Monday, 7 February 2011

The Decathlon Challenge: Training

Aged 33 I have 2 distinct memories of the sport of choice I had in mind for this challenge, undertaken back in September, and they both involved the same man...

Watching arguably Great Britain's Greatest Ever Olympian at global athletics events on the tellybox as a nipper ...Daley Thompson.

What an Athlete!

And playing Daley Thompson on the game named after him on my old computer: Daley Thompson's Decathlon - the 1500m final took place in real time! You had to keep the animinated DT running for nearly 4 whole minutes - kids got blisters just getting the great man through this one event!

During The Canoeing Challenge I met a really sound chap called Henry - I'd later knock him off of his canoe but that's another story - he's a chilled fella who it turns out, happens to also be really good at the javelin.

Once I'd found this out I quizzed the man and he hooked me up with Clive, the man responsible for running Saffron Lane Sports Centre in Leicester.

Clive was probably a touch bemused by the request I made but nevertheless agreed that a few mates and I could come down to the club one Saturday in September and attempt to compete in our very own Decathlon.

There was just one issue he did highlight though: while the club owned the equipment for the Pole Vault, they didn't actually own any poles - not a problem I thought, I'd just get in touch with someone and borrow one...that'd be easy, right?!

Having booked a date I set about recruiting competitors; I asked friends, friends of friends, and spread the word on social networking sites.

I also made an effort to get in touch with actual athletes who might be able to provide tips for training and technique, in this respect I didn't get on too badly...

I broke the events down by category, thinking this would help with training:

3 Throwing Events = Shot Put, Javelin & Discus

3 Jumping Events = Long Jump, High Jump and Pole Vault

4 Running Events = 100m, 110m Hurdles, 400m and 1500m

I figured that if I could build a good pace for the 1500m, then shorten the distance and increase the pace that I'd soon nail the flat sprints...

I'd emailed local legend Dean Macey, Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist for the Decathlon in 2006, here's his advice on this matter:

'First thing with training for the Decathlon is to remember that most of the events need power and speed, so don't waste to much time on training for the 1500m as its only one event in ten'.

Local Legend Dean Macey, with his Commonwealth Gold Medal

I ditched my plans to run 1500m sets along the sea road at this point and relocated to Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre (which has an actual athletics) track from then on, where they had the equipment required for all 10 events.

'Power and Speed', Deano's words rang around in my head...thinking I had more power than speed already, I opted to train on my sprinting ability - as a 16 sec/100m guy at school I knew I'd need to put the work in...

I'm pretty sure that 100 metres never looked so long before. On my first attempt I started to fade after the first 40 metres - this was gonna be harder than I thought.

The view as I trudged back from the Finish Line

Twitter came in handy once again - this time I asked former European & Commonwealth 400m Champion Iwan Thomas MBE for some sprint training tips which sounded ace but to be honest I simply wasn't fit enough to follow them to the letter.

Iwan Thomas MBE: Double Quick
With a few weeks till the day of the Decathlon I looked to increase my focus on the other events, first up I borrowed a set of hurdles from the very helpful team at the sports centre.

I'm mythed how the pros manage this! I'm not kidding - even at 6ft tall, with hurdles set to competition height they're up beyond my hips...its like doing 10 High Jumps at speed, head on!

Keeping the sprint and hurdles training going (albeit with the hurdles set a few notches lower), I looked to add in some of the field events...

I used to throw Shot Put for my school as nipper so I had some idea on what to do with one, while the discus would take some effort to learn and I sought advice from the very best on the Javelin...

No, not from Henry as you may have thought but from former World Record holder (not to mention Olympic Silver & Bronze medalist, European & Commonwealth Champion!!!), Steve Backley OBE.

Steve launches another rocket.
Armed with tips I again went back to the great folk of Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre and asked to borrow the three items that would help me train for the field events..and was denied!!

Seems for 'Health & Safety' reasons I needed to have certain athletics qualifications to use the blooming equipment - I was gutted, but I gather their insurance wouldn't cover them I speared myself / dropped the shot on my foot / smashed my teeth out with the I couldn't complain, they were simply doing their jobs.

I would have to learn a hell of a lot from my first attempts on the Big Day... be continued...

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