Sunday, 5 January 2014

Being a runner again

It's been a while but I've finally pulled my finger out and got a post together.

When I last posted an update at the start of the year I was out in Kenya for a training camp seemingly on the way back from injury, as it turned out that was not the case. Funnily enough I write this update from the same place, thankfully in much better place than I was then.  Back in January I was also starting to build my running back up and despite excuriating treatment (for which I gained the nickname triple M - Mucky Mouth Merrien apparently) things did at least seem to be getting better. Towards the later part of the camp however  things just didn't seem right, whenever I sneezed I was aware of discomfort in my low abdomen and my adductor problem seemed to be getting worse. When I got home I was referrred to a specialist and before I knew it I was booked in for a double sports hernia operation. Apparently I had two of the biggest he'd ever seen.... I'm talking about the hernia's of course :)

The operation took pace back in March and unfortunately getting back into running wasn't as quick as I'd have hoped for, rehab was proving a slow process. Even when I was able to perform what I'd constituted a proper run I was not without uncomfortable symptoms. This has proved the case through most of this year...it turns out these types of injuries when they have persisted for as long as mine had can take a while to shift.

Despite the frustrations of the past year I'm now finally starting to to see significant improvements, my symptoms are minimal now and no longer result in having to cut my runs back as has been the case previously. My running volume is as high as its been all year.  I'm got myself up to sufficient running to make a training trip worth while and despite the lack of sessions I feel surprisingly fit in a general sense. I have been cross training fairly diligently now for the past year alongside the running I could do, and it appears to be have payed off as the transition to more running volume has been easier than I thought it might. Not having been injured and out of action for this length of time at any point in my running career this cross training lark was all a bit new to me, initially! I think having had clear goals beyond the injury though has helped... even my wife has commented on I how I have been 'ok' to live with (compared with previous injuries - even short term sidelines have meant I've not always been a bundle of joy to be around!). Plus if there's one benefit to not being able to run as much it's that you have more time to spend doing the the little extra's that often get sidelined more when the big mileage sets in. Furthermore I've also been at home more than I have done at any point in the last 3-4 years and there's been no better distraction than being around my family.

My first few runs out here in Kenya this time around have felt really good and despite the challenging terrain I've had no real issues with symptoms. Admittedly it's still early days but the past few weeks have felt like a corner has been turned and this is as good as my body has felt for over 12months. I feel like I can now give myself the tag of being a runner again!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Dealing with Injury

Unfortunately I follow my post-Olympic blog entry (admittedly some time ago now) with details of a somewhat frustration period since the games. Having not raced since the Olympics and spending much of my training time cross training rather than running.  Since getting back into things after my break I started to notice some discomfort in my left adductor. First this this was thought to be an adductor strain but after cutting back training for a number of weeks without any improvement in my symptoms I then had an MRI scan which revealed a stress response to my pubis bone… I will let you Google where that is! The upshot of the diagnoses meant 5 weeks of no running, my longest period of no running to date having been fortunate over the years to not suffer with many enforced breaks away from the sport.  I guess I should have been pleased this sort of injury did not happen a few months earlier as it would have almost certainly ended my Olympic dream and whilst of course on reflection I am, like most athletes I am sure this was not my initial reaction. The most difficult and frustrating thing about this was that following the Games in London I found my appetite for training and competition to be quite high but I was not able to put this to good use at least that’s how it felt initially. I remember a friend telling me about athletes and support staff from other sports who had suffered with depression after the Olympics in Beijing, simply from going from such an all-consuming goal and then having nothing to focus on once the games were over. I guess whilst my aspirations in London were somewhat modest in comparison to our many gold medallists I still decided earlier in the year that I would set myself a few short to medium term targets to avoid such things in the aftermath. These of course those have now since changed due to the injury but I have goals none-the-less and it has help keep me sane through can otherwise be monotonous cross training sessions.

