Strength & Conditioning part 4 – What is strong enough?

06 Apr

Introduction

The following blog post will outline key performance indicators (KPI’s) in both Senior athletes and Junior/ Youth athletes.
Where possible I will reference sources and provide evidence on claims.

Strength, in many sports, is the foundation for athletic development. Whether it be general, for injury prevention, or specific for athletic performance, any good training programme should address the athletes weaknesses and develop their strengths.

On my previous blog post, I referenced what it takes to be strong enough in order to develop towards more specific methods of training for explosive, power/ speed events.
The demands of velocity based training require a sufficient level of strength to minimise injury risk and maximise the improvements available to the athlete.

An athlete new to strength and conditioning, who is relatively weak, would benefit greatly from basic high volume, low intensity training, eg. 1×20 on each compound movement as a method of general physical preparation (GPP) the volume teaches the athlete the movement pattern through repetition and develops the muscle tissue to become resilient to load.
Muscles don’t understand repetition, but rather fatigue and the methods for fatiguing our muscles should vary depending on the time of year and the training age of the athlete.
Following a GPP phase, basic improvements will be made week by week, the strength improvements made within the first few months of training are by far the most significant one can expect to experience.

A good specific physical preparation (SPP) is tailored more to the qualities of their event/ sport and dictated by the athletes ability. This phase is typically more intense and the more advanced the athlete, the more advanced the training should be.
If they have good movement patterns, their repetition need not be so high and their intensity can be greater.
It’s important to note that these phases will generally last longer and the more experienced the athlete, the more variation of the Force Velocity curve can be use in order to reap greater rewards and not stagnate.

Before working towards higher velocities in the weights room, there are KPI’s in which good Strength & Conditioning coaches look to work towards, this is to minimise any injuries from weak muscles and movement patterns and to maximise the benefits and drawing on the most basic elements of strength training first for the quickest improvements possible.

If an athlete is weak, they’re more likely to get injured and they’re also not able to produce large amounts of force, therefore when they try to produce large amounts of force at speed, they also won’t be able to.

KPI’s for Strength Training
The following KPI’s are commonly used for strength coaches to assess athlete development and are relative to body weight. The charts I have used are from Elon University over in the United States. Addressing Pull Up/ Bench, Barbell Split Squat and Hex Bar Deadlift.
Once their athletes have achieved sufficient levels in each exercise they can progress to more advanced methods of training. Body weight included in Pull up. 

(Women’s first 3, Men’s last 3).
How do you or your athletes compare to Elon Universities KPI’s?

Elon Performance is a great account to follow if you have Instagram and if you’re looking to follow similar accounts to broaden your knowledge on coaching drop me a DM, I’ve found some great coaches and institutions over the past 5 years. Instagram is a really useful tool for coaches across the world.

As for how I structure KPIs for my athletes, I follow a similar principle on strength training, measuring KPIs within their gym programme and having standards and I also collect data on 9 overall key performance indicators of which have their own standards which we test and record over each training block.

This not only helps me structure a better programme for my athletes but gives them a clear visual understanding of where they are and what they need to work on outside their event to directly impact their performances.
Below is a graph the current graph on my fastest athlete who ran 10.5 as a U20 last year.
No doubt after the lock down period ends I will have to reassess and lower his score.

Eg. Explosive power I address multiple jumps and hops for height and distance as an indicator for explosive power and take the mean value to determine their overall score, this correlates better to the 100m sprint but is directly influenced by maximal strength.
Here is blog post to support jumps as a KPI in elite sprinters.
https://www.naseinc.com/blog/key-performance-indicators-in-elite-sprinters/

Speed data and acceleration data are taken from tables off the internet from athletes performances relevant to their PB’s. Standing 30m sprint, flying 30m sprint, the basics. 

