Top Ten List

As my memory becomes less reliable with the passage of time, I thought it would be fun to write a bit of personal history.

One subject that occasionally occupies my mind in the course of a training run is thinking back fondly to good orienteering runs. And that leads to thinking about what have been my best runs ever. I think the criteria should be not just how error-free the run was, but also the circumstances - how important the event was, how difficult the course was, how well I was moving, how I fared against the competition and my expectations, and any other special considerations that made for a memorable run.

Orienteering post-mortoms tend to focus on the mistakes. Perhaps I will aslo come up with a "bottom ten" list. But for a place to start, it seems to make more sense, and be more fun, to begin with the positive memories.

I'll introduce the candidates one at a time (but not in any particular order).

1. Day 2 of the O'Ringen, 1996, M50

2. Day 6 of the Swiss 6 Day, 1989, M45

3. Day 4 of the German 5 Day (Uslar), 1991, M45

4. World Championships Relay, Scotland, 1976

5. Day 2 Canadian Champs, Manitoba, 1982, M35

6. Day 2 of the O'Ringen, 1989, M45

7. Day 2 at the Nordvestgaloppen, Norway, 1989, M45

1. Day 2 of the O'Ringen, 1996, M50

One of my goals/dreams in orienteering has always been to win a day at the O'Ringen, the huge 5-day meet every July in Sweden. (And then , of course, to win the whole event.... but winning a day would probably have to come first.) So far it hasn't happened, though not for lack of trying. I think the main impediment has been the nature of the forest floor in Sweden - usually very soft footing with a lot of low vegetation up to knee high. It takes a stronger runner than I am. Not necessarily faster, just stronger and with higher knee lift in order to keep up a good speed.

On the other hand, at any large O meet the woods get faster as the day goes on, and the O'Ringen is the epitome of that. I remember once I had the first start in my class (8:01 am) and had a really good run and was 6 minutes behind on a 40 minute course. I am quite sure that same run with a late start would have been within a minute or two of the lead. In any case, they rotate the starts and therefore any advantage/disadvantage is cancelled out over the course of the first four days (day 5 is a chase start). But on a day-by-day basis one thing is very clear - the day to go for it is the day you have a late start.

In 1996 the O'Ringen was centered in Karlstad in west-central Sweden. Day 2 was a short course, about 4 km, and I had a very late start, something between 12:30 and 12:45 (last starts were at 1:00) if I remember correctly. Before I headed off to the start I checked the best times posted so far in my class, and sitting on top with 33:41 was Anders Sellgren, one of the best. In ten runs against him I might beat him once or at most twice (in Sweden that is, elsewhere it was much more even), but he had the time to beat and a time that might well win the day. I like having a goal time. You might think it rather pointless, since I had no knowledge of the course or forest, but for me it is motivation. And when the course turns uphill or the vegetation gets a bit thick, motivation is very, very important. So 33:40 was the target.

There were beaten paths everywhere (aka "elephant tracks") which made running a lot easier and faster, but there is both a good bit of skill and a good bit of luck in figuring out when and for how long to use the pieces of unmapped trails. I was having a good clean run and moving well, and after spiking #7 I glanced at my watch as I was dropping down the side of the rentrant on the way to #8 and one thing was clear - spike #8 and under 33 minutes looked in the bag. #8 was a spur, one of several small ones lined up side by side, and from the map it looked to be simple. But as I emerged onto the flat area 100 meters before the control, all of a sudden the visibility out in the direction I was heading was rather lousy, young pines I believe. And I said to myself, Careful, don't blow it, and I slowed down and took an extra look or two at the map. And I nailed it, and then hightailed it down to 9 and into the finish, fast as I could, elapsed time of 32:24.

Then the moment of truth. Around to the results board (which they update very quickly), where the best time was still 33:41. In a couple of minutes my time is up, top of the board, a lead of over a minute. And it's about 1:15 pm and almost everyone is in.

I had about 10 minutes of bliss. And then the time went up for the Finn who would eventually win the week - 32:22, two seconds faster. Damn. Some things are not meant to be.

