Monday, 25 June 2012

What a week....

Currently on my loooong drive home from Birmingham, bored in the car and so no better time to write my latest blog! I’ve really enjoyed keeping these little blogs as I feel it’s something that I’ll be able to look back in years to come and fully remember everything that’s happened! It’s been a complete rollercoaster of up and downs and I’m sure it’s not over yet!

Scotlaaaaaaand nails!
After my A Qualifying in Oslo, I had a really good week worth of training. PB-ing in both my Tuesday and Thursday session I knew I was in really good shape.  However, our Saturday morning session was completed in weather I could only describe as the apocalypse. IT. WAS. FREEZING. Couldn’t believe the weather – along with the torrential rain – we were not a happy training squad. My session actually went well but something just wasn’t right.

These Pictures were clearly not from that day... But for some Sunday Newspapers whom came along to one of our sessions.

That night Howell mentioned he didn’t feel great and advised me to take the horrible concoction of vitamin C and zinc drink he had made up – but me, being my stubborn self, I refused. The next morning…. I woke up ill and Howell woke up totally fresh – I was not a happy bunny. Later that evening things got progressively worse. I had a really striking headache, swollen glands, red raw throat and my nose and sinuses were completely blocked! My face was all swollen and my eyes were all bloodshot, I looked like Quasimodo – not attractive. 

I just couldn’t believe that the most important week of my life was happening and I had fallen ill! My one opportunity to secure my place for the Olympics was slowly starting to dwindle away from me. I got myself quite upset about it all – after such a hard winter coming back from injury – then clattering a hurdle the week before Oslo and missing more training – I then missed both my training sessions this week due to my cold. I just felt like God was single-handedly picking on me!

I think I have tried every possible cure (or more like myth) for the common cold. However after almost a full week of being ill, I went along to the Scottish Institute Doctor on Friday. I then realised it was maybe not just a normal cold and perhaps a virus – as my symptoms were not getting any better! I was prescribed some antibiotics and told to take them for the next two days. Again, me being my typical stubborn self, I was quite wary about taking them so close to such an important race – but, well… he is a qualified doctor and I’m a struggling maths student! Haha.. By Saturday, things had picked up, although my throat was still really sore. My mum persuaded me to gargle Bicarbonate Soda and water – which I can tell you tasted DISGUSTING – but it did ease the pain quite a bit. The other things I have tried and tested this week, from family, friends and Google.

1.     Onion beside your bed to absorb the bacteria – Woke up in the morning and the whole room stank of onions and I felt just as groggy as I did previously.  This was taken from family who claimed it was a tried and tested method – but I feel they may have been totally winding me up!
2.     Gargling mouthwash to kill the bacteria that may be causing the soreness in my throat. – This actually did work slightly as it eased the pain in my throat to allow me to eat and drink a lot more comfortably!
3.     Onions in my socks before going to sleep – yes, you read that correctly! My boyfriend and myself read it all over Google and when you hit desperate times you begin to use desperate measures. I definitely would NOT recommend this. It was disgusting. I woke up the next morning absolutely stinking of onion and my feet smelt like an off packet of Monster Munch crisps. It’s making me feel sick even thinking about it – I’m lucky I still have a boyfriend after seeing the state of me in the morning! Haha.

After having several discussions with my mum (coach) and with UK Athletics, they decided that the best option for me would be to wait as long as possible to make my decision as to whether I run or pull out of the Olympic Trials. However, if I were to pull out – my only final way of making the team would be to go to the European Championships in Hesinki a few days later – and to run the A time again. I knew that would be a hard feat, as the Euros are always renowned for being slow tactical races! After speaking with my mum and a few others, they decided my best option would be to race and aim for those top two ‘Automatic Qualifying’ positions. With the weather conditions in Birmingham not being ideal, I assumed it would be a slow-ish race, which would possibly help me.

The morning of my race, I was feeling a lot better and slightly more confident about the prospect of racing later that day! Getting to the track and picking up my number I did start to get more nervous about it. I have noticed that when I am calm, concentrate on other things and in a way, completely forget about my race – I usually end up running well! So I did my best to completely blank out the fact I was due to race in a few hours, despite the fact I was sitting in the indoor warm up arena seeing hundreds of athletes warm up right in front of me!

