To my disappointment, the last few weeks of my race season were not easy this year, and they eventually came to a very abrupt and unplanned end.
Around mid-August, I’d started to realise that I’d probably over-raced this year. In my previous instalment of this blog, I’d mentioned I’d been regularly attending several local open meetings offering time-graded seeding. To begin with, all was well. I was in a pretty constant state of race-readiness, because I was getting a competitive 100 and 200 metres race nearly every week. I’d eased back on speed training in order (I thought) to compensate. I think I was wrong. You can have too much quality. At least, at my age you can.
I’d become so race-ready that I no longer had any pre-race tension. Warm up was a fairly boring routine, and in the end, it became hard to tell whether I was actually ready to race, or just a bit de-sensitised to the whole thing. It may seem a bit of a paradox, but I found that doing all of my speed work in race conditions (ie at 100% effort) actually meant I lost a proper feeling for what 100% effort ought to feel like. I really couldn’t tell when I’d had a good race or a bad one. My times were all in a pretty narrow range, which I initially regarded as consistency. Later, I came to regard it as a rut I was in.
By early August, I had just two competitions left in my diary. As people going to the World Masters in Australia in late October were now beginning to come out of the woodwork (I’m not going, by the way) I expected these last two events would be hotly contested. I raced and won two gold medals at the Southern Counties Masters Championships at the end of August. My times were in the same ball-park area. The margin of my wins was a bit flattering as the opposition wasn’t top notch, if I’m honest. What was nasty was the feeling right throughout that day, that I just didn’t want to be there. Don’t get me wrong. It was a perfectly well-organised event. I’d relieved myself of the added burden of photographing it, and I enjoyed the extra time this gave me to chat to some other athletes I don’t get to spend that kind of quality time with usually. But all the time, I felt flat and disengaged.
With just the British Masters national championships in my diary, a few days after I was due back, I set off on a fairly impromptu ten day trip to France to drive some nice alpine roads. The weather looked set perfect, and I thought this would be just the boost my flagging spirits needed. I’d not counted on the car breaking down on a high alpine road on the first day out from our base in Annecy, nor on the absolutely awful customer care we received from my insurers and their European recovery agents. Sadly, after a week of failed promises and a near-total lack of information, my nerves were shot and I’d stressed myself into a state I could only compare with how I was when suffering from depression a few years back. I was good for nothing.
To cut a long and (for me) really quite painful story short, we got home. A bit later than intended, but home nevertheless. I was told my still broken car would be home at the weekend, on the back of a truck, and that it was imperative I was there to sign for delivery. So, bang went my weekend’s racing at the British Masters Championships, my non-refundable hotel booking, and any income I might have gathered from photographs taken there when not racing. Almost needless to say, the car never did turn up, and still hasn’t.
I was too fraught to care, really. As I write this, a week later, I’m “coming round”. I’d planned to take a few weeks rest from physical activity, but I’ve got one of those bodies that gets bored if not given exercise to chew on, So, I’ll be doing a few local walks with the camera in hand, and some very lightweight, mindless gym sessions, just to keep the blood pumping, before I roll into winter training mid to late October.
It’s not what I intended at all.