Well, looks like it was two busy weeks in a row. I got back from North Carolina on Monday and had to hit the track on Tuesday for a long jump session. I had the folks from PBS’s Medal Quest series following me around getting footage of practice. The jump session was a successful one. For the most part, my run is becoming more and more consistent which is good. At this point, I’m ready to begin working on my takeoff and landing technique. These two things are very important because it can lengthen the jump tremendously. If you explode off of the board with a strong knee drive, you’ll put yourself in good position to jump really far.
On wednesday I worked on block starts. You know, I felt pretty good. The power is there and the reaction is there. I just have to transfer this same intensity into the actual competitions. This is quite difficult because you’re dealing with adrenaline and high energy. As with anything else, you just have to work on channeling this energy and not being overwhelmed with these factors in the big races. Thursday was a pretty light day since I competed on Friday and Saturday.
The competition on Friday and Saturday was the Mt. SAC Relays. This competition is very well known in the track and field world. How did I fair? Well, the 200 meters wasn’t the greatest. I had a rough time running the curve, and once I made it down toward the finish line another runner ran in my lane. Yes, I fell to the ground and picked up some scars from the track. It wasn’t the greatest feeling, but hey, I’m alive and well. On Saturday, the results were a little better. I didn’t run as fast as I had in prior weeks but I was able to secure a second place finish in the 100 meters. Yeah, that result was okay but I was hoping to follow up last year’s Mt. SAC victory with another one. However, when you look at my results compared to last year’s, the meets post-Mt. SAC are the ones where my times dropped. I just need to be patient.
This past week was one of the busiest weeks ever. For the last month or so, I’ve been trying to help coordinate a fund raiser to help get my family over to London to see me compete in this year’s Paralympic Games. Well, on Wednesday I traveled back to North Carolina. I landed late Wednesday night, 10:45PM to be exact. This was my schedule for the week.
Thursday: 10:00AM speaking engagement/Q&A session at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind; 12:00PM lunch; 1:00PM training session; 2:30PM interview with WRAL TV; 3:00PM speaking engagement at Athens Drive high school
Friday: 6:20AM interview with NBC17; 3:00PM to 7:00PM Meet and Greet session at Omega Sports
Saturday: Track meet at the University of North Carolina
It was a very busy three days but I think the level of awareness about disabled sports was increased tremendously. Most importantly, the word got out that I needed financial help to get my family to London. A hometown organization called Bridge II Sports has helped me immensely in planning and accepting donations. That’s huge because now people can make tax deductible contributions. For anyone wanting to make a donation, you can visit Bridge to Sport’s web site and click the Support Paralympian Lex Gillette’s Journey to Gold
As for the competition at North Carolina’s campus, well, it was good. My 200 meter race could have been a lot better but I started off on the wrong foot. When the gun went off I immediately ran too far to my inside causing me to have to run closer to Wes so I could get back on track. After all of that hustle and bustle, we made it to the straight away and finished strong. The 100 meter race was good. I ran an okay time. As always, there’s something to learn from in the sprinting events but I’m getting there slowly but surely.
What did I tell you? Last week, I said that my training has proved to me that the next race should be much better, and it was. I ran the 100 meters and 200 meters yesterday at the University of California San Marcos. My 100 meter race felt good. I came out of the blocks pretty strong and tried to drive as long as possible before getting up to run. I was pleased with the 11.51 second time. As for the 200 meter race, well I could use a little more work in that event but it was my first time running it this year. It’s all about the curve. If you have a nice smooth run to lead into the straight-away then you’re good, but if you don’t, the straight-away won’t be as strong. I needed to run the curve harder and smoother to get that clean race that I wanted.
Aside from the competition, I was happy with the week of training. I’m especially pleased with the progress that I am making in the triple jump. I’ve literally started from ground zero in this event. Coach is really breaking it down to the point where I’m beginning to mentally visualize what I need to do. That’s huge for me. I can literally sit around and see myself going through the different phases of the triple jump. I also use this visualization method in the long jump, 100 meters and 200 meters. Having the ability to see these events in my head helps tremendously when it’s time to train or compete on the track.
Time flies when you’re having fun, right? It seems that way. We are now less than three months away from the 2012 Paralympic trials in Indianapolis, and less than five months away from the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. When you think about it, that’s right around the corner. And now that the track and field season has officially begun, time will really move quickly.
