In my previous incarnations as an orienteer and fell runner, I probably raced 20 or 30 times a year and, if I am truthful, did not really focus on one specific race in any 12 month period. Now, this has advantages and disadvantages. It was never too long over the winter before the first fell/orienteering race so you did not have to maintain motivation for training for very long and once the season started properly, I was basically racing every weekend. If things went wrong in a race, it was "no biggie" as there was another one a few days later. On the flip side, I look back and wonder if I ever really got the best out of myself when I was training and racing over such a long season.
I have a totally different outlook now. Since I started having a stab at ultra running, I have focussed on just a few key races in the year, perhaps as few as 5 and, even then, using some of those as preparation for a bigger fish to fry later. A few weeks ago, I was trying to explain to a sports psychology class full of games players (football, rugby, netball, hockey) how different it is with regard to training motivation - contrasting sports where you compete every week with those (ultra running) where you train for 6 months for one performance.
Ten years ago, I would have raced more often, even if doing ultra races. I know my body could have taken the stresses then, but now I have to listen to what the body is telling me and plan more carefully if I am to get the best out of it. It does, however, mean that the competitive juices have to be kept bottled up for long periods of time which is difficult to do, especially round here when the fell racing season is kicking in.
Thinking along these lines then makes me wonder if doing some fell races might help with my ultra preparation, but for the time being I am going with the "if it aint broke ..... " philosophy.
All this brings me round to the conclusion that I need a race. Since The Tour de Helvellyn in December, I was supposed to have done two races (The Dark Mountains mountain marathon and the Dark Peak Marathon) both of which fell through with injuries to team mates, so I am now into my fourth month without a competitive outing. Boy oh boy, am I looking forward to the Highland Fling Race!
It is said that you don't have to dig up the spuds to see if they are growing, but I at least want to have a look to see if I've got any spuds at all!
The thought that occupies some of my training time is how many of the spuds do I want to dig up during the Fling, knowing that the main focus of the year (the West Highland Way Race) is only eight weeks after. The answer to this seems to vary depending on whether I am running out on the trails or sitting at home, perhaps being more logical. If I am cruising along a lovely trail, I think I will have a good blast in the Fling, when the adrenaline has subsided, I think it is wiser to keep the powder dry for the WHW race.
Psychologically, it's great to run a faster time at the Fling and build some confidence, but I have to wonder how long it will take to recover and is there enough time to get some quality training in before a taper for the big one? I have some real quality training planned for May and think that I will gain more confidence from completing that than I will from a better time in the Fling allied to slightly lower quality training.
I could probably ramble on for pages and still keep changing my mind, and I'm sure that everyone else who is doing this double will be pondering this exact same problem. However, I have the feeling that I will be keeping quite a few spuds buried for the big occasion in June.