25 August 2009

WOC Long Distance top 10!

The culmination of the World Champs this year was the long distance. 17.5km with 750 metres of climbing, and some big route choices. This was the race I was really aiming for this year, and after my great qualification race I was relatively confident that at least my fitness was good enough for a top result. It also meant that I was starting 3rd from last, with only Thierry and Baptiste after me. Realistically, I was always expecting to see one or both of them, and I managed to stay in front for more than 50 minutes. To be honest, when Thierry catches you and you have the same butterflies, it would be more than a little stupid to ignore him - my speed definitely increased after then. I had no problem to run at the same speed as him though, and passing through the spectator control with 2.5km to go, I understood that I had a chance for top 10. I could not stay with Thierry after that though, and he was out of sight on the steep rocky slope to number 30. I really gave everything I had, and I don't really know how I found the last couple of controls! The tough climbs were a killer, but it seems like others had even more problems than I did, and I actually took some places on the last loop, despite feeling like I was going backwards.... As I sprinted into the finish, I heard that I was running to 9th place!
Before the championships, my goal had been top 20. After the qualification, I had small dreams for a top 10, but it was still unbelievable to actually do it. I had a good race technically, losing some time to the 5th (lost focus while taking a gel), and then a couple of little wobbles towards the end (24, 26 and 31).

This was a really nice end to WOC week, after a mediocre sprint race, and a decent run in the relay. I am really happy for Thierry that he took his first medal in the long - he really deserved it after both the problems in the relay last year, and also his selfless act in the relay this year. I will be cheering for France in the relay in Trondheim (after GB of course!).

Results here
My route is shown here - although it is not exactly right in some places!
Will scan some maps in soon with my routes

Photo Richard Baxter

22 August 2009

World Champs Relay

The Dream Team! (In a couple of years...)

It was always going to be tough to live up to last year, and I think that it shows how incredible last years performance really was. Matt performed pretty well to come back just over a minute down, but then me and Scott were taught a lesson in just how fit you need to be to fight for medals. Both of us felt good for long parts of the race, and were fighting with some top teams, but as the courses got more physical and the race was coming to a climax, both of us struggled physically on the tough climbs. I started really well, and after 35 minutes running I could still see Francois Gonon in front of me (who came back 1st on the leg). But then the last 20 minutes I had problems on the seemingly endless climbs, one after another, and not only that, coming off the climbs I was in oxygen debt so 3 or 4 times I made small mistakes 15-30 seconds. I changed over 9th, 3.59 behind. I had the 8th fastest time on my leg, 54.51 to Prochazka's 51.55. I should have run about a minute and a bit quicker to be satisfied with my race, but I don't have the physical capacity yet to run like the leaders (although I am getting closer!).
Scott had a tough day against all the big boys, and we finished 9th (but that doesn't include the 4 teams involved in the 'stick incident').

Results here
Map when I get home

World Champs Sprint

17th place. Disappointing. Had high hopes before the race, but blew all my chances at the second control. My route choice was fine, but my execution was terrible - I didn't have a clear way to find the control, either I should have run down the fence to the corner, or aimed off to the left. Anyway, 30 seconds gone. Ran well after that except for running down one dead end corridor in the zoo (a popular mistake) which cost about 10 seconds. Was 32 seconds from the podium. 17th is by no means a bad result, but I know my potential is so much higher.

Map on routeagadget here
Photo Richard Baxter

20 August 2009

Sprint Qualification

No problems this morning during the sprint qualifier. I was confident before, and I qualified comfortably without pushing my hardest. Really nice terrain, all forest but mostly open beech forest. Quite a lot of short sharp climbs, couple of tricky controls in the green but everything went well. I caught Christian Teich at the 13th control and we raced the last part a little together.

