Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Last Word

This is my final blog and I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who took the time to read it and those who also left comments. Hopefully you found it interesting and some of the tips useful? If not, it might have been a good aid to help you sleep the night before the Parish!

It was good to see so many people at last night's presentation and well done to all the various category winners and Michael George for receiving the MT Merit Award. I'm not sure whether he was more proud of this prize or seeing his wife Irene go up on stage to pick up her finishers award. If you were there I hope you didn't find the speeches from Vinny and I too drawn out. I was fine when I got up on stage, but the longer Vinny took the more nervous I became, but I seemed to get a few polite laughs and claps in the right places. There was also a treat for the ladies with the pair of us briefly going topless!

It's hard to believe it is over for another year, but I will definitely be back and I think the competion will be tougher than ever, with the return of Jock and an even more determined Michael. I will be taking it easy for the next couple of weeks, trying not to eat and drink too much, whilst I'm inactive. The training will start to build up again shortly in preparation for our trip to Roubaix in Northern France in mid-September, where a few of us will be attempting to see how far we can walk in 28 hours.
Finally, for all you statisticians out there, I received the spreadsheet below from Michael Bonney - thanks a lot Michael. I had problems with my Garmin on the day and at the finish I forgot to stop the timer, so I there was no point posting a link. The spreadsheet shows the split times between the churches and average pace, comparing my 2012 times to 2011. Average speed to Peel was just over 6mph and overall it was 5.769mph, with only one leg (Lezayre to Maughold) being over 11 minute mile pace at 11.01. From Maughold into the finish each of the last 3 legs got progressively quicker and I covered them over 15 minutes faster than in 2011.

Thanks again for reading the blog and see you on the starting line in 2013.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Squeaky Bum Time!

Well what can I say - things still haven't really sunk in yet, but it seems a long time ago since the alarm went off at 6.40am on Saturday morning. A lot of people mentioned that they had been up since 5am that morning getting everything ready, but if I had got up at that time I would have just been sat around nervously waiting for the start to come, so why not get an extra hours sleep. I did sleep better than expected on Friday evening, as in previous years that hadn't happened, but I would be lying if I said I hadn't worried about the fact that some people had tipped me to win. In the build up I just tried to ignore it and brush off any questions around the subject.

After a quick shower and the usual pre-race breakfast of a banana and bagel with peanut butter, I packed the remainder of my gear into the support vehicle and we set off down the to the NSC. Kyley's dad Paul was to do the first section of support, so he dropped me off in the QB car park and drove off towards Braddan Bridge, to spectate from the bridge above the Access Road. Back at the start the excitement and intrepidation was building up, combined with the speculation about whether or not we were going to go along the Access Road or main road, given the pool of water under the bridge. Having done numerous training sessions over the winter, where we set off from the NSC along the Access Road, I knew to expect a large amount of surface water and Dave Walker had the same thoughts, as we had exchange texts earlier on that morning about it. My initial feeling was to walk through the water and then change trainers immediately afterwards, especially given the previous issues I have had with blisters on my feet in wet weather. On the other hand I didn't want to waste time at the start and lose sight of the leaders at such an early stage. Dave, however, had an interesting alternative, which was to bring two plastic bags and put them over the feet before going through the 'lake' under the bridge, so I also grabbed a couple of bags before I left home.

15 minutes before the start I heard that we were no longer going along the Access Road, so I dumped the bags in a bin. 5 minutes later the Access Road was back on, so I went back to the bin to retrieve them, only to be told by someone else we were definitely going along he main road. Hearing this last piece of information I passed my bags to Marie Jackson and asked if she would get rid of them for me, only to get the definitive confirmation, with 3 minutes to go, that the Access Road was back on. I hurriedly ran back over to Marie, grabbed the bags and pushed back into the front, where I got a few funny looks and comments. Finally the countdown from 10 began and the wait was over, the 2012 Parish Walk had started. The field is now getting so big that as we completed the lap of the NSC track before exiting on to the outer road, we caught the competitors at the back of the field, who had barely crossed the start line! We then proceeded out on to the main road and turned on the Access Road, where my earlier fears were confirmed when we approached the 'lake' under the bridge. However, bags at the ready Dave and I stopped (you can see the two of us in the middle of the photo getting prepared), slipped them over our trainers and then waded through, much to the amusement of the crowd watching from above. The end result was nice dry feet and an early confidence boost.

The next 3 miles to Marown were steady but not too quick, as we all had a bit of a laugh and joke before the serious stuff started. The next couple of photos were taken from the end of Glen Darragh Road on the way to Marown Church and the 6 of us (Robbie, Vinny, Richard, me, Michael and Dave) had opened up a sizeable gap from the field and it was at this point that Robbie decided to pick up the pace at the front, as we set off towards the Braaid, closely followed by Richard. As we walked up the Cleanagh Road Vinny and I discussed the fact that we didn't think we had started as quickly as 2011 and it was just after this point in 2011 when Jock had made his break, never to be seen again for the rest of the rest. It was a bit surprising then when we went through Santon in a slightly quicker time than the previous year and the 6 of us were all still together.

Nothing particularly exciting happened from Santon to Arbory, but after this there was a noticeable increase in the speed as we headed towards Rushen and I said to Vinny that the race was about to properly start. Richard shot off, closely pursued by Michael, with Vinny and I a few metres behind. Robbie and Dave had backed off a bit, so it looked like it was shaping up to be a race between the 4 of us. Going up Ballakillowey Richard started to increase the gap between him and me and Vinny, but Michael was slowly starting to get back in touch with him. Unbelievably, given the steepness of the ascent, Michael was actually race walking up it!

At the top of Ballakillowey Vinny and I were still together, but Michael had caught Richard and the gap back to us was slowly increasing. Vinny dropped back a bit at this point and I did think about try to catch up Michael and Richard, but given I had 'overcooked' things last year going up the Sloc I decided to back off. On reaching the Round Table I was informed that Michael was now 3 minutes ahead, which was a bit of a concern given his obvious speed on the downhill sections, given his race walking technique and I fully expected him to pull out a lot more time on the run in to Peel. After the Round Table the heavens really opened, so time to put on the trusty orange waterproof jacket and I took on a lot of soup for both energy and warmth and kicked on, with the plan to get in touch with Richard. This happened at Glen Maye, as he stopped to change his trainers at the top of the hill passed the Waterfall pub and we set off towards Patrick and then into Peel. As I had mentioned in an earlier blog I always get cramp going up the hill into Glen May, but unbelievably this time I didn't - maybe it was the cooler conditions!I knew Vinny was getting ever closer again, as his support driver Sean Hands was appearing more and more regularly as we arrived into Peel. I knew I walked the section from Rushen quicker than 2011, but was surprised that I arrived over 7 minutes quicker in 5:23. Below is a shot of Richard and I arriving at the Peel check-in.

Not long after Peel my replacement support driver James joined me and immediately gave me a top up of soup, a gel and a couple of ibuprofen and Richard mentioned he had been suffering with a bad patch, but was starting to come around again. I was feeling strong and pushed on, but was aware that Vinny was less than 50 metres behind, so knew it was only a matter of time before he was back with me again. If there is a chase on and you want someone to close a gap, Vinny is the man to do it, as he would prove later in the day. As he caught me he explained that he had really suffered on the run down to the Round Table, so had done the sensible thing and slowed down a little, regrouped and then pushed on. We set a storming pace into Kirk Michael and were definitely there a lot earlier than in 2011, as there was no-one in fancy dress outside the Mitre. Going through the village I had a welcoming party of our good friends Glen and Jo and their kids Rocco and Reuben (Rocco is also my godson), with the banner below, which provided a great boost, especially as news had reached us that Michael was now 10 minutes ahead!