Orienteering often comes down to choosing the right tactics. Sometimes the best tactic is being careful, sometimes it's taking risks, sometimes it's just hoping to be lucky. And since it's usually not a head-to-head competition, you don't find out until afterwards if you made the right choices.

Nevertheless, second place was still pretty good.... And it's actually nice to have some goals that are still out there, waiting for the right day.

2. Day 6 of the Swiss 6 Day, 1989, M45 (part 1 | part 2)

Once you get past the age of 35 in orienteering, your competitive prospects go in 5-year cycles, slowly getting worse for 4 years and then improving a lot in one year as you land in a new age group. The improvment in the fifth year may be augmented by the fact that you know it is the year you will be "young," and so you train a little harder and focus a little better.

I turned 45 in 1989, and my training that year had gone well. Over the winter, a co-editor of mine at UltraRunning magazine, Stan Wagon, decided that he wanted to break 60 seconds for 400 meters, and I got the idea, though with less passion than Stan, of breaking 5 minutes for the mile. Prior to this his best for 400 was about 62 seconds, my best for the mile about 5:15. Stan taught at Smith College and that gave us access to their indoor track, and in addition to regular running training we were both doing intervals once or twice a week throughout the winter and spring. Stan eventually got his 59.x, I did 5:08 indoors at the end of the winter and then 5:02 and 5:01 on the outdoor track in June, plus a 5K time trial of 17:41 in early June. I was as fit as I had ever been, at any age,

Under the theory of striking while the iron was hot, we scheduled an orienteering trip to Europe in July/August that included 24 races in 34 days. Absurd? Perhaps. Fun? Absolutely. Sucessful? Again, absolutely.

The Swiss 6 Day was the second event on the schedule, The first three days were near Fribourg, days 1 (Schwyberg, same place as the World Cup race last year) and 3 (Les Alpettes, WOC 81 individual race) in pre-alpine terrain, day 2 in middleland terrain. After a day off for moving, the last 3 days were in the hills above Lugano. I dug myself into a hole the first day with 3 bad controls, leaving me 6 minutes behind. After finishes the next four days of second, first, third, and third, I was up into second place, but 5:29 behind the leader and 1:52 ahead of third. I remember thinking that I had no chance to catch the leader -- it was a chase start -- and I needed to focus on keeping clear of the ones behind me.

I know I run better when I'm pissed. I also think I run better when I've got someone behind that I'm trying to hold off. I wasn't pissed this day, but I was motivated by wanting to at least hang on to second, so it was full speed right from the start. It was a pretty easy orienteering, and the controls were popping up just were they were supposed to be. Except for one momentary lapse (about 10 meters the wrong way on a trail on the way to #6, immediately corrected), everything was as good as possible. Plus, I'd looked behind several times and no sign of any pursuers (our class had a 9 am start for the chase, first one, so the woods were empty).

And then I pulled around the little stone building at #8 to punch and I looked up and there was the leader taking the other punch at the same time. And I remember the look in his face and it was panic. All of a sudden the race was on.

He was right behind me going to #9, and then we had a marked route of over a kilometer through the village of Comano before the last three controls on the hillside to the south. And I remember saying to myself as I headed onto the village streets, already opening up a small gap, You train on roads just like this, this favors you, now Go, get a gap now! And it felt like back on the track or at a road race, where if you get a gap you have to push even harder to break contact, and to break the other's will. As I headed into the woods I looked back and I had nearly 100 meters. 10, 11, and 12 were as clean and as fast as could be, and the final margin was a minute and three-quarters.

The only bad part was that I didn't get to enjoy myself at the awards that afternoon. We had a 1pm plane out of Milan which we just caught, a connection in Stockholm that we had to run to make to get us to Östersund where I had a10am start the next morning for day 1 of the O'Ringen. Totally different terrain. And toally botched the first 2 controls....