Specific Mobility is one of the more questionable ones to measure, all of our stretches for improvements in range of motion are done so during the gym programme, as stretching under load creates greater improvements in flexibility and balance, which is the most important measure in my opinion, a perfect score would meet balance on both the left and right hand side of the body and pass the tests for mobility in the gym.
If you’re looking to improve on your flexibility and mobility and have reached a plateau, try 6 weeks of stretching with some light to moderate dumbbells.

When I was studying at University and training full time to be an athlete I was obsessed about developing a system that would highlight key areas of athleticism and it has taken me years to refine this process in my own training.
Before I finish writing a programme for my athletes I always think to myself, is this the best possible programme I can write with all the information available to me, which is why it is essential for collect data and information on each athlete or the coach is doing a disservice to them as I know how important it was for me to have the best possible training for me to improve.

I prefer to avoid testing 1RM and have the athletes perform 3 rep maxes to avoid any unnecessary injuries and it’s less taxing on their body. Generally I would add 5-10% depending on the exercise, a technically difficult exercise like the power clean would be 5% where as a back squat would be 10%. 

Performing 1RM on exercises such as the Power Clean are widely regarded as safe, assuming the athlete has a level of competency.

Not everyone needs to learn the Olympic lifts, a variety of weighted jumps would produce the same peak force output without the learning time.
Some elite athletes never Power Clean’ed in their life, but for those who are interested you may enjoy the next paragraph.

Elite Athletes KPI’s
By far one of my favourite websites/forums back when I was at University was EliteTrack.com athletes and coaches from across the world would share their data, experiences and perspectives and I remember this post vividly as athletes shared what they or their training partners could lift,(back squat and power clean).
As I was studying in Bath and had close links to Jason Gardener and Colin Jackson, I can confirm these numbers are true.
https://elitetrack.com/forums/topic/elite-athletes-powerclean/

Colin Jackson 12.91 74 142.5 1.93

Jason Gardener 9.98 74 140 1.89
PBs, Body weights, Power Clean PB and Ratio to body weight.

Incredible and superhuman statistics, which is why they were such exceptional athletes, They would reportedly lift twice a week for the majority of the year and achieve world class lifting numbers, their genetics/ ability to produce large amounts of force at speed are what made them so fast. 


The highest ratio is from
Jonathan Edwards 72 150 2.08

Who still holds the WR to this day. Over twice his body weight in a power clean. This requires exceptional strength to produce exceptional power.
I don’t believe enough coaches and athletes realise the importance of being able to produce incredible amounts of force.

https://elitetrack.com/forums/topic/elite-athletes-powerclean/

 

Junior athletes KPIs 

As you can imagine, studies done on junior is a lot harder to pass through ethics boards and a lot of research on junior athletes and strength training are anecdotal, which doesn’t satisfy some people. However a lot of benefits from the studies on adult athletes can still be applied from adult strength measures to juniors. 

This is coming from someone who has lived with and worked directly with the athlete on the front cover of Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes.

Being strong, relative to body weight as a junior athlete is an incredible advantage and should be addressed, measured and trained if the athlete wishes to pursue elite sport.

I find it very common amongst coaches to hit the jackpot with a good junior athlete, which they believe will be the next big thing but the reality is they have no idea how to get them there and the odds are they’ll get injured. 

It is also address that junior athletes develop at different ages and some can elicit greater physical attributes at the same age, where one could do 10 pull ups, and a much higher vertical jump, their overall athleticism is much greater and so is there chances of success at that age, managing these differences could be essential for keeping junior athletes in the sport.
This is why I am a big advocate of junior athletes performing circuit based sessions as they don’t have the time to ask the others how many reps etc. they did, or doing what I did, as there were no Strength and Conditioning coaches back when I started lifting, perform the exercises at home.

Junior KPI Strength Suggestions

Below are my suggestions for developing Junior KPI’s and methods on which to go about training them. These are easy to perform exercises with minimal equipment that can be done at home and are very safe.

  1. Press Ups 
  2. Pull Ups

Both of which performed to failure with their scores recorded.
If pull ups are not possible, a variation of rows and hanging from the bar for as long as possible.

