Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Back in the groove....

Ok, just an interim training update.

Managed a good Ballaragh loop on Saturday first thing when I finally managed to drag my tired bones out of bed. I managed to knock around 4 minutes off my time from the previous week so my overindulgence has hopefully had no lasting effects.

Last night I did my usual NSC laps however this was on my own as my usual Monday partner was suffering from some overindulgence of his own - a mates stag weekend in Newcastle. I left the house in a massive rush at 18.50 needing to drop Archie and his mate at cubs, and get to the NSC asap and forgot the magic watch - I felt naked without it. So it was back to good old fashioned timed laps using my wrist watch. I managed 11 laps in about 57 minutes (approx) so based on my understanding of the distance of a lap that was 5.5 miles (ish) in just under an hour.

Being away last week I missed Wednesday night's session on Laxey Prom, but I understand Steve is away this week, so instead of a drills session, I have arranged to meet up with a few of the regulars to do a 6 or 7 mile lap round Douglas at around 5.30. So all in all, this week should yield a good return to training.

This weekend it is the Manx Harriers open walks, and after much deliberation, I have chosen not to take part - not sure whether this is a good idea or not, but it's too late to worry about it anyway as the entries have closed. I will be there to watch the proceedings, and I understand both my co-bloggers, Richard & John are taking part, so good luck fellas, I'll be there to cheer you on!

Finally, if you have taken a look at the Manx Athletics website this week, there is a bit on there about fund raising for the Hospice & Rebecca House. Well, my sister and brother in law are involved as they are running the London Marathon to raise funds for these worthy causes. On Saturday, Lou is running two free circuit training sessions at Onchan Community Centre between 1.45pm and 2.45pm and 3.15pm and 4.15pm, and will be brilliant sessions and are aiming to raise as much sponsorship as possible. For more info, give Lou a call on 451114. Alternatively, you can sponsor these guys by calling the fundraising team at the Hospice on 647431 or at the Hospice website on www.hospice.org.im and follow the links.

Friday, 24 February 2012

All that good work undone

Oh dear......just got in from a week away at Center Parcs with Caroline and the kids, and too much over indulgence has really taken its toll. I feel fat, unfit and hugely lethargic.

As assumed before I went I did very very little exercise, unless you count messing around in the swimming pool and a bit of easy cycling as exercise, but to be honest I think the calorie intake far outweighed those burnt so I need to get out and soon.

The week started in the best possible fashion, it was my birthday on Sunday and we sailed over to Birkenhead and met up with my mate Dicko, his wife Liz, and their son Leo who had travelled over the day before. Dicko had managed to secure tickets for the Liverpool vs Brighton FA Cup 5th round match so we could take the boys, whilst the girls went into town shopping ahead of our week at Center Parcs. What a great game, Liverpool went ahead after about 6 minutes but Brighton equalised with an absolute screamer of a free kick. To be honest from then on I really did worry about the result as Brighton were all over us until Liverpool managed to scramble the ball over the line a few minutes before half time. Liverpool were like a completely different team in the second half and sorted another 4 goals and also had the luxury of a missed penalty to eventually run out 6-1 winners, and book themselves a home tie with Stoke City in the next round. This is a team very close to my heart as they are actually my home town team so the tie will be very interesting and I'm sure there will be plenty of banter between me and my brother and sister who are avid Potters fans. Hopefully this Sunday's game will see Liverpool bag another hatful of goals, and they will return from Wembley with the season's first piece of silverware.

So back to training (or lack of), I did manage a 2 mile run this morning at 6.50am when I went out to get the car to avoid the mayhem that ensues on 'leaving' day. This is nowhere near enough though considering the amount of effort I have put in up til now. Because of this, I am heading out first thing on the morning, and am going to push myself through the barrier if only to make myself feel better. Well...first I'll feel awful, but after I've finished I'll feel better. I think I'll do a Ballaragh loop followed by a Baldrine loop which in total will bring up around 14 miles.

The only slight snag is for some reason I have picked up a couple of niggles (possibly from cycling but I really don't know) but my right ankle is a bit sore, and my left achilles is also pretty tender. Hopefully they are nothing serious and a good blast tomorrow will clear them up.

