Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Catch Up

It has been quite a few weeks since I last wrote a blog, mainly because my university exams have been ruining my life. Thankfully, they went well (I think), which means I can now sit back, relax and genuinely do nothing with my life for the next two weeks! I took a little break from training after the New York 5th Avenue Mile and went on holiday to Calpe. Spain.

Jet-ski of hell
El Penon de Ifach (far left)
A few steps away from the SNAKE!
It really was an amazing little town. I decided to go jet-skiing for the first time ever but as we were waiting to go on, for some stupid, stupid reason the first thing I googled was 'jet-ski deaths', to which hundreds of results popped up! Not good. For the remaining 30minutes out at sea, I was screaming the entire time to slow down. Jet-skiing is definitely not for me. To make matter worse, to save money we decided to skip getting a taxi home and walk across the rocks – a more direct route – back to the hotel. Another stupid idea... which ended up with me almost stepping on a snake. YES, a real live snake. This does not happen in Scotland! On our last morning in Spain, we took a walk up the El Penon de Ifach, which is a HUGEEE amazing rock which is open as a natural park. At the very top you can see views over the whole of Calpe. Again, due to me being a huge girl – I didn't actually make it up to the very top – something I deeply regret, as it looked amazing! Next time.... maybe.
UKA Awards
UKA Awards

UKA Awards
On return from my break, it was a quick turn around back into training again. Winter training has hit me hard. The cold, dark morning and evenings are not the most enjoyable but there the ones that make you stronger, (or so I keep being told?!). My mileage has increased significantly, as this summer, due to my previous foot injury – I haven't ran any more than 45-50 mile a week. Not because I couldn’t, but because I wanted to limit any chance of injury in order to make the Olympic Team. Obviously, this winter will be my best opportunity to increase this to where it probably should be! So far, things have been going well and I have been extremely fortunate to have stayed injury and niggle free. Sessions are pretty tough especially when it's absolutely freezing down at the track. It also doesn’t help that half the lights at our local track aren't working – which means that every 100m we run into complete darkness and then re-emerge from the darkness again like a really rubbish version of Batman. But I am extremely fortunate to have such an amazing training group which makes things 100 times easier. My times have improved hugely from previous years which is another positive sign – although - I am purely running at the moment. I haven't been able to do any sort of strength and conditioning program or hurdles at the moment as I am constantly tired and still adjusting to this new winter schedule. At this time of the year, I just want to make sure I am running and keeping injury free!

Running around the High St. with my cone head...
 May look stupid but guess who has dry hair?!
This meant that my first little race wasn't an enjoyable one. I had taken three weeks off and then had about two weeks training before deciding to do a small road race for my University. The 5mile Alan Scally Road race is always a great event – although I didn't particularly feel like I had ran well – I managed to run the fastest female time and it was over a minute quicker than I had previously ran! I had a few XC's that were scheduled in but due to things changing – my plans have changed and I haven’t done any this year at all! A big change in my training program has been introducing more grass sessions and the majority of my easy runs are all done on grass – whereas previously, I only ran on roads. It has definitely made me a lot stronger over that surface and strengthened up my 'bad' foot to the point where I no longer look like a deranged Bambi.

Another change is that I am now a Nike Athlete. I am extremely fortunate to now have the support of the largest sporting brand in the world and I am really enjoying being part of the team. Shoes for me – is obviously a huge factor – especially after having such a huge problem with my foot last year. It has got to the stage where I avoid wearing any shoes that cannot fit my insoles in, as my foot can still be quite sore on a daily basis. I was a bit concerned about changing trainers as sometimes your feet can get used to a certain pair and almost adapt to fit those set pair of trainers – but I have been able to change my trainers to Nike with absolutely no problems at all! My new spikes also look amazing so I can't wait till the summer season begins!
Harvey Nicholls Event
Scottish Sport Awards

Harvey Nicholls
Over the next few weeks, I will be enjoying a very quiet Christmas and New Year before heading to Kenya for the first time ever on the 3rd January. Attitude training is something that I have never tried before so I am thoroughly looking forward to this opportunity. To be heading out with the likes of Mo Farah, Hannah England and several other amazing athletes – will be a pretty cool experience. I have also been given an altitude tent to try out over the next season in order to try to adjust me to the Altitude of the Rift Valley before I head over there – and also to try to maintain my bloods once I return back to the freezing cold temperatures of Scotland.

