There is a saying that to enjoy the summits you have to spend time wandering in the valleys. In more ways than one this applies very aptly to Mountain Running! In all disciplines of running successes and (perceived) failures go hand in hand and that has been true for my summer campaign in the Alps this year.
So to sum up the 2016 season…I am still delighted with my stand-out result of the summer, winning Thyon-Dixence in August. A definite career highlight! I also added a few low-key/cheese winning races to my list of all-time favourites and have collected a couple of course records, which are never an easy accomplishment in the Alps.
However, the disappointments this year included some of the big target races which is never how you want it to go. The European Championships in July was a real below-par performance, primarily due to a bad footwear decision I ran way below what I thought I was capable of. A real school boy error for someone who should know better and has a bit of Championship experience! However, unless you’ve made that mistake before you can’t learn from it, so I have to be philosophical and just make sure it’s firmly stored in the (still growing) book of what to do and not do!
Then almost exactly a week after the high of victory at Thyon, I was crying into a friend’s shoulder having a cramped up, useless left leg at almost the highest point, and 2hours+ in to the classic Sierre-Zinal race…talk about peaks and troughs!!
As much as runners are always highly critical of themselves, sometimes things happen that are unavoidable and inexplicable. I can honestly say on this occasion that I could find nothing to pin point to explain the DNF. I tried to find reasons, scrutinise and hypothesise why I got cramp but, maybe more frustratingly, it just seemed to be bad luck and there is actually nothing I would have done differently in the approach or race tactics… nothing to add to that book of experience!
I was gutted to say the least but at the age of 30 I’ve had plenty of bad results and life hasn’t ended! In fact it’s very rare that I haven’t benefitted in the long term after a disappointing race. If everything went well all the time I wouldn’t have the incentive to train as hard, could put my feet up and indulge in more vin rouge!! There’s no denying that the bad days are crap, upsetting and can make you question why you do put in so much effort and dedication but once the disappointed wanes we usually become productive and work out how we can train harder/smarter, prepare differently and come back stronger.
So to sum up if I was totally satisfied with my 2016 season I’d be slightly worried where the motivation was going to come from for next year. As it happens now I’m calmer and more rational again after Zinal, I know there’s still ways to improve and I’m excited for new challenges in 2017…not that I expect or want them all to end positively!!