IFSS World Championships 2019

The IFSS dryland World Championships in 2019 were held in Nybro, a small city in Sweden. Originally it was supposed to be in Latvia, and once was it was taken away from them I got a bit unsure where I’d like to go. For a while I was leaning towards the ICF European Championships in Belgium, but after a bit (loads!) of thinking I have decided to go for the new location in Sweden instead. It was not an easy decision to make, because I felt like the competition will be stronger in Belgium, but at the same time the chances of warm temperature were way higher, and Anti does not take that so well. Once Tessa also told me, that it will be a mud-fest I have decided to play it safe at my first ever big event as a competitor (I was team leader for Hungary at the IFSS WCh in Poland), and go for Sweden. Since the Europan Championships were held there last year I knew excatly what to expect.

I started to train for this race in February, when after feeling tired of not doing any proper training I’ve contacted Ben Robinson, if he has a spot for me in his training team. Luckily he had, so I could start running under the supervision of the World and European Champion canicrosser. It was not easy in the beginning, since Norway is covered in snow until April, so in the beginning I was just running up and down a road at our small village. It was also cold and dark most of the time and it took some time for me to get into the routine of training 5 times a week.

By now it’s way easier, especially since Mikal also got motivated and started joining me on my trainings. He was not always doing the same things, he usually ran different intervals for example, but it was still nice to have him with me on the track, and the long easy runs meant some really nice quality time together.

By the time of the big event I have ran faster than I have ever done before, lost around 5 kilos (while still killing a jar of Nutella occasionally) and had the best partner I could’ve wished for, Anti, Mikal’s 7-year old greyster (GSP mix, how he likes to call him). Of course I was super nervous, but for the first time ever I also knew, that I am ready for this, I have trained for this, I just have to do what I can.

We started our trip on Tuesday, since Nybro is only 9 hours away from us. Mikal and Jeanette from Non-stop dogwear were my companions, and luckily they took the turns for driving (I really don’t like to drive even though I have the license). We’ve arrived to the venue around 17:30 I think, and we tried to quickly check the trail, but failed badly. It got dark and apparently the headlamp I had with me was dead, but at least we had a nice jog in the dark forest…

Afterwards I could also quickly do the vet check with Anti, which meant that we could sleep a bit longer the day after, since we did not have so much to do.

On Wednesday I had my first official task as a team leader, they took us to check the trails. Before that we also quickly jogged the canicross one with Tessa and Mikal, that luckily at the TL meeting we went with small trailers pulled by quads, so I did not have to put so many kilometers in my legs.

Afterwards there was another meeting, where we got the bib-numbers and some information about the starts the day after. The Hungarian team consisted of 3 people only, Eszter who was racing in bike and scooter and her partner, Krisztián who was competing in 2-dog scooter during the weekend and myself. For me it was quite fortunate, since I just had to go over to their stake-out spot after the meetings and did not have to hunt down a whole team of athletes. It was still a very tiring job, that I would gladly skip next time… Probably will not be able, but we will see.

But back to the event! Wednesday night we had the official opening ceremony, where we showed off our team-outfit. It was designed by my father and I, so it is very close to my heart and I find it beautiful. It’s was crazy to finally be able to wear after so much planning and struggling!

We did not wait until the end of the ceremony, I did not want to be rude towards the organizing country, but I haven’t been back to the accommodation since the morning, I did not have a decent meal, and since I was competing the day after I had to prioritize taking care of myself…

Thursday, race day! I couldn’t believe it has finally arrived. Spent so much time preparing for it, still, it felt like it arrived so quickly. I was surprisingly not so nervous, I was expecting myself to feel way worse. I am usually stressing a lot, so I thought I will go totally nuts before the WCh, but I could eat and drink and feel okay, so I was quite satisfied with myself.

I managed to get to the stake-out in time to watch Eszter’s start with Proton in scooter (she did the bike earlier), and then time just flew and it was already time to start my warm up routine. I have been practising it at home, so I know what to do under pressure too.

Mikal was also racing in canicross, but luckily his start was way earlier than mine, so he was back in time to help me a bit. It was so good to have him, because nerves started to kick in, and I was crying, stressing and started to feel a bit bad. It was also not helping, that the temperature and the humidity were both very high and I knew, that Anti can struggle with that.

Mikal accompanied me to the start, even though earlier we were planning to not have him around because of Anti, but he did not really care about anything, but to run. He was so eager, that I had a hard time holding him back. But then it was finally time “to release the beast” and he stormed off.

I have never done a race with Anti before, only trainings, so I was a bit shocked by his power. He always gave a 100%, but now suddenly it was 200% and I could not concentrate on anything but not to fall in front of the people. Luckily the trail started with an uphill, but then there were some very steep downhills later on, but I am quite confident when it comes to running down, so we’ve managed well.

I think until around 3 km Anti was just dragging me along like a bag of potato, but then suddenly something has changed and he started trotting. This part of the trail was almost excatly next to our car, so first I thought that was the reason he fell a bit apart, but then I realized he was “just” probably warm. He still looked okay, coordinated movement, he looked sharp when it came to reacting to my commands, so I encouraged him and he started pulling again, but not really with the same power. Unfortunately the last big uphill was also during this part of the trail, so I thought I will die, and since he completely destroyed my legs in the first part I couldn’t help him as much as I wanted.

After a long downhill run came the last uphill part leading to the finish, which seemed like an eternity, and looking back at the videos taken from there… I looked like s**t. But we’ve managed and finished our first CH run! Anti was super warm, so Mikal took him quickly to walk and cool down, while I was still dying at the finish. Once I could stand up I joined them at the car.

