ScotJOS Tour 2018 - Gotland, Sweden.
Written by Kat.
Upon gaining selection to the Scottish Junior Orienteering Squad (ScotJOS), Izzy, Anna and I were able to attend the biannual ScotJOS Summer Tour- hurrah! This is when the squad heads off abroad for around two weeks, training, racing and generally enjoying summer in Scandinavia!
After a Swedish junior got in touch with our head coach, Elizabeth, enquiring about selections to run for Scotland (due to his family being Scottish) one thing lead to another, and before we knew it, 24 athletes, 5 coaches and 2 cooks were off to Gotland, an island SE off mainland Sweden.
For many of us, it was a 16hr journey consisting of car, plane, bus, ferry, bus, before we reached our home for the next 12 days. Gotland has 6 clubs on it, but we stayed in Bro OK’s hut (Kinnerstugan) which was around 20 minutes from the main town on the island, Visby. After getting our camping mats set up, we had a goal-setting session where we each came up with targets that we wanted to achieve by the end of the trip; from some it was using compass confidently, or having good flow through controls. As this was only my second time orienteering outside of Scotland, my goals were to gain confidence in this unfamiliar terrain, and be able to sustain good navigation whilst picking up the pace in the races- stay tuned to find out if these goals were achieved…
Day 1 of training began with a short run and stretching session to loosen us all off and get to know everyone a bit better, before we headed off to File Hajdar to begin our orienteering training! On our walk to the start, it became apparent that this terrain was very unlike the areas in basoc-land: it was all very vague, with with many features being 2.5m form lines, and visibility was very low due to the maze of juniper bushes. It was a very challenging area for all, and required as much concentration as you had to get around without getting lost! Many were sceptical towards the difficulty of the rest of the areas based on this map, but spirits remained high with the hundreds of butterflies which landed on us, before the first swim of many in a nearby lake, which became a daily feature of the day in the sea due to the stunning weather we had throughout the trip.
Day 2 was a lot nicer, but equally as challenging to navigate round. There was again many exercises on offer, from ‘flow’ to ‘what features?’, and being shadowed by one of the coaches, a lot of learning was generated- any weaknesses I had which I could get away with in Scotland were soon apparent and so easy to improve on over the coming days. In the evening, we were invited along to one of the club’s training evenings, however it felt more like a decent sized event! I ran round with Kirsty Campbell to turn it into a talk-o exercise. Afterwards we got to speak to locals about the terrain, a lot of whom thought we were all really tough being able to orienteer in Scotland!
After some more tough training sessions of exercises such as relocation, peg relays, and windows, we went along to the Gotland 2-Dagars where we decided to treat it as training and so entered some of the open classes instead of age groups. These areas were great fun, the biggest ‘hills’ we’d seen yet, some really intricate sections, still low visibilty (!) and a great experience racing round the forest with just under 1000 other orienteers. One thing we noticed is that their understanding of IOF rules was a bit slack as controls on the same features were very close at times, however this just kept things interesting! It was amazing to see so many young kids flying down the run-in, all of them fully kitted out and loving being out in the forest!
After the 2-day event, we had an ‘easier’ day - training in the morning consisted of the hardest corridor course I’ve ever done, before we headed off to be tourists in Visby. The old part of the town was mostly pedestrianised with cool markets, chapels and of course Europe’s biggest ice cream shop! These extra parts of the trip were what made it so special, other random additions were date night and tour awards ;)
Our main races of the trip were the Gotland 3-Dagars, which was attended over 1000 people this time (including fellow basoc member Ewan McCarthy!) and so my coaching group had discussed race tactics beforehand. The event followed the template of Middle, Middle, Long, with the long also being a chasing start. I’ve attached pictures of my maps for these events, with my routes drawn on. I went slow but steady on day 1, taking things cautiously through the especially vague sections and, other than a couple of controls at the beginning, had a solid race. For day 2, I increased the pace with in the mindset of ‘higher speed, higher risks’ and I think this showed that once I got into it, I could sustain the navigation at more of a race pace if I remained focused (which I didn’t at the end). Day 3 was my first time doing a chasing start, and this coupled with a map of 1:15000 with 2.5m contours and almost 30C heat meant I wasn’t too sure what to expect! The course was really well planned, with a mix of leg length and some good routechoice. The long was definitely my favourite race out of the ones we did, and a fab way to end the orienteering sessions of the tour! In the evening, Bro OK had a celebration BBQ after what was their main event of the year so we went and joined in, where Louis MacMillian played his bagpipes and we presented a signed flag to the club, before showing them some ceilidh dancing and giving them shortbread. We then spent the rest of the evening chatting to them, before playing games and doing challenges with them!
Our last day on Gotland was another tourist day, where we went up to Faro, an island north of Gotland. Here we explored some amazing rock features, went swimming, played volleyball on the beach, and ate pizza/ice cream! It was a great finish to the trip, but made saying goodbye to everyone the next day a little harder!
So, did I achieve my goals? Absolutely! With the help of the fantastic coaches, I was able to finish the 3-days with one of my best executed long races in terms of my confidence and control in it. Alongside gaining confidence in foreign terrain, this trip has improved my weaknesses of bearings, planning routes and attackpoints, and relocation. A huge thanks has to go all of the following, who made the trip as amazing as it was:
- Elizabeth Furness: For her top notch organisational skills.
- Rona Lindsay, Phil Vokes and Calum McLeod: For their class banter, constant positivity and sound advice (special mention to Calum for being my coach!)
- Max Carcas: For just being Max.
- Alison Matheson and Moira Laws: For never failing to dish up a delicious and plentiful meal.
- Bro OK-:For the use of their club hut, putting on the events, and letting us join in their celebrations!
Until next time Sweden...