Saturday, 26 April 2014

European Championships


My first ever European Championships are over and it was a bit of a rollercoaster. It was a good week in terms of performances and results for me even if there was nothing stellar. It's no secret that the organisation was not up to the standards we are used to for major championships and whilst laughable at times, it could be pretty frustrating.

My week started with the long qualifier but the chaos had already begun. The middle qualification day had been fairly surreal and there was no sign of that debate clearing up quickly. We had the promise that the maps were accurate and the controls would be in the right place but it's weird going out without a feeling of total trust in those things. As soon as something doesn't make sense, the immediate reaction should be "what have I done wrong?" I had to remind myself to think like that. Thankfully I avoided too much drama in the qualification race and was safely through in 7th place.

Cat and Claire's arms after the long qualifier - nice.

Not shin splints but thorn defences.

The following day was the sprint qualification, uneventful from my side of things which is how it should be. I enjoyed the course which gave me a lot to think about in the tricky housing blocks at the start and then an enjoyable run through the old town where you had to factor in climb to the route choices as well. I finished 7th in my heat again, knowing that I'd been hesitant at the beginning and eased off towards the end. Even so, the fast times posted were a necessary reminder that I really needed to up my game in the final.

So 24 hours later, after drinking my first ever cup of coffee in my life I was bouncing round quarantine like tigger chasing bees. I went out hard, decisive, none of my usual dithering on routes. Find one, take it, nail it. I finished being pretty happy with my run - my hesitation count low and no mistakes that I could think of. It was no surprise to see later that I had missed a few routes but that was always the risk. I ended up 9th, a solid result in one of the toughest sprint fields I've run against (5 Swiss girls ahead of me!)

Cheering on teammate Kris Jones to a brilliant 6th place.
Photo: Dave Rollins

Thankfully I got a rest on Monday cheering on teammates at the middle final. It all seemed to be going smoothly until late that evening it emerged that the long maps had been uploaded onto the internet. A mad few hours followed and we went to sleep not knowing whether there would be a long distance final. Amazingly I woke up the next morning to find out I would be racing with new courses planned and printed. I don't know how they managed that. My race itself was technically pretty good but somehow not as satisfying as it should be. I had three words in my head: compass, concentration and purposeful. I didn't manage the latter. I started off with total focus on the map deliberately not thinking about the speed. It was only when I saw the yellow and blue shirt of a Swede catching me that I managed to engage my legs. I decided to not let her overtake for as long as possible and in the end she never did. I loved racing by the end - I felt fast and in control and it was so much fun. I ended up 21st which is a respectable result I would have been very happy with at the start. But as always, there are always glimpses of what it could be. I'll try to take it as motivation for the future rather than being too annoyed at myself for now.

We may not get a medal often but when we do, we will certainly shout about it!
Photo: Dave Rollins

However, these were all thoughts I had much later on. After finding my lost SI card, it was all about my teammate Cat Taylor's bronze medal. Its been almost four years that we have spent training and competing together through so many ups and downs for us both. She has pushed me to my best results and I'm so glad I was there to celebrate her getting the medal she really deserved.

Two broken down cars later, it was time to focus on the relay - my first in a GB shirt since I was a junior. I had a job to do on first leg, probably the same as every other girl I lined up next to: come back in the mix. I just about did that, finishing about 45 seconds down, 7th in a stream of runners. I had a good start, wobble in the middle but a good finish. It didn't work out for the team in the end but one day it really will. I loved playing a bigger part in relay day than just spectating, again good motivation for the next few months training.


In sync with the man of the day, Gustav Bergman, on the spectator run through.

It was a small miracle that we got through the week with worthy winners of the finals. I'm sure there are a lot of people who slept even less than me during the week to ensure this happened. Thanks to all those who stepped in. Eva Jurenikova has written a really constructive blog about what could be done in the future.

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