Sunshine after the rain…

The weather here in Font Romeu took a bit of a turn for the worse the last few days to the point where I honestly thought I was going to die when I got caught in a massive electrical storm when running on Tuesday evening. I was in the middle of the woods when the gap between claps of thunder and flashes of lightening weren’t even long enough for me to say one never-mind count any!! I certainly confirm that it was sh*t your pants scary!!! Thankfully the sun has returned yesterday and all is well with the world once more!

Stunning backdrops for running. The mountains really make you feel insignificant but alive.

Stunning backdrops for running. The mountains really make you feel insignificant but alive.

Of course there has been a bit of a bigger storm hanging over the head of athletics recently. The ongoing saga of doping. I’m not going to sit here and go over it all in detail but I will put the record straight that I won’t be revealing my test data.  I have thought long and hard about this and chatted it through with those around me at the time who know a lot more about the whole thing than I do and I finally decided not to.

Its not because I have anything to hide, I don’t, I’m 100% clean. Its because I don’t want to be drawn into playing a game with what in essence is stolen data. The data is quite complex and can be easily misinterpreted. What needs to be remembered in this whole saga is that one ‘abnormal’ score does not indicate doping. Too many people are getting caught up on this falsity and are being drawn into accusing innocent athletes of wrong doings when they are not. For a better explanation have a read of this great article from the guys at Jumping the Gun

In my opinion the paper leading the stories isn’t doing it for the good of the sport otherwise they’d be looking into the deeper root of the problem. Instead they are doing it to discredit one of our countries brightest and truest stars. Which is wrong and totally not fair on that person. Unfortunately right now there is no way of proving that you are clean so for some athletes there will always be a cloud hanging over their heads. There will always be haters but as long as you know you are true and those around you, family, friends etc know you are true than that is the most important thing.

Hopefully yesterdays election of Seb Coe as IAAF president will see the start of a new fight against dopers. I don’t like getting involved with the politics of it all but those in the sport who I believe in and place my trust in have backed Seb as the man for the job so that will do me. I have read some of his policy suggestions and as long as he carries them out and doesn’t forget what it was like to be an athlete then I do think he can only be good for the sport. After all he’s an honorary Mackem so he’s got to be the best man for the job!!

Start of a long run with the group (photo credit Steve Vernon)

Start of a long run with the group (photo credit Steve Vernon)

In other news, I’m now into week 4 of my camp up here in Font Romeu. As usual my first week here was taken pretty easy with just lots of easy running to allow my body to adapt. The good thing about coming to altitude so regularly is that it takes less and less time to adapt every time you come up. We also have the added benefit of being able to run at different heights (1600-2000m) up here so we can break ourselves in easier than somewhere like Kenya where you’re stuck doing all your runs at 2200m!

Once again we have a great bunch of people here to train and hang out with. The camp is largely the Team New Balance Manchester guys along with marathoners Sonia, Lee, John and myself. The first 10 -14 days we also had Tom Farrell and Steph Twelll here preparing for the World Champs over in Beijing which start on Friday. Everyone has gelled really well.  We’ve supported each other through training and enjoyed spending time as a group on an evening either watching episodes of Gavin & Stacey or just having some banter amongst us.

Steph and I enjoying a wild Friday night in town!! (photo credit Steph Twell)

Steph and I enjoying a wild Friday night in town!! (photo credit Steph Twell)

I’ve really enjoyed having the chance to get to know Steph a bit more.  In the past I’ve spoken briefly to Steph at races but have never really spent much time in her company.  We’ve spend quite a bit of time running andhanging out together here and we’ve got on really well.  We both have the same sense of humour which has lead to some mad nights where we’ve just sat laughing at stupid things together.

At the helm we’ve had Steve Vernon keeping us all under control and making sure that no-one is killing themselves. Steve is a great guy, he has a story for every occasion and he’s always got a joke and smile to brighten the day and he is a great coach with a lot of knowledge and experience from his not so long ago racing days.

Being up here has given me the chance to have a good catch up with Mrs Wonderwoman, Paula. We’ve been in regular contact since Kenya this year and she’s helped me loads. Its once again been great to get her insight into all sorts of things. I keep asking her if she is sick of all of my questions but she insists that she is not and is happy to help out. Due to family and work commitments she wasn’t around for very long but I managed to get some runs in with her and she helped out by jumping on a bike to play waterboy or timing sessions.

It did make me laugh as we were driving to the lake one day for my tempo session and she announces that she is going to get a bike so she can give me drinks during the run. The thought of Paula on a bike for the first time in about 20 years did make me nervous, especially as we were largely off road and on gravel paths. I spent my whole session praying that I wasn’t going to be responsible for the death of her! Thankfully it’s true what they say and you ever forget how to ride a bike and she survived enough too jump back on again during my long run on the sunday.

Some super pacemaking from Wonderwoman :)

Some super pacemaking from Wonderwoman 🙂

She also jumped into one of my track sessions to help me out. She was on watch duty calling out splits then in the last set of 800m reps she suddenly goes from calling out a 200m split to jumping in for the last 400m and casually drops a 76second lap. She then ran the last 200m of my 4x400m reps to help guard me from the wind which had picked up. I didn’t ask her to do this for me, all I asked was for her to time. In fact I didn’t even do that she offered! But it shows that she genuinely cares about helping athletes out and thats what makes her a true legend – well that and her 2.15!

It was also good to have her kids around for a few days. One of the hardest parts of coming away to camps like these where I’m away from home for up to 6weeks is that I miss the folk back home, especially my young nephew and cousin. I love playing with them, doing silly things like pulling faces and teasing them and for a few days I had Isla and Raph to do that with, although not knowing them too well I didn’t tease them too much. Isla is the queen of the yes/no game and beat me on all but one occasion, I need to get practising for next time!

I’m at the point of the camp where tiredness is setting in and I’m starting to get a little bit homesick. There was a real feel of ‘3rd week syndrome’ on my run this morning.  This happens at home when I’m in a hard training block but the altitude can make it worse. I know from experience though not to panic, its common.  I just need to be really sensible these next few days and monitor my fatigue levels and if necessary take a few extra easy days.  I’ve worked really hard these last few weeks to get into good shape, theres no point in risking undoing all of that work by making a stupid mistake. Luckily I have a great mentor ready to answer my every question and reassure me that I’m doing the right thing.

Goofing around on a long run round Lac Matermale with Tom Farrell

Goofing around on a long run round Lac Matermale with Tom Farrell

I’m now looking forward to my other half, Ian, getting here on Saturday evening, that will perk me up a bit too. He gets here just in time to cycle with me on my longest run of this training block – the full 26.2 miles!! I love these long runs so far I’ve done one 22 and two 24 mile runs whilst up here and they’ve all gone brilliant. On each of them I’ve progressively got faster as I’ve went on and finished feeling really strong with some sub 6min miles for the last 4-5 miles. Last sunday I got a bit carried away and dropped a 5.17 23rd mile. If I can do that in Berlin, I’ll be happy!!

As always, you can find my training on Strava for those that are interested.

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