Two intense and interesting days at Nottingham University for the European Federation Endurance Conference. It's a great mix of high achieving coaches (European and world champions and medallists on their CV's) and the most specific sports science and medicine experts. Amongst various notable things is that what the coaches of the highest performers focus on isn't always the same as what coaches seeking the highest profile focus on. If there are two support services a runner and coach pairing should prioritise it would be the physio and the strength and conditioning coach. If there's time and money for a third, a distant and equal third in 95% of cases, go for a physiologist or nutritionist. Also, at top level, the specialists all know their place, they are confident in what they do and they know what their limitations in expertise are; and respect those whose expertise is in fields other than theirs. That's not me lecturing - this was a big theme in the session from Neil Black, UK Athletics Performance Director (the guy accountable for the millions invested into elite performance) who was previously a world renowned physio. Interestingly, he picked up, slightly bemused, the trend, based on the referrals he picks up and hears about, whereby nobody's glutes are apparently 'firing' any more.
There was some very good content about power, which is increasingly being seen as an essential part of improving endurance performance. No tales or lectures about barefoot - as usual.
Proponents of the 'less is more' school would have been disappointed with the session about Ireland's Fionulla Britton, Olympic finalist and twice European X Country champion. Granted, she's a full time runner with great medical support, but running big spells of 100-120 miles per week, supplemented by hours of conditioning, hasn't hindered her any and nor has it injured her. Her coach, Chris Jones, had some great ideas of variations on a theme of how to build into typical interval training sessions rather than just week in week out of classic rep sessions, which isn't the best way to build to a peak. And a great Q+A with Hannah England and coach Bud Baldaro - she's a mightily impressive character all round and certainly gives the impression that there's plenty more she'll achieve at the highest level.