Monday, 23 June 2014
My plan was to walk with a little group of people including my wife, Vinny Lynch and some friends to Peel and I must admit, I really enjoyed the social aspect of the early miles down to Rushen. By Rushen though, my feet started to let me know they were still not right and after a couple of more miles of discomfort, I sensibly pulled out of the race at the bottom the of the Sloc. There was no point in making my feet any worse. Although slightly disappointed I didn't make it to Peel, I had a great time chatting to other competitors and supporters at the road side along the way. This is an aspect of the event which is lost for those at the head of the race.
There were some fantastic performances accross the field which saw 184 finsihers of which 71 were first time finishers, the most notable of which is that of fellow blogger Richard Wild. An accomplished walker at shorter distances, this was his first attempt at a Parish finish and whilst he admitted to being apprehensive prior to the start, he remained sensible, judged his race extremely well and was ultimately rewarded with a podium position of which he should be suitably proud.
It is good to see that fellow blogger Steph Quayle finished too as she has been suffering with a similar ankle injury to the one I have been wrestling with and it would have undoubtedly affected her performance on the day - well done Steph.
Dave Walker has been very strong in training during the year and as a result, he had an absolute blinder to knock more than an hour off his PB and claim a very much deserved second place.
Congrats to Alex Eaton who convincingly won the U21 men's race to Peel and also to Danielle Oates who won the ladies U21 race. Both started as junior race walkers with Manx Harriers and have been mentored over the years by Alan Callow and Elizabeth Corran respecively. Worthy of note is that Danielle has missed quite a bit of training this year due to injury so it is testament to her determination that she won her race by a good ten minutes.
Worthy winner of the ladies race was Jeanette Morgan who led from the start and never really looked like being caught although the tenacious Janice Quirk didn't let her have it all her own way and was a constant threat.
Richard Gerrard took his first 'solo' win and deservedly so. Although never seriously challenged, he walked most of the race on his own and it can be a long and lonely road sometimes, especially if you have a bit of a wobble which he did on the way to Maughold.
I think this could be the first of many wins for Richard who isn't yet 44. Why 44? Apart from very nearly being the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything, several years ago, around about 2008, someone produced an interesting statistic that the average age of a competitor doing the Parish Walk was 44. This made a lot of sense to me because, at that time, I had entered the Parish 5 times and gained a lot of invaluable experience. My finising times were gettng quicker and I was leaping up the leader board from 62nd in 2005 to 18th in 2006 to 7th in 2007. 2008 was the year in which I first won the race and I was 44 at that time.
Thinking about it logically, people in their 20s and early 30s will be busy honing more important life skills such as seeing the world, young families, working, socialising and generally living life. They won't be that interested in walking hundres of miles in training to do the Parish Walk simply 'because it's there'. It will be there at some other time.
There are exceptions to every rule though (Adam Killip, Dale Farquhar to name but two), but for the most part, and as a generalisation bourne from statistics, this interesting statement seems to hold some merit.
Hopefully, you overcame the challenging conditions on Saturday and managed to reach your target whatever or wherever that was. If you did, give yourself a well deserved pat on the back. If you didn't manage to make it, chances are that you uttered the famous words "Never again!". However, now that the pain is subsiding and the mind starts to forget the angst you put yourself through on Saturday, it seems that it actually "wasn't that bad" and that you did enjoy it. Or at least some of it.
Give it a couple of weeks and you'll be up for the challenge again and a plan will start to formulate in the depths your mind.
Entries will open in less than six months and we'll do it all over again!
Finally, I hope this blog was of use to some of you and that some tips or pointers helped you in some small way to achieve what you set out to do.
Happy walking and the very best of luck for the future.
Friday, 20 June 2014
All of the training and preparation, the early mornings, the miles and miles done in all weathers have brought you to this point and it will all have been worth it.
Now is the time to finalise your preparations and to relax as much as possible. You won't sleep well tonight as the anticipation sends your mind racing however, it is not the sleep you get on the night prior to a race which is important (it is never fitfull), but rather the sleeps on the two or three preceeding nights which count. You were much more relaxed at that point and will have slept better than you will tonight.
The forecast is for a hot day so it will be important to increase your fluid intake to compensate for fluid loss due to the conditions. Equally important is drinking the correct fluids i.e. not simply water. Mix it up with isotonic drinks, tea, coke, fruit juices and if required, Dioralyte. This is great for replacing minerals lost due to excessive perspiration but on the down side, it tastes pants. Whatever you fancy really or can get your hands on but the golden rule is to keep hydrated! Remember: if you feel thirsty, its too late and you are already on the road to dehydration.
Ideally, today should be spent hydrating by drinking lots of fluids. Most will pass through but your body will retain what it needs. Do the pinch test on the back of your hand to give a rough guide to how hydrated you actually are. This is a rule of thumb really because younger people have better elasticity in their skin than older people so results will vary. However, the premise is that when pinched, the quicker the skin falls back to its normal position, the better hydrated you are. If it snaps back, chances are you are good to go. If it sinks down slowly, seek out a tap.
One of the problems with drinking lots of fluids to combat dehydration is that it can fill your stomach which in turn tells your brain it is full and your brain then declares that you are not hungry and so you don't eat anything. It is important to realise that this may happen and to be aware of it and ensure you do eat otherwise you will rapidly run out of energy.
Weather like that forecast makes what is already a difficult task somewhat more challenging. The 2010 race saw similar weather and a lot of entrants suffered in the heat especially going up the Sloc in what would have been the hottest part of the day.
