Sunday, 14 October 2018


This year I'm just refusing to smile at people pointing cameras at me. Apparently this really is intimidating...

We're back!!! It's XC season (best season, of course). And we're wearing all black, like the New Zealand rugby team, for extra intimidation points. We need those. Average team weight, probably a shade over 50kg. Distance runners are not physically imposing. I have been utterly terrible at updating this, article but in my defense my laptop went and broke, and Maddie very kindly lent me her IPad so then I could type, but had no pictures, and then I got some pictures but it was midterms so had no time. It's been a busy few weeks.

Our season this year is a little different. It felt like we started really really late. School kicks off in the second week of September, and usually we have our season opener the weekend before, around the 6th, but this year our season opener wasn't until the 22nd, and even at that meet most of the team was just doing a tempo run. Then, two weekends ago we ran at the Louisville Classic, which was AWESOME!

An accurate representation of what me trying to run away from, and then being mercilessly overtaken by all my midterm coursework looked like.

Louisville is in Kentucky, which was a whole new state for me. We drove up there, which took about a million years, but we got an overnight trip, and we got to run in the top division race at one of the biggest weekends of running in the States. And, even more amazingly, there was mud! Nobody at home believes me about this, but I had to (1) wear spikes, and (2) wash them afterwards. Wild times, that was a whole new experience for me. I got to run with the magnificent Anna Shields, and she kicked my arse but at least I was closer to her than I was in the 1500 at track nationals (I could actually see her this time... that girl is FAST). I also rather cunningly scraped into the top ten and won a lovely present. They gave us bags with four vertical compartments inside so you can store muddy shoes without making a terrible mess everywhere. Wonderful stuff.

Emily Kearney, Louisville Classic First Mile Champion

We had our second full-on race this Friday, at the more familiar stomping grounds of McAlpine Creek Park in North Carolina, home of the Royals Challenge. We actually had our annual hurricane this past week so I was a bit worried the course might be underwater, but it turned out to be alright- just a bit soggy at the start. I was hoping to run well, given that historically it's been a fast course for me, but it wasn't to be on the day. I don't know what's up- the last two weeks I just haven't been right one way or another. Either sick or just tired and out of it. I blame the midterms. I ran really sub-par, but there is definitely a silver lining in that the team performed incredibly. Everyone else ran a pb or a season's best, and we posted an absolutely phenomenal team average and cumulative time.

In the words of Jeremy Clarkson: behold the speed of the (wo)maaaaan

I'm sure I must have said before about how much the Americans like stats. Well. To get to nationals, you run at your conference match. For British people, your conference is sort of like your county championship. Depending on how many schools are in your conference, either your first and second teams at conference, or just the first team if you have less than 12 get an automatic qualifier to nationals. Most teams qualify this way, but then there are 'at-large bids' which make up the rest of the nationals spaces, and those are based on your in-season rankings- so how you performed in season. And the in-season rankings are pretty much based on who you ran against, who you beat and your team average and cumulative times. We are currently ranked third nationally, and the team ranked first has not been performing to their ranking. They keep running like a 19 minute+ average... which doesn't look like national-winning stuff to me. But. We ran a 17.56 team average time, and a faster cumulative team time than anything they've managed by very nearly three whole minutes. This is a really exciting year for us because if we can keep this up, we stand a very real chance of taking the win at nationals!

Dunno if anyone else has noticed this (and I totally haven't custom picked my photos to reflect my own propaganda here), but my form has totally improved recently. Not so much at Royals, but we won't talk about that. I might be a long stretch from looking as impressive as my baby sister does when she's galloping around the place, but it's much improved on the graceless duck-style waddling I used to be guilty of. Possibly because over the summer I made some training routine changes. Most notably (and this was 100% Dad's fault), I started going to the gym. Me and Arry started going to the UTS in Hoylake, where the lovely Alex had many fun hours despairing at my total inability to perform normal human actions, like jumping. When we first went he did an assessment thing on me and I think he was genuinely impressed I could stand up unassisted given how pathetic I was.

-transcript taken from UTS Hoylake, August 14th, 2018-

Alex: Just relax and jump as you would naturally.
Me: Naturally, I do not jump.

Struggle was real. But I think it's done me good, even if I still can't jump.

