The past couple of days it has started to dawn on me that very shortly I will be flying to Cincinatti to compete in the 2015 OCR World Championships. This realization has predominantly manifested itself in a waning productivity and motivation in other areas of my life, most notably my studies. Rather than sit back in anticipation or do nothing but train I figured I’d spare some time to write a long overdue blog post to reflect on the past season, look ahead to the race and to what’s coming after that.
For me this OCR season, which I deem my first "real" OCR season, started in March with MudMasters. I’d been suffering a knee injury throughout the winter, so apart from some solid strength training my preparation could reasonably be considered nonexistent (I ran only one 18k before the race, on the road the week before, to see if I could even still complete the distance). I went in with no other goal than an OCRWC qualification, yet ended up surprising myself by doing not only that but winning the race as well. I did quite well on subsequent races, but honestly wasn’t feeling my optimal self at any point. I was happy when summer arrived, my race schedule cleared and I could finally dedicate some time to some proper base building. There was one thing scheduled that was about to mess this plan up though…
As mentioned in my post about Toughest 24h, that race wreaked more havoc on my body than I could have imagined, pretty much taking me a solid month and a half to get back to the point I’d left off before it. It was at this point I had to make a choice to either get fast quickly with lots of interval and tempo work, or proceed with the more long-term approach I believe will take me much further in the future (this will have to be the subject of another post), knowing I would probably not run as fast as I conceivably could this fall. I could see a vicious cycle emerging, and keeping in mind that I’ve marked my plans as being long term from the beginning the choice for the latter was actually quite obvious.
Which brings us to right now. Last month in Oslo the elevation was giving me a lot of trouble despite me feeling very energetic. Running up a mountain later that week I noticed I couldn’t get my heart rate above 165 (actually 163 was the max I think) no matter how hard I tried - my muscles just couldn’t keep up with the energy my heart was providing. This situation still holds true today, last weekend’s bike ride included a 1km all-out sprint where it didn’t exceed 160. This is a direct result of all the "slow" training I’ve been doing over the summer, and to me it shows that it is working despite the obvious downsides of the current situation. My running speed has been increasing rapidly recently, so given an extra month or two my muscles will likely catch up. That doesn’t help me much right now, but as mentioned I prefer to see this as a long term project. Rome wasn’t built in a day (though I heard they did the Earth in seven, pretty damn impressive).
So what does this mean for next week’s race? Well, I’ll likely have some trouble on the hills again… I’m still confident about my running though, and my endurance isn’t going to give out, so I do have high hopes for a good race. I also used the past month to gain back some of the strength (especially grip) I’d lost. Obstacles have been a bit shaky lately, but I’d be very surprised (and disappointed) if anything gave me real trouble beyond slowing me down. Either way it’s going to be a great two days where I’m gonna give the best I can.
After the race and a two week holiday (yay!) I’ll focus my efforts on continuing training the way I have these past months. Not only do I feel it will give me optimal performance in the long term, it also has me feeling much more energized, healthy and happy than before. This definitely counts because I see it as a precondition for a certain lifestyle to be sustainable. Apart from this, I think 2016 will be an exciting year for OCR here in the Netherlands, with the OCRA maturing, Strong Viking hosting a "Race Series" and the first independent European Championships being a home game. Hopefully the team will keep on going strong as well, with maybe some more partners and sponsors helping us out.
I can’t wait!