I had a bit of a panic in the call up room. I gave my mum my huge bag instead of carrying it around with me but realised as I was putting my spikes on, that I only had my really thick Asics socks. Nearly all steeplechasers wear no socks – I assume to reduce the amount of water that is absorbed and then carried around within your spikes! I, on the other hand, always wear thin socks. Last year, everyone kept saying to me, “Don’t be wearing socks”, “No-one else does”, “It’s just extra weight on your feet”, so through peer pressure – I decided to go bare feet and then broke my bloody foot! Haha. So from now on, the socks are staying firmly on!

Anyways I keep migrating from my original topic of this blog; my Olympic Trial! The race started slow as I imagined it would but the problem with slow steeplechases is that it gives me far too much time to think. I start to over think absolutely every jump, especially the water! Going up to the first one all I kept saying in my head was, “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall”, and as you can imagine – I fell flat on my face. I jumped up on the wrong leg, mid air had a panic then landed on both feet, which completely tripped me up! Thankfully though it was only the first lap and I had another six to regain my position and move through the field. All of my barriers were also not great, I was stuttering a lot. This year my steeples have been with Kenyans etc, and they have been so far ahead of me that I’ve had a completely clear run! So it was my first proper competitive race with athletes all around me at every single barrier. With 600m to go I tried to push on and really made my final effort over the last lap. Luckily enough for me it was enough to earn me my first ever British Championship title (apart from the Cross-country back when I was Under 13!!) and pull clear by 6 seconds.  It was nice to see my former training partner and close friend Emily Stewart come through to take the bronze medal. The Scottish team at the Commonwealth Games is definitely going to be a strong one for the steeplechase. More and more of the younger athletes are starting to come through and give it a go – which is great – and will only bring everyone on to quicker and better performances.

The whole weekend was extremely exciting. Scotland had some great performances. Eilidh Child and myself were the only athletes to secure our Olympic Places. But there are now some Scottish athletes fighting for those last few places. Lynsey Sharp had a phenomenal 800m victory along with Chris O’Hare’s bronze medal in the 1500m – both had me up on my feet absolutely screaming at the TV! I was almost more nervous for them rather than my own race!

Before my race I said to both Howell and my mum, ‘I bet you, I get drug tested this weekend’. Clearly I have psychic powers and was correct with my prediction! I just knew that the week where I have a list of medication to take due to my virus that, sods law, I would have to give a urine test. I spent almost 40minutes wandering around in Sainsbury’s in order to make sure that the Lemsip tablets I picked up were ones allowed! I even then checked with the Scottish Institute Doctor just to reassure me that paracetamol was Ok to take along with some other things to try and decongest my nose and head! Obviously being an athlete – you have to check these things and double check – as certain medications that are fully legal here may be different abroad etc. Thankfully I remembered to write down everything I had taken in the past week to make myself feel slightly better! After racing, the last thing you need to do is pee – as I always stop drinking about an hour before my race! You also can’t just down as much water as you possibly can as if the urine is under a certain level of dilution you then have to wait a full hour before giving a re-test. Some athletes can be there for hours and hours on end but thankfully I managed to leave within the hour. It’s always quite an embarrassing experience – but I’m sure for many of the older athletes, it’s something that you just get used to – and get on with! I was absolutely petrified the first time I did it! I didn’t realise your trousers (and underwear) have to be below your knees, with your t-shirt tucked up above your belly button – in front of a random lady you have never met, whilst she watches you wee. It’s a pretty awkward situation and I always feel the need to make really rubbish conversation, which probably just makes things more awkward! Anyways, its definitely something that you get used to doing as this time was a lot less awkward – and it looks like I’m going to have to get a lot more used to it with the up-coming Olympics – all athletes can be tested at any time.

