July 14th 2012. Lausanne, Switzerland, the day before WOC Sprint. I’m pretty sure that I won’t be running WOC next year. With 2015 on the horizon and three consecutive WOCs under my belt I need a year off to refocus and prepare myself: spend some time developing my forest technique so I can be a multi-discipline runner come our home games in three years time. I’ve heard that the sprint in Finland is going to be a forest race so it might be a good one to skip. I can come back in Italy in 2014 to get me back in the zone before Scotland.
July 15th 2012. WOC Sprint result: 11th, 1.1 seconds away from a top 10 result. Aw man, so close. Probably my worst WOC run technically but it was a tricky course and everyone struggled. Yesterdays plan scrapped. I’ve got to go to Finland, to have another crack at getting it right. If it’s a forest sprint then I’ll have to get good at forest sprinting.
July 8th 2013. Sotkamo, Finland. WOC Sprint result: 9th. Job done.
July 9th 2013 (today). Vuokatti, Finland. How did that happen then? You might argue that not much changed. If I’d been 1.9 seconds slower yesterday – one hesitation to check a route, or one missed micro route choice – I’d have been in the same frustrating 11th place asking the same questions as last year.
But those 1.9 seconds feel more significant than that. They feel that way because they were the result of me executing a season-long plan to improve on last year’s result. In March I sat down with a few people I value the opinions of to plan out my training up to WOC. My conclusions from these conversations were that while yes, I can get faster, there are probably bigger gains to be made from improvements in sprint technique. It would take a huge effort to improve my 14:36 5km pb by 30 seconds or so, but I can easily see where that time could be saved in cutting out small mistakes. The problem I’ve had in the past is that I’ve put a lot of focus on demanding physical training which means that when I turn up for technique training I’m unable to run at race pace. Then when I turn up to WOC with nicely tapered fresh legs I’m running faster than I’m used to and technically it all gets a little scrappy. So for the 14 weeks from the JK to WOC I slashed my mileage and prioritised sprint technique. Rather than getting faster I just looked to preserve the speed I had. Morning runs dropped from 15km+ to 5km. The only long runs I did were classic races. I ran a sprint course at least once a week and almost always felt fresh for it. It didn’t always feel like the right thing to do, particularly in the last few weeks before WOC when I started to doubt my shape but on the day it turned out right. An improved position compared with last year, much closer to the winner than previously and in the second half of the course I was running as fast as anyone – so the speed was still there!
Of course there is still room for improvement. The margins in the sprint race are so tight that you can always see that next step. But I know that I can find those improvements. I have a plan.