This week I took a small trip down to Loughborough for a few days to get some physiological testing done. This is also something that I have never experienced before – but it was extremely helpful and gave me an insight into the way in which my body works. The treadmill was a huge machine which could fit cyclists or wheelchair athletes on it. It was a weird experience running on this huge treadmill whilst wearing a very warm mask. The first test was to check the changes within my lactic levels as the speed was increased. This required me to run 3minute repetitions, 6 times, and in between every one, take a prick of blood from my ear to test my lactic. Barry Fudge (UKA) was conducting the tests and said that my lactic levels were extremely low, which was very unusual. For the first two runs my levels weren't increasing above 1. I then had to do one extra repetition in order to try increase my lactic levels above 4. Over the years, in training sessions when other athletes have been lying on the ground explaining that their 'legs are like bricks' or that there 'jaw has lactic' – iv'e never been able to relate. I always used to say that I didn't ever feel lactic that bad – to which people in my training group always told me to shut up whilst they lay dying on the ground. Now, I have some data which proves I wasn't being a pain in the ass and joking around with them! Haha – I just don't have a very large lactic build up like others do. Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but i'm sure the other athletes in my training group would kill to have less lactic build up – so i'll take it!

Physiological Testing
The final test was to get my max on the treadmill. The breathing apparatus was so warm to have over my face that it was quite difficult to breathe and run with at a quick pace. In this test, the treadmill picked up speed every minute by 1km. With having such a rigid foot, I found it quite hard not to keep tripping up every time the treadmill had a rapid increase in speed. This made me panic slightly as I had a horrible image of me tumbling of this massive treadmill but still hanging on by the breathing mask attached tightly to my face! That wouldn't of been a cool look. But thankfully I managed to keep upright and on my feet! I managed to stay on for about 5 minutes before Barry told me to stop to take my lactic levels again. He said that my Vo2 Max came back in the high 60s which for my age and taking into account that my weekly mileage has only been 50miles – was a good starting point. Vo2 max's don't particularly give an insight into what a good or bad a runner you are – you could have a fantastically high Vo2 Max but not be a good athlete. It's about how you utilise the capacity you have and also how economical you are. Economy and efficiency within your running is effectively more important than these values but it was nice just to have a set figure and know where my aerobic profile is. Barry claimed that my profile came back as a Marathon Runner. Obviously this pricked up my mums ears and she claimed 'she knew that one day I would be a good marathon runner', my ears flopped down like a sad little dog. Marathons are definitely not going to happen anytime soon... and if I have my way – they will never happen! Muhahaha!

'Camping out' in the Altitude Tent
I will post some videos from my testing when I get them through – not sure how interesting they would be - but you can see me dying on a huge treadmill with a weird 'gas-mask' sort of thing – but hey, whatever might float your boat. I'll make sure I take some pictures and videos whilst out in Kenya to give you an insight into my first ever altitude camp, hopefully i'll make it back in one piece and avoid the mozzies....and lions.

There have been another few changes within my current training set-up. Due to no longer having a car (as of January 2013), I am looking to move flats from Carnoustie into the centre of Dundee. It makes a lot more sense logistically and financially as I can walk to University, walk to a gym and jog 2.5mile to the track and save on petrol. The only problem I face is travel to races... but i'll worry about that nearer the time! For now, it's time to pretend I don't a 'to-do list' the size of Everest and enjoy the multiple Christmas films on TV.

Merry Christmas (Eve) to Everyone – I hope santa is good to you all!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ice, Ice, Baby... Time to chilllllllll

Racing in Gateshead

After a disappointing performance in Italy over my last track race of the year – I was really looking forward to my first ever road race, the New York 5th Avenue Mile! However, before this, I was pulled in as a last minute replacement for the City Games Mile as part of Team GB in Gateshead. Again, I had a disappointing race after feeling very fatigued all week. The event was a great experience though and totally different to how track racing feels. I couldn't believe how quickly it passed by! But it gave me a real insight into how racing on the road, two weeks later in New York would feel like.

