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PROTRACK » GENERAL » James Roff blog on Runners Tribe - great read!

James Roff blog on Runners Tribe - great read!

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Intriguing blog recently posted on RunnersTribe by young James Roff, a 400m hurdler. Certainly worth a read. He's had his share of adversity with a season gone following a hamstring tear, but is very determined to fight back. Interesting how his former coach Fira Dvoskina selflessly suggested he move on, after he stagnated for 2 years with Fira. Part 1 (from 2007 to 2009) is reproduced here with part 2 to appear on RunnersTribe soon.

James Roff: What A Difference A Year Makes Blog - Part 1 posted by rtross on December 2, 2010,

Hi, my name is James Roff, I am a 400m Hurdler and I have been asked to write a blog for runner’s tribe. I thought I would begin by comparing my last two seasons and show everyone what a difference one year can make.

After spending 7 years with my current coach (Fira Dvoskina) I had hit a wall, and the improvement curve was starting to look more like a downhill slide. I was 21 years old and my PB of 52.76s was set 2 years prior at the NSW state champs in 2005. I was frustrated and seriously considering giving up athletics all together, something had to give…. but I didn’t know what to do. Fira then shocked me, and herself I think, by forcing me to move on and join another squad under a different coach. She saw that I was burnt out, unmotivated and in need of a change. It was probably the hardest thing she has had to do, in terms of coaching me, and equally hard on me, but absolutely necessary in order for me to improve.

Luckily, I went from a world class coach to an equally world class squad in that of Chris/Jana Rawlinson. Who better to be coached by and train with than Chris and Jana Rawlinson, both of whom are both Commonwealth games gold medalists, Olympic and World Championship representatives, with Jana being one of Australia’s few Dual World champs gold medalists.

So, with the start of 2008, I had a new squad, new coach and new sense of purpose and motivation. I was out prove to myself that I still loved the sport, and to Chris/Jana that I could train harder than anyone they had met. This change was the catalyst for my 07/08 season and a sign of good things to come.

Over the following months, leading into early 2008, I was training consistently and I could feel a PB coming! On January 26th 2008, I was selected to run in the Canberra GP after some excellent persuasive techniques by my new coach, and friend Chris Rawlinson. So when the day came, I had to perform, not only for my coach but for the selectors who had put me in on the promise that I would run well. The pressure for me was exactly what I needed. I ran a seamless 350m, before hitting a lactic wall and fading in the closing stages to finish 3rd behind Brendan Cole (eventual winner) and a New Zealand athlete. The time was 51.98, a new PB and my first time under 52s mark.

I was over the moon and more importantly on the way back up the improvement curve. However, the rest of the season was a mixed bag of results culminating in a disappointing 5th place at the national championships in Brisbane.

Australian Domestic season 2007/08
52.45s Sydney GP 3rd
52.48s NSW State Champs 1st
Nationals Heat 53.20s, Final 53.08s 5th.

After a disappointing national champs I worked hard over the next two months to build through a solid transition block. This block would be a springboard for my very first European campaign. I was excited, nervous and overall in positive mind frame about the challenge that lay in front of me.

The European summer saw me based in Loughborough University - basically an English version of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). The facilities were amazing and conveniently positioned, with the track, gym and recovery pools all within walking distance. However, all of this seems insignificant when you are training tired, feeling flat and racing worse. I opened with a 50 point 400m flat and an even slower 200m 22.69s. Something wasn’t right, I just felt off… maybe it was my body wasn’t used to running fast in winter, maybe I was unfit, maybe I was still jet lagged. Who knows? Whatever it was I needed a change. So Chris decided to give me 3 days off and then start with some race specific sessions. The sessions would be monitored closely to focus on quality over quantity, with rep times to be in race specific target times.

Over the next two months I travelled all over Europe, trained hard and gained confidence from race to race. I concluded my trip by staying with a good friend and fellow athlete Ramon Huber and his family. It was in Switzerland that I found harmony, consistency within my training, racing and overall mental attitude. This resulted in my second fastest time over the hurdles with a 52.22 in Bern. Finally I was content, but not satisfied of course!

Europe taught me a lot of things but most importantly that life is a learning experience and every athlete needs to experience things to learn more about how they work, train and compete as an athlete. I learnt that I run my best when I’m in a familiar environment, surrounded by a supportive caring people and have a set routine. Switzerland was perfect; I was staying with a Family exactly like mine (Ramon’s family) in a place that reminds me of my second home (New Zealand) and I had a solid routine. I would wake up and train in the morning, cook the Huber’s lunch, stretch and rest and then train again in the afternoon. I had my home away from home!

European Season 2008

England -Bedford International Games 53.45s
Italy - Celli Leguri 53.80s
France: Taree 53.21s, Chambery’ - 53.20s
Switzerland: Jona 53.05s, Bern 52.22s

At the conclusion of my first European campaign I had a much needed break of 3-4 weeks. This was the first time I had missed a winter in 3 years and my body struggled to adapt to the back-to-back seasons. On top of the dual season I moved to Canberra to live and train full time. The experience was amazing, hard work and draining all at the same time. My body began to buckle and the result was a devastating hamstring tear that put me out for the whole 2008/2009 domestic Season. An MRI showed I had torn my right hamstring (biceps femoris tendon), a 7cm tear was visible running from the outside of my knee up in to the midsection of my hamstring.

It was my first major injury I had sustained and I struggled to deal with it. So to cope with being out, I needed to be distracted and occupied to replace the feeling and satisfaction from training hard and competing.