3. Day 4 of the German 5 Day (Uslar), 1991, M45

This was the first time I had orienteered in Germany, and the terrain around Uslar (in central Germany) was typical "continental" terrain - big hills, rounded contours, lots of forest roads and trails, and a variety of vegetation with the differences caused mainly by forestry work. For anyone used to orienteering in the northeast U.S., the general rule of thumb is that everything in central Europe is mapped one shade greener than we are used to at home. So middle green isn't bad, light green is pretty good (with the exception that if there are a lot of cut trails/rides from forest thinning operations, then there are often a lot of brashings, or piles of branches, that can make for slow going), and white is wide open and just about as fast as a road or trail.

I've enjoyed continental terrain ever since I first experienced it in France and Switzerland in 1977. Some consider it to be not so interesting in comparison to the "real" orienteering in Scandinavian terrain. Some think it is too easy. I think it is fun and challenging -- there is often no excuse not to be running as hard as possible, and navigating well and making good route choice decisions under such stress is not automatic. There is nothing like being at or slightly above your aerobic threshold to expose weaknesses in your technique or fuzzy thinking in general.

The week in Uslar had not gotten off to the best start. I'd had a run with no mistakes the first day and was a bit disappinted to find myself in fourth, about two and a half minutes back. In retrospect, I may already have been feeling sick, for later that evening everything that I had eaten for dinner was coming back up. Day two was the best I could do, no mistakes but also no strength on the climbs - at one point the leader, who had happened to start just after me, came sailing by and there was no way I could keep up. But the bug disappeared as fast as it had come on. Day 3 was another run with no mistakes, but this time a much faster effort and a win by 10 seconds - I could just as easily choose it for one of my "Top Ten," but it is day 4 that sticks in my mind.

Day 4 was a short course, 3.5 km. I was 5 or 6 minutes behind overall, too much to overcome I assumed (correctly as it turned out) since that was after three days of no mistakes, so the goal was to win the day. I was blessed with a very late start (although in this terrain, where the white woods are really "white," the course didn't really get any faster), because I like to know what times are being run. By the time I was heading up to the start, the times for my competition were already up, with 19:59 being the fastest. That was about 5:40 a kilometer. I didn't have much hope, particularly since from what I could see of the terrain, it was straight uphill out of the start.

My memories of the run now some 12 years later are one general thing and one very specific one. The general one is a memory of the pure physical effort, of having run absolutely flat-out the whole way, of having crested the hill out of #3 after just about 6 minutes of maximum effort and then just stepping on the accelorator as hard as I could the rest of the way. No "green light, yellow light, red light" orienteering, just green light all the way.

The specific memory is of my thinking process midway on my route from #8 to #9. It was the last control of any substance, and in retrospect it looks pretty easy (even though the small trails were not always so obvious). But I looked at my watch as I dropped down onto the road and the time, 17:30 so far, not quite two and a half minutes left, instantly decided my game plan. No time to be careful, just Due North, fast as possible, keep your eyes open, and get lucky. And some 30 seconds later the control popped up absolutely dead ahead of me. Sometimes being lucky is the most important skill of all.

The rest was just doing it, the glorious feeling of just staying out of the way while gravity does its job, and when I crossed the finish line I still had ten seconds to spare on the big clock. And all the time I wanted, lying down in the grass, to let my heart work its way slowly down to a more normal cadence.

4. World Championships Relay, Scotland, 1976

As I said in the introduction, picking a run as one of my top ten depends not just on how clean the run was but also upon the circumstances. One of the factors that plays a role is pressure. Pressure in orienteering, at least in the U.S. where the sport is not big-time, is mostly applied from within. There are no huge contracts at stake, no big cash winnings, no demanding fans or owners. But even pressure from within can be a formidable thing. Whether it's the wish/hope to do well, the fear of embarrassment if you don't, an awareness of how fine the line can be between success and disaster, or just the general anxiety facing the unknown - and the very basis of orienteering is that you are venturing off into the unknown - no matter what the reason or reasons, there is no denying the pressure. And pressure can make fools of the strongest of us.

