Back in Uppsala. Ukraine left me with one last parting gift of bad diarrhea. Mixed feelings about WOC and further motivation down the line. On one hand, I had two of my technically cleanest races at WOC, the sprint quali and the relay. On the other hand, I didn't feel good physically for either one of those. In the relay, in particular, I really struggled. I am happy with making the best of what I had on that day, but disappointed I did not have more. The middle quali debacle is a whole different story. I felt great physically, and felt like everything was set up in my favor. I had done plenty of training in that terrain (though, granted, not with so much low-visibility stuff), the weather was nice and cool, I had a good start time. The conditions seemed perfect. And then I simply imploded. A mistake on #1 rattled me, so I took a safe route to 2 and spiked it. Then got risky again to 3 and panicked when I didn't come to it immediately. What followed in the next 11 (!!!) minutes was like something out of a horrible dream. I'd relocate, attack, fail, see competitors run by, find the controls for the other quals, relocate, attack, fail, find the guy who was sitting on a hill watching all the controls, realize that he could SEE my control from where he was, attack again, fail again, eventually stumble onto a trail, finally relocate, and find the control. After punching it, I stopped. All this training, all this effort, completely wasted. Temptation to jog to the finish or to fabricate a story about losing my SI, being attacked by a dog, or something similar was high. Decided to continue the course anyway. Missed the next control by another 30 seconds, then slowly got myself together and picked up the pace. Ran well for most of the rest of the course, except missing the second-to-last after being stuck in nettles. Even ran hard in the finish chute (which actually paid off by letting me climb a place). After that, nothing. Last year, when I had a really bad middle quali, I was angry at myself but also knew that I wasn't ready yet. This time was different. I didn't feel angry, just empty. I was ready, and I blew it. Maybe it's putting too much pressure on myself, maybe it's trying to do too much, I don't know, but something obviously did not work. As usual, one needs to take some positives away, even from a catastrophe. With my eleven-minute mistake and another couple of minutes left out in the woods, I was 14 minutes away from qualifying. A clean run would have given me a shot, which had never been the case before. Neither last year in Denmark nor the year before in Japan would I have had a chance even with a clean run. But that's just the one little positive overshadowed by the enormous negative.
Self-confidence is low, but hey, I am back in Uppsala, racing season here is just heating up, and I love orienteering way too much to stay away. Time to sit down, figure out what went wrong, figure out what to do better, and return to work. I can't wait to get back into the woods.