Thursday, 22 March 2012

It’s funny how a few weeks can make a huge difference.

 Written yesterday.. posted today as i'm lazy :)



It’s funny how a few weeks can make a huge difference. In my last blog I explained how I had just started to sleep in an altitude tent! Unfortunately after 5 days the generator broke down! It was making a HUGE thudding noise every 5-10 seconds and had a flashing warning light – obviously a signal to switch it off! I had to send the generator and tent back to UKA that following weekend and have decided not to get a replacement for several reasons.

Altitude
For the first few nights of using the tent, I really struggled with my sleep pattern. I was waking up continuously every few hours and really only getting 2 hours sleep before being wide awake for hours. This resulted in me being tired all day, although my sessions and runs were going really well. I have been fortunate enough over the past few weeks to have stayed injury free, complete 3 track sessions a week along with one sustained treadmill run – and doing about 55miles total a week – which isn’t too far off my normal weekly mileage.

However over the past two weeks my steady runs have gradually got slower and slower and becoming more of an effort. I was down to 6.50pace for my steady runs, feeling totally fine and monitoring my HR’s on all runs. But they have now slowed to 7.30s and really struggling. Sessions were still going well but my recovery runs and just general recovery was becoming difficult. I began having to sleep at least 2-3 hours every day on top of my normal 9 hours sleep at night. I knew something just wasn’t right! My HR’s were constantly higher – especially on easy runs. After getting a few bloods tests, I found out that my ferritin levels had dropped quite a significant amount from just a week and a half ago, although they were still in a ‘normal’ range, I think it may have been this ‘drop’ that has led to me feeling completely exhausted. I also wrote down all the supplements I was taking and gave them to the Scottish Institute Doctor. He then noted that I was actually taking in huge amounts of zinc – far above the daily recommended intake by 500% – without realising! I don’t know the technicalities of what each mineral does, however I do know its something along the lines, of the fact that, zinc blocks other minerals which then block iron absorption. I’m sure google will have all the proper medical terms somewhere online to explain it all, but all I needed to know was to stop taking all my supplements with immediate effect!

Warm Weather Training 2012
Tomorrow I leave for some warm weather training in Portugal with my training group and my mum, for just under 3 weeks. We are staying in the same place we have previously been for the past 3 years, The Old Village in Villamoura. I am really looking forward to getting some warm weather and training full-time with no worries. Being abroad gives you the chance to become a full-time athlete and you have all the hours of the day, to do all the little things right. Stretching, core, hydration, recovery… you have so much time on your hands to do everything correct. It also gives you the chance to just chill-out, with very limited internet connection and because it costs so much to read emails/text/call… my phone is off for the majority of the day. I was scheduled to fly straight from Portugal out to Font Romeu with the UK Athletics Endurance group, although I have my concerns about this and I’m really not confident about doing so. This is mainly due to the fact that my bloods have dropped and the way I have been feeling over the past week and a half. Things have just got progressively worse each day. I have been extremely down about it all and really struggling to get out and complete all of my training load. After having such a tough last 6 months with injury, I really just want everything to go perfect, and don’t want to have anything that could potentially be a negative factor on my training. If an athlete is anaemic or fatigued, they will not run well at altitude as it only exaggerates these symptoms. I am also very aware that altitude is about trial and error as to when an athlete will have a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ race after coming down to sea level. With it being so close to my summer season I really don’t want to take any risk. And would like it to be clear in my own mind, that the reason I have ran badly is completely due to myself or due to my fitness and nothing to do with my iron levels or from the effects of altitude. This has led me to thinking that perhaps a further 3 weeks of warm weather rather than altitude would possibly benefit me more and so I am going to discuss with my coach what would be the best option for myself. I have an extra 3 weeks off of work and don’t have any exams this easter and so have the perfect opportunity to have a further 3 weeks away training hard before the summer season begins.

BUCS
My first scheduled race is the British University Championships in the Olympic Stadium. All very exciting this year, although it has caused a few problems. BUCS have now brought out a new rule that states that due to excessive numbers wanting to enter the events this year – they have given all universities the opportunity to enter ONE athlete into an event. 'Equality over Elitism' etc etc... This obviously causes huge problems for the large sporting universities like Loughborough and St Marys, but it also causes problems for little ol’ Dundee Uni! We have myself and Morag Maclarty for the 1500m, Jenny Tan, Sarah Kelly, Laura Brown and Amanda Campbell for the 800m – all of these girls well capable of making a final. But with only one spot it is up to us all to fight it out an decide who is running the best on current form rather than on Personal Best times. Due to this, I have entered the 1500m,5000m and 2000m Steeplechase in order to secure myself a race! I will decide over the next few weeks what event – depending on how training pans out. If I don’t feel confident enough with my fitness then I will pull out, but I am sure with the way things have been going that I will be on that starting line fit and healthy!

