Sunday, 25 March 2012

Unfinished business....

I said a few weeks ago that if you are previous Parish Walker (finisher or not), you should train your socks off on parts that you found difficult or struggled with whether mentally or physically the year previous.

Well, as the name of this post suggests, I have unfinished business from last year on a certain part of the course, and for a finisher, I am extremely surprised at how early I struggled last year. My 2010 arch nemesis was Glen Mona to Dhoon, but 2011 was far far earlier.

As we came into Ballasalla, I felt a bit of the old familiar burn that you get immediately prior to a blister. Unfortunately this was on both feet, just on the outside of my arch, a point that has always been a weak spot for me, and for all previous long range efforts, I have pre-empted any issues by compeeding (other brands are available but are nowhere near as good).For some peculiar reason I didn't bother this time, and it turned into one of the lowest points of my whole parish career. I took the decision just after Malew Church to stop and see to them. Blisters has already formed on both feet, and although small, they were blooming painful. I literally ripped the blisters with my thumb and forefinger to drain the liquid and immediately covered them with the aforementioned Godsend plasters. I don't condone the use of fingernails in such a blasé fashion, and any good medical professional will tell you that this should be done with a sterile needle, but in the absence of one of those, my grubby hands were the next best thing.

Most of you may be thinking that why would two tiny blisters put me into such a downward spiral, but it wasn't actually the blisters themselves, but the knock on effect physically and mentally that came straight after. I was walking with my mate Peter (aka Dicko) and I said to him not to stop with me and carry on, we were going at a reasonable pace but I knew I could catch him.

After my feet were sorted, I jumped back up and set off like a bullet to catch him. I passed literally tens, maybe even hundreds of people and eventually caught him on the way into Ballabeg. I was absolutely shattered by the time I got there, and this was the beginning. Because I had gone so fast, my mind was racing, my feet were now fine by the way, but my legs felt heavy because of the effort and i started thinking negative thoughts. By the time I reached Rushen, my left leg had started to cramp and I really wasn't enjoying myself. As you all know, the point straight after Rushen is really when you need to have your mind and body in the right place, and Ballakillowey is not forgiving in the slightest. I really struggled up the hill, and given how hot it was, it was the most uncomfortable I have ever felt. I really felt stupid as well and I think this compounded the issue. Previously, I had always said that Ballakillowey and the Sloc were nothing, and just an inconvenience, but this year they almost put paid to my effort.

The drop down through Lhinguage offered minor respite, but the Sloc compounded my already drained mental state. Dicko had moved on ahead a bit as I was absolutely no company at all, and although I could see him ahead, he was getting further and further away and I was being passed regularly which just made things worse. As anyone who knows me well, I hate being passed, I like to do the passing where possible, and as I am so competitive it is just excruciating to see people go past me.

Finally, the doom and gloom started to lift as I started chatting with a young lad who was also in bits, he had the most battered old pair of trainers on and he said his feet were hanging off. I managed to draw some positives from this and was also encouraging him to just keep going, as he was threatening to quit - I know exactly how he felt but I just told him that he'd be alright at the top as we were almost over the worst. Feeling slightly better I pushed on and eventually managed to catch Dicko (I think he was actually waiting for me) on the way to Round Table. He was chatting to a guy who was attempting the walk for the first time, and he was going well. Before long, the three of us were gassing away about something and nothing, and barring a little stop by Eairy Cushlin for a cramp related stretch, the mist had dissipated, and I was feeling confident and relaxed and more like my old self.

The rest as they say is history!

I think this anecdote underlines a number of things we experience on the big day, the highs, the lows, but also the camaraderie. Everyone is a friend, and believe it or not, if you're feeling down, there will be someone not a million miles away from you who is either feeling the same, or has done, and I bet you your bottom dollar, if you let someone know you're struggling, they'll help you out!

