I was intrigued by something I heard over the weekend, which is that Will Hubsch, although still a junior, is already consciously planning/working on becoming a sprint specialist. This is a concept that also appeals to me for several reasons, but first we must do some analysis, because as luck would have it there is lots of data on this very subject!
He and I have gone head-to-head in no less than 14 A-meet-caliber races over the past four months, and we've split them right down the middle, 7-7. Tossing out the Team Trials Middle and Long, 12 of those have been sprints, of which Will has won seven. Here's a summary of the sprints:
1. Sprint the Golden Gate, Stage 1: Enger 19:25, Hubsch 22:50. Great for E until last two controls, still solid overall. Actually, my highest OUSA score ever. Error time ~3:30 for H.
2. SGG, Stage 2: Hubsch 17:45, Enger 20:40. Great for H, shenanigans for E. Accosted by homeless guy, broke e-stick, skipped penultimate control and re-ran last three legs.
3. SGG, Stage 3: Enger 15:35, Hubsch 15:47. Great runs for both. H had a pack to run with throughout, E had only a partner for first half.
4. SGG, Stage 4: Hubsch 17:24, Enger 19:34. Head-to-head race, ran together in a pack for first 60%. E took the lead at 13 and promptly blew ~2:00 and fell out of the running.
5. SGG, Stage 5: Hubsch 17:17, Enger 18:28. Great run for H, average for E. Very tired legs.
6. Sprint Camp #1: Enger 12:16, Hubsch 13:00. Clean, fast runs for both. Bouncy legs!
7. SC #2: Enger 13:23, Hubsch 15:30. Glorious, glorious run for E, average for H. On my gravestone will be the words "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He was once 13 seconds behind Will Critchley."
8. SC #3: Hubsch 13:31, Enger 14:37. Solid run for H, poor for E. Farsta craziness!
9. SC #4: Enger 16:57, Hubsch 17:04. Below average runs for both, although E lost more time: blew >1:30 on last control.
10. SC #5: Hubsch 15:59, Enger 16:19. Chase race - H started 0:07 behind E and quickly caught up. Mainly clean, fast runs for both, running together for >50%. H again has faster legs at the end of the weekend.
11. Team Trials Sprint: Hubsch 16:20, Enger 17:28. Great run for H, average for E.
12. TT Sprint Relay: Hubsch 14:48, Enger 15:50. Another good run for H, poor for E. Farsta-like craziness!
That's a total of 197:15 for Hubsch, 200:32 for Enger. Or, per-race, 16:27 and 16:43, respectively. At the risk of overgeneralization, my best results come in forested sprints, while Will H. gets work done in pure urban environments.
Based on his performance at Team Trials, we can hazard a guess that Will is already one of the top sprinters around, and I'd like to think I'm not super far behind when I occasionally get my ish together. Now, here are the reasons I can think of to focus on sprints:
1. Obviously, WOC starts availability. I will basically never start a WOC long no matter what I do, which I'm fine with.
2. I've never been a distance runner in the orienteering sense, where 5k is middle distance, and do not have the endurance to run >10k races at a high level.
3. It takes many years of intense training to build up the endurance that someone like Eric has. I have not the time, ability or inclination to do it - but is it any easier to build up sprinting fitness?
4. I am currently much stronger in a sprint than anything else, relative to the field, although I'm not hopeless over middle distance. Also I have more experience in sprints than many orienteers, thanks to Vlad, Rex and the Canadians.
So, how actionable is this information, and should I act on it? I suspect my routine has already been heavy on sprint training, without being planned that way. However, I should probably do more track interval workouts, while being careful not to disregard distance work.
I'll have to think about this approach some more while considering the next few months of training.