I remember how excited I was when summer came around and athletics started again at school. It was one of the few times, I chose to stay on the school premises after the last bell. Helping myself to some javelins, I’d throw spear after spear in the now empty school fields, only stopping, when my arm ached so much it felt like it was going to drop off.
A long time has passed since those memories were reality, but now I’m creating new ones. With the opportunity to throw javelins, for three weeks in Portugal at the National Throws Centre, located in the wonderful and historic city of Leiria.
The first two weeks built up to the second weekend, when I would officially open this years competitive season. My confidence improved greatly throughout my time there, obtaining huge new personal bests in my overhead and forward shot, in addition to finally feeling satisfied with my run up. I felt prepared for the competition, however as it got closer and closer, the nerves started to creep into my thoughts again.
Last year I went into competitions too aroused, either due to nerves or getting too psyched up. Consequently losing my head or throwing too hard, resulting in a poor performance.
Recognising I needed to improve my mental composure, I wanted to try and relax for two days before the meet in Portugal. Although achieving my goal, it wasn’t easy as I felt a great deal of pressure to perform, after the poor result in February.
When my first throw went over fifty-two meters, I felt a humungous amount of pressure and weight lift off my shoulders. I could think clearly again and suddenly became aware that I had a great opportunity to get a new personal best.
Competing alongside my training partner Harry Marshall, my desire to throw well only increased. After having two years out because of elbow surgery he had turned up with a point to prove, beating my first throw by a meter. I realised I had a contest to win. Throughout the rounds we continuously surpassed each other’s throws, only motivating each other to throw further. After a very enjoyable battle, I felt a great amount of relief becoming the victor of the contest.
Although failing to acquire a new personal best, it was my best series of throws to date, throwing my fourth and second best ever throw; frustratingly only two centimetres off my personal best.
The result of the competition can clearly demonstrate that trying to relax worked. My blasé attitude to the competition enabled me to finally enjoy competing again and in turn allowed me to throw well. Although my preparation was a key contributor, additional variables undoubtedly contributed to my best performance to date.
Steve Turnock threw an outstanding new personal best 72.41m, putting him currently third in the UK, this provided a huge motivational boost, that was only amplified by the incredible support from the whole group and others watching whilst competing.
The last week flew by, after having another very successful throwing session in the week I made the most of my time left in Leiria: exploring the medieval castle, catching some rays by the rooftop pool, as well as finding any excuse to go into the quaint square with the lads to go on one of our iconic cafe crawls. Retreating to the shade, to drink countless espressos, which was usually accompanied by a delicious pastel de nata, a Portuguese custard tart. A pastry I had become quite accustomed to after last years warm weather training.
Although I’m now back home, with a strong dose of holiday blues. My initial sadness leaving Portugal has been softened after a wonderfully spontaneous weekend in London, catching up with a great number of old and new friends.
My positive mindset for this competitive season has continued to grow, after having a brilliant final throwing session today, before my next competition this Saturday. I’m very excited to see where this season may take me, after opening so strong and still injury free for the time being!