Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Last Post

Sorry, couldn't resist that!!

So that's it for another year - hard to believe really, but what a year it was. I think this year's race will be looked back upon by many as possibly the greatest of all time, simply because of the nip and tuck nature right to the line. I expect that Richard & Vinny's record will remain in place for a long time to come, although Jock and Michael may have other thoughts about that.

It was great to see so many proud (albeit a tad sore) people at the presentation last night, and also to have a good chat with friends I have made purely through walking, and through this year's event alone.

I just want to thank everyone who has followed this blog, and left comments. I intended to write it as a positive motivational piece, and I hope that you have taken that from it.

Thanks also to Murray for allowing me to share my thoughts with you all, and a final congratulations to all prize winners especially my niece Meggie Thomas who made it to Peel as 2nd placed U21 lady in her last year in this category - big finish expected next year kid!

So until 2013................361 days and counting

See you there !

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Hat-Trick is complete

I am absolutely exhausted, this is the 3rd time I have sat down to write this blog, but I can't finish it as my brain doesn't seem to want to work. That's what 8 hours sleep in 48 hours does for you. Oh yeah, there's the small factor of walking 85 miles and then going to the pub to celebrate as well!!

At 05:16 yesterday morning, I managed to cross the finish line for the third successive year, which, considering only 5 weeks ago I was on crutches and my participation looked in tatters, I am absolutely delighted!

I wrote a post the other week discussing how much of the walk was a mental thing, and I can quite honestly say that Saturday was pretty much a 100% mental effort right from the gun. I went into the day with a game plan designed to protect my foot which so far has paid off, but once the pain in other parts of my body has subsided I may have a clearer picture.

Before I give you a run down of how the race panned out for me, I just want to say a huge congratulations to Richard and Vinny for an absolutely outstanding performance to come in joint winners in a record time - what a tremendous way to finish and in such a sporting manner. My commiserations to Michael who led for long periods of the race, he just couldn't sustain it but also finished within the previous record time, and I hope he can take solace from such a brilliant effort. Congratulations also to my regular training partner Simon Briggs who finished in an unbelievable 7th position in only his second attempt at the distance - well done mate you deserve it.

The buzz of expectation at the start was immense and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. We turned up at just after 7.30 and by the time we made it to the start,  the track was absolutely chocka. I thought about trying to sneak in at the front where I knew Simon was, but I know how I'd react if someone did that across me, so I decided to head towards the back. I walked the first lap of the track with Caroline, and literally as we got to the entrance to the NSC, we said our goodbyes, and I headed off through the pack to catch my sister, brother in law and niece.

It was a nice steady start but we were quickly confronted with the lagoon just under Braddan Bridge which made passing very difficult as no-one wanted to go through it and a huge bottleneck built up. Most people tried to get round the outside, but a few others just went straight through. I didn't fancy having wet feet straight from the start so I queued to go round the side.

As the pack spread out, the pace picked up a little, and it seems like no time at all and we were in Marown. Up the Glen Darragh Road, and this is where my head first overruled my body, and I backed off the pace. I figured that my heel was only going to cause me aggro if I pushed myself hard, especially up hills. The first leg to Rushen passed without incident, and I arrived at just after 12:20 which was about 4 minutes up on last year. The weather had been a bit hit and miss to this point, it started off bright and warm, but literally in the way between Arbory and Rushen the heavens opened. Unfortunately, my mate Dicko who was doing the fist support stint wasn't joining me til 2pm, but I did have a hi-viz jacket that did a job, and kept me reasonably dry.

Shame I can't say the same about Ballakillowey and the Sloc. This was the point I struggled last year and I kept telling myself I was going to enjoy it this year......yeah right. Pretty much exactly the same thing happened, and because I backed off the pace to protect my foot, people started to pass me which was demoralising even though I kept telling myself that this would happen if I slowed down. To add to this, I started feeling a bit ropey, my heel was giving me a bit of grief, and the rain really started - a perfect storm if you like. My sister came past and tried to encourage me along, and I put a brave face on and said that I was going slow on purpose (not this slow though). Her back up was waiting at the top, and it dawned on me that the way I was feeling was actually similar to the time I trained with Simon and James Bassett, and I thought I could be dehydrated. My mouth was extremely dry, and some friends had given me a bacon bap in Santon, and I also relieved the support table on the Orrisdale Road of a couple of sausages. The saltiness of these and not drinking enough was enough to affect me, so after a dioralyte and a banana I began to feel much better. As soon as the road became flat, the discomfort in my foot disappeared. It also helped as I caught up with my sister's friend Kathryn and we chatted merrily which took my mind off the task in hand. I had been caught by a mate, Phil Christian who I walked the Sara Killey with in 2011, I had seen him at the start and also at Marown, and it was good to catch up.

The trudge into Peel passed pretty much in a flash, apart from a quick pit stop when my support arrived so I could put a dry top and my new waterproof jacket. I headed through Glen Maye and into Peel with Tim Crookall as the other guys had carried on when I stopped. He knows absolutely everybody! I think the rain had dampened some spectator's spirits as there were fewer there to cheer us on than in previous years, but nonetheless the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant. I was 8 minutes up on last year's time, and only just outside my target time by 2 minutes. This is the target I set myself at the start of the year, but I didn't legislate for a serious injury so close to the event so I was very happy.

Just leaving Peel

I always think that the hard work really starts from Peel, so I continued to take it easy as the coast road to Kirk Michael is deceptively hilly in places, but I knew that as soon as I had passed Glen Wyllin then it is pretty flat all the way to Bride apart from a couple of short hills. Shortly before the Devil's Elbow I passed my sister's support car and nodded to Jo and asked how she was. She said she was fine and then pointed to the passenger seat. Lo and behold, Lou was sat in the passenger seat saying that she's had enough and didn't want to continue. This was like a role reversal from my first attempt to finish in 2010 when it was me who had had enough and she was the one to get me going. I therefore repaid the favour by politely explaining that if she didn't get out of the car I was going to go round and drag her out. She got out and we set off again. She kept saying that she had been holding Julian back, and was feeling bad etc etc, but I told her not to worry as he would be fine. In fact he was fine, because he was hiding in a field waiting for her as we passed. Anyway, they pushed on, and unfortunately I couldn't keep pace and that would be the last I saw of them until Jurby, but I was delighted that Lou continued as I know she would now be regretting it if she quit.

Me and Phil almost at Ballaugh
I managed to increase my pace over the flatter sections as I arrived in Kirk Michael 12 minutes faster than last year, picking up a minute a mile roughly. I was back walking with Phil at this point, and we were caught by Martijn Biesmans on the way into Ballaugh. I couldn't fathom why the number 11 was down the order like this, and he explained that he was walking in a group of friends who had one support car between them so he was taking it easy. Good job he was because when we arrived at Ballaugh Church, he forgot to check in and about a mile down the road he had to turn back. Just beyond Ballaugh Dicko handed over the support baton to my father in law Andy. Phil and I pushed on and made it to Jurby by 18:41. As we arrived at the turn to the church, I saw Lou and Julian heading off towards the prison, I called up to them, but they didn't hear.

After making it back to the main road, I decided to stop and address a couple of blisters I was feeling on my right foot. As I said in previous blogs, the trainers I had chosen to wear have a history of rubbing the inside of my heel, but I had chosen them over my other pairs because they actually offer more padding at the back and thus protect the damaged area. I had put a compeed on in the morning to try and protect the susceptible area, and this had worked to a point, but was now getting sore. It was handy that my father in law was now supporting as he has a van which meant I could sit down at the back quite comfortably and have a good rest. I pulled the plaster off as it was half hanging off anyway due to the wet, and underneath the skin was just damp and sore, but no blister. I put two more compeeds on over the area to protect it again, and one just on the ball of my foot by my big toe where a small pea sized blister had appeared. Phil had gone on ahead, and Kathryn had caught and passed me whilst I was gathering my thoughts and tucking into chicken soup and sarnies. I reckon I was sat for around 5 minutes and for those people who saw me get up and start off again must have thought I was almost done for. My legs had stiffened and my feet were very sore so it took me a good few steps to build the pace back up.