So apart from a very poor week from a training perspective, and managing to pick up these pesky niggles from nowhere, it was a fantastic week from a relaxation point of view and my batteries are very much recharged and am ready to get back to and very much looking froward to going to work on Monday after 4 weeks off.

Next post will hopefully include an anecdote on how fantastic my training has gone, and how much fitter and more up for it I am.......let's see eh?

ps. That's not actually a picture of my belly - it might have been at one time though!!!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

18 Weeks to go......

All being well, in exactly 18 weeks from now, I shouldn't be a million miles away from Rushen. Although this will be published a little later, I am writing at 11.40 am so that would be 3 hours 40 into the walk.

So, 18 weeks, or 125 sleeps. It seems a long way off, but believe me, it will be upon us before we know it. On that basis, my advice to anyone who is going to attempt the whole distance, if you haven't already, you really need to start thinking about some sort of training regime.

I spoke to a mate of mine a couple of weeks back asking if I was having another go at the Parish this year as he has had a bet with another of his mates that he will be able to finish it without any training and asked if he could walk with me - good luck with that then, but I would suggest that you may have to get those short arms into your deep pockets fella!

Too many people think that it is only walking and you don't need to do any real sort of preparation. Well, for a start, training helps you develop your feet and make the skin tougher. Walking for the length of time to complete the Parish has a massive effect on muscles and ligaments, so training helps build the stamina required. The most difficult thing I find to train for is the psychological side of things, but being fortunate enough to have completed the distance twice before I have several experiences/analogies/anecdotes etc stored in my locker to draw on when the going gets tough. I will share some of these with you between now and 18 weeks time.

My first and probably best piece of advice is to buddy up. If you are going to attempt to walk the full distance, try and do it in pairs or a small group. Don't worry if you are entering the race on your own, as you should be able to do this on the day as you will get into a rhythm and walk with people of similar ability to yourself and they will be glad of the company as much as you will.

Both of my successes were slightly different in so far as in 2010 I started with my mate Dan, and we walked as far as Maughold together but then separated. In 2011 I walked with another mate Peter (who will now be referred to as Dicko) and apart from a couple of points at the start caused by chatting and from Malew to Rushen due to blister attention, we walked the whole distance side by side and I have to say that I only suffered one serious low point last year. I don't think it's any coincidence that this started just before Rushen and lasted until we were well on our way past Eairy Cushlin.

Walking in numbers can really take your mind off the job in hand, and as I find, when you're chatting away, before you know it you've covered a good distance without even thinking about it. You can also play little games to take your mind off stuff. Anyone with children will know the ABC game, and me and Dicko played naming bands or singers as we trudged through the Maughold darkness - it worked. Most importantly though, you can encourage through tough periods, and be encouraged when you experience them too.

Walking in pairs really helps through the tough times.
So there's this week's titbits, more to come in due course.

A very quick training update. Did a brilliant 16 mile loop in the north of the Island last Sunday morning with a good high quality group only let down by me, which included Richard Wild, Michelle Turner, Judith Quane and Carl Senogles. We went at a good pace for the whole route, and by the time Michelle, Judith and Carl called it a day after 12 miles in 2hours 15mins, I was pretty much done for, but Rich suggested that we needed to round up to 3 hours, so we pushed on and did a further 4 miles in around 45 minutes. By the end I was exhausted, but delighted to have pushed myself so hard. I've tried embedding the info off the Garmin website, but unfortunately I'm not so techie minded, however, if you are interested, I have included a link here to the site. If you do take a look, you'll see that the last 4 miles are quite a bit slower than the first 12, but I'm still chuffed to have maintained over 5mph even when I was worn out.

Monday was usual NSC laps, totalling 5 miles which was at a slower pace than usual due to Sunday's exertions. Wednesday was a good session on Laxey Prom, good interval training for an hour with 2 new attendees, so word is getting out how quality and useful these sessions are - thanks Steve !!!

Finally, I did a 9 mile loop yesterday to clear my head as I had a night out with new work colleagues for a get to know you session, and it was a session. So the wagon has come to a halt once more, but I think I've done pretty well and will certainly be keeping future intake to a minimum as I do feel so much sharper when I stay off it for a good while. Here's another link to that loop if your interested.

