During the Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, Great British long distance runner Eilish McColgan is writing exclusively for Yahoo Sport UK.
Getting to the start line of a major Championships is rarely straight forward. Athletes are constantly treading a thin line of making sure their body is primed for peak performance, whilst avoiding tipping themselves over the edge towards injury.
Normally by this time of the year everyone is off on holiday, sipping pina coladas and enjoying some down time, but not this year. We are still hard at work preparing for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in what seems to be longest Athletics season known to man!
October is an unusual month to host a championship but with unbearable temperatures hitting the Middle East over July, October is a sensible decision.
The heat, however, may not be too much of a factor for the majority of athletes competing because for the first time ever, Doha will operate an outdoor, air-conditioned stadium.
I'm yet to experience this incredible technology but it was tested at the Asian Championships earlier this year and will be used throughout the football World Cup in the country in 2022. We've been informed that it will be stable, at around 21-23 degrees Celsius.
Because of this, heat preparation has been less of a focus - although it still presents its challenges as the warm up track is outdoors and without the same technology.
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It means the athletes will have to prepare outdoors in the heat before heading into a cooler stadium. Reduced warm ups and ice vests, which are essentially a not-so glamorous gilet with ice packs sown into it, are going to be a high priority.
Unfortunately for the race walkers and marathoners there will be nowhere to hide. Attempts have been made to lessen the hot desert heat by putting the events on at midnight, but marathoners are known to be early birds, with the major marathons across the world taking place early morning, so this will be challenging.
As professionals it's up to the athletes and their coaches to implement these changes and make sure their body clock is altered to ensure that they are awake and ready to go for when the clock strikes midnight.
British Athletics have two preparation camps for Doha. One for low altitude, in Potchefstroom in South Africa for the likes of Laura Muir, Laura Weightman and Jemma Reekie and then a heat camp in Dubai for the sprinters, field eventers and shorter distance athletes.
Out of these camps there are a few athletes who have done their own thing and prepared elsewhere - me being one. Five of us decided to prepare in St Moritz, Switzerland. It's 1,800m altitude, much higher than Potchefstrrom and is a runner's paradise with endless soft trails and beautiful mountain air.
During the racing season, I try to stay within Europe as much as I can because my body doesn't travel well. Long haul flights are a sure fire way for me to pick up a bug.
So asides from covering myself in antibacterial gel and hoping for the best - I keep to shorter flight paths. Minimising risk at this stage of the year is key.
Every athlete will have a different schedule heading into the championships as to what day they will arrive into Doha. British Athletics usually keep athletes in the holding camp until three or four days before their event as it’s typically a location they’ve chosen with good facilities, medical cover and nutritious food choices.
It allows the athletes to control the controllable and stay as focussed as possible on their training. For endurance athletes, it’s more individualised because everyone responds to altitude training differently.
For example, someone like Laura Muir may come down to sea level for a week before her event before moving into the athlete hotel. While others, like myself, will head in only two days before racing – one day to travel and one day adjusting to my new surroundings before racing the following day.
It may seem a little rushed but I find it keeps my mind relaxed. The athlete hotel can be quite an intense place - with athletes coming in and out of their competitions; nerves are high.
Staying outside of this allows me to keep relaxed and in my normal routine with regards to training, eating and sleeping. It creates a real importance around the championships because as soon as each athlete touches down on Qatari soil their focus narrows in. It’s business time.
The 28-year-old will be running in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres events and in her first column has spoken about what it is like to prepare for a major competition in temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius.
The 2019 edition starts on Friday and will last until the 6th October. First up for McColgan is the 10,000 metres final on the 28th September.
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