Tiomila is one of, if not the biggest race in Sweden. A 10-man relay, originating from a 10 by 10km race from Uppsala to Stockholm, it is the highlight event for the Scandinavian clubs (along with Jukola). Coming from New Zealand we are not really exposed to the magnitude of events like this and only hear about them through other peoples experiences. I have always wanted to run Tiomila, ever since I first heard about it at one of the Junior Camps back in the day, and this year would be my first taste of the annual event. This year the organisers presented some changes to the normal structure of the event, like an earlier start, so unlike the photo below the big mass start would occur during day light and also the 10th and final leg would be the shortest.
One of the reasons I joined Ok Linné was because of the number of top orienteers (Oskar, Razz, Albin etc.) who I would get to train alongside. But not only does this make for a sensational training environment but it also means that Linné have a pretty strong 10 man relay team (which happened to finish 4th 2 years ago). After some decent performances in Sweden I was selected for the first team. I was always quite nervous about Tiomila, even before I left for Sweden, as I was unsure of my abilities compared to basically everyone else in the world. I had not had any feedback against other international runners since last years world cup in NZ. Upon arriving to Sweden I found that the biggest difference, at the very top level, is the technical. Most of the top guys are capable of running quite similar speeds in the forest, but it is the execution of their technique which really determines the results. With this revelation, I felt a little bit calmer and less nervous about Tiomila and my approach to the race was, I can only do my best.
Tiomila was held in Eksjö, just over 4 hours south of Uppsala. The majority of the runners (Youth, Women and Men), including myself, took the big bus down to the competition, while the remaining people made their own way. We arrived at our accommodation, around 30 minutes from the Tiomila Arena, quite late in the evening. Albin, Rassmus and I headed out into the forest for an easy night training. I was not going to be running during the night at Tiomila, but it was still good training and necessary after the travel.
The Saturday saw the youth and women’s relay. Oskar and I, after a very long sleep in, headed out to the event to watch the start of the women’s relay and run an open course, adjacent to the competition area. You can see the map here. From the easy training I found some confidence in the terrain; as expected it was not the most demanding terrain, and as Thierry said after his race “a piece of cake compared to Lunsen”. The start of the womens relay was very exciting, with 319 teams heading out on first leg. We had a chance to see how the arena was designed and could see the changeover after the first leg. The only interesting thing really was how short the distance was from the changeover to the start point, emphasising the Tiomila organisers vision for a compact arena.
We then went back to the accommodation for an afternoon/evening relaxing before our own races. The men’s race began at 1930, so after a quick team meeting at 4, the first and second leg runners headed out to the event. We watched the beginning of the race from the accommodation, and in an attempt to not get too involved in how the race was evolving, we turned off the computer shortly after the beginning of the second leg. I then went to sleep and woke up at 2:30am to head out to the arena. News from the race was that we were sitting comfortably in the top 20 after a strong race by Albin on the long night. The nerves really began to build as we headed out to the event. It felt very strange to experience Tiomila this way, almost hiding from the event until shortly before my race. I missed a lot of things that happened throughout the race, and even now I dont really know how the others in my team ran. Although one piece of the action, which has escalated almost virally on the internet, was Henriks efforts on the 3rd leg which you can see below. Basically, the strategy for the 3rd and 6th legs, which have no forking, is to stick with pack. You cant win the race on these legs, but you can certainly lose it!
After Oskars awesome run on the 9th leg it was my turn to run. My first Tiomila, and I was heading out in 10th position, wearing a gps. Top 10 was our goal as a club, so there was pressure to preserve the 10th position that Oskar had given me. Standing at the exchange I felt confident and hungry for a good race. I knew my speed was good, so it was all down to the technique and pushing hard. I went out a few second behind Matthias Millinger (Järla). The first control was a little bit tricky, and I tried to use Matthias to guide me into the control, but we drifted left after leaving the track and hence missed the control. I then relocated quickly and took the first control ahead of Matthias. I then said to myself, ‘this is my race’, and I tried to be offensive with my technique. I found a good route to the second and by then had caught Lillomarka OL and Hiidenkiertäjät (Leonid Novikov). We had high speed, but I felt all the time in control of my orienteering and leaving the 11th control I was first in our group. I then got stuck in some green just before the TV control and lost Novikov. I panicked a little bit, and became a little stressed. Unfortunately I made a small mistake after the TV control as I was trying to check my control codes. This year they weren’t next to the control, and I had to flip the map to find the number. It was hard to then relocate and refocus, which I think caused the mistake to the 14th.
Despite the mistake I hit the road on the way to the 16th and I could see Novikov and also Denseln 100 metres up the road. So I think a really good race I could have finished in front of these teams, but a quite frustrating and stupid mistake to the 19th meant that I instead would be battling Matthias for 9th position. Matthias and I arrived at the 23rd at the same time. I imagine it was a rather exciting finish for the 9th position, but all I can remember is the pain in my chest and the thought of losing to Matthias. I knew how important it was to beat Järla, and I capatalised on a small mistake that Matthias made just before the last control. I was ahead of him up the last hill, but he was closing in. I then decided to give it everything, ignoring the screaming pain from chest, and pushed the last few metres at maximum speed.
So we ended up in 9th position, which I think we were reasonably satisfied with. It was an amazing experience, even if I was sleeping through most of it, but it was a great feeling to be so high up in a very tough field of teams. Notably we beat Halden and Kristiansand! GPS tracking and TV highlight below.
For the next few weeks I will return to some more basic training as I begin building for WOC and WUOC, in which I have just been selected for. Also Jukola is on the horizon, another relay, the biggest of them all, which Ill be running for the first time!