Certainly not being able to race for so long has been difficult, as whilst over the last couple of years I haven’t raced as often as some this has still been my longest period without a race of any kind. I have been hitting the cross training fairly hard though, with two daily sessions involving a mixture of the cross trainer, aqua jogging and also my conditioning work. The idea at the moment is to strengthen my adductor and overall core conditioning to prevent anything re-surfacing. I have started building my running up again, it’s been  quite a slow process but I am getting there and I seem to be making steady progress, I actually had my first pain free run the other day its funny how the little things create such excitment.  My immediate focus at the stage is simply to continue my progress with the rehab and building the running up again. I also think my general core conditioning is probably as strong as it’s been for some time which is encouraging. I have actually put a bit of weight on... perhaps it's muscles or maybe that's just wishful thinking on the skinny distance runners part but having gone from 4 to 5% bodyfat I won't loose too much sleep over it.
So what now, well I still have ambitious goals for 2013, granted the start to my racing maybe delayed a little but I want to run PB’s over a range of distances. I am still somewhat embarrassed by my modest times over the like of 10k and the half marathon and running a faster marathon time remains on the agenda with an autumn option likely.

Anyway Happy New Year folks, hears to working hard in order to achieve those 2013 goals... lets face it nothing worth having was ever easy was it.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Everything and more

As ever another late post, but at least I'm consistent. This is my post-Olympic entry...

Where to start, well first of all it seems apt to mention that one of the reasons that I started my blog up was so that people could follow me in my pursuit of one day becoming an Olympic athlete. Having now achieved that I guess I will need to change the title notes of the blog page. Being part of the 'greatest show on earth', as I've heard it referred to, certainly lived up to all expectations and so much more for me, having been to World Champs and previous Commonwealth Games had given me some championship experience but I don't think any British athlete could have anticipated how fantastic the games experience was going to be. Having been outside of the village up in Loughborough where I was based at a holding camp during the earlier days of the games I was getting information and details of how great it all was and that only fuelled my excitement to be part of it all. Watching the likes of Mo, Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford winning gold and knowing I would soon get the chance to have my Olympic moment sent goosebumps down my spine.

I must admit though there was a time when I felt like the forgotten member of the athletics team being up in Loughborough, as not only had the games started but whilst the athletics programme was also underway I was the sole Team GB athlete remaining in Loughborough. I guess my fellow team mate and marathon runner Scott Overall may have also felt the same given that he was on his own out in Portugal for the remaining days before the Marathon. It was worth the wait but more on the race itself in a moment.

I guess my true Olympic experience started the day I arrived in London, that was Thursday 9th August, 3 days before the Olympic Marathon. As soon I sent foot in the capital you could sense the Olympic vibe across the city and everyone seemed it great spirits and certainly travelling in my Team GB kit also attracted a fair bit of attention. Given that I had arrived in the village only 3 days before my race I was quite conscious of staying well rested and not getting too invovled or excited by the games itself. However with my race finishing in the city and not the stadium I was quite keen to see the stadium in all its glory with athletics in full swing, so on my first night there I went to stadium to check it out and what a night to go! I witnessed probably the best mens 800m race of all time, with David Rudisha winning in World Record, and the last placed athlete coming home in what would normal pick you up a medal if not a gold in previous Olympics! Oh and some guy called Bolt also won a 200m race that night too.

My remaining days before my race were somewhat uneventful considering I was in the Olympic village in the one of the biggest City's of the World with the biggest sporting event going around me but it did at least give me time to focus mentally and soak up my thoughts and feeling about the race and what I wanted from it. One thing that was nice was a very quick family reunion the night before the race, having not seen my family (skype calls aside) for some 7 weeks. I met my wife and 4 year old son (who's birthday I had missed the week before) in Hyde Park. The night before the race myself & Scott Overall were staying in a hotel nearer to the start of the race. Seeing my excited 4 years olds face again after time away never fails to put a big smile back on my face. Unfortunately I would have to wait until after the games to see my daughter again though, she is only 1 year old (I missed her birthday last month too!) and a hectic London probably wouldn't have been the best place for her and would also have been hell for my wife to juggle two kids at the race, Thomas at least will hopefully be old enough to recall some of the day too. 

The day and race itself will be one I'll never forget, even if I am to go to another Olympics Games it is never likely to provide the such an incredible atmosphere that I experienced in London. I've never seen so many passionate spectators lining a road race, walls, rooftops and flag poles! The noise was quite literally deafening on certain points of the course too, leaving my ears ringing during the race. In the early stages of the race I was conscious to not get too carried away by it all but it certainly gave me a huge lift over the closing stages when things were hurting with the wheels starting falling off with 5km to go. The conditons on the day as anyone who was there or indeed watched the race, were hot, with temparatures supposedily getting up into the high 20's. If someone had offered me those condition in advance however I would have bitten their hand off. I'm not phased by hot conditions in fact I enjoy them but I guess thats because I've performed well in these type of conditions before and if you can judge the race and conditions well there are a lot of places to be had in final quarter of the race. Whilst I'm proud of my performance on the day I can't help but think there was another 10 places or so to be had if I had judged the race slightly better, after-all I went through half way in 66.30 and finished in 2.17.00.


