My journey to date….
The opportunity to write this blog has provided me with a great opportunity to reflect on my journey, and the driving forces behind my running career. I’m sure there’ll be some of this that may resonate with each of you reading this, and hopefully motivate you along the way!
A country upbringing: Growing up on a Sheep and Cattle farm in country South Australia really sets a good base to develop as an athlete. The life style, while physical and challenging makes you relish and seize opportunities. My childhood consisted of physical work such as drafting, lamb marking, drenching, rousing in the shearing shed, moving cattle, feeding stock, riding motor bikes, making mud slides, fixing fences and changing irrigation. I had no time for watching television or playing computer games.
Perhaps it is just my personality to always give 110%, but I give nothing less at every training, race or game of netball (one of my other past loves!). As a matter of fact even in every test, exam or the smallest job to do on the farm I would always try my very best.
Supportive parents: My parents achieved high-levels of success in their own sporting careers and they managed my attitude and performance appropriately. My Dad represented Australia as a two-time world cup sprinter in the Montreal and Rome World Cups, whilst Mum held the under 13 National 400m record during her junior years. During my early high school years I showed promise and my natural talent and ability spurred on my parents into taking coaching roles for an athletics squad. I gained further interest and opportunities continued to arise through their commitment. For example, they never seemed to mind being part-time taxi drivers around the whole South East, or South Australia for that fact! We lived 25kms from Naracoorte, so after making the trip into training, fluffing around was definitely not on my agenda. Every opportunity to train or compete was always an opportunity that I would grab with two hands.
Inspirational role models: As is the case with many other athletes, running was basically a part of my life ever since I could run! I started little athletics at age five and continued right through all the age-groups including SAPSASA and All Schools State Championships and National Championships. I discovered my true passion for running while watching Cathy Freeman win her gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. I was there watching live and when she crossed the line I had tears streaming down my face. Following this experience, I proceeded to tell my school friends that when I grow up I am going to the Olympics!
Responsibility and priorities: At 15 I moved to Adelaide to go to Pembroke boarding School. Where Peter Dean coached me and my training workload increased from two days per week to three and the sessions were much different!
Throughout out my senior schooling years I continued to juggle school, boarding life, netball and athletics and I achieved success in both my studies and sport. Life at Pembroke School was amazing but also very testing for me as an athlete as my new found independence had me working out my priorities quickly; alcohol and Sunday morning training don’t mix well! Juggling a social life with training is one factor that I think can really make or break an athlete and is one of the toughest transitions from a junior to senior athlete.
Once I graduated from school I took one year off from study to be able to train and work part time. I changed coaches to Wendy Abbott and achieved some really positive outcomes including becoming state champion in the 400m (and later the 800m), making my first ever open national final, and started racing in the Australian Tour and won my first national medal. I learnt a lot from Wendy and really appreciate all she has done.
Two years ago at the National Championships in Melbourne I found myself standing on the dais with my idol and a truly inspirational athlete, Tamsyn Manou and Zoe Buckman; another amazing athlete who is achieving great international success. I stood there shocked, with a bronze medal around my neck for the 800m! After getting over the fact that I had won a medal and performed a personal best, I began to contemplate what my potential could be if I actually focused on this event? (I was always focused on 400m until this point!). That race was my seventh 800m race ever, the sixth being the heat! And so begun the next chapter; the 800m.
Learning from tough times: Last season was my toughest season yet. After the success of winning the bronze in April 2012, I had my goals set high. Last year I was juggling training, full-time university placement and work all at once. I coped with the heavy load until I found myself bed-bound with a severe case of gastro in my final weeks of placement.
I recovered from gastro but my times and performances fluctuated throughout the season and I struggled to keep up with my busy life. I lost weight and became frustrated with my results given the amount of work I had put in. Things just weren’t adding up. I was then prescribed a blood test to find I was actually anemic and overall generally fatigued. I was physically and mentally drained. I then made the decision to not complete the rest of the season and rest my body. On top of all this I changed coaches mid-season to my current coach, Max Martin.
This is a bump in the road that I have learnt a lot from. I now know I must listen to my body and that rest is just as important as the training and weights. I have learnt to better juggle my time outside athletics and have had a very strong ‘off’ season with the weight coming back, strength in my body and of course, in my mind. I am now a qualified exercise physiologist, so no more placements! I am thoroughly enjoying my new coach, Max, and our new program and feel very positive about the 13-14 season.
I am very fortunate to have sponsors like Mizuno & Sam Parkinson, Shane McGregor and an extremely supportive and understanding family, coach, training squad and friends. Without such a support base, the hurdles to becoming an elite athlete would be far too great.
This year I will race over both the 400m and 800m aiming for personal bests in both events. Ultimately, I hope to run a qualifying time and gain selection to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. My life is balanced and I am more determined than ever to get the results I have worked so hard for. I can’t wait for the next chapter in this story of farm kid to 800m champion!