Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Parish the Thought

Happy Christmas to everyone and I hope Santa brought you what you wished for. Sorry for the amount of time that has elapsed since my last blog and a number of people have told me to get my arse into gear and post a new one.

Went out for a training walk with Dave M, Jock and Vinny last Thursday. Instead of doing laps around the NSC we decided to do a loop up to Kewaigue, down to the quay in Douglas and back along Peel Road. Not very far, but what started out as a gentle stroll soon turned into something a bit quicker and more competitive when Vinny cranked up the pace at the front and then Jock stepped it up a bit more. At the end it felt like a decent session so I didn't feel too guilty about having a few beers at the pub quiz at the Cat With No Tail. Kyley and I went up there with Ronnie and Karen Kelly and as well as being a good laugh we were also tempted by the first prize of £900 for the bingo. Unfortunately, we didn't win but by the end of the night Ronnie had agreed to do both the Peel Dip and the St John's Fell Race on New Years Day. I never committed to anything, but will happily offer words of encouragement as a spectator!

Spent Christmas Day lunch at my Mum and Dads, along with my brothers and their families and then we moved on to Kyley's family for the evening, with me driving on Christmas Day for the first time in years, as I had the SCS Relay on Boxing Day to look forward to. The lack of alcohol during the day was compensated by the amount of food I ate!

Woke up feeling decidedly dodgy on Boxing Day and was worried that I was starting to come down with the sickness bug that had been doing the rounds. I was quite concerned that I wouldn't be able to run and if I did that I would let the team (Parish the Thought) down. I got a bit of comfort when I got to Ballanette and spoke to two of my team mates, Vinny and Dave, who were also a bit ropey and I put it down to general excess over Christmas. The weather on the day was mild, no rain and the wind was really starting to strengthen, but better than last year!

As I arrived the first member of our team, Matt Haddock, was just about to finish and had done an excellent first leg and had maintained our position in the field. He didn't even seem too tired at the end! Dave was off next and despite looking angry and saying he had done a s**t run when he crossed the line, he had actually improved on last year and closed the gap on the three teams ahead of us. Vinny, the old man of the team, ran the third leg and put in a really impressive effort passing all the competitors in front of him and handed over the dibber to me for the final leg, with a sizeable lead. No pressure then! The pressure was cranked up a bit more when less than half a mile into the first lap I passed Steve Partington, who was marshalling and he shouted words of encouragement, along with "you've got this in the bag".

I have to say I hated every minute of the first couple of miles, as I went off too quickly, expended too much energy early on and struggled to get into a rhythm. By the time I hit the long climb for the first time I was really struggling, gasping for breath and thinking about how I would explain to my team mates my decision to retire. I expected the hill to be fairly sheltered, but running up the steepest part with the wind howling in my face wasn't much fun. After a short recovery I started feeling a little better and felt more comfortable as I started my second lap of the course and Dave told me I had a 3 minute lead. A reasonable gap, but nowhere near sufficient if it was one of the top runners chasing me. Unfortunately, as I had gone off too quickly to start with I couldn't maintain my pace and walked the whole way up the steep hill the second time around, looking behind to see where the nearest person was. When I was less than a mile from the finish I looked back again and couldn't see anyone, so barring disaster I knew we would win. The feeling when I crossed the line was one of relief more than anything - that it was all over. I certainly felt the extra pounds I had put on over Christmas, as I dragged myself round.

On reflection I'm really glad I took part, rather than spending the morning lying in bed or something equally lazy. It was a great event and a big thank you to the organisers, the marshals, all the competitors and the sponsor SCS. One final thanks to my team mates who set up the win and to celebrate we all went for a couple of pints in the afternoon to watch the football. I left early, as I had my family coming round in the evening, but it looked like the guys were settling in for the duration.

It was New Years Day 5 years ago when I decided I needed to change my lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise. So my next blog will probably be News Years Day or shortly after, when I will write about what motivated me to do the Parish Walk for the first time.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Busy week but not much training!

