Sunday, July 1, 2018

EYOC Forest Races

The morning of the Long distance race marked the begginning of an almost non stop schedule for the rest of the competition.

Firstly we all had to be on a bus at 7am, meaning getting up at 6am for breakfast. This was a tough ask (bearing in mind 6am is 4am in the UK) and almost too hard for some... But we all made it onto the bus and soon on the long bus journey to quarantine. As we progressed into Bulgarian foothills, the roads became narrower, the villages we passed got smaller and the hills bigger.

Eventually we arrived at quarantine, at a place that looked to be a school. We soon found out that our short stay for the morning would be in an english teaching summer school; with the students still there...! At one point they all came out for a lunch break and started asking for autographs of everyone, I felt honoured and quite amused.

A long, long time later (almost 5 hours) and I could finally start to get ready to race. Kit on, check everything and then head to jog up to the start and warm up, almost exactly like I would in the UK. Anyways I got to the start fine, no drama, ready to race. Excited to race.

The race itself was okay, but not amazing. I've come to realise now that it was just an average run. Not what I had hoped for, but probably what I deserved. The course on the other hand was very well planned and a constant challenge. A mixture of really technical controls in green areas, and two mega long legs with no clearly faster routes. In the end I think that I got the fastest routes just lacking a bit of execution so I still lost a faur chunk of time.
At the finish I knew that I had performed okay but not great and was hopeful that I would be rewarded with a good result. 14th wad good but without a few of my mistakes it could have been a whole lot better... maybe next time!

So that was the long, next I was bundled straight onto a bus in soaking wet clothes (yes I forgot to mention that I finished in a thunder storm!) And back to the accomodation. Quick change, a bit of food and then back out to the EYOC party.
A few hours later, lots of food eaten, a bit of dancinh completed and we headed back to the hotel, hot and bothered, sweaty and tired but very content and happy. Nice.

7am and time for the final day of competition. No bus to catch today since we were allowed to take our own transport to the race, so it wasn't as rushed as previous days. Once there, we checked out the arena, I got my kit on and then the team did the classic Paul square warm up. Good times. I was on first leg, and I felt confident. Not too many nerves on the start line but I was just a tad anxious to get started and just to get stuck into a bit of racing. The countdown began, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! We were off, a pack of 18 year old boys from all round the world, charging into a forest, weird huh but I wasn't thinking about that, instead I was very focused.

The first control gaffle in a relay I think is perhaps the most important, you sit in the middle of the pack, wait for the split at the front and then choose your pack correctly. Job done. Now I can race. The next section of the course went really well, I ran to my gaffles, chose good routes and at about two thirds of the way round was leading/ very near the front of the course. Here I made a little miss which lost me about 1 minute and I dropped back, I was joined in this little mistake by Aston Key, the Australian runner and from here on in we raced the rest of the course cleanly and clawed back some time to the leaders. Well when I say the rest of the course, I got gased a little bit on the run in...

I finished quite happy but again a little frustrated at what could have been! However seeing Sweden and Finland finish behind me was a nice touch. Dan got a branch in his eye and couldn't see for half the course, not ideal and then David ran very well on last leg. Overall an okay team performance.

So that was it. Three years of racing EYOC and it's now over. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to compete at these competitions over the years and I feel like they will provide invaluable experience for the coming years. I certainly felt a lot more comfortable putting on that GB top and racing this year than I ever have before. Anyways, thanks to everyone that had helped me!

Now to rest, but only for a week!

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