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Thrown in the Deep End

I have had a few months now of solid training and a few hit outs on the track. I must say a lot has happened since I last blogged but the best part is I am finally feeling more like myself. Training has been consistent, challenging but satisfying and everyday I wake up in the morning feeling better than yesterday.

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(Briggs Classic 1500m – First race back in 7 months)

Last time I blogged I was going into my first race of the season in Hobart for the Briggs Classic 1500m. It was an interesting experience to say the least. Obviously I didn’t expect anything wild but that race felt like I was running through sinking sand with a large parachute strapped around me on a very windy day…. It was tough. I walked away from the track disappointed and angry at myself but after I did a 40 minute jog, listened to some good advice and regathered my thoughts, I was back on track mentally.

I guess an athlete struggles to put performances in perspective after injury. That’s why some can never make a comeback from huge upsets. With such a competitive sport like track, it isn’t as easy as having time off then jumping right back into the swing of things. I have had to thoroughly ingrain this into my mental training. I don’t think I have dealt with my injury the best I could have and there is a lot I would do differently if I were to suffer another season ending injury but that is a lesson I hope I don’t have to reuse. Fingers crossed.

See the body takes months and years to build up to its optimal strength and fitness however when brought to a complete stop, it is only a matter of a few weeks before you lose it all, especially when you can’t cross-train. The most important thing I have had to do is focus short term and what I can do in the immediate future to better myself. I have actually been really lucky with the people in my support team because I tend to get so hung up on performances and times so it is lucky for me that I am surrounded by good athletes and coach that have strong heads on their shoulders to often point me in the right direction when I am doubting my ability and the road looks hazy.

I have learnt that being injured or coming back from injury actually requires more time and effort then when you are on top of your game. When you are fit, healthy and racing your best, it seems to continually get better without any thought process. You just wake up, rock up to training, complete an awesome session where you find yourself ticking off reps on autopilot. Then it is just refuel, recover. Injuries are time consuming, painfully frustrating, and make a simple run so difficult. They take up your whole day, ironically making you have LESS time to recover and relax then if you were healthy.

A few weeks after the 1500m in Hobart I did a grass track 3km in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was a lot of fun. A fantastic meet (The International Track Meet Christchurch) put on by some great people in a beautiful town. I got to travel over with my Irish teammate Laura Crowe and race alongside another MTC athlete Eloise Wellings. Although it was a slow overall time, it was a good way to practice kicking home in the last 1km and an good trip all round.

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(International  Track Meet Christchurch)

The next week I felt stronger again. Racing is like jump-starting a car, it forces fitness along and the week after racing I always feel like a fitter and stronger athlete. So for the Sydney Track Classic two weeks ago, I squeezed in another race-like effort and got to pace the 5km for the Sydney Track Classic. If felt good to be out there on the track with Australia’s top distance woman but I only paced 2km of it. Shortly after watching and commentating the end of the race with Clyde and the Tartan Couch guys, I shot off to the warm up track and did a session to make the day in all worth my while.

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(left: Sydney Track Classic pacing job with my girl Eloise Wellings. Right: Commentating the race with the Tartan Couch crew) 

That brought me to last weekend, Melbourne World Challenge where for weeks I had been entered to do the 1500m. I was fluffing around on my laptop and looking at start lists for each event and saw there was a steeplechase. I honestly had no idea there was one being run so I was initially shocked. Moments later I realized that I needed to just go for it and run one before nationals. I have been saying all year I would open up at nationals but deep down I felt I needed a rust buster for my event before then. I spoke with my coach, decided a plan for the race and went ahead with it. It was one of those situations where you just have to throw yourself at something that you maybe are hesitant to do but if you allow yourself to think about it too much you could possibly change your mind. Kind of like when the ocean is freezing but you want to go in. So rather then just carefully touching the water with your toes and suffering little by little, you just sprint in and don’t think or feel. Well that was me and the water jump. I haven’t faced that nasty water barrier since I broke my ankle last season. So yeah, first lap rolling around the bend I was pretty nervous but once I tackled the first water jump, the other 6 didn’t seem too scary. I walked away from the race in one piece, feeling fresh and content that next time I run it (Nationals) I will be ready to go for it. Just have to tidy up my technique.