I had mixed feelings then, to be honest. When I looked at my watch it showed a pace of 3:48 and I was bummed. I was planning to run around 3:15-3:20, and I felt fast out on the trail, still slow. But then once I looked at my finish time it did not really add up… So taking a second look at my watch it turned out, that the GPS could not follow and only recorded 4 km, which of course changed my pace. So once calculating with the real length it turned out I did manage the 3:20 pace! Splendid! We were on 13th place, which was also a bit of disappointment, because when I was checking the results from last year I was expecting myself to finish in the top 10 (9th-10th to be exact), especially since the gold and silver medalist from 2018 was not here. But competition got stronger apparently, so we needed to push a bit more for the top 10, but having to work harder makes us only stronger and the results more worthy, so I was more inspired than sad especially once I saw, that I could’ve managed the top 10 in last year’s competition, so I have reached my goal after all. Anti is a superman!

I felt overwhelmed as well. I felt like my head is exploding from all the things I have learnt during this 4,5 km. I realized how much I have underestimated the trail with the steep up and downhills and sharp turns, it does slow you down a bit. How much stupid expectations I had, instead of just running. And how much the temperature can affect us. But overall, I felt like I did what I came for. Sadly, I had one more day, so nothing was over yet, which could have been taken as a chance to improve, but I was somehow not in for it and had a wrong mentality.

I barely had time to grab a bite, change and I already had to go back for the team leader meeting. Luckily it was a short one and I could chill in the evening.

Friday was everything I was expecting beforehand, but worse. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything, I did not want to get out of bed, I did not want to run, I wanted to go home. This day the starts were every 30 seconds in canicross, which meant, that Mikal could also not be there to help out before my start. As team leader we’ve asked for shorter trail, since there was also a dog the day before that was overheated and needed vet assistance, but rules are made for a reason, so it was denied.

Time was not flying this day, my warm up was a struggle, I felt like every muscle in my body was in pain, and I still just wanted to go home. While walking towards the start I felt like passing out, and once we could start I felt like puking. The first 800 meters I could only think about not throwing up, then I got into a better rythm and just ran. In the end, almost at the very same place Anti fell apart again, but we have managed to finish again, looking a bit better than the day before, but I knew it was because I did not push hard enough. Anti was ever warmer than the day before, Mikal immediately took him away while I stayed a bit to see the results. We ran 40 seconds slower and fell back to 16th place. It was a bummer, but not unexpected. I was not physically ready to run Anti two days in a row and mentally I have to improve A LOT! Still, I was really satisfied when I looked at the photos. My movement was coordinated, I didn’t look like Anti was pulling me apart, and that is something I am very proud of.

For us the World Championships were over, and I kinda got what I came for: experience and knowledge. I also got two black toenails that will probably loose in a few months, but that’s just a souvenir from the race. I did have a very empty feeling, I was looking forward to this day for months, and suddenly it was over, but I knew that this is something I want to continue and I am already super stoked about next year’s ECh. I want to make the top 10, which I feel is a reasonable goal, of course many things have to align in order for it to happen, but I just gotta go for it!

Friday evening there was the medal ceremony for the classes of Thursday-Friday (1-dog categories), and while watching all these athletes standing their with their medals I have decided that one day I will also get myself one. I mean I am 22, I think I was one the youngest athletes in my class if not the youngest, I have sooo much time to work for it. So as you can see, another thing I got in Sweden was motivation. Loads of it!

The rest of the weekend I was free, I talked with friends, took a trip to the sauna that was at the stake-out, attended team leader meetings and helped (when I was not late…) Krisztián and Eszter in the 2-dog scooter category. They both did amazing, Eszter was 35th in bikejöring with a not so eager GSP boy and 8th in scooter with Proton! Krisztián finished on 16th place. It’s funny how amazingly cool I have found him finishing there in such a strong competition while I was like meeeh, when it came to my 16th place… I have to also learn how to be proud of my achievements.

On Sunday I also had to help out Mikal with the relay. I warmed up Anti for him and then helped him at the canicross mass start. It was not the best designed one in my opinion, it got narrow really fast, it was super scary and stressful to watch. Luckily Mikal and Anti managed well, and they have came in as 5th I think. Mikal had to go and change for the bikejöring and scooter participant of the relay too, so I just took Anti and watched the rest of the relay on my phone, Lena was live streaming it. André and Viktor did an amazing job and they picked up a few place and ended with a bronze medal! I was super jealous to be honest, and I feel terrible about it, for not being heads over tails about it, but I felt like he is getting it so easily, he was not even planning to come to Sweden and race, he was only there because I wanted to go, and I felt like he is stealing the show. But I guess I just have to train until he cannot do that anymore, because I will do better than him 😛

Once the medal ceremony was over for the weekend classes too we started our journey back home. We took some detours to eat, shop and sleep, but Monday evening we were back home and back to reality.

It was a very educational event for me, learnt a lot, saw a lot, other dogs, other athletes, etc. etc. I am super grateful for having Mikal and Tessa around me to share their tips and tricks, and for supporting me with their dogs on this journey (I ran Tessa’s Lychee at the Norwegian Championship). Also huge shout-out to Jeanette for dealing with 3 racing people with schedules, routines, mood swings, bad stomach and different needs.

It’s weird that it’s over for now and even though I am stoked about next season I still have to find my motivation for running in the snow in cold and dark. Working on it!

Onto to the next on!

Photos by Krisztián Laczkó (Run4Fun) and Jeanette Sandbæk Håland

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