There are various psychological games you can play with yourself to try to keep the pressure under control, but the best tool that I've found over the years is that simple word - experience. First time you go to an A meet it can be terrifying. By the 10th or 20th or 50th time you should be able deal with it. Championships and team selection races are different. They happen less often. If you screw up, it is a long wait until the next one.

World championships are different still. Given our stature in the orienteering world, there is no pressure to win, but the hope to do as well as you can, combined with the fear of failure, and also combined with the "USA " that you are wearing and the country you are representing - I don't think it is possible to run in the world champs without a major case of nerves. The challenge is to deal with it.

I ran in three World Championships: Scotland in 1976, Norway in 1978, and Finland in 1979 (when they were changed to odd years to avoid conflict with the Olympics, not that that really mattered). There were only two events in those days, the individual (90 minute expected winning time) and relay (4 x 60 minute expected winning time), no qualifying races. I ran the relay each year and the individual in '76 and '78; in '79 I'd been having injury problems and didn't feel fit enough to run the individual.

In looking back at those 5 races, there was not a bad one in the lot, but none were perfect either. All had 2 or 3 minutes of errors. But all of them I look back on with pleasure, knowing I could have done a little better, but also knowing I could have done much worse. The one that makes the top ten list, the relay in Scotland, makes it because of the circumstances.

For starters, this was my first time orienteering overseas. I had planned a trip to Sweden in the summer of '75 but had to cancel after I tore up an ankle in June of that year. I'd been orienteering for not quite 3 years, had been to Canada several times, but nothing in my orienteering experience was anything like the World Champs. It didn't take long to start working on a massive inferiority complex - everyone seemed bigger, faster, stronger. Actually, a lot faster and a lot stronger. The primary emotion was fear of embarrassment.

The individual came first. At 15.5 km, it was a lot longer than any course I had run before (I said we were out of our league!). My most distinct memories are (1) when crossing a specially-built narrow suspension bridge early in the race, my main thought was to hold on tight to my map and not drop it into the river far below (fear of embarrassment), (2) getting into and out of the photographers' control as quickly as possible (ditto), and (3) exhaustion in the last 30-45 minutes. Still, it was a decent result, 46th of 66, 2nd U.S. behind Bob Turbyfill, 3rd North American behind Bob and Ron Lowry, just ahead of Ted de St. Croix..

The relay was two days later, 10.8 km course for the men. The terrain was forested sandhills. I had never orienteered on such terrain and expect for the model event the day before, none of the training maps had been anything like that. And I had never run a relay.

Bob Turbyfill ran first leg for us in the mass start. The first one back was a Swede in 62 and a half minutes, and, well, you know how it is when you're waiting to go out in a relay - you are ready well before there is any possibility your runner may come in. I think I was set to go at 70 minutes, by 75 I was really set, by 80 I was really, really set, by 85 I was getting frantic/depressed, by 90 I was ... and then there's Bob, 90:20 and a perfectly fine run, it's just everyone else is so good! And then I'm off, a runner from Belgium 30 seconds ahead, and I look at the map and wow, it looks hard.

But it was still just an O' map, and the little sqiggly lines made sense - they always have. I nailed #1 and noticed the Belge off to my side, trying to figure out where his #1 was (the courses were forked). And that was a boost of confidence at just the right time. The rest of my run I was on my own, and except for small errors at 5 and 12, good recoveries in both case limiting damge to maybe a minute each, I was in control all the way. It was a very good run - 82:44. As I look back on my map books from '73 to '76, it was clearly the best run I'd ever had. I have run better since then many times, but under the circumstances....

There is a down side to the story, however. There were 4 men on the team, Bob, me, Dick Hawkins, and Dick Adams. Sometime in the last couple of days before the individual race Dick Adams took a bad spill and broke an ankle. Efforts were made to get a replacement on very short notice, but it didn't work out. And so I handed off to Dick Hawkins and he had a good run, and then our fourth was on crutches and it was all for naught.