Kids all doing the mo-bot!
My younger siblings taking part in the Junior Run!
Last year, I was extremely upset to have missed the opportunity to race in New York due to injury – so I was very glad that things had been going well for me and that I could take part in my first American road race! I flew out very late on the Thursday night but the British Airways flight was superb and really comfortable. The New York Road Runners had organised everything for me – which made it truly amazing. There was absolutely nothing that I had to worry about – the organisation was top-class. Luckily, I got the chance to spend 3 days in New York – in the Hilton Hotel – just a few metres from Central Park. So, so good! I really didn't want to leave. The only downside was that, with only being there a few days and with my race obviously being my only priority – I never got the opportunity to do all the normal, touristy things! I did however, manage some shopping... not for myself, I might add!

5th Avenue Mile
Race bib
The hustle and bustle of Times Square really never stops – it's crazy. But for a few hours on Saturday morning – part of 5th Avenue actually shuts down to allow the mile races! The whole event really was unbelievable and I hope that the NYRR will have me back again next year! After not feeling particularly well with the cold the previous week – I wasn't too sure how my final race of the season would end – but I was pleased with my performance. The route is completely different to the one in Gateshead as the full mile is ran along the straight road of 5th Avenue – with only a small increase in gradient in the second 400m. There are also timers at every 400m so that the athletes know exactly what pace they are doing – and more importantly (for certain athletes) there is a cash incentive for whoever crosses the half-way line first (and for women – finish under a time of 4.32). The cash incentive is a further $1000(!!!) on top of the money prizes for the top 8. At half-way, the cash incentive didn't even cross my mind – the only thing I could think about – was how close to the leaders I was and how slow the pace felt!

GB girls :)
Naked Cowboy!
 I managed to finish a credible 9th in 4.29. It was nice to break the 4.30 barrier and with such a strong world-class 1500m field – I was pleased with my performance. Again, with a little bit more confidence – I do feel I should of started to move a little earlier as I had far too much left at the end. On the plus-side, I was the baby of the group by a good few years, so hopefully I can look forward to several more attempts!

Myself and Anna Pierce (USA) in Coogan's
After the race, the NYRR took us along to a dinner hosted by Coogan's – which claims to be the only track and field bar in the city! For me, it was the only track and field bar i've ever seen! (Do they exist anywhere else!?). The walls of the bar are covered in famous athletes signed vests and pictures – it's actually pretty cool. Probably only cool for athletes or running geeks like myself – but anyways, it was really nice evening. We did however get in trouble for dancing beside the bar whilst a few of the athletes were singing karaoke. The bouncer told us we had to stop dancing as it was illegal and that the bar didn't have a licence for dancing! Again, do these even exist – a licence to dance?! This may sound like we were perhaps dancing on the bar or something more extreme, but we were definitely not that exciting nor drunk.
Bernard Lagat (USA)!!

The next day felt like the longest day of my entire life. After very little sleep the night before – the return journey to Scotland was truly unbearable. With all the time differences I was wandering around like a zombie and actually scared myself when I caught sight of my face in the mirror. Horrible. I then missed my connecting flight due to the huge queues through Heathrow's security and almost cried when the attendant told me the next two flights home were full. Finally, I got a flight back home along with a £5 food voucher. I have never been so happy to see an egg and bacon baguette at 6am in my entire life.

Enjoying my break... Frisky Yoghurt in Edinburgh!
Eventually, I am now on a break. However – after such a long season it would have been a nice feeling to have genuinely not moved off the sofa for 3 weeks straight. But unfortunately for me there was a massive kick in the butt back to reality. The remainder of my 3rd year studies in Maths and Accountancy and part-time work. I have however, managed to sneak in a little 5 day holiday to Spain soon. THANK THE LORD.
Back to uni.. in the cold!
Highlight of being back to uni... discovering the Chinese Supermarket!