From Kirk Michael to Ballaugh and then on to Jurby we really put our foot down, but didn't seem to be getting any closer to Michael with reports on the gap to him being anywhere between 9-11 minutes. I was still feeling really good and knew there was more left in the tank than at the previous point in 2011. On the approach to the turn off at Jurby Church we got a very brief glimpse of Michael, who had already checked in and was on the road passed the prison. Approaching Jurby my Garmin watch had started constantly buzzing and telling me that the memory was full and I need to delete some of the history. This was particularly annoying and I should have checked beforehand. The photo below is off me taking the watch off to hand to James to try and sort out, whilst telling him to make sure he didn't press the stop/start button.

After Jurby you have the long stretch to Bride, which seems to go on and on, but this year it flew by and Kyley joined me at this point. Kyley has done my support for the last 5 years for both this race and the likes of the End to End and Sara Killey, so knows what I want and when I want it can can also see when I am suffering or need a boost. Another bonus was due to the cooler weather and rain, the black flies that have plagued everyone over the last couple of years were nowhere to be seen. We got a lot of mixed updates on this section ranging from 12 minutes behind to 3 1/2 minutes. Where the 3 1/2 came from I don't know, as on arriving at Bride I was disappointed to find out we had lost further time and the gap had increased again to 13 minutes and we both thought that was it and we would be fighting for second place. However, Vinny made a point of telling Sean his record was going to go today - nothing like a bit of confidence! Between Bride and Andreas Vinny was struggling a little (don't know if he reconsidered his record-breaking thoughts at all) and I opened up a gap of about 100 metres on this quick leg. I always find it is a good time to relax a little and conserve a little energy before pushing on towards Lezayre. 

At Andreas Church Vinny had closed the gap a little and looked like he had pulled through his bad patch, so I expected him to catch back up shortly afterwards, which he duly did. It was then than Tony Mepham from Manx Radio told us Michael had been unwell and had stopped for a massage, bringing the gap down to 8 1/2 minutes. I still didn't believe we could catch him, but there was still hope. From this point to Lezayre Church we knocked off some really quick miles and arrived there around 5 1/2 minutes down. Coming out of Ramsey I took a bit of a breather up the steady climb and then picked up on the descent on the way to Maughold, before another uphill drag before reaching the village.

At the check-in we were now just over 4 minutes down and the race was on! Coming out the village there was a barbecue and the smell left me feeling a little queasy, which wasn't the ideal preparation before the difficult slog up Ballajora. As we passed by the farm gates at the foot of the hill Michael's dog was standing there guarding them. If you read one of my earlier blogs you may recall a training walk we had done on this part of the course and a few months back, where Vinny, Dave W and I had left Michael at the bottom of the Ballajora, only for him to be harassed by the dog, resulting in a quick escape to avoid being savaged. Fortunately for Michael this time around the dog left him alone.

This climb and the one up to Hibernia on to the main coast road took a lot out of me and if you see Murray's video on the Parish Walk website that is probably evident. At this point we both said "lets really go for it now and reel Michael in" and posed the idea of finishing together. Given the difficult climb and how I was feeling I started to have a few negative thoughts, as my energy levels had completely dipped and I really felt like I was finished; however, the I knew the next mile or so were downhill, so my plan was just to try and hang in there. At the Dhoon School I wasn't feeling much better, whereas Vinny was storming ahead and a gap started to open. The next couple of miles were torture, as I just tried to keep in touch, but could feel my chances slowly slipping away. I was still getting closer to Michael, but Vinny was pulling away. Kyley stopped and filled my up with soup and I had a gel, but said I thought I was finished. Her response was "just get over yourself" - nothing like a bit of encouragement, but it was the kick up the arse I needed and from the Dhoon cafe I started my fight back.

From the Bulgham rocks into Laxey I knocked off two sub 9:20 miles and Vinny was getting closer. Michael was also only 2 minutes ahead, but reports were he was in particularly good shape. I caught Vinny by the Isle of Man bank in Laxey and it was then we agreed we would put everything into one final burst and if we passed Michael we would finish together. Vinny turned to me and quoted the Sir Alex Ferguson by saying "it's squeaky bum time"! As we headed towards the turn off to Lonan, I slipped and fell (see my war wounds below, but the more painful one was my ribs), but as I said in my last blog Vinny stopped and made sure I was okay, before we continued the chase. As we started the climb towards Lonan church, someone shouted that the gap was 40 seconds and we could clearly see Michael up head and I knew it was only a matter a time. We passed each other, going in opposite directions, just after he checked in and he smiled/grimaced and said "you b******s". We pushed our dibbers in at the church and the gap was a mere 25 seconds.

As we we turned back on to the main road John Watterson was a couple of hundred metres ahead and got the shot of the 3 of us that was on the front of yesterday's IOM Examiner. The roads were really wet at this point and I couldn't believe the amount of people either out in front of their houses or passing in cars, as there was real congestion as we motored on into Baldrine. Michael had stayed with us down the descent and was hanging on up the other side as well. My thoughts turned to Douglas promenade, as I knew in an out and out race, Michael would have too much pace, so I dug in again. Vinny had the bit between his teeth and from here until the top of Whitebridge we really hammered it. Having said that, at Onchan church Michael still wasn't that far behind and the visions of getting passed on the promenade returned.

As we passed the Queens Hotel Michael was no longer visible and thoughts then turned towards Sean's record. Vinny, the human stopwatch, knew exactly where we were up to and said to me we would beat it by 5 minutes, but I wasn't so sure so was really pushing it - I felt stronger then, than at anytime in the previous 20 miles. We needn't have worried too much about the timings, as the Mackey family gave Vinny and I updates about every 10 seconds on where we were in comparison to the record.

The last 100 metres were unbelievable and given the weather the turn out of people at the finish was fantastic. To cross the line as joint winner of the Parish Walk in record time and with Vinny - someone I have spent hours training with, is something I will never forget and feel proud to have been involved in the race. As I have said before it would not have been the same race without Michael's grit and determination and the record would not have gone, as I certainly wouldn't have walked that fast without someone really stretching things out at the front.

Congratulations to all that took part, everyone involved in the organisation and the sponsors. Hopefully there was a lot of money raised for local causes as well. I'm now off to try and cobble together a quick speech before this evening, so see you later.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

A few words of thanks.

Good afternoon everyone. The sun is out and it's hard to believe it was such a wet day yesterday. Having said that the rain kept things cool, which was a bonus.

This is just a very quick post, as I intend to do a detailed run down of yesterday's events over the next day or so and also I'm still in shock after winning the event alongside Vinny and with a new record. I knew we were making good progress and were inside record time, but when Sean broke the record he was particularly quick in the second half of the race, so I wasn't sure if it was possible. Vinny walked another excellent race and proved what an unbelievable competitor he is. An example of his great sportsmanship was displayed yesterday, as he and I were a few hundred metres down the road from the turning off to Lonan Church. We were walking in the road an a bus approached, so I stepped up on to the kerb, but my standing foot slipped and I had a fall, cutting my hands, knee and banging my ribs. Vinny, without any concern for his own performance stopped to make sure I was alright and only continued when I was back on my feet and okay.