I made it to Bride at 19:37 which kept my 12 minute gap on last year's time. Looking at the stats sheet I had in my pocket, I kept thinking that I should be extending the gap as last year, I was 30 minutes ahead of my 2010 time, but remembered that I was pushing it all the way last year, and taking it easier this time around because of my pesky foot which was still not bothering me too much. I think this is largely to do with the anti-inflammatory painkillers I had taken combined with the game plan of relaxing up hills. On the way into the village, Rich Wild was waiting at the end of his drive offering encouragement, and he was actually lending me his head torch for the night stint as the one I have isn't actually mine, or even that good. We had a quick chat, and he said that the leaders were through Maughold and he was off to see the business end of the race.

Heading down the Burma Road, we were told by one of the race officials that we would need to put on our lights within the next mile as darkness was falling fast, not helped by the cloud cover. The rain had been pretty intermittent to this stage, and nowhere near as severe as the forecast had perhaps indicated, I was expecting a deluge at any time, but it never really came. I caught Phil again, and we walked together to Andreas and then on towards Lezayre where he had stopped in 2010. We got separated before the church, I can't quite remember where, but I just remember the drag on to Lezayre from the Ginger Hall taking for ever and having no one to talk to. My support changed once again, and my mate Brian replaced my father in law. I had a moment of mild panic as I honestly thought that I had missed the turn to Lezayre Church as the road was in complete darkness as I headed along. Eventually I saw 3 or 4 support drivers for other walkers stood at the junction with lights and hi-viz jackets so I knew I was ok. I always find Lezayre a funny church as like I say, it's a fair old trudge from the Ginger Hall, and once you turn off the main road, it's a decent distance up to the gate. Luckily, the walk to Parliament Square is quite short, and well lit, so I passed the Swan to applause from the gathered crowd outside which gave me a real lift.

I have trained in the past so many times over this last stretch, so I know pretty much every inch of the last 20 or so miles and I knew at this point that there was nothing stopping me. I felt strong physically, and I got to Maughold church at 00:18 which was 15 minutes faster than last year, and I knew that I was in much better physical shape so should be able to cover the stretch to Lonan quicker. Given that at this point you've already cover 67 miles, it's natural that there is going to be an element of slowing. In 2010, the next 11.5 miles took me 3 hours 35 mins (3.2mph) and last year I improved to 3 hours 22 mins (3.4mph). I improved my time over this leg by over 15 minutes which equates to around 3.7mph. In numbers it doesn't seem much, but it's almost 1 minute 20 seconds a mile quicker.

Between Maughold and Lonan, I passed loads of people, and Brian gave me coffee at Dhoon, and this was like rocket fuel to me. There was sugar in it which I normally don't take, but it really hit the spot, and I was able to chase down loads of other walkers and pass them with ease. Even the hill up to Lonan church was no real problem, and I managed to push on towards Onchan after checking in. I live about 200 yards away from Lonan church, so the last stretch to Onchan is a journey I take every single day and I decided that I was going to push myself absolutely as flat out as I could as I was only 3 minutes behind target to break through the 21 hour barrier. If I could up the pace to 14 minute miles I would make it with about 3 minutes to spare. I made it to Onchan village in 68 minutes, so my chance was slipping away but I was hopeful that because I was now in touching distance of the end, I could muster one last burst of energy to cover the home straight. Dicko had appeared in Onchan as he lives on Whitebridge Road, and he said he was going to watch me finish.

Fortunately he did.

I had said to Brian at the Whitebridge that I was ok, and I would see him at the top of Royal Avenue. Dicko was waiting at the top of Church Road, and as I turned down to the church, it was as if someone just flicked the off switch. I have never had a feeling like it, but all of a sudden I was empty, completely drained and light headed. I managed to stagger to the church, and I have to thank Charlie Turner who was checking people in, as he grabbed me just before I keeled over. I composed myself and managed to make it back to the main road, and stumbled down to the car where Bri was waiting with the boot open. I literally fell in to the boot and sat myself up. I must have had the presence of mind to realise that I needed something to eat and drink, instead of struggling on. Looking back, I don't think I had eaten anything of note since about Glen Mona and had just had coffee, red bull and dextrose tablets - not exactly the best of diets. So, a cup of soup, a chicken sarnie and 6 jaffa cakes later, I was back on my feet chasing down the people who had passed me. I was conscious of one guy over my shoulder who was catching me, and try as I might I just couldn't hold him off any longer.

So I crossed the line in 92nd place which is my equal best placing (92nd in 2010, and 105th last year), but my time was my fastest by 24 minutes. 21 hours, 16 minutes and 45 seconds.

85 miles + trying to race walk to show off for the cameras = instant cramp

I am pleased with my time, but I do know I could have done much better if I hadn't injured my foot. I missed 4 full weeks of training which I think made a heck of a difference. That said though, to actually complete the course when I knew deep down that my foot was probably only about 80 percent right I am absolutely over the moon, and I will take so much away from this year.

So what next??

It's the presentation tomorrow night at the Villa, doors open at 7pm and the presentation gets under way at 8. The night is always fantastic, and this in itself is one of the things that spurs me on when I am in the depths of despair. If you can attend do. If you have finished and you are not sure whether to go, you should as it is an amazing feeling to go up on stage to collect your award. It makes the pain worthwhile.

In terms of walking, I probably won't do anything for a few weeks now, just let the legs and blisters settle down. Steve has arranged a debrief session on Thursday night, so it will be good to chat to the others from our regular walking gang and see how their races panned out. My next event will probably be the Salclear Ramsey half marathon which I did last year, and will be good preparation for the next big one - the End to End. I have unfinished business with this walk so I'll be knuckling down as soon as physically possible to give it a good go.

Finally before I go, I would like to say a huge thank you to all of the race organisers, volunteers, marshals for their meticulous preparation and giving up their time, and also the Isle of Man public for their unwavering support of this year's event all of which made it such a record breaking success.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The wait is over...

Morning! So here we are a little over 2 hours from kick off and those butterflies haven't been dampened by the rain. Looking out over Clay Head it looks still and dare I say it perfect conditions to embark on a wander around our beautiful Island. I've just checked the Met Office forecast which in a nutshell says ok to start with, followed by patchy showers here and there with the rain turning persistent later. Ah well, nothing we can do about it now. So the time for talking is over, and now is the time to deliver. 6 months of hard graft and some enforced absence culminates in this the most amazing local event the Island has to offer that doesn't involve 2 wheels and an engine. Good luck to all entrants, I hope you achieve what you set out to do and most of all enjoy what always makes for a fantastic day. See you on the line.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Final Countdown

Wow, it's Parish Walk eve, and the familiar butterflies have returned.......

I have been rushing round like a lunatic this evening making sure everything is ready, and I think I can finally say that it is. I had to drop Michael George his bio-lamp back tonight as I expect that he will be needing this next week to aid recovery after what promises to be a very tight contest between the elite guys and girls. We then had to drop the kids off at my in-laws as those regular followers will know that both Caroline and I are walking this year.

My food is finally prepared and packed, clothes (lots of) packed, and kit ready to go, it's just a crying shame that the weather looks like it's going to be awful. The rain is currently bouncing off the windows and it's blowing a hoolie. Hopefully the wind will blow the rain clouds well over and out of our way, but that's just wishful thinking I'm afraid. The 10 o'clock news forecast is about to come on and I'm waiting with baited breath. That said, I am prepared for all conditions, but after harping on about it in the past, I think I'll be safe to leave the factor 20 at home - more's the pity!

So thoughts turn to the race itself, experience tells me that nerves settle quickly whilst there is the hustle and bustle from the NSC down the TT access road and on towards Braddan. Remember to look over your shoulder as you climb the Ballahutchin as regardless of where you are, there will be a sea of bodies around you, and it really is a sight to behold and hammers home the magnitude of the event. Paces settle on the long climb to the Braaid, and the field starts to spread out nicely. On to Santon where you check in for the first time, and the race begins to feel real. The next 3 churches come along quickly, and for a good number of walkers their participation comes to an end.

Next comes the equal longest stretch between any 2 parishes and the most talked about climb on the whole route - the dreaded Sloc, but in actual fact from bottom to top is actually less than a mile and a half, so remember if you're struggling, chances are within 20 - 25 minutes it will all be over, and from then it's literally all down hill to Peel (ok, apart from Glen Maye).

From Peel onwards, the real test of stamina and mental toughness begins, as evening draws in and numbers thin out it really is a test of mind over matter. For those of you aiming for a finish, you will spend a period walking in the dark, and this is a really good time to make sure you are grouped up or have regular dialogue going with people around you otherwise it can get very lonely.

