Altitude Tents, Spikes, Glaxosmithkline… it’s been a busy past few weeks!

Feb 24th 2012
Altitude Tent
This week I have received my first ever altitude tent! Pretty exciting but I also had my concerns over the advantages and disadvantages of taking up this opportunity. I was a bit reluctant at first, mainly because I didn’t really know what I was getting into as I have never been on any of the altitude training camps and have never experienced being at altitude, and so I am unaware of how I would react to these changes. Another major factor for me, is that a year ago I was severely anaemic. This obviously has huge effects on how my body would react to sleeping at altitude as it creates changes within your haemoglobin, but thankfully both my iron and ferritin levels were a lot higher than I have ever previously been! I think this is mainly down to the fact that I eat like a normal person now – whereas before I was living off of microwave rice and pasta every single day (not a good idea!). I also take a liquid iron supplement which I feel has made a significant difference as well. Anyways back to altitude, unfortunately I never got the chance to experience Kenya this year with UK Athletics due to my injury. I will (fingers crossed) be attending the altitude trip to Font Romeu in April for 3 weeks, which is why I am receiving the tent now – in order to prepare my body for training at altitude.
Howell trying the tent out…. aha
I know that a lot of the top athletes swear by altitude and many of the best ones all live permanently at altitude. However I do know that some people just don’t react well to it and so don’t have the same benefits as other athletes – fingers crossed that I am in the majority rather than the unlucky few. I know that my mum did try altitude training once (many moons ago- aha) and she reacted really badly to it and had an absolute shocker of a race. However she was quick to state that back then there wasn’t the same vast amount of information that we have available now. There has been so many technological advances, plus, testing has moved on so much over the years.
Last night was my first night of sleeping in the ‘tent’. It’s not so much a tent to be honest more like a plastic cage which you put your head in. It’s extremely claustrophobic and very hot and sticky. I’m not really painting the best picture of this, but it really is hard to sleep in. The generator is also extremely noisy so we have placed it two rooms away in the kitchen! The gusts of air and the warmth of the ‘tent’ makes very difficult to fall asleep but I think it would be very quick to adjust too. My boyfriend has also had to sleep in it, as we live together, so our bedroom now looks like some alien contraption with cables all over the room and this little plastic hood over the top of the bed! The bottom of the hood has a metal chain in it, which I assume is to press down as much as possible in order to limit the amount of air that can get into the chamber- again this is quite uncomfortable! Anyways… enough of me moaning! I am extremely thankful to the UKA physiologist for giving me this opportunity and hopefully I can gain massive benefits from being a part of this program. It is really weird breathing with this small chamber around your head as the air is very hard to describe – it is like breathing in warm, thin air. I am also going to do a few easy runs on the treadmill attached to the generator under the guidance of the doctor and physiologist. I will also be getting my bloods tested on a weekly basis to make sure I am not having an adverse reaction to the altitude and to make sure that my ferritin levels do not drop drastically.
I have also been really lucky to have received 4 pairs of special Steeplechase Spikes from Asics Japan. They have made some alterations to their spikes in order to ‘drain’ the water out of them – very clever indeed! They have also been sent over to Belgium, to Koen (the guy who made my orthotics previously) and he has created an insert which gives more support under the toes – specifically for landing coming off of the barriers – and also gives my freakily shaped feet some arch support to force them into a neutral position. Fingers crossed these things work! And that I stay injury free this season!



