It seems to have been a year both full of changes and yet the same as always.
This year I started a PhD in sports biomechanics and moved to Dundee. The title of my PhD is ‘Movement and shot outcome variability in the golf swing’. In answer to the question that everyone asks, no I’ve never played golf. What drew me to the PhD was the topic of movement variability, an area of biomechanics I find compelling. I might write about it here one day but I do that enough in my day job..
Day to day I work in the offices of The R&A in St Andrews, which even for someone unversed in golf history is a pretty cool place to work. The reason this is relevant is that I now have a place to be between the hours of 9-5 and a commute. I get the bus from Dundee to St Andrews every day after leaving the house at 8. The earliest I get home from work is just before 6, but only if I don’t do any training before commuting home.
Most will just call this real life (boo-hoo for me) but coming from student flexibilty the first weeks were a bit of a shock. I soon realised that in order to get my training in consistently, I couldn’t go home beforehand. So I started a routine that saw me get off the bus part way home and run the rest. When I did this I was guaranteed around 10 miles a day. It sounds lazy but if I got home I’d never get out again. Last year I mostly preferred to run twice in a day if I had the option – it’s easier to get the miles in and if you want you don’t have to run for much more than an hour at a time. As a student I could even do this without getting up early. If I didn’t have the commute I might have managed it, but as it stands staying in bed is almost always the most compelling option.
So, and this is probably clear to anyone who follows my training log, the defining feature of my training this year has been my commute. Most week days this means around 90 minutes (18-19km) of perfectly flat running along the same route. I love training routine, so this doesn’t bother me – I like the consistency. I have lots of small options for varying it and adding distance and, if I want to run less, I can run 45 minutes before getting the bus home. The one day that this is not the case is Tuesday. Tuesday is track day.
I used to train on the track when I was at school and I got back into it last year at Loughborough. You can’t hide on the track. If you have an off day it is plain to see in the lap times. During the winter I made it to track training with Dundee Hawkhill Harriers about every other week. Around February time I pulled my finger out and was there most weeks – I think this is key.
That is the background to my year. I didn’t do a huge amount more running than the year before but, by the end of March, this routine had made me pretty fit. Apart from a couple of weeks in December, I had the most consistent winter ever. I made a small step up in volume from previous years, but racing, hills, s&c and orienteering had been in short supply. I still wasn’t doing a crazy amount of training (up to about 10 hours of running a week maximum) but I think this consistent running training is the main reason my fitness has pretty good all year.
To make sure I was ready for the season I binged on orienteering at the beginning March, going to Portugal with Lillomarka and training in the UK with the British team. I’m still not sure whether this is a good approach and I’m certainly jealous of those who can train orienteering all year around. In Britain, I’m not sure that is possible as it gets difficult to find good training areas (maybe it’s possible to train year round for sprint in some places).
So whilst I was happy with my technique, I knew that I had only put in a few weeks of effort to try to sharpen up my technique. I didn’t expect to suddenly be on another level, I didn’t do the training for that. This meant I was a bit nervous going into the first races of the year which actually mattered – The JK. I was happy that I managed to make a flying start and 1st in the JK sprint and 3rd in the JK middle pretty much guaranteed that I’d be going to the World Championships again.
After all my long runs, I also had something to prove going into the JK long. It would have been nice to make it to any of the controls that day but before the first control I sprained my ankle. As an orienteer I thought I had sprained my ankle before but nothing I previously experienced came close to this. I was walking with crutches for a week and the European Championships (8 weeks in the future) were suddenly in doubt. This injury defined the next part of the year for me.