To embrace the TrailO for the worst reasons was, perhaps, the case of Maria Krog Schulz. Portuguese Orienteering Blog's invited today, the Danish athlete tells us about her experiences, recalls the ingenious device of the umbrella in the TempO Final at the recent European TrailO Championships and explains why she is known as “Miss Alpha-Delta”.
Something easy to start. Would you tell me who is Maria Krog Schulz?
Maria Krog Schulz (M. K. S.) - First, something about myself. My age – never ask a woman about her age. Let’s just say I have a tendency of acting as if I were 20, look like 32 (some say) and have the wisdom of 41. I was born in Odense, the city of H.C. Andersen. Right now I live in Sorgenfri, north of Copenhagen, with my two daughters. During my time of education - Art school and design school - I lived in different places around Denmark. Now I work as a graphic designer at a company called LØBEREN. We have seven shops in Denmark that sell all kind of gear for running – shoes, clothing, etc. My job is to do the marketing for the company, like magazines, flyers, brochures, website ...
My career in orienteering and Trail-O started when I was 3 years old. My dad started with foot-O and the whole family had to go, too. I was 8 years old the first time I ran a course alone. So in weekends when my dad went running somewhere I went too. I was never a fast runner but I have always been told I was good at Orienteering. During my teenage years and my twenties it was more a social thing and having fun rather than trying to win medals. I liked foot-O. The father of my children came into my life in my early twenties. He also ran foot-O. Back in 2003, he had an accident and broke his neck. Result: he was paralysed and today he is sitting in a wheelchair. In 2008 we went to a Folk Highschool for people with disabilities. One day we were presented to Trail-O by Knud and Vibeke Vogelius. At the end of the day, they asked us if we would like to go to the Nordic Championships, in Norway, the same year. And this is how my Trail-O career started. Results in Trail-O? I’m working on it! But last year, at the 2nd day of WTOC 2013, I had a shared first place which I’m proud of. I also a bronze medal in the team competition at both ETOC 2012 and WTOC 2013.
You've been recently in Portugal, competing at ETOC. Was it, in the beginning of the season, a major goal to be in Palmela?
M. K. S. - Getting a ‘ticket’ for ETOC 2014 in Portugal wasn't that difficult in Denmark because we are not many that practice Trail-O here. So I think it was more a question of who wants to pay for a ticket. We get very little reimbursement for the expenses.
How did you prepare yourself for the European Championships?
M. K. S. - Preparing for the ETOC and WTOC for me is taking part in competitions in Sweden when I have the time. Last summer, I went through a divorce so my mind and thoughts have been somewhere else for a long time. I think the last six months have been characterized by moving to a new place and figuring out where my life is going. But, when I have the time, I go to Sweden and participate in competitions. I would say it is one weekend each month, from April to October.
To miss three control points led you to the 23rd position in ETOC's PreO. Was it the result that you expected?
M. K. S. - Getting the 23rd position in ETOC wasn't my best result – actually, my worst one at an ETOC. Everytime I would like to do better than the last time – getting a better position every year. In 2010 I was in the 11th position, in 2012, in the16th place and now I'm in the 23rd position. So, you could say that I am going in the wrong direction. For WTOC it looks a bit better: 2009 I was in the 47th place, in 2010 in the 28th position, in 2011 I was in place 19, in 2012 I was in position 23 and now, in 2013, I was in 18th position.
Many competitors had few mistakes at this year's ETOC. I think it’s because it was a very easy course. To me it wasn’t a difficult map- and terrain reading but it was more about drawing a line between two points in the terrain. And then there were some controls where I was thinking: ‘is it an Alfa or a Zero’. Was the flag standing in the right spot on the north side of the tree or should it have been moved several degrees. I know there are rules that describe what can be a zero or not. And rules saying a lot of other things about positions for the flags. I still see myself as a new competitor so I’m still learning something new in every competition. Because so many competitors had non or only few mistakes it was very difficult to get a good position in the team competition. I had one mistake on the 2nd day, but Søren and Vibeke had a few more. And I think that is about it – nothing more to say there…
And what about TempO?
M. K. S. - Temp-O? Oh my god! It's a thriller for me. People are still talking and laughing. Short story – In the qualification I was misunderstood at least two times. When I said “Alfa”, I was noticed “Delta”. The first time I noticed the mistake was when I left the station, so I couldn’t get my answer changed. I got so confused and lost my concentration. At the last station it happened again – I said “Alfa”, the controller repeated “Delta”. Then I said: “ - Not Delta, Alfa”, and he replied: “ - Oh sorry, Alfa then”. When I got to the finish line and saw the final result in my heat, I was placed in the 19th position, just one and a half second after the 18th placed. Meaning that I wasn't in the final. From my point of view, I wouldn't go to the final, because I was misunderstood and had to repeat myself, losing some time. So I was very angry and sad. Next day, I was told there had been a complaint on one control. In the new result board I was now in the 18th place and in the final. I had reached my goal. And my final result was 21st position. After this experience I was named “Miss Alfa Delta”.
Overall, how do you evaluate the ETOC? Can you point the best and the worst?
M. K. S. - The best: absolutely the umbrella thing at the Temp-O. Hilarious. But also genius. Some competitors have the ability to read the terrain in very few seconds and they can do that when they walk from the stop line to the chair. With the umbrella the terrain was hidden and I think it made the competition more equal for all.
The worst: I can’t really say one thing particularly. Personally for me it was my experience in the Temp-O qualification. But, overall, hmmm... I think Portugal is a “new” country in Trail-O and in arranging elite events. So, a lot of the staff and the people who were helping at the event were new on that field and had no experience. But, with that in mind, I still think that the Portuguese did a good job with the Trail-O. I have heard rumours about the foot-O and a lot of not so good incidents there. So, comparing to that, I think the Trail-O was settled better.
Is Trail-O on the right way?
M. K. S. - I think it is important for “new” countries, with less experience, to seek help from those who have the knowledge. Listen. Talk. Ask. If the countries talked to each other and exchanged experiences it would be nice. And maybe the picture in the future will be competitions with the same quality, no matter what country you're in.
Taking a look into the board medal, we can see Finland and Sweden leading the TrailO world scene at the moment. Is Denmark losing the “train”?
M. K. S. - Is Denmark losing the “train”? I think the question is if Denmark ever was on that train. It’s a small country and there are very few competitors in Trail-O. And with that in mind I think we are doing quite OK.
Are we going to see you competing in WTOC, in Italy? What are your main goals?
M. K. S. - This summer I will go to the WTOC again. My goal for this year is to reach a better position than last year, which was the 18th.