JK write up. Might end up rambling a bit but should probably get it down whilst it's fresh.
The sprint has seemingly been my strongest discipline in recent years, 2 8th places the last 2 years I think. Out in Aus I was fairly happy with my sprinting, won a lot of races, had pretty good confidence and my running speed was high. It's a shame to be so far away from where I know I can be based on that. The hefty lay off with my feet meant my top end speed is almost non-existent, resigned to chugging rather than zipping but I knew that and so intended to try and be clean to compensate. Started ok, had sort of worked out the first couple and found a nice rhythm through to 6. Wobbled, questioned myself, hesitated on 7 which led to trying to overrun 8 and a wobble in the circle. Then ran straight to 10. 9 was a short leg and I guess I 2017 JWOC'd it and just took it as a given so ran on. Realised when I thought I'd caught Paul too early, checked and then let out a torrent curses that would have made Frankie Boyle blush. Stormed back to 9 and then 10 again but this was nearly 1:30 lost. Jamie had caught me there and so basically we ran the rest of the course together, taking some different routes and micro-nav and then by the end I was just feeling my lack of racing and sharpness so began dropping a little. Finished and that was that. I don't really know what to think about this. It was a stupid mistake but even without it I would have been 8th~ so about the same as the last 2 years and surely I should be better than this, even with an injury lay off. Speed isn't there but my sprint discipline was also lacking, sluggish in and out of controls/cornering and just not feeling sharp. Think really it's probably just unfortunate timing that the first race back was the JK and so I had no time to work out the kinks but it was a rough way to start off the weekend and perhaps put me in a bit of a negative mindset from the start.
Was quite determined to have a better day today but to be honest it was remarkably similar to the sprint. Started well and found a nice flow through the first 6 (barring some minor circle slips). Slightly larger mistake on 7 then fine through to 9. Really crap, lazy exit out, following an elephant track and making a parallel error to the southern bit of open and convincing myself I was right. By the time I corrected it was another 1:30 binned and let Ben get sight of me. From there it was a case of trying to gut myself to claw back time but this is almost pointless in the seniors when really it's damage limitation. I was out of the race and couldn't change that. Took the poor route to 16 and that lost nearly 40s! Other than that it was a pretty clean run but even taking out the maybe 3 mins of mistakes I'm still a fair whack off the other guys. Frustrating and again I think it comes down to a lack of racing and practice but it feels like a long way to get there. I know it'll come but 2 poor results hammered home how much work I have to do to get back.
Physically feeling pretty good after the last couple of days. Plan was always to try and tempo round, avoid the red because of the heat and try and stay in control throughout. I'm still debating whether this happened or not but my honest gut feeling is no. It was a run with a lot of small misses and wobbles which are punishing in a senior long, adding up to a large amount of time loss. I wasn't really aggressive enough in my routes, going round a bit too much which I actually don't mind as I feel my better asset is running than navigating and this allowed me to do it more. Still, running an extra 2km in a long will mean I'm down on the results no matter how quick I run. This is something I definitely need to work on. there were positives though. Despite not seeing anyone until the last 3/4 controls I did feel like I kept working and physically held up well, never feeling like I was bonking and felt fairly good despite having no water throughout the course (routechoice didn't go through it). I think my main problem was some poor routes and being undisciplined in the circle. Again, it was a sense of finishing and then the more I thought about the run the more I realised the time loss. I think the sprint and long are probably disciplines I can do best at and I think this may become more of a focus in the next few years but that's going to take a lot of thought at another time. Whilst it wasn't a terrible run, it was again below what I would now expect from myself and so it still leaves a feeling of disappointment.
It was nice to end the weekend on a more positive note. I've come to quite like 1st leg now, feel like I won't get dropped by the front and am quite happy to settle in to my own race and hit my gaffles consistently. The start was blistering but hit 1 fine then settled in nicely with Pete B up the hill to 2. Pulled up to Freddy and Alex to be leading through to 7 with Murray and Ben who rejoined. Annoyingly then had a different control that 3 meaning I was then solo for the vast majority of the rest of the course. Hesitation on 10 let this gap grow a little more than I would have liked but felt fairly happy with how I battled throughout and hit my controls pretty cleanly, making a couple of minor circle slips, but generally being more aggressive and chasing the teams well. Came in 40s~ to Nixon and 20s~ to Alex which was good in terms of the other teams in the race for all 3 legs. I feel like with a bit more fitness I can give the other boys a better shot and come back with those guys, perhaps it was just the luck of the gaffles on the day but definitely think I can be a little cleaner. Matt had a stormer and WIlly continued his fantastic weekend, just losing out to the fresh guys in the last few controls to bring us home in 3rd. A medal in the trophy is really cool for me, can't wait to hopefully build on this with Will and Matt moving forward, think we have a lot of potential and it was good to end the weekend racing well with mates.
Minus the relay, my overall feelings of the weekend are a bit "so what?". I feel as though I went to the JK, ran the courses (admittedly worse than I had wanted/expected to), placed at the lower end of the spectrum I'd like to be on and now life goes on really. I think my selection chances were always slim for this year and I haven't really done anything to change that this weekend. It's early in the season and so there are still a lot of races to be run and I definitely think I'll improve dramatically in the coming months but annoyingly I feel like this will come too late. Running 1st leg for Lindingo 2 this weekend at Tio, then I'd really like to try and prove a bit of a point at the British and have a good run, can't wait to run the relay as well! But then, other than Jukola, the season becomes eerily quiet. I'm going to have to work a lot to go back to uni next year and simply don't have the holiday to be able to travel loads over the summer to get to races. I'll get to as much as I can and if I am lucky enough to wangle any sort of selection then of course I'll do everything I can to be able to be there. Running poorly this weekend feels like a setback more generally and I really want to use this year to post some good runs and start getting myself in the mix for the next couple of years as I think there's some great opportunities in the pipeline, but they take hard work and that's the first step. I need to get back to a fitness level which will allow me to be aggressive and regain that self-belief which is lacking at the moment whilst working out the kinks in my O technique. Looking forward to getting my head down and grafting for a while and if any opportunities do come my way then I'm prepared to grab them with both hands. Really though I think I need to put the poor bit of this weekend behind me and focus on the positives which were there and use these to crack on. Looking forward to the next few months, just have to see what happens.