2021 Running season recap and lessons

At the beginning of the year, I was looking forward to the race season with great anticipation and high expectations. All of my goal races had been cancelled in 2020 and I meandered through the year struggling to find consistency. However, over the winter I established a great training routine and I did a period of high mileage that set me up for the year ahead.

The race season was filled with a range of goals and race distances and in the end it had the usual series of highs and lows; fortunately this year there were more highs than lows! I was very proud of my race at the ChaChaCha trail where I won my first race in Europe and also of the results I had at Pierre a Voir and Aigle-Leysin which showed my improvement as a runner with faster times than previous editions. I was obviously disappointed with the DNF at Swiss Alps 100 and a little surprised at the miss at Swiss Canyon trails (58th place). You can find more detail about each of these races in their respective race reports:

To close out the season, the rest of this recap is a reflection of what I learned over the year.

What went well

I had a fantastic period of training leading into the summer (general preparation post 1 and 2) where I created a solid training routine, achieving the goals I set in terms of mileage and session quality. I was able to increase my training load throughout the off-season thus building a strong base for the year ahead. I believe this work allowed me to race well throughout the season and I felt like I was relying on this base of fitness all the way through to the last race of the year.

I prepared thoroughly for all the races I did. This included considering the specific routes of the races where I did reconnaissance of 90%-100% of the trails. I also prepared for the environmental conditions of altitude, the specific climbs, and the terrain in each race. The only miss here was my heat adaptation for Swiss Alps 100.

I adapted my race calendar to include additional races where I needed them to help boost my confidence (Pierre a Voir), to use my fitness (ChaChaCha Trail), or I chose not to race when I didn't feel ready (the final races of the season).

I learned from the results and outcomes along the way and adjusted accordingly. A key example of this was the hot weather protocol that I created after Swiss Alps 100 and then implemented in the next race at ChaChaCha Trail.

What could have been better

I didn't appreciate the speed and type of race that the first race of the season (Swiss Canyon Trail) turned out to be. As I said in my report, I was prepared for a "mountain ultramarathon with some faster running" when in reality the race turned out to a "marathon-style race with a climb". This was a disappointing start to the year.

Although I achieved a good routine and training cycle over the winter, I didn't maintain this very well when the race season started. There were a few hiccups in the middle such as my vaccinations which interupted training for about a week each and a fall before Trail Verbier St Bernard where I wasn't able to run for about a week. However, there will always be unforseen circumstances and what could have been better was how I adapted to these occurences. A more consistent training load through the season would have been helpful.

My Swiss Alps 100 race where I struggled with the heat... I don't want to go into more detail again here (it's in the race report), but that was a clear winner for what could have gone better this season.

After ChaChaCha Trail I was completely depleted and I couldn't bounce back to take on the final races that I had planned for the summer. This may have been as a result of doing Swiss Alps 100 and ChaChaCha Trail so close together, but whatever the cause, I would have liked to have finished off the season as planned.

What I'll do differently next year

I would like to do some early season spring races before I hit my goal races for the year. This wasn't possible in 2021 due to race cancellations, but next year I'd like to run some cross-country races and some road races before the trail season begins.

I need to plan my in-season training more carefully and ensure that it maintains the base training consistency and focus. I'd like to have some contigency plans in place to adjust my training in the best way depending on what happens during the season.

I'd also like to create a two-fold approach to try and prevent issues like the problem at Swiss Alps 100 from being repeated. The first part of that is to consider any potential environmental factors and to try and account for these as far as possible in training and with race gear and race planning. The second part is to work on my mental toughness skills to make sure I'm determined and strong enough to ride out any challenges that may arise during races.

A short note on my support: HRV4Training

This year I've been representing HRV4Training. You can read about my relationship with them in this post and see me wearing my HRV4Training vest in all my races. I use the app every day and rely on it to help guide my training. In addition, the support from Marco and Ale helped me to put in place important aspects of preparation from training camps at altitude to getting the best gear I need for training and racing. I'm very grateful for their support and proud to be a part of the team.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this year's results and the lessons I learned. I'm getting stronger as a mountain runner and I want to keep building on that and continue developing my abilities in 2022.

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