This may be my last blog til next weekend now as we are away to Centre Parcs for half term, but I'm taking Archie to see the mighty Reds take on Brighton in the FA Cup tomorrow before we head off up to Cumbria. Hopefully we can get back to winning ways after last weekend's debacle, I think I have to thank Richard Gerrard for not having a dig at me about the result - cheers mate, just watching it was bad enough!!

Anyway that's enough for now, but remember, if you haven't started training yet, now's the time to pull finger!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Success........just !

As the old adage goes, there's nothing quite like your first time. I promised that I would give you an insight into my first successful attempt at the Parish and I will do that today.

First, however, let's get up to speed with training and this week. Following Sunday's final Winter League race, I have managed a couple of good sessions and on checking my weight this morning, I am now over a stone down from New Year's day and I have to say I am feeling fitter, and sharper. Monday night was the same as the last few weeks with a twist. We were afforded an earlier start as Onchan Cubs were embarking on a hike from the Creg back to the Scout Hall on School Road. So having dropped Archie at 6.15, we headed straight to the NSC and had an extra 30 minutes or so. After about 6 laps or so we decided to shake it up a little, and headed out towards Saddle Road. We then took the road up past Braddan School on towards Strang, and down the hill towards Union Mills. Back along the main road and right onto Saddle Road again and back to the NSC saw us cover a total 7.75 miles in just over an hour and a half.

Rest on Tuesday, and then a good, but blooming cold work out on the ever increasing Wednesday night session on Laxey Prom. I jogged down from mine which is about a mile and a half from the beach which was a good warm up, and then we did a good few laps of the prom at various paces ranging from almost strolling right up to full tilt, feeling like my hamstrings could snap at any point.

Having completed the kids bedrooms, and a start on our room, I was giving myself the day off today and was meant to play golf with a friend, however, the wind and rain soon put the mockers on that, so have spent the afternoon with my head in a book studying for an exam I have in April - GREAT !

So, after the unsuccessful attempt in 2008, I knew that I had to really commit to training and put a lot of miles in to give myself the best chance. Me and my mate Dan agreed shortly after the 2009 End to End that we would give the Parish a go, so training started in the January. We started with twice weekly, a Wednesday night and either Saturday or Sunday morning. It was at this point that I put my golfing career into mothballs, and to be honest, it has stayed there ever since. We had some cracking training routes, both short and long including a loop of East and West Baldwin (affectionately known to us as Mike & Alma) and a cracking circuit from Rushen Church up the Howe, back to Port Erin and finishing with a loop of Ballakillowey, the Sloc to Round Table, and back down to Colby.

One thing I have noticed from this years and previous blogs, and many conversations with Parish conquerors, several walkers used to be porkers, myself included. At my heaviest, I was knocking on 19 stone, and from the start of training in 2010 I went from over 17 stone down to 14 stone and in probably the best shape I had been since I embarked on a very short lived running career in 1999 which was put paid to thanks to my favourite right knee.

The day started well, the forecast was good, and we felt very confident that all the training and preparation we had done would see us to the finish. We were bang in the middle of the starting pack at the NSC and as always, the start was busy and it took a while to be able to get into our stride. We had agreed to start at a very easy pace until we had warmed up and then we could push on.

Disaster almost struck walking through Union Mills. The junction of Peel Road and Strang Road has sloping kerbs, and for some reason I chose to put my right foot right onto the kerb stone. Although it wasn't wet, my foot skidded downwards and it was a real test of my knee strength to keep it together. A few years previously my knee would have popped and my race would have been over there and then. If you look at Murray's video of that section, you can actually see it happen, and it really put the wind up me and taught me to concentrate and not do anything stupid.

As the day progressed, it got warmer and warmer, and by the time we had reached Rushen it was absolutely boiling. Heading up Ballakillowey we passed a young girl who looked as though she was almost going backwards, and me and Dan remarked that it was only a matter of time til she quit. We encountered her another 2 or 3 times during the day and it is fair to say that her fortitude saw her through. Because we had trained hard on the Sloc, we knew virtually every step, we knew the distance, the time and exactly where we were at any point and this meant that this usually dreaded section really was nothing more than a mere inconvenience (2011 was a completely different story). On the way into Glen Maye, we decided to stop for refreshments and a quick change of socks, and it was only at this point that we realised actually how sunny and hot it was as Dan's mum pointed out that the backs of his arms were red raw with sunburn. We made sure that we took on plenty of fluids, and set off towards Peel. Arriving in good time, Jackie Campbell was handing out cups of ice to cool the walkers.