I have now been de-selected from the Europeans this week, which means I now have a good few weeks of training before getting into some flat races. I don’t think I will do any more steeplechases between now and the games – to give myself time to recover and limit any chances of injury with my foot etc. I then have to go through the 3-hour process of picking up my Olympic kit from Loughborough in a few weeks time! I’ve seen some of the pictures – and its unbelievable the amount of kit you get given – so, so excited about it all! J I then go off to Portugal for 12 days with the Olympic camp, before spending the last final 3 days before competition in the village. It’s still all a bit surreal and I cant quite believe it’s happening. I feel like wrapping myself up in cotton wool and just lying in bed! I keep telling people that I’m not going to get myself excited about it all until I’m actually standing on the Olympic start line, fit and healthy! As I am fully aware that anything can happen! Really hoping that my luck is starting to change though. Onwards and upwards.
Next stop London! wahhhhhh!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Article from the Scotsman

Interview: Liz and Eilish McColgan

Like mother, like daughter: Liz and Eilish McColgan
Like mother, like daughter: Liz and Eilish McColgan
WHILE strolling through Oslo ten days ago, Eilish McColgan hit on an idea for a picture for her mother, a reminder of an old friend and past glory.
She went to the Bislett Stadium, to the statue that celebrates the all-too-brief life and times of the great Grete Waitz, world champion in the marathon in 1983, silver medallist at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, winner of nine New York City marathons and now sadly deceased for just over a year, a victim of cancer – beloved by the people.
For a spell, Grete was coach to Liz. Not just a coach, a pal, too. Grete and her husband, Jack, came to visit even when the cancer was taking hold of her. Eilish remembers it well. “They came over about two years before Grete passed away. It was when Grete was really ill. She had just been diagnosed so she was really, really ill but she was still up at half-four or five in the morning to go for a jog on the treadmill just because she had done it every day. It was her routine to do it. I was lying in my bed and she was getting up to train. My mum kept mentioning her statue in Oslo, so I thought I would run out and get my picture taken so I could send it to my mum.”
The picture landed and it meant a lot. Oslo had been good to Liz all through her career. She ran well there. On occasion she ran historically well. There was a time when Ingrid Kristiansen was considered unbeatable but beaten she eventually was and it was Liz who beat her and she did it in the stadium with the statue.
“You know, it was the first time it hit home,” says Liz, the world champion and Olympic silver medallist. “When she sent me back the picture from Oslo I actually sat down and thought it was really surreal. I was the first European to beat Ingrid Kristiansen, so I did a lot of good running in Oslo and Grete was my coach. I was thinking, ‘There’s my daughter doing what I used to do’. I’m really, really proud of her.”
Why Oslo? Well, that’s why we’re here, in a corner of a changing room in a park in Dundee. The night before the stroll and the picture outside the Bislett Stadium came the running inside it. A Diamond League meeting and a world class field. Some phenomenal operators including Usain Bolt – and Eilish McColgan, 21 years old and only starting out in the game her mother conquered. That night she broke the Scottish record in the 3,000m steeplechase and made the A standard for the Olympic Games. Some say she is a formality now for Team GB but the smidgeon of uncertainty can disappear entirely if she has a top-two finishing spot in the forthcoming trials in Birmingham. Nobody can doubt her at this stage.
But she has to tell a story. Oh. My. God. This is how it was, OK? Last August, she was running at Crystal Palace. She was on schedule for a time that would have qualified her for a place in the world championships20 years after her mum had become world champion in Tokyo. At the second last water jump she came a cropper, her foot landing awkwardly and going pop. “I was right up there with girls who had run about 15 seconds quicker than me. I couldn’t believe the position I was in, so I knew I was running quick. I saw the clock with a lap to go and worked out I was under the world champs time so I kept running on it. The last water jump I landed on that foot again, and I went totally under the water, I was like crawling out. You see it on the TV. I just disappeared for about ten seconds! We didn’t know I had broken my foot until the end, when I literally couldn’t move. I had completely snapped the bone and because I had kept running I had displaced it, so the bones all around it were all damaged as well. I had to go for surgery so now I have five screws and a little metal plate just on the bone. Forever.”
