2019/2020 review (for my personal benefit) - Well no one expected that one, everything went pretty much to plan until just after I came back from an excellent racing weekend in Malaga in March when the world basically shut down. I once again managed to avoid illness and injury (one niggle sorted with a couple of days on the bike was just a reminder not to get carried away, touch wood this continues). Due to lack of races/taper/recovery required mileage crept up, slow, offroad runs/long bike rides were good for my fitness. I realised during the skyline this weekend I still get a buzz at being able to do these as they were not at all enjoyable when my deficiencies were a problem. I do need to remember to bring back more rest days when things are more intense again. My home S&C sessions seemed to have worked and it has been worth keeping them up even though I still hate them for injury prevention (really missed my massages!)
One major thing I've learned this year is that unlike others I don't need races to motivate me out the door. I generally love running etc. and getting out the door when everything seems rubbish genuinely makes me happy and I still get a buzz from just seeing personal improvement. Secondly, I've come on so much mentally as I've managed to stay relatively positive throughout the season and know I'll be ready when we do eventually come out the other side. This was really highlighted to me after my Run-In podcast interview.
My XC season went from strength to strength, strong East Relays run running solo on a 2nd leg, sadly missed Nationals (and Calum Hawkins) as was in China, better paced Short Course and Gala. At Broxburn East League I came close to an excellent race, only falling away in the last 400m but considering it had been an emotional week I took a lot of confidence. Carried this into my best East District performance with Gala just missing a team medal. Decent 10km after a big week around Christmas before part time life started. It was great to see a lot more daylight (especially for technical sessions) now weekends weren't only 2 days long. Super happy to be selected for the East again and was very close to counting for the team gold. Proved once again I run well in bad conditions. Another good East League, putting any Livingston demons to bed and another good team performance. Dad had to withdraw from Feel the Burns but managed to pace myself round to a big PB.
Re-introuced orienteering with the Edinburgh City Race, gutted not to win having had 1 min lead but lots of positives. Almost won a Park Run outright up in Stonehaven. Had a go back in the forest out at first Spanish training camp and surprised myself winning a shortened long distance and overall with a decent sprint performance to go along with it.. If all forest was like that I'd love it. Carnethy was an experience, nothing for a while will ever be so grim so made me strong in preparation for perfect Kirstin conditions National XC. Didn't even target it but everything came together for a top 10 (2secs off 7th)...still can't quite believe it. Training partner Sophie also smashed it and this give me an enormous boost, I was in shape so knew I could focus on the orienteering like I had in 2014/15 when I had my best results. Still buzzing. Unfortunately another stormy Scottish Saturday so didn't hit my target for 5km but none of us did so stayed positive. Amazing training/racing weekend in Malaga. Held it together in a forest sprint, made the final and was unlucky not to podium in the knockout sprint and recovered well from an early mistake in the final race. Came back ready for the season to really begin with Bergen, Denmark, Swiss races all before the JK, really excited to see what I could do this year, little did I know this was the end of the season (aside from 2 Scottish forest races).
I value every technical session a lot more as I'm just so happy to be sprinting. I'm able to put full focus into them and the pace I can be in control at is increasing. It was great to get various successful trips up to Speyside/Moray.
Lots of virtual races reminded me how to hurt solo, Lanton loops/Sharplaw hills just kept improving week on, own time trials smashed. I just needed a race. Eventually one came up, I was more excited than nervous as it was amazing to stand on a start line. Did the business and after 5 years PB'd over 5km but know there's more to come in a proper race in better conditions. Hunted for another one but had 3 cancelled and the final one had a stinker of a headwind. Still know I'm fitter than I've ever been.
I've done even more cycling and even invested in a better bike. It's fun to see improvements, have new challenges and keeps things interesting. Dad's 60miles for 60 years and cycling from home to home were particular highlights.
With regard to the comments I made at the end of last season:
- "Not ready to give up on my goals yet...only a click in the right direction away from a big performance which will bring a whole heap of confidence." I found this confidence through the XC season and was really excited to start orienteering, Malaga was a step forward and I'm really gutted I never got the chance to feel things really click with orienteering too. I'm still excited to keep trying.
- "Consistent similar paced group to train with/sessions from Neil." Having a group dragging each other round all winter was real positive as well as advice from an athletics coach to improve specific areas. Still a big fan of the various tempo sessions to give my confidence in my shape. I always said I could probably get really fit if I moved home (but didn't want to) so the forced lockdown in the Borders wasn't all bad as nice to be in the countryside again and I was really lucky to have people to train with even when we weren't allowed to see anyone other than household. This meant when I returned to Edinburgh I'd closed the gap on Kara so we could push each other on even more.
- "Gains still to be made technically in taking things from the map/route choice." Unfortunately I've not had much chance to put this into practice but I put regular focus into some specific exercises from Dad which I've seen huge improvements in and I've been pleased with the consistency in any sprint orienteering I've done.
- "Right stuff both to be lean/fast and helping my deficiencies (liaise with Dad to ensure sensible)." I was a bit worried after they stopped my injections but I have had less dips now I am in full control with my tablets. I tried a few things when my diet in general/and around races this year and in general I'm managing things well and staying on the right side of strict.
- "Big focus on sprint/need to perform at JK. Keep in some other mad events as this mentally keeps things fun and gives me confidence." I have no regrets of doing any mad races this year as in the period 16th Mar until end of season I ran 2 races! I'm someone who needs some "training" races to be gain confidence etc. but more importantly running/orienteering and especially racing is what I enjoy and it's been so strange to have that taken away.
- "Part time work." This was great, I saw performance improvements and felt (and had numerous people tell me I seemed) more relaxed. It's something I'd like to go back to but will have to see how the rest of this year pans out before I make any decisions. The current (and foreseeable future) WFH makes training more flexible too so still definitely find it easier to fit everything in and recover more than this time last year.
Strangely in a year most will want to right off it's probably been one of my most positive years ever with Nationals top 10 and 5km PB. So now it's time for a short complete rest both physically and mentally. I find it hard but know it's for the best or I'll burn out this winter. There's potential for some exciting sprint races next year and I'm in a good place to start working towards them as well as chasing some more PBs/scalps, maybe another Heb and if not more fun adventures and improvement!