So why tell you this story now? Well, today was the first time I returned to that stage since last June. Me and my mate Ciaran, and a friend of his, Kate, met up early doors as we wanted to do Ballakillowey and the Sloc, so we set off from Santon Church at about 7.30 and made our way along the route. 7.30 felt a lot earlier, probably because of the change to BSTBallakillowey and ready to begin the ascent. I was still feeling last week's training in my hips and legs, so the slower pace was welcome, and we went up both inclines without concern. I was met at the top by Caroline who had previously arranged to walk with a friend from Rushen to Peel, but unfortunately her friend couldn't make it. I suggested she join us to walk to Peel, but because she had set her mind on the Sloc and hadn't done it, she was not in the best frame of mind, so instead decided to drive back to the bottom of the Sloc and walk to Round Table and back - a good effort !

We finally made it into Peel, just over 20 miles, in about 4 hours 35, which was much slower than the 19 miles in 3 hrs 36 mins last week, but I felt really good, and instead of getting the bus back to Douglas could quite easily have walked the 10 miles if only I had the time.

Think I'll take it a little easier this week as I want to make sure I recover properly from the long walks I have done this and last weekend, and as the Sara Killey is coming up 4 weeks today, I will probably restrict my maximum distance to 15 miles before then.

Finally, if you haven't heard, it's the Walk Talk at the Manx Museum on Tuesday at 5.30 (doors open at 5pm, arrive early to avoid disappointment), and I would highly recommend that you go whether you are a seasoned veteran or a novice, as there is so much to draw from this event. The guys who do the talking are highly experienced and pass on all sorts of useful tips, and are definitely worth listening to. Last year I went and it was real turning point in my training, previously I had just been coasting, but listening to the guys talk really helped me focus my efforts. I would encourage everyone to do the same.

See you there.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

14 weeks to go

So, we're another week closer to the big day, and training is going extremely well. Monday to today, I have managed to cover around 31 miles over 4 sessions. All have been different types of session, and sitting here while I type, I feel blooming good. Add to that that I am now just over a stone and a half lighter than I was at the turn of the year, and things are looking good.

On New Years Day, I weighed in at a hefty 16st 11lbs (I am putting 7lbs down to Xmas excess), but I am now 15st 3lbs, and moving in the right direction. I have set myself a goal to aim to get to 14st 7lbs by the Sara Killey and dropping to 14st by the big day. I've struggled with my weight all my adult life, a combination of sitting behind a desk all day, with little or no exercise didn't help. Add this to a pretty useless right knee for best part of 5 years meaning I couldn't really run or participate in high intensity sport, and you soon come to realise how I managed to balloon up to just shy of 19 stone. At 6' 4" I can carry my weight well, but you do run out of places to hide the flab associated with such girth. So if I can get to 14st, I will be over the moon, plus it will give me the best chance of getting my time down.

So this week's training has consisted of best part of 7 miles at quite a relaxed pace on Monday, a quickish 2 miles on Wednesday, a lightning fast (for me anyway) 5k at the NSC on Thursday in the Dursley Stott race, and wrapped the week up with a high tempo 19 miles from Bride to Peel today. The Wednesday gang had all agreed to race on Thursday, and as Steve couldn't make a full session due to other commitments, myself Simon and Alex simply did a few laps of Laxey Prom but didn't want to do too much with the following day's race beckoning.

With the race due to start at 6.30pm, I got to the NSC just before 6, got changed and started to do a proper stretch and warm up routine. The handicap race started pretty much dead on 6.30 and Caroline set off first. Shortly after, I was chasing down the guys ahead of me in my quest to try and break 30 minutes for the 6 and a bit laps.

I did the first 3 laps in just under 15 minutes and was well on the way to getting a 29 something. I had been passed by Richard Gerrard, Dave Walker and Vinny Lynch during this point, and I did my best to try and stay close to them for as long as possible, but Jeez can those guys shift, they went past me as if I was standing still. At the half way point, I started having a real tussle with Stewart Jones who usually beats me in the races we've done together, but I was determined not to let him get ahead. We battled for the last 3 laps, and literally it was nip and tuck all the way, but Stewie seemed to get an extra burst of energy and managed to get ahead. I pushed as hard as I could down the back straight behind the grandstand but he stayed strong, and I crossed the line 3 seconds behind him. It was a fab race, and although I didn't quite break the 30 minutes, I was happy with 3rd place and 30:19.