  1. Isometric Split Squat Hold
  2.  Isometric Single Leg Hold
  3. Straight Arm Plank Hold
    All of which performed to failure with their scores recorded.
  4. Vertical Jumps
  5. 3x Horizontal Jump 

6 attempts in total, 3 on each side for vertical jump and 4 attempts in total for the horizontal jumps.

Methods of training for juniors
As these exercises are general, developing specific training measures to improve these performance is sensible, eg. doing more of the exercise to get better at the exercise.

I would recommend performing 3-4 sets of each exercise in a circuit method for either 80% 100% of the repetitions, duration and distance, over the course of 8-12 weeks for a minimum of 2 sessions a week, up to 4 sessions a week.
The more regular the sessions, the less number of sets need to be performed.
Eg. 2 x per week, 4 sets each every session, 4 x per week, 2 sets each every session.

I would also like to state again that I pro  against children lifting weights, if done correctly. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic ,I highly recommend this post from APA.
http://athleticperformanceacademy.co.uk/2020/04/is-lifting-weights-safe-for-children/

 

Conclusion

What I hoped to have achieved from this blog post is for the reader to have a greater understanding of what is strong for explosive, power and speed based events.
What KPI’s can be used to measure an athlete’s level of strength before moving to more advanced training methods and why it is important to keep track of data for development, the more data you collect as a coach, the more informed you are on the athlete and where they can improve.

Elite athletes, in one way or another are incredibly strong, some of you may be thinking well what can Usain Bolt squat or power clean?
Not many people know, they can speculate but from what I understand from when I’ve spoken to members of the Jamaican track team, Glen Mills focuses more on leg press for strength and volume within their gym programme and this can also work really well.
Other Jamaican’s like Asafa Powell has reportedly power cleaned 160kg, here he is with 140kg

View this post on Instagram

#powerclean310pounds

A post shared by Asafa Powell (@asafasub10king) on


Why don’t we train like Usain Bolt? Leg presses are expensive and awkward to load, but you could, finding KPI’s on these are more difficult.

 

As for junior athletes, if you’re a parent or a coach of a junior athlete and you’re struggling for ideas to keep them focused and training through this lockdown period, hopefully this blog and the links I’ve posted have given you a few ideas on what they could do and why it is important to start them young to give them the best chance and headstart over their competition.


Thank you for your time reading this and if you have any questions or requests on blogs, please feel free to send me a DM.
The next video I will post will be on a home core/trunk circuit that everyone can do from beginners to intermediate to elite.
All the best,
Connell 

COVID-19 update on Youth Development League

04 Apr

See below for an update from the Chair of the Youth Development League (YDL), Grace Hall. Team managers and athletes have been informed.

“In the light of the continuing uncertainty around the Coronavirus situation the YDL
management committee held a Skype meeting on 29 March to look at all the possibilities for
the 2020 season and have decided regretfully that all matches scheduled for the 2020 season
will be cancelled forthwith.

There were a number of factors influencing our decision, namely:

  • Whilst government guidelines have forbidden mass gatherings until the end of May, it’s by
    no means certain that this won’t be extended, indeed if one were to use other countries as
    a model, it’s more than likely that this will continue for at least a further month if not
    longer.
  • We have been made aware that first aid support from St John’s Ambulance at meetings is
    likely to be withheld until at least the end of June.
  • We are aware that a number of tracks intend to extend their closure until June or July at
    least.
  • We felt that it would be helpful to clubs if we were to make a definitive decision so that
    they have as much notice as possible to cancel tracks or transport arrangements to avoid
    possible charges.
  • With the limited number of weekends likely to be available for competitions, there would
    be undue pressure on those dates, and clubs and athletes may be more willing and able to
    compete at a more local level than having to travel some distance to compete. This being
    the case we have requested that any dates previously allocated for YDL, be reserved for
    clubs who wish to organise local and open competitions.
  • We wish to support the Home Countries in their endeavours to try and salvage what
    remains of the 2020 season, and hope that our decision gives a little clarity to a confusing
    situation.
  • We also considered the duty of care owed to our officials, some of whom may have to
    undertake a 12-week isolation period, which takes us well into June.

