Sunday, 17 June 2012

European Marathon Championships

Today Europe’s very best marathon racers gathered in Czech Republic for the 2012 European Marathon Championships. I arrived by plane flying into Prague on Tuesday, this gave me the opportunity to practise the course and recover from the stresses of travelling. An early flight and a quick exchange of car keys at the car hire meant I was driving north towards our accommodation at a decent enough time to have the chance to ride the first 35 miles of the track Tuesday afternoon.

You can see my pre race video here

The course started at Jablonne v Podjestedi town centre, passed over the German border, passed back into Czech Republic further West, before finishing up on a golf course in Hermanice v Podjestedi. There was a real mix of trails including fast open fireroad, grassy farm tracks, super rocky jeep track descents, loose steep rocky uphill climbs, and rooty singletrack. It was great fun to ride and practising the track for a few days before the event was a huge benefit on race day.

You can see my preview of the Euro Champs race course here

Race day dawned following some huge thunderstorms that rolled through the mountains surrounding us the previous night. The trails remained largely dry though thanks to the high temperatures in the previous few days. A fourth row call up gave me the opportunity for a decent start slotting onto the back of the lead group as we entered the first offroad section. The 10 kilometres were very fast, after the lead group split I chased back across to the leaders only for the group to split again on the next climb. Sitting in the second group there was a good tempo and we were quickly progressing through the kilometres.
The real hills started at 45 kilometres after we passed through Oybin in Germany. By this point though the race had split apart and riders were well spaced out. There were limited position changes after this point, only riders who’d started too fast fell back through the field changing the race order.
After Oybin two of the riders from the Team Bulls professional mtb team caught me, they sat on my wheel for a while until I realised there were two of them. I then let them do some work and we rode together until about 15 kilometres to go where I slipped on one of the final steep uphill rocky sections which was damp and slippery after the previous nights rain. I chased but couldn’t get back, these two went on to finish just a few minutes in front of me, if I’d stayed with them a top 25 finish would have been in sight.
Although I wasn’t strong enough to catch those Team Bulls riders I did catch a couple of others who were now struggling. I still felt really strong at the end setting a strong pace all the way to the finish line to take 31st place.
31st best marathon racer in Europe in my first year of racing marathons, not too bad! I think I’m still learning the best pacing strategy for these marathon events and with more race experience I’ll improve and my race results will improve. I hoping that with a decent result at European Marathon Champs I’ll be selected by British Cycling to race World Marathon Champs, we’ll find out at the end of July.
You can see my post race video thoughts here

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Southern XC Round 4 Crow Hill

Having 5 races on back to back weekends is a tough ask both physically and mentally. How do you plan your training around this kind of schedule, how do you maintain your form, can you recover quickly enough, and can you have the mental strength to push your body to its extreme each weekend. In previous years I’ve struggled with this kind of race scheduling but when the season is as compressed as it is this year it’s a problem that’s hard to avoid. I cracked mentally the week after National Marathon Champs, being the 4th best marathon racer in the country is a great achievement but I’d gone to Scotland to win a medal, driving home without one hurt. I couldn’t get my head back before last weekends National XC race which meant a none finish, my head just wasn’t in it from the start. The only way to resolve the issue was to have some fun on my bike and enjoying riding again forgetting the tough training regime of intervals and zones elite riders religiously follow.

Last week I enjoying riding some awesome dusty dry trails and logging in some good miles, just what the doctor ordered. On Saturday after a fun 4 hours mountain biking I was repacking the race bag for another race, the Southern XC Series round 4. It had been about 3 years since I last raced at Crow Hill but I had fond memories of the circuit, it’s a tough one with plenty of short sharp climbs, loamy loose corners and bone shaking roots.

Off the start I jumped into second place following Ade Lansley into the first singletrack, Mike Cotty took over second place for a couple of minutes but I was keen to keep the rear wheel of Ade in sight. A lapped rider in a different category then came between us on a tight bit of singletrack with Ade managing to jump in front of him at the last opportunity. By the time we exited the trail Ade has a gap which I failed to shut down quick enough.

The gap opened slowly over the remainder of the race with me happy enough to take things steady and not risk loosing second. Ben Sumner caught me at the end of lap 2 and took over the pace making. At the start of lap 4 I attacked on the early climbs where I felt stronger than my rival, the gap developed to over a minute by the end of the 5 lap race. Ade took the win, I was second, and Ben Sumner took the final step on the podium.

Thanks to John from Vermont Images for doing my bottles and taking photos

My legs weren’t particularly fresh having trained hard during the days leading into the race, it would have been good to have challenged Ade for the win but I was happy to be back on the podium and secure some decent series points. That’s 2 second places in the last 2 Southern XC events; I’ll be hoping to take the win at the series final in a few weeks time.

On Tuesday 12th of June I fly to the Czech Republic for my next race, the European Marathon Championships!