My hamstrings were a bit tight this morning so I'm thankful that I did such a rigorous warm up on Thursday because goodness knows what they'd have been like if i hadn't. The plan was to walk from Bride to Peel and we aimed to start at 7am. I left mine at 6.30, and picked Alex and Michelle Turner up on route to Richard's house. It was a really bright morning, but was quite cool, but after much deliberation, I decided to ditch my jacket in the car, and just go in vest and t-shirt. After about 20 minutes this proved to be the right decision, because as soon as the sun shone, it was really warm. We started at a good pace, and followed the End to End route. The weather was amazing, there was hardly a breath of wind, and we were making really good progress. Michelle only planned to go as far as Ballaugh as she had taken part in the Glen Mona fell race yesterday, however we managed to convince her to do the full route to Peel. After a short stop for provisions and a good stretch in Kirk Michael we set off again. Passing Glen Wyllin was a little chilly as the sun disappeared temporarily, but that was short lived and before long the warmth returned. We managed to maintain good pace, but about 2 miles from Peel, the distance and pace began to take it's toll on me and I dropped back from the group, Richard and Michelle were going like a train, Alex was somewhere in between. I did manage to keep my pace just above the 5mph and arrived in Peel in 3hrs 36mins which for 19 miles works out as an average of 5.3mph which I was well chuffed with and far quicker than I have trained over this sort of distance in the past. According to the magic watch I burnt off just over 3100 calories as well, but unfortunately I couldn't bring myself to tuck into a Bacon & Egg Bap just as Rich did, but maybe that's a good thing with my weight target in mind.

I have to say, I am really enjoying training at the minute, I am getting out with so many different people of varying abilities so it's nice to push really hard one session, and then be able to take it relatively easy the next.

14 weeks today, we will all be counting our blisters and aches and pains, but if you haven't started training yet, you'll have more to add up than most. You have literally 3 months worth of decent training left as the last 2 weeks should really be used for tapering.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Less is more?

Can't help but think I may have overdone it a little in the last week or so.

On top of my 33 miles last week, I have already done 23 miles this week, and have 2 more sessions planned. Only drawback is the minor ache in my left achilles is now manifesting itself as a bit of a calf strain.

After the 16+ miler on Sunday, we decided on Monday to once again give the NSC a miss and get out and enjoy some Island views. Starting in Onchan, we headed up School Road and out along towards Little Mill equipped with head torches and blinking red lights. This is another cracking training route as there are plenty of hills, it's relatively quiet, and best of all, you don't get to notice it when driving so you can take it all in at walking pace.

My calf/achilles was a little tight after Sunday already, so I outlined my plan to take it easy and not push too hard. When we emerged at Hillberry, rather than head back through Birchill, Ciaran suggested we go down Johnny Watterson's Lane and just add a bit longer to the route. I agreed, and as we approached Ballanard Road, he was really keen to try and get another big hill in, so we took a detour round Port-E-Chee Avenue, and up Bray Hill. Back along Governors Rd, down Blackberry Lane and to Ciaran's house on Ridgeway Road. A total distance just shy of 7 miles, and we did it in about 1hr 25 mins - so a relatively steady pace.

However, when I got home, my calf was telling me another story, so the rest of the night was spent elevating it and resting it on a bag of frozen peas. Fortunately today it feels quite a lot better, but I can still feel a bit of a niggle, so there'll be nothing more strenuous tonight other than hurling a couple of cushions at the TV if the Merseyside Derby doesn't turn out in my favour. My football comments have been conspicuous by their absence recently, probably something to do with the fact my team are playing like a bunch of pansies, and I have nothing good to say about them, so as the old saying goes, if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all. Hopefully tonight will be a good game though bettered only by the right result. I'm keeping everything crossed.

Tomorrow is the usual Wednesday session in Laxey, but I am hoping Steve goes easy on us as all of us over 35 have entered the IOMVAC 5k walk at the NSC on Thursday. Also, I want to try and make sure my calf is right so I can do myself justice. I have agreed a plan with my newly installed stats coach (my mate Dan who is a proper statto and I have given him the title so he can feel involved because he lives in London now), and I will share with you after Thursday night whether or not it worked.

Right, time to sign off, quick story for the kids, then I can get in front of the footy!

Oh no, just seen the team, Bellamy not even on the bench!??! I predict a significant amount of cushion throwing, what is going on, even Everton's bench looks stronger than ours???