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(Melbourne World Challenge Steeplechase – the first one back)

SO… now here I am, 1 week out from the Australian Nationals and Commonwealth Game Trials. I have more work to do but everything has been falling into place at a steady pace. I have raced plenty of times in the past two months purely to race fitness back in my legs and get my aggression back for competing. You can’t reteach a mind to be competitive through training, you just have to throw yourself in the deep end and rely on instincts to get it back. That is why I am racing as much as possible. It will only make me stronger each week. In saying all this, I’m currently in Brisbane to squeeze in one last hit-out before Nationals. I am running the 800m for the first time in a while, against a super HOT line up. It should be an interesting night with some fast times run. It is just another chance for me to get a little bit better, faster, and stronger. It is also a nice little weekend at home before I shoot off overseas for 6 months.

The season has only just began and I have a long year ahead of me to get to where I am ultimately aiming, however running this weekend is where my focus is for now and I will tackle what is beyond that when I get there. Just taking the road to Glasgow one step at a time. Excited to say the bare minimum.

Thanks for reading!

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Back to Business

It has been a busy few months, jammed packed but only of positive progression. If you had of asked me in November where I thought I would be in regards to getting back on the track, I would of told you to take your questions elsewhere. Thanks to a lot of help along the way, I finally feel that 2014 may have a slow and gradual start but once that ball starts rolling, it sure will fly. To get here I thought I would touch on the journey back to, let’s say half of the ultimate desired fitness (still not there yet) and go over the steps I took to recovery.

I have had a lot of emails in the past few months about self motivation and staying strong mentally and sometimes I smile while reading these because when I think back to my time in the cast/boot, it is hard to remember whether I was “motivational or inspiring”. Honestly, the first few months I learnt how to be pretty useless and managed to get everyone around me to do everything since I was on crutches. My family may have been happy to have me home for about a week but that special, exciting and privileged feeling quickly wore off and I was sent to my grandmas to be looked after – she is the only one that had enough patience with me. Thanks Granny <3 !!! I also was moody like no other. I was dirty at my Mum for heading off to Moscow to watch the World Track and Field Championship when I wasn’t competing.  The whole family had booked to go watch me a few weeks before I broke my ankle but then couldn’t get refunds for the flights. Mum had a great time so the right thing to do was get over it and be happy she was able to enjoy herself. Dad is currently using the flight credit and is off skiing in Italy with his partner as I type this blog. All thanks to me breaking my ankle. No worries guys! Grandma and Grandad forfeited everything to stay home and care for me. Again, thanks Grandma! Despite my bratty self, I did come good after a few weeks of moping around and with a lot of help from the people around me I did manage to see the positive in it all and stay determined to get back to where I wanted to be.

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The months from June 30th 2013 when I fell to November 16th 2013 when I did my first 25 minute run were the months that re-taught me how to love and appreciate what I get to do on a daily basis. Never would I preach that everyone must experience a horrible injury to really know what it means to have the privilege to train and love what you do, but I can say to anyone that complains about his or her sport or training to “suck it up”.  It is the best gift you can receive and if you’re lucky enough to be good at what you do, then cherish it. Obviously these aren’t some unheard wise words of wisdom but some people lose sight of this. So don’t.

Once I was told I could cross-train back in September, I began going to the gym, biking, pool running, arm biking (worst invention ever) and swimming. I joined a swimming group with a great squad in Brisbane that I met through the QAS and began training with them from 5.45am-7.15am. This was some of the hardest training I have done yet. I would be given a program of about 4km on the longer days but it could consist of any style, it didn’t matter, as long as it got my heart rate up – which clearly meant butterfly! My days consisted of swimming first thing, straight to the QAS for bike or arm bike, gym, go home and eat, then be back at the QAS for another form of cross-training. After 8 weeks of that and starting to look like an arm wrestler, I was finally allowed to jump on the Alter G and use my legs rather then bulking up the arms.

During this time, the Queensland Academy of Sports (QAS) was absolutely fantastic and did everything they could and more for me to get back on my feet again. I used the Brisbane Broncos Alter-G for just under a month then the QAS got one in that I could use when ever necessary. To give my rehab more of a kick-start, Athletics Australia sent me to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to work with some of Australia’s best sports science and strength team to assist in the process. I was able to get treated daily and receive an extremely beneficial gym program to strengthen my body. This allowed me to avoid compensating injuries along the way and make sure I was able to take on a decent running schedule given to me from my new coach Nic Bideau to prepare me for Falls Creek altitude camp and the year to come.