And I got some new shoes! I'll be forever grateful to Nigel Crompton from the Runner's Hub in Heswall for introducing me to On Running. He's a really great guy who knows so much about running shoes and how they relate to different runners and different types of running, if you're at home he's definitely worth talking to if you need shoes! But last Christmas he'd ordered in a pair of the uber-fancy, all round incredible On Cloudflash by mistake, and ended up showing them to Dad, and I got a pair for indoor track and they were the best thing ever, and then got the Cloud X for my 10k adventures outdoor. Well these the Cloudrush, and they are my XC flats, and I love them! These Ons have been making noticeable inroads into the running world recently and I am so glad because I think they're fantastic. I know I wore my spikes at Louisville, but I am resolved to wear spikes as little as possible because really they give you nothing back (except sore calves), and for 90% of the running I do, the added grip isn't really a necessary consideration. So I've got these instead! So much more comfortable, so much more supportive, and the absolute best thing about the Ons is that they have a kind of springboard built into the sole, so they feel so much more responsive and springy than another boring pair of spikes. These Cloudrush are extra fab because they're strong enough that I don't hurt my toes or break the shoes if I kick a rock, but are by far and away light enough to be racing shoes, and (helpfully) are in my team colours so they match my racing kit! 

In very sad news, RIP the Hoka Clifton 4. I have a pair of the Clifton 5s, and they're honestly not that different, but it made me very sad that they felt the need to mess with something so wonderful at all. I also got a pair of the Bondi 5s, which I don't like to run in at all, but they are so so so so comfortable to just walk around in. I realized very recently that I'm actually shorter than Maddie, but I'm normally wearing orthopedic shoes around here so until last week I thought I was the tall one. Crazy stuff. 

And here we are! We've been doing some crazy stuff recently- she's been trying to inflict American experiences on me. On Labour Day, back in September, we went swimming in the river and I nearly drowned under a waterfall! ...okay it wasn't quite that dramatic, but we did get soaked. This is us outside the enormous new super expensive Mercedes Benz stadium, where we went to watch Atlanta United play football! Football! In America! (That's soccer to Americans). They weren't great, the match was more or less won on fouls, but the whole experience was unbelievable. The size of that stadium is basically incomprehensible. And we had American sports match snacks! Peach ice cream, nachos, pretzels and popcorn! Fun fact, the stadium is huge and fancy, but the snacks are cheap. This is not true of the Atlanta Braves stadium, where the snacks are pricey. Baseball is a mystifying experience, I had pretty much no idea what was going on, and the crowd would sing or clap or start chopping (that was quite scary) at seemingly random intervals, but it was fun! 

But the absolute best American thing I've done recently was actually only last night, when we went to the rodeo!!!!! Oh my God, I've never seen anything like it! It was completely wild. Cowboys and cows and wild horses and all sorts of crazy rednecks and more crazy snacks.. funnel cake anyone? My throat still hurts from BBQ smoke and screaming, but it was awesome! Even crazier, in some places (like Texas), they do it as a college sport! You'd be the coolest person ever being a cowboy to get a degree paid for. Complete madness. Yeehaw!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Somebody told me when I came to Nashville...

Introducing this blog's alternative title; Running like a Boy

Guys, I've been to Nashville! This immediately makes me quite a bit cooler than I used to be. Last weekend was outdoor nationals (we're not going to talk about that disaster), but a guy called Dave who runs a really cool meet (the Music City Distance Carnival) in Nashville got in touch to ask if I wanted to run. For complicated reasons, Coach couldn't really take me, so through Dave found someone to drive me, and someone to host me. It was a little stressful basically going hitch-hiking on a 600 mile round trip to a place I'd never seen before, but it turned out to be the coolest trip I've ever done. 

Kevin, the guy who drove me, was a really cool dude. We met up with one of his friends in Chattanooga (a really cool place, it looks like a cowboy town) for dinner on the way up and a run on the way home. He took me to Waffle House (kinda like the American equivalent of the Little Chef, but more infamous) for the first time... we survived! 

Obviously not as bad as everyone says after all #salmonella

And then he and his wife took me swimming for the afternoon in a lake just outside ATL on the way home. The lady I stayed with was called Mary Ann, and she is just how I want to be when I grow up. She was so sweet, she had a beautiful house, she fed me lovely things, she gave me coffee, and she took me running with her running friends (they all do marathons- they're incredible). One of her friends, Chris, also has a beautiful house with a pool so she was very kind to us and let us hang out at her house all Saturday... so I have a tan! Miracles do happen. Chris was also hosting runners, and in her house she had the guy who won silver at the 2012 Olympics in the 1500, so I have shared a swimming pool with an Olympic medallist. Pretty cool, right. 

This was the really awesome thing about the race- it seemed pretty low key and chilled out, but a fair few of the event winners were Olympians. The men's 600 was won in a world-leading time (faster than the British record). The women's 800 had the first three all run 2 minutes flat. Hannah Segrave ran, she did 2.02 and she was very far near the back. A kid called Brodey Hasty ran the second all-time fastest time for a high-schooler in the 3k; he did 8 minutes flat, and he had the Olympic 1500 guy as one of his pacers. I ran the 5k, I was very slow, it wasn't very good, but honestly at this point I've done so much track I don't mind. It was an amazing experience regardless, and I think I made some really nice friends. 