My break from training is almost over already – scary how quickly it's passed! I have had two weeks off and now have another two weeks of slowly building back my easy runs again to twice a day. My actual training sessions will not start until the 22nd October, so if you meet me at some point that week – it's probably in your best interest to avoid me. My coach (big Liz) sent me my training schedule for the next two months and it is horrible – but to be honest, I really cannot wait. If I can stay injury free and healthy, 2013 will (hopefully) be another huge step up in performance for me.

Day-trip to Aberdeen..
Cheering on all the Border Harriers at the Great Cumbrian Run
Great Cumbrian Run where I had the pleasure of starting!
Due to all my racing, I unfortunately missed both the main Team GB parade in London as well as the Scottish home-coming in Glasgow! I did however, get extremely jealous due to the over-load of pictures that all the athletes were posting on twitter and facebook! It was crazy to see how many people turned up – even in Scotland in the peeing rain! Disappointed that I couldn't be a part of it!

A few days ago, I took a flight over to Belgium to get my current orthotics re-checked and analysed. The whole business is run by the one family and they really are the nicest people you will ever meet! So, so helpful - and deal with the 3 million questions that I fired at them! The tests involve you running over pressure pads in order to work out which areas of your feet are possibly receiving the most impact as you hit the ground. They then do more tests including a back scan in order to work out the shape of insole you need in order to give you the best, natural running style and to minimise any possible injury risk. I honestly would not be running without them and their service is World-Class which is why hundreds of top athletes make the small journey over to the tiny town of Zwijndrecht in Belgium. 

If I have time, I will scan all the information I was given with regards to my running style and post it on here as it really is interesting, honestly! 

Runners Service Lab, Belgium
My last day in Belgium was meant to be a chance for myself and my boyfriend Howell to do some sightseeing around Antwerp. However, it ended very quickly after a 10minute tram ride with Howell spewing at the side of a tram - what was definitely the remainder of our dinner from the previous night (broccoli and carrots from what I could see.. yum!) Great day out for us both... but it served him right for eating the raw meat that we were offered for lunch! I did feel really bad for him though as he genuinely thought the world was ending. The thought of our RyanAir flight home didn't make things any easier!
Zwijndrecht, Belgium
My weird feet against Paula Radcliffe's feet moulds!

Over the next few weeks there isn't much happening – running wise. I will perhaps do a few cross country events for athletics Club Dundee Hawkhill Harriers – but i'm not sure how helpful I will be to the team! Cross country really isn't my forte... Maybe that has changed, as I have improved this summer over all track disciplines. But I remember the not-so-long ago times - of when 13 year olds were steaming past me up hills - whilst I was skating around in the mud like Bambi on ice. I suppose we will soon find out!

This may be my last blog for a few weeks – unless I go crazy with the amount of uni work I have and feel the need to vent (see below). Or until I feel I have something exciting to tell! Until then....

My boyfriend filmed this whilst I was doing some uni work... unbeknown to me.. Ice, Ice, Baby was always a favourite... ;)

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Finishing Season...

The past year has been unbelievable. It's actually quite sad that this is almost the end of the 2012 season. Everyone has waited so long for this year to come around and then when it has – it's totally flown by in a matter of weeks! Along the way I've had my fair share of ups and downs but my season as a whole has been a huge success and a major step forward in my development. If someone had told me back at christmas time, when I was hobbling around with a broken foot in a cast for 2 months – that in the summer I would go on to have my most successful season – making the Olympic Games and PB'ing over 1500m,3000m,5000m and 3000m SC.... I would of thought they were a complete nutcase. But, I did. I wish I had another few months of racing left as I really feel like I am coming back into good form again.

Two weeks ago at the Open BMC I set a PB of 3 seconds over 1500m to clock 4.11. Although it was quite a significant PB, I really felt I could run sub 4.10 if I had a few more competitive races. It was the first time ever that I set off 'quick' (for me) and it made such a difference. I felt so much more comfortable running at a quicker pace and in my own space than any of the other 1500m's i've competed in this year. My main problem is definitely confidence, I need to start going off with everyone else rather than sitting at the back of the pack, loping around like Bambi.

