Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Vacation: Training for the Worlds Part 3

All-American David McNeill is running Monday, August 17 at the IAAF World Championships in Germany. He took some time off from his training to give Lumberjack fans an update on his summer and preparation for the Worlds. This is the third blog by McNeill before his return to Flagstaff for the 2009 cross country season.

Hello everyone again!

Where I left you last, I was ready to compete in a 5k at the Aviva London Grand Prix meet, at Crystal Palace in London. This would easily be the biggest and most prestigious meet I had been a part of up to that date. Around me, I had names like Usain Bolt, Yelena Isinbejava, Saif Saeed Shaheen, and Lopez Lomong. The meet was of a high calibre; I thought that it would provide ideal preparation for my race in Berlin. Unfortunately though, for a number of reasons, my entry onto the big stage of athletics was more of a rude awakening than anything else. As the saying goes for first-timers on the European circuit, “Welcome to Europe” was an apt approximation of my experience. I stepped onto the track, and knew right away that it was likely to be a tough day. I couldn’t feel any spring in my step, and an opening lap of 58 seconds was something I could never have expected. After that first lap, I was in last place, with second-to-last a good 30 meters in front of me. My immediate reaction to the fast early pace was to stay calm, and let the tail-enders come back to me. But with the fast early tempo, all that proceeded to happen was an increase in the gap. I panicked after about a mile, and tried to work my way up to someone else, but in the process, blew my bubble, and battled all the way home to the finish line in a fairly embarrassing time, by the standards I set for myself.

I dusted myself off pretty quickly though. My performance was so far below anything I had done in training and racing throughout the year, that all I could account the experience to was a simple case of having a ‘bad day’. Certainly, I was running on a stage that I probably wasn’t quite ready for yet. But that being said, it was a wonderful awakening and learning experience of what it takes to make in the big league. I was proud of the way I reacted after the race. In the past, I have spat the dummy and spent hours in very sour moods. On this occasion though, I refocused on the task ahead in Berlin, boarded a train back to Teddington, and made myself some poached eggs on toast with sautéed spinach. A late night cook-up – as always – helped clear my head!

I decided that, for my own confidence, I would try another race the following Friday, just to prove to myself that my 5k in London was no indication of the shape I was in. The race was a low key fun run around the park near where I was staying. It was a 7k race that had been graced by the likes of distance running stars like Craig Mottram and Sonia O’Sullivan. I ran very much by myself from the gun, and ran an even pace throughout to take a comfortable win, and a new course record (one up on Mottram! YAY!!!). It was confirmed – London was a slight hiccup, and I was in fact quite fit.

Not much more was to be done in the training stakes. After the fun run, I spent just another week and a half in Teddington before heading to Berlin. I hadn’t done nearly as much in England as I would have liked to have, but that was unfortunately not the nature of the trip. Instead of daily sightseeing, and memorable life experiences, I prepared for my first world championships. I made some wonderful new friends, showed off some of my prowess in the kitchen to my cooking partner in London, Lara (we shared the cooking a bit during my stay), and made a couple of trips into some of London’s more famous markets in Notting Hill and Camden. So, erase that last comment about memorable life experiences, because this was in fact definitely one of those!

It is now the night before my race in Berlin, and I have been here for 5 days. The weather has been beautiful, and the stadium is simply breathtaking. I do hope that the stadium won’t take too much of my breath away tomorrow night, as I will need all the oxygen I can get for my 25 lap journey. The last couple of weeks have provided a fairly familiar feeling of tiredness and being burnt out after a very long season. These feelings certainly scare me a little, and I would much rather be feeling fresher right now. But I know my body, and I remember last time I felt like this – before running the 10k that qualified me for these championships. That day, I had the race of my life, and I hope to have the same such race tomorrow. Tomorrow is not just about the experience. I have a goal in mind, and people I want to be running with. I hope I can share some special memories with you all after the race.

Lastly, before I go to bed, thank you to all my Facebook posters and emailers. Your support over the past weeks and months has been overwhelming. Whatever the outcome tomorrow, I will be running whole-heartedly for the special people that make this sport so enjoyable for me.

With love and best wishes,

David

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