This week was another great one in which I worked on staying straight in my long jump approaches. To be honest, what decides whether I stay straight or not in my approach work revolves around the first step. When I push out strong and hard, I’m able to get a good run usually. But, if I push out harder on one leg it throws me off balance and causes me to run to either side. This is something that I have to continue to work on. Repetition, repetition and more repetition will help make the runway approach solid once the big competition arrives.
I’m very eager to see how my next race is going to turn out. I expected to do better than what I did at the San Diego State track meet, but hey, it was the first meet of the year. This past week’s training on the track showed me that my next competition should produce better results. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. My next meet will be in San Marcos on April 7.
For the first time in a long time, my long jump approach work has been a little off. I’ve been managing to speed down the runway and slowly run off to the right side. I don’t want that. I need perfectly straight runs all of the time. I must mention that the outside factors did have a hand in the faulty runs. It has been rather windy lately in southern California. I’m sure the wind had some part in carrying the sound to the right which causes me to run to the right. The sound that I’m referring to is the the direction that my guide runner gives me by yelling and clapping. But hey, it’s not the end of the world so I’ll just have to fix this issue before the next long jump session.
On a brighter note, I began training for the triple jump. The first session was mainly introductory work. I did a sequence of drills where I had to hop on one leg with the opposite knee fixed in the air at a ninety degree angle. Bunny hops and bounds were mixed into the drills as well. It feels weird to begin an event from scratch, but my coach always says that you have to start from the basics and build off of that foundation. So, I’ll be focusing on the fundamentals of triple jump for the next few weeks.
It’s no surprise that the week ended with some hard runs. Friday’s very last assignment was to run two 150 meter sprints and one 200 meter sprint. Initially, I didn’t think I would be up to the challenge, but once I took off for the first 150 meter run, I totally locked in and tackled it. The second 150 felt even better than the first. But the 200, well, it was a great run but it hurt! I ran the 100 meter curve pretty strong and then I wheeled down the 100 meter straight to finish the workout. The post-workout pains had me laying on the track wondering if I would make it or not. But, as you can see, I lived.
I’m not a fan of 250 meter plus running workouts. Monday’s workout? Of course it was a 3X350 meter training session. Why coach, why? Are you really trying to kill me on a Monday, the first day of the week. You could have at least waited until Friday so I would have the weekend to recover. But you know what, I went out there and attacked it. I felt good transitioning between the straight aways and the curve. The only time I really started feeling the runs is when I was coming off of the curve to run the final 100 meters. That was tough, and it didn’t help that there was a head wind trying to push me back. Don’t tell my coach but the workout wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. SHHHHHH!
Tuesday and Wednesday were great days. I had the typical jump session on Tuesday. I’m still trying to maintain the speed and power necessary in hitting the takeoff board perfectly so I can get good jumps this year. The run is coming along slowly but surely. Wednesday was comprised of a warmup, some drills and a few 250 meter sprints. On the sprints, I focused on getting out and maintaining speed until the straight away. Once on the straight away, I opened up and sped to the finish line. It felt good.
Thursday was a light day because I competed on Friday. On days before a competition, I usually do a good warmup, a few drills, a few strides and then I shut it down for the day. Rest is the name of the game before any competition. As for Friday, I kicked off the track and field season with my first track meet. I competed in long jump and the 100 meters. From my prospective, the meet went well. I had a couple jumps that felt awesome and my run was pretty good too. There are a few things that I have to work on, specifically my start out of the blocks, but all in all the competition was a great opener for 2012.
Remember last week when I mentioned a really hard week ahead? Well, it happened. Monday started off with a warmup, some drills, and then a 300m sprint, a 200m sprint and a 150m sprint. It literally felt like someone shot me. My body was hurting in every possible place imaginable. That’s how you know the season is in full effect. Luckily, I was able to follow that workout up with another good jump session the next day. I was actually a little off during my approach runs. It was pretty windy so I’m assuming the sound of Wesley clapping was carrying in the wind. Nevertheless, it was still a good day by my standards. i was running fast and coming through the takeoff area with a lot of speed and power.