You're not seeing the one straight after this where I fell on my face

So, track. I've done some cool stuff. Outdoor is definitely my least favourite season, but this year has been more successful than last year was so that's a nice thing. Obviously I finally broke 17 for the 5k, although I still think I could be quite a bit faster. I also took up steeplechase! Briefly. It's pretty good fun, but I don't think I'll do it next year. Hilariously, my 800 has probably been my biggest area of improvement this summer. I ran 2.14! In terms of 800s it's not that quick, but it's a lot faster than I ever thought I'd run! Even funnier, that actually won me the 800 gold at conference. 

Looking like a boy interloping on the women's race

I also ran a pretty good new 1500 pb at the Atlanta Track Club All-Comers where I made my debut as an elite 2k runner last summer. They didn't have a 2k this year, so unfortunately I was unable to pursue my preferred event.... I did 4.28, which was nice because I had been frustrated with the 4.33 I'd run earlier in the season. I shaved my head! I have no hair! Opinions vary on that, but I think it's pretty cool. I kinda thought if I run faster than half the boys I know, what does it matter if I look a bit more like them?

When the boy behind you looks more like a girl than you do...

So here I am, blending in. This was a really good race for me. Track 10k, I ran 35.03... sort of annoying because the dude on the inside of me just ducked under 35, and I ran a 20 second negative split, so I know there's more to come. Wirral AC Endurance Series, be very afraid! 

The plan for the whole season had been to try and win the South Region runner of the season piece of glass, hence the wide variety of different events I was doing. I hit the A standards in the 800, the 1500, the 5000, the 10,000 and the steeplechase, and in all of them bar the 800 I was ranked top five, but in the end I didn't get it, which was a bit upsetting, but there we go. Dad will tell me off if I do any more complaining about that. 

Maddie and I both qualified for outdoor nationals, so we got to do the super long drive down to Gulf Shores, where there's nothing vegetarian to eat. Since last year, they'd opened a new diner, which was about as American an American diner as anyone could ever imagine, and we had our food in a car! It was really nice having Maddie to train with this post-season, I got very lonely last year. 

Don't go to Gulf Shores, this is as good as it gets, and then it hurricanes

Before I start writing really serious stuff, I think the thing I've learned this year is just how important other people can be to your running development. Maddie is a constant inspiration to all of us; she works nearly full-time every morning, then does school, then does training, then has an internship, still has fantastic grades, is still an amazing runner and a wonderful person, and still manages to get enough sleep. She's incredible. Kalie also is a little tiger. Last year she really struggled with injuries and illness and it's been a fight to get back to running well this year, but she's been fighting like crazy and is still doing amazingly well. I read an article about Shalane Flanagan and how she built herself the team at the Bowerman Track Club to train with, and now they win everything, and I really think having a squad that you care enough about to work hard for has probably been the most critical factor in the success I've been having recently. 

This year has been fun, and I can hardly believe I've been here two years (I'm sat in the airport waiting for my flight home writing this), but it's definitely had some ups and downs. And the downs have been huge, not for me personally, but I think I've written before about how college sport over here is much more like a job than anything else, and some of the events this year have definitely hit that home. 

Cross country is a team sport over here. Track is too, but not quite as much. Cross country has individual winners, but you are judged by your team, you work with you team, you succeed with your team, you fail with your team- ultimately you are only as good as your team. And this year, our team was definitely lacking. I don't really want to sit here and whinge about certain people, they've messed up for themselves and hopefully will eventually come to realise how stupid they've been, but the point is that if you're being paid to run, you are expected to run. If you treat your opportunity like a good chance for a paid holiday and partying trip, you will lose your scholarship. If you decide going drinking the night before a major race is a good idea, you will lose your scholarship. If you fail your classes, you will lose your scholarship. Anything that would get you in trouble at work will probably lose you your scholarship. We lost five people this year (from a team of less than 20), some of whom I'm not sure deserved it, and some of whom definitely deserve worse than they got. 

I know this all sounds hugely serious, and it's been really sad for us to deal with. Running out in the US is a load of fun and most of us have a great time. And it's college; we all do some crazy stuff. But we are also being paid tens of thousands of dollars to do a job, so we have to take it seriously. No-one is saying in college you can't go out if you want to, but you do have to be prepared to work that around when you have to run. If your social life is your priority, college sport is not for you, and frankly if you just want to party and then do go take a space on a team, you are wasting it for someone who would work harder than you and you don't deserve it. 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Breaking 17

Desperately needing a haircut here...

          Since Christmas, we've had indoor season, which is loads of fun. Maybe the novelty will wear off eventually, but I hope not. This season was extra-exciting because we found a blue track of 200m in distance with banks to run on! Last year was something of an eye-opener for me finding out there were other sorts of indoor tracks... This one was really cool though, it's a travelling track; they just build it in the sports hall and then go somewhere else with it next week! There was a great big gap between the track and the infield on the home straight, which might be why I look so concerned in the pictures, I was worried about falling off the track (it was raised quite a bit off the ground!).

