Two weeks ago I was competing at my very first Elite European Championships in Ticino. So many hours of work we have been putting into this project, so many trainings have been done with the mind already at EOC and never before I was underestimating a competition in such a manner...!
I'm loving the days before a competition when the team is together in the official accommodation, the atmosphere is still relaxed, you're getting in touch with the athletes from the other nations, everyone is getting ready. And so was it this time, I enjoyed the days before my Sprint Qualification a lot.
But then the moment was here and I was standing at the starting line, up on the castle from Bellinzona, for my first race. I was feeling nervous but aware of what I have to do, prepared for what could be coming. 3 - 2 - 1 - taking my map and go - and all my goals and points I wanted to concentrate on have been staying at the start and I was running away without them! The same moment the time was starting to count, the moment when the race was finally starting, I was just forgetting everything! Therefore it isn't a surprise that after some controls I was starting feeling stressed and I was doing a big mistake in the old town of Bellinzona. But what is one of the most important rules in orienteering: never give up, fight until the finish line, only there the race is over! And so I was trying to focus again on my race, I was running as fast as I could. And then I was reading from control 13 to 11 instead of 14... luckily I did realize it and could correct my mistake a little but I was sure that I will be missing the qualification for the final. The disappointment after the finish line was huge! But apparently I was not the only one doing mistakes and with a 12th pace I got my spot in the final! (17 of every heat are going to the final, so 51 in total) Very happy and very tired after this tough race we went home and tried to recover as well as possible to be ready again in the evening. Luckily I didn't know yet what was waiting for me...
And so then some hours later same procedure again - quarantine, warming up, last talk to the coach, going to the pre-start. The pre-start was inside a building which was quite special. I was not seeing the start but hearing it - hearing a lot of people. We have been prepared for the possibility, that the start could be on a starting-ramp and that there could be a lot of fans and I was thinking that I could deal with this situation... I learned that not when it was my time to step out of the building, onto the top of a stair, having a loud crowd down in front of me. This was shock pure, I was rebounding deep inside me, although it was like 25°C I started freezing and there was only one thought in my mind: don't start crying. Not know. Pull yourself together and DON'T- CRY! Not at the start, not in front of all those people, not in front of tv cameras. Just - don't- cry. Because this was the only thing I wanted to do right there outside, my feelings have been at sixes and sevens and this was the moment where I was realizing that I'm not at all prepared for the big stage of the Elite Orienteers, that I was completely underestimating EOC, that I had NO idea what it means to run European Championships on homeground. But the countdown was counting, the long last minute was shrinking. It felt like deliverance when finally I could take my map and run down the chute into the crowd and doing what I had to do - orienteering. It was my only chance to flight. In contrary to the morning I could focus on my technical goals and I was just happy to leave the fans behind me and running on my own. The first part was going well and then there was a long leg. I was deciding the right route choice but then I was doing a mistake and was suddenly thinking that I've stepped into an embargoed area. I haven't but my brain was having a short-circuit and reacting with a panic decision and I was turning back. Losing 40". A no- go in a sprint race. Still I tried to bring out the best of the rest. But this was not a lot. My body was starting to rebel, I was getting breathing problems and my legs felt like soft boiled pasta. I was getting slower and slower even though I was fighting, losing 15-20% on every leg... there have been no more mistakes but just all the power was out and I needed all my energy to convince myself to continue running, trying to breath properly and just finishing this race. In the finish I was not even disappointed - all my energy was gone with the 2 races, the bulk of nerviness, the struggles with my body and with all those emotions. I was not feeling anything the following days because it was so much to feel about.
Now, some time between, I'm aware that this time was great. In the past I have been thinking a lot about my future in elite sports, if this is really what I would like to do, if I can handle the pressure, if I really want to fight my body to the end during competitions. Now I know: Yes! Yes that's exactly what I'm living for, that's what makes my life special, what is giving a reason to get up every day, to keep fighting during hard times, what my heart is pulsating for.
Thanks to all my sponsors and the Suisse O Team to make it possible to live this roller coster of emotions and huge congratulation to the team for this unbelievable strong week at EOC on homeground!