Should push come to shove and you feel like you can't continue, take 10 or 15 minutes out sitting in the back of your support vehicle and use the time to eat, drink, change clothing and re-apply sun screen. I can guarantee that you will feel like a new person at the end of this period and you will be able to carry on in a much better frame of mind.
I can also state with conviction that if you do give up before you reach your goal, that by the time you get home you will feel ok and will wish you had carried on.
I hope you do well tomorrow and that you reach your intended targets. The only person who can stop you getting there is you.
Good luck and good walking!
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
The Manxies (Vinny Lynch, Jayne Farquhar, Louise Smith, Ed Walter, Jane Foster, Simon Cox and I) had a very successful weekend in what turned out to be an extremely hot and humid 24 hour event. Although the 27° temperatures and blistering sunshine (it reminded me of home....) were forecast, it was still a shock and we were all hot and bothered just putting the tent and gazebo up to use as our HQ.
At midday, we all set off with a mix of trepidation, enthusiasm and excitement. We did a few up and down loops (to make up the distance) and were then let loose on the 3966m (2.46 miles) laps of which 39 would make up the 100 miles.
Once we were out in the open and had lost the shade of the trees, it quickly became very apparent that this was not going to be pleasant due to the heat, which was gradually increasing, and the humidity which was creeping up too.
In a previous life, I came to Rotterdam fairly frequently and from memory, it was always cold, wet and windy. Even the locals seemed a bit bewildered by this current heatwave.
On the Parish Walk, you will see your support team at regular intervals and, depending on your needs, that could be every half mile or every mile for example. Here though, it was almost 2.5 miles between feeds. Half way around was a water/sponge/1st aid station which was very useful. As these feed/water stations were so far apart, we needed to ensure that we were on the ball with hydration and nutrition and took something at every opportunity.
From the off, Vinny got to the front with his usual determination. I chose to warm up for a loop before upping my pace a little and joining him after a mile or so.
We stayed together for about 20 miles at a fairly good pace until we became separated and Vin moved about 500 meters ahead of me.
The route went through a massive public park with numerous paths and roads, so the race route was marked by arrows in chalk indicating the way to go. Although we had traversed the route for about 15 laps, Vin took a wrong turn, got so far and doubled back and rejoined the correct path. I wasn't surprised as I had to stop him going the wrong way earlier. Anyway, we remained together until 50 miles when he visited the 1st aid tent for some attention to blisters. It turned out that he had a blood blister which meant they couldn't treat it and they pulled him from the race at that point which was very unfortunate.
I could feel a hot spot on each sole too but I had already applied Compedes (other blister plasters are available) and changed my shoes but it wasn't easing. At 60 miles I decided that a visit to the 1st aid tent was in order otherwise I was sure I wouldn't be able to finish.
The Dutch 1st aid guys were positively anti-blister plasters and said as much whilst happily ripping off the ones welded to my feet. This was highly unpleasant. They then taped the blistered area with adhesive tape of various widths to create a "second skin". I must admit I was dubious but the guy who meticulously applied said dressings was adamant that it would do the trick and I'd be fine. I lost nearly 40 minutes there but, as it turned out, it was worth it.
Getting going again was tough. My legs had seized and my feet were tender. My head wasn't much better as I set off somewhat gingerly.
In every event, long or short, you will experience mental low points. I have harped on about this in most posts and whilst sounding negative, it is simply a fact and something that has to be dealt with. To say I was low at this point was an understatement. My body felt wrecked, both feet were in bits, the humidity was rising, it was dark and I had lost all mental focus.
I chose to do a lap and see how the bandaged feet coped. It was slow until my seized legs got going again and I became accustomed to the discomfort of both feet. That lap blended into the next which blended into the next. At 70 miles however, I knew that my feet would hold out and that I would finish. Quite a bold thought with 30 miles to go but nevertheless, I was sure.
The remaining laps didn't get any easier but with each lap, there was one less to do and as that number decreased, my spirits lifted.
I was elated to finally cross the finish line and to become continental centurion number 400.
I know the others suffered just as much as I did and it was down to sheer bloody mindedness that Jane, Jayne, Ed and Louise overcame the hot and humid and frankly hideous conditions to become continental centurions.
None of us would have finishes but for the fantastic support given to us by Teri Waddington and Dale Farquhar and latterly Vin and Simon too. Great support is a necessity and they were brilliant!
Simon succumbed to sicknesses and unfortunately had to withdraw.
The dodgy ankle which I have been struggling with for a couple of months now was complaining after around 20 miles but lasted until it gave up at 99 miles and I hobbled to the line. Sore and swollen now though but it got the job done.
The Isle of Man was well represented at this event and the cameraderie which is always evident at walking events on the island was prevalent here.
During the event there weren't many pleasant moments and at the end I stated the famous "never again" phrase. Now that the pain and mental anguish are diminishing, hindsight indicates that "it wasn't that bad". Hmmm.
That will be the mind playing tricks again because I know it was hideous and I'm sure the others will back me up.
IoM walkers on tour did well again! Go us!
Before the start L-R Jock Waddington, Simon Cox, Jayne Farquhar, Ed Walter, Jane Foster, Louise Smith and Vinny Lynch.
Thursday, 5 June 2014
Europa Park is larger with more rollercoasters and boasted a new ride for spring 2014 based on the new "Arthur" movie. Bearing in mind that we went on June 1st, which technically is the first day of summer, it wasn't open. So much for German efficiency!
Due to this we'll probably have to go back some day.
We decamp tomorrow morning and head for Schiedam where we'll meet up with the rest of the Manxies taking part in the 100 miles race on Saturday.
Now it's upon us, I am looking forward to it and can't wait for it to start. Of the 50 starters in the 100 miles event (there are numerous other events/distances), 7 are from the IoM and all have their own time targets to focus on. There's no doubt that it will be tough but this is where the months of training (hopefully) come into play.