A special mention to Michael George for such a courageous performance yesterday, who was also inside the previous course record. Michael was out on his own for about 55 miles and without the bouts of sickness would have been a comfortable winner. One thing you can't question is his guts and determination.

Sue Biggart was worthy winner of the ladies event, followed by Maureen Moffat and Samantha Draper. Congratulations to the three of them and also to my fellow bloggers Ed Walter and John Watterson for notching up a third finish and PB, respectively. Congratulations to Tony, who was the unofficial Parish Walk blogger, on a first finish. I was at the finish this morning when Tony crossed the line, so it was good to finally introduce myself,

A big thank you to the Parish Walk Committee for staging another superb event, to Murray Lambden for his excellent coverage throughout the day, the main sponsor Manx Telecom, Graham Young and his team off judges; all the marshalls and people who manned the drinks stations and check-ins and all other volunteers on the day (Civil Defence and St John's Ambulance) - all of whom gave up their time to help stage this unique event. Finally, a mention to the Manx public for their support and encouragement throughout the day.

My support drivers, also deserve a massive thank you, as they did an excellent job looking after me and without their assistance it wouldn't have been possible - starting with my father-in-law Paul until Peel, followed by my mate James and finishing with Kyley and her sister Melissa, from just after Jurby to the finish..

I haven't slept yet, but I'm still on a high at the moment, so off to the pub for a few celebratory drinks!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Final Thoughts with 12 hours to go!

Well one thing is for sure  - we are going to see rain at some point tomorrow. Latest weather forecast from the Met Office is:

Patchy rain is likely to develop tomorrow morning but more widespread outbreaks of rain are expected during the afternoon, possibly turning quite heavy at times and then more persistent in the evening with lowering hill fog. Top temperature 14C / 57F, with fresh southwest winds

With the above in mind I thought it might be worthwhile investing in some waterproof gloves to keep my hands warm. Unfortunately, other people must have had the same idea as Charlie Turner at Intersport said they had sold out earlier in the day! I have two waterproof jackets ready for tomorrow and numerous changes of clothing.

All the preparation is now done and I plan to put my feet up for the rest of the evening. I registered last night just after 8pm and it was really quiet, so I was straight in and out. However, I was told that earlier in the evening it had been packed with people queueing well before 5.30pm, so I missed the bedlam. This morning I packed all my spare clothes and other items and a box for food and drink -  can't believe I have so much, but better to be safe than sorry (see photos below). Made some sweet potato soup this morning, which will be ideal for nourishment and also keeping warm, if it is cold and wet tomorrow. My support drivers are all well briefed and know what to give me when and where, but with the changeable weather it may not quite go to plan.

At lunchtime today I met up with some of my fellow walkers for what has become a traditional pre-race get together. Lots of pasta, last minute tips, mind games and generally a good laugh before getting down to the serious business. Some final thoughts before tomorrow and apologies if I have covered some of them before, but here goes:
  • Eat your normal breakfast. Have what you would normally eat before going on a long training walk, rather than trying something new like power muesli or a bowl of pasta.
  • Make sure you are hydrated before the race, but start drinking a couple of hours before and take regular sips, rather than drink gallons just before the start, as all you will succeed in doing is increasing the number of toilet breaks during the first couple of hours.
  • Don't go too fast at the start, you can always speed up later. Conserve your energy, you might get a burst of adrenalin and decide to push hard, but try and keep a steady pace.
  • Don't count the miles, as if you do you are in for a very long day. Break the 85 miles down into chunks, so you feel like you have achieved something as you pass each target. For me the race is in 3 parts - firstly to Peel, when the pace is quick and there is a lot of support. Second section is from Peel to Lezayre, where I just try and focus on maintaining a decent pace and keeping it together and finally from Lezayre to the finish. This final section is both the most difficult and the most rewarding, as you have the difficult section out of Maughold, but for me one I reach Hibernia I know it is a fairly easy run in.
  • Ensure you have warm and waterproof clothing. I didn't think we would see another day like the Parish Walk in 2008, in terms of how wet, windy and cold it was, but if it had been held today it would certainly have rivalled it. Tomorrow won't be much better, so don't get caught out on the Sloc and end up with hypothermia, like some people did in 2008.
  • Avoid blisters - not always possible, but trying to keep your feet as dry as possible will help.
  • Thank the marshalls and everyone helping out around the course, as they have given up their own time and will also have to put up with the same weather as the competitors, but won't be moving around keeping warm.
  • Push through the wall. You will have a bad patch, but try and remain positive and it will pass.
  • Most of all enjoy it. This is something you will have been training for and thinking about for months and it really is an amazing event. The support on the day is magnificent, with thousands getting raised for charity, so don't miss out on the great atmosphere.
All that is left for me to say is have a good night's rest and good luck to everyone taking part tomorrow. Whatever your objective; whether you are a first timer and just aiming for as far as you can go, or your target is a first-time finish, or you want a top ten finish, I hope you achieve your objective and again make sure you enjoy the day.

I'll be back after the race with my take on how things panned out.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Top 3?

Dropped the GPS tracking device back to Manx Telecom today, so they can recharge them and get them ready to hand out on Saturday morning. To be honest I only managed one walk to test it, but I kept it my bottle belt and didn't even notice I had it with me. Should be a great addition to help family and friends follow progress on the day and I can see the number of devices increasing for next year, as I think they will really prove popular.

If you read Murray's blog that he posted last night on his Manx Athletics website, he mentions that he was helping Adam Russell from 3FM compile his Parish Walk programme and that Adam caught him out with one of his questions. Michael, Vinny, Dave W and I were in 3FM's office on Saturday morning to also be interviewed by Adam. Jane Foster was leaving as we arrived and mentioned that some of the questions had been difficult. Adam wanted to interview us individually, so Dave went in first, followed by Vinny, me third and then Michael.

When it came to my turn I sat down ready for the interview and Adam asked me about how I got in to walking. I use to work with Adam's wife Louise, so he knew about my earlier days as a fat lad and posed a few questions around this topic. He then moved on and asked the question about whether I thought I could win the Parish Walk and my answer was along the lines of I would be lying if I said I didn't want to win, but that I think it is too close to call and that if conditions are right there could be quite a few quick times, to which Adam replied "that was a diplomatic response".

