Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Getting real

Wow. What a day in Delhi.

Ten hours ago I was still of the optimistic opinion that although things were rough over in Delhi, that all crinkles would be ironed out and that the Games would run reasonably smoothly.

I am now not sure what I am more uncomfortable about:  a) The bridge to the main stadium crashing, b) The fact that almost all reports from Commonwealth Games delegates in the village are completely unsatisfied and are really not sure if the places where we are supposed to sleep will be finished in time for our arrival, or c) That there was a shooting on the weekend where 2 people were injured and the statistical likeliness of an attack during the games is somewhere between 50 and 80%.

This has kind of scared me. I have been of the opinion that the issues in Delhi have been sensationalised by the media and there really is not that much to worry about, but the fact is the people who are there right now are appalled with a lot of aspects of the Games and its preparation, and security. I don't know what to believe now. I'm confused and a little worried. I think we'll just have to wait and see how the rest of the week pans out, but I am told that some serious changes have to occur for the Games to be ready for us athletes.

My general attitude, especially now that I am part of the 4 x 400 is that I will go unless I am told that I can't.

What I am most worried about is that the whole games are going to be called off. We are having a meeting tomorrow with the high performance manager, Eric Hollingsworth, who has been in London meeting with others on these issues, so no doubt we'll be more in the know as the the Australian team stance then. We have already been told that there will be no hard feelings if we pull out with safety concerns, as has Danni Samuels. My feeling is that we are going to be basically told "enter at own risk", and that the end decision will be ours.

Most of the athletes here in Newcastle are pretty happy-go-lucky and everyone here is super, super keen to compete. This won't change, but I have a feeling that the reports coming in will force some reflection of the magnitude of what were are going into and what could happen; worst case scenario.

As you can tell, I am a bit shaken by this. It certainly won't affect my training over the next week here in the UK; we have a simulated comp day tomorrow, which should be great! I then have a few days of simulated comp sessions to try and get the feel for consecutive days of fast running.

I'll keep my eye on the news and no doubt we'll be told of any developments in Delhi.

Will stay in touch

bj

Friday, September 17, 2010

"surprise"

I've just been told I have been added to the 4 x 400m relay in Delhi!

This is not really so much of a surprise as John Steffenson has pulled out and they can't add anyone else to the team. They looked long and hard before realizing that I was all that was left ;-)

Brave New World

Well, after the email I sent to Jessica, she kindly replied back within a day or so. She thanked me for my input and agreed with me on the question about the most overrated athlete before smashing me on the child labour issue. I was obviously mis-read on the subject and she proceeded to tell me how bad it is over there with 8-10 year old working for almost nothing. I think the issue that is more important that she is getting at is the fact that the Indian government promised good money and living standards for those working on the games and these had deteriorated or just plain been ignored. I certainly would love to see some more positive light on the games through the media, but at the same time these are very important human rights issues. It's hard to have a solid opinion on something I understand so little about.

I am going to do some more research on the matter, so watch this space ;-)

(Sam, I'm so glad the lights are finally in! It only took, what? 2 years??!)

On a more personal note all is going along very nicely here in Cologne. We have been back here for about a week and a half now and it has not been super story-worthy, hence the lack of posts. We have, however, been getting some great training done with the boys that are here. Joel Milburn, Kevin Moore, myself, Ben Offerins and Felipe De Castro Cruz have joined forces and been doing some great training together is the last 12 days or so. It has been so great to have the guys around to fire up and really get that 'fight or flight' response going. With these guys it's a matter of running close to flat out (for me, at least) or getting lost off the back of them. This has meant a great change in intensity and getting work done at a level not achievable on my own. Everyone wins!

I have had a pretty significant shift in my approach that I have settled quite well into since getting back from Croatia. It's counter-intuitive, but it's almost like I have to completely reverse my attitude from back home to when I am away! With how busy I am back home with work and training, I need to be super organised and switched on most of the time, and pretty anal about lots of aspects of my training and recovery. Thinking two days ahead all the time with food, training times, training clothes and crap like that! I need to be constantly conscious of my goals, short term and long, and remind myself of what I am doing and why I am doing it. This focus places a lot of importance on the sacrifices I make, and also athletics in general as it is the biggest thing in my life right now.