There are continuing costs involved in keeping the league working towards next year, and we
can assure clubs that individual match team fees collected for 2019-20 will be automatically
credited towards meeting the match costs of the 2020-21 season.

This decision was based on advice being communicated at the Government daily briefings
where restrictions may be turned on and off and has not been made lightly; we would like to
ask our clubs for their forbearance and thank you all for your support. It’s not a situation of our
choosing but we hope that being pro-active will help clubs with any forward planning and help
cut down any additional costs being incurred.

We also ask our clubs to please pass on our sincere apologies to all those athletes for whom
this season would be their last opportunity to compete in YDL. We are aiming to keep a
watching brief of performances of all the athletes who would have hoped to compete in the
league this year and wish them all the best in their future athletics career.
Good luck and the very best wishes to you all.”

 

Strength & Conditioning for Performance pt 3. Velocity Based Training

02 Apr


Introduction

Velocity based training or VBT is a product of measuring bar speeds at percentages of maximal loads.
From the previous post outlining the force velocity curve and as obvious as it seems, the heavier the load the longer the time taken to complete that movement.

Traditional strength training definitely has its place amongst many young athletes and to those with a young training age to resistance training, however there becomes a point in which an athlete can theoretically be strong enough (which I will discuss more in a future post) and they should be focusing on generating forces at faster speeds.

Many inexperienced S&C coaches and the majority Personal Trainers that work with athletes in sport get distracted by trying to get the athlete stronger and stronger and for the first couple years it can work really well.
Eventually this method stagnates and can even cause the athlete to go backwards from undesirable gains in muscle tissue and their relative power/ weight ratio decreases etc.


So once the athlete has a decent base level of strength for the compound lifts.
It’s important to then spend time developing force at speeds, creating a more transferable link from the gym, to the track or field.

How to measure VBT

Firstly, I would only prescribe VBT to athletes with a decent level of experience in the weights room, can display a level of competency across a variety of lifts and have reached sufficient strength but still lack the ability to apply large amounts of force at fast speeds (which is the ongoing battle).

There are three ways in which we can measure VBT, through quantitative data, with the help from tools like GymAware, which I’ve had the pleasure of using with an elite sprints group in the past, however if you don’t have almost £2000 to set this kit up.
The next best thing is to calculate which loads you or your athlete should be working at and either as a coach, use the bar speed/change of direction as a method of indication, or as the athlete, measure through feel.
I appreciate the last two will not be as accurate, but provided you calculate the correct loads you’ll be closer than you think.

What loads should I be working at?

Assuming we would be working with low rep ranges, which is ideal, as velocity decreases as the duration of exercise increases, I typically programme between 3-5 reps for one lift on VBT.

All of these %’s are based on the athletes 1 rep max. To also note, I am never in favour of testing 1 rep maxes, a coach at our club was concerned about health and safety about the recent training advice that I’ve been sharing and I just want to clarify this message. The safest way to calculate a 1 rep max is to use a calculator online or ask me in the messages below. I’ve been totally and calculating 1RM for 15 years, I’m sure I can estimate yours so you need not risk death under a barbell.

Between 90-100% of your 1RM  is regarded as Maximal Strength, training in these ranges will get you strong. 80-90% is regarded as Strength – Speed, 30-80% is regarded as Power and 30-60% as Speed -Strength and below 30% is Speed.

 

https://www.stack.com/a/heavier-isnt-always-better-how-the-force-velocity-curve-impacts-your-training

 How to programme VBT? 

There are many ways to programme VBT into your training programme, some athletes and coaches like training this all year round, as I do, and other coaches leave it to the last minute before the season starts.
The most successful way in my experience follows Triphasic principle, where block stimulates each stage and cycles it throughout the year so progression across the board is linear.t.
I can explain Triphasic Training in a later blog post, if you’re interested in the meantime, Cal Dietz is the guy to learn from. http://triphasictraining.com/

Up until recently, I’ve been delivering the cue to my athletes to ‘Stimulate, not annihilate’ and thanks to this recent study posted from Strength & Conditioning Research, this quote has substance and supports the speed strength, strength speed guidance.

