So I was disappointed with the European Championships. I felt out of shape, but in reality I had dealt with my injury quite well. A week after EOC I clocked 8.32 over 3km. OK, that’s no where near as bas as I thought, I can work with that. I had two months to get some good feeling back before my next big race, World Universities, and then another month before the big one, the World Championships.
My approach to this was to go back to the training that had worked for me over winter. Lots of steady running, a track session on a Tuesday and one or two other hard sessions or orienteering per week. I also tried to do some back to back sessions to make sure I was ready for the demands of championship weeks, where races come thick and fast.
It was some of these back to back sessions that gave me my best feedback. I won the both the British Sprint and Middle distance championships on the same weekend. Then I ran a 24.27 5 mile race, the day after an 800m reps session in the track. The form was starting to take shape and the confidence was starting to build.
About a month out from the World Universities Championships Me, Graham and Fanni put on an open sprint orienteering training camp in the Stirling area – Sprint Scotland. The idea was to host two days of quality training, some talks and some racing; with the hope of attracting a wide variety of people keen to share ideas about sprint orienteering. It seemed to be a success and on the whole we had some really good feedback. Watch this space as it will certainly happen again.
For me, one of the big benefits was spending a whole weekend thinking about how to sprint orienteer. I enjoy coaching as I think it forces you to think about technique in a clear and simple manner and I think weekends such as this one are a great place to share ideas. I was finally in a place where I was running fast and orienteering well.
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.
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.
Orienteering is not a winter sport. Sure night orienteering is great fun but on the whole not a huge amount seems to happen from the period from September through to February. Miles are logged ready for the summer.
In February I awoke from this slumber to go to Barbate for 9 days with Lillomarka. This was a much needed break from the winter routine and I had a great week trying to regain some good feeling in my technique. March has been quite busy also, spending my weekends travelling to go training.
In all my winter training has gone well, I think. On Friday I will run the first race of the season, the JK. After that I will have more of an idea but it is still early doors.
No-one wins anything in training and spring time form will mean little come the summer.
This year the British Sprint and Middle distance championships had moved from their normal time of year (around the beginning of May) to the beginning of September. These championships have always been a favourite weekend of mine and had been in my diary since becoming British Champion in the Sprint distance in the 2013 edition. My main goal for the weekend was to defend this title but I also had ambitions in the middle distance race as I won a silver medal for two years running. Maybe this could be my year.
The sprint went well, well my run did at least, and whilst I couldn’t repeat my victory from last year, I managed to win a silver medal behind WOC team mate Murray Strain. We traded the lead for much of the race and in the end a small mistake by me near the end was enough to give Murray the victory.
Whilst the sprint had many of the big players of the UK sprint scene, the middle distance start list was a bit more sparse. Time of year might have had something to do with it, with most people wanting to crack on into winter training by this point but it for me it was a great opportunity. You can only race those who put themselves on the start line.I had another good race but the undergrowth in the race area made small mistakes and hesitations impossible to avoid at times. This, combined with the fact that I ran the entire race alone, without the good feedback of catching a rival, meant that I had no idea how I was doing until I entered the arena. I knew it was a good run on the whole with a only few small time losses but I did not expect to take the victory with three minutes. And as such, I managed to win my first British middle distance championships. Very happy with that.
Maps from the weekend have been uploaded to my map archive.
Two weeks ago I arrived in Heathrow to meet up with the team for the World University Orienteering Championships which this year were taking place in Olumouc, in the Czech republic.