But that kind of head space really doesn't work here!

Thinking too much about what I am doing usually leads to disaster and getting way too caught up in my head and my own shit to actually be 'fluid' in my actions and productive. When I say 'fluid' I just mean fluent in a sense, and without restrictions or adhesions. If I maintain the intensity and the reminding of how 'important' what I do as an athlete is, I kind of loose track of the natural processes of being an athlete and a human. How do I explain this?

I guess I do this more than some, but as humans we are attracted to complicated and intricate things. This stimulates our intelligence and gives us something to 'solve' or 'fix' in our heads. This is why we love a good tragedy, and why we are inextricably drawn to scandalous headlines in the news. When I am at home, this part of me is stimulated by my work (as a 'body fixer'), my training, and things like working out how to combine chilli, chicken and basil into a good pasta sauce. All these things are pretty much done for me here or don't exist, which I appreciate to no end, but leaves my busy and annoying little brain to think way too much about things like why the f&%k I didn't run as fast as I wanted to on the weekend!

The ironic result is that I have to develop a head space somewhere between being on holiday and meditatively pondering the meaning of life. Whilst running fast.

I would never say I don't give a shit about how fast I run in two weeks, but I certainly have had to place less importance on the result. I'm ready to go, and can't wait to get into the village, but have taken a step back from my expectations (which is very hard for me) and realised that it's not the end of the world if I don't run a Commonwealth Games record in Delhi. I know what I 'should' run, but I'm just not allowing myself to get too caught up in the result of what happens. I'm going to run my arse off, and see what happens. If I run well, it will be a lot of hard work paid off. If I don't, then I'll be disappointed,  but I'm still a very lucky person who has been able to represent their country at the highest level. And I can constantly thank my stars I am not a swimmer. Hahaha...

So that's where I feel I am at. I am relaxed, I am training really really well. I've been having lots of fun with the team and with my roommate Joel, and I am doing pretty well with leaving my expectations alone. I hope you enjoyed a small tour round my silly little head, thanks again for all the support from everyone at home and abroad.

Best of luck to all competing tomorrow in the "Great" Northern City Games in Newcastle, UK.

hugs
bj

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bloody Aus Media

I have been distracted in my spare time for the last couple of days with an email I received from Athletics Australia. This was my response to AA and the journalist asking the questions...

I ask you also, my humble family and friends: If you could ask all the athletes on the CG team, what would you ask them?


HI Jessica, 

We received an email today from Cody Lynch from Athletics Australia asking us to do a questionnaire for you about the Commonwealth Games... 
As part of our contract with AA and the ACGA, we are required to help and answer any questions the media may have for us, which I will do. However, I find the tone and line of some of the questions perverse and with the intention of baiting for information. Some of these answers can be potentially harmful to us as athletes, but more importantly the reputation of the Commonwealth Games and its perception in Australia. I realise you have a job to do, and you are a journalist, which means you often tread a fine line between sensationalizing issues beyond the truth and reporting the events that occur in the world. 

Jess, I am just worried about the current content of the news in Oz when it comes to the Games. The issues that are being raised are important, but they are far from giving the public any impression of the true spirit of the games. It's two weeks before we go into the village and all I am seeing over the news back home is stories about the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee being behind time with construction and deadlines, all the stories about individuals who AREN'T competing in the games, the security concerns plaguing the whole competition, and your piece on child labour in and around the building sites. 

As I have said, this stuff is important and needs to be reported, but it's completely dominating the news at the moment and there is so much positivity to this games that on-one in the public seems to be getting a feel for. This is an extremely important competition for us athletes, especially in the very high level of competition in track and field, and there is a great atmosphere in the group going into the village in a fortnight. I'm lucky to work at the AIS in physical therapies and have had a close hand at some of the stories of the athletes competing, and they are nothing short of amazing. This will be a defining moment in so many of these athletes' lives, and I would hate think that any performance or effort was overshadowed by them competing at the ''Unfinished Games'' or whatever media and public perspective is dominating the headlines. 