I plan to publish a quick post event update on Sunday to let you know how we fared.
Two days to go.....
Thursday, 29 May 2014
As mentioned, this year I am competing in Holland in an event two weeks prior to the Parish. We're on the ferry this Friday for a break in Germany and Holland prior to rocking up in Rotterdam the following Friday for the European Centurion 100 miles event. So, with a holiday pending, I am actually fairly chilled about the race because it is at the far end of a week long break abroad.
All the months of early morning training in all weathers are finally over (for me anyway; you've got a couple of more weeks to go!) and I must say I am looking forward to it. The course in Scheidam is more or less a 4k circuit around a huge park so, although not as scenic as the Parish, it's infinitely better than the course for the 100 miles held round the NSC perimeter road last August. 200 laps of a ½ mile circuit. A tad mind numbing. By contrast, this year's British event is to be held at Southend on a 400m track! Now that will be painful. I was considering doing it but the jury is still out on that one. We'll see how Holland goes first, I think. Vinny was very kindly handing out entry forms for that race a couple of weeks ago. Seems keen, but 403 laps around a 400m track sounds hideous. Actually, the first three would be ok; the following 400 would be less fun. That said though, 100 miles is 100 miles whether it's on a 4k loop, 50 miles out and 50 miles back or round an round a 400m track, the end result is the same. 100 miles. The shorter the circuit though, the harder mentally it becomes due, mainly, to repetition.
- achievable for your own level of fitness (i.e. you have regularly walked ¼ or greater of your target distance in training sessions)
- achievable for your own pace (the further you plan to go, the slower you will become over time and the cut-off times at the various churches, although generous, may come into play)
- achievable for your own level of desire ( you have to want to get to Rushen/Peel/Bride....)
- an achievable and realistic target;
- trained over the preceding months over varying terrain and in all weathers;
- tried and tested various foods and drinks whilst training to see what works for you;
- an efficient support crew who understand your needs and foibles;
- a selection of tried and tested clothing (ranging from snow shoes and ski poles to grass skirts and coconut bras to accommodate the changeable weather);
- a willingness to succeed
- 42 bananas
Most importantly though, you must believe in yourself and what you are capable of achieving.
In a nut shell, you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to do providing the desire to achieve that target always out-muscles the temptation to give in.
Monday, 12 May 2014
Over the years of training, several 'plans' have materialised and which have remained steadfast options which occasional tweaking will adapt as necessary. Most people will be familiar with this scenario. Each 'plan' name instantly informs those familiar with the name where they will be going. It's usually a show of hands, but to be honest, we ordinarily go with the first suggestion unless its daft. There are several 'plans' which include (starting at the NSC):
- Marine Drive - 8 or so miles
- Groudle - 11 miles loop more or less;
- Ramsey - bus to Ramsey and back to Douglas via Parish Route. 18 miles.
- Glen Roy (Laxey) - 22 miles
- Little London - out to Ballacraine, through Cronk-y-Voddy, Little London and up to Brandywell. Back via Injebreck and Baldwin. 22 miles
- Sheep pens - out via Baldwin/Brandywell to the sheep pens which are beyond Druidale at the top of the decent to Ballaugh and back. 22 miles.
- Sloc - bus trip to Colby then Parish route to Peel (for a bacon bap) and back to Douglas. 23 miles or so.
- Woody - pub. No miles
Last week however, it was 'Little London'.
This is a challenging route which is fairly tough as it is fast for the most part, hilly for what seems more or less all of it and, depending on the weather, exposed to the elements in the higher parts of the route.
Heading out of Douglas, I was extremely conscious of pace and terrain because, at the forefront of my mind, I was constantly thinking about my left ankle which had recently recovered from a tendon injury. I consciously didn't race walk (as I suspected that would put more strain on the recently recovered tendon), but rather power walked all the way from Douglas to Ballacraine. Here I felt that it was suitably warmed up and I felt quite comfortable to try some race walking on the way to Glen Helen. The climb up to Cronk-y-Voddy and up through Little London was good too but due to the steep terrain, it was power walking for the most part. All felt fine which filled me with confidence but this new found relief that my tendon injury appeared to be fixed wasn't enough to make up for the missed training and I was puffing somewhat on the miles of (yet more) climb up to Brandywell. Alex had stormed ahead of us on his own with obvious ease and, bearing in mind, he is young and essentially concentrating on shorter distances at the moment, he is, should he choose to go down this route, a promising PW contender in the years to come.
The descent from Brandywell and on through West Baldwin was fairly uneventful. Dave and I had lost touch with the others gradually (me - enforced lack of training; Dave recovering from flu like symptoms) and by Mount Rule, they were about 300m ahead but we felt ok.
As Dave and I drew level with Ballamyligan, I could feel a familiar pain in the same area of my ankle. My head dropped and my heart sank. The ankle had lasted twenty miles. All of the rest and therapy which I'd been adopting appeared not to have paid off and I coasted home dejected and somewhat disillusioned.
At home, I iced the area and during the coming days, applied heat, ibuprofen gel and massage but I must admit, I was concerned.
I avoided training until Thursday, when I did around 8 steady miles with Brian Wade and Dave Walker. All seemed well as I had no issues whatsoever but, just to be sure, I applied more heat when I got home.
It has been fine since, I am glad to report.
I am not sure what happened on Saturday as all seems well now but I was concerned. I took a tip from Michael George who suggested a different method of lacing the offending trainer to ease pressure on the top of the foot where the tendons I had been having issues with are located.
