2012/13 Cross Reflections

Hey Guys,

Wow, what a long season and now it’s all over!! From moving into university last September, to Winning a World Championships Bronze Team medal last weekend in Poland, there were many ups, downs and in between stories along the way and I hope to share some of these with you…

I first of all want to thank you all for reading this blog and also for supporting me along the path to all my achievements thus far…

I guess I should start back in September where I begun my first term at Royal Holloway University in London to study Psychology. For me it was important to separate my academics from my running, so going to a Uni that isn’t quite the hotspot for my sport meant that I could be Emelia the fresher, cake lover, Corrie watcher, Psychology student (the list goes on) at Uni… and then Emelia the runner when at training or going for runs. I settled in immediately and received great support from both my department and the sports scholarship team (STARS) to enable me to continue my training as well as being a student.

Training wise, I had to find some new routes for runs through Virginia Water Parks, which I find perfect for my mid week runs (and the scenery is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!! I will try and take some pictures and will post them sometime). I still kept the surrounding training sessions similar to my previous training and travelled to Aldershot each Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. This made the transition easier to handle, and allowed me to stick to a routine which was working very well with Mick. My number 1 fan (Dad) also continued to come down to training to watch and support me (and to collect the occasional washing pile… thanks Mum!) which I also absolutely loved. I think when athletes move away to Uni they realise how much of a fantastic support system their family is… and I noticed exactly this. Maybe the transition wouldn’t have been so straight forward without them… I’m a lucky girl, what can I say..

Up until Christmas things went really well, and race results/training were going very smoothly. Like most people I had several interruptions along the way that couldn’t be helped, I felt a little sluggish at Liverpool on the mud as I hadn’t tapered hugely for it, and just after the European Cross I had come down with a bug. It didn’t take long to get healthy, post Europeans, and I was back into the full swing of training after a short break. I always ask for a little break from training to ensure I can mentally zone out for a bit, eat a few extra eclairs, cakes, buns and just generally relax… plus any illnesses that had been brewing can settle and I have space to mentally refocus and also process/analyse the last period of racing/training.

With many races popping up in the New Year, my training group down at Aldershot endured our annual ‘Christmas Training’ set up where we met for training almost every day (apart from Christmas Day) to train together. Mick creates a hard yet fun schedule which involves steady runs, grass or road sessions (one of which the whole group has to dress up for… this year the theme was pirates), a Boxing Day 5k handicap (this is timed so usually gets competitive!) and a New Year relay. After this training period we are all ready to hit the next batch of Cross Country races in the season. This seemed to pay off, when I went to the Great Edinburgh Cross Country and defended my Junior Women’s title. Also after Christmas, myself and Mick had implemented some new training ideas to see if we could improve certain areas of my training, so this was very exciting. This included some extra steady runs and also a Lab run in the St Mary’s Clinic, this is very useful in keeping track of small improvements and it helps to monitor how the body is handling the training load.

At this stage, I’ll be honest with you, all my thoughts, goals and aims were geared towards my final shot at racing the Africans in the Junior ranks. I would literally run every session thinking about racing the Kenyans/Ethiopian athletes. This is the kind of mental imagery I would use to ensure I was focusing in all my training leading up to an event. Things went very well up until the night before the English National Cross Country, and I remember back then complaining about dizzy spells, and light headedness. Training had been perfect however and I didn’t think about my symptoms too much as I was buzzing to race and to try and secure my 7th consecutive National title! This worked out well, and during the race I felt fantastic, however, after the race I started to struggle a little in training. Before I knew it, I was bed ridden with the flu… Not just man flu!I have been poorly in the past, and had the usual stomach bugs that people get, but this flu was like nothing I had ever experienced before – dizziness, constant headaches, a sore throat, aching joints and muscles and severe exhaustion and dehydration. After getting the illness confirmed on the Saturday it was now one week before the Intercounties Cross Country Championships and the trial for the Worlds. My temperature was 40 degrees and to be honest I was tearful. I was mentally drained, physically drained, and all I wanted was to be healthy enough to race.

After 6 days of being in bed I started back with some gentle runs after I was given the all clear from Mick to test out the legs. My inner eager self suddenly got the urge to race… I love running what can I say? After talking to Mick we agreed I was able to race. I would just have to be careful and wait until I felt strong enough to make a move that I could hold… and that is exactly what happened. I felt great but once I had got a decent enough gap on the rest of the field I started to relax again so that I hadn’t put my body under constant pressure.

I was very excited about the World Cross Country and after winning my 7th consecutive Intercounties title I was keen to get back into training! The next two weeks however I felt like I was testing myself to see how I had recovered from being ill… in some sessions I felt amazing… whereas others I still felt weak and slightly dizzy… I was an athlete on a mission and was focusing on all of the positive aspects of my training rather than acknowledging things weren’t 100% . Looking back I wish I had relaxed more. But hindsight is a wonderful thing right? Throughout the whole process I stayed very positive and adamant that I was ok, but in reality I was struggling, the signs were clear, and I just wouldn’t believe them.

So 12pm in a muddy field in Bydgoszcz, the World Cross Country Championships, my last Junior shot, something I had been eyeing up for a very long time. I had a perfect start and felt amazing – Mick and I had discussed that to give myself any chance of the dream top 10 (or dare I say 5) I would need to be up there from the go. Looking back I am still glad I did that, I gave it my absolute best shot but unfortunately I was just exhausted and wasn’t able to fight or even hold my positions too well.. Perhaps the flu hadn’t completely shifted, perhaps I was too eager in training to test myself post illness, or maybe it just wasn’t in the legs on the day? Either way I came across the line completely gutted but deep down I knew I had given it all the commitment I could have done on that particular day… and as I turned around to see 5 beaming GB Juniors behind me , I couldn’t not smile… We had got the bronze! What an honour to be apart of that moment in GB athletic’s history…

Illness is just one of those things that can’t be helped, and even now while I’m writing this blog I still feel under the weather. I’ll probably be gargling some water soon enough with aspirin to settle my throat and hoping that with some time off my body will reset, and I’l feel like I did before the flu. Although some of this blog may sound a little negative, it’s all a learning curve, and I’m happy with myself, coach, family, and friends, and of how we tried to execute a plan that would lead to a great result at the World Cross Country Championship… With any luck I’ll keep myself healthy as the year unfolds and we will go to the next European or World Championships ready to take on the best….

I hear the track calling for me now…