We knew that from the beginning, of course. But as I look back to my feelings on that day, what I remember is that the pressure was there and the effort was there, as if somehow Dick would manage to run and therefore what we did really counted. And when the reality finally set in, the letdown and the disappointment were immense.

That was the last time we sent a team to the World Championships without a spare for the realy.

5. Day 2 Canadian Champs, Manitoba, 1982, M35

The Canadian Champs used to be held on Thanksgiving Day -- Canadian Thanksgiving Day, that is, the second weekend in October if I remember correctly. But that wekend seemed cursed with bad weather, and sometime around 1980 they shifted to August, often adding a couple more events to entice more orienteers to travel. And so it was that in August, 1982, we found ourselves going to the middle of Manitoba, a place that I had thought was flat as a pancake. Most of it is, but there are also a few areas of what has become my favorite terrain for orienteering -- sandhills.

Now by "sandhills" I don't mean "dunes." Dunes are terrible -- soft sand out in the hot sun that saps your energy. One day at the 1984 French 5 Day in southwest France the finish was on the beach and the run-in was 400 meters of soft sand including up and over a couple of dunes. Never have I seen so many people walk in the finish chute.

But sandhills are different. By sandhills I mean terrain that used to be dunes but has been stabilized with some form of vegetation -- grass, bushes, often pine forest, sometimes even (and unfortunately) poison ivy. And sandhills are wonderful. Complicated topography, sometimes very complicated, combined with excellent footing because of the absence of rocks means that it's easy to run fast, and easy to read the map on the run, but it's also really easy to make mistakes.

A full schedule was planned. The Canadian Champs were the first weekend, followed by a relay on Monday, then one-day events Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then the North American Champs to finish things up on the second weekend. If you didn't like sandhills, it had the potential for being a long week. My favorite was the first weekend because the terrain was the most complicated and the map was pretty good, certainly by the standards of those days.

I had really good runs both days, but I think the second day was a little better. The first day (7.7 km, 53:30) had just one small bobble, maybe a minute or so. The second day also had one small error, but I was running harder and had virtually the same time for a course 400 meters longer (8.1 km, 53:33). What I remember most from the first day was the sight, as I wound my way through the sandhills, of what seemed like every knoll topped by an orienteer, standing still and trying to figure out where they were. Enough people had really miserable days that I had the idea to offer some instruction that afternoon on how to orienteer in the sandhills. I thought I might get a few people, but quite a large crowd showed up. My notes on the back of my day 1 map show what I thought they should work on:

1. Map quality (understanding what you can count on).
2. Distinct terrain areas: Depressions with/without thick vegetation, bigger knolls, trails. Distinct combinations of these.
3. Compass/pace.
4. And, of course, relocation.

I think there were still a lot of problems the second day, but perhaps not quite so many.

As I look back at my routes for the second day, what strikes me is how aggressive the routes were. A couple of examples -- on the way to #2 I took the straight route from the main trail junction, about 600 meters of somewhat jumbled terrain, rather than taking the trail to the left and coming in on a much shorter approach from the south. I'm sure straight was faster, but it takes a bit more nerve. Likewise, going to #4, I could have taken the small trail going west of the line for the second half of the leg, then gone east along the yellow slot, then turned NE at the end of the dark green. But I remember feeling in total control and just heading straight to the control, a mix of map-first (look at the map, sees what's ahead, then look for it out in front of you) and terrain-first (there's something that should be distinct on the map, check the map to find it) orienteering.

At some point on the way back south, I think around #7, I picked up another runner in my class (M35) who had started a good bit before me. I remember feeling a bit of a challenge, not to get away, but rather, if he was going to follow me, to do some really good orienteering. Orienteering is such a solitary sport. I suppose that when given the chance to show off a bit, it is hard to resist. We didn't have watches that kept splits in those days, but I know my pace was really good from there to the finish. It may also have been the reason for the small error at #9.

My only regret was that I affected the results. Non-Canadians could run in the Canadian Champs but we were outside the official competition and not eligible for medals. But I pulled my shadow along fast enough that he ended up winning the class by less than a minute. Didn't seem right, but sometimes things like that just happen. Much as we may want it to be, life isn't always fair.

