start :: aviemore weekend

A slightly diminished in number older Start Squad took to the valleys of Speyside this weekend to make the most of the lack of Capercaillie ban for three days of quality technical training. Weather conditions were testing all weekend, with the first snow of the winter on the top of Cairngorm and extreme winds on the final day in Inshriach. Still, the athletes treated the weekend with their normal enthusiasm and faced up to the challenge of the weather, the contours, and the team building with their usual style.

The first day's training was held on Loch Vaa, in the intricate but blindlingly fast wooded section on the north of the map. After a morning spent doing fine O, rough O and concentration exercises the athletes were sent into a mentally punishin middle race, with gruelling long legs over vague terrain and tricky sections of control pick and direction change. Douglas Tullie reigned supreme in the men's course, doing a 6km course in 36 minutes, only 4 minutes down on the time set earlier by GB Senior Squad member Graham Gristwood. The girl's race was marred by controversy, with multiple mispunches meaning no winner was apparent. After a wonderful tea cooked by the multi talent Helen and Pauline we headed to Glenmore Lodge where everyone looked at goal setting for next year.

Day two brought some sunshine and Anagach, a beautiful forest with tricky ridges, some very interpretive area of light green and some tough running through bilberry. The devious coaches set a distractions exercise based on the Halden Relay Simulation training exercise linked off nope, with a girls group and two boys groups having to stay calm and run their race despite numerous distractions, including GG posing on logs, Becky running on their shoulder shouting about JWOC relays and trying to leg it after Helen Winskill as fast as possible. Jack Wood almost caught Hector to finish ten seconds down despite being the last to start, and Hollie Orr ran strongly through the bilberries to win the women's exercise. Other exercises that day were contour only, which baffled a few, simplification and something I can't qute remember at this moment in time.

The afternoon was spent one on one with coaches discussing how to achieve next year's aims through a solid winter's training. Once this was completed, we kitted up for a physical session of Intervals teaching. GG took the boys through a punishing 6 sets of 3 minute terrain intervals, while Becks took the girls on a set of hill reps with strides to warm up behind the hostel, before they perfected the Monday lunch time recovery run (or gossip run as the Oxford girls like to call it). The day wasn't over by then however, as we set off back to Glenmore to participate in a team building climbing exercise, a top idea by Helen with everyone getting involved. (Except the coaches, who weren't allowed. Rubbish!)

The final morning was at Inshriach South, where we mimicked the JOK Chasing Sprint in the fiendish contours and runnable moraine terrain. Winners of the first leg were Hector Haines, two minutes down on GG and 30 seconds in front of Doug Tullie. Mikey Hopkins deserves an honourable mention for being just behind these two very experienced runners. Hollie Orr took the first leg comfortably. As the wind got stronger and the rain started the second race began, with Doug catching Hector then falling behind again with a small mistake at the penultimate control. Hector kept a cool head and sprinted to an exceptional victory. After missing his start on the first race, Jack Wood moved confidently through the field into third place. The girls had mostly had enough by then (they ran the same as the boys, which was pretty tough), with Hollie coming in first and Victoria Stevens being the only other finisher.

Another fantastic weekend therefore from the older Start athletes, with a great amount of energy and enthusiasm put into an exciting weekend of racing. The competition looks strong for next year!

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