This last period has all been about the translation of the work we’ve done over the last 9 months onto the track. After the failings of the first race, I was desperate to get back onto the track to show that people haven’t wasted their time investing in my development. I took a day away from the track the day after that race and just rested and reflected on what had gone wrong. I wrote in some detail in the last post what I felt the take-away lessons were, but now it was time to put them into practise.
The first thing I did when I headed back to the track was to alter my warm-up, for no other reason than to get a feel of what I need to do to warm up away from my normal routine. I think that routine nature of what I was doing before put me into a little bit of a mindset before every session, and when that changed in that first race it made me feel mentally unprepared – I hadn’t been able to do a lot of my normal warm up because the track was in use, so was largely limited to the high jump area. Using just a small space in the warm up allowed me to understand how best to prepare when the situation is less than ideal. Second, I worked on my cadence. I have a nasty habit of switching to ‘safety mode’ when I’m nervous about a race. Whilst not slow, it definitely feels more like a run than a sprint. The one thing which I’m really keen to bring on over the next few months is the application of my sprinting technique to the bend. I know that this is a confidence issue – a lot of my more painful tumbles have happened either on the bend or just on the exit, and forcing my mind and body to go out of that comfort zone is proving to be quite difficult. This will come with practise and I’m definitely getting there. Third, more work on the start. I’d been working on a new method of starting since January that involved the use of a hand rest to give me the stability I need from a three-point start, but with the added advantage of putting my back in a better position for applying power to the track. I found out in April that this method of starting was only applicable to those with an arm disability or length discrepancy (this was quite unclear in the rule-book, hence why I’d been working on it).
Since then I’ve been trying out a three-point start with my hand on the floor rather than a hand-rest and, whilst not appalling, is definitely still a work in progress. Fourth, and arguably the most important, was working on relaxation techniques. I am definitely still guilty of putting massive amounts of pressure on myself and it makes you forget how much you enjoy the physical aspect of running fast and facing off against competitors. At all my track sessions since that first race I forced myself to forget everything else around me and just focus on what is in front of me, and enjoy it. I certainly look a little bit weird dancing around the track after a good run but who cares?!
All of these different learning points really helped me going into my second race meet. I arrived in Lee Valley relaxed, happy and complete with running shorts. I was well-rested, well-fed and in the zone. Roger had asked if I would do the 100m, which I haven’t done for over a year, as it would really help develop and prove the straight-line acceleration. He knows what he’s talking about so of course I agreed. I ran the race, had a dodgy start and my socket kept coming loose (broken valve seal) but I managed to limp across the line with an impressive new wind-assisted PB of 13.82 – nearly 2 seconds off my previous best from just 12 months ago. For me, the fact that I’d run this time with a bad start and faulty equipment was a real confidence boost. As I had just over an hour between the 100m and the 200m, I changed my socket to an old one I had in the car and did a few more practise starts to get ready for the next race. As I lined up for the start of the 200m I felt happier at the start of a race than I’d ever been before. I couldn’t see my competitors, I was solely focussed on the lane, with Emily and Hayley’s faces in my mind willing me on. Although it was wind-assisted, I managed to smash my PB by over a second to 26.24.
This was such a relief, real proof that we are getting to where we want to be this season. Even more reassuring, if a little annoying, was the knowledge that there are still immediate gains to be made. I was still guilty of coasting round the bend and my start is still far from perfect, but to get that time this early on in the season, before we’ve really got learned the experience lessons, was a huge morale boost. Unfortunately, even with all these lessons, it wasn’t quite enough for me to be able to match that performance the following weekend.
This year I was invited to the Bedford International Games – an invitation only event which I was so proud to be asked to come along for. This would be my first chance to show off what I’ve achieved over the winter. However, despite all of these improvements and learning points, nothing can cover the fact that I was tired. I knew the minute I walked to get breakfast in the morning that things weren’t quite right. My back and legs felt so stiff and even just walking around felt like an unfamiliar effort. I ran the race in the afternoon and despite all of my preparation it felt slow. It wasn’t actually that bad, 26.56 in bad weather conditions and a new legal PB, but it felt so slow, like I was jogging around the track. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get to sprinting. I had a look back through my diary and it turns out I haven’t actually had a proper break from training since the start of April and this deep tiredness can really affect performance, regardless of how well you slept the night before a race. Definitely another lesson and I now write this on an enforced two day training break! I came away from BIG on a massive high though, putting in that kind of performance, tired, in bad weather, on my first major competition this early in the season is not to be taken lightly, and really gets me excited for what we are going to achieve this year!