This, along with all of the other therapeutic measures I hve employed seem to have paid off which is just as well as I'm off to Germany and Holland at the end of May for a short break before the 100 miles in Rotterdam which I am really looking forward to. I have just two weeks' worth of training left.
Your Parish Walk training will be probably cease five weeks tomorrow (June 17th). It is a scary thought that the event you have been planning for so long is now just over the horizon and not 'months away' as it has been since you agreed to do it back in the mists of time! Five weeks will quickly become four, then three, then two..... An odd reality is that the closer the race becomes, the quicker time seems to evaporate so, in reality, five weeks becomes three and a half, then two then none!
The remaining five weeks are yours to put the finishing touches to your training but, almost as importantly, plans for the day: nutrition, drinks, clothing, shoes, lights, bibs, support.
Leave nothing to chance. You may be familiar with the old adage "Fail to prepare; prepare to fail". A bit cliché but so, so true in this event.
Prepare to succeed.
Monday, 28 April 2014
The most annoying aspect about the whole affair is that I have no idea when it happened. Usually with an injury, you can pin point the time and place of the incident which led to the injury. Perhaps a lack of warming up before exercise (everyone falls into that category at some point), simply a case of 'trying too hard' or even something as innocuous as the shoe lace being too tight. Whatever it is, you will know. Yet this time, I didn't.
This injury has happened to me on a few occasions over the years and the most annoying thing about a tendon injury is the sheer amount of time it takes to heal.
Unlike muscles which have a good and plentiful supply of blood, tendons have by contrast a very poor blood supply and therefore take significantly longer to heal.
Healing can be aided by initially applying ice to the affected area to reduce swelling. Massaging anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen will also help and the application of a laser light/ultrasound to the affected area by a physio will also stimulate the body to heal the area more quickly.
Regardless though, it will take a couple of weeks to sort itself out, depending on severity and this can be very frustrating especially when the focus of your training is looming ever closer.
I have done no walking training since that Tuesday which is now 14 days ago. With time running out for Parish training, it would be very easy to essentially panic and try to get back out before the injury has had time to fully heal. It is a case of being sensible and to let nature take its course. Along with deep heat, massage, rest, laser pen et al. To go out too soon would inevitably delay the recovery of the tendon which would in turn delay a return to full training which is the ultimate goal.
My main focus this year is a 100 miles race in Holland which takes place on the 7/8 June in Rotterdam, a full two weeks before the Parish Walk. My wife, son and I are off to theme parks in Germany and Holland for a week before the race, so, injuries notwithstanding, I have a maximum of five weeks training left: essentially from now until the end of May. Ordinarily, the closeness of the event would make me want to get out and start training too soon, but for once, my sensible head has kicked-in and I have taken my time. The reason for this is that I already have had a good nine or ten months of solid training so a two week enforced break won't do too much damage; "the miles are already in the legs", so to speak.
Injuries are part and parcel of the whole athletics circus. It is how you deal with them that is more important than how much training you are potentially missing because of it. Again, mental strength comes into play as this will determine whether you:
- do nothing and let nature take its course (perhaps 15 days*)
- seek advice and therapy to speed up the healing process (9 - 12 days)
- do option 1, panic after 10 days of doing nothing and go out training too soon (move back 1 week)
- do option 2, panic mildly after 8 days, say 'sod it' and go out too soon (move back 1 week)
The bottom line is that injuries, whilst annoying and frustrating, can happen to anyone but, most importantly you must be patient with the healing process and force yourself not to go training too soon.
Today, I did a steady 5k around the NSC perimeter with Ed Walter. Ed is also going to Holland so we had a good old chat as we went round in the late April sunshine.
Although my ankle felt slightly achy afterwards, it wasn't the same sharp pain I had been experiencing so its well on the mend now, thankfully. I'm seeing a physio tomorrow for some ultrasound treatment so hopefully that will seal the deal and I'll be good to go.
On the plus side though (according to my wife), whilst being 'laid-up' I have managed to jet-wash and paint the decking, painted the fence and other garden furniture, washed the car and sorted out the garden. Decorating was mentioned so I think I'm getting back to fitness just in the nick of time!
Saturday, 12 April 2014
In 2010, I was concerned that in the previous three Parish Walks, after around 15 or 17 miles, my legs would begin to feel heavy and it became a struggle to keep the same pace going. After eating more food, I would pick up again and by the time I got to the Round Table crossroads, I'd be fine again. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason that this should happen to me because I had been eating foods with a low glycaemic index such as banana and pasta.
The GI value of a food is an indication of how quickly or slowly the energy from that food is released into the body so it can be used as fuel by the muscles.
I went to see a nutritionist for some advice because most of what I knew about sports nutrition (which wasn't much) was passed to me through talking to others and everyone's requirements are different.
When I first got into walking, I remember asking Alan Callow what I should eat when doing the Parish Walk expecting him to reveal the name of the secret elixir which powered Robbie Callister year after year. Disappointingly, he said I would have to try different things to see which ones worked for me. Gutted.
From the information I gave to the nutritionist about what I ate when training, she told me that I was eating all the wrong types of food! This came as a complete shock to me as I was eating the same as everyone else. She then went on to say that rather than slow release foods like porridge, crisps and banana, I should be eating the opposite, high GI foods. Her reasoning for this was that because my average pace was high, I needed the energy from the food I ate straight away rather than ½ an hour later. This made total sense to me once it was pointed out and it changed my whole approach when packing the car on Parish eve. Now I have things like watermelon, dates, sugar puffs (yes, really), jam sarnies and figs. Not natural bed fellows usually, but perfectly acceptable for one day in June!
