It has taken me a little while to get round to writing this – partially because it is proving quite difficult to evaluate the effects the altitude has had and partially because part of me wanted to wait until after the Blaydon race in the hope that I’d have a really good run and prove unequivocally that going to Ethiopia had the desired effect. I’ve been feeling better every training session since I returned, but as well as the altitude, I also did the most consistent 11-week period of hard training I’ve ever done, so it’s difficult to say whether that led to the improvement or whether it’s the red blood cells.
The race in London was definitely just a little bit close to when I flew home. The journey via Cairo had deprived me of a nights sleep, and my legs still felt pretty heavy on the morning of the race. Once the race got started I realised why people say that you need to acclimatise back to sea-level. Whilst my breathing was completely controlled, I felt like I was stumbling in my attempt to get my legs to move at the speed I wanted them too. After three months during which there had simply not been enough oxygen in the air to run at such a fast pace, my legs just weren’t quite ready yet.
Luckily the pace was pretty slow, and a fairly large group went through four kilometres together. I kept trying to avoid Mo Farah, as I was terrified of tripping him by accident (imagine the response from the media if he was injured two months before the Olympics) but he kept popping up alongside me. I was actually quite relieved when he eventually decided that enough was enough and went to the front of the group to start pushing the pace.
I ended up running a fairly even-paced 31.03 for 21st place overall and about 16th in the British championships (there were a few Japanese runners and a couple of other non-Brits in there). A solid result, but not the breakthrough I was hoping for. On the plus side, I have been getting faster and feeling better ever since I got back into proper training following the race. My legs seem to have caught up with my lungs, and I’ve done the best three track sessions I’ve ever completed in the last week. It takes red blood cells between ninety and a hundred and twenty days to die, so I theoretically have a big window of time to get some solid training in and continue to improve.
As Max keeps pointing out though, nobody cares about what you can do on a Tuesday night at Maiden Castle track in training. I’m looking forward to getting to the start line in Newcastle on Saturday night to really find out what kind of shape I’m in. As the Blaydon race is always held on the 9th of June (in accordance with the song) the competition is always stronger when the 9th falls on a Saturday as it gives more people an opportunity to travel to the race. I’m choosing to see this as a positive thing – it offers me a decent opportunity to beat a few people I wouldn’t normally expect to beat. We’ll see.