by Carl Underwood
I would like to first thank the New England Orienteering Club for their generous grant that helped cover some of my traveling expenses to the Junior World Orienteering Championships this past summer in Denmark.
My adventure started towards the end of June when my father and I drove to Westover Air Reserve Base to catch a flight to Germany and then to Aalborg. We are able to fly with the military, to many locations around the world, because my father is retired from the Army. Even though it can be convenient, this time our plans were changed, making it a little more difficult. Rather than flying to Germany, we ended up flying to Rota, Spain. Fortunately my father planned for this and booked for me, in advance, a Ryan Air flight going from Sevilla to Århus, Denmark the next day. After I got to Århus I took a bus to the train station and then got on a train heading to Aalborg.
I arrived in Aalborg several days before the actual training started, so my father arranged for me to stay with a local orienteering family while I was there. However, due to me landing in Spain rather than in Germany my time of arrival had changed and the family did not know where or when to pick me up. With only their address, I had to find my way to their house. But with some help from a worker at the bus station I was able to find the house with only minor complications. When I arrived, I met the family for the first time and had my first real dinner in a few days.
After spending a few days getting to know my new family of friends they dropped me off at the military barracks where all the JWOC runners stayed. I met up with the rest of the team and then we headed towards our room which contained two rows of bunk beds, a small closet for each person, and a three shower bathroom. The rest of the area contained other barracks, a military obstacle course, a mess hall, and a gymnasium where they had the final banquet.
To start off our week of training we did a following exercise on the map adjacent to the military base. One person had the location of the even controls and the other had the location of the odd controls, so you had to follow the person and the map to one control and then find your way to the next one. We spent the rest of the week doing training on various maps trying to focus on reading the difficult contours and learning to navigate with the different vegetation.
We spent the the fourth of July in town and at the opening ceremony of JWOC, where we were entertained by Aalborg's unicycle club. After returning to the barracks we celebrated our nation's independence how we planned to all week. With the help of the French and the South Africans, we launched a surprise attack water attack on the British as they came out of the main building where every one hung out. After we were all tired out from our great battle, we sat in the rally field and relaxed in peace.
During the actual week of competition everyone got serious so that we could focus on our races and do as well as we could. This meant going to bed earlier and waking up earlier so that we had time to eat breakfast in the mess hall and catch the bus to the training site. Once at the competition area we would warm up on a warm up map. Alexei, one of our coaches there, would give us some exercises to do during our warm up to prep us for the race.
Each course was different and on many types of terrain. The sprint on the first day took place on a college campus, so many of the buildings look the same on and off the map; you really needed to concentrate on thinking fast, and knowing where you were. Then the second day was the Long which took place on a map adjacent to the sea. This map had a lot of small contours, sand dunes, and a lot of green which were dense forests of pine trees. After a quick rest day we spent the next two days competing the the middle qualifier and the middle final.
The Last competition was the relay. With six boys and three girls, we had two male teams and one female. I was on the B team along with Nate Lyons and Keith Anderson. Since we were on the B team we decided to have a little fun with it by racing with no shirts. The officials got a kick out of this and they said that if we end up doing it, let them know so they can get some pictures. I was running the first leg with Keith and Nate being the middle and anchor legs. In the beginning I started off with a good group, but lost them towards the middle. Then when I finished I found out that the B team was actually ahead of the A team. It was a close race the rest of the way; during the second leg both teams finished together, but during the last leg the B team pulled ahead and beat the A team.
To finish of my first JWOC experience the team dressed up and went to the banquet. In the morning everyone got up early so we could continue our journey. About half the team headed home as the other half continued on to Karlstad, Sweden. We meet up with other Americans on the University and Senior team to stay in the OK TYR club house, which Tom Hollowell, President of SOFT and former US team member, let us stay in for a week.
During the stay we did a lot of orienteering; Tom brought in a local orienteer, My, to help us with some training. We did trainings such as a one man relay where we just went out on several courses with three or four controls each. Then we did a corridor-o where we had to follow a thin strip of map that went in a circle, and the rest of the map was blacked out. In addition to the training, every evening we competed in a mini five day put on by the OK TYR. At the end of our stay Tom showed even more hospitality by inviting the Americans to his house to have a back yard barbecue with his family and a few Swedes such as Erik Nyström, the exchange student that was in the US for a year.
As the week ended, the majority of the Americans went off to compete in the University Championships or train for the World Championships while Andrew Childs and myself stayed behind and stayed with the Hollowells for two days before we headed off to the O-Ringen training camp with Tom's son Will. At the camp, Andrew and I shared floor space, which was an electricians' classroom, with two Canadians, and a Brit. Even though it was floor space I believe we got the best part of the deal. We took mattresses off of couches we found to sleep on, then because it was a classroom it was equipped with a projector, a computer, and most importantly, Internet. With this technology, one night we hosted a movie night for everyone that could fit in the room. Besides the benefits of taking floorspace, at the camp we did training twice per day. Most of it was basic running on a map and working on your own, but one day we did a little bit of corridor orienteering like we did in Karlstad. Then another day the camp leaders put together relay teams of two, and we all did a relay but instead of only doing one leg, we did both of the courses.
Just before O-Ringen, the entire camp headed up to Örebro to listen to a seminar given by World Champion, Daniel Hubmann. He mostly talked about how he physically and mentally trains, as well as how he prepares for each individual race. Following the seminar we all went to the O-Ringen center and got our lodging locations. The Americans had floor space in a gymnasium about 200 meters from the event center. Having floor space was definitely better than camping during the week; it rained every day but two, and the camping area quickly turned into a huge mud pit. It was great being able to come back from a morning of orienteering and having a nice warm shower waiting for you in the gym showers.
The week of O-Ringen was just an amazing experience over all. Just seeing so many orienteers congregated in one area was fulfilling. Then in the woods there were so many foot paths that you could not follow any because if you did you would quickly find your self heading in the wrong direction. Luckily on the rest day it was one of the two sunny, nice days. So some of Andrew's and my Swedish friends brought us to this quaint little town called Nora. This town is famous for it glass, or in English, ice cream. So of course we had some of this along with a dish of Greek food for lunch. While we were there we walked around the town and went swimming in the large lake bordering the side of the town. After this rest day, the rest of the week brought rain and more mud to orienteer in. What truly was a great experience quickly came to an end.
Just as fast as I arrived in the gymnasium a week earlier, I had to leave to stay in a hostel as the week ended. I now started my journey home, which was much easier than my journey there. After a night in the hostel, I took a bus from Örebro to Västerås. Then I took a plane from this minuscule airport, only 3 flights went out the entire day, to Sevilla, Spain. I made my way back to the central bus station and took a bus to Rota where I met my parents, ready to bring me home from my long journey. Since there were no flights heading back to the USA during that day we decided to spend our time at the ocean, but being so tired from travels, I ended up sleeping the entire time. When we got back we found out that were was a flight leaving very early the next morning. Once we landed in Delaware we began our long drive home and thus ending my journey.