During the strength trained subjects, the group that displayed a greater loss in velocity during their squats a 50% 1RM, the greater their gains in strength but they also happened to be slower over 20m.
Suggesting that staying fresher, between sets, by stopping the set earlier when bar speed begins to slow, the greater the likelihood of transfer to better performances in sprinting.

My more experienced athletes will cycle 3-4 phases (depending on the time of year) following the TT protocol of Eccentric blocks, Isometric blocks and Concentric blocks, whilst utilising the French Contrast Principles amongst their main lifts.
This variety exposes them to regular high intensity force production throughout the speed-strength continuum.

 

Summary and background
VBT is not for beginners and I highly recommend reading Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz if you’re interested in learning more about programming VBT.

If you’re already strong and you’re perhaps plateauing in your speed work, the chances are VBT will help this transfer.
All good programmes come from experimenting with various methods and recording those effects or learning from others who have done just that.
The edge I believe I have over other coaches, not all, but a fair number, is that I currently still train very hard and everything that I prescribe my athletes I test myself for a block to ensure that the training will elicit the results we desire.
In short, once you’re strong, I highly recommend all strength coaches and athletes consider bar speed/ speed of movement at some point during the training cycle.

Connell Macquisten
Performance Advisor Bristol & West A.C

Strength & Conditioning Part 2 Athletic Performance

30 Mar
The following post will very briefly address the use of strength and conditioning as a tool for athletic performance, how I design the sessions for my athletes and myself, through years of very good experience working with world class athletes, through 4 events and 2 different, speed/ power sports.
The previous post, if you have yet to read it, explains the importance of injury prevention through S&C.
I will do my best, in as little words as possible to highlight the two components that make an athlete faster and how to best utilise them.
As always, I’m happy to answer any questions.
Speed of movement
Regardless of the event in athletics, the faster the athlete can move their limbs, the greater their potential.
I would like to also point out, I am strictly speaking about sprinting speed although this can be applied to many other sports, however outside of sprinting and weightlifting, I am by no means close to being an expert.
With sprinting and running, speed is a direct result of large amounts of force, applied over very short contact times.

Coaching sprinters to run faster is, by no means a simple task, however it needs to be simplified in order to develop programmes to address the two most interrelated aspects.

Essentially the athlete must have a powerful engine, and a stiff chassis.
They must be able to produce large amounts of force on ground contact and be able to withstand these large forces without significant changes in joint angle stiffness, which reduces contact times.
Below is a graph showing these two factors at play.
No photo description available.
Rate of Force Development
RFD is how quickly an athlete can produce force.
Improvements in RFD come from improvements in the athletes muscle-tendon stiffness.
Exercises that address developing specific joint angles and movement patterns for the events will, overtime improve the athletes RFD.
For more information on RFD, this article from https://www.scienceforsport.com/rate-of-force-development-rfd-2/
Goes into much greater detail.
Plyometrics or Strength Training?
There are of course benefits to both, if an athlete does fairly high mileage or is returning from injury, I would limit their plyometrics to double leg or perhaps none.
Clyde Hart, who coached Michael Johnson, did little to no plyometrics, some athletes respond great to them, others really feel the fatigue.

The best adaptations for speed and RFD come from stimulating the nervous system, not annihilating.
For many of the exercises that I have prescribed to my athletes, there are targets relative to their body weight, should the athlete reach those targets, they then have world class strength to weight ratio.
Generally once they’ve achieved these targets, we no longer aim to work heavier but teach the system to produce force faster, developing RFD.