It’s been a hell of a comeback. But there is another accident to report. In training this time, just a few days before the Norway trip when she was supposed to be wrapping herself in cotton wool. She sensed it coming. The more careful she was the more certain she became that something weird was going to happen. “I ended up clattering into a hurdle. Instantly I thought I had broken my kneecap. I was hysterical, just rolling around on the floor. It just wouldn’t stop bleeding as well. But straight away my mum said, ‘Calm down, we’ll get some ice’.”
Ah, mum. She comes in the room and talks about her girl, how she’s a different shape, different height, different upbringing, different everything, bar one thing. In terms of their love of competition, they are the same. In Liz’s vast medal collection there is a silver from the world indoor championships, a piece of metal that is distinguishable from the others by a dent in the corner, the product of the baby Eilish in her teething phase – “and then she let it drop. If anybody ever tries to pawn it, you’ll know it’s mine.
“Eilish has always had it,” says her mother, talking about her determination and mental strength. “She’s come from a different background than me. She’s had a lot of home comforts that I didn’t get, but there’s always been something in Eilish that she’s always wanted to run. I never started her running, she started herself running. So many parents push their kids and the kids end up not enjoying it. I never used to take the kids to the track, I never took them to the races with me, it was all very separate. She’s always wanted to do it. It’s just in her. Although she’s a very nice girl, when it comes to running she has the killer instinct in and she thrives on it.
“We’re different. I was too serious about it. Eilish, although she’s serious she still has a lighter side. She’s not as intense as I was. I was 100 miles an hour all the time, always pushing. When I started running it was all about getting away from things that were troublesome to me. I never thought I would be an Olympian. Very few girls ran back then. There were no role models. It was never something I thought I was capable of doing. I ran to escape the lifestyle I had and the problems I had, to be on my own where nobody could bother me. When I started getting good I started getting a little bullying because I was doing something all the other girls weren’t doing, so it was really difficult when I was younger. It just took off after I went to the States and then there was the Commonwealth Games and then everybody was your mate. Everybody wanted to run. Eilish is fortunate that she’s not coming to it from that end. She’s in it because she enjoys doing it and she’s very good at what she’s doing.”
There’s a story they both tell about Liz’s Olympic silver. What Eilish wouldn’t give for one of those. To think that her mother’s precious medal sat in a drawer for 13 years before she felt ready to take it out and show it to people, to think that for all that it represented regret rather than glory to the woman who worked so hard to win it.
“She is still to this day disappointed with the silver medal,” says Eilish. “It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t get the gold,” explains her mother. “It was the fact that I let myself be coerced into doing something in my training I didn’t feel was right for me. I should have stood up and said, ‘No, I don’t want to do this’. But I just rolled with it and rolled with it and ended up getting a silver instead of the gold, but that’s for me to live with and cry about.
“When I got the silver I just put it in the drawer and never looked at it again, never showed it to anybody because I felt that I let quite a few people down and, when I saw Paula Radcliffe sitting at the side of the road in Athens, I just thought to myself, just to get a medal is pretty good, it’s hard to get one and not everyone’s dreams are met, so it brought it home to me that I shouldn’t be quite so disappointed with it. I went and hauled it out and put it with the rest of them and I’m not afraid to show it to people now.”
They’re quite a double act. The upside of having your mum as coach? “She’s done everything I would want to achieve, so I know what she’s saying is right.” And the downside? “Just the general fighting between mother and daughter, I suppose. We are both similar in the fact we are both pretty stubborn. There will be times when we are not speaking and I’ll still go to training.”
The silence never lasts long, though. They have too much talking to do, too much planning. Oslo then, Birmingham now and soon, with fingers crossed, London and the measure of both their dreams.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Oslo Diamond League

I apologise in advance as this will probably end up being a huuuuge blog but there is a lot of stuff to cover and I have nothing to do for the next hour or so!

Last time I spoke about how excited I was to participate in my first ever International Diamond League in Oslo. Although I had done two diamond leagues last year, they were both in the UK and so didn't really feel any different to some other races. A lot of people think it must be great with all the travelling athletes do but to be honest, you don’t really get to see many parts of the places we visit – apart from the stadiums and hotel rooms! However, my flight home was quite late at night the following day and so for the first time – I actually got the chance to wander around Oslo and do some sightseeing!