I'm obliged to answer your questions, and I will, but I'll also add some questions that I would rather hear answered from the athletes. 

COMMONWEALTH GAMES POLL:
1. Will Australia better its performance in Melbourne?
Not likely. It's customary to have an particularly successful home games, and although we have improved, the rest of the world is catching. Fast. 
2. Who should be our flag-bearer?
The biased athlete in me says Steve H, but maybe Lisbeth Trickett? Or what about one of the awesome and consistent shooters? Mark Diamond has done about 8 Comm Games, hasn't he?! This, however, is probably already decided so there is not much point in challenging the decision in a poll.
3. Which Australian athlete do you admire most?
Steve Hooker. He is a good friend and one that I look up to on an off the track. A model athlete and leader, and a very fun person to be around. 
4. Who is Australia’s most overrated athlete?
No-one should answer this question, Jess. We've signed a contract that says we are not allowed to degrade or speak poorly of a fellow athlete. Sorry, but it's a shit question. 
5. How many medals do you think we will win?
210
6. Who do you think will be Australia’s surprise packet?
The swimmers always seem to have a young one that steps up in these intermediate major meets. I've been impressed with Tom Fraser-Holmes the last year. Belinda Hocking, also. 
7. Is there a Commonwealth Games sport that you think should dropped from the program?
No. Shit question. 
8. Is there a sport that you think should be included in the Commonwealth Games program?
Never understood why rowing never got in. Strongly contested by the commonwealth nations. Maybe its a location thing. Not too many clean rivers in Delhi to row through!
9. Is the Commonwealth Games gold medal more or less important than a World Championship gold medal?
Less, but different. There is an austerity to World Champs. Comm Games has a history and a story. Nothing like the Olympics, of course. But special in a similar way. 
10. Do you have any concerns about security?
Yes.  I am concerned that the potential for security problems over the course of the Games has been blown WAY out of proportion. The Australian delegate from the High Commission in India has told us that security it tight and under control. I believe him. Not journalists. 
11. Have you ever considered pulling out of the Games?
No.
12. Are you still considering not going?
No.
13. Will any of your friends or relatives attend the Games?
No. 
14. If not, what has kept them away:
a) Cost
b) Sanitation concerns
c) Security concerns
d) other. 
Partly because my Mother had a stroke last year and it probably isn't the best move in a very foreign country and culture. And partly, yes, because of my ill informed security concerns for them a year ago. 

15. Are you concerned with reports that child labour is being used to prepare the venues?
You mean the teenagers working for minimum wage out of their own free will? None whatsoever. I have an issue with the country being one of the poorest in the world and with 41% of the population living on the poverty line, but that has nothing to do with the Commonwealth Games. These 'kids' are probably earning good money for their families and making the most of an opportunity. $3 a day for us is obviously nothing, but for them, it could feed them for a week. As long as the workers are safe and not under threat of injury, I have no issues with the reports. 
16. Do you have any concerns about the building standards of Games facilities?
From all official reports from the Comm Games Organising Committee, there will be no problems. They are behind schedule, that is no doubt! But not dangerous. I don't believe that the CGA would consider the notion of placing a competition in a potentially dangerous building or site. 
17. Are you comfortable with Delhi hosting the Games?
It's certainly going to be an interesting one, but yes, I am comfortable with it. 




