However last weekend has changed that.
Last weekend I travelled to Kvarn to run Tiomila for my Oslo based club Lillomarka OL. My job was to run first leg in the first team and keep us in touch with the leaders. Not normally practising night orienteering, I had prepared well in Oslo the week before and was feeling pretty confident. Even last years faff with lights was forgotten; I managed to break two lights on first leg last year and only completed the course because Alex Rothman kindly gave me his spare lamp.
So onto the race. I had chatted a little with Mark Nixon on the warm up (running for Sodertalje 2) and his advice, "if you ever find yourself in the lead, ask yourself what you are doing" was ringing in my ears as we started. Heeding this advice I stuck next to Mark on the run out, knowing he would stick to a sensible pace and stop me from running off too fast at the start.
Looking at my map I saw that the first few controls were quite easy and I spent the time stuck in the group, within sight of the lead but making sure that I hit my control. This worked fine but as I exited the 6th control to begin the first long leg I found myself on my own. What was it Mark was saying? I calmly went about running my own route choice, thinking the pack would be just up ahead. For what seemed an age I was on my own, and it took 500m before I joined the pack again. My route had been quick and I was back in business at the front of the pack but I was telling myself not to risk trying that again.
After this scare I hit control 7 and 8 spot on in a big group of people. At this point things started to go wrong. Coming out of control 8 someone stood on the back of my shoe, causing it to half come off my foot. I stopped for a few seconds but I had tied my shoe so tight (to stop it coming off ironically) that I couldn't pull it back on. I knew that we were setting off onto a second long leg, followed by what was going to be the most technical part of the course. This was my mistake, I was so full of adrenaline that I thought the minute that I would spend untying and retying my shoe would leave me off the back and on my own for the most difficult part of the course. Exactly where I didn't want to be, so I stuffed my foot into my shoe and carried on running with the plan of stopping once past the hard part and sorting it out.
I ran for the next one and a half kilometers like this before I went knee deep into a marsh. That was the last I saw of my shoe, I had a quick look but there was no chance of finding it so I set off, cursing myself, with one shoe. I ran hard and for a while I kept up with the pack but after a while running with one shoe started to take its toll and I slowed.
The next 5-6km of the course passed very slowly and with what felt like a constant stream of people passing me but I made it in to the finish and to my surprise finished only 3.20 behind the leader. Luckily it seems like my foot, whilst in pretty bad shape at the time, hasn't sustained any lasting damage.
As for the team? We had some more problems in the night but managed to fight our way up through the ranks to finish 35th, three places higher than last year but with a feeling that it could have been better. Many congratulations to the Lillomarka girls who finished in 15th place, 23 places higher than last year.
So I will finish with some advice; If you are going to run Tiomila, try to keep both shoes on your feet.