So, continuing in that same vein, without including myself, my top 3 predictions in reverse order are:

  • Richard Spenceley. Similar to me, Richard has improved year on year over the course of last 5 years and I would expect that improvement to continue. Whilst I haven't seen Richard in training or in any races since the End to End, due to the fact he lives on the mainland, I am aware he has been continuing to work on his technique and also recorded PBs over various distances. Richard showed through his blog last year that his training and preparation was meticulous, so definitely a threat.
  • Michael George. Michael is the quickest walker in the race and I know from training with him how fit he is at present and hungry he is to win on Saturday. He has covered more miles in training than ever before and his stamina can't be questioned. Michael has been troubled with bouts of sickness in previous walks and if he can keep this under control he could easily win, with a very quick time.
  • Vinny Lynch. Vinny is the most committed in training of all the guys I walk with and when he misses a session there is definitely a dip in the intensity. I was glad when Vinny made up his mind to enter this year's race, as I knew I would train harder having someone like him around. Whilst he will acknowledge that there are a few quicker walkers than him, in terms stamina he has few rivals. Vinny has the knack of keeping a consistently high pace in the first half of the race and then picking up in the second half, when those around him are lagging, as I know from bitter experience. He is leaner than he has ever been and after being second for the last two years he wants to go that one step further. It is for this reason, Vinny is my tip to win.
There are a number of top quality walkers and Parish Walk legends that I haven't mentioned, such as Robbie Callister and Peter Kaneen, but I haven't seen how these guys have gone in training so it is difficult for me to comment on how they will perform, but either could make a big impact. Terry Moffat is always consistent and will finish well up the field and as I highlighted before, a surprise package (if you had mentioned his name this time last year) is Dave Walker, now he has put his recent injury behind him. I think this year may be too early for Dave to challenge right at the front, but potentially a future winner. In the ladies race Sue Biggart has got to start as favourite, even thought she hasn't competed in the last couple of years, based on her impressive record in the event.

Will be trying to get some decent rest and sleep over the next few days, so I'm fully refreshed for Saturday. I don't need much sleep and have a nasty habit of waking up around 5.30am every morning, so we'll see how that plan goes. Apparently, if you don't sleep well the night Parish you shouldn't worry too much as the previous night's sleep is more important. Friday will be my last post before the race, with some final tips for the big day.

Monday, 18 June 2012


I'd planned to do another post over the weekend, but I was particularly busy with various things so never got the opportunity. I do intend to do a couple more blogs before the big day, if I can find something interesting to write.

Last Thursday I had planned to get out for a walk, but got stuck at work, so when I got home I thought a run round Douglas was the next best thing. I set off from Bray Hill and within a few hundred yards it started spitting and I bumped into Vinny, who said "rather you than me", but it didn't look like the rain would get too bad. I headed down to the promenade, past the Sea Terminal and along Peel Road. By the time I reached Waltons the rain was getting considerably heavier, but rather than take a right turn at the Quarterbridge, I decided it was ok and continued on to Braddan Bridge and up towards Braddan School. At this point the heavens really opened, the rain was bouncing off the road and getting home was the priority, as I didn't want to get a chill. Running by the Test Centre the road had turned into a river and a work colleague of mine drove past, flashed his lights and gave me a wave. All very nice, but a lift would have been the best idea!

On Saturday we met up at 7am for a 10 miler round Baldwin, which was my last walk before the Parish. Last year on the Saturday before the Parish Walk we did the same route and it was probably the slowest 10 miles I had walked round Baldwin. This time around Vinny and Michael didn't have the same idea, so whilst Dave W and I strolled round chatting they raced off on a couple of occasions. I tested the GPS tracker that will be handed out on the day and historic data can be viewed on the following site - Dave W said that on Friday he had gone on the site that you can use for live tracking on the day ( and 'followed' Vinny and I, only to find out that our tracking devices had us wandering aimlessly around the back streets of Douglas all night!

On Saturday night Kyley and I were out for a meal and I couldn't resist a pint of Guinness and a glass of wine, that turned into a bottle, but it wasn't too late a night. We were out again on Sunday evening for a Father's Day meal at La Piazza and on the other side of restaurant was one of the competition - Michael George and his family. Michael was having a few beers, so being the committed athlete I stuck to the diet cokes.

Tonight was a sports massage and I'm feeling ready to go now. It's going to feel weird over the next few days not training and trying to keep busy, whilst trying not to constantly think about the walk. This is when you have to stop irrational thoughts creeping into your head; such as:

  • Have I done enough training? It's too late to anything about it now!
  • Have I got the right kit? Don't wear any new clothes or trainers now. If you haven't tried the item out in training then don't use it on the day.
  • Trying out new food and drinks on the day. As per the previous point if you haven't tried it in training then don't bother.
  • Listening to other people's plans and changing yours because it worked for them. Stick to what you know at this late stage.
Other than accepting you will have a rough patch and pushing through it, if you are planning a first time finish the two bits of advice I would offer at this stage are:
  • Walk your own race to Peel. Don't get too carried away the start and get dragged along far quicker than you expected. With the great atmosphere and support early on it is very easy to set off at a fast pace and when it gets a bit quieter later on, you run out of energy and motivation. It's easier to set off slowly and then pick up the speed after Peel, if you are feeling good. If you have been by yourself the second half of the race is good to find someone to walk with, who is going a similar pace and you can encourage each other.
  • Plan your approach with your support driver and make sure they keep you hydrated and fed on a regular basis. They are also there to keep you focused and to drive off if you have any thoughts about packing in and trying to get into the car!
This is the latest summary weather for Saturday, which apart from the wind seems to be perfect.

Saturday 23 June 2012
Temperature: 12 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: South west

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Last Minute Essentials

Following on from an earlier blog where I mentioned that I had purchased some High 5 gels and sachets of the Energy Source extreme, I received an email from Brian Wade with a new discount code from Discount Supplements for 15% off. If you're interested it is WBJ15 and hopefully still valid - thanks Brian.

As you would expect it has been a fairly relaxed week of training. Nothing on Monday, followed by a short run on Tuesday after work. I ended up at the Manx Harriers clubhouse where a few of the lower seeded Parish Walkers met with Ray Cox, the race director, and Manx Telecom staff to pick up the Parish Walk GPS Trackers. The idea is to test them over the next few days and get comfortable with the devices. The GPS is about match box size and fairly light, so I intend to put it in the pocket of the belt I carry my water bottle in, so I won't even notice it. On the day the plan is that family and friends can follow up to three competitors around a map of the course with live updates. The website link is and you can also track average speed and current speed.

This evening I went to circuit training at the NSC, which will be my last one before the Parish and had a really good workout. The sports hall was split into two sections, with one side focusing on cardio and the other on weights and exercises to improve the core. I tried to take it fairly easy, but the competitive side of me took over a little.

As it is less than 10 days to go make sure you have all the essential items. My top 20, in no particular order apart from number 1 is as follows:

1. As Ron Jeremy says - be sure to have plenty of Vaseline. I left it to the last minute last year and believe it or not I had trouble finding the stuff, as every other Parish Walker had the same idea. This year I have my supply already and although Kyley uses it on dry lips, I don't think she'll be wanting to use this pot after I have been doubling dipping in it to apply to armpits and down my pants!

2. Insect repellent - if the flies are anything like last year around Bride then this is a must.
3. Plasters - to avoid the dreaded nipple rub
4. Suncream - not sure what the weather will be like, but best to be prepared.
5. Painkillers/anti-inflammatories - but take it easy and more as a last resort
6. Baby wipes to freshen up and clean hands, especially if you have been taking on gels as they are so sticky of you spill a little.
7. Deep Heat for any muscle pain
8. Dioralyte or salt caps to ensure body salts lost through sweating are replaced
9. Blister plasters such as Compeeds
10. Water and lots of it. Whether for drinking or also just washing your face or cooling down if a hot day
11. Sports gels, but don't over do it
12. Energy drinks, but again if you have too many they won't sit well in the stomach
13. Ginger to help settle the stomach if you feel unwell
14. A variety of different foods that are easily digestible
15. Hi-viz vests for you and also support driver later in the evening
16. Head lamp and a light source visible from the rear, if you intend to continue after 10pm
17. A cap to protect you from the sun, as sunstroke on the day is not a good idea
18. A waterproof jacket, warm hat and gloves - remember 2008!
19. Various changes of clothing, socks and a spare pair of trainers
20. Good support drivers, which fortunately I do have

I'm sure there are things that I have missed, so feel free to share any tips.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Weight Worries!