As all the usual training suspects are doing this walk tomorrow and I'm not, I went out on my own this morning. I headed out through Onchan, turned left at the top of Whitebridge and on towards Glen Roy. From Glen Roy, down to Laxey, then back towards Douglas via Groudle Road. Just a bit over 18 miles in total.
On Bhaldoon Road, I spotted this public information feature on someone's verge which made me
In January, I watched all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad via Netflix. What a wonderful invention! I can highly recommend this show and, Game of Thrones notwithstanding, is by far the best thing on tv in a long, long time. There was also some fantastic music on the show some of which I have downloaded and it was this I was listening to this morning whilst I was training.
I don't usually use headphones as I find it more of a distraction than helpful however, I enjoyed myself this morning.
Current favourite tune from the show is Bonfire by Knife Party. Absolute class and needs to be loud.
Check out the Glycaemic Index for ideas for other foods you can try in training. Unfortunately, none of them leap out at you and say 'eat me' however, as far as energy is concerned, they serve a purpose.
Good luck to those taking part in the Sara Killey tomorrow!
Thursday, 27 March 2014
I actually like walking on my own in a race. It allows me to 'zone out' and purely focus on the job at hand without any distractions. When racing with a group of people who are all going at the same pace, there is usually quite a bit of banter even though you are all rivals and each wants to out-manoeuvre the others as the race progresses.
If there are other competitors ahead, the challenge is to not let them get further away and to try to close that gap! The further away they are, the more difficult it is to motivate your self to do this. If, on the other hand, you can see your quarry, or you are informed by your back-up crew that someone is 'just around the next corner' (even if that corner is half a mile away), you get a mental lift and try that little bit harder.
A good example of this happened to me in 2007 when, from around the lower Laxey area, I was constantly being informed that Sue Biggart was 'just up ahead' and that I was closing the gap. Sue has a phenomenal record in the Parish Walk: she has 11 finishes, has won the ladies' race on 7 occasions and has a PW pb of 16:23. If I could catch Sue, it would be a major achievement for me. I had long been impressed with the speed and consistency of, not only Sue but Robbie, Sean, Eammon Harkin et al. So to find myself within touching distance of catching one of these icons of the PW was unprecedented.
It wasn't until I turned the corner at the Port Jack Chippy and headed down towards Douglas promenade and the finish line that I at last spotted Sue. From Maughold where she was 10 minutes ahead of me, it had taken me 18 miles to catch her up. She was about 250 meters ahead but now that I could see her, and the fact that the finishing line was about 1½ miles away, I sped up, mentally buoyed by eventually catching her up and the closeness of that finishing line. I passed her on the promenade more or less opposite the Queens pub and crossed the line for my 3rd Parish Walk finish in 6th place which I was over the moon about. I couldn't smile wide enough!
If you are not chasing someone who's ahead of you, it is likely that you are the one being chased by those behind you.
Walking at the head of a race is essentially the polar opposite of trying to catch someone up. It doesn't matter how much of a lead you have, it never seems enough. The mind will work with the same information in different ways depending whether you are chasing or being chased. So, for example, if you are ahead of the next person by 10 minutes, those ten minutes seem very fragile when you start feeling tired and, mentally you can see the seconds and minutes crumbling away as the chaser hunts you down. In reality though, it will be your mind playing tricks on you and the gap will be more or less the same unless you really are struggling.
Conversely, if you are chasing someone with a ten minute lead, you will feel like it is a huge gap which is insurmountable and it just won't get any smaller even though you are trying your hardest. In your mind, the gap must be getting bigger, Again, your mind is doing you no favours.
Whether you are leading or chasing, there is the constant concern that you are tiring (which, of course you are) and that you feel you are perceptibly slowing down as a result: you can start to feel as though you are walking in treacle. In one's own mind, the fact that everyone else is also tiring doesn't register and you then start to become anxious that you are being caught and that the 10 minute gap (or whatever it may be) between you and the next person is getting smaller and smaller (or larger and larger, depending on the situation).
Because (I remember my English teacher saying "never start a sentence with 'Because....'" It isn't proper England, or something. The word 'get' or any of its derivatives was another word which got him excited and resulted in furious scribblings with a red pen usually ending with an encircled SEE ME!!) you can't see the wider picture due to mental and physical fatigue, it is easy to become disillusioned and to panic mentally as your mind races away with every scenario except a happy ending. Unfortunately, this is a normal feeling within an endurance event and is one of the natural lows experienced in racing. Luckily, there are highs too so they tend to balance out however, the lows are much harder to deal with.
As you keep pushing yourself, just remind yourself that:
- everyone else is tired too, not just you,
- you aren't slowing down as much as you suspect,
- the others will be slowing too,
- everyone else will be in pain and discomfort as well as you,
- everyone is experiencing the same weather,
- and so on...
When walking on your own, your mind starts to wander and you think about everything and nothing at the same time. As mentioned at the start of this post, I have spent a lot of PW time on my own so I have had a lot of time to contemplate.
Ed Oldham from Manx Radio asked me once what it was that I thought about as I tramped around the Parish route on my own. This question really threw me as I had absolutely no idea what the answer was. Other than thinking about feeling low and being in pain and discomfort or conversely, feeling good and digging in, I honestly couldn't give him an answer. I think we all just sit in the moment and don't look backwards or forwards: it is all happening in the here and now as you meander through the Manx countryside and you don't really think of anything at all. That is certainly true for me.
Training with the usual suspects on the other hand, is a veritable smorgasbord of conversations, topics and musings. Mostly we chat about football, tv (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead at the mo.), bodily functions, and other mundane, everyday things.
Now and again though, the conversation will swing way off the usual beaten path and we'll end up on some bizarre topic or other. Vinny is usually to blame for these curve balls with some memorable and on occasion, hilarious comments, most of which can't be put in the public domain.
