End of an Error

The 2011 athletics season is done and dusted, its in the books and I have to say I’m pretty glad to see the back of it, although the way I finished left me wishing it was just starting. I’m not going to dress it up, this year has been my toughest, most stressful time in sport. Performance wise it was one of my worst as a senior athlete. However, the season has ended very positively and after months of toil and torturous soul searching, I finally feel progress has been made and we can kick on from here.

I recently returned from a UKA camp inPortugal which was a sort of test for what will happen before the Paralympics next year. I have been to the training complex in Monte Gordo many times but we stayed in a different hotel, it was very plush and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Sounds very nice I know but when you are away on a training camp you don’t really get a chance to enjoy your surroundings (although some athletes do try to), as long as I have decent food and a nice bed I’m happy. It was a very productive camp for me, I took my modified new throwing frame that Tharsus did a great job on, getting it ready the day before I flew. In training the frame made an instant difference and technically I improved every session. The last session was the best I’ve thrown in well over a year. The only negatives were that our room almost turned into a zoo with crickets, beetles and ants getting in because my room mate Danny kept opening the window. I got my own back on Danny by turning the heating up to full on the day I left, leaving him sweating in bed.

I returned in good spirits for the National Championships, I had one night at home with my lovely neglected fiancé then it was off to Nottingham for what should be a relatively painless journey. However the A1 was closed and seven hours later we arrived in Nottingham, I reckon we could’ve flown to Portugal then flown back into East Midlandsand got there quicker. All that travelling takes its toll but I still threw a seasons’ best 31.29m to become national champion yet again. I wanted more as always but I can’t grumble too much after going through a pretty torrid time most of this season. I had 5 throws over 30 metres and it was easily the best I’ve thrown in well over a year. I had two aims for this season which were to throw at least the same distance as my age and to beat the distance I threw in New Zealand at the world championships. I finally did that, the latter was by 4cm but progress is progress and we move on now.

I guess the biggest positive I can take from having such a bad season in my eyes is that I still came out of it with a bronze medal from the World Championships and being ranked 4th in the world (2nd in my own class). Performances this season hurt me deeply, particularly in Wigan and Cardiff where I threw my worst distances for 10 years. After that I was guilty of chasing competitions, hoping something would click and changing from my new frame to my old frame. I know that is a recipe for disaster, I’m so stubborn and single-minded though and I won’t give up, that goes against me sometimes. My coach has the patience of a saint, I am a nightmare to coach because I think I know so much, I have to be convinced to change any aspect of my training. That can be the sign of a good athlete, but I take it too far at times.

One thing I do know is that my coach is usually proved right. This year I have done hardly any work on my legs because of my hip being so sore, I was more concerned with protecting it than using it. I got away with it until about June when my performances dropped away dramatically. I was worried, I was training as hard as ever but just kept throwing rubbish, training was horrible as every session would be the same. My coach would say to me that I was turning into a ball because my legs were getting tighter and my shoulders rounder. I guess I turned into the kind of athlete I slate, who thinks by doing the same things they can improve. It took an embarrassing performance at the UKA Challenge at Stoke Manderville to change my mindset. I finally took a good hard look at myself and knew that what I was doing wasn’t good enough. I looked at my scrawny pigeon-like legs that could hard even lift my bum off a seat and thought if I can’t do this properly I might as well go and have the hip replacement and be done with it. I realised that my hip hurt whether I used it or not, so I might as well use it, and my right leg is still 100% so I need to get the most out of that.

After months of doom and gloom and wondering if my career might be over, feeling sorry for myself, I finally started listening to my coach. I started working with a person trainer – Gary Nash at the Unit gym – he is going to work one to one with me up toLondon, that’s something I haven’t had for nearly two years and will make a big difference. I stepped up my Pilates programme with my brilliant physio Penny – it’s a bit girly and seems like it should be dead easy but it is some of the hardest training I’ve ever done.

Right. I’ve gone on a bit in this post but needed to get stuff out. Speak to you when winter training starts in a few weeks.

Just a thought – Success and failure are like love and rejection, it’s the for the beholder to rejoice in or endure.