I haven't managed to finish the right side of daylight as yet, but that is my aim this year, and I'll tell you on Sunday whether or not I managed it.

Right forecast is on right now, so here goes........

Looks like it will be dry for the start through to about midday, but then a dirty great rain cloud will empty its contents until about 4pm by which time it has moved east, and hopefully as we'll be on the west coast by then, it may be dry. Night time looks hideous with torrential rain from around 7pm.

A couple of games to share with you that I have always found passes the time...

1) Count the roadkill - always a favourite and see how long you can keep it going.

2) Count the car numbers on people's vests. As obvious as which numbers are which, you can guarantee that there will be some individuals walking that put their support car numbers on their tops. WHY? Anyway, it makes for good fun counting those that clearly havent inspected the contents of their brown envelopes. For those that haven't, below is a simple and easy to follow guide of what to do



It's not rocket science!

So good luck to all of you, I'm off to bed now for some serious z's as I sincerely hope not to be going to bed again til Sunday morning.

Just one last thing, give this song a blast before you leave the house, I can guarantee it will get the adrenalin pumping.........

See you bright and breezy !!!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

How rumours start

Just a quick impromptu post.

I've just been checking out the 'Live Tracking' site and it got me thinking. The Island is a small place anyway, but with those things on board, you ain't getting away with anything.

I'm not a stalker by any stretch of the imagination (honest your honour), but for example, I can see Richard Gerrard must be in the vicinity of his house, and Alex Brindley is obviously out doing his last tapering walk as he is currenlty heading along the main road towards Union Mills. Looks like he's going at a decent pace too.

Interestingly however, it initially appeared that Jane Foster and Matt Fletcher were together. Now although I don't know either of these guys (apart from Jane has been following my blog pretty much from the word go) I immediately thought that they must be friends, or even a couple to be in the same place at the same time. They may be, and my theory is about to be blown out of the water, but after reading Richard's blog the other day he said he had to drop his tracker back to ManxTelecom to be charged up, it suddenly dawned on me that Jane and Matt's trackers are obviously sat on someone desk in the Manx Telecom building on Dalton Street, together with TBA whoever that may be.

Finally and most interesting of all, Steve Harvey looks like he's in the middle of the North Sea - perhaps he is doing some last minute wet weather training??

Oh well!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Obsession or Dedication?

Someone said recently that obsession is a word used by lazy people to describe people who are dedicated.

On that basis, I am dedicated to the weekend weather. I know the forecast can (and probably will) change by 8am on Saturday but as I write, it seems to have taken a turn for the worse since my last post. I am fan of the BBC website forecast, as it gives you a breakdown every three hours so you can gauge what will happen when.

Whilst it doesn't look likely to be a repeat of 2008, it certainly won't be a scorcher like 2010 or 2011, but I would still suggest packing for any eventuality, and sun cream should be a must have just in case.

I'm actually quite bored this week, I don't want to do any training in case I do myself any damage, so I'm just sitting around twiddling my thumbs. Stretching is a good idea as it keeps you supple and will help you on the day.

I had a last session with John Barton tonight, so that's 3 in all, and although my foot has been giving me a little bit of cause for concern this week, it actually feels great tonight. Maybe that's because any pain is masked by the ache from my calves after he gave them a right good going over. The left calf was very tight which is a likely by product of the injured heel, and by becoming tight, was pulling on the achilles thus stretching the damaged fibres - a bit of a viscious circle if you like.

So by loosening up the calf, this should reduce the demand on the achilles, and in turn letting the heel fibres have a rest. All being well, everything will settle back down over the next 48 hours and we'll be good to go. Regardless of how it feels Saturday morning, I'll be lining up and giving it a bloody good go.

All bar 1 of my gang of support drivers are briefed, and I'm heading off to the Cat shortly to meet Brian to discuss late night tactics etc. He has volunteered to do the graveyard shift because Caroline is aiming to get to Peel this year, and when she does, chances are she won't be in the best frame of mind to jump in the car and come out on the support trail.

Kit is ready (including my new waterproof jacket purchased today), supplies purchased so I am itching to get going.

Sign on starts tomorrow (Thursday) at 5.30pm at the NSC track until 8.30pm and then again at the same time on Friday. I'll more than likely sign on on Friday as Steve P is giving the usual Laxey gang a last minute pep talk tomorrow night about tactics etc, so won't get to both.

I feel a bit sad really as I will now probably do one more post before the big day, and give you my ultimate motivational tune - 50p to the first one who guesses correctly. After that, there will likely be one debrief afterwards and one after the presentation. So after 6 months of regular blogging, within a week it will all be over, and the blog will be consigned to history - thanks to those who have read, followed and commented, and I look forward to seeing some of you on Friday, and hopefully all of you on Saturday !!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

T minus 7 days.........

This time next week we will be 8 hours in to the walk, and all being well if my foot holds out, I will now be beyond Peel and pretty much in Kirk Michael if not a bit further.

I just sincerely hope that the weather next week is better than today. I've already done a reccy in town and identified 3 or 4 suitable waterproof jackets should the forecast be similar, however according to the BBC website it seems to be picking up towards the end of next week. Metcheck is another website I have used in the past for checking weather and this one does a longer range forecast, this is what it's saying for Saturday and Sunday:

I don't wish to put the mockers on it, but if this forecast turns out to be accurate then the conditions will be perfect and we could be looking at some very good times indeed. The temperature is not too hot, no rain, and very little wind.

By now, hopefully you have all of your kit together, have a list of provisions and have your support team well briefed. As I said last blog, preparation is key, and the last thing you want to be doing is running round last minute panicking and turning up on the day under prepared.

Rich Gerrard did a really good list of essentials in his latest blog so if you've missed it, take a look as this covers off must haves. If you have anything missing, you have plenty of time now to get them, but leave it too long and it will be rushed.

In terms of training, this week should be very gentle, literally focusing on keeping yourself hydrated, and stretched with maybe a couple of leisurely jaunts just to keep the dust off. last thing you want is a last minute injury that will stop you lining up at the NSC. I can guarantee that out and about tomorrow you are bound to see people out trying to cram the last minute miles in; don't let yourself get dragged into that as it is too late now. These people are only kidding themselves and do run the risk of injury. If you have put the miles in, then you don't need to do anything this week.

That's it for now, another update in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Brain Game

'How much of the Parish Walk' is a mental thing?

This question was asked at the Walk Talk back in March held in the Manx Museum to the assembled panel, and the difference in answers was quite distinctive.

Both Alan Callow and Jock said that for them it was probably 60% mental 40% physical. I think Maureen Moffatt said around 70% mental, but I think the most thought provoking answer of the night was from Steve Taylor who suggested that pretty much from Andreas it was 100% mental for him.

As the stock phrase associated with the Parish goes, what works for one may not work for someone else, and you can sort of apply this to the mental side of things. Depending on your mental strength, your preparation (both physical and mental), and your experience, everyone will differ.

A few weeks before I finished for the first time in 2010, I was out with some friends, and the topic of conversation round the table turned to the impending Parish Walk and how did I rate my chances. I responded by saying that I had trained well, and it was down to factors on the day. One of the guys piped up very confidently saying, 'you won't finish it!'. I asked him to explain to me why he was so sure, and his response was 'because you haven't finished it before'.

At this point I sat and contemplated what he said, and several things went through my head, but I kept coming to the same conclusion....what a complete tosser.

Because I hadn't finished, I didn't know what would be required or how I would finish, but let me tell you this........nobody ever would have achieved anything if they hadn't tried and if they had this guy's mentality they wouldn't ever bother trying, and the human race would have died off years ago.

I have blogged before about Positive Mental Attitude and a thing called Fortitude - these are some of the key ingredients to completing the walk, together with the right training and support. What has helped me in the past is my sheer bloody stubbornness, although this can lead to a fall out with your other half.

If you are attempting a first finish, then tips from experienced walkers are also useful as you can train your socks off physically, but how do you train your mind?

Simple answer - with difficulty.