In previous years, I had done a bit of hurdling coaching with Cranbrook school, and so while I was injured I made a conscious effort to increase my coaching efforts and took on Jobs at both Cranbrook and Joeys College. I believe that this helped massively in both my mental and physical rehab. After Spending 08/09 season Injured I made sure that I did everything possible to find out why it ( my injury) happened and how I could prevent it from reoccurring. And so, this year more than any other “Prevention over cure” was so, so, so important.


2 Part 2 on Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:32 pm



For me 2010 was to be the first building phase towards 2012. Injury prevention coupled with consistent training were the two key factors to ensure a successful year on track.

In 2009 I got recommended to see Damien Benson, by fellow athletes Lachlan Renshaw/ Sianne Toemoe. Lachlan had suffered similar Injury issues and had great results with Damien, so I decided to give him a go.

It turns out that my glute med/min on my right side was shortened and not activating upon my foot strike and as a result my muscle firing order was compromised. My lower back and hamstring were taking too much load. Thus, when I began sprinting sessions my hamstring would take a beating. Eventually over time my hamstring fatigued and tore several times over a period of 3 months. Fortunately, due to Damien Benson, Charlie Zammit and Chris Jones and 6 months of countless exercises I managed to rectify the problem and strengthen the muscle in question.

My regular treatment schedule is as follows:

Charlie Zammit – Massage therapist once a week or every 10 days depending on the time of year and intensity of the training cycles.

Chris Jones – Osteopath, once every 10 days or as needed.

Damien Benson – Chiropractor, once every 3-4 weeks.

A new year, a new beginning and a good season, I hoped. The whole winter of 2009 was spent building a foundation for the summer and getting fit in the process. I had a few minor scares along the way with an Achilles tendon issue, sciatica pain, plantar pain, lower back tightness/disc problems BUT all in all I came into summer with a relatively uninterrupted winter.

My first race in 09/10 Season was at Narrabeen over 800m. It would be my first race since my 400H in Bern, Switzerland 15 months ago. I was scared, excited and ultimately relieved when I finished uninjured. The time (1min.58s) was irrelevant to my upcoming season but on the other hand a good indication that I was fit. It gave me a huge amount of confidence for my first hurdles race.

I raced the 400mH on the 12th of December out at Homebush warm up track. The result was concerning to say the least, I ran 54.0s and felt terrible the last 100m. The time was the slowest I had run for 3 years and I was worried my winter base wasn’t as good as I thought. However, my coach assured me that she had planned for me to be in shape for the domestic season Feb-April, and not December. Fira explained to me the importance of timing and reminded me that I hadn’t hurdled in 14months. “Give it time” she said.

I had full confidence in Fira, and she had planned the race to check my shape and identify any weaknesses. The race was used a template to plan the whole season and rectify my weaknesses. The weaknesses were obvious. I didn’t have the top end speed I needed and my hurdles endurance wasn’t there.

The solution was simple – HARD WORK. I had to work hard on my last 100m, endurance and increase my top end speed. So, I started a hard block over Christmas which included lactic session after lactic session of long hurdles work. My favourite session over that Christmas break of 09/10 was a hurdles endurance session which aimed to replicate the fatigue element of the last 100m of a race. The session is run at race pace and Race stride pattern. The idea is that you start fresh and run hard but relaxed, the rest is long enough to get your breath back but not long enough to get rid of the lactic. By the last 2-3 reps you should be feeling like you do at the end of a race. So the emphasis of the whole session is on the last two reps, they must be quality and technically sound. The session is as follows:

Warm up – 10mins Jog
Run drills
3x80 run throughs
33h at 16,15,14strides

2H-10H (Start at 1H mark – 315m) all off 6-8mins Recovery, Times: 40-41s

3H-10H (Start at 2H mark – 280m) 34-35s

4H-10H (start at 3H mark – 245m) 29-30s

5H-10H (start at 4H mark – 210m) 25-26s

6H-10H (start at 5H mark – 175m) 21-22s

7H-10H (start at 6H mark – 140m) 16-18s

Warn down- 10min jog and stretch.

With the solid base from winter and the hard work over Christmas under my belt I felt confident that I would have a good season and finish up with a PB. The aim was to run a PB for both the flat 400m and 400m Hurdles and qualify for Delhi commonwealth games if I had an amazing season. Realistically it was possible BUT I was shocked at how much I progressed in terms of times and confidence. I ended up running 3 consecutive PBs for the 400mH and 2 consecutive PBs for the 400m. I lowered my time from 51.98s to 51.17s for the hurdles and 48.94s to 48.64s for the flat 400m.

My 400 hurdles PB was set at Melbourne GP in March and I believe that is where I peaked in 2010. I had a good run at The NSW state titles (51.38s, 1st ) but a disappointing finish to the season where I placed 4th at Nationals in Perth in a time of 51.58s.

However, I moved into winter with a strong season behind me and new sense of focus. I was ready to train the house down and build on 2010.

My main goals for 2010/11 season
· Qualify for the World University Games
· Run under 50s for the 400m Hurdles
· Run 47s for the 400m
· Qualify for the World Championships in Daegu
· Win The Australian Open national Championships in Melbourne.

That is about all for now. Chat soon RT ….

Progression for 2010/11 Season

400m Hurdles 54.0s (Interclub)
400m 49.19s (Bankstown)
400mH 52.08s (Allcomers)
400m 48.67s (Homebush, PB)
400mH 51.93s (2nd; Hobart Briggs Track classic, PB)
48.64s (Adelaide Invitational, PB)
51.44s (4th; Sydney GP, PB)
51.17s (4th; Melbourne GP, PB)
51.38s (1st; NSW State)
51.82s (1st in heat; Nationals in Perth)
51.58s (4th; Nationals Final)

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