Race bib!
Slovakia Race Accreditation
The following Sunday, I travelled over to Slovakia for my last steeplechase of the year. It wasn't brilliant but it was the second fastest time I has ever clocked at 9.44. The race was a weird one though – I had no idea what pace we were going and thought that because I wasn't too far behind the leaders and pace-maker (scheduled to be going through at 9.15 pace) that I was running quick. But this wasn't the case! I also decided to sit behind an athlete, whom I knew had a much quicker PB than myself – which is really stupid. After the Olympics, people start to tail off their season and as they have peaked for the Games they usually aren’t in prime form or PB shape. Again, this is something that I will learn through racing and gaining more experience on the European Circuit. I was also spending about 5miutes before every barrier worrying about my feet. I have had a few niggles in both my feet and was considering ending my season after the Games in order to prevent any serious problem occurring. Thankfully they seem to have cleared off now – just as the season is ending! But with another year of strengthening my foot – I hope that worry will be totally out of my mine. It was my first time in Slovakia and the area we were in was really nice, although the athlete hotel was a strange one. It was like it was stuck in a time-warp from the 1980's. A tiny portable TV, absolutely boiling rooms and a proper old-school alarm clock. The lift was something out of 'Faulty Towers', only two people could fit in it and the door doesn't even need to be closed securely for the lift to start moving! It's safe to say after my first experience in it, there was no chance I was getting in it again and took the 4 flights of stairs to my room instead.

Mysterious bites from Slovakia.. 
Just last Tuesday, I did my first proper 3000m race of the year. My PB before was set back at the Scottish Uni Champs in April this year but after doing a 1500m several hours before – 9.15. So I was extremely pleased to smash my old PB by 17 seconds and squeeze under the 9minute barrier. It puts me into the Scottish All-time rankings as one of only 7 women to break the 9min barrier – behind the likes of my own mum, Yvonne Murray, Steph Twell etc. I was clocking consistent 71's until around the last K and felt really strong doing so, and I only really started to fade a little over the last few laps. I found myself slightly detached and running into the wind alone which made me struggle even more! With about 800m to go, I was wanting to die and not even sure I was going to make it to the finish! But thankfully I did, in a new PB of 8.58 :D

My hotel in Italy
That would have been a great way to end my track season, however I managed to get into the World Challenge Meeting in Rieti, Italy. After feeling really fatigued all week, travelling down and up on the one day that Tuesday for my race in Manchester then training on top of that - I really struggled in the race. It was actually slower right from the gun compared to my race only 5 days previous but it felt like I was flat-out as soon as the gun went. I had absolutely nothing in my legs and no real reason why, apart from the fact I was perhaps still not fully recovered. It was disappointing to run 12 seconds slower than I did a few days ago – as I was really hoping for another PB. I feel that I am currently in about 8.54/5 shape but unfortunately that's going to have to wait till next year!

Rieti Track
After being a bit down about my race and wishing I had stayed at home rather than travelling all the way to Italy to run rubbish – I then quickly stopped sulking and realised how lucky I am. I have been fortunate enough to travel all around this world this year, visiting so many amazing places and all whilst doing something I enjoy – racing. Rieti is definitely up there as one of my favourite places so far. I had never visited Italy, but the small town of Rieti was so, so nice – I wasn't keen on coming home again! It looks almost like a little film-set, everything is prefect - along with the weather. The track is also really nice and would be a great place to train. I will definitely be looking into heading out there again – whether it be for a holiday or training camp. The only negative was the fact the women's toilets didn't have any locks on the doors and so you were wandering in, opening the doors slowly, hoping that no-one was inside! Unfortunately for me, I walked in on both Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai (not together obviously, that would be weird) – which was really awkward. An Olympic Silver Medallist and a World Champion – not really something that happens every day. We clearly have similar bladder patterns, sadly for me – that is probably where our similarities end! Haha.

Street Artist
The evening after the races, all the athletes, officials and race agents were invited along to a huge villa up in the mountains for a buffet dinner and after-party. It was a really nice night, although it was a tad strange being at an athletics event - but not having all of Team GB there. The weren't many GB athletes to be honest.... myself, Hannah England, Michael Rimmer and Andrew Osagie, but it was nice to chill out. Most of the athletes there were finished competing but there has been no crazy nights out from me... yet. My season still isn't quite over!

