So we come to the final update of my first international, and it went well. Better than well, it was awesome! It really seemed like all of the training, all of the preparation, all of the work that we’ve done and has been done for me by others, is finally starting to pay off. I went into the race in a really good place, mentally and physically. The week of long periods of rest interspersed with short, sharp track sessions seemed to do the world of good. When the race finally arrived on Sunday, I was rested and ready to go. The set-up at the stadium was rather different to what I’ve been used to. The warm up area was about 400m away from the competition area, which meant a few leg changes before I got to the call area. The call area itself was an open air pen to keep all the athletes in one place prior to each race, and the call time was a full 25 minutes before race time. All of these different elements meant a lot of potential for cooling down before we even got to the start line and so a decent pre-race plan was required before we even arrived at the sport complex.
We arrived early to the track – just before 0900 for an 1130 race which gave enough time to arrive and let everything sink in before starting the warm up at 0930. Normally my warm up takes about 25-30 minutes when I’m preparing for a training session, but on race day it took about an hour, doing each stage of my warm up independently with lots of water in between to keep constantly hydrated. After the warm up it was a case of changing legs and getting up to the call room. I wanted to get there with plenty of time to change back into blades and with enough time to get the headphones on and get mentally prepared.
And then it was race time. All of my mental cues and reminders to SBAFP during the week must have worked. There was a confidence going into the race that I hadn’t felt for a long time. Somehow I knew I was going to run well in this race, and I wasn’t going to hold back. When the gun fired, I got a great start (for me!) and the bend was definitely one of my better ones, but as I entered the straight the wind seemed just hit – almost felt like running through treacle! I dug deep and applied the power we’ve been working so hard on and slowly started overtaking, and managed to cross the line in second place. I know I gave everything, when I crossed the line I stumbled and just didn’t have anything left to correct and put in a commando roll to finish! I’ve never felt so sick after a race, but managed to come away with a very respectable time of 26.44 – a new PB – with a -2.4 m/s wind to contend with. Definitely not to be sniffed at and the time has managed to put me 5th in the world for this season, so far. I was initially unhappy with the time, as I know I can run faster than that, but as I looked through the times that the other athletes clocked, and their times in that headwind against their PBs for the season, made me feel a whole lot more confident!
As a result of the performance, we received an invitation to compete at the Grand Prix final at the Olympic Stadium in July, one of the days of the Anniversary Games with tens of thousands of people watching in the stadium and many more on TV. It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet, can’t quite believe all this is happening! Absolutely buzzing with excitement, and the preparations for that particular race have begun in earnest already – no rest for the wicked!
I just wanted to add in some specific thanks on this particular post, as there’s a lot of people that got me to Berlin, put faith in me, and others that got me to a place where I could not only go to Berlin, but also put in the performance that I did. First off, Jayne and Steph and Jess and the rest of the team at Help for Heroes Sports Recovery have invested both time and money in getting me prepared for, and delivering me to races. H4H paid for all of my expenses to go and compete in Berlin, and without that support I simply wouldn’t have gone. Secondly, Blesma have been absolutely key to getting my prosthetics equipment sourced and sorted and without that I could neither train nor compete. Shelley Holroyd at British Athletics has involved me in the Parallel Success scheme and has been a constant source of advice throughout the year so far, and she’s organised sessions with some of the best coaches in the country to give me the best chance of succeeding. Katie, Paula and Jananne at British Athletics have all been awesome, through belief and support to the organisation required to allow me to compete at this level. Tom, Roger and Sarah have been my coaches of one flavour or another, and without them I wouldn’t have these opportunities. And then there’s Hayley, Emily and my family who are my constant source of encouragement and inspiration. Special mention should also go to my supervisor and my staff in the Bioengineering department at Imperial College for being so understanding and supportive as I chase my athletics dreams whilst trying to study for a PhD at the same time!