Sunday, 15 July 2012

One year today


Sitting in Gatwick airport waiting for my flight back to Scotland is a stark reminder of how things were a lot darker this exact time last year. At the Crystal Palace meeting – exactly one year ago - I broke my foot during the steeplechase and spent my return journey home, through Gatwick Airport, being wheeled around in a wheelchair by Geoff Wightman (commentator for many athletics meetings). Its safe to say that this year, Gatwick airport was a much more pleasant experience! I have all of my bones intact and I can walk!

Last year....
After trials a few weeks back, my coach (big Liz) and myself, decided that the best plan of action in order for me to peak at the London Olympics would be to throw myself back into two weeks of really solid training. At the time this sounded like the best option but fast-forward those two weeks and I am seriously regretting it! With missing a weeks training before Oslo (due to clattering my knee) then missing a further week before trials (due to illness) – it made sense to go hard again into full training. The first week flew by, with me clocking personal bests in all of my sessions. However by the end of the second week I was seriously lagging. I was even struggling on my easy runs – only managing to do them in 7.20 – 7.30 minute mile-ing when normally I am able to cruise round in 7 minute miles. My last two sessions were also a lot slower than the previous weeks – struggling to run 48s for reps of 300m- yet a few weeks before I was feeling great and running 46s, two seconds quicker per rep! For an athlete, it can be a bit of a confidence blow and it's difficult to understand why all of a sudden your training is heading down, what seems like a downward spiral. But after speaking to my coach, I realised that fatigue was obviously going to set in at some point – you cannot constantly keep running PBs and feeling great.

Training throughout racing is also something that hits my confidence a little. I decided to race a 1500m at Stretford for a little speed work. After feeling really tired for the past week, as you could guess – I wasn’t too excited for it! However after a lot of persuasion from my mum/coach, I went an raced. Straight from the gun, my legs felt really heavy and I struggled to get moving! The first lap was off pace and things just went from worse to worse for me. Over the last 200m I had absolutely nothing in my legs and people were coming flying past me. I clocked my slowest 1500m in quite a while at 4.18. This to me was a huge disappointment – as I know by my training that I am in PB shape and definitely capable of running close to 4.10/11. After the race – I was ready to retire. It was just such a horrible feeling racing so tired and heavy-legged. But my coach kept reassuring me that in a few days time and with a few days of easy running it would lift. It's not often I listen to my mum – but she really is right with the advice she gives me. To be honest, I am extremely fortunate the advice I get given is from a world champion, who has been through exactly everything you are experiencing.
5000m Diamond League


After overturning my decision to retire from athletics (which was about 2 minutes into my warm down), I was looking forward to having a few easy days before my 5000m at the Diamond League at Crystal Palace. My reason for doing the 5k instead of my main event (the steeplechase) was a pretty simple one – The Olympics. There is no need for me to do any more steeples or to even risk getting an injury before the games. I know I am in the best shape of my life and I want to make sure that I can peak at the Games rather than focussing on another steeple before then. The 5k wasn't an easy option though. I really, REALLY dislike the event. I think this may change over the years as I get fitter and start to train over longer reps and a higher mileage – but at the moment 3000m is definitely my limit! Again, the 5000m is something that I knew had to be done, in order to prepare for the Olympics. It's great to test myself out over the longer distance and treat it as training in the run up the the games. To be racing against the quickest girls in the world – was quite a scary feat – but I knew there would be a small group of british girls that I could sit in with and get dragged round to a time. My finishing time of 15.44 was a PB but I am still a bit disappointed with it, I know there is a lot more there. I cant be too disappointed though as I finished in 9th, and if I am honest, I wouldn’t of expected to have placed any higher. I am still very inexperienced within the event and often find myself daydreaming around the 12 and a half laps until I hear the bell with a lap to go. I'm like a little dog! As soon as I hear the bell, I switch back on again and start sprinting for home! The same thing happened again last night, I found myself stuck in the one pace sitting behind the other British girls before managing to pick up my last 400m pretty well. I suppose it's not bad 'for a steeplechaser' as I was told earlier! Haha, I just think it shows there is a lot more to come and with more development over the next few years – maybe, just maybe... i'll eventually learn to love the 5k.... aha. I did consider retuning to the scene of the crime – the steeplechase barrier that broke my lovely little foot last year – and break the thing down. But I realised that would definitely end in tears and that I would make it easier for the steeplechaser girls the next day! :)

Being at the Diamond League is always a pretty cool experience. I saw a few athletes that I had never had the chance of 'people watching' before! Lui Xiang and Tyson Gay being those athletes – so that was probably the highlight of getting the early bus to the track! I had several hours spare before my race, many of those were taken up by aimlessly watching other athletes warm up. It's pretty fascinating watching how someone like Tyson Gay, or sprinters in general, warm up compared to distance athletes. There warm-ups are a lot more exciting...

So what happens next? I have a further week of tough training before heading to Loughborough to pick up all of my Olympic Kit. This is maybe the most exciting part before the games. There have been rumours flying around – that it takes 3 hours to go through the whole process and that you get 5 huge bags from Olympic Sponsors - Next and Adidas. To say that i'm excited about it is a huge understatement. I then head straight from there to Monte Gordo where I will spend around 10 days for the Olympic Holding Camp before heading into the Olympic Village just a three days before my Steeplechase Heat on the 4th of August. This means that all of the athletes will actually miss the Olympic Opening Ceremony, as much as it would be a great experience – I agree that standing around on your feet for several hours on end... is definitely not the best preparation. I will be quite content watching it on the TV with the rest of Team GB Athletics out in Portugal! I have a feeling the weather might be a little bit better over there than Scotland's current 'summer'.
Scottish Poncho I randomly found in my flat!

This will be my last time at home for the next 5 weeks or so! Pretty exciting but it will be quite nice to spend my last five days in Scotland, getting back into my normal training routine again. I will also get to spend a few more days with my boyfriend, Howell and my sisters little dog that we are currently dog-sitting. We've already made him into a more exciting chihuahua and trained him up into a gymnast. Rio 2016... watch out.
Rex the Gymnast


Looking up previous results, from the past Olympics in Beijing, gives you a rough idea of what it takes to make a final. For the steeplechase – the last qualifying time was a 9.29, however all the races went out in quite a quick pace. For me, this would be perfect. My main aim is to get a personal best time. I know I can run close to 9.31/32 so who knows what could happen. I would absolutely love to make the final – so for me, at this point in my career and at the age of 21, this would definitely be my aim. A few people keep asking me, “ Are you going to win a medal?!”... I am always quick to reply with... “OF COURSE NOT!”. Don't get me wrong. I love a positive mental attitude (and god loves a trier). However there is absolutely no point in me having an unrealistic one. I am nowhere near the standard of those athletes...yet! Ask me the same question in a further 4 years time and I may have a different answer. But at the moment, I am extremely grateful to have been selected for my first ever Olympic Games and I am even more grateful (and still a little shocked) to be back fit and healthy after having such a horrible injury, EXACTLY one year ago!
The Olympic Rings!


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