When I returned to Guernsey someone asked me I'd had an 'Olympic moment'... he was refering to that lasting memory that would stick in mind, and whilst essentially I have many, one of the standout moments has to actually be after the race. London Marathon had arranged a venue for friends and family and after the race I headed over there. The response I received when I entered the pub was pretty overwelming and capped off my Olympics. Even my dad had a tear in his eye and I don't even think I have ever seen my dad shed a tear before. 
 
What capped it all off for me was the support and reaction of others, the British public really made the Olympic atmosphere and enhanced some fantastic memories but coming from Guernsey it was incredibly to see so many Guernsey flags lining the route, this made it that bit more special to me  having shared it with them.      
 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

One month and counting...

As per usual it's been a while since my last blog post but I have plenty to right about it, it's just been finding the time. Since my selection was announced things have been a bit of a whirl wind, despite a couple of hectic days around the announcement it was probably just as well I was away from most it - I was on holiday with my wife and two children in Lanzarote. Well I say holiday it was just as tiring as my marathon training! We went 'el cheepo' and took a one bedroom self catering apartment in an all inclusive resort. The resort itself was great with good food on offer and yes I did indulge a little! however having an energetic 3 years old who loved the kids disco and late nights and an 8 month year old who decide lye in's weren't for her, things did take's there toll Teresa and myself. It was nice to have time away with the family though and we had fun on beach in the day and most nights took Thomas to the kids disco to showing off his moves... which most of the time involved him running around!... not sure where he gets it from :)  After being away so much of year in Kenya it was nice to just be the four of us for a week but I did come back spent! I actually felt a bit run down, I guess it was to be expected given the usual aftermath effects of the marathon and the a lack of sleep whilst in Lanzarote.
Back at home in Guernsey I was soon back in training routine which was I keen to with Olympics at the forefront of my mind, although the first few weeks of training were somewhat conservative. My coach and I were keen to ensure I that I had fully recovered following the London Marathon & the whole selection situation. Looking back at things now, this was definately the right thing to have done, training is really starting to click into place here in Font Romeu... more on that in a minute.  I must admit since my selection things have been fun in Guernsey for me, a friend of mine from the Education Department and the Guernsey Athletics Club put together a booklet entitled 'From Torteval to London' (Torteval is a small rural parish in Guernsey where I lived and grewed in). The bookley has been aimed at Primary school level essentially encouraging children to work hard to achive their goals and self sport for all its positives, so very flatering that I was the focus. Once the booklet was put together it was destributed out to all primary school children and in particular at an assembly at Forest Primary School, my old school. It was the first time I had been back to the school since I left over 20years ago!  The school has actually been knocked down and rebuilt during that time but one of my old teachers was still there and the response we had from all the kids was incredibly. Someone said to me thats 'that's what the Olympic movement is all about', I couldn't help but think the same thing. The visit was even more special in that Alun (who had put the booklet together) had arranged for Cara Saul to come over... some people may remember that a random facebook page was started to encourage my selection, Cara was the lady behind this. So it was nice to be able to thank her in person for the support she had shown. She is lovely kind hearted women, who whilst admits to not being sporty herself she clear has a passion for watching it and seeing other get involved.



Currently I am in Font Romeu one of two familar UKA altitude training locations, I have been to in the past. I have blogged about Font Romeu before as I've been a few times now so I won't bore you with the same details but what I will say is this is the best weather I have experienced here in all my visits. Sorry to anyone back in the UK reading this as might sound like I am rubbing it in as I'm hearing bad things about the weather in the UK at the moment. For me though it seems the camp has been timed perfectly in order to avoid a UK non-event in during of a summer! hopefully that improves for the Olympics. I am in a good place right now with my training here, feeling I have turned things around well following a bad cold I was struggling to shake off not long before I left Guernsey.  Training these first couple of weeks here have gone as well as I could have hoped for and with another couple to go I feel in a great position to be able to push on and have myself in great shape for Games. As ever it's been tough being away from home again for so long, with the holding camp and my time in the village I will be away from home for 7 weeks in all, my longest time apart from the family since our kids were born. Only the a few days after I left home my daughter walked for the first time, fortunately I have skype and have been able to watch her walking on video... although it's never the same missing out on that contact time with them. My son Thomas doesn't seem too bother though as his grand parents (Teresa parents) are over in Guernsey visiting so he soon forget I wasn't about! 