A very busy week with a lot on at work and things arranged in the evenings, which meant that training was limited this week. I haven't been out walking at all, but did manage to get out for a quick run mid-week.

We had an unwanted visitor in our garage this week. My daughter Hannah had been tidying her bedroom a few months ago and had moved an old toy box into the garage. Kyley had been in the garage to get some wood for the fire and noticed that the toy box lid was slightly ajar. She opened it and noticed that a couple of the cuddly toys had been shredded and it was immediately evident we had acquired a rodent friend! I was quickly dispatched to investigate further and after putting on some gloves I started to sift through the toy box to see if I could 'save' any of the toys. Kyley specifically asked me to make sure I retrieve one of Hannah's favourite toys, a dog pillow, so she could wash it and hopefully it would be good as new.

I found the cuddly dog, picked it up and noticed tearing on the side of it and some of the stuffing had been pulled out. I proceeded slowly and noticed there was a 'bulge' in the toy. You can imagine the response when I realised it was a dead R.A.T.! One toy I did manage to salvage was an old doll that was given to Hannah by my Nana. Unfortunately, Hannah didn't like the doll very much, as she said it gave her 'the creeps'. Being the understanding parents, I thought it would be funny to leave the doll at the top of the stairs, so it would greet Hannah as she went off to bed, and Kyley filmed her reaction. I would post the link, but Hannah would probably kill me.

On Wednesday afternoon I had spent the afternoon at the hospital with Hannah, who was there for an operation on her big toes, which was making it impossible to do her Pointe work for ballet. She opted for the local anesthetic, instead of the general and was very brave.

I work for Royal London 360 and Friday was my work Christmas do at Mount Murray. It was a really good night and a celebration of the excellent year the company has had, especially considering what has been happening in economies around the world and financial markets. There was a band playing called 'The Waltons' who were very good and played a range of music, so seemed to go down well. When the party came to the official end at 1am, I resisted the temptation to join some of my colleagues in the hotel's residents' bar and decided that going home was a good idea.

Yesterday morning there wasn't the usual Saturday 8am walk, so I had a lie in. Instead I had arranged to meet Dave Mackey, Vinny Lynch and Jock Waddington at Ballanette for a run around the course for Boxing Day's SCS Relay event. Dave and Vinny are more experienced cross-country runners than Jock and I, as whilst they turned up in trail/fell running footwear we were innocently sporting our normal trainers. It wasn't long before Jock and I were sliding around on the downhill sections trying to keep up with the other two, whilst trying to avoid injuring ourselves.

The idea of the run was to do a recce prior to the event and Dave was our 'guide' having run the course before. We spent the first half hour jumping over walls and running into dead-ends, with Dave shouting "it's definitely this way" and "I'm sure I remember this part of the course from last year". We eventually picked up the route near to where it follows the edge of the coast, prior to a long, steep uphill section! If I had known beforehand that I would have to run up it twice I would definitely have had second thoughts about taking part!

It was a good way to brush away the cobwebs after the previous night's indulgence, but the worst part was getting battered by the hailstones, as we ran across the exposed Lonan headland. Don't want to sound like a wimp, but getting constantly pelted in the face wasn't pleasant, so hope the weather is better on the day. It looks a good course and I'm actually quite looking forward it now. However, first thing I did when I got home was to get on the Internet and order some suitable trainers for the event. Just have to hope they arrive okay before Xmas and I get an opportunity to at least wear them a couple of times before Boxing Day.

Had a football match in the Veterans League this afternoon for Colby, against Ramsey Youth Centre at the Bowl on the new astroturf pitch. I've played on it a couple of times before and it doesn't 'play' like a typical astroturf pitch i.e. fast and a lot of bounce., but once you've got used to it, it is a good surface to play on and you can wear normal boots with studs. From a 'quality of football' perspective we had our best match of the season - we were solid at the back, passed the ball round well and rarely lost possession. However, we just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net and gave away an easy goal to lose 1 nil. Very frustrating, but will give us a bit of confidence going into our next two matches against Peel and probably the strongest side in the League, St Marys.

