Posted: 10 August 2013

'In training you repeatedly fail, so that in a competition you can succeed'

In May, David from our transformation team answered our questions about his training as a competitive sprinter. In advance of his race in Bedford today (there’s more information about this below), David answered a few follow-up questions about his training, races and next steps.

Q: How is your training going? 

A: Training has been going really well. I’ve recently switched coaches to someone called Daniel Naphtali, who is an elite coach. He only works with a small number of athletes who are all at a higher standard than I’m currently at, so it’s a good challenge every time I turn up to train. What’s been really valuable is the instant, real time feedback on each run that I do. I feel like I’m improving technically with every session that we do and I’m hoping to execute this well in my forthcoming races.

Q: You mentioned ‘instant, real time feedback’. Can you give an example of that? How does it make you better?

A: The coach uses an iPad to film us as we run, then when I’m walking back to the start line I watch it through with him, once in slow motion and once in real time, to see how it looked.

He’ll usually point out a few bits that I can think about on the next run, which means that I’m constantly adapting the way in which I run so that I can become more efficient and make better use of my power.

It could be that I’m not extending enough, or that the angle that my foot hits the floor doesn’t allow me to maximise the momentum of my running. It’s often little tweaks, that when put into practice start to make a big difference in terms of times.

Q: Have you had races recently?

I’ve had two races recently, one league fixture in west London and an Open Meeting at Lee Valley. I was quite pleased with my performance at the league meeting, as I won my 100m race, equalling my personal best, and was only just outside my best in the 200m. 

The race at Lee Valley was sadly a bit of a write-off due to fairly extreme winds, meaning that there were only around three legal runs out of the 40 or so on the evening. Consequently, I’m seeing that as more of a speed training session than a real competition!

Q: I had no idea strong winds could make such a big difference. Can you explain how they made so many runs illegal?

A: Anything up to a +2.0m/s following wind is considered legal; anything more than this and it is considered to have been an unfair advantage, and the time recorded doesn’t count towards national or world records. The strongest wind at Lee Valley was +5.8m/s, and someone ran 10.10 seconds in that race – so that clearly couldn’t count!

It’s a bit frustrating that a negative wind is classed as being fine, so you can run into a strong headwind that slows you down and run a great time, but there isn’t a coefficient to show how much better that performance is than a wind assisted performance.

I recently ran in Bromley and was really disappointed with my time for the 100m, until I realised that I’d run into a -2.9m/s wind, and if that had even been neutral I would have been very close to a personal best!

Q: I don’t take part in too many athletic events but I just was in a big bicycle ride and enjoyed being around a bunch of supportive fellow cyclists and observers. I had the sense that people wanted to do their best but it didn’t seem to be super-competitive. I image that at your level of running you and fellow runners are very competitive. Is there also a degree of collegiality among you all? 

A: Absolutely. There is a recognition between everyone that competes that it takes a lot of work and dedication to get to anything approaching a decent standard, so there is a certain level of mutual respect. 

More than that though, is that as I’ve been to more and more competitions, I’ve started to recognise people that I frequently compete against, and you end up having a bit of friendly banter and catch up about how the season is going, which is great. 

Truth be told, however, as soon as everyone is lining up in the blocks, the friendship element goes out the window – we’re all there to win, first and foremost. 

Q: Has anything surprised you about your training over the past couple of months?

A: Plenty! The intensity of the work that I’m doing now is beyond what I’d really imagined. My sessions are roughly an hour longer than what I’d been doing previously, and are much more focused. 

What I’ve come to realise is that in training you repeatedly fail, so that in a competition you can succeed. 

I’m still on a very steep learning curve, and I quickly realised that the constant stream of criticism is something to motivate me, rather than deflate me. What I love is watching the videos back after the session. I still remember one of the first videos that was taken of me running back in early December last year, and when I compare that to where I am now it’s hard to believe it’s the same person moving along the track!

Q: When is your next run?

A: I’ve got three in the next three weeks: Bedford on 10 August, Bromley on the 17th and Liverpool on the 24th. 

I’m really looking forward to the one in Liverpool, as it gives me an opportunity to go home and have my friends and family come down to watch me. There will obviously be a bit of additional pressure as a result, but I already put enough of that on myself, so hopefully it won’t affect my performance! I’m just outside of my season goals at the moment, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to shave off the last little bit of time so I can be completely satisfied with my progress for the year.

After that it’ll be back into winter training for the next five months, and it’s a prospect I’m actually relishing. I’m fascinated to see what I’ll be able to achieve with another five months of solid work under my belt, and I’m already expecting big things of myself. Here’s to hoping I can live up to my own expectations!

By David Ayre - Policy team

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