When it comes to developing strength, it’s so easy to get distracted and when I was younger, I was so focused on getting strong, thinking it would be the tool for getting faster and more powerful.
This can work, generally with athletes that are already incredibly fast but lack strength.
Athlete profiling is the quickest way to get results.
If you rush through the strength phase without teaching the athlete to transfer force quicker along the way, the programme will not be as effective as you’d like.
Below is the famous force velocity curve, progressing from exercises that are slower to faster by matching load percentages is a really useful method that, overtime works increases athletic performance.
No photo description available.
A useful tool for measuring athletic performance (alongside recording data between training blocks) is to monitor the athlete’s ability to jump, either for distance or height.

Summary

To summarise, if you can improve your RFD, overtime through specific measures, you will positively impact your joint stiffness on ground contact and be able to sprint/ run at faster speeds, be it maximal or sub maximal.
There are other methods to increase joint stiffness, alongside increasing RFD but that may be a topic for another day.

Connell

CANCELLED: WHITEHALL TRAINING

16 Mar

Update 17-MAR-2020

Further to the announcement below concerning the temporary closure of the Whitehall Track, we have now received this statement from England Athletics. This should be read by everyone in its entirety. As well as endorsing our statement of yesterday, it also advises a suspension of all face-to-face activity until at least the end of April.  The Club fully supports this statement and expects that all members will comply.

We will keep everyone informed of future developments.  Further details will follow on the Club AGM.

16-MAR-2020

It is with great regret that, following Government advice today, we feel it is our duty to suspend all our regular training sessions at Whitehall until further notice, as of midnight tonight. Training is “social contact” and we are asked to all avoid this from tomorrow onwards, not only for our own protection but also for the protection of others.

We advise you that if you wish to continue training alone, for example in parks and open spaces where you can train without coming close to others, then your coaches may be able to advise you of a plan to ‘keep you going’: their email addresses are on the club website if you don’t have them anyway.

We do not know how long this closure will last. Season Ticket holders please note that is that however many weeks we are closed for, we will extent those season tickets by that number of weeks.

Open Meetings – entries now open!

15 Mar
The on-line entries for the three Open meetings organised by Avon County, Bristol & West and Yate & District and held at Yate are now open.
You can enter on-line or on the night, but on-line is much preferred as it makes the organiser’s life far easier and it is cheaper for you.

Fast 5000s 2020 Entries Open!!

Fast 5000s 2020 Entries Open!!
12 Mar

Entries for the Fast 5000s on 25-JULY-2020 are now open, this year incorporating the South West of England championships and the Avon championships.  Places are limited so sign up now to avoid disappointment.  The event is open to athletes of all abilities and we already have a number of elite entries looking for times as low as 14:00!

Full details and entry information here: https://www.entrycentral.com/event/112035
Keep up with the latest news here: https://www.facebook.com/events/832130000571726/

Whitehall Track Maintenance

05 Mar

All members are advised of the following necessary works being carried out at Whitehall in the near future please note that access will be restricted during these times:

Cleaning

  • Friday 20th March – Moss cleaning chemical
  • Wednesday 1st April – Saturday 4th April – Deep clean (4 days). No admittance to the outdoor facilities on the evenings of Wed 1st April and Thursday 2nd April.

Track Repairs

  • Carried out from Monday 20th April – Friday 24th April. The outdoor facilities cannot be used throughout while the repairs are taking place.
  • The facility will be back in use Saturday 25th April.

Access to the S&C facility and indoor high-jump during these works is uncertain at the moment, an update will be issued when we know more.

Mud glorious mud: junior boys at the National XC

Muddy legs
26 Feb

Our u13, u15 and u17 boys were out in force last weekend. Many thanks to team managers Ali and Emma for all their efforts supporting the lads!

U13 boys: Ali Hurford reports…

Having fond memories of three years ago when the u13 lads finished in a very creditable twelfth position  I was looking forward to another exciting day in Wollaton Park.

Arriving on site with plenty of time after an uneventful journey the fun began. Much to the boys amusement our car clearly did not like the mud so with the help of Zac, Joey & Ronnie pushing we eventually managed to park.