Some of the more recent conversational gold nominees have included:
- a free bikini fitting service,
- lycra standards,
- collecting bull semen (don't ask),
- assisting someone in a diabetic coma with nothing but a Mars bar....
It makes me look forward to going training no-end as you just don't know what you're going to get!
Sunday, 16 March 2014
I soon realised however that this wasn't the case: the walking community on the Isle of Man are an extremely supportive bunch and will encourage everyone regardless of ability or experience. No-one is pre-judged and the whole atmosphere at a meet is one of relaxed anticipation.
And so, today the field was a bit thin on the ground with perhaps 20 people starting the 10k. By comparison, there will be in the region of 50 in the Winter League.
As I usually go out for a long training walk on Saturday mornings, I had planned to do the 10k today but really to use it as a 'recovery' walk rather than as a race proper. As it transpired though, I was out on Friday night with colleagues from work and sampled various beers in many Douglas pubs. It was a good night, so I have been told.
The following morning I was still somewhat worse for wear and, in a moment of clarity, sent a text to the lads informing them that I was going to give the 22 mile round trip to Glen Roy/Laxey a miss in favour of feeling sorry for myself. I was rough all day, however this morning, I felt miles better and turned up at the race feeling not too bad at all.
The NSC perimeter road is more or less exactly 800m (½ mile) which makes it very easy to judge ones own race. So, for example, if you are doing steady 4:30 min laps (9 min miles), you will finish 10k (which is 12.5 laps of this course) in 56:15.
As we set off, I tucked in behind Adam Cowin and Alex Eaton who are both young (compared to me, anyway), talented walkers who have regularly clocked under 50 minutes for 10k. I knew that they would be pushing on at a fast pace but I was surprised to see the first lap go by at 3:45 and the second one at 3:52. This was way faster than I had intended to go or indeed felt capable of sustaining for the full distance. My aim was to try to maintain 4 minute laps which would result in a 50 minute 10k time. My Personal Best time was 49:51 so I worked on the assumption that if I maintained 4 minute laps for the first, say eight laps, I could try and push slightly quicker for the final 4½ and with a bit of luck, get a new pb.
On lap 5, I started to doubt whether I could keep this pace going for another 7. This is a normal feeling when you are pushing yourself and are beginning to deplete the stored reserves of energy. It is at this point that mental strength comes into play. Without mental strength and a willingness to succeed, it is very easy to give in and either slow down (because it doesn't hurt and you will be more comfortable) or quit altogether. For those wishing to achieve their target, neither is an option.
After having a drink though (non-alcoholic for a change), by lap 8 I began to feel much better and pushed on, claiming back the 15 or so seconds I had dropped in the previous three laps.
At the start of lap nine, I realised that I was in with a very good chance of attaining a new pb of approximately 20 seconds, barring disasters, and made a conscious effort to up my pace and go for it. Although I felt like I was really pushing on, my watch told me that I was perhaps six seconds per lap up on my four minute lap target. My final lap was 3:46 - which was almost identical to lap 1 but it felt infinitely harder to achieve.
PB's don't come around too often for me so having pushed and pushed, sweated Friday's alcohol out of my system and panted like an old donkey for most of the race, I was really thrilled to finish in 49:08 - a pb by 43 seconds. It doesn't matter how many races you do nor how experienced you become, it never gets any easier! The opposite is actually true but don't be put off by that comment: the fitter you get and the faster you go, the more you push yourself and try to achieve your next target, whatever that may be.
Alex won the race with a new pb, Adam was second whilst I came in a very happy third.
Performance of the day should probably go to Tom Partington, one of the island's most promising juniors who, at the age of 14 (I think) did a sub 55 minutes on his first attempt at this distance. Brilliant walking by Tom who has really come to the fore in the last year or so. A bright future beckons. I blame his parents! (For those who don't know, mum, Cal 10k pb 46:26 and dad, Steve 10k pb 40:40 Bodes well for Tom, I think you'll agree!)
So, going out and getting slaughtered on Friday paid dividends today. Every cloud and all that.
Not a strategy I would recommend, but worth a look.
Since I started competing in 10k events in 2004, I have kept all of my times in a spread sheet. Somewhat anal I know, but useful for posterity. It was when I was entering today's time, I realised that, by a sheer coincidence, this was my 50th 10k race.
I managed a sub 50 minute pb and I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago.
Saturday, 1 March 2014
For some, this is a complete kick up the back side as they haven't even donned a pair of trainers up to this point. (A)
For others, it's a realisation that the PW is only so many weeks away and they have only walked 57 miles in four months and mild panic will ensue. (B)
For yet others, it's a realisation that the PW is only so many weeks away even though they are doing perhaps 30 - 50 miles a week and OMG, OMG, OMG............! (C)
Now is not the time to panic. That will come all too easily in June regardless of which category (A - C) you are most comfortable with.
For those falling to bracket (A), well, what can I say? If you are only heading for Peel, fair enough; you'll be fine as long as you start to get out soon and slowly build up the miles. For those looking to finish, especially for the first time, you may have left it too late. I say "may" as there are exceptions to every rule but those are few and far between. Possibly the best example of this rule would be David Collister who does no training whatsoever but regardless has 30 consecutive PW finishes to his name.
However, for the average 'man/woman in the street', training to enable you to achieve a sporting challenge is essential. Natural ability, enthusiasm and luck will only get you so far.