With literally a month to go now, I can't help get a little excited by the prospect of the games, although I must admit when people were asking me a few week backs I been fairly laid back things... I think some people thought it odd that I wasn't excited but I don't think I can stay excited for weeks on end and not expected to feel exhausted in the process. As things start to draw closer though I feel the natural excitement building, prior to departing Font Romeu I went through the Team GB experience at Loughborough more commonly know as kitting out. I won't reveal too much about this as there are still athletes yet to experience this but the BOA seem to have made a real effort to provide a pretty memorable experience.

A month to go!
     

Saturday, 28 April 2012

I’m going to be an Olympian!

Wow what a week, the last few days have literally been a roller coaster of emotions, it's a good job we are on holiday as it’s definitely needed! Some of you will have watched the Virgin London marathon and seen that I missed out on the qualifying time set by UKA. It was something of a bitter sweet day as I should have perhaps been pleased to finish first British runner and to come home in a new personal best time however that was not the target. It's Olympic year and there was only one prize I was interested in.

Needless to say when the marathon teams were announced the following day I was not surprised when I was not one of the names included even if part of me had held out some hope. So to have now have been picked really is the stuff dreams are made of. For the selectors to have picked me and to given me the opportunity to pull on the GB vest at an Olympics is the biggest honour and privilege that can be bestowed upon me. Being a home Olympics will make this all the more special.I have run thousands of miles preparing for this over the past 10 years so I will be immensely proud to take to the streets of London and represent my country, I have to keep pinching myself.

Whilst I realise that not everyone was in favour of my selection, the overall consensus has been hugely positive. I am also confident that on another day in better conditions I would have achieved a sub 2.12 last week in London. I'd like to thank the selectors for taking the various circumstances into consideration and giving me the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage on earth. I fully intend to prove my place in Team GB and put in a creditable performance.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, the amount of messages I have received supporting my selection has been somewhat overwhelming. Long distance running is a very individual pursuit but never in a million years did I dream of receiving so much support. Thank you.

Without making this sound any more like an of Oscar speech I want to single out my wife (although she rarely reads my blogs and usually it's only to correct my grammar and spelling!) as the build-up to this has been tougher on her than anyone else. Without her I wouldn't have achieved my dream.

Next stop London!


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Paris Half Marathon & overdue update

As per usual an update is long overdue! Firstly I will start with a race update from the half marathon I ran a couple of weeks ago...


I ran in the Paris Half Marathon Sunday 4th March, which fitted in well with my next trip to Kenya, I literally travelled out to Paris from Guernsey the day before the race, back to London straight after the race and then on to Kenya the following morning, I've clocked up some good air miles recently. I must admit when I arrived at race hotel in Paris I stood out a bit on the start list, as I was the only non-Kenyan or non-Ethiopian athlete, there was not even a french men on the elite list, well not unless you count my my french surname! It didn't bother though, I just wanted the opportunity to race as this was the only weekend were a raced fitted into my schedule and there are actually few good half marathon opportunities this early into March.


The race itself was a bit caged early on, with a slow first km (approx 3.10) and to be honest it didn't really get going until 5km, when the field was suddenly strung out due to quicker km of around 2.40. From about the 6km point I was on my own for the rest of the race, going through 10km in 30.00, feeling good though and at that point confident I could hold that pace and run something around 63.15. The course however was a little more up and down that I had expected, don't get me wrong its not the hilliest course in the world but there were a few long drags which meant a few km splits of around 3.15's rather than 3.00. After a few of those my 63min clocking unfortunately slipped away. I passed one Kenyan guy with 4km to go I ran out road with a further 3 or 4 guys starting to come back to me over the last couple of km's. I finish in 16th place in a time of 64.10. I was a little disappointed with the time but overall, given the course and recent heavy marathon training prior to the race it was strong enough and at least faster than marathon target pace for London. Perhaps in the future when marathon plans aren't the priority I find myself in a position to attack and nail a fast half marathon.


