31 July 2015
With less than a month to go to the Beijing World Championships, I am delighted with how my preparations have gone in the countdown to the biggest competition of my career.
My speed is finally advancing to the standard of other top 400m hurdlers, my endurance is strong thanks to a month of high volume work pre-Europe, my hurdling is snappy and my stride length is perfect. In training, I’m managing to handle my new racing pattern of 13 strides to hurdle six and 14 strides to the finish. All I need to do now it work on nailing that stride pattern on race day and I am confident the New Zealand record will be history.
In my last blog, I wrote about my time based in Leipzig staying with wife’s uncle. However, I ended up leaving prematurely because I was struggling with the flu and the cold wet weather I was experiencing there was not conducive to aiding my recovery. I then made the decision to shift base to Mannheim on the other side of Germany, where my wife and I spent a few days living in Tom Walsh’s spare room. Tom was one of the best men at my wedding last year and it was great to catch up with him, especially watching how he lives and trains as a newly paid up member of the superstar athletics club!
From a competitive point of view, I started my European adventure with a couple of races on the flat to help ease my way back into racing and work on my speed – an area where I traditionally struggle. I’m delighted to say I comfortably set a pair of long overdue PB’s in the 200m and 400m, although my tactically inexperience over both distances were exposed. I took a massive 1.06 from my 200m best with a 22.07 clocking in (yes, my previous best was 23.12), although after smashing everyone over the first 100m I realised that most 200m runners save some energy for the second part of the race, and I got mowed down by quite a few guys.
I lowered my 400m PB a week later by 0.71 - posting 48.23, although I was slightly baffled to be moved from the C race with the other 48 second runners into the A race with the 45-46 second runners. After 200m I trailed the field by ten metres only for a sudden burst of energy to kick in. I managed to catch and pass a bunch of 46 second runners to finish third. It was a great result but I wish I could have known how fast I could have run had I not had to contend with a stiff headwind down the back straight.
I was realistic about what I could achieve in Naimette-Xhovemont in Belgium as I lined up for my first 400m hurdles in more than two months. I knew I would be a little ring rusty, but I was a disappointed to run 51.10 in perfect conditions, especially a week after smashing my 400m PB. The mistake I made was running too conservatively during the first half of the race which only served to disrupt my stride pattern.
Thankfully, nine days later in my next outing at the Morton Games in Dublin I ran much more impressively. I was pumped ahead of the race and I had been visualising how I would win, so do so in a season’s best time of 50.07 was enormously satisfying, especially as I also earned a little bit of spending money too!
What is encouraging is that I know there is a lot more left in the tank. Due to a strong headwind my stride pattern went awry in Dublin in fact Simon Pearson, the HPSNZ Performance and Technique Analyst, reckoned because of the stride pattern issues I had encountered in Ireland I might have lost a full second in time, which means I am confident a 49-flat time could be just around the corner.
Since the beginning of July I moved out of Mannheim to be based in Leuven in Belgium and my next step in my adventure will see me move on to Copenhagen for my final European outing on August 5.
I’m looking forward to racing in the Danish capital, where apparently a top quality field has been assembled. Copenhagen’s weather can be a bit hit and miss at this time of year, but I just hope for some good conditions and to execute another confidence boosting run.
It would be great to smash the New Zealand record there – currently jointly held at 49.72 between myself and Cameron French – which would validate my selection by achieving the World Championships standard.
Post-Copenhagen, I head out to pre-Worlds training camp in Japan for ten days and then on to Beijing, where my main focus is setting a PB in the 400m hurdles heats. Typically, a sub-50 second time is usually good enough to make a semi, but I would like to qualify automatically and earn a good lane draw for the semi, which might require a 49.5 run. Then it will be all about going as hard as possible in an effort to make the final or earn a top 12 finish.
I look forward to writing about my Beijing experiences in my next blog