Well it's been a busy three weeks since arriving in Europe. I spent the first week in Oliva (Spain) our European base for the last seven years. But with Matt's new job as Director Sportif with Slipstream Pro Cycling Team we have had to move to their headquarters in Girona, Spain. I really love Oliva and was sad to leave friends, but as they say "A change is as good as a holiday." Girona is about 80km North of Barcelona and about 30km inland. So after a week in Oliva we made the trek North with two cars packed full of our gear. As my injury doesn't take too kindly to long periods of sitting we had to stop a number of times so I could stretch. After 5 1/2 hours we arrived! Matt easily adapts to changes and has been a great support for me as usual.
Matt found a bike path 200m from our apartment that is mostly compacted dirt but does have bitumen/road sections that goes for about 30km towards the coast or 60km inland! On my third day whilst out training a lady in a car stopped and spoke to me in the local language of Catalan and then realising I didn't understand spoke in Spanish. She asked if I wanted to join the local athletics club! In Oliva most locals speak the local language of Valencian but Catalan is quite different to Spanish (from my point of view anyway) and more prominent here than Spanish.
After four days in Girona I travelled to Rio Maior, Portugal for the IAAF Race Walking Challenge and my first race since September last year. I knew I had a good aerobic fitness but not a lot of specific work. But Matt and I decided to start racing and see if I could race myself into form. I planned to see how I felt and if I could only do 10km at a good pace then I would pull outat that point. I started out on Olympic A qualifying pace (93.30) and held just under that pace throughout. I finished with 92.50 and felt really strong! My hammy felt quite good and didn't give me too much grief during the race. I was so relieved to get the Olympic A and now I'm waiting for a response from AA and the selectors as to whether that was good enough to confirm my nomination for Beijing! The overall competition in Rio Maior was fantastic especially in the women's event producing fast times in an exciting race that went down to the wire with Kjersti Platzer edging out local girl, Susana Feitor in the last 100m. I finished 11th. See full results http://www.iaaf.org/wrc08/index.html
Photo at Lisbon Airport after Rio Maior. L-R Olive Loughnane (IRL), Nikos Dimitriadis (husband & coach of Athanasia), Athens Gold Medallist; Athanasia Tsoumeleka (GRE), ME and Mikel Odriozola (ESP).
A few more days of cross training!
As I'm still not 100% with my injury I was directed by a physio here in Spain to see a Dr in Barcelona as he believed he might be able to help. I told him my story (or saga!) and he suggested an injection near the insertion of adductors/hamstring as he and the physio thought that could be causing the problem. I was reluctant to have another injection as I have had three in the last five months but after Matt and I discussed it we decided to go ahead. So it was another couple of days of cross training, although only on the bike as I couldn't get my head around swimming without a squad (not unless I'm desperate!) and it's also a little cold here.
I eased back into training after the injection and my hamstring felt better but it's still not 100%. But it was worth trying!
Cursa 10km de Girona
Instead of training by myself I decided to enter the "Cursa 10km de Girona" which is one of the local fun runs held throughout the year. The start/finish area was 200m from our apartment and the course passed by it as well. It was a clear day, albeit cold; 10 degrees when we started! I have done a couple of half marathons (race walking) here in Spain for training over the years and I always had a little chuckle to myself when I passed the runners! A few get a burst of energy, especially the men; can't have a woman and a walker passing them, it's a dent to their manhood! Today was no different and I could hear the comments (all positive I think?) about "la machadora" (the walker) as I passed them. The only frustrating part was the last couple of hundred metres when the runners got their second wind and they all flew past me, but I definitely received the louder cheers from the crowd! Every person that finished received a gift pack (t-shirt, drink bottle etc.) some fruit, yoghurt, juice, water and a stick of "secallona tradicional" which is a long sausage of cured/dried pork and spices! Not something I wanted to munch on straight after the race, but a good promotion nonetheless. The secallona was from Turon, one of the local companies who also sponsors one of Spain's biggest Gold medal hopes in Beijing, Gemma Mengual, a synchronised swimmer who has a big profile here! The "race" was a good 10km hitout for me and now I'm looking for a solid four weeks training before the World Cup on 11th May!