I had just two days to settle in before running my first race, the sprint relay. At World Universities the running order is different to at the World Championships and I was looking forward to a chance to run the last leg. Kirstin, Peter and Lucy ran before me and all had solid performances to send me off in 7th position, 30 seconds behind Russia and a little ahead of Finland. I ran hard and caught up to 6th place but a long fork just before the spectator meant that despite my best efforts I couldn’t make up any places. Still as a team we were satisfied and it was a great way to kick off the week.Map ResultsNext up, two days later, was the race I saw as the main event. The sprint was around a zoo and although I did not expect it to be the terrain most suited to me I knew I could do well. Unfortunately I made one mistake which cost me. Firstly I rushed too much on the fourth control which was a tricky short leg to a forest pit. I spotted the womens control and ran to that, confusing myself and losing around 20 seconds. Still, the rest of the race was good and I ran into an ok 11th position, a little disappointed. I was particularly please to feel strong on the hills, 120m of climb in 2.5km is a lot.Map ResultsNow the races were coming thick and fast, no more rest days. Next up came the middle distance. I was really excited to run a discipline that I don’t often get a chance to run internationally. Warming up however I was shocked by how vague the warm up map seemed. Lots of very small, indistinct features, with lightning fast running, made it a bit difficult for me to understand how I was going to approach the race. In the end the majority of the race was not much like the warm up map, with a lot of sections of thick forest to break up the fast running and provide solid navigational features. However the first two controls were and I lost 40 seconds on each of them. Damn, perhaps my lack of middle practise shined through a bit there. I ran pretty well for the most part after that, losing small pieces of time in a number of places but nothing big. The damage had been done however and I was again disappointed with 27th place. Same story as the sprint the day before really, a couple of controls hiding a pretty decent race.Map Results
The week ended with the relay, which was back on the same area as the day before. I had been given first leg which I was really pleased with. I pushed hard at the start to ensure that I was up near the front and settled into a good rhythm around the first section of the course, recognising where other runners could be useful and where I needed to do my own thing. Near the spectator we entered a thick bit of forest and when we came out it was just me and Swedens Rasmus Anderson in the lead. It stayed this way, despite my attempts to lose it by missing right near the end, and I handed over to Peter in second, 6 seconds behind Sweden and 30 seconds ahead of the chasing pack. Peter and last leg runner Jonny both ran really well but we couldn’t quite match the class of the teams above us. Still, we were chuffed with 4th place and ensured we ended the week on a high.
Thanks must be given to British University and Colleges Sport and Kukri for helping the team to compete at these championships. I would also like to thank Sheffield Hallam University, Welsh Orienteering and Swansea Bay Orienteering Club for their personal support.
Last weekend I went to Finland for a flying visit. I left Swansea at midnight on Friday morning and arrived back at 2am on Monday morning. In all I probably spent more than 24 hours of the weekend in a plane, train, car or bus.
I had travelled out to meet up with Lillomarka team-mates Gaute and Nico where we would compete in the Finnish league (Huippuliiga) sprint on the Saturday, and experience the Jukola 2015 terrain by running the Esi-Jukola relay on the Sunday. It looked like a great weekend of races and fitted in perfectly with the World University Championships, giving me two quality competitions just over a week before the first races begin.The biggest decision of the weekend came before the start of the sprint. Should I wear a T-shirt under the supplied (small) number vest and risk boiling in the heat or run the race showing a lot of belly. I didn’t have to option of a vest as I had not packed one and so I chose the latter and I can’t say it is my best look. Can we not have safety pins?
Unfortunately, despite having good speed for the majority of the sprint race, I was also a prize muppet for a significant proportion and finished in 13th place. Perhaps I was still tired from the travelling, perhaps I wasn’t disciplined enough or maybe the sun reflecting off my stomach distracted me, who knows. However looking at the splits shows that there was promise in my performance and hopefully the race will serve to iron out some of the kinks before next week.
The relay went much better, possibly because my belly wasn’t on show? I ran a solid first leg, really enjoying the terrain and handing over just under 2 minutes behind the breakaway leader with a sneaking suspicion that I had run the longer forking at some stage in the race. Nico ran a great race pulling us up to the lead and with Gaute fighting on the final leg Lillomarka remained contention right until the end, finishing in 4th place.
Almost two weeks have passed since I lined up for the World Orienteering Championships in Venice. There really isn’t any reason that I haven’t written about it up this point (barring a couple of thoughts on attackpoint). Team mate Helen has posted twice since then, so I am obviously slacking. The big question is:
How did it go?
It went ok. After a knee injury in a hill race one month before I put myself in the unenviable position of having to play catch up in the month preceding. Given that it went pretty well. I had three solid runs but I felt like I was lacking something. Maybe I wasn’t lacking as much fitness as I thought but I was short on confidence.
This (very unflattering) photo taken by our awesome team manager Dave sums up my frustration. Straight after the Sprint Relay which I suffered through from start to finish. I had a clean run (not difficult given the course) but was that enough for the team? I gave it everything but I wasn’t up to the pace of the top runners.
