Having just completed another solid domestic season and short Asian circuit I can now sit back and look over the season I just had.
From the beginning of the season I had set myself a few goals, as everyone does. One goal which was a priority to me was winning a national title. I guess the only way forward from a second place at last year’s nationals was to win this year. Obviously having achieved this it’s safe to say I achieved what I set out to do. However, it didn’t come easy. The 2011 season had its up’s and downs.
I put together a really good block of training through January and set myself up for a good start to the season with the 800m at Hunter Track Classic in late January. Having won my first race my confidence grew and with the two weeks leading into my next race I decided to lift the intensity and chase a fast time in the 800m at the Brisbane meet. Unfortunately I did not take into account the unexpected heat wave that hit Sydney the week following Hunter. So for almost 10 days I was training twice a day in 35 + degrees and when I stood on the start line in Brisbane my body was flat. Following this I sat down with my coach, James FitzGerald, and we back tracked day by day what I did leading into Brisbane and how I could do things differently leading into my next races without dropping the intensity and making sure I was fresh every time I stood on the start line. My next two races were 1500m’s. I decided to put two 1500m’s in the middle of my season so that I could keep my aerobic strength up as it was going to be a long season. It was also an opportunity to for me to see what I was capable of doing over the metric mile. As many people perceived me as and 800m runner, I wanted to put a couple of solid performances out there.
I had a solid run in Hobart, being a tactical affair in the bad weather time was never important to me. And with the Americans, Nick Symmonds and Tyler Mulder in the field it was always going to be a great race. I didn’t quit have myself in a great position through the first 3 laps but when I hit the back straight with 300 to go there were plenty of people for me to run down and that drove me to the line. Unfortunately you can’t give the likes of Jeff Riseley a head start with a lap to go. Once again another good performance and gave me plenty of confidence going in to Melbourne, which was expected to be a very fast 1500m.
Melbourne rolled around quickly after Hobart and I had put together another couple of weeks of solid training. Melbourne was quick. The first lap was 53/54 something I had never experienced before. It kind of knocked me around a bit and I found myself floating backwards through the middle lap of the race. With 600 to go though I realised that an opportunity to run a quick time in Australia doesn’t come to often and I worked my way back through the field to finish 5th in 3.39.87, taking almost a second off my PB. I came away from Melbourne with a valuable lesson in commitment. Realising that had I committed early in the race to the pace I may have finished with a quicker time and a better placing. Something that I kept in mind for nationals.
Sydney Track Classic was a following two weeks later. It was shaping up to be a massive race with David Rudisha, Asbel Kiprop, Renshaw and Gurr in the line up. My preparation for the race was flawless, I was completing sessions well beyond expectations and come race day I was confident that I could run a quick time. The day of Sydney track classic rolled around and unfortunately for Sydney we had an unusual amount of rain all day. Luckily it cleared just for the meet. Racing against the likes of Rudisha and Kiprop was a huge opportunity for me to get dragged through and run a quick time. The race was very flat though. The 3rd 200m was too slow and I found myself to far back in the last 100m and having to close a big gap between myself and Gurr and Kiprop. Only managing to get Kiprop on the line and running a Pb of 1.46.74. Taking from this race a lot in terms of track placement through the middle section of the race.
From Sydney Track Classic I turned all my attention to Nationals. I used the Perth meet as another opportunity to run a quick time, however the race became very tactical after the first lap was only 55seconds and I finished 3rd. I then had a quick turnaround from the Thursday night to then pacing squad members over 1500m on the Saturday night in Sydney. This was good practice for Nationals, as I hadn’t run rounds throughout the season and I had to make sure the body was in good shape to back up. I took the build into nationals really serious. I sat down with Jimbo and we talked about all the sessions I would do and how they were going to benefit me once I got to Nationals. I wrote my program for the three weeks leading up to Nationals and gave it to Jimbo, he read through it, made one or two changes and we had prepared something that was going to play to all my strengths.
Nationals came around in no time at all. I had a perfect build up and went down to Melbourne oozing with confidence. The heats on the Friday were good. I had a number of talented 800m runners including Tasmanian Ryan Foster, who I had never raced to that date. I knew from his NCAA experience would be a big contender for the title. I ran a good heat, qualifying for the final with the fastest time. The next night I lined up against 9 of Australia’s best 800m runners. I had Renshaw and Gurr who had both posted faster times then me during the season, Hammond who had won the NSW state title and Foster who was an experienced runner, all guys who could potentially win the title. I drew the same lane as Renshaw and found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with the reigning national title holder and the biggest barrier between me and a national title. From the gun I knew the first 150 would be relatively quick so I let Renshaw take the lead in our lane and I just tucked in behind him. I found myself in the same position down the back straight as we broke, tucked right on Renshaw’s shoulder with a view of every major player in the field. Coming around through the bell I was still in a prime position. With Hammond and Foster in the lead and Gurr tucked in third and I had Renshaw and my inside. Down the back straight I knew I had Renshaw in a bad position. He was caught behind foster and on my inside, so I ceased my opportunity and moved up. Gurr had made a break for home and with 200 to go he had taken the lead. Once I decided to go that was it, I couldn’t waste my spurt down the back to get into 2nd so I went passed Gurr. Coming into the final straight I had to dig in the final bit because I knew Renshaw wouldn’t give up the fight and in the last 50 I found another gear to hold on. And that was it. I had won my first open national title.
As the hype of winning a national title wore off it was back to training for me after 3 easy days as I had two races lined up in Asia, first of which was the Seiko Golden Gala in Kawasaki, Japan. Where I faced off against the Japanese Record holder. After having an uneasy 3 week build up to this trip, with the odd niggle and some knee problems, I managed to get myself right just days before leaving. I went into the Kawasaki with a similar plan as I did for nationals. However, I did not account for the Japanese athletes final kick in the last 100 and after taking the lead with 150 to go I found I could not respond to his challenge in the final 50. The next of two races was in Daegu for the Colour-ful Daegu pre-world champs meet. I came off Kawasaki feeling really good. Posted my second fastest time of the season and was ready to put it on the line in Daegu, Unfortunately the day after arriving, following an easy track session my knee became problematic again and I spent the next 24hours working the soreness out with a foam roller and voltaren. I managed to weed the problem out and on the day of the meet woke up pain free. I lined up in Daegu with a host of world class athletes. The likes of Boaz Lalang, Commonwealth Champion from Delhi. As the race got under way I had a good position in about 6th but I had myself on the poll. This was ok I thought, because I knew come the home straight everyone will swing wide and I will have some free track up the inside. I was still in the same position in the front straight and the lead was not out of sight. I went to kick… and nothing. I had run out of legs. I must have had something but it was not enough to make an impact on the race. So I had to settle for 7th and 1.47.15… 0.10 Faster than Kawasaki only 4 days before.
Now that I am home, I am back doing base work to keep my fitness up for my first year competing in the European summer. I plan on doing some 800s and 1500s as a build up for World Uni games and hopefully post something towards the Olympics next year. The season past has been quite successful however it was only a minor step forward. It is now time to take a leap into the international stage and live out the dreams of my child-hood.