Preparation is key. Make sure your support is well briefed, tell them what you expect from them. Below are some of the things I tell mine:
  • If I stop eating or drinking, bully me to do so
  • Ask me what I want for the next stop in plenty of time and have it ready when you get there
  • Never go too far ahead, especially later on. A mile is plenty
  • Make my clothing decisions for me (they feel the cold more than you do)
  • If I tell them I want to stop, just ignore me and move on
  • Do not stop by any churches. Drive on at least a mile.
  • Remember to stick by what I asked them to do
Later on in the walk is where you really need to dig deep mentally, and the best ever piece of advice I have ever received is when you are down, break the walk down into easy to manage sections. In 2010 I struggled like hell from Glen Mona, managed somehow to make it to Laxey with my sister chirping in my ear the whole way, and then I broke it down into mile sections, and took them one at a time.

Time permitting, when you make it into Onchan, everything goes out the window you know you are going to get there.

George Patton once said:

If you're going to win any battle, you must do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired, morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind isn't tired. When you were younger, the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired. You've got to make the mind take over and keep going.

I'll leave you to ponder that nugget.........

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Moving on up

After the gentle 4.5 miles on Thursday night, I decided that I wanted to go for longer this weekend and see how the foot handled it.

I had arranged with Lou, my sister to walk this weekend with her, Julian and 2 of my nieces. We agreed on 2 hours as it felt like the next logical step after an hour the other night. We started from their house in Birch Hill and headed towards Johnny Watterson's Lane. The plan was to head out towards Crosby on the back road via Strang and back which I anticipated would be around 10 miles and therefore 2 hours walking at a decent pace.

It was a cracking morning so I ditched my jacket and just went out in a t-shirt. We started off at a steady pace, and my foot felt good with not even the slightest twinge. I'd warmed it up properly before heading out which I think the lack of a few weeks ago probably contributed to the injury - that and borrowed footwear. Speaking of footwear, those regular followers will remember me toying with which trainers to wear for the big day. I have 2 pairs of Asics; one pair of Gel Nimbus 12's and a pair of Gel 1160's the latter becoming my preferred option. The Nimbus' were the ones that gave me the blister in the Sara Killey so they were relegated to second choice, however they have a more cushioned heel and therefore I am likely to go with these ones after all - I will just have to compeed the area that rubs for a bit of added protection.

My biggest concern with my heel is hills, both up and down, and the first real test was the drop down from the end of Ballanard Road to the dip and the hill that takes you to the junction for East Baldwin. The downhill was fine, and I decided to step it up a gear going up the hill to test the foot out. First tick in the box as there was no reaction. We continued on towards Strang and we soon were greeted by a familiar face running the other way - Rich Gerrard out for a run looking in fine form, we exchanged pleasantries and carried on our separate ways. The foot continued to feel good, and we carried on at a steady pace. The roads were quite busy still and there were lots of campers packing up as we went plast Glenlough. It was surprising though, I did expect to see a few more walkers out, but there weren't a great deal. Everyone is obviously well into their tapering phase. We headed up Strang Road, and I had to back off the pace a little as I felt a twinge in my heel but as soon as I got back on to the flat I could step it up again, no problems felt.  We had all separated at certain points for comfort breaks etc, but the 5 of us headed past the test centre together. As we started the climb up Johnny Wattersons, Julian came motoring past, I probably should have let him go, but the competitive side of me showed itself and I chased him up the hill at pretty much full pace. Probably not a good idea seeing as though I had to slow down up Strang Road, but I felt no adverse reaction in my heel and pushed on. By the time we reached the roundabout I was blowing quite heavily, but was glad that I could turn up the pace if I needed to without any issues. We made it back to Lou's in just about 2hrs 35mins and had covered just under 12 miles.

On the whole, I am absolutely delighted to get that many miles, and that time on my feet under my belt now - chances are I won't put in another training effort like that before the big day now, and will generally work on shorter, faster stuff to try and recover some of the aerobic fitness I have clearly lost, but the miles are in my legs already.

I have another appointment at the Crosby Injury Clinic on Tuesday for more treatment on my heel to see if the tenderness can be relieved any more, but my confidence of being in A1 condition by 8am on the 23rd is improving daily.

So relatively injury free, although we did have a couple of mishaps today, as we turned past the Strang Stores to head out towards Crosby, I misjudged the corner, and nearly took myself out on the road name sign around the gentleman's region that would definitely have scuppered my attempt as it is likely I would be in hospital having something sticthed back on. Not so lucky was my niece Meggie who completely out of the blue whacked her left hand on a stone wall. I didn't know what had happened at first as she was bent double in agony. This was a bad start for her as she had also forgotten to take an allergy tablet before she came out, and she struggled with itchiness all the way round. Better today than the 23rd though Meg !!

Before I go, I had another look at a couple of long term weather forecasts before, and in typical fashion,not only do they both contradict each other, but they have completely changed from what I read the other day.

This one is from the website

The other one I read forecasts no rain so I think you need to make your own mind up, plus not worry yet as there's still plenty of time for it to change.

One very last thing, I just want to say good luck to my niece Hattie who was walking with us today, she is venturing off to Kenya tomorrow to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and returns to the Island on Parish Walk day. Unfortunately too late for her to take part, but no doubt she will be out and about cheering everyone on later on.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

More is less

So as Parish Walk tapering begins, my training regime is stepping up !!!

I managed a good session tonight covering just under 4.5 miles in about 57 minutes, so nowhere near the heady heights of what I have been used to this year, but considering where I was 3 weeks ago I am well pleased. In fact, my heel actually felt better afterwards than it did before ane I still have another 2 weeks for it to improve.

That's right, 2 weeks to go, I just hope that the weather improves otherwise we're going to end up witha re-run of 2008 and that was not much fun I can tell you. I think the only positive from that year was my socks worked like a wetsuit and trapped a layer of water round my feet and not only kept them warm but seemed to protect them as well. I got to Ballaugh that year, and ended up with one blister, smaller than a 5 pence piece on my right heel I'd take that this year!

I had a look at a long term forecast this morning and although the lead up week looks a bit grim, the forecast looks dry and bright. That said, it's likely to change daily until then so I'mnot getting carried away yet. That said, if it looks like rain with a week to go, I'll be in the market for a waterproof jacket just in case.

This weekend I am going to make my first test batch of soup for the big day. I found soup last year was a god send, so much easier to digest than the pasta stodge from the year before. When you get to a point when you really can't face anything to eat, simply tip your head back and down it goes (and hopefully down it stays) no chewing required.

Hopefully by now you will have tested food and drink that works for you, but if not, below is a list of grub that goes in my kit that I find that works. Remember though, what works for me may not necessarily work for you, but you still have time to try it out:

Magic soup
Chicken Sandwiches
Jelly Babies
Rice pudding
Fruit cake

A good mix in there of simple and complex carbohydrates, and also protein in the form of the chicken in the butties and soup. It's a far cry from my first attempt in 2008 where I had things like pork pies and cocktail sausages. All very fatty and sat extremely heavy on my stomach making me feel decidedly ill.

As well as this I also carry energy bars and carb gels - but I really struggle to get the latter down especially later on. The best I have found however are the Hi 5 ones which come in a yellow packet, they are more liquidy than most are more like a drink. I'm not a fan of the SIS ones as they are too gloopy and there's loads in a sachet - eughhh!

Each to their own though.

This weeks motivational song is actually from a film soundtrack, and isn't the only song from this series of films I have in my Parish Walk playlist........

Happy tapering !

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

We have a new Bob

I've just been checking out the entry list and it would appear that the numbers published in the programme have changed slightly.

If you read Richard G's latest post,he mentioned that previous finisher Dave Mackey had been given number 808 despite the fact that he should have actually been given a seeded number because of his previous finish. I think the organisers have picked up on this as Dave is now number 44 according to the entry list. This means then that from number 44 up, everyone's number has increased by 1. I am therefore now number 138 as opposed to 137 as per the programme - bah!

More disappointingly Dave has now lost his nickname Bob which has had me chuckling since I read it!!!

I've not ventured out since Sunday, as I haven't had the opportunity, and the weather tonight is shocking. I was planning on trying 3 miles tonight, but think I'll give it a miss. This week's Wednesday night session has been postponed to Thursday due to prior commitments Steve has, so I'm looking forward to getting up to Baldhoon Road to see how the foot is getting on. It continues to improve on a daily basis, but it is still worryingly tender to the touch so I may make another appointment with John Barton to get the scar tissue broken down unless anyone has any tips????