The flight over to Rieti was a long one stopping in Heathrow, before finally arriving in Rome (British Airways)– we then had a 3 hour wait followed by a 2 hour bus ride. I was pretty happy to see my bed that evening. However, I thought I was being clever getting a direct flight (RyanAir) back to Edinburgh. Silly decision. People start queuing about 2 hours before the flight is even due to board, then everyone is pushing there way on the plane to find a seat – it's so hectic. Thankfully, I was so tired from the fact I had only a few hours sleep, that I really wasn't bothered where I would be sitting. Everyone is going to get a seat – so why is there such a rush?! I also don't understand why people bother paying for 'speedy boarding' or some of the other 'advantages' you get by paying for all these extras – at the end of the day, your still on the exact same RyanAir flight as me!

RyanAir Queues...
Aside from athletics, I got the chance to go along to watch my first ever football match. Dundee United Vs Dundee FC. It still amazes me that Dundee even has two football teams... but anyways, it was a lovely day out – thanks to one of my sponsors Stirfresh. My little brother Eamonn is a HUGE football fanatic, he can literally rattle off hundreds of facts and figures with regards to football – which is strange as our whole family has always been so involved with athletics! Even though I don't actually support any football team, it was a great day out nonetheless and the noise from within the stadium was ridiculous!
Great Scottish Run - This kid was definitely a favourite..

Just last weekend I got the opportunity to start the Toddler's race at the 'Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run'. It was absolutely hilarious watching all these little kids, do their warm ups along side their parents, line up and then take off as soon as the gun went! They were only running 100m – but to these little ones it was a huge event! It really was such a great day out and I cant wait to take my siblings along next year - as The Great Scottish Run was one of my first ever road races when I was little.

I also took a quick visit to catch up with one of my local sponsors Mackays. As many of my family and friends know, I am addicted to Jam – so to be honest, walking into the factory store is like heaven. Paul and Martin Grant are also two of the nicest people, ever! So it's lovely getting the chance to catch up with them both. I also got some amazing goodies! Nom.
Mackay's Goodies!!
Quick school visit.

Also a quick Thank you to Phiten UK for sending me out some things to try out. Their GB Phiten Necklace along with some moisturisers and kinesio tape. I am still not fully sure of the mechanics behind them, but I have ran two PBs since using them – so they're definitely not coming off any time soon! :)
Phiten Necklace
My last race will be my first ever senior road race, the New York 5th Avenue Mile. To say I am excited about it would be a massive understatement. It's literally all i've been thinking about after the Games. I really cannot wait. Luckily, I got the opportunity a few years ago to go over and watch my mum complete in the New York Marathon for Charity and now I get the chance to experience New York alone! I also get (almost) a full day after my race so hopefully i'll manage to get some sight-seeing in (and some serious shopping). I do however have a little break coming up after New York – a nice little 5 day holiday planned to Calpe, Spain with my lovely boyfriend. It will be the first time i've gone away on a non-running related trip in a long, long time and I seriously can't wait. I will, however, cry if it rains for the duration of our stay. My tan from Portugal is slowly fading and i'm considering fake-tanning for the first time ever. My newly brown hair makes me conscious of how bloody pale my scottish skin is!
A lot of long journey's.. slowly turning me insane..

It's been a long, long season for me – but one that has been AMAZING. Considering how abrupt my season last year was ended and how much I struggled throughout my injury, everything really has turned round for the best. I honestly couldn’t of asked for any more.
Back at work.. where I have to put this ugly mug on all the clothing!
Kat.. haha joking of course!
Nice to see i'm appreciated.. got home to this lovely creation...
It's back to reality tomorrow as I head back to University to finish the remainder of my third year studies. Fortunately, I have split my year and so should have no problems with fitting in all my winter training. Things are taking a step up for me over the winter which I previously haven’t been able to do, due to injury. I am also going to start incorporating some barrier technique work – as I did absolutely zero this year and it clearly showed. I will no doubt be forced into some cross-countries by the big boss (coach/mother) and will also be doing some indoors – although again, I will be training through them in order to be in the best possible form by the summer. The World Championships 2013 is definitely my next aim and hopefully I will be in even better shape and in with a chance to make the final.