What I Have Learnt From My First XC Season

For me, the cross country season is finally at a close. I can’t say I’m happy as I truly love cross country and I’m really going to miss it – until next year of course. This was my first ever proper cross country season and it’s been one heck of an experience. I thought it would be appropriate to take a little look back at all my races however, I have decided to take a slightly different approach: I’m going to focus on the results. Let’s be real, results are great but personally, I wouldn’t say my results were that amazing this year and, in the future, they really won’t affect me. What’s more important, I believe, is what I have learnt from every race and what I can put into practice later on.By the way, I probably won’t go over every race, just the ones I deem relevant for this blog post.

So let’s start this off with my first club cross country: Surrey League at Nonsuch Park. To be honest, this race genuinely went very well. I was actually able to remain calm and not to stress out during the run. The method that helped me with this and that I will be definitely be using again in the future was counting in head to 100 over and over. This helped me build a rhythm to my running and breathing and distracted my mind from getting anxious. So, all in all, it was a great success…I just need to keep reminding myself to use it!

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Next up is The London Youth Games. If there is one thing I learnt from this run, it was that sometimes, it is absolutely essential to have a fast start – or you’ll be shoved to the back and have no space.

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Then there was the Surrey League in Mitcham. Possibly the most average race ever for me. I guess I learnt that You should probably always check the course beforehand or you could get a nasty surprise.

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Next we have the Lloyd Park races. The first was the Surrey County Champs. Anxiety was the fault in this performance. The following week was a Surrey League. This proves that I run so much better when I’m not under stress as it was the exact same course but I performed a lot better as I was a lot more relaxed.

A little while after that there was London School’s. Ugh. From that I learnt not to build something up so much in your head and then panic if it doesn’t go to plan.

And then finally the tragedy that was Happy Valley Surrey League. Almost without a doubt my best race…until I face planted into the pool of mud. I guess you can say that I learnt to be a lot more careful with my footing. I am also certain that if I every fall again – no matter how mud covered I am- I’m going to get up and continue as I was just so gutted last time. Despite this, before the incident, I ran really really well so I also learnt that when I compete with a bit more confidence, I can achieve a good result.

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In my mind, I think that I generally had more “bad races” than “good races”. Of course, this is probably because I’m so hard on myself and I’m not going to dwell on the various disappointments. In fact, I’m actually quite happy that I have had a lot of not-so-great races because I can learn from my mistakes. For example, in my race last weekend which I won comfortably, I don’t really think I learnt anything that would help me in future runs. Also, it means that I can also improve upon my performances next season!

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Probably my favourite race picture from the season because I look pretty darn fast!

I think it’s clear to see that my fatal flaw, my hamartia as it were, is my anxiety. I also recently noticed that it seems to effect my leg tiredness – possibly because they are more tense. Quite frankly, it’s generally my legs that slow me down so it is it is obviously not helpful when they are super tense. Over the past weekend, I have been training really hard and I have been absolutely loving and smashing it. I am a completely different runner when it’s just me and my dad – with the occasional appearance of my lovely dog Ember. I can run fast, relaxed and push myself really hard. It feels awesome and reminds me why I love to run.

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Much needed post-hill session hugs!

The biggest challenge for me will be transferring this into a race environment. It’s going to be a lot more difficult than I first imagined but I’m going to keep working on it. My immediate plan is to train super hard to become “so good that I don’t need to get nervous”. Obviously this is completely unsustainable – but at least it’s motivating! For now though, the rest of March I will be simply training hard which I think will be great for rebuilding my confidence and enjoyment of the sport. Then it’s in to the busy month of April in which I already have 3 races lined up – one of which will be the start of my first proper track season!! Bring it on, eh?

Thank you so much for reading – it really does mean a lot to me! I hope you all have a great week! Until next time,

Ellie xx

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