Unless you have been hiding in a dark cupboard with no outside influence, then you'll be aware that the Olympic Flame graced these shores on Saturday. If you didn't get chance to see it then you missed a treat, the atmosphere was brilliant. I'm not sure of the number of people who actually carried the torch locally, but everyone who did was obviously nominated for various reasons. One of those people was 6 time Parish Walk finisher Angie Aire who I had the pleasure of working with between 2005 and 2008, and I can't think of anyone more deserving than her to be given the opportunity of carrying the torch. Here is a pic of Angie at the bottom of Summerhill. It doesn't look like she's enjoying herself at all does it.....?

Enough for now, the rain has subsided so I think I'll do that 3 miles after all.

For the rest of you, you should now be tapering. If you have done sufficient training it will now be in the bank, and all you will succeed in doing by continuing to push it will wear yoursefl out leaving you knackered for the big day. Short walks just to keep the legs turning are what it's all about now.

18 days and counting.....

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Back in the saddle

18 days ago, my dreams of finishing a third consecutive Parish Walk were hanging very much in the balance, hobbling round on crutches, unable to put any weight on my left heel and a general feeling of despair as I didn't know the extent of the damage I had caused.

With 20 days to go I am pleased to say that I am officially back in training - albeit very gently. It is nowhere near the finished article, but tonight my foot feels better than it has done at any point since inadvertently putting into a hole at Ballafletcher the other week.

I had an appointment with John Barton on Thursday as I was still experiencing pain when walking, and my heel was very tender to the touch. After a quick examination, he told me that the slowdown in recovery I was experiencing was due to the damaged heel fibres getting tangled, not moving freely and staying inflamed thus causing discomfort. He dived straight in with thumbs of steel and started to work the damaged fibres and within minutes the immediate pain had subsided. After working manually on it for 20 minutes, he pulled out a magic laser machine, and zapped a couple of areas for about another 10 minutes.

After he had finished he told me that it was unlikely that I would need to see him again for further treatment as the injury should now settle down within a few days. It has improved significantly, is still a little tender to the touch, but the improvement in mobility is significant. He suggested some stretching exercises, and to continue with using the bio-lamp that Michael George has very kindly lent me.....thanks Michael, it's working well, hope you don't mind if I hang on to it for a bit longer.

I therefore prolonged my absence from training for a bit longer, however, I decided that today was the day to get back on the horse. The advice I had been given was to start off steady on the flat, so I decided to take myself off to Baldhoon Road which is a slight incline but relatively flat for a good stretch. This is where we have trained for a good proportion of the time on Wednesday nights over the past few months, so I parked up and headed off towards Glen Roy at a steady pace. My head was telling me to take it steady, but my legs were so desperately wanting to go quicker. I would love to tell you the pace I was going, but because it has been a few weeks I forgot some of the basic essentials required for a training session, but most notably the Magic Watch. Anyway, back to the walking......I was taking it steady as the road started to climb and I could begin to feel a bit of a strain in my heel so I really backed off the pace as I didn't want to cause any more damage. I got to a point where I thought that I had pushed it far and hard enough and turned back towards the car a little downbeat. As I headed back, the road does slope downwards gradually and it was interesting how the strain eased almost immediately. By the time I got back to the car it felt good enough to do another loop, so I headed off towards Glen Roy once again. Roughly at the same place, the heel started to tug slightly so again I backed off the pace which did help. At the same turn point, I headed back to the car and it felt better again. I decided to go for one final loop and it felt good on both the outward and return leg, but decided when I got back to the car that enough was enough. I had walked for 17 minutes and measured the distance of a single loop in the car afterwards which worked out at 0.5 miles. So 17 mins for 1.5 miles I am extremely pleased with (I just hope Dave Walker and John Barton aren't reading this as it was probably far quicker than I should have gone), but as I write, apart from a little stiffness, the foot feels good, and is without doubt no worse that before walking.

As I mentioned before, it is by far nowhere near the finished article, and I am not ready for the Parish just yet, but on the strength of the improvement over the past 96 hours I look forward to lining up with you guys in 20 days time.

So the preparation resumes in earnest. I have started to stockpile things, and tomorrow I take delivery of my repaired laptop. For those long term followers, you may remember a previous blog where I mentioned that my laptop was broken and since then I have been using Caroline's MacBook. Although I have got used to using it, and it is a far better machine than my own, you (well I) can't do spreadsheets on it, and this is what I use to do a lot of my own analysis and targeting for the day.

Saved on my hard drive is an excel file which documents parish distances, official cut off times, my actual split times for the 2010 walk, and eta's at each point for a 20 hour and a 21 hour finish. I now need to adapt this for this year to include last year's actual times and eta's for my objectives.

I think I need to be practical however, and my objective which seemed extremely achievable 3 weeks ago may not be to realistic as I am going to have to take it quite easy to ensure that I protect my foot as much as possible.

My advice to anyone looking to finish for a first time is to go with a plan. It is very cliched but, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. For the early Parishes, the whole event and carnival atmosphere will carry you along but once you leave Rushen after arriving at 4 different churches within a 2 hour timeframe, it will feel very peculiar that you may go best part of 3 hours til you reach the next. After Peel it may take you nearly 2 hours to get to the next. Kirk Michael, Ballaugh and Jurby are quite close together, but then you are getting to the business end of the day, the number of onlookers reduce significantly, darkness and tiredness is starting to creep in. It is at this point when your mind can (and oh yes it most certainly will) play tricks on you but if you have something constant to refer to you, you'll know exactly where you are up to, what kind of time you are on target for and whether you need to speed up or can afford to slow down.

Once I have my own laptop back up and running, I'll show you a mock up of last year's card to give you an idea.

To finish off, and to get back to a theme I have gone with over the last few blogs is motivational music. Some of my favourite music to listen to whilst walking is by Faithless, and as I have mentioned previously, some songs inspire and motivate me because of words and some purely because of the uplifting nature and beat. This one definitely falls into the latter categorically, and if you can get your steps in line with beat, it really drives you along..............

I've just realised that I haven't even mentioned anything about the Olympic Torch or Saturday's Superbike or Sidecar races yet, so I will blog early next week with my take on these things and a training/injury update.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Your number's up!

After 4 and a half month's training, a couple of injury scares I'm afraid to say my number's up........and so's yours!!

That's right the 2012 Parish Walk Programme is now available and details every entrants number. This is one of the most hotly awaited publications, and all previous finishers will scramble through the pages to see what their number is for the forthcoming race.

I've had a quick flick through and there are a few numbers to look out for:

1 - usually donned by the defending champion, but in Jock's absence this year, Vinny Lynch will have the honour. Second placed last year, if he can repeat or beat his time, he will be there or there a bouts and retain the number for next year.

2 - Richard Gerrard, my co-blogger has been beaten into 2nd seed, but take nothing away from him. If you beat him, you win the Parish - simple!

21 - Maureen Moffatt is the 2011 ladies champion, can she repeat her performance again this year - why not?

78, 41 & 42 - David Collister - 28 finishes, Ray Hughes & Anthony Kneale - 22 finishes each. These stats speak for themselves. These guys are true Parish legends. For me to match David's number would take me until I am aged 62 which is completely incomprehensible.

85 - John Watterson, my other fellow blogger, aiming for his 5th 'lap'

17, 250 & 286 - Julian Thomas, Ciaran Broad & Nick Coole. Also known as the other 3 members of the illustrious team I am delighted to be a member of - See My Vest (v1.2). I'll give you the lowdown on each of these guys and the story behind the team name at a later date.

137 - Yours truly. My number is lower than last year's (170) so that tells me I'm improving.

I could go on, but I have to sign off with one last number otherwise I'll get in trouble for not mentioning it - number 83 which is my sister, Lou Thomas aiming for her 5th finish this year.

So, there you have it, if you want to take a look yourself, click on the information tab on the left hand side of the home page and it is in the downloads section right in front of you.

Quick fitness update - I have an appointment with John Barton at 10am tomorrow as I have felt like my recovery seems to have ground to a halt so I want to get every bit of help I can before lining up on the big day.


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Green Eyed Monster

It's typical isn't it, as soon as I can't train, the weather turns fantastic, and I can't take advantage of it.

Instead, I put my body on the line for you first time Parishers just to demonstrate the do's and dont's for the forthcoming walk. A few weeks ago I trained with little water just so I could describe the effects of dehydration (honest), and whilst I have been laid up I have taken advantage of the glorious sunshine, and now the top of my head is resembling something fresh you would buy from the butchers!! But surely that can't be the case I hear you ask, as I must have applied high factor sun cream - oh no, why would I need to do that?

