After the World Championships this summer, I had no other goal than knowing what I really wanted for my near future. It is not always easy to stand at a crossing and not being sure about the direction to take, even for the most experienced orienteers. “Is it really the end? Was the WOC in Strömstad finally my last one, and the time to explore some new tracks coming? Or did I had still something left in the tank?”
I always heard that when a sport career is coming to an end, the sportsman could feel it coming, and one morning he wakes up and knows it is/was the last call. Thus, I decided to not rush by saying something I might have regretted later on, and let the decision comes to me. I felt quite empty after World Championships and I had anyway no competition to prepare.
But in fact, it was not a completely new situation for me, as I had already experienced this feeling of emptiness. Twice before, in my sport career, I felt I had lost the direction. The first time was back in 2007, after a perfect season (10 WOC/WCup starts – 10 wins). I knew I would never be as good as this, and it wasn´t that easy to continue. But luckily, the World Championships in France were around the corner, and became my driving force for the following years. The WOC 2011 was another climax, and, by far, the emotional peak of my career. I knew that nothing would taste the same again. But still, I was, somehow, always excited to know there will be a control, a leg, or a course, somewhere in a nice forest, which will be a big enough challenge to keep training hard.
The weeks after WOC were quickly filled with nice adventures here and there, and also different meetings to see a bit more clearly how could look my future outside elite orienteering. During that period, two small happenings pushed me toward one clear direction.
The first one was happening during my trip in the US, when I was attending AC/DC concert in New York. This band has always been in my playlist before the biggest competitions and for sure, it was a special moment to finally see them playing live. But seeing the lead guitarist and legendary Angus Young, 61 year´s old, in his schoolboy-uniform stage outfits, bounding and scampering and duckwalking all over the stage during the two-and-a-half-hour show, brought me a smile. He delivered riffs he has played thousands of times, and seemed to enjoy it as much as the fans. Highly inspiring.
But when I travelled back from the US, my thoughts were still quite unclear, with many unanswered questions. And surprisingly, it was during one of the smallest competition, here in Uppsala, that I found a big part of the answers I was looking for. I ran a middle distance in Hammarskogen, at the beginning of October, 10 kilometres from our home. It is definitively not the nicest piece of forest around here, and I wasn´t especially in good shape, but the joy of orienteering was maximal. Everything felt so right. I was just happy. And I had much difficulties to find an answer of this last question: “Why stopping something which brings you so much happiness?” And finally decided to let this one unanswered also for 2017.
On top of that, I also realized that it was not fair to leave the scene, when Hannu (Airila) has never been that close to beat me in a WOC race. I definitively wanted to give him another chance!
Of course, as an elite orienteer, your training should be goal-oriented at some point. And naturally, my main goal for the coming 8 months is the WOC in Estonia. The terrain is even a bit familiar as I was running a World Cup there in… 1998. Oh god, feel almost like yesterday! ; )