The kind of questions I would rather hear answered from the Athletes:

1. Do you think the speculations of security issues at the Commonwealth Games will affect your performance?

2. What sport are you most looking forward to seeing at the Games (other than your own)?

3. What does the Commonwealth Games mean to you? (I know this isn't a 'poll' question, but there would be some great answers)

4. Is there any other sport you'd like to compete in if you had a chance to?

5. Who inspires you in your sport?

6. If possible, would you like to travel around India after the games?

7. Do you think that the hot and humid conditions are going to be difficult to adapt to?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Breathe out

Well I am finally back in Germany after a very long day yesterday! It’s cold & wet (again) so it’s a harsh reality after the long hot days in Croatia; everyone is not too happy about the proposition of moving on to Northern UK in a couple of weeks for our pre-Comm Games team camp. More on that in a bit though…

Two nights ago was the second day of competition for the Continental Cup which included for me the 4 x 400 relay (the last event of the entire meet). We came forth, or last, but I try a be a glass-half-full kinda guy ;-) Our time was pretty solid, though – 3:03.4 I think, which is as fast as I have run in a relay before. It was such an awesome race! There was some great banter in the call room beforehand and all the different teams were hanging out together, which wouldn’t be seen at any other meets of this standard so was a great atmosphere. We were also on just after the local track and field royalty of Blanca Vlasic won the high jump and was doing her victory lap. This certainly meant the crowd was excited and very very vocal. The girls 4 x 4 relay was on just before us and there was a great finish between the Americas and Europe, adding to the electricity in the stadium.

I’d love to tell you that something miraculous happened and that the crowd suddenly turned their affection to the Asian-Pacific underdogs for the last race, or that the race was a close finish for third place. Neither of these unlikely events took place, however, but the race was one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in! I shouldn’t be too harsh, we only got beaten by a second or so, and the mere capacity of the 20 000 or more spectators more than made up for the lack of cheering directed at us. Such great fun, and my teammates Joel, Ben Offerins and Kevin Moore all would say the same.

I won’t say too much about what happened after the meet at the amazing function put on at the hotel we were staying at other than the set up was world class. It was an outdoor beach party extravaganza with all the ingredients for a great night. In a modified and very brief summary, Joel was thrown in the ocean by the world champ in female shot put, I ended up with Lo Lo Jones' spikes, Matty ended up at the casino, and an English only speaking friend ended up arm in arm at the end of the night singing Croatian anthems with some new local friends. It was a great night and I’ve come away with some great friends and all-time stories. I’ll say no more.

So back in Cologne now, and we are heading into “Phase 4” (as Matty has told us) of training leading up to the Comm Games. This phase will incorporate the sessions I have not been doing so far which will hopefully spark me up and do the finishing touches on my speed and fitness in prep for 27 days time. I had the opportunity to race in about a week’s time but Matty and I decided that from my last couple of races that this phase of training is really important and that a race may impact on the consistency of that training. We have also been in discussions with the best two 400 hurdlers from Great Brit and are going to try and get some sessions done with them midway through September.

(later today)
We are having a meeting tonight discussing the new option of now possibly running in a meet in Tokyo in 2 weeks, then going on to Hong Kong to train with the NZ team in warm weather. This is very new – I probably shouldn’t even have this on my blog but I don’t think anyone who reads this would care too much. This would be an awesome idea though as it will be much closer to the same weather we’ll be running in in India!

More on that when I know.

So my aim for the next month is to really just try and relax a bit about this whole elite track and field world. I’m still very motivated and pumped, but may have been a little uptight of late which is not a good head space for me to be in. So I am going to rest less, play more, and train my arse off. Enjoy this amazing journey without the giant bear of unnecessary expectations weighing me down.

On that note, I’ve have accepted an invite to watch Germany play football tonight at the local stadium which should be fantastic!! I have a really important session tomorrow so a month ago I probably would have said no, but this is a pretty awesome op to see some world class football!!!

Way too much crap from me today, thanks for those who made it to the end…

Yay for Labour.

bj

            

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Baby steps

I can confidently and proudly tell all you trendsetters back home that I managed to finish a race. Thank you, thank you. Please.... hold the applause ;-)

First day down at the Continental Cup and my event was first up off the rank on the track. So here is how this comp works; there are 8 lanes. Two for the Americas (North and South), two for Europe, two for Africa and two for us Asian and Pacific countries. Essentially it is a four horse team race, with the obvious favourites being the Americas and Europe. After an inspiring speech from our team captain, Steve Hooker, who fired us up to believe that "we can get third!" we all knew that from the start the odds were and are against us!

