When I think of a long distance race in Czech Republic, pictures of me pushing up the hills, running fast on paths and attacking the controls in the vague and green areas come to my mind. The reality looked quite different. Since February I have had some pain in my hamstring with the result that I reduced my training hours and intensity during the last two months. Training less is one thing but not being able to do the tough speed sessions and plyometrics make it almost impossible for me to get into top shape. Since I couldn’t change the situation and my hamstring still caused trouble, I focused on saving as much energy as possible the days before the race and I took pills again to reduce the pain and inflammation.
I managed to get rid of the pain after having done a proper warm-up but the way I felt in my body during the qualification prevented me from enjoying that race. I felt bad from the first control, had no power at all and had a hard time to ignore my bad physical shape. As it was no fun at all to run and my biggest wish was to just lie down in the shade and pour water over my body. I thought it would not be a pity to not qualify for the final. I didn’t know how I should survive an even longer course the next day. Fortunately, my competitive instinct is still there so I could keep my things together in the last part of the course and made the top17 in my heat. After the race I searched for explanations. The temperature (up to 28°), the steep slopes, the bad self-confidence and my physical shape are part of it but still I don’t want to feel as bad as I did out there again.
The next problem was to somehow find energy for the final. I tried to do all the things possible including sleep, food and mental reloading. When we were driving up to the start area I for the first time since the qualification started to look forward to the final battle. The forest looked amazing, it was a bit colder than the day before and I realised that I got one of the few chances to compete on a tough and fun course on a very important international competition. The trickiest part of the race was the beginning and I found a good rhythm. Then the longest leg came and I took quite a good route choice with a long uphill in the end. Since I didn’t feel completely different to the day before I had to pay a bit for this uphill on the next controls. Anyway I continued holding a slow but stable rhythm and if I would have taken the best route choice on the last long leg I would have almost ended up in top20.
For the remaining races I was the reserve. Since nobody seemed to have any major problems I was mentally already in recovery mode and started to plan my training during the rest of the week. But at lunchtime before the middle qualification Andreas Kyburz came to my room and told me, that he could barely stand on his foot. So I needed to be ready, the decision was planed for the morning of the qualification race. I started to look closer at the information and maps for the middle and realized that this is going to be a fantastic race. I love the green and stony areas so beside feeling sorry for Kybi I started to really look forward to potentially getting another chance. The next morning I was pretty sure I would run and planned my competition day but then Kybi came back from his short running session and apparently the painkillers did a good job. That moment took a lot of energy since my feelings were very mixed. I was happy for Kybi that he could stick to his plan but at the same time I prepared my body again to be able to be in competition mode at the start. Since the relay was just after the middle competitions I also had to stay alert for that last race in case someone would injure themselves during the middle final or Kybis foot would get worse again. So I did my job as a reserve runner with the result that I feel very tired after this week without running any races in the second half.
To be able to perform at my current best level at the main competition makes me happy. It was a very good and important race for my self-confidence and I am now looking forward to the WOC test races (starting 22nd of June) even though my shape will not be the very best there either.
© 2016 Raffael Huber