I have been asked numerous times over the last week at work and also by friends I have bumped into, as to how the training is going and they seemed surprised when I tell them I am winding down now. The hard graft is done and it is just a case of trying to stay fit and healthy for the next few days. This has been particularly difficult at work recently, as the number of ill people seems to have increased massively over the last couple of weeks, with chest infections appearing to be the most common ailment. I'm just trying to stay out of the way of these sick people and probably coming across as quite rude.

As I said the hard training over the winter is in the bank and personally I am feeling fitter and stronger than I have ever done prior to a Parish Walk. Having said that I am also about 7 pounds heavier than I was this time last year, currently weighing in at 12st 3lbs, so I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not. I am 6ft and when I started the Parish last year I weighed 11st 10lbs, but at the time I felt a little too thin and it was the lightest I had been since I left school. My current weight feels about right for me, but I have this nagging concern that carrying a few extra pounds later on in the race might count against me. I don't usually suffer much in the way of self-doubt, but occasionally the odd negative thought creeps into my head, especially the nearer the race gets. I have played out the day in my head numerous times and the different tactics I will employ depending on how things pans out. I have decided what my strategy will be, but will be keeping that to myself! One thing I'm sure of is that it is going to be a very close race with a number of potential winners, but more on that next week, on the run in.

Back to training, the tapering was definitely a consideration on Saturday morning as Vinny, Dave W, Jock and I had a very leisurely stroll, averaging a little over 5.1 mph for 14 miles. We followed the Parish Route as far as the end of the Oatlands Road, where we took a left back into Douglas via Port Soderick and Marine Drive, before stopping on the Quay for a cuppa at Mash. Jock still insists that he is not missing doing this year's Parish, but it might be a different matter on the day, seeing everyone lining up at the start! Sunday was an easy 5 mile recovery run and I passed a group of walkers, which included Ed Walter, who seemed to be moving well, so the injury is obviously on the mend and looking good for the big day. Tonight I did nothing apart from watch some of the England v France match (not a great performance but better than expected), before having a sports massage, so the legs are feeling particularly pummelled now!

Friday, 8 June 2012

High 5

Time to start making sure you have got your all your supplies in for the big day. I have been buying items from Discount Supplements for a while now and they always have some really good deals. I use the sachets of High 5 Energy Source, 4:1 and Energy Source extreme during the Parish Walk, which are good for providing the body with energy and hydration. This is especially important if it is a hot day (not that it looks like it will be at the moment if the weather continues as it is), as the more you sweat the more salts you loose, so using these types of drinks will enable better fluid uptake and avoid the effects of cramp.

I received an email from Discount Supplements today advertising 12% off High 5 products (code NRGJ12 if you are interested) and I came across a High 5 Race Faster Triple Pack for £10.99, which was normally £27.97 and when you throw in the 12% discount and free delivery you have quite a bargain! In the next few days I will provide a list of the food and drink I will be bringing with me on the day. What usually happens is that I finish with loads left over, but better to have a wide choice to select from than run short on the day.

It has been a fairly quiet week on the training front, as you would expect with less than 3 weeks left. After my longer than planned run last Sunday I did nothing on Monday, as I was out with work entertaining some of our TT guests. Royal London 360, where I work, sponsor the Superstock race and we always have a few visitors over, most of whom have never experienced the TT before and always end up having a great time. With the weather delaying the Superstock race on Monday the meal we had booked for 7pm didn't start until well after 9pm, so after eating late and a few more drinks I had a shocking night's sleep with indigestion.

The weather on Tuesday was fairly poor, but I was determined to get out for a few miles and ended up meeting Dave Walker for the short loop around Baldwin. We set a reasonable pace but didn't push it too hard.

Wednesday was the 10,000 metres Track Championships at the NSC with a run and the walk. It was a cracking evening, nice and sunny but not too warm, as there a stiff breeze at times that cooled things down a little. There was a fairly small turn out for the walk, which was a surprise as it is ideal preparation at this stage for the Parish (a good speed session and not too far). After being told to watch my knees on the first lap I soon settled into a good rhythm and felt fairly comfortable most of the way round, which was spent swapping positions with Jock throughout the 25 laps of the track. To be honest I wasn't really looking forward to it as I felt tired beforehand and the thought of doing 25 monotonous laps didn't do much for me. However, once I got the first 5 out of the way I enjoyed it and ended up finishing in 53:02, which was quicker than I achieved in the same event last year, so I was pleased. Congratulations to Michael George on winning the event very comfortably and thanks to the organisers, timekeepers, judges, lap counters and those manning the drinks station, plus Philip Bannan for presenting the awards.

Up early for tomorrow for a 13/14 mile walk  - nothing too strenuous as just over 14 days to go now!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Parish Walk 2011 - Part 3

I can't believe TT week is already upon us and as soon as it is out of the way it's Parish Walk time; seems no time at all since I mentioned that we had 100 days to go to the big day!

If you have been out training this week you will have had to be on your guard at all times with the number of bikes on the roads and routes around the back roads, where you would normally see no traffic at all, suddenly becoming very busy. On Tuesday and Thursday this week we did the usual Groudle loop and with the TT Practices being on at the time the Groudle Road had a constant flow of traffic and combined with a couple of blind corners didn't make for the usual pleasant stroll. In between the these walks I went to circuit training on Wednesday evening. Liz Corran had put together quite a hard session this week, where after completing two stations everyone had their own 'step' and alternated between either a minute of step-ups, squat thrusts or step ups using your arms (like a walking plank). At the end of the session it was 50 squats, 40 lunges, 30 press-up and 20 burpees back to back, to finish us off.

There was only a small turn out for Saturday's morning's walk - Vinny, Marie and I and we were later joined by Dave W, as he was on call for the police until 9am. I believe Jock had decided to have a lie in after a night out and Michael and Dave M were both working, due to being busy hoteliers during TT week. Dave M is know affectionately known as BOB, after being 'awarded' number 808 for the Parish, despite being a previous finisher. We were surprised that Dave had been given such a high number, but as Vinny bluntly put it - "my grandad was still in short trousers when Dave Mackey last finished the Parish"! Anyway, Dave has been walking really well in the last few weeks, so a low number is definitely on the cards for next year.

In terms of the seedings, congratulations to Vinny for getting the coveted number 1 and I was surprised to be given number 2, bearing in mind the previous winners in the field. As my fellow blogger Ed has already covered the numbers for the Parish in his blog, I won't go into them in any more detail, but would just wish Ed (number 137) a speedy recovery from his injury, so he can line up fully fit on 23rd June.

