A debut to forget

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..

Highgate

Firstly, and this cannot be understated; what an amazing event!

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Highgate Harriers, Ben Pochee and everyone involved in the organisation deserve huge kudos. I haven’t experienced atmosphere quite like it and doing my last few strides before the start (through the beer tent with the live band) I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

I was paranoid the week before the race, I was struggling to shift the cold that I had picked up before going to Estonia (For the World Championships test races – they went pretty well and it was nice to visit the area where the races will take place). The cold wasn’t bad enough to make me feel ill through the day but running brought out a nasty cough and I wasn’t able to train exactly as I’d have liked the week before the race. That said, I was getting a good rest and feeling better every day.

I flew down to London the morning of the event (A 4am alarm call) and spent the afternoon napping in my hotel room. I felt OK, but didn’t know how I’d respond when the race started. I arrived early enough to soak up some of the atmosphere and whilst this was inspiring, the stiff wind at the track was not. 

I’m making lots of excuses here but these were just the things that added to my paranoia before the race. The race itself went well. I didn’t rush off with the front group, rather I settled into a pace that felt comfortable and tried to run my own race. I did some good turns setting the pace and the group I was in cooperated well. Going through half way in 14.31 I felt good, but there was still a lot of running to do at that point! I waited and waited before pushing on but, when the time came, my legs refused to cooperate. It was all I could do to hang in from there to the finish, sticking in and trying my hardest not to get dropped.

I finished in 29.05, a new PB but not quite what I thought myself capable of. I set myself tiered goals before the race (because I genuinly had no idea what was realistic):

  • Minimum: 29.15, a new PB
  • What I want: 28.59, a magical sub-29
  • If the stars aligned: 28.49, the commonwealth B standard

I achieved what I set out to do, but on the day didn’t quite have the legs to push on and go after it in the second 5km. Slightly disappointing as I managed this very well in Glasgow a few weeks ago, off a slower first 5km. This makes me think there is a little more performance to squeeze out in perfect conditions, but I’m still over the moon. 

It hasn’t passed me by just how far I have come in a year. This time last year my PB’s were: 3k – 8.29, 5k – 15.19, 10k – 31.47. They were a bit out of date and I suspected I had a little more in the tank but I never would have thought I’d have run the times I’ve run over the last year: 3k – 8.07, 5k – 14.03, 10k – 29.05. In total, that is 4 minutes and 20 seconds difference..

What has made the difference? I can’t be sure what has made the difference but I’m putting it down to getting the basics right consistently. 

I think I’ve been good at the bread and butter of training consistently, eating well and having a good daily routine and this consistency has been paying dividends. I’m certainly not planning on changing much anytime soon!

I’m aiming to fit in another 10,000m before World Champs if I can, but I don’t think I’ll find one quite like Highgate!