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Hills and hangovers

Before today, I didn't think that the two go together, but now I am absolutely convinced that they don't!

As mentioned in my last post, I had arranged with Richard Wild to walk Bride to Peel with him today, however as his hamstring is still on the mend he decided it best to give it a little longer to recover. Instead, I met Simon Briggs (Wednesday night regular) at his house shortly after 7, and we decided to do a loop of Baldwin plus a bit extra to tot up the miles.

This seemed like a good idea at the time of arranging, but both Simon and I were out last night, and had a few beers. I went to the Palace to see a one man play called Beating Berlusconi with my mate Dicko, and in the process had a few pints. I did have a relatively early night, I caught the 11.20 bus from the Manx Arms home, and was tucked up in bed well before midnight. Apparently Simon was a little later than me, and had a few more beers than me too.

When my alarm went off at 6.30 I immediately knew that last night wasn't a good idea after all, but as we had an arrangement, I was sticking to it, so jumped in the car and off to meet Simon at his house in Tromode. Although I hadn't had loads to drink, having really rationed my intake this year, the relatively small amount I had really had an effect.

We headed out past the test centre, and towards Strang, straight across towards West Baldwin. After a hilly lap of the Baldwins at a pretty good pace, we headed along Ballanard Road, and down Bray Hill. We weren't exactly sure where to go next, but Simon suggested we head out past Kewaigue. The last 3 miles have got to be the hardest, longest 3 miles I have ever walked in my life, and going up past the school I just wanted to the hell to be over. Our hangovers had kicked in big style, and we were both really struggling, and the pace dropped significantly. We shuffled across the Cooil Rd roundabout and out towards B&Q cutting through the Business Park and down Vicarage Rd. The downhills were a welcome change as we had done our fair share of uphills and were definitely ready to finish. We eventually made it back to Simon's in a total of around 3 hours 10 minutes which was a decent time for 16 miles considering our condition.

Having had time to reflect on it, I think the slowing was due to dehydration more than anything. Although I had a pint of water before bed, and a pint before I left the house this morning and carried about another litre with me, it really goes to show what an effect alcohol has on the system, but also what effect dehydration has on the body. It's therefore really important to stay hydrated on the day, but it's very difficult to get absolutely right. Too little fluid intake results in dehydration, and too much mean you have to keep stopping to get rid of the excess. The best tip I have ever been given, and this certainly seems to work for me. The feed stations between the start and Peel are quite well spaced out, so when you are offered a drink, take one. Richard did a good piece on hydration the other week, so I'm not going to regurgitate what he said, but what is very important and worth reiterating is the bit about rehydration salts. These are available from all good chemists (and probably a few bad ones too), they taste foul, but then again most things that are good for you do.

Before the big day, I'll do a piece on what I carry in my kit bag such as rehydration salts, but do not underestimate the importance of these things.

So a final round up of this weeks training, 7 miles Monday, rest Tuesday, Wednesday night speed session, 5 miles Thursday, rest Friday, 5 miles Saturday and 16 today. So in total 33 miles which I'm chuffed about.

Just need to get back on that wagon.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A busy week..

...Apologies for going missing.

When I first set out to do this blog I expected to be posting about twice a week, but that seems to have slipped recently. I got reprimanded via email today by my mate Dan (of first PW completion fame), and I promised I would post tonight.

It's been a busy time over the last 10 days or so, returning to work, and trying to undo all the bad stuff that went on at Center Parcs.

Well I am delighted to announce that this week alone I have got in 24 miles of training over two stints already, and that doesn't include the 8 or so I did last Wednesday, so all in all things are progressing well.

As mentioned last time, my normal Wednesday night session last week changed as Steve was away, so I arranged with the usual regulars rather than do drills, lets get out and pound some pavements. All in all we covered about 8 miles and it was nice to get out in the evening while it stayed light for a bit. Remember, the clocks 'spring' forward (see what I did there??) on 25th March, so once more I will be saying farewell to training sessions in the dark and will be able to get some good post work miles in whilst taking in the scenery of our beautiful Island. Who knows, I might actually remember to take my camera out with me and be able to post some photos. I've been threatening to do that since January.