Hope to get a couple of decent training sessions in this week and over the next couple of weeks I will start blogging about how I became interested in the Parish Walk and my history in the event.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Let the festivities begin!

Not a great week for training, as it has been compromised by two factors. Firstly, the weather and secondly eating and drinking!

The week started well, as I went to football training on Tuesday and there were no problems with my knee, but I took it fairly easy. The only problem was keeping the ball in play at times, as the wind was seriously strong and there is no shelter at all for the astroturf pitches at Castle Rushen High School.

The following evening Man United were knocked out of the Champions League at the Group Stage, which was shocking! Whilst they played ok on the night and had a lot of possession, they just didn't do enough over all 6 games, in what should have been an easy group. The only thing that made me feel a little better was seeing City get knocked out as well. Now we both have Thursday nights in the Europa League to look forward to!

Thursday night I was hoping to get out for a walk, but the strong winds put a stop to that. I did send a text to Vinny to ask him if he was training that night and after getting a response of "no chance", sent a message back to ask him what the problem was, as a little wind never hurt anyone. I also agreed to take part in the SCS Relay Race on Boxing Day, in a team with Dave Mackey, Vinny and Matt Haddock. I have not done a trail run since cross-country when I was at school, so it should be interesting.

Friday night was Kyley's work Xmas Party, which partners were invited to and I'm not ashamed to say I took advantage of the food and drink on offer. The food was really good, but I ate too much and this hindered my drinking for a while, but I managed to get things back on track later in the evening. Ever the good support driver, Kyley regularly got more drinks in for the table and has already started trying to knock off fellow competitors, by supplying Ronnie Kelly (twice Parish Walk finisher) with copious amounts of Guinness. I did manage to get a bit of training in on the evening, as I dusted my dancing pants down and pulled off a few moves.

I was too busy on Saturday morning to have time to feel hung-over, so left that to Kyley. Had to go into work after lunch, so when I got home all I wanted to do was sit in front of the TV and do nothing. However, we had a friends' party to go to in Port St Mary, so no rest for the wicked. We had planned to get the bus down to avoid having to take the car and pick it up the following day, but we managed to miss it, so Kyley decided to drive. Had a really good time at the party and caught up with friends we hadn't seen for a while. The only problem was there was a lovely lady called Eileen who was serving drinks and as soon as you finished one, another ended up miraculously in your hand. We all decided that 'everyone needs an Eileen for Christmas!'

Fortunately, we didn't leave the party too late, as I was doing the 10k in the Winter Walking League at Ronaldsway today. It seemed such a good idea the night before, but at 8.30 this morning it was a very difficult decision to get out of bed. Anyway, I'm glad I did, as the conditions were perfect and I finished in a time of 53.08, which was 7 seconds off my PB. It was obviously the preparation! There were a number of excellent performances and PBs today, but the stand out performance was from 16 year old Alex Eaton who finished in just under 49 minutes, after a good battle with Michael George.

I'm now going to have that evening in front of the TV, starting with our favourite Xmas movie; Elf, accompanied by a late cooked breakfast!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Road to Recovery

I went out for training walks on both Thursday and yesterday. My knee felt fine, both during and after, so hopefully the injury is now behind me. We met up for the usual Saturday morning walk at 8am and was in the company of 3 former Parish Walk bloggers (Michael George, Dave Walker and Jonathan Wild), so picked up a few tips. Marie Jackson and Vinny Lynch were also out, so there was a good group of us and weather stayed dry.

It was Vinny who first told me about the Saturday morning sessions and invited me along. Prior to this my preparation for the Parish Walk involved heading out and getting as many miles in as possible, whereas Vinny was insistent that only by training with walkers that are faster than you, will you get any better. The first few times I went out with the group I really struggled, but slowly I started improving and keeping up! I soon learnt that performance on the day is about the quality of the miles you do, rather than the quantity. In the build up to the 2010 Parish Walk my peak mileage in a week was probably 70 miles, whereas this year was probably no more than 40 and the improvement was evident. Also, if you are doing too many miles your body doesn't get time to recover properly between long walks.

