Friday, July 27, 2012

Receptions, Ceremonies and Dress-Ups

Team reception with Ben Offeriens and Joel Milburn

Last night we were exposed to our first whole team function, which was the team reception and revealing of the flag bearer. Obviously not everyone goes to this (especially with the opening ceremony on tonight), but the atmosphere was amazing! I had a predicted fun-rating of about 4-5 out of 10, but it delivered a solid 9! I think I had an image in my head it as going to be a sit down occasion with lots of speeches and formal stuff, but no! We were greeted by about 100 screaming fans (of which I still don’t know how to react to other than smiling and waving like an idiot) and cameras in out faces, before entering a massive room full of people, music, and an atmosphere pretty much like a nightclub! 

Past and present AIS boys! Joel, Patty Mills (bball), Joe Ingles (bball), and me

It was a great chance to catch up with athletes you don’t get to see very often from different sports, not to mention the staff that we create strong relationships with on trips like these. Star-struck and a giddy with excitement for such an unexpectedly awesome party, I was fairly sad to leave. But not without savoring my first real taste of the Australian Olympic Team. Every single person there had a smile on their face, and talking to the athletes, all oozing with positivity and a keenness to get the Games started, I took another step toward truly appreciating how special this all is. 
Tonight is the Opening Ceremony, and I am glad I haven’t got a limited amount of excitement in me, because I reckon I would have used it all up already. I have decided to not take my camera tonight, as I think the other 10, 000 athletes will have the covered and I want to enjoy every moment purely with my eyes and my heart. Let the Games begin!!!

Here are some pics from a dress up night the aths team had in our camp in Tonbridge... We had very little resources or time!

Theme: Past Olympics (vintage)

Tennis anyone? (Can't believe they have an S. Hooker wig)

Original 1896 Olympic Attire

Circa 1940s. And Bruno. I think he was blind or something

Mixing eras: triumph.

Our two judo competitors at it

1984 Olympic supporters

You can't see the gold medal or the bulging pants here, but Kim is a Chinese swimmer. a-hem.

Towels are almost failing

Press meeting?

Jeff as 2000 Olympic star Nikki Webster 

Me as Greg - reporter. Danii: ???

Never has a man looked so comfortable but terrible in a dress. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

For all those out there who want a quickie on stretching basics 101 (Feat. Lauren Boden.)
Obviously there is a hell of a lot more to stretching - we had very little time!
Great fun though... ;-)

Traffic lights and friendly chaps

I reckon the 400 hurdles is a fair bit like driving to work in the morning. Each hurdle is like a traffic light, and you have good days and bad days. Getting a good run of greens is like the perfect race of hurdles, and sometimes every red light possible is conspiring against you and you are forced to stop, start, stop, start. Not ideal for hurdles, either.

Today's race I had a red light before I had left the driveway. For some silly reason I took an extra step before the first hurdle, which meant I was on my opposite leg and pretty much had given myself the worst possible start. I was actually fairly happy with what followed as I managed to change the rest of my race as best as I felt I could and finished with a 50.06, a European best this year. I clipped a couple of hurdles and my last hurdle was terrible, but I was happy with what shape it showed I am in.

The other event that left me with a smile was a chat with the guy that beat me, a Belizian hurdler named Kenneth, who is also going to the Olympics. 

"I am just so happy to be going, man! I don't care if I run 56 seconds or 48, it's what I have worked towards and have achieved, so I'm going to enjoy it." 

How refreshing! There is no doubt we will all be giving our everything at the Olympics and our best result possible will follow, but it was so nice to see another athlete really enjoying the fact that he is representing his country at the biggest sporting stage in the world to do what he loves. Bless. 

Next stop, London!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Aware, but not alarmed.