The moral to this story is make sure you pack plenty of high factor sun cream or sun block for the big day. Regardless of whether it will be a scorcher like the last few days or not, even through cloud cover you can burn, so I highly recommend taking preventative action otherwise you'll feel it later on!

A quick training update....well there still hasn't been any.

I went to the hospital for my appointment on Thursday morning, and was delighted to hear that I would be seen by Dave Walker who most of you will (or certainly should) know is an accomplished Parish Walk veteran. I was pleased because I knew that Dave knows exactly what taking part in the Parish means, and if my injury was bad enough meaning it would keep me out of this year's event, he would tell me straight as he knows what is required to get round.

After a bit of general chit chat, Dave examined my heel and achilles area, and spelt out to me that I need to take it very very easy for the next couple of weeks. Basically, I have torn a portion of the fibres in my heel that attach the achilles tendon to the heel bone, but this should settle down in time for the big day just as long as I respect it.

On that basis, Dave said that I can start training again, but need to take it literally mile by mile, and start by walking on the flat and not to push it anywhere near full pace.

I have borrowed a Bio-Lamp from Michael George and have been spending around 30 minutes a day with it concentrated on the heel area. Simply, the lamp emits heat directly to the affected area and encourages improved circulation, and assists with recovery. Dave has also recommended that I apply topical anti-inflammatory cream as the massage motion should help with breaking down the scar tissue.

As it stands therefore, I have full range of movement back in my foot now, and although I can still feel a niggle there, it is absolutely tons better, and I reckon another week should see it pretty much sorted. The only real issue I face is the heel is sensitive to the touch and therefore need to be really careful not to bang it as it is really painful when i do - I think I've done that twice just today.

I think I will probably leave any sort of training until maybe Wednesday or Thursday which leaves me just over 3 weeks to get back into the swing of things, but hopefully, as I have trained solidly for 4 and a half months the good work I have done will remain in there.

I am keeping everything crossed.

Adam Killip dropped me a line on Friday and gave me some of his favourite motivational songs. A couple of belters in there including this one (listen to the words), but not sure about Chris Rea's Auberge!?!

I'll update on injury progress in mid week, but one final note to say it so great to see so many people out and about training at the moment, the prom seems to be one mass of hi-viz jackets.

Keep it up !!!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A month to go

Here we go, we are now definitely at the business end of proceedings. No more count downs in months, and weeks we are literally into days. I can now honestly say that if you haven't done any training, or have only started recently, then don't say I haven't warned you. If you do manage to get round, you will wish you had started earlier - trust me !

Exactly 31 days from now, some of you reading this will be finished (some in more ways than one) and others of you will still be plugging away. I am hoping to be in the latter group, and looking at the time, if all goes to plan, I expect to be somewhere in the Andreas area. All being well I will have already done my stint on the blister tingling path up to the church - those of you who have made it to Andreas in the past know what I mean here.

The sickening thing is the leaders will be less than 2 hours from finishing, and putting their feet up for a well earned rest.

So as we're so close, it's time to start getting things together, and making lists for things I have run out of or just simply want. A good place to start is medical supplies, so my medical kit usually comprises the following:

Compeed plasters
Normal plasters
Medical tape
Baby wipes
Rehydration Sachets
Antiseptic Cream
Insect repellant
Sun Cream
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Deep Heat
Freeze Spray

I think most things speak for themselves here. The new item in my kit this year is my toothbrush and toothpaste. Last year on the way to Lonan Church which is literally a 2 minute walk from my house, Caroline asked me if I wanted anything from home. After 20 hours of filling myself with all sorts of food and fluids my mouth felt like a tramp's armpit, so I said 'yes, my toothbrush please'. I have to say that this was an inspired choice as I immediately felt refreshed after a quick brush, so this year it's coming with me as it could be useful a little earlier on.

I also forgot insect repellent last year, and the stretch from Jurby to Bride was dreadful for flies and other assorted insects, it was a really hot, humid evening, and they were swarming everywhere. There is nothing worse than being pestered by the little horrors so this year I will be packing the jungle formula.

The two must haves in there are the compeeds and vaseline. Compeeds for when blisters begin to appear, and they will, so if you can deal with them in the most efficient way then it will make your day more comfortable. Vaseline will be used for a couple of purposes, obviously the first one being to alleviate chaffing, but also to keep your lips moist. If it's a hot day, trust me, your lips will dry out, and become very uncomfortable.

This isn't an exhaustive list, and I reckon I have probably forgotten something, so stay tuned for updates.

Today's motivational song reminds me of starting to read the Parish blogs in 2010, and obviously reminds me of my first successful attempt at the whole distance. Dave Walker (who I understand has crocked himself, so I sincerely hope that he has a speedy recovery before the big day) was a blogger that year, and played some great music on his blog, included this one. As I said in a previous post, it doesn't necessarily have to be a tune with a banging bass line to walk to, it can sometimes be the lyrics that spur you on. This song actually inspires me because of the association of it to the walk.

Hope you like it...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Positive Mental Attitude

Over the past 72 hours, I have adopted a PMA, and I am confident that after all my niggles and recent scare I will be able to line up in 33 days alongside the rest of you, and have as good a chance as before in completing a lap.

I have been regularly icing my injured heel, and been taking the Diclofenac tablets prescribed by the A&E doctor. The combination of these and some pretty hardcore rest have seen the injury improve significantly. Although I can still feel some pain when I exert pressure, I am now able to walk virtually without a limp, and haven't needed to use the crutches since Friday.

If it continues to improve at this rate, I expect to be burning up the pavements again within the next week to 10 days. Without getting ahead of myself, I have set myself a goal as to when it should be safe to start training again. Once I can do a free standing, one legged calf raise with my left foot without any pain or fear of something twanging, I am ready to go. I certainly can't do that just yet as it still to sore and far far too early to even attempt it.

Naturally, I will be taking advice from the doctor at A&E when I return for my appointment on Thursday morning, but I am only thinking of a positive outcome.

As you would expect, training has been a no go since Wednesday night, so there really is nothing to update you with on that front. What I have been able to do however is lots of stretching to try and stay as flexible as possible, and make sure that my hamstrings don't shorten.

Not being able to train is awful, and I'm certain I've put weight on. I probably haven't but the mind plays terrible tricks on you. I am hoping that I can take a positive from this injury, and allow it to spur me on. At some point in exactly 33 days I will either have been in a pit of despair, or heading towards one, and it is this week that I can draw on to remind myself that at least I can walk.

This is the benefit of being a 'veteran' of the race, you know the highs and lows you will experience and the sort of things you can use mentally to drive you on.

I find that music is a great way to life spirits and I have down a lot of this over the past 5 days. I have listened to a lot of music that I use to motivate me on the day, and I want to share with you some of the fantastic tunes that for one reason or another give me an extra boost when needed. Some are really upbeat that just make you go that bit quicker as they make you walk to the beat. Other songs may have special meanings in the lyrics which drive you one, others have a combination of both, and these are real gems.

I have a really eclectic taste in music and over the next few weeks, I will share some of my favourites with you.

So which one first?

That's not even a difficult question to ask. Every time I hear this song, it just makes me think 'Parish Walk', it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I absolutely love it.

At the 2011 Walk Talk at the Manx Museum, the organisers showed a short video clip documenting the 2010 race, and this was the song that the footage was played to. Since then, I have felt that this song is synonymous with the occasion, and I have placed it as my unofficial Parish Walk anthem.

If I could get hold of the video clip, I will post it so you can hopefully see what I mean. Maybe you'll agree with me, maybe you won't. What would be great is if you have any favourites let me know and I could post these as they may be more motivational than the ones I have in mind.

Finally, I would just like to say an absolutely huge thank you to everyone who has wished me well over the last week. The comments, emails and texts I've had have been huge encouragement to me, and really reminds me of what a great community spirit the Parish Walk instills in people. For those first timers of you, it is this encouragement that really helps you on the day and makes you believe.

Next time, more music and starting to compile lists......

Friday, 18 May 2012

Whatever next?

If tomorrow was Parish Walk day, I can categorically guarantee that I would not be lining up with 1818 others on the start line.