Valentines day was a quiet one for us. We decided to stay in rather than go out for a meal as Valentines day hit Tuesday this year – and guess what – it’s a training night! Haha this means we generally don’t get home till about 8.30pm and by the time we shower and pass out on the sofa, its too late. Instead we got a curry and watched a film. OAP already, at the age of 21…. But it was really nice. I was also spoilt with some nice presents and a HUGE Lindt Chocolate egg – possibly the best tasting thing ever!
mmmmm Lindt 
Today I spent the day chatting to the employees at Glaxosmithkline on behalf of UKA, as Lucozade (part of GSK) are sponsors of UKA and GSK are undertaking all of the doping testing in order to create a drug-free games in 2012. Today was the companies ‘London 2012 Exhibition’ and the purpose of the day was to increase the awareness of the role that GSK are partaking in the London Olympics. The are trying to make London the cleanest games possible with over 5000 tests being taking throughout the games. They are also the only supplier that is using 100% of its ticket allocation for employee engagement – encouraging the employees to get involved within their ‘Golden Ticket Competition’ and their ‘Golden Ticket Challenge’.
Employees can nominate each other to win a ‘Golden Ticket Experience’ which includes a fully paid trip to the Olympic Games! Or employees can take part in the challenge, which encourages them to cover a total distance of 2012km in 2012 by running, walking, swimming etc… This is a great opportunity to raise money for charity whilst having fun and being healthy at the same time!
The day went really well. I did a quick question and answer session – which was a good laugh actually – although the room we were in was about 300 degrees. Literally thought I was going to melt into the floor, it was THAT warm! I was also informed that if I was allergic to penicillin I wouldn’t of been allowed in the building! No idea why, as I didn’t really catch the reason, but I believe it was something to do with the fact that it is made somewhere within their factory? Thankfully I am alive – and not allergic to penicillin.
Luckily enough I managed to sprint from Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen St in under 3 minutes (which is extremely impressive considering I had my bag and a huge banner I stole from earlier, I will explain..) to catch the earlier train home! Phew.. I looked like a sweaty mess when I boarded the train though, in full GB kit, breathing out my bum! They must have been questioning what sport I did, that a little jog tired me out, but I was impressed with myself!
The taxi driver on the way their was giving me the normal nice taxi chat, questioning what I was doing and why I was going their. I then gave a brief synopsis of my day, to which he replied he had met Alan Wells once before and that he, himself used to play football for Scotland. To cut a long story short we then got chatting about who coached me etc… he almost died when I said Liz McColgan. He then went on to rant about how she was ‘one of the best athletes Scotland has ever seen’. To say that he almost had a heart attack when I told him it was my mother, would be an understatement! Haha… he was so so lovely though and very interested in Scottish Athletes and sporting success within Scotland.
Anyways back to my thieving for the day. Technically I didn’t actually steal anything, as I was given it! It was a huge life-size banner that was promoting GSK and their partnership with London 2012, but the main picture was a huge image of me running from the Birmingham Diamond League. For the first time ever, I didn’t look like some sort of gremlin and it was genuinely quite a good ‘running action shot’, so I asked if I could keep it as it’s pretty funny and such a strange thing to have. To be honest, its most likely going to lie in the cupboard now for years but at least I know I have a life size picture to take out to show the grandkids in years and YEARS to come! I couldn’t stop laughing at it.
School talk
My latest school talks at Blairgowrie and Brechin went really well. I took the kids for a little ‘warm-up’ session and gave a little presentation on the benefits of eating healthily. It was amazing to see how some of the kids really struggled with very fundamental balancing drills and some basic core stability like planks and bridges for example. The main message for me to get across though was that making small heathlier changes to your eating and setting yourself little sporting goals to aim for, really does create a drive and a will to succeed – fingers crossed I did get this across! They were all extremely interested with sport, which made my job a lot easier and everyone of them had great questions to ask. Hopefully it will encourage a few of them to make healthier choices at lunchtime or even give them a little bit of confidence to go along to a new sports club. I have only one more visit to each school left which covers mental attitude and general well-being then the kids will have got rid of me… until next year! The Champions in School is such a great initiative and hopefully ill be involved with them for as long as they continue helping to inspire the next generation!
Bisham Abbey
My week at Bisham went really well. To be honest, it was just a check up – in order to allow me to return to full training again. I didn’t realise their was so much bloody snow in London! Back up in Scotland we have been extremely lucky and not had anything, which obviously helps us for training – no icy roads/closed tracks etc.. My flight from Dundee was at 6am, but this was quickly delayed 4 hours till 10am! I thought I was going to pass out, sitting in a small departure lounge, with about 5 hours sleep – I was not a happy bunny. I decided I would do my best to make myself comfortable and after 5minutes of moaning about it being delayed I very quickly fell asleep over 4 chairs. Oops. Obviously due to my flight being delayed I missed some of the morning appointments with the Dr and Physio but thankfully these were rearranged to the following day.
Since being there my mileage was increased to 50miles a week (roughly). My strength and conditioning program was also advanced slightly further as I was a lot stronger than my first visit. I also got some of the information back from the tests I did on the treadmill from my previous visit. All the tests show is that my ‘contact time’ with the ground is pretty even and symmetrical which is what we would have hoped.


My training (as I stated earlier) has been slowly increasing in mileage each week, although I have decided that I am going to remain under 60miles just to make sure I can get enough training in and increase my fitness without injuring something else. So far, I am doing two track sessions a week, one sustained run and the rest of my days are filled with easy 5 miles. Fitness wise – I am not actually too far off of where I was last year at this point, which gives me a bit of confidence heading into the 2012 season. Last Tuesday we did 12x 400m with 1 minute recovery, and it was the first session where I didn’t feel like a whale running around the track! All my easy runs have jumped down in pace from about 8.30 min miles down to 6.50min miles – so I notice a massive difference in my fitness already… even though its only been a few weeks of training! Our first (sort-of) speed session did not end well though, I really struggled with trying to pick up the pace after getting used to running the longer reps off of a short recovery. 1000m-800m-600m-400m-200m with a 3minute recovery was almost the end of me, I have a lot more quality work to do in order to be sharp for the summer season!
I did have a little injury panic on Saturday though… it was my knee though! I had came back from a hard track session and went straight to the gym in my racing flats, I then continued to do my new S&C program but totally forgot I wasn’t in my trainers! As I was doing the exercises I could feel that my knee wasn’t right and that it felt like I had perhaps tweaked something. I decided to rest Sunday and cross train the whole of monday. After having a complete freak out over two days thinking that perhaps it was similar to a previous knee injury – of which took me a year to get rid of – I went to the physio to find out that it wasn’t a serious problem at all! My hamstring,quad and IT band are extremely tight and are pulling the knee out of its normal alignment. It was amazing the difference one massage and stretching session made, and I was back into my normal training the next day! Phewwwww! So everyhting is back on track again, after a one day hiccup 🙂
STV News and BBC Sport Nation
Last Monday, STV came through to film some of my warm-up up at the track through in Dundee. It was ABSOLUTELY BALTIC! Maybe not the best decision to wear a t-shirt and leggings but it was a good laugh. The reporter asked me to run about holding the camera myself, trying to film my feet! I couldn’t stop laughing as the camera was so heavy I was getting half my leg in the video rather than my feet – whoever gets to edit that video will have a good laugh at my expense. Not sure when it is going on air but hopefully ill get sent the video so I can upload it on here.


BBC Sport Nation were also up at the track last Tuesday filming parts of our training session and asking myself and my mum the question – ‘ Why are Scottish Woman out-doing their Male counterparts within Sport?!’
The answer…. Woman are more superior and just generally great.
Ok, I obviously didn’t say anything like that. Genuinely I don’t know the answer to this. I think it all goes in swings and roundabouts, woman may be doing better at this current moment but who’s to say that this wont switch about in the future and the boys may be back on top and out-shining the woman. Don’t worry boys… you’ll eventually have your time, but for now…. haha 😀

P.s I hit 2.2 million in Temple Run… I can now die happy


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