Race number!

Preparation before Oslo was not the best. My last training session, on the Saturday before my race, went well but afterwards I decided to do a few runs overs, over some hurdles – bad idea. One of the hurdles was too low and put round the other way by accident. I absolutely clattered into it with my knee! The pain across my knee cap was pretty bad and I couldn't carry on running. After falling to the ground, I then could not manage to bend my knee at all. The first thought that went through my head was that I had broken my knee cap. I was panicking so much and got myself so worked up about it all! After crying for quite a while, I eventually managed to hobble to the car and head home! After hours (and I mean HOURS!) of icing, ibuprofen and all other possible things I could do to alleviate the swelling and pain, the knee cap was completely fine – apart from quite a deep cut that refused to stop bleeding! That night I managed to make the final part of our close friends (also in our training group) Laura and Graeme Oudney's Wedding! Although I looked like a complete geek wearing my mums old sandals with my bright blue insoles sticking out of them! But I really didn't care – and I refused to take anymore injury risks! Haha..

Howell and me.. with a creepy matthew
Miss Jenny Tan and Myself
The wedding was amazing! Although it is really weird to think that two of my really close friends are married now. I had only ever been to a family wedding before – must be getting old. I refuse to call Laura Brown.... Laura Oudney though. It's still so strange. The two of them did look beautiful though and the evening went perfectly. It was also a really good chance to get everyone together again – all the people we used to train with years and years ago and a few of our coaches.
Me and Howell :)

My extremely good-looking training group
The next day I woke up to a lovely bruised knee cap and decided it would be best to cross train for the next few days until the bruising went down as I was struggling to run on it. Luckily for me by the Tuesday I was back running fully again and so able to compete on the Thursday with no problems at all!

As you can see, preparations were not ideal before Oslo. I was a little bit worried about how things would go as I was perhaps a bit negative about the way I was thinking – but I knew I was in good shape regardless of what had happened the other day in training. To be honest, I wasn't nervous at all. Knowing that your one of the slowest in the race allows there to be absolutely no pressure on you – just like at training. I knew all I had to do was sit at the back, run my own race and work hard. To run a PB, a Scottish Record, an UK U23 record and an Olympic A time – I maybe should have been a lot happier than I was but I just felt that I could of gone a little bit faster. I lost concentration on the middle laps and only got back in touch with the race after the second last water jump – as I slipped on the barrier!! Instead of my spike plate going into the wood, I over-stepped it and hit it with my heel. Instantly I thought – not again! - as the last time I did that I ended up breaking my foot and swimming about in the water for about 10 minutes... Thankfully I managed to stay upright but the panic made me switch back on again. Hopefully i've done enough to put myself forward for selection towards London 2012 – I really feel that by the time the Olympics come around I will be in 9.30 shape and hopefully fighting for a place in the final. Will I be in with a chance for a medal? Of course not! Unless I managed to attach a rocket to the bottom of my spikes. But realistically I do believe I can make a final, just.

Whilst in Oslo, my room-mate was Steph Twell. This was actually the first time I had ever met her and it was weird to hear how we both had very similar stories about breaking bones, surgery and the rehab we both went through to get ourselves back racing again. It was quite nice to chat to someone who had been through the exact same thing I had – although hers was perhaps a bit more serious - being such a high profile athlete to begin with and perhaps a lot more pressure being put on her to return to form – than myself. She is genuinely one of the nicest people you will ever meet and I really wish her well for the rest of the season as she truly deserves to make the team for 2012 after what she's gone through – hopefully I can join her there!

