Your Setback is the Platform for your Comeback

Well, it’s been a while since my last blog and even longer since I had an injury setback.

The indoor season was one of my best to date and I ticked the box for competing at another major championship, the European Indoors 2017 Belgrade. Unfortunately, I picked up another virus (cold) before the race and it didn’t go to plan, but I was proud to be there and enjoyed the experience.

My spring trip to Font Romeu went really well. We had a big dump of snow as usual but it only lasted a few days and it was my final week out there so all the hard work had been done. My first two weeks back home also went well and training was going great. I developed a bit of tightness in my right calf but that’s normal for me when I come off a hard session on track, especially mondo! I was able to get it eased out and went in with confidence to my first race which was a 5000m in Solihull at the BMC.

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Race Nerves – Do they ever get any easier?

From club runner to International athlete, I think we have all, at some point in our lives, experienced race nerves. Whether its down to the competition you face or trying to better your PB. I’m not sure if I have ever met someone that hasn’t experienced some type of nervousness before competition.

For me race nerves have always been there, my whole life. They are not something I like and at times I wish they were not there at all, but in a way we do need them to some extent.

The nasty side to race nerves is that struggle to eat, the nausea, the running to the toilet all day, the worry, the panic, and that feeling that something is trying to psych you out of that one thing you really love to do, Race/compete.

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2016 Gone in a Flash, but Setting New Challenges for 2017

I can’t believe how fast 2016 went by, it felt like I was waiting for the Olympics for an age and now I can’t believe it’s 7, yes nearly 7 months that have passed by since I was standing on that start line in Rio ready to run the race that every athlete dreams of in their career.

2016 ended on a high for me, representing Ireland once again at the European Cross Country Championships in Chia. A team medal wasn’t to be this year with strong opposition from Turkey, Great Britain, Spain and Romania, but we all had strong runs and held our heads high finishing 5th team.

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An Olympian

The day before my Olympic debut and I started to get very emotional. My Papa had been my number one fan and we lost him to Cancer in 2012, in that same year I had been trying to make the London Olympics but had then picked up an achilles injury which ended my season prematurely. Before he died I had run a great race and he said “she’s going to make the Olympics”; it was very hard not being able to make it that year and I felt I had let him down.

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So four years on and I was finally going to make him so proud, but not having him here to share this whole experience with me and be in the Olympic Stadium was upsetting. The Olympic Village had a reflection area and an Olive Tree where you could take time to write a message to the people who are no longer with us, I put a little message to him on a ribbon and tied it onto the reflection tree. He couldn’t be here with me but I hoped in some way he was.

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Olympic Village

On 9th August the Irish Athletics Team entered the Olympic Village, home for the next two weeks. Accreditation was sorted and we headed on a village bus to our apartment block.

The size of the Olympic village is crazy, its so big that there was a bus service that rotates round the whole place. The apartment blocks are high rise buildings and we shared our block with Team New Zealand. The place can only be described as a small town and has everything you need from 24/7 dining (which also includes a McDonalds that I have to admit I never visited) to a Samsung phone shop, gyms, hospital/clinic, shops, parks, water features, a post office and other facilities.

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Olympic Training Camp – Uberlandia, Brazil

I wasn’t home for long before it was time to pack again for 5 weeks away in Brazil.

My Asics Spikes and Irish Race Kit was the priority and so it was packed into the hand luggage as always. Coach Rodgers had been asked to come out as part of the Endurance Team Support so it was going to be great to have him there at the training camp right up to race day in Rio.

We had to arrange for the whippets to stay with family for a few days and then their pet sitter Eimear was collecting them to stay with her for the month of August! I’ve never been away from them for so long so it was hard leaving them but they love everybody and they didn’t bat an eyelid at being left with my Mum.

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Olympic send off

I had a few easy days running while I travelled back from the Europeans Championships in Amsterdam, I hadn’t been home since April (now July) and I was looking forward to seeing my family and friends before packing to head to Brazil.

Richard and I and the two whippets (who had come to the Euro Champs also but stayed with a pet sitter) arrived back in Dublin and headed straight to the OCI (Olympic Council of Ireland) to collect my Olympic Irish kit. It was like Christmas had come early and it finally hit – I’m going to the Olympics! We just about managed to get the extra cases into the already overloaded car and headed for home.

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Making the European final in my Championship debut

With 12 weeks of hard work at Altitude in the Pyrenees under my belt it was time to head to Amsterdam to meet my Irish team mates for the European Championships. I landed in Amsterdam after a quick 90 minute flight from Toulouse. It was great to see everyone again and I was excited to get a competitive race in before the Olympics in Rio.

Race day arrived for me, my first European Championships on the track and I was very nervous. On season’s bests I was ranked 28th out of the 28 girls competing. I guess I was a bit apprehensive but I tried to tell myself that my legs would be fresher than the others who had started racing in April/May.

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Font Romeu 2006-2016

I just can’t quite believe that Ive been coming out to train in Font Romeu for the past 10 years. It seems like only yesterday that I was reading about this amazing place with its endless trails in Paula Radcliffe’s autobiography.

From that first account by Paula, I was determined that I would come out here to run on the trails myself and experience what it was like to breathe in the skinny air (or gasp for breath in my case).

Paula R

When I first came out in 2006 competing at the Olympics had not quite crossed my mind. It was something that the ‘big guns’, like Paula, did and not a little club runner like me who had effectively stopped running for 5 years while studying at university and then taken to the racing in the mountains. However, like many others I was keen to give altitude training a go and see how far my running could actually take me. Gaining international vests was the first goal, followed then by making the Commonwealths and then once I had achieved that making an Olympics was in my sight.

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Not all Running

The life of a runner isn’t always roads, trails, sweat and tears. We often get the chance to do lots of other exciting and interesting challenges. 2016 has been jammed packed so far and I’ve met some lovely new people and hopefully encouraged and inspired people along the way.

In February I had the chance to visit the staff at Phoenix Natural Gas and challenge them all to a Park Run a month from that initial meeting with them. It was great to be able to tell people my story of where I started and how I caught the “Running Bug”. A few weeks later I was delighted to meet around 70 staff at Victoria Park in Belfast for what was the first ‘Park Run’ for many of them. It wasn’t the most pleasant of days with a few showers but I was delighted with the turn out and it was great that they had also been raising money for their charity, Energy for Children’s Trust. I was really happy to see that many of the staff had also brought their families and many kids were challenging their parents to a great battle of endurance around the course. Thank you so much to the Victoria Park Run organisers for having us and I hope to see the Phoenix Natural Gas workforce out again for the next challenge.

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International Athlete