This week saw me (finally) into race season, and what a way to start! I’d been looking forward to getting the first one out of the way with equal parts of nerves to excitement. I know I’ve worked hard over the winter on my background training and now was the time to start learning how to deliver. I know that Roger’s selected the first few races specifically to iron out as many problems as we can before the big races come along, but you always want to perform at your best and it was no different for this one. On the day though, it all seemed to go wrong! Firstly, I came into the race with the remnants of a cold, which is never ideal, and had also picked up an intercostal muscle injury during a lifting session on Saturday so was a little way off from 100% in terms of physical peak. Secondly, there were 400m races on directly before my race, which meant I couldn’t do my normal warm-up which threw me right off rhythm. Then there were the equipment issues. I’m currently still running on last year’s prosthetic sockets as I wait for delivery of my new ones, and a lot has changed in my size over the winter. The strength training in the gym has meant that my glutes have got bigger, meaning that the socket fit on my right hand side (the socket trim comes a lot higher because of the different amputation level) is a little restrictive when I fire my hamstrings. The second equipment issue was one of pure absent-mindedness.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone abroad for some warm weather consolidation training in Gran Canaria. As we enter into race season in the next month or so, this was a massively welcome opportunity to work on all aspects of my sprinting technique to try and be in the best position possible when the races start to come thick and fast in May and June.The funding for the trip came from Help for Heroes as part of my continuing involvement with their Front Line to Start Line programme, and the training was put on by Professional Warm Weather Training. Outside of PWWT’s expertise, I was also massively fortunate to have not only my own coach, Roger, but also a lower-limb amputee running specialist, Hayley Ginn, who runs a company called Carbon Motion. Having this support network around me for nearly a week was absolutely invaluable, and the confidence I gained in advance of the race season will prove absolutely invaluable. Having made the most of the winter training in terms of improvements in overall strength, stamina and speed, this week was a real opportunity to make the subtle changes needed that will allow me to make the most of what we developed out of season.
The pace of life only ever seems to get quicker, and this last week has been no exception. It started off with the first educational module of the Front Line to Start Line transition programme with the Help for Heroes Sports Academy. Although partly focussed on introducing the athletes to the programme, what it offers and where it can support our development, the second stage of the module moved on to a discussion about the differences and similarities between top level athletes and military personnel and how these can be translated across into the right mental approach to high level competition. I found the discussions incredibly thought provoking and they really made me realise where, in particular, I need to make changes in my overall approach to athletics in order that I may best achieve.
Along the same lines, I’ve also been reading the book called “Winners: And How They Succeed” by Alastair Campbell – Tony Blair’s former chief spokesman and strategist during his time in office. Whilst it’s impossible to agree with every statement in the book, it has been an incredibly valuable tool for questioning my decision making process, and the examples he uses provide valuable insight into ways in which I can improve my own attitude towards success.
The last few days have definitely been full of ups and downs, and the downs have definitely been more painful than most but the ups have been fantastic. The week started on a massive high with my little sister’s wedding on Saturday – a beautifully special day which got me more than a little bit emotional, and it was also Emily’s first big day out!
Training was definitely more challenging this week. I felt during the first few sessions of the week that I was running on flat tyres and couldn’t for the life of me seem to hit top speed. I know I’ve been more tired than usual as we adjust to Emily’s night time interruptions but I didn’t feel like it should be affecting me as much as it was doing. I had a look at my training style and my training diary and realised that there had been too many weeks of doing very similar activities, and I felt that by adding variety it could help push things forward a notch. In the gym, I simply varied my sets and reps throughout my normal workouts and it made a huge difference. Changing my heavy sessions to 10 sets of 3 (as opposed to 6 sets of 4), and my lower intensity sessions to 3 sets of 8 (as opposed to 5 sets of 6) made the sessions feel like completely different workouts! Definitely learning all the time.