Inside Jessica Ennis's battle for gold
If you found it tense watching on television as Jessica Ennis fought through the first day of her World heptathlon defence, it was nothing compared to the tortures being experienced inside the ropes.
Looking to get to the very heart of the drama, fascinated by the relationship between Ennis and coach Toni Minichiello and by what makes such a seemingly modest woman such a fearsome competitor, I have abandoned the media benches for a front-row seat at the biggest performance of Ennis's life so far.
We are perched on the yellow bleachers adjacent to the second high jump bed, the stadium sizzling in the late-morning sun. Around me sit the crack troops of Team Jennis - an agitated Minichiello, Neil Black, the GB team's head of sports science, and masseur Derry Suter.
Across the barriers is Britain's biggest female sports star, cap on, towel over her legs, easy to miss among the prowling, preening competition.
Highlights - Ennis set to miss out on gold
She has just run 12.94 seconds in the 100m hurdles, clattering the second hurdle with her trail leg to finish 0.15 seconds outside her personal best. It's solid, but it could have been better. How does Minichiello feel at this point? He grimaces. "Sweaty."
"We need 1.89 metres here. If we get 1.91, 1.93, great - but this is where we open a gap. We need 1.89, minimum."
Ennis stands up and smooths a stray hair from her face. Minichiello is on his feet at exactly the same time, as if pulled upright by the same puppeteer.
The reigning champion has already cleared both 1.74m and 1.77m at the first attempt.
It's no surprise, just a start - in winning her World title two years ago she cleared 1.92m -so this first attempt 1.80m marks the start of the serious stuff.
Ennis likes to lead from the front, as she did in Berlin and Barcelona last summer. Keep clearing first time, pile the pressure on the others, push on as they crumble.
Not this time. She rushes the bar, clips it on her way through and rolls upright with her head in her hands.
Minichiello immediately begins the strange game of charades that will define the next hour. Coaches aren't allowed to communicate with their athletes through texts, tweets or calls to mobiles, and a gap of 10 metres separates the edge of the seating area from the advertising boards that mark the start of the track.
He is mouthing and shouting while simultaneously twisting his torso and making rotating movements with his hands. "TALL ROUND BEND! TALL ROUND LATTER STAGE OF BEND!"
Ennis stands with hand to ear, nods once and stalks away.
Athletes are queuing up on the curve like airplanes stacked in a holding pattern. The tension of a World Championships plays itself out in different ways.
American Hyleas Fountain, leading after the first event, goes through a bizarre ritual - tuck jump, heel flick, split jump, jog to her mark. The coach of Lithuania's Austra Skujyte stands motionless until his athlete jumps, whereupon he leaps in the air without any apparent awareness that he's doing it.
Minichiello stands up and then squats, hands on hips. He usually cuts an avuncular figure, but tension has transformed him. "She's drifting into the bar," he mutters, pulling at the brim of his white sunhat.
Ennis comes round on a curve from out left, flicks up her hips and heels and is over.
Coach puffs out his cheeks and then resumes the charades. This time he turns his upper body to the left.
"We've moved her run-up three foot-lengths back, but she's cramping the bar," he worries. "But maybe it's too far back - maybe she's over-striding..."
One moment he is all animation, the next jamming some headphones in his ears and falling silent. In the middle of a world final he is listening to Amy Macdonald.
"I'm easily distracted," he explains, suddenly serious, and then breaks the tension by fanning Derry and Neil with a towel.
How much information can a coach get across to their athlete? "A maximum of two thoughts. I try to take the emotion out of it when I'm speaking to her. Trust me - with Jess, it's 'do this'. You have to give her strict instructions, but you have to keep it succinct."
He looks a little dejected. "But you also just want to be as much help as possible."
When Ennis fails her first attempt at 1.83m her coach throws his towel to the ground.
Nataliya Dobrynska goes clear. Tatyana Chernova, expected to be a big danger, does the same.
Minichiello and Suter both wince. "That would have been her gone," says Suter wistfully.
Ennis responds with a big clearance. When she crashes straight through the bar on her second attempt at 1.86m Minichiello slumps down, pulls off his sunhat and buries his face in the towel.
The pressure is taking its toll. When the competition is held up by a heat of the 400m hurdles, there is an explosion of anger directed at the officials, a rant that would make Gordon Ramsey blush.
It is almost unbearably tense. GB head coach Charles van Commenee trots down the stadium steps and takes a seat 10 rows behind us. It is rather like having an exam invigilator peering over your shoulder as you take a key A-level. Minichiello glances back and moves a few seats further away.
Jess is sitting with legs outstretched on the track, a pensive look on her face. "She'll be watching the others, but she'll be more angry with herself," he tells me.
Ennis paces to her mark, glances over in our direction, focuses on the bar and slaps her hands on her backside. "Come on girl," murmurs Minichiello, "pull it out of the bag..."
A step back, an acceleration round the curve and the few thousand left in the stadium are on their feet. Derry is clapping me on the back. "This girl can compete!" he yells delightedly. "She just said to herself, I WILL clear this!"
Van Commenee jogs down the steps to Black. "That was make or break!" he exclaims in his comedy Dutch accent, aims a high-five and misses badly.
The rollercoaster ride goes on. Fountain comes in for what would be a season's best of 1.89m. "Please don't clear it," comes the groan from my right. The groan gets louder.
Ennis fails her first attempt at 1.89m, and then her second by the tiniest brush of her legs. "ARGH! You..." The swearwords tumble out of Minichiello's mouth. When Ennis nudges the bar again to end her competition, they come again in Technicolor.
He looks at me, shoulders slumped. "She'll be furious. We'll have to win this in a slightly different way."
Ennis stalks away down the steps into the bowels of the stadium, gesturing for Black and Suter to follow.
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Later I will find out that she spends the afternoon beset by self-doubt, telling the team that it's not happening for her, that she doesn't feel right, that she can't possibly win.
Five hours later, bounding out of the shot put circle, she is a different woman.
Not for nothing do athletics insiders compare her fighting spirit to that of Daley Thompson, the greatest multi-eventer Britain has ever produced.
Bang up against it, rivals clambering all over her, Ennis has produced a massive personal best with her very first attempt - 14.67m, more than half a metre than she managed in winning European gold last summer.
Team Jennis is alive again; "60s are lovely numbers," chortles Minichiello. Derry throws me a high-five and hits. Phillips Idowu's coach Aston Moore walks over and offers all present his congratulations.
An hour on, Ennis will win her 200m heat in 23.27 seconds, the best time of the day, just off another PB but worth much more into such a stiff headwind. As she leaves the track I see her smile in our direction for the first time all day.
On Tuesday she will have to produce even more. Chernova is lurking menacingly on her shoulder and looks in the form of her life, with several wise old heads telling me the Russian should actually be considered favourite.
You write Ennis off if you like. Her team won't.