Now this all sounds a bit doom and gloom but it wasn’t. I learnt a hell of a lot. In sport, things can’t always go your way and besides, I didn’t actually do that badly. In the relay, I was part of an awesome team who all gave their all and had four clean runs and we finished 6th. Not all that bad really.. In the individual sprint, 18th. Also not that bad.
I had a great week with a great team (staff and athletes). There is more to come. Not just from me but from the team as a whole. Next up are the World University Championships, which I hope to regain some good feeling for. This will be followed swiftly by Euromeeting and then not so swiftly by WOC 2015. In Scotland. Bring it on.
Now that my final year project (all 11,000 words of it) is finally submitted I have a little bit of spare time to to test out the new site. I say a little bit of time because I have exams next week and really should be doing some work.
World Championships Selection Races
Great Britain had their selection races for the World Championships very early this year. So early that they were the first proper race of the season for many people. This made it quite difficult to judge who was in shape and who would get on the team. The races took place in the Lake District in the end of may and were organised superbly by national team coach Liz Campbell.
The races started with a middle distance on the Friday and whilst I had good speed, my navigation couldn’t keep up in the tough Lake District terrain. Next came the long race which I decided to skip, not least because most of my rivals for the Sprint were also skipping it. Then came the big day. An early start to get into quarantine and I was quite nervous. More nervous than I have been in a long time. I made a few more mistakes than I would have liked, most from trying to rush and in the end I was on the right side of a 4 second margin to take the win from Peter Hodkinson.
The main result from the weekend is that this summer I will be going to Italy to run the Sprint (and maybe the sprint relay) at the World Championships. I will also be going to the World University Championships later in the summer. Those were the goals and I am happy to have a chance to run in these races.
Next up was the European Championships in Portugal. I was knee deep in university work at this point and to be honest the championships snuck up on me a bit. I hadn’t done as much specific preparation as I would have liked but I knew I was in good physical shape and I hoped all the work I have put into technique training over the winter would carry me through.
I was just here to run the sprint as I was organising the JK Sprint the week after and needed to rush back. I was relaxed and had a good run in qualifying, qualifying in 6th place in my heat. The final took place on the next day and allowed a lot of time to relax in-between races. I think this suited me quite well.
After what seemed an age in quarantine I was ready to go. I had a pretty average race if truth be told. I pushed hard but made a few small hesitations and one little mistake where I overshot my path. 6th place. Wow. I didn’t expect that and I had a bit of an epiphany after this race. I think maybe it is wrong to turn up to a championships and expect 110%. I turned up and I did an average performance, helped by a bit of adrenaline and the big stage and that was enough. Turning up and having to run amazingly seems to be putting a lot of pressure on yourself but to run an average performance, I can do that easy 🙂
Maybe it also helps if you let the team style your hair beforehand.
So after the European Championships I was straight home. I would have liked to have run the relay but I had bigger fish to fry.
The JK was taking place in South Wales this year and the sprint was in my home town of Swansea. For those that don’t know, the JK is the biggest race in Britain, we had 2300 competitors for the sprint race alone and for some very stupid reason I had volunteered to set the courses. This meant a lot of running around in the week beforehand but it all seemed to go ok and people seemed to enjoy themselves. It was maybe helped by the awesome weather (It’s like that always..) and the awesome organisation team that we had.
I competed in the next few days of the JK but never really felt like I was running particularly well until the relay, where I managed to win a Silver medal with Sheffield University.
After a lot of university work, I don’t think it ever seemed like it was going to stop, I gave myself a couple of days break to run Tiomila for Lillomarka. I had a great run on first leg last year and I was not surprised that I was running first leg again. I was a bit nervous that the new daylight start might make it a bit faster than I would have liked but I had a good race and came in second on first leg. The rest of the team did awesome as well and when I woke up in the morning (at 5am) I was over the moon to hear we were in 9th at that stage. Amazing. Everyone in the team did their job and we finished in a club record 12th place.
I realise that this is a long post now. It is amazing the amount I will write to put off doing some revision.
Last night I competed in a local fell race, the Burbage Skyline. My legs felt good after the weekend and knowing the course from last year I managed to set a new record. Cracking 🙂