Commonwealth Games Blogs

Soft Delhi track raises challenges

I had a big personal distraction before leaving for the Commonwealth Games, as I came down with a cold/flu for a few days before leaving. Probably a combination of sitting in the cold rain at the disastrous Berlin Marathon, dehydration from traveling, and a bug going around Guelph, Ont., where I live.

It was the first time I had been sick in a while. No big deal, though, right? It's only a flu. Well, as an athlete who's only one week away from competition, it's not the best time to be missing training sessions.

I also don't experience the flu in the same way the average person does. As a result of the cancer I had as an infant, my nervous system overreacts and I get shooting pains in my legs, sides, and back. The areas that were affected by the neuroblastoma feel like they are being electrocuted every 15 seconds, or like someone is pounding me with a steel-toed boot. Pain killers do nothing, and it lasts about 48 hours. I lose lots of sleep and afterwards I feel battered and bruised. Not the best way to recover from a marathon and prepare for the Commonwealth Games!

The biggest struggle is overcoming this mentally. I was sick - there's nothing I can do about that physically, so that's the easy part. The tough part is getting over the fact that I've missed out on some training sessions, and have been drained physically before such an important event. The solution is that I must figure out what I need to do, and what I need to think, in order to be confident and ready psychologically. I know that I've just come off two strong performances in Newcastle, and I know I can bounce back. I'll be ready to perform.

There was more to deal with, though. I had just finished my first training session on Sunday when I received a message from the staff that I needed to come in early. A preliminary event was added for Friday, instead of a straight final on Sunday. More spots had been given to competitors from Kenya, as well as Nigeria and India, I believe. So I hit the gym with my strength trainer Wayne Burke and talked with my coach Amanda Fader. We got a few good training sessions in before I left.

In the end, the situation was for the better. I got into Delhi a little early, with more time to acclimatize and get used to the time zone.

Soft track poses challenges

Once I got to Delhi, I felt great. The pollution is a little tough on the sinuses and lungs, but otherwise my body feels pretty good. I am feeling strong, and I am ready for the competition.

There will be some strong competitors here, though I believe I have a very good shot at the podium. In fact, I will be very disappointed if I don't make it. I have beaten everyone here on multiple occasions this year (though I have been beaten as well).

The only wild card is the track surface. I think everyone was expecting a fast surface, but it is in fact one of the softest and slowest tracks I have ever been on.

Runners don't really notice the track surface as much as wheelchair competitors do.  For example, in the 1500-metre event I'll be racing in, I don't t expect to post a faster time than 3:25. To put that in context, my personal best and Canadian record this year is 2:55.

The surface makes that much of a difference.

The wheels sink into the softer track more, increasing the rolling resistance. This will prove advantageous for the lighter athletes with a strong power-to-weight ratio. I'm not one of them.

That being said, while I am heavier, I do have a very high power-to-weight ratio. This is going to be race about strength and stamina for me. If I had known the track surface would be so slow, I would have prepared a little differently.

Nevertheless, I will be ready.