The World Championships are approaching and the best orienteers in the world are looking forward to being in Strömstad in August. Having ‘home advantage’ as an extra factor this year, Helena Jansson is no exception. The Portuguese Orienteering Blog has been talking to her and is ready to share some interesting ideas.
How was last year like for you?
Helena Jansson (H. J.) – Last year was a new chapter in my life! I finished my studies to become a doctor, I moved to Stockholm and I started running for my current club OK Ravinen. For me it was a year of getting settled, and it felt like all the important little bits of the jigsaw puzzle that is my life finally began to settle. When it comes to orienteering, it was yet another year for me fighting to get back to being able to run pain-free and for a longer time. At the beginning of the year I had a blank calendar, and me ending up running another WOC was a true bonus.
Have you got your season already mapped out, now that we're facing another year?
H. J. – Yes, I have a plan! For the first time in a long time I am planning far ahead again. This is possible now since my feet are a bit more cooperative and reliable, and it feels great. My preparations are going well, something I haven't said in many years. I train according to plan, I rest according to plan, and I try to focus on being happy and content with everyday life (which at the moment is easy). I want to be confident that my plan and my ways of training and preparing are good, something that I struggle with quite a bit. My strategy at the moment is to just continue to be clever and listen to my body in order to stay healthy and injure-free, and if I manage that I will be happy.
You've been to Poland last weekend and the results were great.
H. J. - It was wonderful to race in the World Cup again, and great to be together with the Swedish national team again. My race in the Middle Distance was not a clean one, but the terrain was quite difficult, and it seems like we all made some mistakes. To be able to take a victory was wonderful, not something I really expected with a race like that, but nevertheless great! Also, to have such a tight fight with Tove was really cool, maybe next time we can share the victory instead.
And a tight fight also in the Sprint Relay, I believe.
H. J. - The sprint relay was the toughest race mentally for me. To compete with a team is the best, but I have not run almost any sprints during the winter, and I was uncertain both with my speed and my technical skills before the race. My teammates did an amazing job before me, and then I just tried to stay cool and not get too eager in the beginning of the race. I was a bit slow in the head and had to just take one control at a time the whole race in order to keep up technically, but altogether the race was just as good as it could have been that day for me.
Why did you skip the Sprint?
H. J. - I didn’t run the sprint since four races in three days would have been too much for my feet and my body. I still cant run an unlimited amount, and health must always come first! Now I'm looking forward the EOC, then back to Sweden for a bit of rest, and finally I will focus on getting a couple of months of proper training before WOC in Strömstad.
Could you tell us something about your daily training. Is there any type of training that you don't like doing?
H. J. - Well, I have developed a skill of not finding training boring or not as fun, whatever kind of training. Most days I love training, no matter what. Just a bit of my training is running or orienteering, and I am extremely good at training things that others may label as boring. Much of my time I spend in the pool, on the bike or in the ski tracks. 2014 I ran a little over 100h in total, 2015 around 160h, and right now I run 4-5 sessions each week. I try to convince myself that if I do all I can every day, even though it may not be several hours of orienteering, it will still mean that I get stronger and better as an orienteer. I know from experience that it is not necessarily a bad thing not to run 12 sessions per week, but it remains a fact that I love orienteering more than aqua jogging, and I continue to strive towards trying to run a little bit more every month.
Do you work your mental approach?
H. J. - Yes, every day! Being injured for several seasons, going through multiple operations and being knocked over again and again when you are trying to get back on track, requires a major development of your mental skills. For me it is true that if you overcome an obstacle you end up stronger and with more insight once on the other side, and I try to remember that during all my hours in the swimming pool. However, I have had many days during recent years where I have just felt like giving up, thought to myself that I don’t want to get any wiser or stronger, all I want is to have fun and run orienteering! It always ends up in the same way; me being angry and sad for a short while, and then remembering what it is I am fighting for (that feeling of flow when you are in control of your orienteering!), and I simply choose to keep trying.
Apart from the mental challenges of fighting injuries, I work on my mental skills when it comes to performing in races in a very structured and scientifically approved way, and I hope it will pay off. I get really nervous and tense when I race, and I am working on having a slightly more relaxed and constructive approach to competing.
What's your strength as orienteer?
H. J. - My never-ending enthusiasm and love for this sport! It keeps me going, and it keeps me trying to develop things in my orienteering. Most of the time I am good at concentrating when I know I have to, and I usually make very few mistakes (and if I make them they are usually small). When I am in shape I am good at balancing precision and speed.
How do you feel about being currently fourth placed in the IOF World Ranking?
H. J. - I rarely think or reflect about world ranking (actually never), but since it is the foundation on which the startlists for WOC are made, it is a good thing to be up there in the top.
What are your upcoming goals?
H. J. - Keeping healthy and injure-free. Continue to run a bit more of orienteering, hopefully being able to run a bit of sprint-orienteering again. I long for the World Champs in August when it comes to the orienteering, and other than that I wish to continue to just appreciate and enjoy life.
Let's talk in particular about the one that you “would love to be able to run”. How anxious are you about the WOC in your home country?
H. J. – Right now I guess all I do when it comes to orienteering is actually related to WOC. I think about it in the pool, I dream about it at night. Technically I think the orienteering suits me. Physically it will be tough, and I love tough terrain (at least before and after races; during them I sometimes hate it being tough!). I am both excited and anxious, I am both longing for it to happen and at the same time it seems like August is approaching too fast!
Focusing on that start line, what should be your bets? Middle, Long, Relay? Why?
H. J. - I absolutely love relays, and if I could choose just one race at WOC it is always the forest relay. Always! Competing with a team is the best thing. I also have a feeling that the Long Distance will be something special, and I remember standing at the finish at last summer’s WOC Long Distance longing to be running myself.
Who will be your main rivals?
H. J. - Oh, there are so many good girls! Having a World Champs on home ground the spirit and aim of all the Swedish girls are up in the stars (where they belong!), and being part of it is amazing and also nerve wrecking. There will be a tight fight for the spots in the WOC-team, and I am focusing on just doing the right thing every day to try to be one of the lucky few.
Have you got any tips to those who are starting now in Orienteering, the youngsters?
H. J. - Be curious, and try to always find the positive things about yourself and your orienteering. It is so easy to focus on what mistakes you make and what you need to improve, but sometimes you have to just stop and try to remember what actually works and what your strengths are! Orienteering is a wonderful sport, so enjoy yourself!
I would ask you a wish to all orienteers in the beginning of the season.
H. J. - I wish every single orienteer at least one race of just feeling awesome, strong and happy while running in the forest!