I finished 7th in 50.34 (or thirty something). I beat one person which means my prize money goes up a bit which is nice! I was, however, a little disappointed with the time. As far the bigger picture goes it is ok, with the focus being on Comm Games and some really important training to do in the meantime that will spark us up to race fast then. I just really thought I would step up a little bit more in such a fantastic racing environment! It was so lovely and hot, and although the wind was my non-preferred direction, it was quite minimal. I'm far from pissed off as I know that these things don't come easily and I often make the mistake of expecting things too much in this sport. I'm getting old (relatively) and I don't just make big jumps as far as times go much anymore so I can be moderately satisfied with a good progression from my last few races.

In the meantime, we have the relay tomorrow, which should be great fun! I think we are going to get smashed just quietly, but we'll have a massive crack at some big gun runners and the rest of the boys are pumped for it. I'm also making the most of this stunning place, enjoying the ocean swims, the lovely sun, and the laidback resort-style vibe at this phenomenal hotel.

Will let you know how the relay goes. May head out tomorrow night after the race though as I don't have much on for the next month as far as comps go!

over and out
Beej

Friday, September 3, 2010

The US$400 stack...

"What do we do when we fall off the horse?"

"I don't know, Maurie. I'm not a gymnast."
-Zoolander

Two evenings ago was the Zagreb meet here in Croatia in which I was up against some very solid competitors. It ended up being a lovely evening when I ran and not too cold (which it got later) with the wind almost still. A great night for hurdling! I warmed up amazingly well and was feeling fantastic on the blocks, this time. No problems with times at meets like this one! I did, however, have a high jumper constantly stand in my lane when I was warming up so had to slow down and run around her. Luckily, she was extremely hot so I let it pass ;-) hehe.

I was 'in the mix' (a phrase Matty often uses) through the race, hurdled well and was probably 2nd or 3rd at the 8th hurdle. As you may know my finish remains my weakness, so by the time the 10th hurdle came around I was sitting in around 3rd or 4th, but still on for a time around the 50.0-50.2 second mark. I hit the last hurdle hard, took a dramatic five steps or so to try and regain balance before hitting the deck. I was left in a position not unlike those cartoon figures that fall from tall buildings and end up in a heap of random arms and legs. I got up and finished, unhurt apart from a few grazes, in 61 seconds.

Matty wasn't sure whether I would be really pissed off or ok with the run, considering how well I was going beforehand. Fortunately, it was the latter. I was stoked with how I felt and and ran (up to the last hurdle) and it was just a really enjoyable race and atmosphere. The downside is that I lost out on some much need cash in the fall - around US$400. But money can't buy what I got from the race and the confidence it has given me going into tomorrow's race at the Continental Cup here in Split, also in Croatia.

I apologise for the lateness in post after the race 2 days ago, I haven't brought my computer this trip. I didn't want to feel the need to be constantly on the web checking emails and facebook. I see that so much over here travelling and I am just enjoying the travel and change in surroundings as much as I can. It's also giving me a chance to read lots, as I have said, which is something I love doing on the road.

We arrived in Split yesterday around lunch. I'm sure words won't suffice here so I'll leave the descriptives in the photos I'll post next week but this hotel is probably the best in the world I've been to. It's a 5-star resort on the water overlooking the ocean with coasts both sides boasting typical gorgeous Mediteranean white stone cities, all seemingly peeping over eash other up the mountains. The weather is stunning, and the atmosphere great with all the continents represented with 2 lanes in each event. I multicultural feast in a absolutely beautiful city.

I will be running tomorrow night in the hurdles, then backing up on Sunday for the 4 x 400m relay. My hurldes race is quite intimdating, with a standard worthy easily of an olympic final. The relay is only a four team race, but again with most of the best in the world lining up. We are hoping to take some scalps, but realise the bar is set very high!

More to come when I race tomorrow. Thanks for the kind words from last week, it means a lot to have such great support back home.

love bj