The section between Peel and Kirk Michael was almost a different section to that 2 years previous as we just kept going at a good pace well in excess of 4mph. The church came and went, and next stop was Ballaugh where I quit in 2008. Again, we managed to keep a good pace, and we both felt extremely comfortable, apart from I could start to feel a little blister type pain on my right heel. We pushed on past Ballaugh, and both celebrated passing the church with a high five as we had passed my previous best and were now into virgin territory. At Jurby we had another rest, and I decided to tend to my heel. Unfortunately, the blister had already popped meaning that my heel was wet and it was impossible to get a compeed to stick. Nothing a bit of surgical tape couldn't fix though, and I bandaged the plaster into place with the tape and off we went again. It was at this point where we bumped into Dave Fereday who is a Parish Walk legend. As it was the 50th anniversary event, Dave decided he was walking again as he took part in the inaugural event in 1960. He told us a fascinating story about his life and how he is one of only few to compete in and complete every single London Marathon, although recent years have seen him walk the distance rather than run because at the age of 75 his knees weren't up to running any more - amazing bloke. He made it to Jurby where he was stationed with the RAF in 1960, and it was his objective to make it there quicker in 2010 and if possible, push on and go further. Read Murray's feature from 2010 here which is all about Dave, what a top guy he really is.

We were a bit disappointed over the next stage, as during our training we had talked about how likely it would be that England would be playing that night in the last 16 of the World Cup and we could listen to the commentary on the radio. This would alleviate boredom on the long stretch out to Bride, however they had finished 2nd in the group and would play Germany on the Sunday afternoon so we had idle chat and mickey taking to keep us going. Reaching Bride was an amazing feeling as there were several family members and friends there to cheer us on which really gave us a lift. Andreas came and went, and I have to say that I felt every single stone on the path up to Andreas Church as my feet were now feeling pretty tender and as anyone who has been up that path will agree. On the way out of Andreas, I hit a pretty rough patch but managed to quickly snap out of it as I put some inspiring music on my iPod. It was at this point that we spied the girl from Ballakillowey again, and if she looked in a bad way before she was in a terrible state here. She was literally staggering from side to side. I asked her if she was ok, and she responded positively, but said she was just a little tired. Dan and I agreed again that she would be packing up soon as it was inconceivable she could continue any further. We both got our heads down, and headed towards Lezayre. The light was failing, and the whole thing sarted to feel a little surreal. I had the world's worst head torch and as my head was bobbing, the torch was wobbling and the whole motion of the light made me feel decidedly queasy. The main drag into Lezayre was mental, they had just resurfaced the Lezayre Road, and as anyone will tell you, the pavement on that stretch is terrible so I was hopping from road to pavement and back to the road again to try and make the experience as comfortable as possible.

Various people had warned me about seeing things late on, sort of hallucinating I suppose, and I wasn't to be disappointed. As I headed along the dark stretch of road, I saw what I thought was a small boy crouching against a wall with his hood up. This unnerved me a little as I couldn't work out out what the heck he was doing. I couldn't take my eyes of him,and it was only as I went past I realised it was actually a Ramsey Commissioners bin - I felt such a fool, good job I've kept that story to myself and never told anyone...........oops.

We headed out towards Maughold, and about a mile from the church, me and Dan separated. I was going quite well still, but Dan had started to slow. At the top of Ballajora, I had a second wind, and in my mind I knew I was going to finish. I had around 16 miles to go. I think this attitude is the reason behind what happened next. I really upped my pace, and caught several other walkers and passed them thinking I was invincible. How wrong could I be, by the time I had made it back to the main road at the Hibernia, my pace had slowed again as the recent little spurt had really taken its toll. It was at this point where I started to question whether I would finish, and the more I dwelled on it, the more negative my mindset became. I was starting to worry that I was going to run out of time, what compounded this was as I passed the Glen Mona, I thought I was a mile further down the road than I actually was, and this reinforced in my mind that my efforts were futile.