I had two 'Oh my jesus' experiences whilst I was in Oslo. The first being with Usain Bolt. All the athletes in the warm up area were meant to use the one toilet. As you can imagine with one toilet and hundreds of athletes – the queues are long and the toilet begins to get horrible. So I decided to run into the changing room toilets which were to be used only for Taekwondo (supposedly!). But as I ran out of the toilet I was directly in Usain Bolt's face along with his three HUGE security guards. Usain was in his normal cheery mood but these security guards looked like they were going to beat me up so I avoided all eye contact with them and nervously ran out of the room as quick as I could! The room was purely for Usain only. Oops, so cringey. I think they thought I was just following them around but genuinely I was just using the bathroom. Haha.

I had never really thought about this before, but Usain Bolt must have quite a tough life. He is obviously a huge earner and can buy himself whatever he wants – but in a way, he is isolated all the time. He doesn't have meals with all the other athletes and is surrounded by bouncers whilst he is warming up on the indoor track that only the athletes can access. It must be a really weird situation to be in – one where his every move is monitored. There is also a huge pressure on him to constantly perform. Before his race he is showcased to the huge crowds and then on the TV there is the 'countdown to Bolt' timer that gets everybody excited to watch him race. It must be really hard to keep performing and motivating yourself to go through the whole circus of press and media over and over again – but he does it so well.

My second highlight involved another athletics hero – Bekele. Myself and Steph sat down for tea at an almost empty table. But within seconds most of the table had been taken up by some of the Ethiopian team. Bekele then strolled over and sat directly in front of me. He is one of the few athletes i've never actually had the chance to see in real life – so it was pretty cool. I couldn’t help but stare at what he was eating, maybe if I ate what he did i'd become one of the best in the world?! Well i'm sorry to announce that the information I conduced from his eating was definitely not useful. Bekele sat down with a burger, rice, salmon, noodles, vegetables, baked potato and waffles. It was just a huge mountain of food with no real thought. Waffles – a desert – mixed with the rest of the buffet choices. Healthy eating – schmealthy eating, I filled up with seconds and thirds after witnessing it – all about the recovery obviously! Haha.

Oslo Opera House
Oslo Palace
The following day I decided to take my camera out with me after my easy run and do some sightseeing around Oslo – i'm not really into stuff like that but it was actually pretty sweet. I stopped at the Opera House and the gardens around the Palace which was so, so lovely. I also took the opportunity to take a picture of the statue outside the Bistlett Stadium of the late, great Grete Waitz. Grete Waitz (1 October 1953 – 19 April 2011) was a Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder. Waitz won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988, more than any other runner in history. She also won a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki. Grete and her husband Jack were also very close family friends with our family – as Grete had actually coached and given my mum some advice in the final years of my mums career. Her and Grete were very akin athletes mentally and had very similar thoughts on training. Even after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Grete was still up at 5am to go for her morning jog when she came to visit us in 2010. She really was a true inspiration and I am very fortunate to have met her.
Statue of Grete Waitz

My return flight from Oslo Airport ended up being a bit of a nightmare. Security strikes caused mile long queues that took over an hour to get through as only two of the security scanners were opened for hundreds of passengers! The staff were all so lovely though and handed out free bottles of water and ICE-CREAM!! I had never been so happy in my life – like a little kid at christmas I was totally beaming about this ice-cream – you would of thought I had never been fed before. But it was just the constant queueing on my tired legs – I couldn't wait to get home and lie down! It did make me laugh though looking around the queue at serious business men all scoffing down their ice-creams and looking pretty pleased about it all.
My free ice-cream.. nom!

Just quickly I would like to thank every one for their lovely messages, facebooks, tweets etc! It was so, so nice to read them all. I think I replied to everyone – but my twitter was playing up a bit! So I apologise if I didn't reply to anyone. Don't take it personally but I must really hate you. Jokingggggg.

After Oslo going well, myself and my mum decided the best idea for me would be to train from now up until the trials on the 24th June. For me to cement my place in the Olympic Team I have to come top 2 at the trials, fingers crossed I can achieve this! If not, I would possibly have one more opportunity to make the team at the European Championships a few days later in Helsinki. But hopefully I wont have that added worry of chasing competitions like I did last year! I would like to limit the amount of steeples I do this year to give myself some time to recover and lower my chances of injury!

Next stop: The Trials!

Monday, 4 June 2012