“When are you going to stop wasting your time and let me write your program?”
Lora is an elite 800m runner with an incredible story of overcoming obstacles, challenges and set backs that exist in elite amateur sport within Australia. Her character and courage to continue to pursue her goals and rise above disappointment is what defines her, and has made being a part of her journey very enriching and inspiring.
I first met Tom in 2013. I had been living in Sydney not quite a month having moved here from Perth to peruse my athletics goals. I didn’t know anyone. I was in a big fast city, nothing like sleepy WA. I was in my third week training with my new track squad and was having my ass handed to me every session.
Having come from Perth where track and field is a relatively small sport, it is easy to have a “big fish small pond” type scenario. This was me. I was a good athlete in WA and therefore I assumed that would make me a good athlete in NSW.
Thinking I was doing everything right and training at an elite level, I met Tom by the crossing of our paths in the Sydney Uni Gym. After chatting about what it was I did in the sporting world and what I wanted to do, Tom’s first pearl of wisdom to me was “you’re not elite, you’re a wanna be”.
After feeling the burn from his comment subside, Tom followed this up with “let me help you”.
A few weeks passed seeing Tom in the gym, me still doing my own thing, not ready to put all my eggs in the basket that was Tom Carter, because in my opinion the strength stuff I was doing was pretty good. The coach I had in Perth was still helping me out and I was happy with that. But each time I saw Tom he would ask me “when are you going to stop wasting your time and let me write your program” and eventually after seeing him in the gym coaching the SUFC Rugby boys, I realised that Tom might be worth the gamble. Sure he is loud and pushy – and I still wasn’t sure how I felt about being called a wanna be – but if nothing else I could see he was a good, possibly even a great, coach. And that’s what I wanted.
Fast forward to 2016, and almost 3 years working with Tom, and I was no longer the 58kg, average on a good day, 400m Hurdler from Perth. I had become the 52kg, 800m runner, who was pushing selection for an Olympic Team. A substantial portion of this I credit to Tom.
Tom took the time to not only train me in the gym, but to learn about the specific strength requirements I needed as a hurdler, and then as an 800m runner as I moved up in events. Tom took the time to educate me on my nutrition and fuelling needs and recommending a Dietitian for me to see, a physio, a podiatrist and everything and anything else I needed.
In 2017, I was offered a scholarship under Athletics Australia at the NSW Institute of Sport which I saw as a fantastic opportunity for my athletic development. However, this meant leaving Tom.
Speaking with Tom about my decision to utilize my scholarship opportunity at NSWIS was something I was terrified about. I didn’t want to upset the guy who I respected so much and owed so much to. But Tom could not have been happier for me. “You deserve this Loz, that’s awesome” was the reply I got from Tom. Humble – not something many people associate with Tom Carter.
2017 saw me have my best track season yet, winning 4 from 5 national circuit races and winning my first Australian Title. The success of that season saw me named on 3 Australian teams in 1 year – something Tom and I had been working for was to make just 1. And the first text of support and congratulations after every race win, every team announcement – Tom Carter: “Well done Loz, exceptional work”
2017 saw all these highs for me, followed by ultimately the lowest low I have ever experienced. My first individual senior team was the London World Championships in August, where upon arriving in London I was dancing on the edge of being a very broken athlete with an Achilles injury playing havoc with my preparation and confidence. I went into London hoping for a miracle and got a nightmare. I ran the slowest time I have ever run since picking up the 800m event. Came dead last in my heat. Ruined my foot. Broke my heart.
This experience then set off a spiral of a shit storm thanks to the damage I had done to my foot. I had to withdraw from the World University Games later that month. I was forced to sit out the entire 2017/2018 track season and the Commonwealth Games. I was in a horrible place mentally and physically not much better.
Not long after, a text from Tom “Loz. Let’s catch up. Coffee?”. This turned out to be the life raft which pulled me out of a pretty dark place. Coffee with Tom left me feeling like slowly but surely a light was coming on and the world, my world, was starting to spin in the right direction again. Tom’s experiences as an elite athlete himself meant that he got it. Not only got it, but knew what I needed in terms of the headspace I was currently in. Tom took it upon himself to coordinate and manage the rehabilitation of my destroyed Achilles over a 3-month period while I wasn’t running, so that when I got the all clear to train again, my foot wouldn’t be an issue. Without saying it to me, or me realising he was doing it, Tom was also rehabbing my attitude, my self-confidence and my belief in myself. Looking back, this doesn’t surprise me. In 2016, I missed Olympic Selection by 0.1s and one of the only people I felt solace in speaking to about it was Tom.
Starting back running in March this year, Tom started the ‘TC’ method of persuasion again: “When are you going to stop wasting your time and let me write your program”. A question I had been bandying about my head throughout the entire 3 months rehab stage.
This guy gets me. He gets how I work. He gets how to make me better. He gets it. And most importantly for me, he cares. I know Tom cares about making me the best athlete. Not “the best athlete I can be” because that is a limit, and Tom and I don’t believe in limits. He pushes me to be the bestand that’s a rare thing to find in any aspect of life, not just sport. And most importantly I knew that anything worth knowing in terms of performance, Tom knew it.
This leads into the final page in my shit storms that started in London – the loss of my NSWIS scholarship recently. Such is the way it works with national sporting bodies and government funding, there isn’t enough to go around. But to me this was the universe saying “when are you going to stop wasting your time and let Tom write your program”.
So now I 2018, Tom and I are starting again. We have a bloody good track record together. And with World Championships next year on the horizon, and only 2 years until the next Olympics, I’m excited and confident at the prospect of the athlete I will be when those come around.