The 2018 Commonwealth Games were always an important part of my year. It’s not very often that we get to shove on the saltire and run around feeling like the Jacobites – competing for Scotland makes the event that little bit more special. We knew years in advance that they would be taking place in April and because of that we made some changes in my programme to ensure that I would be ready to compete so early in the season. Unfortunately, a plan doesn’t always work out – especially in sport! I left the Games pretty disheartened with my performance but looking back now, I’ve learnt a few lessons from with regards to what has worked in training and what hasn’t. The good news was that I am starting to feel better again after a terrible month over the indoor season. I missed a chunk of training and tried to race through illness which was clearly a mistake but it’s so difficult to forgo a championship – especially when it’s one at home!
I spent three weeks acclimatising in the Sunshine Coast which was situated about two hours North of the Gold Coast. Unfortunately, we were hit with a few cyclones which meant that it rained almost the entire time we were there! The cyclones also brought about some high winds – a nice little present for every single track session. I was surprised that after such a long haul flight I seemed to turn a bit of a corner; feeling healthy and more like myself again. I put together two of my best weeks of training, EVER – which gave me a bit more confidence heading into the Games but I noticed that although my sessions were going better than ever; my recovery in between was very slow. I was really struggling with my steady runs and especially my ‘long’ run. At the time I ignored it but looking back now it was clearly the residue of viral fatigue.
Sunshine Coast was beautiful but not the greatest place to run. Concrete paths lined the streets and we struggled to find anywhere off road. Luckily I managed to find a forest trail which was about 1km long. People had warned me about the Ozzy wildlife but I was in no way prepared for the size of the spiders I saw out running. The forest path was very thin and engulfed by overgrown grass and trees. I’ve genuinely never been so scared in my life after seeing about five spiders that I reckon were physically stronger than me. At home, I see spiders daily and don’t even flinch because I know THEY CAN’T KILL ME – (plus they’re usually the side of my little toe nail). But in Australia, these spiders are juiced up. Thankfully, after a few separate spider incidents, i’ve lived to tell the tale. I did however enjoy seeing the wild kangaroos kicking about by the track and the koala that greeted us on arrival, those were a little less deadly.
I headed into the village just two days before my event with some of the Scotland team. The village was pretty cool and I would say it was pretty similar to the one we had at Glasgow 2014. There were heaps of activities going on within the village but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to explore! From free vending machines, street performers and live music to sand sculptors, a 24 hour gym to puppies (yes.. you read that right – little puppies to pet and hold!) – the village really had everything you could ever need but with two events on my schedule, I hibernated in my room as much as I could to ensure I was race ready. This however didn’t quite go to plan! For the last ten days, I had been really struggling to sleep – like a delayed response to jet lag! I have no idea if it was heat, noise or just subconscious nerves but it drove me insane. One morning, I was awake until 6am before losing the plot and taking a sleeping tablet! It’s a strange thing living in a village. You share a small room with someone from your team and are in an apartment with several others. New bed, new surroundings – it’s sometimes difficult to settle in.
The 1500m heats were up first. I made the school boy error of miscounting the automatic qualifying positions. Top 4 and 4 fastest.
“One, Two, Three, Four”
“Yep, I’ve made it. Finals here I come!”
“Wait a minute… there’s four people in front of me…”
“Shit. I’m 5th”
You would think with a maths degree to my name that I would be able to work out a top four positioning but in the final metres of a 1500 – it goes by in such a flash! Luckily, our heat was much faster than the second and subsequently all qualifiers came from our race. Aside from my mathematical nightmare, I felt comfortable running a 4.06 and I was confident heading into the final the following evening.
It was a quick turnaround to the Commonwealth 1500m Final but the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The stadium was still. All eyes were on Caster. The 1500m may not be my event but I felt capable of being in the medals if the pace was fast. The gun went and I could feel my legs sprinting. Instantly I was at the back of the field – it was fast. I got myself tactically in a much better position than usual and with 200m to go, I could feel my legs building momentum. Unfortunately, the other girls had much better 800m speed and came past me with 80m to go to take the medal positions behind. I ended up 6th. At the time I was gutted. To be a second away from the medals and to see them happen before your eyes is tough but looking back now – I put in a good account of myself. 4.04 in a championship final isn’t to be sniffed at! In the history of the Commonwealth Games, a 4.04 would be a winning performance – all six of us broke the Commonwealth Record.
After the 1500m, I really struggled to recover. My sleep was even worse – perhaps getting about 2-3 hours shut eye most nights. I have no doubt that it ate away at my recovery. I tried everything I could to be ready for the 5000m but as soon as the gun went – I knew my legs were not. I don’t know how I managed to finish the race as I was really struggling after just four laps. Crossing the line in 6th – I was devastated. Again I knew there would be a medal up for grabs and that if I could recreate my form of 2017 I could challenge for gold. 6th wasn’t what I had trained for and now I had two of them. After finishing, I don’t remember much. It’s very unusual for me to feel faint and dizzy so I have no idea what would have caused it but it took me about five minutes to get myself over to the media zone to do a BBC interview. Even now, I couldn’t tell you if the interviewee was a man, woman or zebra. I was totally spaced out and with every word thinking, “please don’t spew on live TV.”
And just like that, the Commonwealth Games was over. Another missed opportunity with the next not being for another four years. Of course i’m frustrated at myself but things haven’t been plain sailing and in this sport – you need to be at 100%. Even 90% isn’t good enough at elite level. But things could always be worse and that’s always what I reflect back to and how far I’ve come. I’ve spent more years injured than I have a professional athlete and so there are many more lessons to be learned.
We decided to take some time off after the Games and spent four days cramming in as much sightseeing as we could around Australia. One day was spent snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef with the other two days sightseeing around Sydney. Again the weather gods weren’t quite on our side and so we were soaked to the skin during the entire trip but it was still a brilliant experience. By far one of the most amazing things we did, was to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Now I absolutely hate heights. It’s a strong fear of mine but it was on my bucket list and I was determined to tick it off! I spent the first 15minutes with my eyes shut, gripping on the safety railing and shaking like cold chihuahua but I DID IT.
It may have been the quickest holiday ever known to man but I was grateful for the opportunity to spend some down time with Michael and to tick off some pretty cool sights. Although I still wasn’t sleeping properly which was now starting to drive Michael insane too! Next up is the Doha Diamond League. I’ll be on the road for three months before I finally get to fly home but there is work to be done and a long ol’ season ahead.