Back to Saturday's walk - as I mentioned last week it is time to start tapering, so this week we only covered about 18 miles (from the NSC, down to the Quay, along the promenade and out to Laxey via Groudle, before climbing Rencell Hill, joining the back road from Creg-Ny-Baa to Whitebridge, back to Douglas Promenade and home). It was a fairly sedate pace and both Vinny and I were complaining we had quite heavy legs (not helped by Kyley and I being out on Friday night until quite late and the alarm going off at 6am), whereas I think Dave was hoping for a quicker session after not doing much over the last two weeks, so he planned to carry on for a while after we had finished. This morning I went out for a run and was only planning to do about 5 miles, but a mile or so in to it I was feeling good so carried on a bit further and ended up doing about 9 miles. I could have done a bit more, but this close to the Parish it wouldn't have been a good idea.

Returning to last year's Parish Walk, in the previous blog I finished last week at Andreas Church with Vinny rapidly closing me down. The inevitable happened not long after we had left the village and on looking at the Garmin at the pace I was doing I hadn't really slowed down at all, just that Vinny was flying - no doubt having the incentive of me not too far in front. We walked together for the next couple of miles and Vinny suggested that the only way we could catch Jock would be if we worked together for the next 15 miles or so to try and get the gap down. I knew at this point that I wouldn't be able to increase my pace, as I had started to feel a little ill and every now and again a gap would open between me and Vinny. If you know Vinny or have ever walked with him you will know he doesn't have a GPS watch, as he doesn't need one! He seems to know exactly what pace he is walking at and can accurately predict what time he will be at various places and also the finish. In this case he said that he would finish in a time of 15 hours and 15 minutes.

As we approached Sulby bridge I could no longer close the gap that had opened and my bad patch was getting worse (I was paying for pushing too hard up Ballakillowey and Sloc, so I something I will be more aware of this time around). I don't enjoy the walk from Ginger Hall to Lezayre church at the best of times, but I was absolutely hating every minute of it. I started questioning why I was doing the walk and didn't have much to say when John Watterson from IOM Newspapers spoke to me on the lead up to the church. Just before the check-in Murray was taking pictures and the photo used on the introduction to this blog is one he took at that time. As you can see I was trying to force a smile, but I was more concerned with how I would be able to continue.

This is where your support driver can help. I was still feeling ill and mainly eating eating fruit and sweet food up to this point wasn't helping at all, so Kyley forced me to eat to mashed potato and gravy and gave some encouragement, telling me to just slow down a little and get myself together. Within 10 minutes of changing my diet  and reducing the pace slightly I was a changed man and ready to tackle the remaining 22 miles to the finish. Everyone will have a bad patch at some point and when you do the most important thing is not to quit, as with some small changes and a little encouragement it will pass. As covered in an early blog, my biggest disappointment in the Parish Walk was during my first attempt, when I stopped at Andreas as I was convinced I couldn't go any further. Within half an hour I had recovered, but by this time I had handed in my electronic timing wristband, so had a long wait until the following year to undo the 'failure'.

Heading into Ramsey there was some excellent support from the people sat outside the pubs and my mood was significantly improved as I started the climb before the turn off to Maughold. I knew I was starting to make a bit of time back on Vinny as I could see his support car in front. After going through the village I spotted him up ahead at the end of a straight and I knew he wasn't much more than a minute or so ahead of me, so I put my foot down again in an attempt to catch up. At Maughold church the gap had closed again to less than a minute but the dreaded Ballajora was approaching. After a quick chat on the move with Manx Radio and turning down the kind offer of a burger, I ploughed on. Instead of taking it easy going up the hill and then trying to make time back after the top I pushed on hard again, which was a mistake. By the top of the hill I was destroyed and never put myself in a position of getting close to Vinny again. I dragged myself up the hill to Hibernia and was told that Vinny was now over two minutes ahead of me. Physically I knew I had nothing left to have another go and mentally I had settled for trying to consolidate third place.

After Hibernia I knew I would definitely finish, so I just focused on trying to maintain a consistent pace and trying to achieve the target I had set beforehand of getting under 15 hours and 45 minutes. The walk into Laxey seemed to take an age and I continued to take on more mashed potato, which seemed to pick me up. On the descent into Laxey I became aware of some chanting, but was unsure if I was hearing things. The noise died away, but picked up again as I rounded the corner at the bottom of Ham and Egg Terrace. It became louder as I approached one of the pubs, but I couldn't pick out what was being sung and thought it must just be a bunch of drunk idiots. As I got closer I realised I had been right about the drunk bit, but recognised a few faces and realised that my boss Terry was leading some of my colleagues in a chorus of "there's only one Richard Gerrard". Despite being a little embarrasing it gave me an immediate boost and was just the pick me up I needed.

On the way to Lonan Church I passed Vinny who was on the way back down the hill and after a brief hello, I continued to the check-in, where I was now 4 minutes behind him. Vinny later said that he knew I wouldn't catch him, as he still felt strong and apparently I looked grey and unwell! After coming back down the hill I looked at my watch and for some reason I got completely confused with the time, thinking I was half an hour slower than I actually was, which was a little demoralising as I was then convinced I would struggle to break the 15:45 mark. The next few miles passed quickly, as I tried to get my brain in gear to work out how quick I would need to get to Onchan Church and then to the finish to achieve my target, which was proving very difficult. The 'drunked idiots' from earlier then passed me in a mini bus on their way to Douglas, stopping to provide some further 'encouragement' and this took my mind off the problems I was having trying to work out my timings. I arrived at Onchan church in just under 15 hours and to my relief realised that I had miscalculated things and I was still well inside my target.

One thing that I never quite get to grips with at the end of the Parish Walk is the length of the promenade, despite having walked it hundreds of times in training. However, this time around it was a little different as the support was brilliant. All along the promenade and in the apartments on the other side of the road people were clapping and shouting encouragement and I came across my drunken friends again outside the Queens, who started the chant up again, which others joined in with as well! At the Hilton Hotel you think you are nearly there as you can clearly see the traffic lights at the bottom of Broadway, but even from the lights it is still a couple of hundred metres. However, by this time I could see the crowd at the finish and the noise increased as I got nearer, which 'carried' me over the line, to clock in the final time in 15 hours, 23 minutes and 21 seconds. This was well inside my target and as Murray told me the 7th fastest walk in the history of the event. I was absolutely elated but competely wrecked, as it was definitely the most difficult of my finishes. My back-up on the day from my father-in-law Paul, my fried James and Kyley had been excellent, but I just didn't have enough to catch Vinny, who paced his walk brilliantly (and finished in 15 hours and 15 minutes) and as for Jock to win 4 in a row with that superb time was amazing. I know the small mistakes I made, so I'm sure I will learn from them for this year's event.

Just after finishing Chris Kinley from Manx Radio was after an interview and at that point my focus was solely on avoiding being ill. After pulling myself together I did have a chat with him, but I can't remember anything I said, so was probably a load of rubbish. There is a photo at the end of the Parish of Jock, Vinny and I sat in chair and Vinny was right with his earlier comment, as I do look grey and ill. After a black tea with lots of sugar I said to Kyley I needed to go home, but as we drove off in the car I thought it would be good to take a quick drive and see how the other competitors were doing and offer some encouragement. We passed Stephen Harvey just before the Liverpool Arms at which point I shouted to Kyley to pull over immediately. As soon as we stopped I flung the door open and my cup of team came straight back up - projectile! I knew it was best to go home then, but on the way I was hungry so we ordered a pizza, which arrived shortly after but I just couldn't face it, so had a shower and went to bed.

