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    1. Posted: 19 June, 2014

      H is for Hayfever … and HayMax

      Running through wooded paths around a lake, with a maelstrom of tree pollen falling around me like rain, I have to remind myself how I would normally be feeling. Teary-eyed, sniffing and wheezing – hayfever often has a direct (and significant) effect on my training. But this time I didn’t have any symptoms, and the early British summer was beautiful.

      I train several times a day, every day, whether it is steady running on wooded trails or through grassy fields, fast efforts on the track, or a hard gym session. I have asthma, and take a daily inhaler to help to keep it under control. The toughest times of year for me are the middle of winter (when the cold dry air makes it much tougher to breathe), and the whole summer season (when I need to be at my best to compete with the top athletes in the world).

      When May comes around each year, the warmer weather makes training easier, but the accompanying pollen can make my life very difficult. It certainly doesn’t cause me life-threatening problems, but when a half second drop in performance can make the difference between 1st and 4th, I try to make sure that I control everything that I can.

      With hayfever, my only options until now have been over the counter antihistamines which carry the risk of drowsiness (definitely not a performance enhancer!). They also carry the inherent risk of being a pharmaceutical product, subject to potential contamination. The public are all too aware of the athletes out there who have tried to gain a chemical advantage, and it is therefore paramount that clean athletes are able to take full responsibility for anything that enters their bodies.

      Enter HayMax. This is the reason that I can run through freshly cut grass fields, or beneath swirling clouds of tree pollen, without any symptoms or impact on performance. And it is a drug free solution. I carry a tiny pot of HayMax in my training bag, and put it on before training. A smear under my nose, and a smear under each eye, on go the sunglasses and it really is that simple.

      It has meant that last month I didn’t need to check the pollen count each day, I didn’t need to carefully work out what time to take an antihistamine tablet, and I didn’t finish my hard training sessions rubbing my eyes and reaching for an inhaler. Unfortunately whilst HayMax works miracles, it couldn’t stop me from finishing my sessions with my hands on my knees gasping for air – just because my hayfever isn’t a problem, doesn’t mean I get to slack off!

      This all gives me one more thing that I can control, and one less thing to worry about. It also means that I can spend time in the garden with my wonderful baby daughter without constantly sneezing – it’s definitely the little things that make the biggest differences.

      Footnote: I know it has been a long time since my last blog, but stay tuned for a thorough update on what I’ve been up to, and what my immediate plans are… coming soon.


    2. Posted: 16 September, 2012

      Olympic Trials and Tribulations

      Two-time Olympian has a nice ring to it. Especially when it is something that four years ago seemed like a foregone conclusion, yet only 10 months ago was a goal barely glimpsed behind several jutting mountains to be climbed. At that point I didn’t have the necessary qualifying time, I had a persistent injury that had been bothering me for over a year, and both belief and enjoyment were sorely lacking.

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      Fast forward to June 23rd 2012, 3 days after my 30th birthday (celebrated by packing for the Olympic trials), and that epithet rang true. I had booked my place for Team GB at the London Olympics by winning a very slow tactical race, taking my tally of national 1500m championships to four. The overwhelming feeling was relief, mingled with excitement about the opportunity ahead. The relief was profound because of the simple fact that I had been desperate not to miss out on competing in front of a home crowd and being a part of what was dubbed #OurGreatestTeam.

      It was also a great way to wrap up the British Miler project, which had charted the ups and downs of seven of Britain’s best milers attempting to book a place on Team GB. I know that being a part of the project, and of Team New Balance, has given me some fantastic memories, and been a great way of capturing a year of training and racing (and pub quizzes). Thank you Kimbia and especially Jeremy and Alex.

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      After the trials it was back into the routine of training, whilst making final plans for the Games themselves. Unfortunately with 4 weeks to go until the big one, I somehow managed to slightly tear a quad muscle. Whilst it wasn’t too serious, it really affected a nerve in my knee which meant that even once I was back into training, my calf would spasm and cramp. Thanks to James Moore (who has seen me through a lot this year), I avoided missing too much training. I had however, missed racing in Crystal Palace which would have formed a key part of my run-in to the Olympics.

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      So I found myself 2 weeks away from the biggest stage on Earth, without having raced for 4 weeks. Not ideal. So I made a tough decision – knowing that I needed to race, but also unsure about my calf, I decided to run the BMC grand prix in Solihull. Suffice it to say, it didn’t go well (I finished 3rd in 3.41), but it did bring me on, and the next day I flew to the holding camp in Portugal with the rest of the team. Here’s my opportunity to give a big shout out to Mark Draper and Tom Bedford who came out to Portugal to run with me and to help me get my head in exactly the right place before stepping out in front of 80,000 people. A heartfelt thank you to them both. And let’s be honest, they had a holiday in the sun surrounded by bikini clad ladies. Tough life.


    3. Posted: 16 March, 2012

      Blogging, slogging and blues blazers

      It seems that while I was away in the US, I got into the habit of blogging regularly, but on returning to the UK there’s always something else demanding my attention! So here’s a new blog to fill you in on the last few weeks.

      Just after my previous post, I finished my indoor campaign at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham. I was pretty heavy legged from the 5km the week before, but despite the jetlag after 6 weeks in the US, I decided to give the 1500m a go. I did a session on the Wednesday and felt much better than I would have anticipated, and decided that I definitely wanted to get involved! The race went well, I finished just ahead of (subsequent world indoor silver medalist) Augustine Choge, running a PB of 3.37.16 to go to number 4 on the UK all-time list. This was a very positive way to finish this period of racing, but it was also a reminder of the level I need to be at in the coming months. I was as competitive as I could be in the race for the time of year, but didn’t feature near the front, something that has to change!