I occasionally I feel like I get an idea of what it feels like to be on an isolated reality TV show when I come to Europe. Time seems to speed up and slow down unexpectedly, and things are generally just a bit surreal. I think it’s been about 3 weeks since I got to Europe, but as I am on this new TV show “The World’s Next Top 400m Hurdler”, things aren’t always as they seem. 
Luckily for me I am healthy and happy. It’s been a real laugh staying with Mitch Watt and Steve Hooker, often going for rides through the small country sized park here in Cologne, and Mitch constantly entertain us with hypotheticals and questions like “are handle bars stiffer on bikes you can ride with no hands?”. Steve and I also have a great coffee machine in our apartment so the usual time and effort trying to get hold of decent made coffee in Germany has been spent on latte art and good conversation instead. 
Three races down, and I haven’t hit the times I was hoping for as yet (50.3, 50.4, 50.9). I really try and avoid excusing under-performing with blaming conditions or hitting hurdles, so I won’t. What I do know is that I am training amazingly well and staying positive and am of good health, and I generally come good when those boxes are ‘ticked’. Besides, I have worked way too hard and for too long to beat myself up over crappy races. They happen, so I won’t. I am just loving racing and training at the moment. It’s a very special thing that I have the privilege of doing. 
Next up: this weekend is my last race before going into London. It’s in Belgium and not a bad little meet that I won last year and ran fairly well in. I just hope I don’t get evicted this week. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Tune and On Time...

Highlights of the past week have included:
1. Running fast and stuff at training on Monday (after a big weekend of racing).
2. Having a visit from Steve's girl, Katya, for a couple of days just after she has officially made the O team for Russia.
3. Getting upgraded to silver Qantas Club membership.
4. Almost every meal at home! Steve doesn't eat anything with gluten in it, so we are just eating fresh fruit, veg and nuts with good quality meat (and the occasional block of chocolate) for all meals.
5. Finding out one of my fav bands, Muse, have written the official theme song for the Olympics - it's amazing.
6. Going to see Bon Iver live in Cologne on Monday night. Amazing band, beautiful music. Great company.
7. Riding my bike. Everywhere.
8. Organising fun things to do at Burning Man.
9. Continually getting emails and contact from friends and fams wishing me luck next month. Such a blessed and lucky jerk I am!
10. Not working.

It usually takes a little time for me to adjust to being in Europe. The time zone thing, yes, but just getting used to not working, tapering off with training, and all things just changing a little bit. Luckily for me this year I have been able to stay in an apartment with good mate Steve Hooker, which means I have stayed in a routine much more like home with cooking, cleaning, and generally just doing my own thing. All this, with the added bonus of hanging out with Steve - just like old times! We lived together back in Melbourne many moons ago so we know what each other are like.

Ok, general racing stats... My first race was in Belgium (Nivelles) and was 'off the plane' i.e. racing within two days of touching down from Australia. 50.6 and a win. Nice and controlled race, with what felt like some juice in the tank for the next races.
Second race was in Liege, Belgium, in a better field, but not so good conditions. 4th in 50.35, where it just happened to piss down for only 10 mins of the day; right before and during our race! Good conditioning for London it seems ;-) I was hoping for faster, and I was beaten by Micheal Butheel and Tristan Thomas, two great athletes, but guys I know I can beat and don't particularly like losing to.
Third race was the next day in Bottrop, Germany. 4th in 50.42. I was a bit tired from the day before and from travel, so it was good to back up, but a little slow so initially was unhappy.

General chats with Matty and analysis of previous years have shown that I pretty much always have a few races at around these times before going fast. I am training really well and feeling fantastic, so I'm happy to just have faith and keep getting things done in the meanwhile. Things are starting to fire up as we start all heading into London now, but for me I think the best thing is to just keep my head down, enjoy being fit and racing, and stay healthy and happy. Most of these things I find easy to do, so its just business as usual!

Coming up are two meets before heading into London. This weekend, I have another Belgian meet in Kortrijk. I have run there before and its a nice little meet, usually pulling one or two good athletes to race against. The last meet is one in Nonovae, (I think), Italy. Italian comps are usually on Mondo tracks and are nice and warm.

I have a couple of opinions of current trends in media and will write about them tomorrow, for what its worth. In the meantime... day off and catch up with Joel Milburn and Steve before he heads into London for the diamond league this weekend.