The Paris half was the start of 5 weeks away from home, something which clearly bothers me more than it bothers my 3 year old son Thomas. I usually bring him back a present each time I'm away from home for long periods, so this time I told him I would bring back some lego, he loves lego! In-fact I would go as far to say it's an unhealthy obsession for him at the moment, he will often spend hours building the stuff. Having told him I would bring some back, this was all that he was interested in talking about when I've called home, I have probably spoken to him 5 or 6 times since I've been away now and the first question ever time is always 'daddy have you got my lego yet!' I think it's also been driving my wife crazy as he has been asking Teresa about it every 5 minutes too. Little does he know we bought it before I left and that it's hidden in the bottom of the wardrobe. I also stupidly asked him a question of what he loves more daddy or lego, not even a pause! He said lego before I'd finished the sentence. I guess I shouldn't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer! I don't think my daugher is missing me either, however she is only 7 months old so I won't hold that against her.


Other than missing the family, things have been going well out here, it's only been 3 weeks since I was here last and that made a big difference, with adaption time seeming to be a bit quicker this time around. I was also sleeping in my altitude tent when home to help maintain the benefits built up previous visits so I'm sure both these approaches have helped. Training and preparations for the marathon have been slightly different this time around compared with my previous marathons, with the idea being to extend the quality training at and around marathon pace. This has lead to the introduction of new training sessions, whilst still maintaining some of the work I have done in the past but I have been pleased with how these new sessions have gone.


Outside of training much of my time tends to be spent resting or asleep, so much so that the other athletes on the camp have commented that they only seem to see me at meal times. One of the major benefits of preparing on a camp like this is the extra rest that you are able to get and this can make a big difference to your recovery, which at altitude is event more important given your body is working harder even at rest. When not asleep I've been watching episodes of one my favourite TV programmes... 'The Inbetweeners', I love the fact that so many of the foreign athletes here are also into this programme. It seems that rude teenage humour is fairly easy to interpret.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Watch out Lance, the Kenyan's are coming!

Again it's been a while since my last post, infact I only seem to be posting from Kenya these days! as you've probably gathered I'm back here again as part of my spring Marathon preparations. Having been weighing up my options in terms of my marathon choice my decision I guess was a fairly straight forward one in the end... I will be running the Virgin London Marathon this April in my pursuit of the Olympic qualifying time. Whilst I have been in Kenya London Marathon have been out here too, they announced details of the full elite field here in Iten too, as ever the field is about as strong as you will see anywhere in the World and promises to be an exciting race both from a domestic and international perspective. From a British view point pretty much everyone who is looking to achieve the Olympic time will also be running in London too. Here's a link to the elite field....
Between my two Kenya trips there's been plenty going on, xmas new year was a fairly quiet one with the family, well as much as it can be an excitable 3 years old Thomas, we had a scaletrix set...sorry I mean Thomas did, this present was well recieved allround though though :) After new year I raced my first cross race for 12months in the form of the Hampshire County Champs, its been 4 years since my last outing at the event and another rare opportunity to pull on a Guernsey Race. I had a good race with John Beattie, as we had both decide to race seeing as we were bothing after a race that weekend. We had a pretty close race but I managed to draw clear within the last 600m or so to win by a handful of seconds. There a link to part of the race on Channel TV (not sure it will work in all regions though)....
Following the race I had a good week of training at home before then picking up a cold unfortunately, it meant I arrived in Kenya a little under the weather, not ideal given we are 8000feet above sea level and with some very dusty trails to contend with this time around. The cold is now thankfully over with and training is starting to tick along nicely up here. The weather has been much better than November, no rain in sight!... ironically a few people were complaining about the dust but hey I will take that over muddy sticky trials any day! although I have said I might bring with me some B&Q dust masks to run with next time I come :)
Kenya as a training venue never fails to inspire me and our long run this morning inparticular was no different, whilst we had to contend with running through some thick smoke from a small bush fire (if you call the crop fields of Kenya the bush!) having run the long run in one direction, some 22miles plus miles it meant we got to see some fairly remote parts of around Iten. Thankfully we had drinks providing on the run and a lift back afterwards, note before a much need stop a small kenyan shack for a bottle of coke! On our drive back we saw something rather noval a Kenya peleton, at the time we thought this was just a training ride but turns out this was actually a race. A lot of them had single speed bikes that looked like something out of the 1970's, many were also had running shoes rather than cycling shoes.
Watch out Lance, the Kenyan's are coming!
Anyhow with 12 weeks to go until London the training as they say start here.. ok technically I have be preparing in the general sense since a took a break after the World Champs last year, but these next 12 weeks is when the real work take places.