My face trying to work out lap splits on the move

We don't do much indoor track, which is sad, I prefer it to outdoor. Here is another track, this one is flat and not blue....crazy stuff. This year for the first time ever our conference had an indoor championship, so here I am running the championship 3k, looking at the clock and wondering why I'm going so slowly- this one wasn't a great race. I blame the track, I ran well on the blue one. This indoor conference meet was a fateful day. For some reason they didn't have a 5k, which was a pain because nearly half our squad run the 5k, but there was a meet starting pretty much directly afterwards which began with a 5k so we stayed around to run that, and I ended up running in that race as well. I did 9.50 in the 3000 and 17.29 in the 5000, neither of which were amazing times (I wasn't really racing racing either race), but together convinced Coach I should run the 10k outdoors...... lucky meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Probably as a result of that though, I won both conference runner of the season, and South Region runner of the season. A little bizarrely, the coach from Brenau (one of the teams in our conference) put in the bid for me to be conference MVP; he said it was important to see quality distance running being recognised as much as the sprints, which usually win track awards because sprinters tend to do multiple events- it was very, very kind of him, I definitely wasn't expecting to be getting whole-meet awards (so much so that I hadn't even kept my SCAD gear on and so look like a ridiculous artist, not an athlete in the photos), and the South Region honours were an even bigger surprise.


But before outdoor season, we had indoor nationals! And my Hoddie came to see me! This indoor season was a little frustrating, the NAIA does this very annoying thing where it adds huge amounts (9 seconds for a 5k!) onto your time if you run on certain kinds of tracks, making it quite a bit harder to qualify for nationals, so I ended up being the only one of us to qualify, so it was just me, Yin and Coach in Kansas, but it was a fun trip anyway. They really need to get rid of that added-time rule, the quality in the distance events was generally much lower; only the men's mile and the women's 5k even had prelims, compared to last year when every event had heats to qualify for the finals.

Kansas is a cool place. We flew into Kansas City, which weirdly enough is actually in Missouri, and then drove for nearly two hours to get to Pittsburg, and in that whole two hours we saw one single town. Kansas is EMPTY! And so, so flat. As the aeroplane was landing the sun was setting and the ground was so flat the sun looked like it really was falling below the horizon- it was pretty cool. Hoddie drove through the 'city' of Everton, population about 300. He said it was like a place time forgot. Pittsburg, where the race was, was another strange place. A small town in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with a uni with a massive collection of amazing sports facilities! Pittsburg looks like an old cowboy town, with the high-fronted buildings with flat roofs and awnings. Pittsburg State (the uni) has a gorilla as its mascot, and there are statues of gorillas all over town. Dad said there were gorillas all over town and I thought he was being rude about field event people, but it turned out he literally meant big gorillas.

I was a bit worried about my race, because I hadn't been feeling all that great in training and had sore shins and things and wasn't convinced I'd run well, and that caused stress because who wants to go all the way to Kansas as the sole representative of their school just to run badly- that'd suck! The facility at Gorilla Nation was really cool, it was a beautiful 300m track, so the 3k divided neatly into 10 laps. Coach had told me to look for about 58 second laps to be on pace for a good pb, but I very quickly completely lost track of laps and times and everything, I was just trying to hang onto Aminat, the ridiculously fast girl from Oklahoma City. Finishing the race I was really upset because I was convinced we'd slowed down a lot and I was wondering why it hurt so much to be running slowly and why I was running a rubbish time and still not even winning....but I didn't do a rubbish time! 9.38! My first ever Grade One! I didn't find out about that for about five minutes after the race when Coach told me, and I didn't really believe him- I was convinced I'd done maybe 9.50-something, and I still don't really believe it, but apparently it happened!

Desperate fan girl face. I've never hugged someone that fast before!

Nationals was really cool because the post-season is the only time I get to meet the really awesome people I stalk on results pages and college track websites all season... like this girl! This is Anna Shields, who will probably be in the Olympics at some point soon. She ran the 1000 and the mile, and won both very easily, but her mile was incredible. My pb in the 1500 is 4.34; not amazing but not exactly slow. She runs a whole 109m further than that in 4.37, and she ran that entirely by herself. She blitzed the field. She made the girl who kicked my arse in the 3000 (a girl who has 9.33 3k and 16.24 5k pbs and who had never been beaten until that point) look very slow.... and she came to say hi to me! Dad got a whole series of pictures of me looking hugely star-struck. She's got to be the coolest person I've ever met.