Although there won't be much more dark night training, I'm hoping to finish this year before the sun comes up, but I'll wait and see what the day delivers before getting carried away.

So, back to training, I went to the NSC on Saturday to watch the Manx Harriers walks, and to [hopefully] give some encouragement to those guys taking part. A big well done to those who took part, in particular Michael George and Richard Gerrard who once again underlined just how good they really are, although they finished second and third respectively, I'd love to see the bloke who won try and mix it with them over 85 miles - well done fellas. I'm kind of glad that I didn't take part myself as it would only have meant delaying the start of masters 3k which would have had to wait til I finished dragging my bones round the track. I almost got persuaded to take part in the 3k as I had my PE kit in the car, but this was for the circuit training I was about to embark on at Onchan Community Centre.

Big respect to those who do this kind of exercise on a regular basis, I was absolutely worn out by the time I'd finished and could hardly move. Only snag with this was my right ankle and left achilles flared up again and I think I may have narrowed the cause down to the trainers I was wearing, so I think they are about to be confined to reserve reserve pair!

With the effects of circuit training still in my muscles, I did the Lezayre Church to Lonan leg of the Parish on Sunday morning in just over 3 hours 10 minutes which equates to an average of around 5.2mph. Bearing in mind the hills involved (Ballajora, Glen Mona, Dhoon, and Lonan) and the obvious muscle fatigue, I was pleased with the time, and it was another worthwhile workout.

Monday night saw us detract from the usual NSC laps as I wanted to try and make the most of the time, so we did a loop from Onchan down to Cronkbourne, back along Peel Road, Circular Road, cutting down on to the prom and back to Onchan. In total, just under 7 miles at a relatively sedentary pace, but still knocking on the door of 5mph average.

Next up is tomorrow's Laxey Prom session as Steve is back from his jollies, and then I may be able to get a few laps of the NSC in on Thursday as the kids have hockey and Caroline is keen to get out and do a few laps. Hopefully Sunday will be a biggie, I arranged with Richard Wild a few weeks back that we would walk from his in Bride to Peel which is around 20 miles. Only slight snag is he has pinged his hamstring which kept him out of the 20k on Saturday so we'll have to wait and see what gives.

Hopefully by now, those of you who are serious are well into your training regime, as the big day is only 15 weeks on Saturday. If you haven't then you need to start and soon. Not only do you need to get your body in to shape and used to incessant pounding, but you also need to start trying out what will work for you.

Everyone is different, and therefore different things work for different people. Things to consider are your kit, not just trainers, but socks are extremely important too. I use 1000 mile twin skin socks - I know they're not everyone's cup of tea, but they really work for me. You also need to consider things like the best underwear. Believe me, walking in inappropriate undies for over 20 hours is going to leave a mark. The last thing you want to do is have to rush at the last minute, make a rash decision and hope that it will work, only to find out that by Rushen something is rubbing and you have an open flesh wound that means you are going to have to stop, and wait til next year wishing you'd spent a bit more time considering your options.

A couple of kit tips that work for me, and are worth trying:

I usually avoid traditional undies such as briefs and boxer shorts for walking, and wear a pair of lycra cycling shorts underneath my normal shorts. These provide good support, and keep chaffing to a minimum (don't forget the vaseline though).

Break in two pairs of trainers, and wear them alternately so that you have a spare for the day, unless you're like Jon Wild (blogger from last year) and I think he had about 16 pairs to choose from. A spare pair or pairs are really handy to keep in your backup vehicle in case it rains and your feet get wet. Also, if your feet become really painful, a change of shoes can apply pressure to a slightly different area of your foot and therefore relieve soreness (albeit temporarily).

I suppose I must caveat what I've just said and that what works for me may not work for everyone, but at least you have time to try things out now for yourselves and make up your own minds.

If anyone has any of their own tips that they'd like to share, feel free to send them in, and I will publish them all in due course, obviously giving people time to try them out.

Finally before I go, it's great to see the entry numbers up over 800 already. It never ceases to amaze me how many new entrants join in the fun each year. If it continues to attract numbers at the rate it has thus far, then not only will we be on to a record entry, we are likely to get the number of finishers over 200 for the first time.

Keep up the good work !