For those in (B), it's not the end of the world. You have obviously intended to do a bit of preparation and got distracted at some point, probably four months ago due to the fact the focus of your training was "half a year away". A natural feeling and one with which I am familiar. You need to start training in earnest now as it not too late to get some useful training under your belt in order to finish this gruelling event. As a rule of thumb, by the time clocks go forward in spring, its too late for a serious attempt at finishing but between now and then, there are a few weeks in which you must really make a start to enable you to make a serious effort at doing well and achieving your goal.
Let's face it; it's not a surprise. The event has always been staged on the weekend nearest the longest day of the year, which is June 21st.
Option (C). This is those not falling into (A) or (B) and is perfectly natural! You are not alone as I have felt this same feeling year after year and I'm sure Vinny, Rich, Michael, Robbie etc. do too. This is simply a natural fear of failure and of being undone by under training, over confidence and apathy.
As I see it, if you have prepared mentally, trained over the preceding months, have a good back up crew, spare clothing and food and drinks that work for you, then you will achieve your goal regardless of what that goal is.
Pyramids aka "Such fun"
Meeting at the NSC, Rich, Vin, Dave Walker, Brian Wade, and I kicked off a pyramid session.
This is a really fun way to absolutely knacker yourself within an hour or so but, oddly, feel absolutely brilliant about it afterwards! You feel you have achieved something although you have gone nowhere.
The idea is to do a specific distance (100m, 200m 300m, 400m etc.) at your own race pace or just under race pace (with 100m recovery in between) and to progressively increase the distances as the session goes on. So, doing 2 x 100m, 2 x 200m etc. up to 500m and then all the way back down to 100. This gives the body a great work out and gives the lungs (and mental focus) a chance to recover between reps.
At the end, you feel like you have had a good work out even though you have only travelled about 7km!
Thursday 20th (part 2)
Yoga aka "Pain"
For the past few weeks, I have been having a go at yoga in an attempt to make me more supple. I would like to be more bendy but age and apathy are probably against me in the 'touch your own toes' challenge which, for some, is easy.
One of the routines is to bend forwards with straight back and legs and place your hands on the floor. Although I can see the floor, I haven't been able to touch it in this manner in oodles of years.
I am getting closer though as the weeks progress.
As one stretches the muscles in a particular way and to then hold that particular pose for a period of time, it becomes strenuous, which is probably the whole ethos. Practice makes perfect and all that.
I will not give up and the inevitable "muscle wobble" kicks in as the strain becomes intense.
Next to me was Dale Farquhar. At one particularly intense stretchy/bendy moment in which I was in some distress but persevering, he observed and thoughtfully informed me that I "was shaking like a shi**ing dog". Whilst this was probably an accurate analogy, I had never heard it before and lost any mental focus I had and promptly fell over. From that point on, every time I thought of the comment, or started wobbling, I smiled and lost focus again.
A planned 22 mile excursion from the NSC via Baldwin through Druidale to the 'sheep pens' at top of the hill (which drops down to Ballaugh) and back. A great route as it (oddly) is mostly uphill. The section from the 'first cattle grid' after Injebreck reservoir to the 'second cattle grid' (half a mile further on) is particularly hideous because it is as steep as a very steep thing on a particularly steep day and even when you get to the second cattle grid, there's a bit more "up-age" to go before reaching the summit (of whatever that hill is called) and descending to Brandywell.
From Brandywell to The 'pens' is, perhaps an undulating 4 miles.
Coming back to Douglas on the reverse route from the sheep pens, it is another 11 miles which are (oddly) mostly uphill!
Somewhere on this island, there must be a 'mainly downhill' route which I have yet to find. On occasion (for 'occasion' read 'usually') regardless of which direction you are walking in, the wind always seems to be in your face therefore, by analogy, there will always be hills to climb. regardless of where you are heading. Which whilst useful as a training medium, can be tiring.
Saturday 22nd (part 2)
Unbeknownst (<-- word check was happy with this!!) to me, my wife of almost 25 years had arranged a fancy dress party for my 50th birthday. Being gullible, I had no suspicions whatsoever, even though I was dressed as John Lennon in a fetching green Sergeant Pepper outfit (as one does). I had been lured to the Ascot Hotel under false pretences being led to believe it was a party for a colleague of my wife's.
Needless to say, I was totally stunned by the surprise and also by the number of people who were there. I had a great night and I really enjoyed it, apparently.
There were a lot of hippies on show and everyone there had made a great effort.
Sunday was a blur.
Monday, 17 February 2014
Training in this sort of weather is always a juggling act of trying to keep warm and dry whilst not over dressing and becoming too warm. It is all too easy to go one way or the other: we have all seen people walking along the road with a hi vis jacket tied around their waist. Conversely, when you get too cold we are more susceptible to muscle injuries.
Looking for a different route than the usual ones, we headed west on Braddan road and out to Crosby via Mount Rule into the prevailing wind and rain. On this road, I was glad I had had the forethought to wear skins rather than shorts as the wind and rain was pretty ferocious and in combination with the cold air temperature was making it a struggle to get and stay warm. We got a few minutes of respite when this road turns down towards the crossroads on Peel Road and we were no longer exposed to the elements.
The rain remained intermittent as we headed south until we reached the Orrisdale Road south of Saint Marks. We took this road and then followed the Parish Walk route backwards towards Douglas. To add a couple of more miles, we went along Marine Drive. So although it was a fairly uneventful walk of 19 miles, I was glad to get home to thaw out in the shower!
We saw very few others out training but given the hideousness of the weather, that wasn't surprising. We probably got some odd looks from passing motorists as we trudged through the soggy Manx countryside but I didn't notice as I was focussing on avoiding the next puddle.
On Mondays, our son Stephen goes to racewalk training on the track at the NSC. While he was busy, I took opportunity to run a few steady laps around the perimeter road which is exactly 0.5 miles. It was raining.
