So, 8 weeks out from the European Championships, I was unable to run. This seemed like a big deal. I never cross train and so I didn’t know where to start. I refused point blank to do any aqua jogging, given that I can’t think of anything more depressing than pretending to run while looking at the inside of a pool. So I joined a gym and as soon as I was able I hobbled down and sat on a spinning bike. Thus began a slow and tedious build up, until I was able to basically replace all the running I would have been doing with cross training. I even began to enjoy some of it.
I tried to use the time well; do some hard cross training sessions, get some good volume done and build back in some strength and conditioning. I also started to eat a bit better (mainly by skipping on afternoon biscuits in work). In truth however, I was itching to get back running. When I was able, I started back very slowly with 30 second jogs and lots of walking in between but this didn’t last long. I ramped up the volume as quickly as I dared and was probably a bit lucky to get away with doing so much, so soon.
Part of my rush was the hope that I might still run Tiomila, two weeks before EOC. It’s one of my favourite races and I wanted do my bit for the team. I thought I’d made it, but I went out into the forest the morning of the race and it wasn’t good. I felt the ankle hurt a few times and whilst it was probably just in my head it spooked me and I pulled out. This was a bit of a blow as in my head I’d bottled it. The team performed well, but I felt like I’d let the side down.
Luckily the first races at the Europeans were the sprint races. I had three more weeks until the relay, which would be my first race back in the forest.
The sprint relay was up first. Charlotte, Peter, Me, Jo would be the line up. It would be the first time we’d run as a team but I felt comfortable and confident in my teammates. It actually felt to me a bit more like an established team, probably helped by Peter’s presence (I’ve run with him a lot over the years, lucky me).
We all ran OK, some small mistakes but nothing too extreme and we came 7th. My run followed that overall theme; I spent most of it chasing Soren Bobach after an early miss. I felt OK physically but not on top form. It felt like a ‘well that was OK, but we could definitely do a bit better’ sort of result.
Next day was the sprint. Qualifier in the morning and final in the evening. I felt a bit tired from the sprint relay but better than I had previously feared. I’ve never felt my most comfortable running two sprint’s in one day and the combination of injury and the sprint relay the day before was playing on my mind. An uneventful run saw me through to the final in 4th place.
The final was a different ball game up in the hillside resort. My physical shape playing on my mind and I prepared myself to give it everything. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the best mindset, I went off hard and despite feeling awful, I ran well through the first section. From that point I started to make mistakes. A bad route first but then my navigation started to get ragged and I started to ship time. I pulled it together through the last section but I was disappointed to be so far behind in 15th.
Looking back, I was too focused on my physical shape going in. It is difficult to race when you are not confident in your preparation and I was second guessing myself at every turn. I don’t think I was anywhere near as unfit as I felt or thought I was.
This carried through to the relay, where I had an OK but frustrating run on first leg. My ankle was fine (supported by nearly a whole roll of tape) but I was dropped by the group after a small mistake and a longer forking. From that point I was pretty negative and lucky that the group missed later on so that I could catch them back up. I finished in the group (4 runners had broken away from the main pack) and was satisfied that I hadn’t completely blown it.
I knew I had work to do. I’d done my best to get myself back as quickly as I could but the margins at this level are so fine that you need to be on top of your game. I didn’t feel like this was the case and I wanted to put this right next time out.