After warming up around the course it was clearly going to be a case of when the going gets tough the tough get going. This was the first national event for most of the group & they were clearly excited to be on the start line with around 400 other eager boys. This must be the most difficult race for the starter to control & also extremely competitive.

Once the race had finished I had hoped for some down time but this was not to be as I needed to find Zac who due to illness earlier in the week had to pull up, Walter lost both his spikes in the mud & Ben had mislaid his wallet and wished to buy a hoodie.

The day did improve once Zac left the first aid tent and ate his picnic, Ben found his wallet in the car and Walter thought he had rescued  his spikes but unfortunately I have now discovered he does not have a matching pair.

Going into the race I had predicted a team position of around 22nd which would have been possible if Zac had been 100% fit but these things happen, so hopefully he will be fully recovered for the final Gwent league where he is in a top 10 position.

The best race of the day came from Alex Auton Green (126) who is young in the age group so will be top 100 next year. Ronnie Wilmott (160) used this race well as a warm up for the intercounties later in March. Joey Taylor (238) has really committed to the winter season & will certainly improve next year along with Vijay Bakrania (273) who closed the scoring team in.

Ben Pocock (324) continues to chip away at each race & is all smiles at the end so clearly enjoys the challenge. Max Finning (351) was certainly aqua-plaining around the course & I admired his run into the finish looking for the best ground. Walter Davies ( 367) showed real grit after losing both
spikes halfway round he continued to finish showing such determination.

384 boys finished & we were 29th out of 42 teams. Next year I very much hope to be further up the leaderboard & already many of the group have saved the date when we will descend on Hampstead Heath.

u15 and u17 boys: Emma Withers reports…

The road to the National XC champs in Nottingham had a bumpy start.  With a half hour delay in Bristol our arrival at Wollaton Park was less than easy.  Hampered by storm Dennis the previous week, the long queue saw us disembark before the car park with 7 u15 boys and run to the start of the race, this was not how we had planned the day.  With the help of one of our Senior Ladies, spikes were tied tightly, numbers pinned, chip timing secured, warm up (dynamic stretching) whilst we waited at the crossing point, we went into the pens with a whole 3 minutes to spare and a few more grey hairs for me. The boys took it all in their stride and dealt admirably with the exceptionally wet and muddy conditions underfoot.  Sinking into a very large puddle just a few 100 metres in, took its toll on Fred Cummins, who took the decision that it was too strenuous on his knees and enough was enough.  Ishmael Bradley continued with his good form and fresh from the South West Schools in Bournemouth, leading the boys home in 204th position (20.03). Nick Pestell, who appeared at the finish covered head to toe in mud, was next in 246thposition, (20.38).  Joseph Hull, managed to remain upright, 326th position (22.39) and completing the team, with a steady return to form and over taking several competitors in the last 100m, Tomek Czerepinski, position 332 (22.53).  Ollie Robertson Kurd, with support from Dad, Tariq, looked relatively clean at the finish, his height being an advantage with the mud splashing from other runners, position 351 (24.08) and completing the Bristol and West u15 team, Alex Robertson, who had been quite nervous at the start, took the advice to not worry about anyone else and just keeping going, finished in position 362 (27.05).

Our three u17 boys headed out at 12.05, having viewed the course in all its glory before warming up.  Ollie Harper made steady work through the pack and should be delighted with his top 100 finish (helpfully counted through by the spectator next to me!), position 96 (25.48) and glad to be injury free this year and not needing the services of the medical tent as he had done in Leeds last year.  Jay Akbar, who was clearly not enjoying the mud and water, fought through to 245th position (29.26), with no smiles at the end but very relieved to have made it to the finish line.  Otto Kingston, started off well, but pulled up on the downhill stretch and limped to the finish line to cheer the others through.

After cheering the Senior Ladies around we made our way back to the coach and headed back to Bristol with half of Wollaton Park stuck to our shoes and legs.  Our last fixture is the Gwent League in Swansea on Sunday, lets hope the weather in Wales is kinder, fingers crossed!