Everywhere within a few miles radius of the stadium has been totally booked up and so it has been a nightmare trying to find accommodation! Our ‘team captains’ at the university have also had a hard time trying to organise it all – in the cheapest way possible for us students – although its now resulted in us being told, that we have to make our own travel arrangements down there! This is not going to be cheap. Fingers crossed I can get myself a cheap easyjet flight and will possibly stay with some family friends in order to cut costs as the event is over 4 days!

Hurdling
Last week was the first time I had been over hurdles since I broke my foot. It was more a mental thing to be honest, as the foot was totally fine. We did 10x 300m with every second rep over 3 hurdles. Everything went really well and it gave me a bit of confidence to know that I can land/jump/ hop etc on the one foot and nothing is going to give way! I won’t be doing another hurdle session or the water jump until my second week of Portugal just to concentrate on getting my speed and fitness up first. The barriers I can practice closer to race season. Last week was also the first time I had wore spikes since the break! Again it was completely a mental thing – putting on the exact pair of spikes that broke my foot! But everything went great. Although it was a bit uncomfortable at first, I totally forgot about it by the end of the session. These spikes have now been altered with a specially made insole in order to support my arch and give my toes a bit of a help when landing from the steeple. The next day my calfs were not thanking me, I could hardly walk they were so tight! I was rolling about on the foam roller all day trying to loosen them off – nightmare!

'Champions in Schools'
The past few weeks have been quite busy with school talks and presentations. I have now done all 3 presentations of the ‘Champions in Schools’ initiative to Blairgowrie and have a further one more to do for Brechin. The kids have been a delight to work with – really enthusiastic and actually listened to what I had to say – which is a huge bonus! I also gave a little presentation on my athletics to Dens Road Primary School in Dundee as a favour to one of the girls I train with. Primary kids are so easily entertained – especially Primary 1’s – I had such a good time being there. The kids were all really funny and had loads of questions to ask. I couldn’t stop laughing at the little P1’s in the front row constantly waving at me the whole way through my presentation trying to get my attention – they had no idea who I was or what I was chatting about, but were just so excited to have a visitor in their school! I showed them my spikes and my GB running kit and you would of thought I was showing them something extraordinary like a unicorn or an alien… but instead they were so excited over my smelly, soggy spikes.

Training Group
Over the past few weeks, our training group have all made an effort to try and do more ‘social’ things together and to make the effort to all meet up every once and a while. All of us are extremely busy nowadays, not only with training but with work/university and just general life, and its amazing how quickly people start to loose touch. So we have decided that every two weeks we will do something sociable. By sociable, I don’t mean what normal students would do… I mean that we are complete geeks, all cooking tea together or we all meet and play card games or Pictionary. You may think this is a joke, (or some may say sad) but I am being completely serious! I absolutely love my training group and wouldn’t change them for the world. We are extremely fortunate that we are all extremely close and almost like a little family. I have absolutely no interest to do what I was doing a few years ago, living a typical student life, I would much rather stay in and chill out with Howell and my mates than go anywhere or do anything. I’ve turned into a total granny but fortunate for me there are another 15 (approx) grannies in my training group! J Last weekend we al took a trip to St. Andrews for the day. The weather was so nice and we managed to get in a round of golf… well mini-golf… and yet again I was absolutely pants! The team of myself, Pige and Jenny came last by a good 10 shots. Not our proudest moment.

Sponsors
Finally.. I have been extremely fortunate to receive sponsorship from not one but TWO companies for this 2012 season.

Mackays
Mackays is a local company based in Arbroath which is about 7miles from my house. There factory actually used to be based in my home town of Carnoustie a few years ago. They are very well known all over Scotland (and all over the UK) for their amazing jams and marmalades. Fortunately for me, Martin and Paul Grant have a huge interest in athletics and have decided to help me out over the next year, being a local athlete. It also works well for myself as I have always been told by my mum to eat jam sandwhiches before racing. No idea why, but if you ask anyone in my training group, the will tell you the same! – we have always been told they are good to eat before racing! Haha! Something to do with the sugar in the jam giving you a bit of a boost and something about it not being too heavy on the stomach and so you don’t feel sick or heavy etc.. Anyways, it works! And so this partnership is a match-made in heaven for me!

Stirfresh
 Another local company, based in Montrose. Andrew Stirling has been extremely supportive and has supplied me with fresh fruit and vegetables once a week. Having such fresh, healthy produce is obviously a huge help! It has definitely had a huge impact on my diet and I can honestly say I haven’t eaten so healthy in my entire life! Definitely getting my 5 a day! A few years ago i was extremely unhealthy, living off of microwave meals. People don't actually believe me when I tell them what my old diet consisted of.. Horrible! I decided to totally change my eating habits at the start of 2011 and this partnership has only made things easier for me, fresh vegetables are added to every single meal! J



My next blog will be from Portugal.. if I have time in-between sunbathing.. JOKING.. I will be training hard.. And also the internet connection is a bit temperamental. I will take loads of pictures and videos of what’s going on though and post them as soon as I get home!

Goooooooodbye! xxx

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