From Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Cape Town, South Africa. Well, Stellenbosch to be more precise – nestled in the Cape Winelands between the Simonsberg, Drakenstein, Jonkershoek and Stellenbosch mountains, it is a lively town of sunshine and sport!
I always relish the opportunity to return to this spot, where I was based over the winter of 2007/2008. Friendships and relationships formed back then have played an important part in my journey as an athlete as well as in defining my path in life.
It is such a vibrant place – bright white Cape Dutch style thatched houses set amongst lush green fynbos and bountiful vineyards, all against the backdrop of cloudless blue skies. The sun rises before six and the athletic rise well before then! Scores of road cyclists and mountain bikers hit the roads and trails before first light, the 50 metre outdoor pool is awash with swimmers, the rugby boys are already in the gym lifting weights and runners are to be found everywhere. This repeats itself towards the end of the day once the temperatures have dropped and some freshness has returned to the air before sunset.
It is a sporty place, but why am I really here exactly? Stellenbosch and Cape Town offer a wealth of expertise when it comes to elite sport and for a short period following a big block of training at altitude it is great to come down to sea level and to tap into some of those services and knowledge.
It gives me the opportunity to stay at the new purpose built facility, the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, which was set up by friends who have followed my progression and are keen to assist with my future athletic development.
So, working hard on my strength, biomechanics, getting good speed into my legs, touching base with the likes of Elana Meyer and Tim Noakes, and stockpiling sunshine and warmth ready to fly back to the UK!