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What did Andy get up to in January?
Date: 24/1/2007

I donít think I can set the scene of all the hard work an athlete puts into their training without sharing a little inside information about the Christmas period. I love Christmas, I love everything about it: the presents, the food, the relaxation, everything. My coach gave me Christmas Day and Boxing Day off which is quite generous of him so I decided to fully use this time by doing nothing.

Christmas morning I was up early with my two young daughters (not just because they were excited, but me as well!) We opened our presents and I spent the rest of the day eating food and drinking wine with my feet up - a very rare day!!! Boxing Day was much the same.

Andy in South Africa
December 27th is always one of the hardest days training. After being horizontal for 2 days, to being put on a track in freezing conditions knowing Iím about to train until Iím almost sick (all part of the job). I knew I was in for some pain. I decided this year that New Years Eve is overrated, so I decided to do the professional athlete thing and spend the evening in watching the celebrations on TV. I have to train in the morning and I have races coming up so I want to give myself the edge on my competitors by not having a hangover. On New Years Day Iím on the track at 9am, the world is like a ghost town and itís actually quite early as Iím the only person around, not just on  the track.

Itís freezing in England in January but in a couple of dayís Iím off to Potchefstroom in South Africa for 3 weeks of warm weather training. We have the European Indoor Championships in March and I want to be at the peak of fitness which is why we go somewhere warm to train. I left for South Africa on the 5th of January.  The flight was around 11 hours which wasnít very pleasant. We arrived first thing in the morning and within 2 hours my coach Lloyd Cowan had dragged me and my training partner Simeon Williamson down to the track for training. He called it 'throwing us in at the deep end'. We were tired from the flight but he didnít care, he was on a mission to get us in shape. The first session wasnít too hard though.

Throughout the winter we run longer runs like 300 metres or 200 metres but as it gets closer to the competition time we cut it down to 200/150/100 or even 60/30 metre sprints. Our session was a 30 minute workout with sprints, walks and jogging all part of it, pretty easy but it was 36 degrees which made life very hard. I burnt my head as well!!!! Ouch!! The next few days we did quick runs, starts using starting blocks and sprints over 30 metres, Simeon is one of the quickest starters out there so I just tried to keep up with him (he has run 10.2 for the 100m).

There are loads of athletes here training from various countries, Italy, Sweden, Czech

Andy watching events in South Africa
Republic, France and more. I know some of the athletes as I race them regularly so I have built up a good relationship with them. A friend of mine Shaun Bowens lives here so we decide to meet up to do competitive starts over hurdles together. Shaun won the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and a bronze medal in the World Indoor Championships so he is a very good athlete. He suggests we bring in a couple more hurdlers from other countries to make the session more interesting, which we do. Every athlete feels nervous when doing competitive starts as itís our job to win. We are friends off the track but on the track he is my enemy and I want to destroy him.

We decide to do the starts the next morning at 10.30. We didnít realise but it was due to be 41 degrees. I love the heat but that was almost unbearable. Iím feeling very nervous as I want to beat the 3 other guys Iím training with. My coach calls us to our marks, I get down slowly into my blocks trying to visualise exactly how I will go over the hurdles in front of me, set........go!! I fly out of the blocks and by my second step Iím almost a metre up, I take the hurdles sweetly and sprint full pelt towards the second and third, I donít feel anyone with me, Iím first to the finish line and Lloyd gives out a "whoooo"!! I know when I get a "whooo" it means Iím running quick, he shows me his clock and its by far the quickest I have ever run, I know Iím in great shape now. The rest of the session was much the same, none of the other guys could get close to me for any of the 5 runs. The times that I ran means that Iím certainly a medal contender for the European Indoor Championships and could even win it.

After the hurdles session my coach decided that everything was going in the right

Andy and friends in South Africa
direction so over the next couple of days we did a few weights, a lot of stretching and a circuit session. Little did we know a surprise 'monster session' was on the way. One morning Lloyd told us we had a running session and told us to be at the track and ready to run by 11am. We arrived at the track at 10, did our usual 2 lap jog warm up followed by a number of stretches. Once loosened off we did our strides, put on our spikes and waited for our orders. Lloyd read out his orders: 200, 180, 160, 140, 120m. This might not sound much but when itís at 90% on the gas with 8 minutes recovery between runs then I assure you this is a BIG session. I ran the 200 in 21.6 secs which felt way too easy, had our 8 minutes and set off on the 160. This run again felt way too easy along with the 140 which just left us with the 120. By now myself and Simeon both had blisters on our feet but it was the last run so we had to hit it. I crossed the line in 12.5 and Sim 13.2. We both fell to the ground in agony, absolutely smashed!!! 10 minutes passed and we finally dragged ourselves off the track, searching for some shade. We had a drink and stood under a sprinkler to try and cool off. That was a good session. I love the feeling of being so smashed I can barely walk as it makes me feel like Iíve really worked.

Training was much the same the next week, a few hurdles and a few runs. The tan is coming along nicely now! All the British athletes decide that on our day off we would go to a safari ranch a few miles from our hotel. It was a nice break from training as it can get a little boring at times. The ranch was spectacular, it was in the hills and we could see for miles on end. We all got into these big trucks with seats on the back and our driver took off driving around dirt paths searching for some wildlife. The trip took about an hour and we saw all kinds of animals from gazelle to zebra to a giraffe. I was hoping to see a lion but unfortunately we didnít. I have a thing for snakes as well. I donít like them but I like snake programmes so I was hoping to see one, but yet again, no joy. We got back to the ranch and were sitting in an open air bar drinking an icey drink when 'plonk', a dead bird fell out the tree above. The tour guide showed us a snake called a green mamba (deadly poisonous) which had gone into a nest and bit the bird and killed it and would probably be down in a minute to pick up the bird. The snake is far too dangerous to be close to visitors so the tour guides took out catapults and went about trying to pelt the snake with stones. They all missed though and by now it was time to get back, so Iíll never know if the snake got its meal!

Iíve only got 4 days left out here now and to be honest Iím missing home and missing my girls. Being out here has been great for my training so I believe the time away has been beneficial, but itís always nice to get home. Iím racing out here on Saturday, there is a local track meet on and my coach wants me to run the 100 and 200 metres. Iím really excited as I know Iím in good shape. My coach expects me to run 10.3 secs and 20.6 secs so hopefully I wonít let him down. My first hurdles race will be a televised race on the 27th of January in Glasgow. Itís a big race and will be very tough to win as the hurdles superstar Alan Johnson will be running. He's not invincible and I hope to give him a very close race. From there I have a couple of races around Europe before heading to Birmingham for the European Indoor Championships. Fingers crossed everything goes well.

Thank you all for reading and Iíll let you know how things are going soon.

All the best,

Andy T


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