After what started as a really good training week almost certainly ended in near disaster. Those who know me think I am probably overreacting as usual, but as I write, I have my left foot resting on an ice pack, and next to me are the crutches I was given in A&E yesterday morning.

I wrote a cryptic message at the end of my last blog about the possibility of a one off appearance from a retired Manx football referee at a charity football match on Wednesday night. Well that person was me, and after what started as a light hearted fun evening, turned sour extremely quickly. After only 10 minutes there was a lull in play, and as I stepped backwards, my foot went down into a hole I felt something pull, and it felt like I had been shot in the heel!!

Although it was painful, I didn't think much of it at first, and just thought I'd be able to run it off. How wrong could I be? As the game progressed, the pain became worse, and my mobility virtually disappeared. By full time, I couldn't bear any weight on my heel, and was really struggling to walk.

I managed to get home and put an ice pack on the damaged heel which did seem to help, but only temporarily. The pain kept me awake most of the night, and as you all know, when you're awake in the middle of the night, your mind races and you think all sorts. At one point I was convinced I had ruptured my achilles tendon and my dreams of a third consecutive Parish finish were over before they began. I was mulling over what to do, and whether to see someone about it. I thought to myself if I go to the hospital they may tell me it is a rupture and I wasn't sure I could handle being told that the last 4 months training had been in vain. If I didn't go, I couldn't be told the worst and therefore there would still be hope.

It's amazing the effect that the cold light of day has on you, and when I woke up at 6.30, I decided I was going to go to A&E and get a proper diagnosis.

How glad I am that common sense prevailed.

I struggled across the car park using my umbrella as a makeshift walking stick, and headed into A&E (a department of the hospital that I have spent far too much time in over the years, and couldn't believe I was heading back). I was the only person in the waiting room, and was therefore seen very quickly.

After a quick (but very painful) consultation, the A&E doctor advised me that there was no achilles tendon damage, and I was suffering from inflammation of the membranes that cover the achilles itself.

Apparently, there is a sac of fluid known as Bursa that sits between the membranes and allows the skin to move freely around, but this sac had probably been slightly dehydrated and the membranes weren't moving as freely as they could have.  Effectively the hyper extension of my heel had caused friction between the two membranes and instead of moving independently, one had wrenched the other causing the dragging or stretching sensation I felt before the sudden pain.

So a quick prescription for anti inflammatories and a pair of crutches for mobility later, I was on my way to work where I was greeted with raucous guffaws at my predicament. So much for sympathy.

I have to go back to the hospital next Thursday for a check up to see how the recovery is progressing, but the doctor was fairly confident that the tablets will do the trick, but he couldn't say with any conviction whether I will have completely recovered by Parish Walk day, I therefore have everything crossed as I will be absolutely gutted if I am unable to take part. I have to admit, I did a little bit of Googling last night and the general information I have found indicates that after a weeks rest I will be able to start light training again and after 2 weeks, I should be back to normal, but I will wait and see what hey say next week.

On that basis, I have missed 2 training sessions this week, and I am getting really fidgety but know that a wrong move now will more than likely spell the end of this year's attempt. I want to make sure that I am absolutely right before putting any undue pressure on my heel, so I won't be taking part in the Northern Athletics 10 mile walk on Sunday as planned, but I will be there to encourage (and heckle).

Before disaster struck, I managed to clock up around 31 miles this week (not including the 4 that I ran, jogged, walked and limped on Wednesday night) which I am pleased with, but it is amazing how much we take things for granted and it is only when something is taken away from you, you realise how much you miss it.

We have 5 weeks left til the big day, which means to me only 3 weeks of real hardcore training, followed up by 2 weeks tapering. Let this story be a lesson, and just be careful. Although this was a complete accident, please exercise care when training. The weather is terrible at the minute, so watch out for wet grids, slippy kerbs, uneven surfaces etc. This is now the business end of things and you don't want all your hard work to be for nothing. All that said however, don't dwell too much on it, just bear in mind the potential risks and manage them accordingly.

35 Sleeps........

Sunday, 13 May 2012

4 hours to go.

I've just checked the entries to date, and as it stands, we are 24 short of last year's total, so I am going to put my neck on the line and say we are going to smash the record and end up close to 1800 entrants.

A little short of the 2012 that had been bandied about earlier in the year, but nevertheless it is a tremendous total, and shows the support from the Manx public (and a few UK bods too) for such a tremendous event that in one way or another pretty much touches everybody on the Island.

I'm absolutely exhausted this afternoon, and it is nothing to do with the 18.5 miles I walked this morning in 3 1/2 hours. It's all the nervous excitement watching the climax to the Premier League season this afternoon, what a day. Coming down to the last game of the season and to be decided on goal difference, it reminds me of the 1989 title run in. I still wake up in a cold sweat sometimes remembering how Michael Thomas broke so many Kopites hearts that day, that must be how Man Utd fans are feeling now. With only 5 minutes added time remaining, Man U fans must have thought they were home and dry, but City had different ideas, and the rest as they say is history. Anyway, who cares about Man U and City, 8th is the new 1st - looks like there may be a new person in the queue at the Liverpool dole office.

Back to training. This week I wanted to step up the effort a little, and my initial aim was to get out 5 times.  The plan started well, and my alarm went off at 5.45am on Tuesday and by 5.50 I was out of the house heading for a lap of Glen Roy. 6.5 miles and just over an hour later I was home again and feeling pretty good with myself. Wednesday night was the usual Laxey night, this time up on the Baldhoon Road doing intervals on a 1.5 mile course. Myself and Simon did 4 laps with a 2 minute rest in between. Moving time was 57 minutes, and again I felt chuffed with myself as I felt really good and the my legs were still pretty fresh. Thursday night I did a short 4 mile loop from the NSC round to the business park and back. I wasn't feeling that great, and really struggled up Vicarage Road, and only started to pick up as I turned off Cooil Road and headed back to the NSC. By the time I got back to meet the kids after hockey, I felt exhausted, but was still on target for my 5 sessions in the week.

My aim was to get up early on Friday and go for another lap round Glen Roy, however I had a relapse of the stiff neck I suffered a couple of weeks ago, and I woke up at 3am in agony again, so chose to give it a miss. I'm pleased to say that it's tons better now, and I managed to get out this morning with Simon so although not quite the 5 sessions I wanted, I did do 4 and brought my total mileage for the week to 35. We had arranged to start from the NSC at 8am and head along the Parish route to Rushen. Simon parked his car by Rushen Church yesterday and walked home so we had transport to get home again. It was near perfect conditions to start with, cool, and overcast, but by the time we had climbed to Santon we were greeted by a massive headwind which remained in our face all the way to Rushen. We chose not to do the little detours at Santon and Malew, and also didn't bother with Braddan loop at the start so by the time we reached the roundabout in Rushen we had only covered just over 16 miles so I had a great idea. Let's walk to the top of Ballakillowey and then we can turn round and come back to the church. Part way up the hill it didn't seem that much of a great idea, but as I kept saying, we would be pleased we did it in the end, and we were. We made it to the picnic area, turned on our heels and headed back down the hill. By the time we reached the church, we had covered almost 18.5 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes so a really good workout. I just hope I don't get a neck relapse again.

Stand up Pinocchio

Before I sign off, I have to tell you about the Craig's Heartstrong Foundation annual charity function I went to on Friday night. What a brilliant night, and they raised over £14,000 for the charity on the night from the generous attendees who all dug really deep to bid on some fantastic auction items. Phil Thompson was the guest of honour and regaled some fantastic stories about his time as a Liverpool player and coach, before donating two of the top prizes for the auction which raised almost £6,000 between them. For those of you who don't know, the charity was set up in memory of Craig Lunt who died aged just 25 in 2005 from a previously undetected heart defect. The charity runs two heart screening weekends each year to help identify whether any of the Islands young adults suffer from anything similar to what Craig did, and give them the chance that he unfortunately didn't have. Wednesday night sees a charity football match being staged between the Corinithians winning Cowell Cup squad from 1992 and a Corinthians Select XI. Before the match, the charity will be donating a defibrillator to every football club and high school on the Island and I understand that it is their aim to place one in each sports clubhouse on the Island to include other sports such as rugby and cycling, and hopefully athletics too. For further information on a great charity, click on the link below.