6. Day 2 of the O'Ringen, 1989, M45

This was only two days after another "top ten" candidate, the last day of the Swiss 6 Day. A comparison of the two maps, and by extension the two terrains, shows what is both so appealing and so difficult about orienteering - the incredible variety in the arena we compete in.

I've always been somewhat perplexed why so many efforts are made to standardize orienteering. We seem to want rules for everything - from relatively mundane things like course lengths and difficulty to that great bugaboo: fairness. I'll admit that some standards are useful. Mapping standards come immediately to mind. But sometimes we seem to lose the sense of adventure that "running with a map and a compass through unfamiliar terrain" implies.

When the terrain changes, the challenge changes. The basic problem is always the same - find all the controls and get to the finish in the fastest possible time - but as the terrain changes, the strategy (overall game plan) and tactics (specific techniques to be used depending on the legs encountered) have to change too.

This was the day of this year's O'Ringen that I had been looking forward to ever since I had seen the brochure for the event - the map sample in the brochure was a section of this map just east of #'s 4 and 5. It looked really cool, and really hard. It looked like terrain where a lot of mistakes would be made, even by top orienteers. You needed to be careful. But O'Ringen courses usually have sections near the end that go through easier terrain, and in those areas you need to be fast. And so the strategy seemed to be - be careful when you need to be careful, be fast when you need to be fast, and be smart enough to know which was which.

I had an early start, about 8:15, so there would not any benefit from beaten paths. When they said "Go" and I picked up my map, I was surprised that the first part of the course was not like what I was expecting, but the strategy was still the same - be careful and be fast. To #1 the tactic was dead straight, of course, checking features at each of the cross trails to make sure I was right on line. Even on a leg like this, with lots of usable features, it's really important to be precise with the compass. If you're right on line, the features line up, you don't have to hesitate and think, and perhaps most importantly, you don't have any doubt, so you can keep moving faster. To #2 was simple, or so it looks, but making a seamless entry to the trail and understanding what to do when the trail ends in a maze of vegetation features is no trivial matter. Likewise to #3, a mix of care (don't waste any time finding the bridge or the trail, precise from the end of the trail to the control) and keeping up the speed. So far so good, but the hard stuff hadn't started.

It started leaving the aid station just before #4. Fortunately my eyes were good enough to spot the vegetation boundary on the map (different age spruce forest on either sides of it in the terrain) which pointed right at #4. Along it, and then just keep going straight and keep all fingers and toes crossed. I remember looking at the map and thinking, "I can't figure out what's going on here." I look at it now and I still think the best tactic is compass and pace and, above all, keep the eyes open. About 150 meters from the end of the vegetation boundary there it was, right ahead. A sigh of relief and keep moving.

Then south to the main trail, right past the edge of the ponds so I knew where I was (never trust where they map aid stations or water points unless you have something else to confirm it). #5 was more of the jumble, this time 200 meters. I remember stopping several times, arm out, compass steady, careful look, go another 50 meters, do it again and again, and just as my pacecount was getting to 200 meters, there was a flag up a little to my left on what seemed to be a dot knoll. I don't ever remember being happier that the number on it was the number I was looking for.

#6 was more of the same at first glance ("first glance" being back when I was running from 3 to 4 and had some time to think ahead), but a slight swing to the left took advantage first of the vegetation boundary, and then of the narrow open depression pointing right at the control. Out of the depression, back into the older forest, over a little knoll and my depression was right there. #7 was also easier, though the last 100 meters were on a very careful bearing.

And then it eased up a bit. I look now at the approach to #8 and it looks difficult (a small reentrant in bland terrain), but I remember spotting a tiny rectangular vegetation boundary on the map just south of the control, and that little bit of cut forest made the control easy. My route out of #8 looks silly, but the forest south of 8 had been trashy (there are fast "white" woods and there are slow "white" woods) and I don't think I lost any time. And the rest of the way in was the usual anaerobic last two or three controls at the O'Ringen, no excuse not to run as hard as you can.

