OUR plan in going to Florida this month was to be able to get away as a group and to train in better weather. We certainly got away as a group. The fact that we had a tornado warning last week will tell you that the weather was not quite as good as we’d hoped for.
Having said that, it was still generally warmer here than I’m told it has been back in Scotland, and that had several advantages. There are health benefits, for a start – training in the sunshine tops up the Vitamin D levels, and in the speed-based sessions you need warmth if you are going to get quality training done. Also, when you are living and working together as a group it can do wonders for your morale: if someone has a poor session, for example, the others in the group can lift them for the next session.
All of our Sco400 training group were out in Clermont, Florida: that is seven athletes with our coach Piotr Haczek and our physiotherapist Stephen Mutch. Even Kaska, Piotr’s wife, and their son Piotrek were with us. Piotrek took his first steps when we were out here, so you could say that while we were learning to run, he was learning to walk.
Having our physio with us was also a massive boost to the tough training regime, which often involved up to three sessions per day. We all shared a large villa, the Sco400 family home, and we quickly converted it into an athlete-friendly house. The swimming pool was in regular use for active recovery and the garage was converted into Mutcho’s rehab centre – not quite as sophisticated as our regular physio home at Space Clinics in Edinburgh, but it did the job very well. We had a well-established routine: training at the track at Clermont then returning home, in the pool for active recovery and any physio treatment or rehab work.
Recovery is extremely important with such a tough training regime, and both the swimming pool and Mutcho played an important role in recovery. One of the best recovery strategies we have is sleep, which means afternoon naps were programmed in regularly. Nutrition is equally important, and we tried to eat and refuel pretty rapidly after sessions.
We established a rota for cooking and cleaning – it’s the Sco400 answer to Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook. If you can’t cook you’re on cleaning duties, and if you fancy yourself as the next Gordon Ramsay you’re on the cooking rota.
I have quite a passion for cooking, and have to admit I was quite pleased with the risotto I made for lunch the other day. There was a little competition with the cooking, although we didn’t quite go as far as Come Dine With Me and give marks afterwards for hosting skills and presentation. I’m not necessarily claiming that my risotto was by far the best meal…let’s just say that some other members of the group are not so enthusiastic about cooking.
One other advantage of being on training camp together is that it gives you the experience in miniature of competition life. The villa felt like it was part of an athletes’ village, which is something most of us have little experience of as yet. Hopefully we’ll have a bit more experience of it by the end of the summer.
To end our camp at the weekend before heading home on Sunday we went up to Gainsville for the Florida Relays meeting, which had a real buzz about it. After a good month of hard training I was happy with my individual performance in the 400m. It was my first race outdoors, and requires a totally different mindset from running an indoor 400m. It gave Piotr and me a good opportunity to see what stage of training we’re at and what we need to work on in the next four weeks.
With the 4x400m we left everything on the track. It was a big event for the Sco400 boys with such a great atmosphere, so it was a good testing ground for the nerves.
We were quite a bit short of what we wanted to run as a team, but with a few more opportunities on the cards we will use that experience to improve next time.
Now that we’re back in Scotland we’ll have to readjust to training in the cooler and wetter training conditions that we’ re more accustomed to. As long as the weather stays on the cold side we won’t be able to do the same kind of quality work that we’ve been able to put in during the better days here, but we will be able to put a lot of volume back into our sessions.
After a few weeks back home, I will return to Florida at the start of next month for a British Athletics training camp. I hope to then be selected for the 4x400m relay squad for the inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships, which take place in the Bahamas on 24 and 25 May.
If I do get the green light for selection I will go straight out there from Florida. The relays are very early in the outdoors season, so I suspect that form from the indoors season will have a strong influence on the squad.
If that is the case, I would be hopeful of getting a place, having been a member of the quartet that won silver at the IAAF World Indoors in Sopot (Poland).
Although individually we are not the four fastest in the 400m world rankings, together as a quartet we showed that we have a strong, determined and motivated team. At the end of the day it took a world record to beat us, and I think there is a lot more to come from the squad.
You can never take selection for granted, but it would be great to be a part of the first major outdoors event of the year, and to find out what it is like at championships that are just for relays. The Bahamas is a pretty special location, they have an excellent record in the 4x400m and are the current Olympic champions, so I imagine a large and very exuberant crowd will turn out to support the event.