Friday, 10 May 2013

The 'real' British Champion?

Photo by Wendy Carlyle 

Last weekend was the finale of the British domestic season - the British Championships (long/classic distance). Sadly, for many of the elites, it was one weekend too far. Selections were decided, university exams have started, travel bills are rising and some small relay in Sweden was happening - there were a variety of reasons for the small field.

While understandable, it's a shame that the most prestigious of British championship titles is the afterthought for many. It may not be the new way of thinking but I can't help but see the winner of the British classic race as the 'real' British champion and the sprint and middle titles are still add-ons.

(Note - I say all this having been one of those choosing TioMila last year and being the current British sprint champion. And yes, lots of alternatives have been thrashed through on an annual basis on nopesport.)

Anyway, all these politics didn't detract from a lovely event with proper championship courses. The extra touches like an elite arena start and run through did not go unappreciated.

I really wanted to win but I'd not put together a decent forest run yet this season. My splits had shown I have the speed but I have always let myself down at one control, or often more. So despite the fast terrain, I set off with the brakes on and full concentration on my compass. This worked pretty well for the first couple of km and I knew I would be in the mix once I hit the radio control (number 7).

I went fairly straight for the long route choice but trying to cross reentrants at the highest point to avoid too much extra climb (red). I didn't consider any other route round but maybe the height-saving blue/yellow route was better.

My route in red, other routes I'm not sure about in blue and yellow .
Full course in Routegadget here

My concentration wandered during the long leg which was no bad thing but I failed to pull myself together for the next tricky leg to number 9. I got pushed off by mountain bike tracks and made my first major mistake of the course.

I had another small miss before I made it back to the arena for the spectator run-through and map exchange and I was no longer confident that I would be amongst the leading times. This made me pick up the pace considerably on my last 3km loop. I knew I'd have to focus hard to run at that speed and I did that well for a few controls. The arena was in sight and I just had one tricky ditch to find. I set off on my bearing but failed to stick to it the whole way and binned a bit more time. Frustrating but my own silly fault.

A good day for the household - Murray becomes King of the Forest
Photo by Rob Lines

As it happens, Sarah Rollins had a rare off day and I was able to take a comfortable victory by 6 minutes. I think I also focus too much on the bits I did wrong and I forget that actually a large part of the course went really well. It was my best run in the forest this year and I am really proud to be British Champion.

My wonderfully mad Harlequin teammates.
Do support them by eating at O-Nosh!
Photo by Wendy Carlyle

The following day was relay day and I was sandwiched (excuse the pun) between the two O-Nosh chefs Romualdas Stupelis and Jonathan Rhys.

Romas came back in the lead on first leg and so for about 20 seconds I was leading the Men's premier relay at the British Championships! It was not long before the boys started streaming past but I was not going to give up without a fight.

Apart from a small miss on one control, I had a very clean run. The gaffles varied quite a lot and so those that had caught me up in the first section seemed to have to cover the extra distance later. The last kilometre was painful uphill slog but I was dead chuffed to have held onto 3rd place (helped by 1 team mispunching). We finished 4th and very happy as this was far more than we had hoped for.

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