I finished about 9 in the morning. It is a bit strange when you have an early start and hopefully an early finish - you are walking around and almost everyone else you see still has to go out, and you are done. And on this day, I knew I had done well. So I was a bit surprised when I went to check the results a little later to find myself in second place, but almost three minutes behind. But then the fellow in first was Rolf Pettersson, a Swede who included among his credentials an individual silver medal and two golds and a silver in relay at World Champs in the late 1970s. Some people you don't really expect to beat, especially on their home ground.

As the day went on, many more bad times than good ones were posted and I eventually ended up 7th. It was a day where being careful paid off. I would finish the week in the same place, chasing in vain #6 down the finish chute the last day.

I have one other memory from the day. At some point I heard a siren, and then saw an ambulance hurrying through the finish area and then back along one of the finish chutes. I heard later that an older male orienteer had had a heart attack 50 meters from the finish and died on the spot. One can think of worse ways to go.

Day 2 at the Nordvestgaloppen, Norway, 1989, M45

This was towards the end of of the summer trip in 1989, not exactly in the part of Norway that I would call the northwest, but it was for them -- fjord country NW of Oslo though still south of Trondheim. Beautiful country, with the mountains coming right down to the water, and villages and homes perched on some pretty steep slopes. And certainly not the kind of place that you look and and think, Oh, what great-looking orienteering terrain. But orienteer they did. So what if it was steep, rocky, marshy (it rains a lot on the west coast of Norway).

The event was over 4 days, results calculated on a point system where the best 3 of 4 days counted. The first two days were on Wednesday and Thursday late afternoons, start times around 6 pm, which took some adjustment as I am usually eating dinner about then. I had had a ok run the first day except for one bad control, still finished second, in terrain that was not easy, physically or technically or even reading the map (all maps were 1:15,000).

Day 2 was different. Still steep slopes, still lots of sloping marshes, but more open forest on the lower part and no trees at all higher up. Once again, drive up some narrow, twisty mountain road until it ends in a few huts and a little parking area. Once again the feeling that this will be Orienteering with a capital O', not for the meek or the inexperienced. My class in M45 consisted of 39 Norwegians, one Finn, and me. I had been orienteering for 16 years. I'm sure most of the others had been at it twice as long.

My memories of my run are a bit hazy -- I do have my route marked on the map and also my splits -- but I do recall a feeling throughout the course of speed, of thinking the whole way, Go faster, go faster, go faster. After the drop down to #1, then the long climb up past 2 to 3 and then 4, 200 meters of climb, ran the whole way. And then heading across the high country to 5 and 6, spiking them both, fast as I could, all the time thinking, I'm going to show them something today....

(That was a feeling I often had when running in Europe, a reaction to the less than stellar results usually turned in by Americans, and other non-Europeans, a feeling that I had something to prove. Justified or not, sensible or not, it was wonderful motivation.)

... and then down and back into the woods to 7, still flying, caution thrown to the winds, got to go fast, got to show them what a good time for this course is, tricky control, spiked it too. And then over to 8 and then the one last slog up through the marshes to 9 and the finish. 6.0 km, 45:13. A flawless run. And knowing no one was going to do better.

I think second place ended up being about 51 minutes.

I was wet, and tired, and cold, and hungry, and also really psyched. We hung around much longer than we cared to, for at least an hour, probably two, to wait for the day's awards to each class winner -- a piece of Norwegian rock with a flag mounted on top. I still have it, and every time I look at it, it brings a smile.

Day 3 was a good run in heavy rain, splashing the whole way, and good enough to win the overall without even going out on day 4. I did go out, though I probably shouldn't have -- I wasn't motivated, it was wet, very slippery on the rock, thick, steep. Should have taken the day off, I suppose, but when you are in Norway and there is an O' event, it's very hard to pass it up.

The piece of Norwegian rock for the overall first place. Also still brings a smile....