A 2020 race report
After the first lockdown in March forced me to quickly abort spring marathon training, I ended up spending almost all of 2020 training for Centurion South Downs Way 100. From March to November I worked through the longest and most focussed training block i’ve ever put into a single race. Except I never actually did the race.
Having spent the spring training for the usual mid-June date until it was postponed until November, the race was cancelled for the second time five days before the new winter race date (thanks Boris!). A lot of people said how gutted they were for me that I had wasted all that time training. Admittedly, five days before the race day is an annoying time to have it cancelled. I had washed all my kit and started preparing my food. I had briefed my crew and done a full kit check – and I had wasted hours convincing my mum that it was a good idea for her to drive me to the start at 3am.
The weird thing was that I was not gutted. I was relieved.
I didn’t particularly want to do the race. I didn’t feel as though this was the race I had signed up for. I signed up for 100 miles on the longest day of the year, where I could be supported by numerous crew and friends who would all be sunbathing while waiting for me with icecream and watermelon. It would be fun (for them). We would go to the beach in Eastbourne the day after for fish and chips. I didn’t sign up for 21 hours in mid-November, largely in the dark, with a crew limited to a maximum of two people for health reasons. But having nothing else in the calendar, I didn’t have much choice, so I put my head down and got on with it. I’m pretty confident on race day I would also have dug deep with stoicism. But the experience would probably have been slightly traumatic.
By taking the focus off of racing, this monumentally disappointing year has taught me that what I really love is the process. Racing can sometimes be quite a disturbing and very stressful interlude between an otherwise consistent and comfortable training cycle. I like consistency. Consistency doesn’t require you to have four days rest to recover from overloading your quads whilst tearing down a hill, caught in a moment of deluded competition with someone who is definitely faster than you.
I’m glad I’ve realised this; it’s been a massive boost to my mental attitude. Ironically, thanks to the postponement of literally-anything-that-could-be-deemed-even-mildly-entertaining this year, I’ve got a pretty stacked race calendar for 2021 ... but this time I'm going in with a deeper understanding of why I’m there in the first place.
Hopefully by the time the third SDW training block comes around (worryingly soon) I will be feeling a bit more fired up. At least it will be summer, anyway, so my friends will probably have a nice time.