When I was on the Swiss o-week 2006 in Zermatt and running H16 cathegory I was saying to myself how cool would it be to run some longer course in those such an amazing terrains. This summer I finally got an opportunity to try it.

Swiss o-week 2014 in Zermatt was once again an unforgetable experience. Running in the altitude from 2000 to 3000 m asl is definitely not my daily routine. And when you add beautiful views (of course only if it’s not a fog or raining or even snowing at the time) with the spectacular Matterhorn above your head than it is completely gorgeous experience and for me perhaps best orienteering experience in my live.

Even though the weather wasn’t so good as we would expected on the base of experience from SOW 2006 still it worthed to be there. I ran Men elite where were, despite ongoing O-ringen in the same term, a lot of top orienteerins. Above all Daniel and Martin Hubmann, Baptiste Rollier, Francois Gonon, Oskar Sjöberg and many more. So I really didn’t know what to except from myself in that tough competition.

All it began with the Prolog race – sprint race in the Zermatt center, competition only for elite cathegories. I expected it could be quite good race for me but I was wrong. Start point was situated in the slope above the train station with a various rock and cliffs, after that we went directly to Zermatt narrow streets, stairways and bridges all overcrowded with hundreds of mostly japanese and chinese tourists. In spite of an effort of organisers to free the route for competitors it was still very dangerous to run zig zag between tourists and hope to not injure myself or anyone else. I ran quite good but in the second part of the race I couldn’t properly read a situation from the map and I was searching for a control down while it was in second floor of the building on some terasse. Final 63rd position was a little dissapointment for me but the interesting part of SOW was still about to start.

2nd etape – The breathtaking day – First stage up in the mountains with the competition center near the cableline station Schwarzsee. In the morning was a clear sky so I decided to go to the center earlier even though I started later in the afternoon. However it was a surprise when we got out of a cabine and a fog was everywhere around us and we couldn’t see literally anything. Since I had still more than 2 hours to my start I was hoping that the clouds would go away. And they did but just for a while and not completely and as a bonus the rain had started.

The first part of the race was in open mountain meadows with lot of ground stones and terrain details. Afterwards we went through a semi open steep slope with a stony ground and lot of streams to reach a bigger river bank with even more stones and mud. After few controls in that we had to climb back to the open areas which was literally breathtaking as the name of this stage told us. 2/3 of the race I ran very good and I was enjoying the terrain but after that climb I wasn’t able to think any more and I started to do small mistakes. I was 46th. MAP HERE

3rd stage – the heavenly day – This have should been 5th etappe but organisers were afraid of  bad weather conditions on Trockener Steg so we ran the third stage on Gornergrath. Competition center was at the train station Riffelberg and we ran on both sides of the railway in altitude around 2900 m asl in the beautiful open terrain with quite good runnability with lot of terrain details, stones, stony areas, cliffs and snow fields. And of course lot of hills as in every stage of SOW 2014.

I ran once again quite good without any map mistakes but I choosed at least two wrong route choices which caused that I was 42nd but I was satisfied with my race and it is always pleasure to run in such unusual terrain anyway. MAP HERE

4thstage – The heavenly day – after a free day we moved to the lower altitude just around 2500 m asl so it was for first time we entered real forest. This stage was very interesting for elite classes because we had it as a mass start loop race. And I can say it was most likely the most interesting and challenging mass start I have ever ran. It began with a start. After start shoot 180 men had to climb really steep hill full of stones and bushes. That already took us lot of strenghts because nobody wants to slow down when hundreds of spectators stand along and shouting loudly to you :). When we reached a start point we directly entered a slope and big stone field when it was really difficult to even walk let alone to run. Than we went down through and crossed the river and entered the forest. After some 3,5 km of running we were back in the competition center, punched a spectator control and ran again to the start point to the map exchange so we had to ran up the hill once again. Unfortunately I did a mistake in the second loop when I didn’t read the map correctly and I started to search for a control too early. I finished once again 42nd. MAPS: LOOP 1, LOOP 2.

Video from start:

5th stage – The icy day – The most challenging both physically and mentally and the toughest stage. Competition center was at the Trockener steg cableway station in approximately 2900 m asl just under the glacier next to the matterhorn eastern wall. There were two different terrains. Just after the start we ran through the extremly difficult rocky area full of bare rocks, stones of all sizes ravines and lot of cliffs from normal ones you can jump from to those which are tens of meters high and you must be extremly carefull to not fall down. And inside this “hell” were this year numbers of snow fields consisted from the very wet snow where was very difficult to run and after few runners who went though it was changing into the deep mud at the edges. So the perfect terrain to run orienteering :). After crossing the cable car lines the terrain became more “runner friendly”. There were still cliffs and stones and terrain details but on the ground was rather than bare rock stony field and sometimes a grass and a mud.

I ran good. In the beginning I even caught some runners who started before me but they were able to ran extremly fast in such a terrain so they fled me again. In the second part I did some mistakes mostly because I just couldn’t concentrate properly on the map due to the lack of oxygen. Iwas 46th in this stage but the experience to run in it will remain for the entire life. MAP HERE

6th stage – the delightful day – It wasn’t  really delightful :). Competition center was near the Sunnegga funicular station in around 2400 m asl.  To start we rode by a cableway and the beginning of the race was downhill through the steep slope full of big stones and cliffs where was nearly impossible to run as it was really steep. Than we entered a pine mountain forest witch was full of grass and stones and there were few legs in traverse in even steeper slope than at the beginning. In the end we had to just climb up back to Sunnegga and that was it. Technically it was in my opinion the most difficult race from all 6 and the weather didn’t make it better for it was a dense fog and it was raining so everything was so wet that even shoes with stub spikes weren’t garanty to not slide down from the slope. MAP HERE

It sounds strange but it was my best race on SOW according to the position because I was 28th. And my overall position was 38th what is considered for a good result in my eyes. I have enjoyed Swiss o-week a lot and I hope than some time in the future I will have a possibility to go back and compete in mountains around Zermatt. And I also reccommend it to every single orienteer who likes challenges and adrenaline.

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Swiss o-week 2014