The following morning, despite no sleep, I was feeling considerably better so I polished the pizza off and walked down to the Woodbourne to re-fuel with some of my fellow walkers!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Parish Walk 2011 - Part 2

What a difference a week makes. On the last blog I was complaining about how cold the weather was when we were walking from Little London to Brandywell on Saturday and yesterday it was too warm when out for the long weekly walk.I mentioned that we 'lost' Michael last week as he was taking photos and below are some of them. As you can see, both Vinny and I have our jackets on to keep warm and dry!

I have walked more miles this week than during any other week this year, a total of 58 from last Sunday up to yesterday, with a 6 mile run and circuit training thrown in as well. Yesterday's walk was just short of 26 miles, so time to start tapering from to the big day.

Yesterday's walk kicked off at 7am at the Manx Harriers clubhouse with a good turn out (Michael, Vinny, Jock and the two Daves). We all set off together, but Jock and Dave M decided to do a similar session to the one they had done the previous Saturday, which involved setting the virtual partner on the Garmin GPS at 5.2 mph, with the plan to do 30 miles. Michael, Vinny, Dave W and I set off on the Parish route on to the Cleanagh Road, where we took a right turn on the back road that goes past the clay pigeon shooting site and on to the St Marks to Ballasalla Road; a road I haven't been on in years. On reaching Ballasalla we stopped to fill up the water bottles and I made sure I took on as much fluid as possible, given it was a warm morning.

We continued on to Malew church and on towards Castletown, before looping back into Ballasalla via the airport. Unfortunately, Dave W had to leave us as he was getting a bit of discomfort from his ankle, that had kept him out of action for the last few days. Rather than aggravating it, he sensibly decided to get the bus back, but at that point we had already covered 13 miles, so he still got a decent walk.At this point the wind had really picked up and whilst it was struggle walking into it at pace, it did cool us down. We turned off on to the Old Castletown Road and with it being sheltered the temperature started to rise again. Rather than take it easy we picked up the tempo and a few miles later started to worry a little as we were all nearly out of water, We continued on the look out for any taps and spotted one at the side of building, only to scale a wall to find out it wasn't connected to the water supply. Continuing on and wondering what we would do next we stopped at the steam train station at Port Soderick and success, there was an outside tap, which was a massive relief, as I was already starting to feel a little dehydrated. It was a warning that if you don't take on sufficient fluids and regularly, that your performance will drop off very quickly. After our quick stop, we set off towards Marine Drive. A nice leisurely walk back into Douglas wasn't on the cards and the 3 of us took turns to set a decent pace, which considering we had already walked 20 miles plus, was quite satisfying and it was evident that Michael and Vinny are both in really good shape.

Returning to last year's Parish I had checked in at Rushen Church full of confidence and started the ascent of Ballakillowey. I was surprised to see Michael struggling up the climb and we had a quick chat before I pushed on, fully expecting him to catch me either between Ballakillowey and the Sloc, or on the way to the Round Table where his race walking technique and speed would be used to good effect. At this point I was feeling really strong and approaching the bottom of the Sloc I could see Jock and he wasn't that far ahead. This is where a made a bit of mistake; instead of appreciating that it is an 85 mile walk and making efficient use of my energy levels I stupidly pushed hard in an effort to catch Jock. Half way up the Sloc I could see he had slowed a little (he subsequently confirmed that he had been feeling ill on the way up and his pace had dropped off a little), so I continued to chase him. I got closer, but not near enough to worry him and he reopened the gap as we approached the Round Table. That was the last I saw of him!

Given the exertions going up Ballakillowey and the Sloc I decided to walk a bit more sensibly through Niarbyl and towards Glen Maye. The hill past the Waterfall pub coming into Glen Maye is one of my least favourite pats of the route. It has now been renamed 'Cramp Hill' as every year, for the last 3 years, I have had bad cramp on this section and I know some of my fellow walkers have had similar experiences. After hobbling along for a few hundred yards, during which time I had a banana and some dioralyte to try and sort things out, I regained my composure and set off for Peel. Walking up the road towards the check in point at the town hall I could feel the cramp again, but tried to walk as normally as possible past the assembled crowd. bizarrely I was asked if I was going to stop or carry on, "I think I might carry on" I said.

At Peel I had been about 5 minutes behind Jock and Vinny was a further 3 minutes behind me, followed closely by Richard Spenceley, so still quite tight at this point. I do enjoy the section between Peel and Kirk Michael, so thought I could really kick on from there. To be honest I never expected to be in second place at Peel, so I didn't really have any kind of strategy as to what I would do in this position, so I just tried to walk at a fast, but reasonably comfortable pace. At Kirk Michael Jock was 9 minutes ahead of me and I was in front of Vinny by about 2 1/2 minutes, so my thoughts of getting anywhere near Jock had all but gone, but I thought I would give it one last push and see if I could make any headway. Kyley arrived at this point to take over the support car duties and said afterwards that she was concerned I was going too quickly.

At Ballaugh I had only cut in to Jocks lead by a few seconds and hadn't put any more time between me and Vinny, but looking on the split times afterwards, all 3 of us walked this leg quickly. Between Ballaugh and Jurby I really put the hammer down and covered this section in the quickest time recorded since the electronic timing was introduced about 5 years ago. Arriving at Jurby I was told that the gap to Jock was now about 7 minutes and this gave me an immediate boost until I was then told that he had stopped to change his top and have a bite to eat! Going back down the path from Jurby Church I met Vinny on the way up. "How are you doing" I said, to which he replied "I feel like s**t". I wasn't sure whether or not this was a tactical ploy to try and lull me in to a false sense of security, but my fears were realised when Kyley informed me that Vinny was starting to close the gap. On the way to Bride was where the big black dirty flies appeared, which were horrendous. They were obviously attracted by the amount of sweating I was doing and the only thing for it was to spray my cap with insect repellent, which reduced the numbers landing on my face, but didn't get rid of them.

 The never ending road to Bride dragged on and I knew at this point that I was starting to slow a little, which was backed up by the fact that on reaching the check in Jock was now nearly 12 minutes ahead. The hill going up out of Bride did nothing for me and I then started to become aware of Sean Hands's car driving past, as I knew he was supporting Vinny. Vinny later told me he had asked Sean to drive a little further ahead than normal, just so he could get past me before he stopped - another psycological ploy! I was still keeping a decent pace going but Vinny was getting nearer and nearer and at Andreas Church we again exchanged pleasantries as we passed each other on the path leading to the church. At that point I knew it wouldn't be long before he passed me!

The next and final instalment of last year's race will follow soon..... 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Parish Walk 2011 - Part 1

This week I thought I would provide an insight into how last year's Parish Walk unfolded and my recollections of the day, but first a quick update on what I have been up to since my last blog:

On Thursday there was a good turnout for the Manx Harriers 5km race on the Access Road and some cracking performances, with possibly 10 competitors recording PBs. It was a perfect evening; cool and only a light wind, but considering there are two turns to slow down for on each lap, it was a surprise there were so many good times. Congratulations to the top 3 - Michael George, Adam Cowin (a superb walk) and Alex Eaton, who had a close and very competitive race. They went off quickly on the first lap and I didn't have the pace to stay with them, but I was delighted to come in 4th and break the 25 minute mark, with 24:52.