I stopped dead in the road, and shouted across to Caroline who was waiting in the car that that was it, I could no longer put one foot in front of the other, and I wanted to get in the car. She said that she wasn't letting me in the car, and I needed to get going again. I replied that it was physically impossible for me to move and that I was getting in the car. It was at this point she told me in no uncertain terms where to go and drove off into the night leaving me stranded and extremely cross. Looking back, this is the best thing she could have done, if she had pandered to my toys out of the cot moment, I would have been home within 15 minutes and 2010 would have gone down as a failed attempt. I summoned the strength to get going again, but I ached from head to toe, I was exhausted and just didn't want to be on my feet any more. I got about another mile down the road, and Caroline handed me the phone. On the other end was my sister Lou who had just supported Julian to his tenth consectutive finish (he's actually done 11 now so my title page is actually slightly incorrect), I don't remember the full conversation, but the cut an thrust was that she was on her way to support me to the finish and if I wasn't walking at a decent pace by the time she arrived then there was going to be hell to pay !!

Sure enough, as I approached the Dhoon, there she was with her entourage and a single goal in mind - making sure I finish regardless of the consequences. She literally bullied me all the way from there to the bottom of Royal Avenue at which point I knew that barring my legs falling off I was going to make it. All the way my overriding concern was that I didn't have enough time, however Lou kept reminding me that I had bags of time, and was well within the cut offs. What also helped was how she broke the last 5 or 6 miles down into easy to manage sections. From Lonan Church, the next aim was to get to Baldrine. In Baldrine it was to get to the clock. From the clock it was to get to the Liverpool Arms and so on until it was to get from Royal Avenue to the Summerland at which point the finish would be in sight. Although I do remember breaking the last section down, it really is to this day just a blur. The clearest part was walking along the Prom and various friends and members of family appearing out of nowhere and encouraging me to keep going. I crossed the line in 22 hours 51 minutes and 58 seconds, and my emotions were a mixture of relief and absolute elation, it was also tinged with an element of regret that as we had walked so far together, Dan was a few miles back and we didn't cross the line together. That said, reports from his support was that he was going like a train and would finish soon, and that he did in 23.04 exactly.

What was absolutely remarkable however, was that the girl we saw struggle on Ballakillowey and then again in Andreas came through to finish a couple of minutes later as did Dave Fereday - not bad for a first time finisher aged 72 !

I think it really goes to show how much of a mental challenge this is and not simply physical endurance.

The one comment that kept me going.......

'Just think about how bad you are feeling now, and how much worse you will feel tomorrow if you quit after all the effort you have put in'.

I carried this with me in 2011 as well, and although my time was better, you just cannot replicate the feeling of the first time !!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

3 out of 4 aint bad

I mentioned on Friday that there was a good chance that all 4 members of my family were going to take part in this morning's final round of the Up and Running Winter Walking League. It only needed a little touch of bribery and I was convinced that Scarlett would do the 1k race. This was before I was told she was having a sleepover at her best friend Eden's house last night and therefore there was no chance of convincing her to leave early.

Archie had film night with cubs followed by a sleepover at the scout hall in Onchan so me and Caroline had the evening to ourselves. Many years ago (pre-children), we would have been straight off into town, a few scoops, followed by a kebab or 3 (I've done it before you know) and stumbled home. That was then and this is now and after much deliberation we decided to head into Laxey for a meal at La Mona Lisa. I absolutely love that place, but we don't go as often as we should considering it is virtually on our doorstep. With one eye on this morning, I just went for a relatively light dish washed down with a 2011 diet coke.

So, on to this morning, we picked Archie up from Onchan scout hall and headed down to the NSC. What a fantastic morning, bright, clear, still, yet a little cold. The race was changed at the last minute from a handicap start to a scratch start and the handicaps would be added at the end.

My decision to stick to soft drinks last night was vilified as soon as Richard Gerrard appeared looking a touch worse for wear. It was at this point I was glad I declined to sample the Peroni Mona Lisa have on tap.

