Rob Heffernan is nothing if not meticulous, a perfectionist on and off the track.
When drawing up his summer schedule at the outset of the year, it became apparent the Cork City Sports meet would fall right in the middle of a crucial training block in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Spain. The annual pilgrimage to Guadix could not be compromised, but neither could his participation at the CIT track. A solution would have to be found.
Heffernan, though posting a World record time of 11.09.08 for over 35s, finished fourth in last night’s 3km event, the three podium finishers present in Cork at Heffernan’s request.
The world champion, just in the door from a most demanding training spell at altitude, craved a challenge, a litmus test as to his current mental and physical condition. No use would it have been to lead the field, akin to 2013, from gun to tape. And so Heffernan created a “crisis situation” where he knew he would be no match for three opponents. How he would respond is what intrigued him.
“I did three 20km races this year and on average they have been the three fastest times I have ever done in a year. I averaged 81 minutes between the three. I won a race in Germany, I didn’t have a great finish in China at the World Cup, but I still clocked 81 minutes. I was fifth in Lugano and walked 80.57. Here I have walked 11.09 and all that in the middle of big heavy mileage,” he said.
“I am an endurance athlete and the 50km suits me. The faster I am over the shorter distances the more control I have over the 50km. That control gives me more confidence. That is why I invited all these boys over tonight. Kevin Campion (second) beat me by 120 metres two weeks ago. Dane Bird-Smith (first) beat me in the World Cup and Alex Wright (third) is training with me in preparation for the 20km. I knew they were all going to be in better shape than me. I knew I had to simulate people being stronger than me tonight and cope with it and stay positive.
“It is very important I am here for athletics at home and it is refreshing, it recharges me. Marian is in Spain at the moment with the baby. There is no one around out there so it is nice to be talking to people again. From atraining perspective everything is on track.”
So it would appear, a world record achieved following a two week training spell where he clocked 340km on the road. Just last Saturday Heffernan put himself through eight 3km reps, flew home on Monday and returned to Spain this morning.
The next five weeks have been mapped out to the very last metre, a period of work which will determine if the 36-year old is to add European gold to his world title. “I will do 10x2km on Thursday and then 40km on Sunday. Tonight is the least important part of my training this week. This year is different to last, but you can’t just copy the year before. You have to change it up a little. It is a massiveimprovement already. I am nervous but excited.”
Part of said edginess stems from the fact that he will travel to Zurich for next month’s European Championships as a marked man, the one they have all come to beat. It is unfamiliar territory for Heffernan, though he asserts the shoulders are free from any pressure bar what he himself exerts.
“World champion was last year. I am preparing for now and it is very important that if I don’t get my next four or five weeks training done and done well I am not going to win any European medal. I can’t be thinking I am World champion and rest on that.”
Hard to see this perfectionist falling into that trap.
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