Me, trying to ignore the problem of imminent squashing by team FSU

And now we are doing outdoor track! We're about two weeks into the season, and it's already been a rocky one. My first race was at Georgia Tech, and they could win prizes for having possibly the ugliest track ever. It's not so bad at night, but during the day the pale yellow reflects the sun and gives you a headache, and it really needs to be resurfaced. The craziest thing about this race was the number of people in it though. 47 of us! They had to do that thing where they waterfall half the field off in lanes 4-8 and make them run around the bend, and we were still squished in three deep! And lucky me got lane 1, so I had to get out quick or get squashed. Obviously I was going to try for sub-17 (about time, right), so I was aiming for 80-second laps. There were a few girls in the race who I knew had run 16-somethings so I was hoping for some company up front, but that didn't happen. A solo effort resulted in 16.54, which I can't be hugely unhappy with, but I still KNOW I am faster, but trying to endlessly pb by myself is really hard work.

Pretty sure 5k is my least favourite track race anyway. This past weekend I was supposed to be doing the 10k. I started the 10k, I did not finish it. I'm really upset, it's been quite a long time since I didn't finish a race and no matter how terrible I felt at the time it still feels like a failure, and worst of all I wasn't even running badly, but I was going to be sick all over the track... It's easy to second-guess yourself afterwards. Either way, 10k is a tough race. I ran 8k feeling awful, and that's further than I've ever done on a track before, and I still had a way to go.......but I'm going to do it again in a few weeks!!!!!!!!!! Watch this space.

Aren't they beautiful?

In other news, you might have noticed in all these photos I'm wearing the same shoes. These things are properly, properly cool. They're made by a company called On, and they are the best shoes I've ever raced in. Much, much more comfortable and supportive than a pair of spikes. And they look amazing. This model, the Cloudflash is designed for maximum performance on harder man-made surfaces (roads, ideally), so they were really good for indoor where the tracks aren't usually covered in normal squishy track stuff. I've now got a pair of Cloud Xs as well, for my longer 10k adventures and I love them. Nigel at the Runner's Hub has some of them at home, and I'd definitely recommend their performance models- I'm not sure I'd do much training in them, they're fairly pricey and I imagine they'd wear down quite quickly, but they are wonderful for races. I feel like I'm becoming a terrible running nerd... a few years ago I just ran in the cheapest whatever I pulled off the discount shelf in the Nike outlet, and now I have Hokas and Ons and nearly bought another pair of race shoes from a brand called Altra- all these shoes I feel like nobody's ever heard of! Every time I come back here I try not to bring many shoes because they weigh a lot in the suitcase, and now I have about two pairs of normal shoes, one pair of boots and a cupboard full of all these weird trainers!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

So here is really a tale of two cross-countries; the yankee sort and the Manchester sort. Having not long arrived home after a busy season in ATL, I got dragged out of my nice warm bed (too much of that going on recently) to go leg it round some muddy field just beside the motorway in Manc-land. It was cold, it was rainy, it was grey. Lovely stuff. Not quite what I've acclimatised to - you can see the difference between the conditions in the photographs. One is lovely and sunny, pleasantly warm, not an inch of mud in sight.

The other is some sort of Northern wasteland suffering from classically northern winter weather. Both have their merits, and honestly I prefer British XC, but I can't pretend that as I shivered on the soggy starting line I wasn't just a little nostalgic for my American stomping grounds.

But yeah, XC at home is much more fun, and much more hardcore than the sort across the pond, and I think the longer distance and emphasis more on being fit than on being speedy suits me more. So I won the Manchester League! That was unexpected! Taking the front halfway round the last lap came as a total surprise to me, as did the girl behind's reluctance to hurtle past me in the finishing section, but there we go. Who'd have thought I'd ever do that?

I confess, I've gone weak and wussy out there in Donald Trump land. I thought the course was pretty muddy and quite difficult to run properly on. My mother has reliably informed me that I am an American wet lettuce, and the terrain was wholly run-able. Having seen Arrowe Park after the race last weekend, I'm starting to think she might have a point....

Even so, here I am post-race. Looks pretty muddy to me. 

So, our season. A bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. The guy's team had a pretty good one I think. They finished well at Conference, and Dax placed high enough to come to Nationals with us! He ran really well at Nats as well, finishing inside the top 100, which is really great for a fresher. His family are the sweetest as well, they've come to nearly all our races and bring us nice treats for afterwards (so obviously they're very popular). 

On the girl's side we didn't win a single race as a team- even ones we did win last year when (on paper at least) we had a weaker team. 

This is us, second at UNG....won that last year. I think it's fair to say that some of us were lacking in team unity and combined work ethic.

I had a pretty good season. I won some stuff, I set some course records. I broke the school record twice. I think the highlight of the season was running 17.05 at Sand Shark, which took 9 seconds off the previous course record there. That's quite good, because the record had been set by Hannah Segrave last year, who came third at the European U23s this summer in the 800. It was dead annoying though, because I finished over a minute ahead of the next girl, and I totally would have run under 17 if there had been any sort of person to chase or to try and escape from, or anything! Also very annoying because I'd been so close to breaking 17 a few weeks before when I did 17.07 at Royals. It's a bit ungrateful to be mad about winning, but I was cross.