The Saturday walks are mainly interval training, which are bursts of high-intensity work interspersed with periods of low-intensity work. So after warming up, we will do say half a mile quickly and then take it easy, quick again, and so on. Personally, I think this type of training is quite difficult to do if you are on your own, so going out in a group works for me. Also, Vinny puts a lot into his training, so he is constantly at the front setting the pace if he thinks it has slacked off!

After the walk I had an exciting start to my afternoon, as I had to do some ironing. However, the rest of the family was out, so I watched the Newcastle v Chelsea match in peace. It would have been a different result if David Luiz had been sent off, as he should have been, instead of just a yellow card. At the risk of alienating some of the blog readers, I am a Manchester United fan and before the shouts of glory-hunter come, I started supporting them when City finished higher up the old First Division!

Went to the pub to watch the 5.30pm KO, which was Man United v Aston Villa with Vinny and Michael Bonney (also a 4 time Parish Walk finisher) and undid the good work in the morning with a few pints of Guinness. Not a great match, but we won and that's the main thing. After the match I had a few games of darts and pool with Michael - I knew beforehand through the walking that he was competitive, but didn't realise just how much! It's fair to say I got hammered at darts, but we were even on the pool.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Break From Training!

Welcome to everyone reading my first post. I've never written a blog before and whilst I've enjoyed reading the Parish Walk blogs over the last few years, I didn't really fancy doing one myself. When Murray contacted me to see if I would be up for it, I was initially reluctant as I thought I would struggle to post regular topics of interest. However, my wife told me to 'man-up' and give it a go. I'm also 40 next year and as I hope to be challenging at the front, it will be something I can look back on in the future.

Richard Spenceley certainly raised the bar last year with the quality and quantity of his Parish Walk blogging, which he can probably now turn into a book! So whilst I can't promise the same level of detail, I hope people find it both an interesting and informative look at how I prepare for the 2012 Parish Walk and also some of my history in the Parish Walk. Feel free to comment on my postings and if you want to ask me any questions you can email me at richardg@manx.net

I will cover in more detail in a later blog how I got into walking and the reasons behind why I did my first Parish Walk in 2007. But, on the 1st January the same year, I weighed roughly 6 stones heavier than I do now (and I am currently a stone heavier than when I did the 2011 Parish Walk), so that should give you a fair idea of how overweight and obviously unfit I was at the time! The Parish Walk was a catalyst to lose weight and change my lifestyle, so from a personal perpective it means a lot to me.

The title of this post is 'a Break From Training!'. I should point out that this is not a self-enforced break, as I have been laid up with an injured knee for the last three weeks, due to being on the receiving end of a bad tackle playing football. I thought my football days were behind me, but my friend James persauded me to sign on for Colby last year to play in the IOM FA Veterans League. He got a good bunch of guys together, we played some decent football at times, but importantly had a laugh, so I didn't have any hesitation in saying I would play again this season. Last year I was fortunate and stayed injury free, so thought it was a good way to keep fit over the winter and do another sport alongside the walking. Anyway, you can't legislate for someone hitting you with a late tackle, so my season will probably come to an end around March next year, to avoid any injuries near to the Parish Walk. Enough about the football for now, but I will come back to it in later blogs.

The frustrating thing about picking up the injury now was I was starting to do more running, which I have found helps significantly towards the walking and was planning to run the Syd Quirk Half Marathon. I have never ran further than about 10 miles before, but was feeling quite fit before I got injured and was confident of doing a reasonable time. Anyway, I suppose if there is such a thing as a good time to get injured, now is it! I went out for an easy walk this afternoon and the knee was feeling okay, so it's on the mend, but don't think it will be up to the Firemans' Run on Thursday.

Well done to everyone who took part in the Syd Quirk today, in what were cold and windy conditions. I was marshalling at Cross Fourways and it was quite exposed there. Congratulations to Michael George and Mike Garrett on winning the walk and run respectively.

I look forward to posting over the next 7 months and hope you enjoy the blog!