Orienteering 1:53:16  16.57 km (6:50 / km) +367m 6:09 / km
35c shoes: VJ Supra
Ok, I should write down how the race went no matter how disappointed I am.
Start-7: Saw from the start that Ross-Jordan-Sergei were going to be too fast, so I thought of it as a battle for 4th. Knew this would be difficult as Wyatt, Robert, Ali, Sam, Carl, Giacomo, Andrew, Ethan, Sergei G, Vadim, Balter, Marie, Nate, Alexei, Andis and some others were up front right from the beginning.
I was with Wyatt for the first few controls, thinking that the pace was pretty quick. Going to 7, the pack split a bit, and I went left, which I think was the best route. I executed it nicely, and was suddenly alone with Robert, ahead of the chasing pack.
8-14: At that moment I decided to gamble and skip 8, hoping to leave the pack behind for good. I convinced Robert to go with me, and things were going well at first. We woke up 8, and orienteered quite well all the way through 12, me in front the entire time. Coming out of 12, we saw Ross coming in, and I realized that we were already caught by the yet-to-skip leaders. This rattled me going to 13, and I executed it poorly, meaning that Ross was now with us. I kept wanting to do my own thing, so I took the road to 14, while Ross and Robert went straight. This let me stay with that, even though they were running faster.
15-17: Then the hills to 15 and 16 came, and I had nothing. Walking the uphills, even as Robert shouted encouragement and Ross stayed within sight by taking a bad angle to 16. Then Jordan came by. On the way to 17 it was downhill again, and I made a rookie mistake. Tried hard to make up ground and regain contact with Ross, Jordan, and Robert, and I just ran without reading the map. Made a stupid error that cost about a minute. Coming into 17, I saw the whole massive pack appear from my right, and I was completely dejected.
17-18: I was stumbling along here, feeling weak and defeated. Again, did not bother looking for the best route, but just followed Ali, Sergei G, Vadim, Carl, Giacomo, and Marie. We took a bad route and climbed an unnecessary, very steep, hill.
18-31: In the butterfly loops, the running got easier, and I just cruised along with the pack, navigating again and starting to enjoy myself more because of the great woods and fun orienteering. The pack stayed pretty much together through the butterflies, though after 27, I read the 18/23 control as 28 and headed to it while everyone else took the straight route to 28. Realizing my mistake, I ran hard to catch them, which tired me out a bit, but I caught the pack (sans Ali). We stayed together through 30. Then, going to 31, I made a mistake attacking the control, and took Carl, Giacomo, and Marie with me. By the time we recovered (45 seconds later), Ali, Sergei, and Vadim were gone.
32-F: I ran the rest of the way with Carl and Giacomo, with Marie a bit behind but hanging on the entire way. I looked for ways to get away, but the juniors were impressive and orienteered perfectly. They were both stronger than me at the finish, and I didn't give much of a fight, limping to a 10th place after last year's victory.
I was really disappointed with the result, but I think I would still have chosen the same approach if I had to do the race over again. I did not want to be in a big pack, but rather wanted to see if I could hold them off by independent navigation, thus skipping early to get away. It didn't work.
I should also say that everyone around me in that chasing pack orienteered really well and avoided major mistakes, while maintaining a good pace the whole time. Very impressive.
Also, a great win for Ross! He deserves it, and I hope we will see many more battles between him and Jordan in the future.