last year when I only got the right one after three attempts: into the finish, over the footbridge and under the gantry. Manage to raise the pace a bit for the 220 metre run in – 589th out of 1476 runners on that leg. At least I picked up 44 places despite my problems with unlucky control 13. When Ronan and Eoin finished we had come in 1,220th place, slightly behind our race number 1201: not bad considering the catastrophic night leg 2 where we dropped more than 500 places! Anyway, it’s not all about winning, is it? Most of the teams obviously have no hope of coming even in the to 100, and they are made up of families, friends, workmates and occasional orienteers.
|Leg 1: 11 pm.|
The event facilities include a beer tent and a sauna, plus hot showers and all the O-gear you could ever want, so there’s plenty to do. There’s even a forest church and (sometimes) a betting office where you can bet on the Jukola results. After our runs it was a spot of shopping (no end-of day bargains this year though) and back to the cottage for a swim, sauna, dinner and mosquito hunt.
The weekend is a fantastic orienteering experience, and looking at the age range of runners taking part, there are plenty of old dogs with life in them still!
One suggestion, though, to avoid the huge numbers in the Sunday morning mass-starts, is to start the Jukola earlier, maybe at 10 instead of 11 pm: it will be equally dark during the night but it will give more runners a chance to come through before the 08.45 mass-start cutoff time. Still, I don’t imagine that many of the Jukola organisers read TIO?
Next year’s Jukola is at Turku, in SW Finland, quite easy to reach by road from Helsinki and by ferry from Sweden. – and I believe the post-Jukola ferry trip back to Sweden is a party experience not to be missed!
Here’s a great description of the course planning process from Meghan Rance in Orienteering Canada:
“In my experience, good orienteering course planning is like good writing. First, consider your audience. Who are you doing this for and what are their needs? Second, create a structure. Have a beginning, a middle and an end. Have fast, exciting bits, long, twisty bits and a few surprises out of the blue. You are trying to keep your audience on their toes not falling asleep from boredom. Last, edit the heck out of it. Your first attempt is not the final version. It is a draft. Make sure each part serves a purpose and that you keep repetition to a minimum. Keep editing until you have just the right pace and tone.
Good course planning takes time, thought and theory. With that in mind, and a focus on creating good legs rather than good controls, anyone can plan fantastic courses.”
Read the latest issue of the International o-Federation’s magazine “Inside Orienteering” here.
Two Great Initiatives
I came across two great initiatives on the British Orienteering web site recently, both aimed at getting people orienteering without them noticing. The first, “Xplorer”, is aimed at primary and pre-school kids and their families, doing a kind of map-based treasure hunt in local parks and finding pictures of animals and things to complete the course (see here).
The second, Run Challenge, is aimed at adults who are interested in outdoor exercise (joggers, running clubs, triathletes, sports clubs) who do a 45 minute treasure hunt type event using a modified OS map to find as many clues as they can. See here.
Nowhere is the word “orienteering” mentioned in these sports, but the transition from either of these activities to “real” orienteering should be pretty seamless.
These are the kinds of things we need to adopt before orienteering dies of old age. We absolutely must get more young people into the sport – this is not just an Irish problem, but we have to deal with it ourselves, for our situation.
At the risk of flogging a dead horse, there are populations of people out there who need to discover orienteering – the problem is that they don’t realise it. The whole scouting organisation is ripe for orienteering but we don’t have any contact with them; the National Scouting Centre at Larch Hill doesn’t even have a current O-map.
The production of several university campus sprint maps is a great development: we need to bring the maps to the people, not the other say around.
“Do you guys even realise that kids nowadays are growing up with knowing the forests only from TV-documentaries or excursions in school who never leave the paths. Can you imagine that there are people who never had the sensational feelings of running through a river, dangerous downhills , climbing uphill so steep you have to use your hands not to fall, swimming through a marsh, running into a spiderweb, running to green forest where you smile because you know only few persons in history have ever been there before! That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have the best sport in the world and people from other sports will never understand ” – from the “Orienteering memes” Facebook page.
History Pages …
It’s really interesting to go back in time to see what was happening years ago in orienteering: for old timers it brings back happy memories, for newcomers it shows the development of the sport and what has gone before.
Back issues can be found on the IOA web site under “Archive” here.
Team Leader Ivan Millar’s Report
The 2014 Irish JWOC team were all set for their Bulgarian challenge – by recent standards it was a small team of three final year juniors. The team consisted of two LVO juniors, Mark Stephens and Jack Millar, and 3ROC’s Eoin McCullough, their coach and leader for the week was Ivan Millar. The LVO contingent flew out from Dublin early on a Wednesday morning about a week before the competition began. The team were heading for the popular Bulgarian ski resort of Borovets which would be the main base for the national teams and the competition event centre. Borovets is located about an hour’s drive south of the capital city, Sofia – unfortunately there are no direct flights from Ireland into Sofia so the best option was to fly into the Romanian capital, Bucharest, and drive south to Bulgaria from there. The plan was to drive to Borovets via Sofia airport were we would pick up our third team member Eoin who had just spent a week orienteering with the Irish World Champs team/supporters in Italy. It turned into a bit of an epic journey though as we battled massive traffic jams that had built up on Bucharest’s questionable ring road and officialdom at the border. Eventually a few hours later than planned we collected Eoin and made our way to our accommodation for the training phase.
Testing terrain – Zheleznica middle B final
Relay day dawned overcast with the threat of rain. The relay area was in the surrounding forest of the Borovets resort with the arena situated in front of the resorts main hotel and at the foot of ski run. The spectators would have a great view of all the action as the teams passed by, ran a final lop of controls and then sprinted across the slope to the final control and run in. The women’s race started first at 10:00am and at 10:15am Jack lined up along with 53 other starting teams in the men’s race.
– Ivan Millar, LVO.(Thanks to Ivan for permission to publish this).
Four MTBO events have finally got off the ground in Leinster on the Saturdays in September: Djouce, Co. Wicklow (6th), Curragh (13th), Saggart (20th) and Three Rock (27th). Two courses will be on offer each day, and the organisers are hoping to attract a mixture of orienteers and mountain bikers. Details on the IOA Fixtures page here.
Congratulations to W18 Róisin Long (Ajax), M18 Paul Pruzina (LVO), W20 Niamh Corbett (CorkO) and M20 Eoin McCullough (3ROC) on their selection for the Junior European Championships in Belgium at the beginning of October. See details of the competition here.
Fermanagh Orienteers are staging the 2014 Northern Ireland Championships at Castle Saunderson, Co. Cavan, on Saturday 4th October. See details here. The weekend will also include training for the Irish elites with GB 2013 World Championships silver medallist Scott Fraser.
Andrius Michelkiawicz, a Lithuanian elite orienteer working in Dublin, invites us all to the Lithuanian Cup on October 18/19: see details here. There’s a middle distance and a long distance race, and Andrius says there’s lots to see and do in the area. Ryanair fly from Dublin to Vilnius, but not every day – travel out on Thursday and back on Tuesday for less than €90 return, or out to Kaunas on Friday and back on Monday for €110. The competition is about 2 hours from Vilnius.