We ran a 6k this year, that was an exciting adventure. Most of the NCAA schools do 6ks because that's their championship distance (bit random). 6k is a rotten distance. It's fast like a 5k, but you have to go further. Coach absolutely terrified me beforehand talking about how one time he'd been at the course we were going to and there had been deer all over the starting field as the race went off. Scary stuff, having to charge down the deer. There weren't any that day, but we did run into a herd of them one time when we were out doing our long run. There are a load of trails behind the main path at the river and we toddled off along one, turned the corner and crashed into these animals. Very worrying indeed when you're not expecting them to be there and then they are there, bouncing all over the path and flashing their antlers (I survived).

Last year's XC season seemed to fly by, I guess because it was all new. This year's seemed to drag on a bit, probably because I knew exactly what was coming.

 A lot of the courses were the same as last year's schedule, but of course not all the same people enter and hopefully some of the runners are in better shape than last year, so the races are never the same. Like this one, a snazzy picture of me looking absolutely exhausted. I was. This was the 17.07 race, a solid 14 seconds off my 5k PB, so I think I was allowed to look a bit knackered. This is Royals, in North Carolina, which last year I won but in a much slower time. This year, the other girl here got just a second ahead of me- I just could not move any faster at the finish.

Conference was not in the same place as last year, which was quite upsetting. It was in fact in the same place as our very first race last year, which is not a brilliant course. Here are me and Maddie making a spirited attempt to break into Milligan's social media. People might remember from last year; Milligan are our sworn rivals. They're lovely girls, but we must try and beat them at all times. Last year we edged them at Conference by two points. This year they battered us (team work ethic disaster), but I won it and Maddie had a fantastic run for third, so that was good. The rest of the first seven, who get 'All-Conference' prizes were Milligan's counting team, so obviously we didn't stand a chance in the points.

Luckily, even in second we got a bid to go to Nationals, ranked 16th in the nation. Last year we went in ranked 10th, our place having moved up and up all season. This year we'd gone steadily down the rankings, but at least we were getting to go. And go all the way to the other side of the country! Vancouver, Washington State! Very exciting.

It's a bit sad, but for me one of the coolest bits of the whole trip was stopping over in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was AMAZING. The city huddles against the back of the Rocky Mountains, which are just these enormous, harsh, spiky things that go on for ever ever, like it's trying to hide from the massive lake but can't run back any further. It doesn't look like it ought to be there- the whole thing looks like something from a SciFi film. Awesome. And then there are mountains coming out of the lake, and the whole thing is just crazy. How did people survive trying to cross that landscape without aeroplanes or cars or anything?

We got to Portland, which is basically the same place as Vancouver, just across the state line, and we did some exploring. We'd all chopped our hair off, possibly in honour of the occasion, or possibly just because, so we are now the SCAD ATL boy's XC team, and here we are at Nike World HQ! It is such a beautiful track.

We had a little run around it, and I did some balancing. Greta, who ran with us last year is now at uni in Oregon, so she came to visit. The US is so enormous it has multiple time zones, so we were all very confused as to why we were feeling very tired at 7pm, but really it was more like 9 or 10 for us.

Very exciting news though. I got voted the Southern runner of the year for the NAIA, and got a massive piece of glass for it. The people in charge of the event at Nats had organised a massive dinner the night before, so they called you up to get these things in front of nearly everyone who would be running the next pressure at all!

So here's me doing something attractive with my face not long after the start of the race. The girl directly beside me went on to win it. I had a bit of a shocker. Not long after this photo was taken I think I must have twisted my ankle and spent the rest of the race limping with a stabbing pain in my calf. Very, very upsetting. On the plus side though, Maddie ran a brilliant race to finish within a few seconds of being All-American, and somehow the team pulled through to 8th, which was something of a nice ending to a disappointing season. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Notes from Katie Clarke!

Kalie and Katie literally flying at the last race
Girlsssss 💚

Having arrived in America over 3 weeks ago, we have finally started classes this week. Due to the threat of hurricane Irma, lessons had been delayed by a week and all the students from the Savannah campus had been moved to stay with us for a few days. The delay wasn't ideal as we now have to catch up for lost time on Fridays which were meant to be our free day.....a shame as I was quite excited about having a day with no classes! It did however mean that I could focus on training before the first two of our races. The first race was a 4k cross country in Alabama and I definately felt the pressure, I knew I wasn't the strongest runner in the team but one of the main diferences in running out here for SCAD compared to running in England is that the focus is very much on the team's overall positioning so I knew my finishing place would count! It was also super weird not having my family here to support me. I'm usually awful at coping with nerves and often spend the countdown to a race having pep talks from my mum and rushing around frantically trying to keep calm but in this case I spent it sitting on the mini bus listening to music and trying not to cry!! Luckily the race went really well and to my surprise I managed to finish 2nd for the girls team and 18th overall. To top it all I also won my first t-shirt as the top 20 finishers received a t-shirt with the name of the race on it!
Initially I found the training very demanding, especially the regular long runs, as this was very different to the type of training I was used to...faster and shorter sessions with longer runs between 5-7 miles no more than three times a week. On the second week after the race I clocked up 45 miles which was the most I had run in a single week of training...ever! It is so helpful having Josh, the trainer, in the gym as I find my calf muscles are constantly tight after the races and high intensity sessions.

