US WOC Team Trials
St. Louis, MO
19th-21st May 2006
Being in a situation where I have to run well is probably something that doesn’t happen to me enough. Coming into these team trials I had goals of running at my best and maybe even winning a race or two. On arrival I started to realize that the pressure and stress was going to be harder to handle than I expected. Of course this was mainly do to the pressure I put onto myself, but a component that I hadn’t considered started to become more apparent. The way the selection process is done is based off of 3 out of 4 scores. One score is based off of the last 12 months ranking in the US. The other 3 scores are based off of your results at the 3 races. This means you can drop one bad score, giving the team trial-ers that have a ranking something to fall back on if they don’t have a good race. Those of us without a ranking have a petition system we can fall back on if we don’t have a good race, but this would only be put into practice in very extreme cases. In theory it is equally fair for everyone. What I hadn’t considered is that I had pressure to have three good races to even make the team, the pressure I had put on myself would have been easier to deal with, then the have to feeling of racing well.
Anyway, to make a long story short… this type of pressure is something I think every athlete should go through at some point. I mean ultimately we all do the sport because we want to, and because we like it, but not qualifying had never even come into mind for me before. Suddenly I was faced with the possibility.
My goals were then refined and I gave myself the challenge to be mentally strong for every race. Something I am personally working on anyway.
Mission accomplished?... Kind of.
The sprint and middle distance races were solid races. I felt mentally in control, concentrated and focused. Even though I made no major mistakes, I never felt like I was running my optimal. I didn’t come into the finish and think, yes, that was a great race. I was satisfied with my races, but never thrilled. Good enough, mission accomplished, two-second place finishes, two good scores. Only the long distance to go, and my favorite discipline too!
I felt particularly nervous about the long distance, because in the back of my head I still wanted to win (doesn’t every athlete?). Anyway, my preparation for the race was going normally until 10 minutes before my start when I realized that I didn’t have my punch card (yes.. no SI, real punch cards:-)). Thankfully I have good friends who helped me find a punch card (thanks Eddie and Boris), I ran to the start to see if they had extra’s and was relieved to find out that they did. When I had my punch card I tried to get myself back into a correct mental mind frame and continued with my warm-up routine. Three minutes before my start I realized… I didn’t have my compass with me! My shock turned very quickly into frustrations, “what’s wrong with me today?” Eddie jumped to my rescue again and sprinted up to my car and back, bringing me my compass with 30 seconds to spare! I never regained my composure and my race just followed suite. After blowing the 2nd control and being caught by Pavlina, I made one bad decisions after another and never got into a flow. The race was frustrating, but what bugs me even more is that I was unable to gain control in a tough situation.
This is something I should have considered in advance. How would I react if something goes wrong before a big race? Could I refocus, how would I refocus? I should be prepared for anything, but to be prepared I need to think about it in advance. I am grateful to have such an experience it is helping me prepare better for the next big race. Next time I will be more prepared to be mentally strong!
In any case, I had a great experience being back in the States and seeing my fellow team mates and orienteering enthusiasts. It was fun! Thanks to Eric Buckley and SLOC for a great event. Thanks to the US team for your support, and congratulations to Boris Granovskiy, Eddie Bergeron, Eric Bone. James Scarborough, Clem McGrath, Pavlina Brautigam , Samantha Saeger, Suzanne Armstrong, Hillary Saeger, and myself for making the 2006 WOC team.
Here are the maps: