Selection to the British team for the 10,000m European Cup in Minsk was a dream come true and was just another way I surpassed my own expectations in what could be considered my first real ‘season’ of track running.
Unfortunately, whilst the selection was a dream, the race was anything but.
Not even 4 laps into the 25, my calf tightened to the point that each step sent a jolt of pain through my lower leg. I tried to give it a chance to ease off, but there isn’t much that can be done when you are running in spikes on a hard track. You need your calves, no getting around it. A lap later, each step a little worse than the last, I stopped and walked off the track.
It wasn’t a decision I took lightly but I think that it was the right decision for the time. There was no way I was going to finish when less than a quarter of the race had left me hobbling. With any luck, I stopped before I did myself any real harm but that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier. What had gone wrong?
Looking back, there were warning signs. A Friday night 3000m followed by a tough weekend of sprint orienteering and had left my legs shot. I had planned for this but didn’t recover as well as I’d expected and had more fatigue than I would have liked on starting my journey out to Belarus. The journey left my lower back and hip tight and this impacted on my running on arrival – my calf in particular seemed to be bearing much of the load when running the day before the race. Everything wasn’t flowing quite the way it should have been. I thought that I had this all managed with the help of our physio Graeme and I was feeling good when the race arrived. Even so, a smarter athlete might not have risked spikes and the non-existent margin for error that they give but I stuck to what I’d planned.
It is inescapable that the events in that race were ultimately my own fault. This might sound like I’m beating myself up but I’m not. Whilst I seek advice as much as I can, I look after my own training and preparation so the buck stops with me. This time I got it wrong. I have got a lot right over the past year but I got this wrong and learnt the hard way. That said, now is not the time to beat myself up, I need to focus on getting the next few weeks right. It’s early days but in terms of recovery the signs have all been positive thus far – it shouldn’t affect my performance in races to come.
Those that know me know that I’m relaxed about most things and will deal with this in the same way. I don’t tend to shout from the rooftops after a good performance and I’ll not wallow after this bad one. For there to be ups, there must also be downs, it’s part of the ride.
It wouldn’t be right of me to write this without mentioning the support staff (David, Maddy and Graeme), who did a great job of looking after me, and the other athletes (Kat, Claire, Louise, Matt and Graham), who all put in a hard shift in difficult, hot, conditions. The atmosphere throughout the trip was relaxed and friendly, which certainly makes things easier.
If I’m lucky enough to get another chance to pull on the vest, I hope I can do it proud..