Overall, the week started off with a bang and ended with a bang. I had to run repeat 200 meter sprints on Friday. Try running 200 meters, taking a 30 second rest, run another 200 meters, take another 30 second rest and then run 200 meters again. It’s not fun at all. But, coach says it will make me stronger for the 200 meter sprint so I had to get it done. You can’t expect to get better if you don’t push yourself, and I’m totally positive that the weeks ahead will be full of pushing. It won’t feel good now, but it’ll feel really good standing on the podium in London. Oh yeah!
Surprisingly, coach didn’t keep his word. I was thinking that this week was going to be really difficult but he said that we would begin that workout cycle next week. Hey, that worked for me. It probably did some good that I had one more lighter week to fully recover from that virus. Thanks coach!
This past week’s track sessions were pretty awesome. I’ve come to the realization that my stride is opening up. Why? I had to back my long jump approach up a meter. I usually run from 32.5 meters away, but I ran past the takeoff board constantly in Tuesday’s session. As a jumper, this is not what you want. If you jump and your foot is past the takeoff board the jump will not count. Coach moved my running approach back to 33.5 meters so I could run and hit the takeoff board directly in the center. The longer approach is partly due to my arms. You’ll often hear coaches and athletes yell, “use those arms!”. That’s because when you pump your arms it helps you to run a bit faster, and stronger. So, we had to adjust the approach to match my “new” run. I’m totally stoked because I feel like I’m on the way to another world record in the long jump.
I’m continuing to learn so much about the sprinting aspect of my training. The running workouts have become considerably easier only because I’m learning how to run the distances outlined. With every repetition I feel my knees coming up, I feel my arms moving vigorously and I feel as though the distances are becoming shorter and shorter. Friday’s 120m sprints felt awesome. A few years ago, I couldn’t tell you anything about running a race. However, now that I’m actually learning each phase and learning how to position the body, things are looking and feeling great. I couldn’t do it without God, Craig Poole (my coach/advisor) and Wesley Williams (my coach/guide runner). Thank you all!
Well, don’t you just hate it when setbacks show their ugly little heads? I do. Let me tell you, the week started off great. I had a nice long jump session on Monday that ended with my best long jump approach to this point. Yeah, I’m totally serious. I ran that last approach and it felt awesome. I was strong, I felt fast and I think I would have jumped at least seven meters. That would have been a new world record for sure. But, later that day, setback came knocking at my door. I felt a scratching in my throat and my sinuses began to hurt. By Tuesday I was coughing and feeling bad. Luckily, we have a great sports medicine staff so they checked me out, made sure everything was okay and then gave me some medicine to take. I shut training down completely on Tuesday and Wednesday to rest. By Thursday I was feeling much better. I warmed up and kept training short that day. Friday was still less intense because coach told me to keep it light until next week. Sounded like a plan to me! I’m going to use this weekend to rest so I can get back to 100%. The upcoming week is going to be a tough one on the track and in the weight room so I need to be ready.
As an athlete, one of the hardest things to do is balance your training and other obligations. Your number one job is to train and prepare for the Paralympic Games, but there are those times where you may have to appear at a sponsor event or attend a speaking engagement. I was able to get two really strong track sessions in on Monday and Tuesday, however, on Wednesday I had to head to Washington D.C. for a Paralympic Ambassador training. Let’s talk about these training sessions first. They were awesome! I had a really strong day on Monday. The jumping approach is coming along and I’m getting better and better every session. On Tuesday I had block starts. My main objective with this workout is to be as explosive as possible. A lot of the times, races are won as soon as the gun goes off, so you want the best start possible in order to get out to a good race. My starts were pretty decent, but we have some work to do. It’s all muscle memory. Once I get back into the mindset of explosive starts, then it will all come together. As with anything, you have to think repetition, repetition, repetition.
So what’s the Paralympic ambassador program? It’s a program geared toward making the public aware of the Paralympic movement within the United States. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) selects a number of athletes who they feel possess the qualities necessary in spreading the word of the Paralympics and what it has to offer. So, the selected athletes had to go to D.C. for the annual training. This year’s focus was on media. How do you deal with the media? How do you stray away from questions that you don’t need to answer? What should you say and how should you act in front of the camera. The training lasted from Wednesday until Friday. I’m so serious when I tell you that it was nonstop. I would be in training all day with the occasional break for food. Other than that, it was all work baby. Although the training was only two days, I still learned so much in that short timespan. Just to let you in on a small bit of information, the facilitator told us, when you’re in front of the media always remember to smile, smile, smile! Show that beautiful smile.