Saturday, 13 April 2013

And so it begins ...

To be honest, the start of the MTBO season can't come soon enough now. The snow is melting, and I've been biking with spiked tyres for the last month and a bit.

Today was the first rainy day of the year in Falun. At least, the first proper rainy day. It may have drizzled a little while we were in Lushaugen and England. But not like this. It's great though. The snow is definitely melting, and very soon I will have experienced all four seasons in Sweden. Just got to wait a while longer for spring.

The weather seems just as confused here as it does in England. I am informed that snow in April is a rarity, but it's still possible to ski. Not that I can ski right now - my boots are at Madshus for repair after insane skiing hours from December to the end of March (with 6 weeks break in England).

So, as nature looks forward to summer, I look forward too, to all the joys that summer brings. With warm weather, sunshine, shorts and jerseys for biking (as opposed to 2x thermals, a wind jacket and waterproof, and thermal bike trousers with overshoes and double socks). It has been sunny. And fairly mild. But nothing like the dry summers I dream of.

Spring always brings the MTBO camp in Denmark. This year, a wonderful 4 weeks later than normal - so warmer weather and maybe some fresh green trees. It's always great to kick of the season with the camp, and I missed it last year. It started near Copenhagen in 2006/7 for a few years, before making a leap across the water to Ă…hus, Sweden in 2010. Then it returned to Denmark but to Aarhus in 2011, before heading back to it's roots in 2012. This year, we're in for a treat with new maps in Aalborg.

Thumbs up for MTBO!
The camp is great for many reasons: there are races, there are bikes, catch up with friends after a long winter, and best of all, there are maps! With 5 races in 5 days, plus daily training sessions, it's an intense few days. I've timed it this year to fit in as my 3rd of 3 progressively hard training weeks, so I will be well and truly fudged by the end of it.

It's a great gauge of early season form for many athletes. In 2009, I finished 2 mins behind Michi Gigon in the first race and remarked after 'it's great I can get so close to you after 4 months of hard biking'. To which Michi replied 'and it will be a bigger time gap come the summer after I've done 4 months of hard biking!' And she was right. Come the summer and WOC in Israel, she was much further ahead of me than 2 mins ...

In 2010 I won the overall camp cup and became incredibly optimistic about my form and WOC in the summer. Sadly, the training camp turned out to be my best results of 2010. So after learning the lessons, this year I know that no matter how I perform in the races, no matter how fast I feel I'm riding, the only race that counts is WOC in the summer. I can win or be 10th in Denmark, but it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

Having said that, the camp is the perfect opportunity to brush off the winters cobwebs from my map holder (and bike), and refresh my brain into how to orienteer. The map is no longer the green of Ski-O. No longer do I have to fear for my life on every descent! I doubt I can just pick up where I left off last year. There is going to be some really good competition from the women though - top placings in the races are going to be hard to come by. At my last count, competition from 20 women all equally capable of a top 5 place. But there are some names missing: Schaffner, Gigon, Jaggi. Athletes who have proved themselves at the highest level.
Orienteering at Lagganlia - from W.Carlyle

Winter has been ok. I was chuffed after running in the week (to the gym and back so about 40 mins), to find my legs didn't hurt the day after. Having not run for nearly 7 months, it was a pleasant surprise. Maybe there will be more running in the coming months, but I doubt it. For starters, I can't find my running shoes, or my orienteering shoes. They're probably stuck in a Tesco bag in the shed covered with mud from the last time I wore them which was ... maybe coaching on summer tour last year ...

The plan for the summer is extensive. It involves A LOT of ferries, and car driving. I'm kjempe tempted by Pilsen in early July, but I think I will decide after EOC in Poland. I believe the training will be better in Brandbu, but races in Czech are always good quality and a chance to do some prep for WOC 2015.

There are races in Turkey, Denmark, Sweden (SM), Poland, Finland, Estonia, Portugal. Maybe Austria in Sept, and maybe Czech in July. There's the O-Ringen MTBO planning and mapping to finalise with HJ, and another Foot-O map to make in Norway. There's probably going to be HJ's bike to repair (oh no wait, he already broke it!) Life is going to be busy, training is going to hard. Results, I can only perform on the day ...