ATL from the top floor of school
Katie and Katie in school

I ran my second race last weekend, a 5k, so my first official American cross country! I had no idea what time to expect as the course was reasonably flat however it also contained some tricky steep hills and forest tracks. To my delight I finished in 4th place behind my team mates Emily in 1st position and Kalie who came in 3rd. The team lost out narrowly on 1st place by just 1 point! The race took place at 8:15am so a 5am very early start (not my ideal!)
Since being in Atlanta I have made a real effort to get to know the city and have already been to the Aquarium (an incredible experience), been to see my first ever baseball game (the Atlanta Braves being the local team), spent lots of time shopping and last weekend went to the Midtown music festival which took place in the park we train in (Piedmont Park). We have also had several gatherings as a running group, (including a pasta party!) all of which have been so much fun.


ATL aquarium 🐟🐠🐙🦀

Music Midtown festival (just even more time spent in Piedmont Park...)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Hurricane Season

So here I am, back in ATL. I guess this is kind of going to be more a series of reviews than any particular diary of my life back here so far, because we've not been doing all that much.

First of all, this photo. Best running photo of me ever, I actually look like I might be going fast (amazing). Some clever soul with a camera managed to snap this at the exact moment I looked good. Another 0.5 of a second and it would have been back to naff form.... Also, how cute are my shorts? Finally managed to get myself a matching Nike shorts and crop top set and it's beautiful.

This was a fun, fun race. Viking Mile Relays, organised by dad's MRT (yay). I wasn't as fast as I might have liked to be, but I ran my leg pretty much by myself, which wouldn't have helped. It was a really cool event though; we set an unofficial (rats) national record for the mixed 4x1mile relay, which is absolutely mega. On to next year, where hopefully we can be quicker again.

Second of all; I got a new watch! Polar M340 in bright orange (you can see it on my wrist in the piccy). What a good colour, everyone knows orange makes you go faster. It's an absolutely brilliant bit of kit; it beeps both miles and kilometres, which is very helpful because mum does all her group's training in km and I used to have no idea what she meant when she gave me paces because mine is all in miles, it gives me little messages of encouragement! After I do my run it gives me little motivational messages about how I was doing steady state or tempo training and how it's improving my cardiovascular fitness and endurance and so on; very cute. After my race yesterday it told me I'd been doing sprint training! It got kinda mad at me when I was on the airplane, it kept telling me I'd been sat down for too long. Sorry watch, long flight, I can't help that!

Third thing; Hokas! I was curious about these last year, but I'd never seen them at home so I decided against. This season I've got a pair, and they're amazing. They have massive soles, which is wonderful because I think they make me about two inches taller- always a good thing, and despite that they aren't really heavy. I wouldn't wear them to do a session, but sometimes I get sore feet if I'm going for a long run or am on my feet for a long time in a day, and they really help with that. The only thing I would say is that the grips do seem to wear down quite fast. They also make sandals, which Kalie and Olivia have gone and bought... I'm going to have to take a photo of those, they are the ugliest shoes I've ever seen! Massive, thick-soled sandals. Very bizarre. They look a bit like elderly grandparents taking their orthopaedic shoes on holiday to Spain or something. No doubt dad would think they were very cool.

Hurricane Irma; what a nuisance. We've been back here for nearly three weeks now and school still hasn't started because of the stupid hurricane. They had to evacuate the Savannah SCAD campus and bring the people to ours because Savannah was due to get hit, so our classes all got pushed back a week.... And then we had full panic, the whole State of Georgia got declared to be a state of emergency, and on the actual day the storm was meant to hit Atlanta, we got locked in our dorms! Honestly I was worried, mostly because of the talk of disaster and what to do if there was a tornado outside, but in the end it rained all day and that was about it, hurricane over. Katie Clarke said she was pretty sure she'd seen worse weather back in the UK. Having to be inside all day was a bit of a pain, but at least with classes not starting yet, we haven't had to do training at 6am. That starts tomorrow, lucky us.

