Monday, 23 June 2014

Life, the Universe and Everything (nearly)

Race day saw sunny, hot and blustery conditions which tested the mettle of all those taking part.
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.

Jock Waddington
June 2014

Friday, 20 June 2014

Pain is only temporary.....

Well, here we are on the eve of the race! Where did the time go?
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

A walk in the park

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

Twee dagen te gaan......

Currently at the end of a chilled week of theme parks and foreign food. After a few days in Germany in a town called Rust near Stuttgart where we went to Europa Park, we have just finished a couple of days near Tilburg, Holland at Efteling theme park. We've been to Efteling before and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's loosely based on the Grimm Brothers fairy tales and there's something there for all ages.
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.....