In recent races I have felt that I have gone off far too quickly and struggled after the first few laps so today I decided to start relatively steady and build up to a decent pace. The stark reality of the task in hand was very evident as soon as we reached the Manx Harriers clubhouse. I glanced across the astro pitch to the other side and saw people who I would normally be walking with way ahead of me and I suddenly though t that I need to catch them. For once, I managed to keep to my game plan and kept steady. After the first 4 laps were under my belt, and I'd done some to-ing and fro-ing with John Watterson and James Betteridge I decided to put my foot down and up the pace a little. I still felt comfortable and was starting to reel in the people ahead of me one by one. I passed a good number of competitors, but with 3 laps remaining I was really starting to feel it. I managed to keep a good pace and crossed the line in 64.38 (according to my magic watch) which is a little outside my pb, but given the slower start and the fact I was really concentrating on my technique today I was and am really pleased, more so for the fact that I didn't get a card today - woo hoo.

Following the races was the presentation for the 5k and 10k competition, after a super buffet laid on by the organisers. We stuck around to see who had done what, we also had an idea that Caroline had done quite well in the 5k races and to her delight she was placed second overall which is a fantastic achievement and she got a plaque which is now taking pride of place on the mantlepiece in the lounge and a voucher from the competition organisers Up & Running.

So another year's Winter League has been and gone, and I must say a huge thanks to the organisers, sponsors and everyone involved such as the marshal's who quietly go about their business giving up their own time to turn out so that these events can go ahead. They really are a fantastic introduction into race walking for young and old, and I am hoping that today's trophy is not the last for the Walter family in the sport. Who knows, Scarlett may turn out to be a race walking phenomenon in years to come. Finally, congratulations to all who achieved what they set out to do, all the new pb's set, especially Michael George with his 48 minutes something or other which is just phenomenal. I reckon it could have been slightly quicker if I hadn't got in his way as he went screaming past as well.

To finish off, 20 weeks from now, the main event will all be over, and everyone will be nursing aches, pains and blisters, but trust me, it will be worth it, every single last bit of it. To sit, and to look back and say to yourself 'I've just walked 85 miles, or I got to such and such a Parish which was my objective' will feel a little surreal, but when it sinks in you will realise what an achievement that is.

20 weeks is a little over 4 months, so training now begins in earnest, still aiming to get out at least 3 times a week, but looking to do one long walk a week of around 15 miles minimum to help build up stamina and endurance, with the other sessions being aimed at going quicker to try and increase overall speed.

Next time I think I will tell you about my first successful Parish and in future posts I'll share with you tips about kit etc. and things to think about.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A strange old week

This week has been particularly strange for me. I tendered my resignation from work on Monday and by 5pm on the same day I had been sent out on gardening leave for a month. Since Monday, however, Caroline has changed it from gardening leave to decorating leave - great!

And there was me thinking a bit more time on my hands meant I could get out and do some serious miles. Well, I start my new job on 27th February, so I have 3 weeks left. That said, one of those weeks will be spent at Center Parcs with the family during half term, and I have 2 more rooms to decorate. Hopefully though, I will still be able to get out and do some decent mileage during my spare time.

Turning to training this week, I have followed what seems to be a growing routine, NSC laps on Monday with my mate from work (ex-work now), and my usual Wednesday night session on Laxey Prom with Party and the gang. When I was out with Richard on Sunday, he mentioned a session he goes to on a Friday at 3pm with Graham Young. At the time I expected that I wouldn't be able to make it due to the start time, but funny how things pan out eh?

We focused mainly on stretches and warm ups, something I have to admit that really are way down my agenda for walking. After some really good exercises, it was amazing the difference in how loose and flexible my legs felt. I remember Richard Spencely extolling the virtues of stretching in his blog last year, and I have to say that I see where he is coming from.

This weekend attentions turn to the final round of the Winter League which is at the NSC, hopefully my recent sessions down there will help. This Sunday should be a total family affair, as Caroline has been doing the 5k races, and getting on pretty well to boot, Archie will again do the 2k lap, and unbelievably, I think I have convinced Scarlett to take part in the 1k race. This was the other day and it will probably take another round of convincing/bribing til she actually does it.

Hopefully the weather will be kind to us, I don't fancy doing a Winter League meets Dancing on Ice special.

Enough for now, I have decorating to be getting on with...