Finding my feet

I haven’t done so much orienteering in the last year, so I’ve been aware of the need for a technical focus if I want to achieve my goals this year. I feel like orienteering training works best in focused blocks and so I’ve planned one in the run up to European Champs and one in the run up to World Champs. I don’t want to use up all my holiday time going on training camps in February when World Champs is in August. I know that this approach leaves me slightly behind the curve in the early season but that is something I’ll just have to deal with.

To try to get something in before the start of the domestic season, my first orienteering block started two weeks ago with a weekend training camp in Stockholm. This weekend was geared around the terrain for Tiomila 2018 and organised by my Norwegian club Lillomarka. The first steps in the forest felt like I was re-learning how to orienteer but thankfully this feeling faded fairly quickly. Over the weekend I ran six orienteering courses, totalling 50km of orienteering (see in my Training log for the weekend).

Snowy fun

The terrain was very interesting but covered in snow. This was probably a blessing in disguise, slowing your progress and ensuring that the navigation was at more comfortable pace. I ran two harder sessions, a night mass start relay training (GPS/Results) and an interval start long distance (GPS/Results), and came away from the weekend with more confidence in my ability. Not having orienteered for a long time, I had feared the worst. Thankfully, I found my orienteering skills were still there, if a bit rusty.

Last weekend I stayed much closer to home and competed at the Scottish Spring races in the Scottish central belt. This was a chance to practice my orienteering at a faster speed before next weekends JK orienteering festival. I wanted to find the right balance between safety and speed for my current skill level. I competed in the Middle (Results/Route), Sprint (Results/Route) and Long (Results/Route) and had a very tired attempt at night orienteering also (Training log for the weekend).

The weekend was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the navigation but I’m satisfied with where I am before next weekend. I’ve tried to focus on the basics in my navigation, on the good habits which should provide the base to work off in the next few months.

Scottish Spring Middle – Photo by Crawford Lindsay
Next weekend I will be competing at the JK orienteering festival. There are four races over four days (Sprint, Middle, Long and Relay – in that order) and these races are the last opportunity for people to secure a place on the GB team at the European Championships. I am sure that the competition will be fierce. My selection to the team for the sprint distance is already confirmed, but I’d like to start the season on the right foot and make the most of the opportunity to put my orienteering skills under some more pressure. I’m excited to see where everyone is at after the winter.
For those that are interested, a new website has been set up to follow GB elite orienteering. Here you will find updates from the GB orienteering team (including myself) over the course of the season. Hopefully, it will make elite orienteering a little bit easier to follow! Check it out if you are interested.

Stepping out of winter

It took me a while to find but, in the past couple of months, I finally found that familiar winter training groove. The early cross-country season was somewhat of a disappointment with little nagging injuries. It took time to get on top of the niggles but, once I gained some consistency in my training, my form started to improve and the results started to come. Confidence can be as important as fitness and that started to return as well.

To give myself something to aim for in January and February, I decided to target the (Scottish) national cross-country, and The Big Half. These races would be on consecutive weekends but would each have a different focus. The National would be about racing, whereas The Big Half would be about trying to run a fast time. These races would give me a good check on where I was at the end of winter.

How did things go? Things started very well. I won the national cross-country. I wrote a brief description of how the race unfolded in my training diary, so I won’t repeat that here. However, I will say that looking through the names on the trophy afterwards, I am certainly very happy to have been able add my name to that list.

Scottish Cross-Country Champion –

The next week didn’t go quite so well. It started snowing on the Tuesday before The Big Half, and it carried on snowing for the next four days. As most people know, Britain doesn’t deal very well with snow. Whilst conditions in London were fine, trains between Scotland and London were cancelled. The alternatives would cost more in time, money or stress than I was happy to commit. I found myself stuck in Scotland and unable to race.

Running in the snow in Dundee

On past attempts over the half marathon, I didn’t ever feel like I had run to my potential. I had run OK on the whole, but it is a difficult distance to master. The pace seems easy to start but, over the course of 13.1 miles, it just gets harder and harder. I have felt like I have cracked and slowed down at some point in every half marathon I have done. I wanted an opportunity to change this trend and my performance at the National XC gave me the belief that I had the shape to give it a good go. Unfortunately The Big Half, with its flat course and stacked field, was going to be my opportunity, and my opportunity had gone.

Given the disappointment of not making it to The Big Half, I was happy to get a second chance with a late entry to the Inverness Half Marathon one week later. It wouldn’t have the same depth but it would have a relatively flat course and good competition in the form of Robbie Simpson – due to race the marathon at the commonwealth games next month. Again, I’ve written about the race in my training diary, the headline of the race being that I was soundly beaten by Robbie but managed to sneak under my 65 minute goal. I cracked like every other attempt at the distance, but this time I managed to hold the pace until much closer to the end and achieved my goal.

The last few weeks have been good. I achieved the goals I set of myself, I feel good and I’m enjoying my running. My focus will now shift to orienteering, as I look to build towards the European Championships in Switzerland at the start of May. I’m confident in my fitness, but I have a lot of work to do on the navigation. I haven’t done so much orienteering in the past year, so I need to put in a good amount of work with a map before I can expect to be competitive. I’m excited about this and keen to get back out there with a map in my hands.