I went back to primary school in January to teach in a learning support centre which I really enjoyed and ended up not finishing there until the Easter holidays. During that period, training had gone well and I had a short but strong indoor season with PBs over 1500m, 3000m and won my first 1500m National title. Now I was itching to get back to Font Romeu for the outdoor track season preparations.
It was April and the last dumps of snow were melting at 6,000 feet. Coach Rodgers and I headed on our road trip with our new family member Lola, a rescue whippet that we adopted in February. Just by chance I saw her in a Gumtree advertisement seeking adoption – she was so like my whippet Zola who I had had nearly 16 years and was already named Lola and that made it even more spooky, we just had to have her. As its turned out she absolutely loves running and nearly covers 70 miles with me most weeks.
It was a good solid 5 weeks in Font Romeu – in the sunshine with my mate Rose-Anne Galligan and my new training partner Lola and it set me up well for the track season ahead. We had some glorious days in the sun, on and off the track. We worked hard and treated ourselves to the odd almond croissant or two! Font Romeu is like my second home now, it’s a runners’ paradise and we have become ‘local blow-ins’, Lola of course is the star attraction in the village and everybody knows her name, lol.
Coach Rodgers came back out for the final week and then we set out on our road trip home via the first race in Belgium. The hotels along the way are fab as they allow dogs which is great. IFAM in Oordegem is always a fantastic meeting. Last year I produced my CWG qualifier there and so I was hoping for a strong race again. I felt good and opened the season with a 9:53.05 my fastest opener and only 0.1sec off my PB. Michelle Finn finished ahead of me with a very strong run to get a PB of 9:49. She really took off on that finial lap.
It’s always lovely to get back home and into my usual routine, massage from Artie Quinn was penciled back into my weekly schedule and the underwater treadmill at the Gasworks in Belfast, both very essential components in the training regime.
My next race was a 2k Chase in Edinburgh for Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow, my GB club, in the Premier Division of the UK Women’s League. Unfortunately, wind gusting to 50mph was not going to allow fast times but I felt strong throughout the race and came in to win and gain full points for the team. We finished a strong 2nd at the meeting which was a great result for all.
Back home for 48 hours and then I jumped on a flight to Seville, for a 3k Chase in Huelva (half way between Seville and Faro). Arriving on the Tuesday and staying away from the pool and sunshine was tough! The hotel was beautiful and the food was amazing (you all know I love my food). I visited the track to check out the surface as I heard it was very hard and possibly slippy, but it took the spikes ok so that was a relief. The next day flew in for once and the evening race approached.
It was a good field and I was ranked 6th on PB and 2nd on SB, the fastest girl in the race had asked for the pace to be 6:20 to 2k, a little fast for me right now so I planned to hold back a little. Once again It was windy (it’s following me around) and the pace maker went out very fast. I held back in 4th and felt relaxed, as the race progressed I was able to move steadily into 2nd and claw the race leader right back just after the pace maker dropped off. I got right onto her shoulder with approximately 700m to go. In the spur of the moment, I didn’t realise that she was slowing and on reflection, I should of gone by her but decided with the strong winds to sit in until the bell.
On the final lap, as we hit the back straight with 300m to go she made a strong surge. I tried to reel her back in again but she was very strong, I got close and finished 2nd with only 1.2sec or so in it. I could see the 9:40s tick away on the clock and knew I was close to a PB. Before I could get into the cool -own area Richard and Rose-Anne G had already text me through that I had run 9:51.64 – a PB & Northern Ireland record. I was delighted but also a bit frustrated that it had been so windy but then realised that the 9:40s are there for me in the right conditions. I’ve never felt so strong and relaxed racing before, the hard work and long endurance sessions are paying off, so I won’t complain next time I have 10x600m of 6x1km off 1min to do on the track (maybe!).
I’m back home now after approximately a marathon 12 hours traveling – 90-minute bus, 2.5-hour flight, another 1.5-hour flight and then a 2-hour drive home.
I’m preparing for the next few races and training block. My next steeplechase will likely be in July and hopefully that wind won’t follow me again.