In July this year (19th I think), the Millennium Way Relay is being resurrected and I fancy having a go at one of the 4 legs so I plan to do a bit of cross training as the Parish mileage starts to ramp up. This will improve my general fitness and I know of other walkers who also do some running as an aid to general fitness.
The long range forecast for this event is......
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
To be honest, I didn't really expect to do too well as I am only now coming back to fitness following an extended break which ended mid January. It is surprising how quickly fitness levels drop during a break whether enforced or otherwise and it can be very frustrating if you can't get out to train regardless of the reason. What is perhaps more frustrating is the time it seems to take to get that general fitness and sharpness back again.
I actually felt ok on Sunday morning when I arrived at the NSC for the race, however I was greeted with an observant "You look pasty, were you out last night?". Not even a 'hello'. To be fair, I have been known to have a few beers the night before a race which, far from being ideal preparation, always seems like a good idea at the time. Eight or ten pints plus five hours' sleep seem perfectly sensible ingredients for producing a pb the following day.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if, over the years, a hefty percentage of Parish Walk entrants have agreed to sign up during a fit of man-up ness (previously know as bravado) and chest puffing in the pub after pint number five. A new stat for Murray Lambden to look into perhaps.
The fairly simple equation for a 'man-up' induced Parish Walk entry is: Beer + chicken noises from friends + more beer & 3 x Jaeger bombs + kebab = PW entry. Its that simple. I reckon that will sound familiar to someone.
Monday, 20 January 2014
Having effectively missed Christmas, my wife, Teri and I made up for it on Friday evening when we had a couple of friends round for a Chinese and a wine or two. Several wines were followed by a few lager chasers (as we'd ran out of wine) which was far from ideal preparation for early morning training in what turned out to be a thoroughly miserable weather.
I wasn't feeling on top of the world when I met up with Richard Gerrard, Dave Walker and Vinny Lynch at the NSC. This is the usual rendezvous point for us where we decide upon a suitable route depending on weather, traffic, family commitments, hangovers and so on.
Being somewhat central, there are several routes we could take from the NSC. One of the options is to head north through Onchan towards Laxey and this is the route we took on Saturday. We turned left at the top of Whitebridge to extend the route a bit heading towards Glen Roy. Although we didn't do it this time, Glen Roy is a great challenge as, although only a few miles long, it has very steep hills both up and down and will test your stamina especially if you up your pace a bit.
I was feeling ok for the first 10 miles or so when I started to fall behind the others and it was becoming a great effort to keep up with them. Heading out of Baldrine towards Onchan, I had nothing left in the 'tank' and was falling further behind. I was contemplating taking the path of least resistance at the Liverpool Arms which would have been straight through Onchan and home. However, in a fit of 'man-up' ness, I followed the others along the Groudle road heading towards Douglas prom. After another mile or so on this road, I had no energy left at all. This is a horrible feeling as it is then far too late to do anything about it: the body has used up not only what you have eaten during the walk but it has also used up its stored reserves.
Catching the boys up at the old Groudle pub (they slowed and waited for me!), I told them that if I dropped behind again, just to carry on and I would see them the following Tuesday.
By the time I got to the Majestic apartments, they had disappeared over the horizon and weren't seen again. How rude.
I coasted home feeling sorry for myself looking forward to a hot shower.
When I got home, I had a supportive text from Vinny which said something along the lines of "Ha, ha I have had a hot shower and you're still out in the pi**ing rain". How thoughtful.
Sunday saw the fourth round of the MicroGaming cross country league held at the Crossags in Ramsey.
I went up a little apprehensive as I haven't done any running for about five weeks and also I hadn't really given myself enough time to recover from the previous day's adventures however, I enjoy the challenge of xc. As the weather had been particularly atrocious in what felt like the preceding two years, it made for proper xc conditions with a great deal of standing water/ponds and more mud than you knew what to do with. From a spectator's point of view, the chance of seeing someone come a cropper was fairly high with the ground being very slippy, but as far as I can determine, casualties were disappointingly low.
At one point in the course, competitors have to traverse a style which is actually an old pallet stood on its end between hedgerows either side of it. In previous races here, this point became a bottleneck as athletes queued up to go over it. In an attempt to alleviate this problem, the organisers very kindly extended the lap distance by approximately 250 meters.
On my final lap, Steve Kelly asked me if I was having fun to which I could only blurt the single word 'No!' between gasping for lungful's of air in a frantic attempt at survival.
Although I was wheezing like an old donkey, and had to walk up the steepest part of the course on the last two of the four laps, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and look forward to the next lung bursting day out sometime in February.
I rolled in after about 48 minutes and was grateful for a steaming cup of tea and Bourbon biscuit which, lets face it, is a good enough reason to put yourself through the mill in one race or another every other weekend.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Christmas and New Year didn't really happen for us so we're making up for it now! Prezzie opening this evening with a traditional Chinese with all the trimmings. And wine. So although exactly four weeks late, today was our Christmas day and we can now look forward to getting back to normal.
Training wise, I went for a short run on Monday evening which was the first form of any sort of exercise since Saturday 14th December so I expected it to hurt a bit - and it did. I only ran 4 miles but it was nice to get out again. I do enjoy running and it is of benefit to walkers as far as overall fitness is concerned.
This Sunday sees the next round of the Microgaming sponsored cross country league which takes place at the Crossags in Ramsey. Having missed the Boxing Day relay which I was looking forward to in a sadistic way (because it would have been hideous running with a hangover!), I'll have a tootle round the hilly Crossags course with the added challenge of not falling over. Always a bonus. Its funny when someone else does though!