Friday, August 30, 2013

Relay Day, Susan's Birthday & Joe Brings Home the Silver!

Relay Day started out pretty sweet. The race took place in Rakvere so we only had to ride a few blocks to the start line rather than load the bikes in our vans and make a trek. It was also Susan's birthday so we began the day by giving her a mostly unintelligible Estonian birthday card (which turned out to have the word 'map' in it after Tom broke out Google Translate), and a chocolate cupcake from a local bakery with a large '0' candle in it. The '0' obviously stood for Orienteering.

Adding to an already special day, the race announcer wished her a Happy Birthday AND she was interviewed by an Estonian news crew after our relay. The interviewer was excited to congratulate her about her birthday, as well as inquire about the race, MTBO, and how she liked Estonia. Happy Birthday, Susan!

The MTBO Relay began with a mass start in which the rider of the first leg sprinted to their bike while simultaneously reading their map and planning their first route. Sue and Tom both took on the role of riding in the first slots and did a great job handling the pressure.

Each leg of the relay included two maps: a larger one with a smaller one stapled to the back. Once you reached the "spectator control," the larger map was torn off and dropped on the ground nearby for an official to pick up, and then you were off again with the smaller map. Seeing your teammate at the spectator control usually meant they would be coming through the finish area to tag your hand in about 10-12 minutes. After the shift change, the next leg of the relay rode through the parking lot to pick their two maps up where they were attached to a board and numbered for your team.

The shorter leg with the smaller map zipped around Rakvere Castle, a structure dating back to the 5th century, as well as near the famous Tarvas statue of an aurochs that's said to be the largest animal statue in the Baltic countries. It made for pretty fantastic views and terrain.

Susan, Sue, and I went back afterwards to snap a few photos and cheer on David as he was hammering through. 

The relay course went through an amazing amount of suburban forests around Rakvere with a pretty intricate and often rooty trail system. Steeper descents were an added bonus, too. You had to pay close attention as some of the major streets and residential areas were forbidden, leaving only a few options for crossing major roads or picking routes. A wrong turn down one of the roads could easily be a disqualification for your team.

Here's a slightly poor photo of the first map of the women's second leg. There should be a better version of all the maps available online sometime soon.

It was another strong day for the US in that we didn't have any mispunches or disqualifications. Fletcher had his best race yet and Dash was pumped about crushing it on his second map. As always, we left the race with an incredible amount of respect for the abilities of the athletes who are seemingly experts in this sport, and with inquiries on how we can create opportunities for more MTBO events of similar quality in the US.

To add even more good news to the day, our alternate rider and orienteering guru, Joe, raced his age group in the Open Category Sprint and took home the silver and second place! We would have missed his chance to stand on the podium had we not already been out eating dinner for Susan's birthday at the same location as the awards ceremonies. His successes earned him a mixed bag of beverages, including one of the local energy drinks, Jungled Battery. Great job, Joe!

Tomorrow will be our last race, the Long Course. After the men race 46k and the women 35k, we'll need to truck back to Rakvere, start packing up our bikes and gear, and also hustle to the final banquet and disco. It's going to be a busy day but we're looking forward to it. There may even be costumes involved.

We've been super lucky to have Dash's wife, Diane, along for the trip with some photography experience and a nice camera. She's been our team photographer at every event and captured a lot of the sweet shots we've been able to post. I'll end today's write-up with a pic she snapped this morning before the relay that we hope to send to our sponsors as a thank you. This is right in the middle of Rakvere's downtown area, just a few blocks from the Event Center, our hotel, and today's race start/finish area.


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