Results here

17 August 2009

WOC Long Qualification

I started my 2009 World Champs campaign today with the long distance qualification. After a frustrating spring - missing most of the Nordics and the World Games through illness - I was excited and nervous. I had a great winter training, but two illnesses this spring and early summer set me back, and I was unsure how my shape would be in the championships. I had a great start draw - second last, starting with Tero Föhr and Martin Johansson, and it was a good boost to be able to run parts of the course with them. The courses were quite close, so I saw a lot of them. Coming to the spectator control, Martin was just in front, and they announced he was leading his heat, so I was confident I was running well, and although the speaker didn't say anything about me, Dave Rollins told me I was right on the pace. After that I was a little more relaxed, running really well, apart from 2 controls. The 15th I didn't understand the green area at all, and I thought I was to the left of the control - I turned right and was searching for 30 seconds before I realised I had turned the wrong way. I ran back to see Simonas Krepsta (started 2 minutes before me) coming in. I had passed him at number 7, but my mistake allowed him to catch me again. I lost around 1.20 at the 15th, and after that we ran together. We were both hesitant at 17 - I didn't understand the shape of the ground, and lost 20 seconds. Then I was chasing him to the finish. When I took the last control, Dave shouted to take it easy, that I was safe, so I jogged into the finish, happy that I would be maybe number 5-10 in the results, but as I came to the line, the speaker said I had a new leading time! It turns out I was also leading at the spectator control. A real surprise and a good confidence boost for the week.

It felt like I had an almost perfect first loop, maybe losing 20 seconds on direction out of number 4. I was running fast and clean. After the spectator control I was more relaxed, and maybe a little too relaxed for 15 and 17. Total time loss around 2 minutes, but really happy with the physical shape and obviously the result! Probably my best international result to date, and certainly if you discount my sprint results.

I am realistic enough to know that a good race today does not equal a good race in the final, and that a top 10 result is still going to be really tough, but I am also happy and confident after today's race.

Respectable day for the team, Scott ran well and Sarah and Helen B made it too.

Results here

Cheesy photos below courtesy of Steve Hale

Post race interview

New leading time!
Proud team mates

04 August 2009

Karst master (?)

After a disrupted spring season with too much illness and not enough competition, I decided quite late to go to the Karst Cup in Slovakia - partly as it is a little relevant for World Champs, and partly just to do some good races in some cool terrain. It was a really fun competition, really fantastic (hot) weather, and some good other runners to race. We were staying in the same hotel as some Norwegian WOC runners, and there were also runners from Hungary, Finland, Slovakia and Czech racing. Not all the best runners were running every day, and some were just taking the competition as training. I was trying to get a good feeling after a long period without racing, and my goal was to push each day a little harder than the last. That plan lasted about 15 minutes! Just after the 4th control on day 1 I twisted my ankle quite badly - enough so that every step was hurting, but not enough to stop. I continued, but really carefully - especially on the downhill and stony parts. I lost around 6 minutes on this day, maybe 1-2 minutes from mistakes with 72 minutes. In the evening Pippa and I did a sprint training. Day 2 was probably my best day technically. I ran well with maybe 1 mistake of 30 seconds, and then 1 bad route choice on a long leg, and I was 2 minutes behind Krepsta after 72 minutes.
Days 3 and 4 were away from the Karst terrain, and hour north in 'Slovakian Paradise' which was really steep and rocky - very technical and physical terrain, and a little Norwegian. Day 3 was a middle distance, and for the first time I was trying to push really hard. I made a couple of small mistakes, but the big problem was looking after my ankle in the rough terrain, and I was a little under 2 minutes behind Weltzein. In the evening, Pippa and I did a training in an open/green karst terrain which was really different to anything I have done before - awesome!
Day 4 was a chasing start, and I was 2nd off after Krepsta (who actually went home and didn't start) and chasing me was Weltzein. Unfortunately Audun had problems with his ankle tape and quit! So I ran alone and took the trophy :). I was satisfied with my race. I ran around 66 minutes and was 3.30 behind Carl Waaler Kaas. I missed maybe 1-2 minutes.
Overall a really nice training camp - good terrain, good maps, good courses. Swam in some lakes, saw some nice mountains and ate lots of nice food. Won some good prizes too!
Maps and photos below.
Results here

On the run in day 4 (Mišo Krajčík - also photo above)
Tatra mountains
Me and Pippa in the Tatras
Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Cool different karst training area

Day 4 - tough and rocky!