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.
On the track I’ve noticed it becoming more and more demoralising when I turn up in the morning and it’s just me on the track, day after day after day. Although I don’t train with a club or a group (which I probably should), even if there’s just one other person on the track it takes away that feeling of solitude and I think forces me to work a little harder. I decided that I would invest in a decent battery powered speaker (Bose Soundlink Mini for those interested) and just that bit of background noise really helped with the mental stimulation and a dramatic increase in morale! I have tried using headphones before but I find that, seen as I can’t feel my feet, I rely on sight and sound to gain feedback on footfall at high speed and they take that away. It still didn’t take away the feeling of running on a flat tyre though. This got me thinking baclk to a conversation I had with Rich Whitehead a while ago when he told me he had become so used to the feeling of his blades that he can tell when the carbon fibres within them start to snap. The blades themselves are made up of thousands and thousands of carbon fibre strands, embedded within a resin matrix. As the individual strands snap after use, the blades start to feel tired and I wondered whether this was one of the reasons for my lack of pace or whether it was just me. I booked myself in for a prosthetics appointment to get the blades changed over anyway.
Before I could get to prosthetics, however, I became painfully aware of the downside of training on your own when things went rather long. Whilst practising my bend-to-straight transition, I suffered a complete failure of the pyramid adaptor that connects my socket to the rest of the blade assembly. I have suffered a few carbon fibre breakages over my time, and the last catastrophic failure I suffered resulted in a hyperflexion of the shoulder and some serious damage to the rotator cuff muscles. This time, it was a titanium part that sheared, but, thankfully, I managed to tuck my arm in and only sustained some rather painful flesh wounds. I was the only one on the track and had to drag myself and my broken bits halfway round the track to change into my walking legs. All rather frustrating!
Wounds heal, and I’ve certainly had worse than this, but having such a failure of the equipment has a massive effect on confidence so I took a day out to let the bruising go down and was back on the track, albeit a lot more tentatively. However, having swapped over to the new set of blades, the difference in spring response was instantaneous. The new blades had so much more energy return it felt like I had someone behind me pushing me up the track, and as confidence swiftly came back I really felt like I was flying through the sprint.
This was definitely a period of learning for me – really understanding the need for self leadership, which includes the proper management of my equipment. We’ve now established a correct replacement timetable for all the components, rather than waiting for them to fail which should have been in place already. It’s also up to me, as the athlete, to speak up and say when things aren’t quite working properly, even if they look fine from the outside – I’m the one that uses them everyday and I’m the one that knows how they should really feel. Ultimately, the responsibility for how I perform in my sport is down to me, and the support and guidance comes from everyone else.