Mid November was my first run really. I was able to complete 25 minutes non-stop on a trail in Canberra at the AIS. I marked this day in my diary as “the best day ever”. It obviously was an exaggeration but at the time I felt that way. The rest of the month was up and down. I would do what I was told and some days feel great and wanted to keep going, but then other days I would wake up and struggle to walk out of my bedroom. My masseuse, physio, coach, friends and family would have got so sick of me – I would act super bipolar. One day I would report such great news and say things like “watch out world, I’ll be back in no time – had barely any pain!” The next day would roll around and I would be writing a sob story about how terrible it felt today and that I am so sick of my ankle taking so long to bounce back. It was so up and down, and it still is and will be for quite some time but I am able to manage the discomfort and adapt to more and more work each week. It will just be something I have to give a little more attention to on a daily basis till I get it back to full strength.

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All I know is if I look back to a few months ago, the progress and gains are exponential and continuing in that manner. I couldn’t be more thankful for where I am today, for the people in my life that have helped me, and for the support I will continue to have as I get back in shape for 2014 and beyond. This weekend (Feb 1st) I will finally race for the first time in 7 months at the Briggs Athletics Classic in Hobart and test out the old NB800 spikes again. Can’t say I am ready to break records but I am more than capable of getting a good hit-out to start the season rolling. Just moving forward every day.

Wish me luck 🙂 ,

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A Little Love, Loss & Life Change

So 2014 begins and a new adventure starts. Although I have been here for 24 years, I do feel that my life has only just begun. I sure have had a great run till now – not much to complain about at all however I can’t say life has been peachy till now. There have been ups and downs, super highs and extreme lows but I can only look back and see this as one big adventure and a rough road only builds character…. So I will continue to share the good, the bad and the ugly but also emphasis that I love what I do, I love where I have come from and I’m ALL about where I’m heading in this exciting life ahead.

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(photo by Frankie Owen)

I guess I will start by wrapping up my past season. Lets just say that 2013 wasn’t the best year for me with my running after taking a nasty fall in my first diamond league race in Birmingham, England. After qualifying for the World Championships back in May, I wanted to get one more fast 3km steeplechase in to gain some race experience and better my personal best before Worlds. Just two laps to go I took a spill in the water pit and broke my ankle.

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(Birmingham Diamond League, breaking my ankle)

Since then I have been recovering and rehabbing to get back to where I belong. Due to this speed bump in my career I decided it was best to make a few decisions on my overall direction with my running. The few months after my injury were the toughest I have experienced in a while just because I came to a fork in the road with where and what I wanted to do. Obviously leaving my base in Gainesville at the University of Florida was something that was always on the cards for me since you can’t really stay at college forever (as fun as it may sound) so it was more the timing of everything that I struggled with. I graduated from college a few months after the 2012 Olympics however because I had everything I needed and more in Gainesville, I had decided to stick around with my college coach, continue living with my best friends and have access to the best facilities around. Florida really felt like home.

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(Coach Paul Spangler and I at SEC 2012)

After a lot of thought after my injury, I decided that I would make the move back home for good and let me tell you, this was a tough decision to make. My college coach (Paul Spangler) was almost too understanding – he always said the right thing in every situation. Coach Spangler had honestly become a best friend and father figure so to leave behind a great friendship and coach I gained so much success from was very difficult. The girls I had spent the past few years with was another part of Florida I found hard to let go of. I had last left them thinking I would see them again soon; to then deciding I wouldn’t return to say goodbye. I guess I can now just thank social media and modern day technology because it allows me to keep in touch with these special people from my American life. Through the many highs and lows I faced along the way in college, I not only met some amazing people but I was able to learn that the important friendships I found along the way are very rare but extremely special.

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(My girls from 25th Street, Gainesville)

This injury may have forced a lot of change on me however I can confidently say that it has also brought so many new and exciting aspects to my life. I am thrilled to say the least about my new adventure ahead. I am now based in Melbourne and have joined Melbourne Track Club where I have been given an opportunity to train with Australia’s best distance athletes and Coach Nic Bideau. I am currently up at Falls Creek with MTC getting a month of altitude training in to get me fit, fast and strong again to qualify for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Last but not least, I get to train with my best mate Ryan Gregson. He has been there through all of the tough moments in 2013 and helped me come out the other side. Not sure if you have heard the history of our relationship but it has been floating around the internet recently about how we met so check out the article by runners tribe here. It’s a funny and true story!

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(The R.G)

Well I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the new love, loss and life changes of my 2013. So much more to come in 2014 so I will continue to blog my running progress of the big year ahead and anything that falls in between. I hope you enjoy my site and thanks for reading!

Sincerely,

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(Any of the casual photos in New Balance gear were taken by Frankie Owen. To see more of her work go to her instagram or visit her facebook page MomentsbyFrankie. Photos in casual wear were taken by Brad Anderson Creates Graphic Design. More of their work can be located here.)