Saturday, June 01, 2013

Nordic Tour - the Pablo Honey of the O Calender

The Nordic Orienteering Tour is about to start for the fourth and final time. Over the next eight days 130 of the worlds top elite orienteers will race five finals across Scandinavia and like a guilty pleasure I'm looking forward to taking part. 

I've raced one-and-a-half of these jaunts across the northern lands: the full tour in 2010 and the first two stages in 2011. And, like a guilty pleasure, I quite like them. 

I know they are wrong. They've sacrificed orienteering quality for the sake of media exposure. For many teams they are prohibitively expensive and previous editions, split by Jukola, have felt like a sideshow of the main event. They've trialled ill-thought out formats like ungaffled head-to-head sprints and middle-distance-in-the-forest-on-sprint-spec-mapas a qualifier for a sprint final and the best orienteer doesn't always win. And that they effectively killed off the Nordic Orienteering Championships, one of the most prestigious and competitive races on the calendar is unforgivable. 

Everyone has guilty pleasures. My favourite Radiohead album to listen to is debut Pablo Honey rather than the critically acclaimed later ones. I'll happily watch trashy comedies rather than classic "cinema" and I'll feel no guilt about sticking a ready made "Cook" range meal in the oven and enjoying it as if I'd prepared it all myself. That's how I feel about Nordic Tour too. Sure, there are tougher orienteering tests out there and competitions where you spend more time competing than you do queuing at airport security between races. Everyone knows the best orienteer wins Long at WOC not a head-to-head race round a suburb in Sweden. 

But it's fun! This is what being a top level sportsman is all about! Crazy mad adventures round the world, only knowing what country you're in by what day it is and what race you're running by which country you're in. Races with TV cameras and big cash prizes and spectators lining the run in. I know none of my colleagues back home will tune into the NRK or SVT coverage but the fact that I can send them a link to it validates what I do more than any story of adventures in the forest or medal or title I can bring into the office on a Monday morning. 

It's also great training. A month before WOC I can put all my training into practice with 3+ dry run sprint races to see where I'm at and also a couple of jaunts into the forest to see how my improved domestic results rank on the bigger stage. The most nervous I've ever been was before the sprint at NORT 2010: I'd made a lot of sacrifices to get to WOC for the first time that year with no guarantees I would be good enough when I got there. NORT gave me the chance to compare against the best so when I arrived at WOC I could relax and just focus on my own race. 

Later today this years NORT circus rolls into Grorud in Oslo. I'm only feeling a little 
guilty about looking forward to it. 

1 comment:

Eddie said...