MTBO season 2013 review

It wasn’t a difficult decision to miss the World Cup Final in Portugal. I had to finish drawing a map before the snow arrived in Norway, and the World Cup Final weekend was the last before I went to Val Senales for some high altitude training. I’m playing chef again, for HJ and Lamov. A small group in comparison to previous years, but rather less stressful!

Looking back, I only needed a 5th place in one of the World Cup final races to secure 3rd overall, a result which was probably achievable. But with expensive flights to Portugal and having not been training properly in September due to work, I decided to miss it. In the end I finished 4th overall. Slightly disappointing, but an amazing ride from Susanna on the last day saw her take 3rd overall. I had decided to forfeit the 3rd place when I opted out of the Final rounds and I actually expected to drop to 5th or 6th. But 4th is my highest World Cup result to date and one that shows to me that my 2013 season has been more consistent than any other year. 

It started with a win in the European Champs middle race, a result that came with a highly controlled race and no mistakes. It showed the work I did over the winter and spring was paying off already, early on in the season. I put my taper training plan through it’s paces once again, and once again (as in WOC 2012), I felt fast, strong and mentally ready. It showed I didn’t need to do anything different for WOC. I followed up the week with a 4th in the sprint, but I was disappointed to lose a medal that day. I caught my 1 and 2 minute women early on, but then a dud route choice left me floundering a minute behind. I learnt something about tactics from that race, something that has not crossed my mind before.

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The long mass start was the final race of the week and one I hadn’t aimed for until that morning. I started well but tired towards the end. I believe I lacked the mental drive to push harder that day, and I always find that my mental focus affects my legs somewhat. I finished 10th, a bit disappointing, but happy to have pulled up several places in the final loop.

It was then on to WOC and it wasn’t without faffing and stress. I was sick straight after EOC, and thus my trip to Czech was affected. My races were below par and generally I was just cruising around, testing route choices. There were some glimmers of hope and good decision making, but overall I was still sick and this affected my performance. Still I learnt what not to do in Czech when it comes to MTBO!

Coming back I had 8 weeks until WOC, so several hard training weeks began before the taper plan started all over again. This time I really felt the taper plan was building me to a higher level as my hill interval sessions got faster. I got a new bike, a decision which I have not regretted in the slightest. Big wheels 🙂

WOC was a great week. Almost 3 top 6 places. I made 2nd and 4th in middle and long. The long was perhaps my best performance of the year, according to my Dad! He, like me, expected the sprint and middle to be good, but the long I hadn’t focussed for. After the middle, I had two days to get my brain ready for a long race, and somehow I managed a 4th. I pushed hard all the way, made a few small mistakes but it’s given me a huge amount of confidence for next year to really target long races too. I had targetted all my training towards sprint and middle races, but when it came down to it, I had/have the legs for a long distance. The mental negativity I’ve had towards the long since 2009 is long gone now, thanks to one race. Of course, I pushed so hard I spent the rest of the afternoon with incredible stomach pains curled up in bed. And it took 6 hours to pee …!

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The sprint was, well, a great race plagued with two issues. The main issue was the handlebars coming loose and me losing probably a minute in time. Without this issue, I think I would have been in a top 2 position, and the subsequent disqualification wouldn’t have occurred. Lesson learnt: check bike before starting that all screws are done up well. Ironically, had the 5th place I finished in stood, I would have taken 3rd overall in the World Cup!

The year has in some ways exceeded my expectations. I only aimed to take one WOC medal, but I took a European Gold too. In others, the year shows my results are only just starting to come through and that there is more I am capable of. I feel that I relied a little on the luck element this year. Luck that Laurila made a mistake in the middle at WOC allowing me to take silver. Bad luck that I didn’t think about tactics in the EOC sprint. Bad luck that I made a mistake on 2 legs in the WOC long and one poor route choice. Luck that everything came together in the EOC middle. It’s wrong to say ‘bad luck’ or ‘luck’, but Orienteering often has that small but significant luck element. Choosing the route choice that was faster on the ground that shown on the map, catching up someone fast and working together, spotting that indistinct junction before it’s too late, getting a stick wrapped around the cassette or derailleur and needing to stop and pull it out, having a mechanical. I needed a little bit of luck to boost me to the medals in two races. I know what went wrong and it’s not going to happen again.

I set myself a year training hours target this year, which was a modest 16% increase on 2012, itself a modest 11% increase on 2011. Last week, I passed that target, and if all goes well in the coming months, I shall have trained 43% more this year than 2012 … In fact, the race is on between HJ and I to see who can train most this year 🙂

I’m excited for next year. I’ve been away from my bikes for 2 weeks now, and I miss them already! I’ve got my eye on expensive new bike parts, I’m turning into a ‘weight weenie’ when it comes to bikes! I can’t wait for May and the World Cup opening. I want to get on training camps and get back in the terrain. I have unfinished business this year, and I’m ready for next year to begin.

There’s only a lot of hard work between now and May …

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