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      After the race, it was time to get back into the familiar training routine at home, helped by milder weather and being reunited with my training group and coach. It was also time to focus on some solid weeks of training and mileage, without worrying about travelling or racing. It’s never a chore (despite heavy legs after sessions!) to train hard in the leafy surroundings of Bushy Park and Richmond Park, not to mention the occasional foray onto Wimbledon Common.

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      So that pretty much brings us up to date. The only other thing to mention is how I spent Saturday night. Ahem, perhaps that wasn’t the best lead in, but still. I was privileged to be invited to be the guest speaker at the annual dinner for the Cambridge University Athletics Club. This meant it was one of the few opportunities where I can don the sartorial delight that is the Cambridge Blues blazer. Thankfully I don’t have a picture to post here, but suffice it to say that it is a ‘unique’ look, and no matter how traditional or prestigious, it still inevitably leaves sniggers in its wake. So, armed with my preposterous outfit, I headed to Downing College for the black tie dinner. The food was great, but it was even better to catch up with some old friends, and their presence meant that the speech went that much smoother…

      The weekend finished with a run with the Hare & Hounds, the University Cross Country team on the Sunday morning. We had glorious sunshine, and it was great to be back to see how beautiful Cambridge is without a looming deadline! Thank you to the guys for their company, I’ll be back…


    4. Posted: 7 January, 2012

      Stockport Harriers, foam disc guns and burlesque

      Where to train over the Christmas period is always a tricky one, but luckily for me Steve Vernon, Dave Turnbull and co. came to the rescue to proudly let me use the facilities at Stockport. And they’re right to be proud. The track is in the middle of a great little park, with a 1km loop on a road surface (marked every 200m by plaques), a changing room with ice baths, and a shipping container that hides an Olympic lifting platform! It was great to meet up with them for my warm up, and to see what a great group Dave has training together.

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      Whilst Christmas involves training as usual, it also involves games, and toys that come out once a year. So imagine my excitement when I discovered a “rapid-fire foam disc shooter” at my parents house. After populating every corner of the living room with said foam discs, and having sent my family running for cover, I turned my attention to the reindeer atop the fireplace. There would be no escape from my sniping… that is until one of the discs whizzed down the ventilation grill of the gas fire. It was a great shot, but one that ultimately led to the fire being dismantled – apparently a foam disc is “a potential fire hazard”. Oops.

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      From toys, to more grown up pursuits – in the form of burlesque dancing. Thankfully it wasn’t me in a corset and feather boa. Amazingly a group of friends and I had managed to persuade our lovely wives and girlfriends that the ideal way to see in the new year would be by watching already scantily clad ladies disrobe even further. I still don’t know how we managed that one. Still, we had a great night at the Naked Turtle (yes, really) jazz restaurant, where the fantastic (and fully dressed) waitresses sang amazingly throughout the evening. The only bad thing during the whole evening was that one of my friends had misinterpreted the dress code of “bohemian splendour” and somehow came dressed as someone from Miami Vice. I won’t mention any names though, Richard Jones.


    5. Posted: 18 December, 2011

      Team spirit, early mornings, late night weeing and some cross country

      So I’m back in the UK after a whirlwind trip to Velenje in Slovenia for the European Cross Country Championships. On the way out, the taxi picked me up at 4.45am, and we arrived at the team hotel at around 5pm. On the way home, we boarded the bus at 3.50am and shortly thereafter my ability to speak, think or tell the time deserted me. Still, it could have been worse, I could have been the person who stayed up all night after having stolen the mascot’s outfit, eaten at least 5 desserts, and thrown up at the hotel.

      The thing that struck me the most on the trip was the camaraderie and passion of the coaches and athletes involved in British cross country. Mud, rain and cold don’t scream glamour or money, but they do breed respect amongst those crazy enough to take part. Cross country is tough, but it is incredibly rewarding, and for me it’s a really important opportunity to test my fitness.

      Team course inspection

      So test it I did, and whilst I was disappointed to finish 25th the time gaps were small, and the fantastic team performance that saw us come away with team silver medals went a long way towards cheering me up! Regardless of how fast the early pace was – it felt fast. I got a terrible start, and spent the race working hard to move through as I negotiated the eight lap course. Rhythm breaking is the nature of cross country, but the tight twisty course really stopped me from finding mine – I felt great on the straighter, faster sections, but was cornering like a ferry!

      Post race it was podium time (we were beaten to team gold by a very strong French team), then back to the hotel for massage and a quick change before the banquet. It definitely takes the shine off the evening when you have a 3.30am alarm hanging over you! Finally we undertook the bus, plane, plane, train, bus journey back home where it was time to catch up on some sleep. Or at least that was what I had hoped until there was a knock on the door at 10.15pm as the drugs testers showed up. Which meant that the evening ended with the surreal experience of watching a question of sport at 11pm with my long-suffering wife as two strange men waited for me to pee. Brill.

      Footnote: check out a great blog on the GB cross country team here


    6. Posted: 3 July, 2011

      White = Light

      Category: Miscellaneous

       

      White = Light

      Love these. Doesn’t matter how many miles I’ve done, they always make me feel fast. (Thanks Brownie!)