If you are in the vicinity of Ballafletcher on Wednesday at around 6.30pm, then pop down and I am sure you will be treated to a feast of football. There are rumours doing the rounds also, that a certain retired football referee may be donning the whistle for one last time during the match too. I can't comment at this point, but if you get down there you may see for yourself.

Right, got to go, but remember, you have less than 4 hours to sign up and you have to be in it to win it, or at least take part. After midnight tonight it seriously will be too late so don't be disappointed and get your entry in NOW.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sick as a Parrot!

Strangely, even before the fateful events at Wembley on Saturday afternoon, I had thought to myself that I would use this as the title to my next blog.

Although football related, it was nothing to do with the mighty Reds, although the way that that shower have performed this year, it is exactly how I have been left feeling. The only thing giving me the slightest pleasure football-wise is it really does look like Man U are going to have to perform the best come back since Lazarus to win the league. Barring any miracles from QPR next Sunday, we will see yet another team successfully purchase the Premier League trophy.

Anyway, enough football talk, lets talk about a proper sport.

In my last post, I invited people to contact me if they would like to join me on a longer walk on Saturday. I had already arranged with Simon to do a loop of Baldwin from his house quite early on Saturday, so I sat back and waited for the contacts to come in. I received 2 messages, one from James Bassett (a loyal blog follower) and Christine Kniveton who is a new recruit to Wednesday night sessions. Only snag is, Christine emailed me Friday night, and I was out for a 'few' beers round Laxey to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. Unfortunately I didn't pick Christine's message up til later the next day due to a mad rush Saturday morning to get to Simon's in time.

Before we went out on Friday, we went to Ballakermeen High School to watch the kids perform with Kewaigue School in a musical show called 'Live 2012'. All feeder primary schools had been visited by the music and drama department from 'Balla' and they would all perform a group song. It was a really good show, and really showcased the talents from different schools, and obviously gave the kids a taster of what would be on offer if they go there in a couple of years. I have to say, since I left school back in 1992, Balla has changed significantly, to the point where certain areas were completely unrecognisable.

Anyway, the purpose of telling you all this is because we were due to go out in Laxey as soon as we got back, but I got talking at my in-laws when dropping the kids off for their sleepover, and we missed the bus from the bottom of our road into the village meaning that I drove down and left the car, aiming to get up a little earlier on Saturday to get it before heading to Simon's. I had arranged with James to meet him at 8.50 by the Vehicle Test Centre on Ballafletcher Road as Simon's is a bit difficult to explain how to get to.

I left mine at roughly 8.15 after a mad rush, and race walked full tilt into Laxey to collect the car, so by the time I got to Simon's and met up with the guys, I had already done a 1.5 mile flat out 'warm up'.

We headed off up Ballafletcher Road and in the direction of the hospital (could have done with going there on), and it wasn't long until I was aware of what effort was going to have to be put in to keep up with my contemporaries. Simon who had also been out the night before was in a much more delicate condition than myself, and surprisingly started a little slow by his standards, he is usually the one setting the pace. As we got chatting, James explained that his typical week consists of around 5 sessions, and he quickly added that he likes to do his shorter distances somewhere between 6 and 7 mph. My heart sunk t that point and i really knew I was going to be up against it to keep up with these 2. So we did a loop of Baldwin heading out along West, and returning via East. James mentioned that he had read with great interest my last blog about the hill reps, so we decided to tackle the hill up to St Luke's Church flat out. With this, I put my foot down, and I reckon I pulled out a 2 or 3 metre lead on the others, but before long, James came sailing past, closely tailed by Simon. I was flagging terribly, and then all of a sudden the gin shots that Simon had been participating in the early hours took their toll, and he slowed to a shuffle. Slightly embarrassed we emerged at the top with James waiting for us - oops. Upon emerging from East Baldwin, we took a left and headed over Sir George's Bridge and up the steep hill to the end of Ballanard Road. It was a really warm morning, and I had only brought a Lucozade Sport with me. In normal circumstances, probably not enough for a walk of the distance we did, but on a day as warm as it was, nowhere near enough, so obviously I would run out quickly. Oh no, I hardly drank a drop and after about 10 miles, it really began to show. My calves really cramped up, my legs were very heavy, and as I said then, I felt like I had loads of energy left in the tank, but my legs just didn't want to know. A prime example of what dehydration does to you. Sporadically I managed to step the pace up along to the bray hill traffic lights and down Broadway to the prom, slowing briefly along the walkway. It really hit me along Peel Road, and by the time we got to the TT Access road, I was spent. I felt really guilty slowing the others up, and it was all down to my own stupidity from not drinking enough. By the time we made it back to the test centre, Simon and James had had finally listened to me and gone off ahead at their own pace, and I was literally limping down the road in absolute agony. In total, I covered 14.5 miles in 2 hours 37 mins so was pleased with the pace, but really cross with myself for being so stupid and not drinking enough.

Let this be a lesson to you all, don't let yourself fall into the same trap as I did, as your Parish will come to an abrupt end if you do.

So why the title you may ask??

Well, as we were walking, James admitted that he is a Spurs fan and he said he is currently reading a book about the history of the club. Apparently in 1908 (I think I remember the date right) Spurs went on a close season tour of Argentina and the club was gifted a parrot from a ship's captain. The parrot took pride of place on its perch at White Hart Lane, and on the day that Arsenal were awarded a place in the old First Division in Spurs' (allegedly) rightful place in 1919, the parrot keeled over and died. And this is apparently where the phrase 'As sick as a parrot' came from.

So all in all, quite apt on a number of levels for Saturday, and too good a nugget not to share.

Some facts in numbers:

47 - Days to go til the big day
6 - Days left to actually sign up for the event
1372 - The number of entries as I write this blog
384 - The number of entries needed to match last years record
640 - The number of entries needed by closing to reach 2012
1 - The number of dehydrated idiots out walking on Saturday

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Problem solved!

A couple of days of anti-inflammatories seem to have done the trick. By Wednesday morning, the pain and stiffness in my neck had all but subsided and I was able to look around without turning my whole body, you know how, you've all done it at some stage.

Feeling good I decided to crack on with the Wednesday night session which was taking place this week at Ballaragh. Parking up at the car park by the Dhoon cafe, I was amazed by the number of people who had turned out. Word has obviously spread about these sessions and how good they actually are. As well as Steve P and Michelle Turner who had turned up to watch us go through our paces, there were 6 eager souls ready to work hard.

We set off down past the cafe onto the loop road that brings you out by the Port Cornaa turn off as a warm up the majority of us pretty much unaware of what Steve actually had in mind for us. On our return to the car park, Steve marshaled us on to the Ballaragh road, and armed us all with a different coloured piece of chalk.

The aim was to walk as fast as we possibly could up the hill for a minute, and when Steve blew his whistle you mark your position on the road with your chalk. Your minute of rest then began, but in that minute you had to get back to the start position and be ready to go again when Steve blew his whistle.

We had to do this 8 times. 

If you sit and think that it doesn't sound too tough, realistically speaking it's only 16 minutes graft, believe me it is tough, it's bloody tough especially as you keep trying to reach your first mark. I like to think that physically I coped pretty well and my recovery was good. I really would like to improve my cardio though as I was really blowing hard by the time I got to the whistle on each lap.

When I woke up this morning, my neck felt good, and so did my legs, so I think it's fair to say that the exertions from the Sara Killey are out of my system now, and hardcore training can resume in earnest. On this basis, myself and Simon have agreed to go out for a walk up to 3 hours Saturday morning, somewhere between 8 and 9 (probably closer to 9 as we are both out Friday night!). 

Steve suggested last night why not publicise the longer walks we do so if anyone who wants to join in, they can. Regardless of ability, it is a reason to get out, and if enough people turn out, there will always be someone to walk with. 

So, if anyone is keen to join us, drop me an email with your contact details to and I will send out a group email or text around 24hours before we go out so you know where and when. From experience, walking in a group is so much more enjoyable than walking alone.

Tonight I went for a sports massage with Colette at Serene Spa, based in the Living Well gym, and I am feeling good. She worked my legs, back shoulders and arms, and undid quite a few knots in my neck which probably contributed to the problem I suffered earlier in the week.

If anyone is looking to go for a sports massage ahead of the Parish (and I would definitely recommend it), then give Colette a try, she's very friendly and has thumbs of steel !

Finally, if you haven't entered, you now only have 10 days in which to do so - time is running out - FAST.