So, races! We've had two now since we got back. Our first was only a few days after flying in and was in Oxford! (Alabama, not too far from us actually). It was a pretty tough standard race, which I think threw us a little, plus it was only a 4k but the course was pretty hard work. They had this strange sort of grass that was full of moss and was kind of like running on sand; it just absorbed all the energy from each step. The grass was also pretty long in places and hid all these potholes. Here is not a great picture of me running, but much better than the one that is on the boy's race report on the website. It was so hot, I'm reflecting the flash with how sweaty I was! Also better than the massively unattractive photo of me at Royals last year they used for our report. I need to get a censorship arrangement for these pictures, I really do.  I had an alright race, I got carried away in the first mile and ended up coming second to the new star of Georgia Tech's squad. The team didn't have that great a showing, but we will get back into it.

This weekend was the big blue bird race! UNG was our second race last year as well, but they'd changed the course slightly (put some hills in it!) so I wasn't too sure what to expect. UNG's top girl, Brittany, hadn't been too far behind me at the first race, so it was reasonable to presume she might want to try and win it. 

Here's me at the finish, I like this one because even though though Brittany was only about 15s behind, you can't see her at all. I was kinda upset because last year they had a quad bike to show the way on the first lap, and the big blue bird rode on the back of it the whole way round. This time there was just a UNG girl shouting splits at their runners- really not as exciting. Good news though, I smashed my course record from last year; 17.59 down to 17.40, so I have to come back next year and do 17.20. We had a slightly disappointing run as a team, we came second to UNG...again. One single point in it, but it's still very annoying, we ought to be able to beat them. On the plus side, our guys' team had an amazing day. Dax, one of the new guys won the race outright, in his first ever 8k, and they also came second overall! 

Everything kicks off tomorrow here. Classes and 6am training (hurray). This week is going to be a tough one before our next race the weekend after next, which I'm really excited for because we're going back to Charlotte, which was probably my best race of the season last year. 

Friday, 9 June 2017

Sweet Home Alabama

Here I am, in Alabama, with my beautiful Madeline, in our vests that we pinched from Point University. Back at the start of the year, the Coach at Point ordered all their kit, but instead of putting our Conference logo on the back (as you have to) he put a big P for Point, so he couldn't use any of them. We've been trying to get him to give us some all year, at now we finally got them. 

Maddie and I were the only two to get to Nationals, and I was very grateful she came because it wouldn't have been that much fun with just me and Coach and Coach's wife. Her fam came along to watch as well. I love her mum very much, and she has a baby brother about the same age as Obi, who was outrageously cute. 

Gulf Shores, Alabama is apparently very typical of American tourist locations. It is a strange town, with one road in, a load of low shack-like buildings on the road leading to the beach-front, which is populated with massive high-rise hotel buildings. Everything is on stilts, because the Gulf of Mexico gets hurricanes. America does tat shops properly. There were at least three of them, including this magnificent example, where you have to enter by walking through the shark's mouth. They all flog pretty similar beach tat to the stuff you get at home, except they also sell hermit crabs with painted shells. They have loads of the little things crawling around in the shop. Poor little souls, it must be a miserable life. 

Having left America, I feel very let down at having not seen any alligators the entire time I was there. Maddie saw one, part-way through her marathon, but all I have seen, despite much searching, was been warning signs. How massively disappointing. 

Gulf Shores is a very hot place, and for some reason the NAIA seem to want to have the championships in the middle of the day, so it was massively hot and not very nice. I had to run back to back 5ks on the Friday and Saturday, which was fairly terrible, and I didn't do very well, but it was a good experience, and all a learning process for next time. Next year I am not touching the 5k...

For doing a very good job at the organising stuff they have been awarded the job for the next two years...hurray... Indoor Nationals is going to Kansas, which will be cool. Maybe in my final year we might get to go on an adventure elsewhere for Outdoors, hopefully. But the best part about Gulf Shores is definitely the beach. Beach! So pretty. It was an endless strip of white sand, all warm and lovely. Maddie's family had brought a blow up ring thing so we nearly drowned trying to go over waves on that, and had  great time dodging seaweed and dead fish. They had pelicans, just flying around overhead like seagulls, and our apartment was right on the beach (that picture was taken from our balcony), so all the time we could hear the ocean hissing around. 

After Nationals, I was terribly busy. Finals for this, that and the other, including this drawing. It took absolutely forever (this isn't it quite finished), and then my professor didn't even really like it! Terrible man, I thought it was quite good. Finals week was mental, I hardly had time to breathe or sleep, but then it was over and it was time to go home. Leaving was quite emotional, I think if I wasn't going back next year I would be a miserable soul now. But I am! So that's alright. 

Flights across the Atlantic are terribly long and so, so boring, but at least I did get home fine, and just in time to enjoy the beautiful British summer. Honest to God, I'm not used to this weather. Why is it so windy? I'm living in a polar neck, but I just know that by the time I'm going back to Atlanta I'll have just about adjusted to the British weather, and then I'll have to re-acclimatise to the American stickiness. There is no winning.