After a rest day on Friday, we all met at the NSC at 7am on Saturday morning and split off into two groups. Jock and Dave M set off on the Parish Route, with the plan to do about 5 hours at an average pace of 5.2mph, using the virtual partner on Jock's Garmin. With Jock not entering this year's Parish his focus is on getting some decent miles in, in preparation for the 28 hour event in Roubaix in September, whilst Dave also wanted to get some long mileage in at a steady pace, after missing the last couple of Saturdays. Vinny, Michael and I decided to head out on the TT course and follow it from Douglas as far as Cronk-Y-Voddy, turning off and going through Little London, up to Brandywell, before the long decent to the Injebreck Reservoir, through West Baldwin, up to Abbeylands and back home,

When we set off it was raining slightly, but there was no indication of the poor weather to come. By the time we reached Little London the wind had really picked up and it was freezing. Even through gloves, my hands were bitterly cold and we had to maintain a decent pace to keep warm. However, as we started the decent from Brandywell to Injebreck the wind dropped completely and the temperature rose by a few degrees - bizarre how the weather can vary so much in a matter of miles, by going from one side of the mountain to the other. On this route you also appreciate the impressive scenery the Island has to offer and a couple of times we 'lost' Michael, as he stopped to take some photos. There wasn't the usual 'racing' this week but we maintained a reasonable pace throughout and a good session just short of 23 miles.

Next week will probably be the last long walk over 20 miles, after which the tapering will start. If you haven't done the miles now and have aspirations of a high finish, then sorry but you're too late! You can see the increase in the numbers of walkers out on the roads now, but don't try to do loads of miles now, as all you will succeed in doing is turning up on the start line with your body fatigued. Getting the fitness levels up with shorter, quicker walks is far better at this point, if you haven't been able to get the long training sessions in.

Last night a few of us went round to Vinny's to watch the Champions League final and have a few beers. With the extra time and penalties and then us chatting for a while afterwards about this year's Parish, the night probably went on longer than expected, with quite a few cans of Guinness and lager drunk, especially considering I had planned to go to Ramsey this morning for the 10 mile walk. When I got home Kyley was watching a film, so I stayed up and before I knew it, it was about 2.45am, so not ideal preparation for a race! I decided that staying in bed this morning was a better option than going to Ramsey, but after a while I felt guilty so went out for a loop around Baldwin. The pace was pretty slow, but glad I went out.

Back to last year's event. It was considerably cooler at the start than in 2010 and a lot of people, myself included, had decided to start with a waterproof jacket, as it looked like it might rain. As I have said in a previous blog one of the highlights of the Walk each year is the banter at the start prior to the race commencing. You catch up with people you haven't seen for a while, encouraging each other, asking about plans for the day and listening to competitors playing down their chances. As it got closer to 8am you could have cut the tension with a knife, as everyone just wanted to get going. I remember looking over at Jock and seeing him being interviewed, firstly with Dean Waddingham from the previous sponsor Scottish Widows and then with the Lieutenant Governor Adam Wood and he appeared to the be the most relaxed person on the track, despite the fact he was wearing number 1 and was aiming to be the first person to win the event 4 times in a row.

As the countdown began you could see people checking their GPS watches, getting ready for the gun and finally we were off. The first lap around the track is always interesting, as you don't want to go off too fast, but on the other hand the initial adrenalin rush and enthusiasm ensures it is always quick. Often there are one or two people who shoot off the front of the field, but last year all the leading walkers stayed together through the Access Road and down past Braddan Church. At this point Vinny, who said he was going to take it conservatively to start with, picked up the pace at the front and I joined him along with Jock and Richard Spenceley. We chatted as we went through Union Mills, smiling as we passed Murray as he started his long day of taking photos, shooting video footage and providing excellent coverage that continues after the final competitor finishes at the War Memorial!

By the time we reached Marown things were heating up in more ways than one; the jackets had been discarded and the pace had gone up another notch. On turning at the church we opened up a decent gap on the the field and there was only Michael George who was in close proximity. The climb just after Marown School up to the Braaid crossroads was hardly noticeable, as the early enthusiasm was still in abundance. Similarly, the ascent at the start of the Cleaynagh Road didn't seem to bother any of us, as at the top we were still making decent progress. As we started the decent to where the road joins the main Douglas to Castletown Road, Vinny turned to me and said "Jock is about to make a break, so if we want to try and stay in this race we are going to have to close him down now", to which I responded that it was too quick for me, but he was welcome to chase him!

The remaining 3 of us continued on the Oatlands Road and Richard said that Michael was about 500 yards back and closing quickly. I wasn't sure how and from where he had obtained this information until he announced that his iPod was tuned into Manx Radio and he was listening to the regular updates. Michael caught us just before Santon Church and I passed through the check in with a time of 1:46:57, about 43 seconds behind Jock. If you look back at the split times on the Statistics section of it is evident how quick the start to the 2011 Parish was. After Santon Church we continued to try and chase Jock down, but weren't really making any progress. In our excitement we must have pushed things a bit too hard going down the hill into Ballasalla, as Steve Taylor (who is the Chief Judge for the race walking in the London Olympics) stepped out in to the middle of the road and handed out a yellow card to each one of the 4 of us. It was a warning that we heeded and recognised the need to slow down a little and focus on the technique.

On the way to Malew Michael went up a gear and made a move to break away from the group. Having not been able to follow Jock's move I decided not to miss this one, so followed Michael leaving Vinny and Richard. Whilst we had been walking quickly and the temperature was starting to increase I was careful to ensure I was taking on sufficient liquid and also small amounts of food regularly, mainly fruit. I felt comfortable all the way in to Rushen and kept a gap of around 50 metres between myself and Michael. The walk down to Rushen Church and back from the Ballakillowey roundabout is always very interesting, as you can assess how far you are behind the people in front of you and also check out the ones in close attendance behind you, to see how they are holding up. At this stage Jock looked really comfortable as we exchanged greetings as we passed each other and I got no further encouragement at the check in, where I was now over 2 1/2 minutes behind, so the gap was steadily growing. Michael also appeared to be in good shape and there was no sign that he was about to struggle. I passed Richard as he was heading down to the church and he shouted that the pace was too quick and he had decided to back off a little. I was still feeling good and decided to push it up Ballakillowey, but was this a mistake....?

Next time, I will pick up again from Ballakillowey and cover the mid-section to Bride.

One final thing. My fellow blogger Ed and regular training partner Dave W have both unfortunately picked up injuries, so wishing them both a speedy recovery. At least you both have the miles in the bank already, so a few days off won't do any harm.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Massage with a happy ending!

Over the last couple of years I have had a nagging left hamstring and after hard training sessions or races it always aches the following day. It also bothers me every now and again when I run and seems to affect my left hip as well; not enough to make me stop but just an annoyance. Like a typical bloke I have never bothered getting anyone to look at it, and have said after I got each of the last two Parish Walks out of the way, that I would get it looked at. I never got round to it and just hoped it would eventually go away!

Some of the guys I train with swear by a regular weekly massage and I kept thinking I might as well give it a try, but again never get round to it. I have had a few massages, mainly at the end of the Parish Walk or End to End, but had never really appreciated the benefits. A couple of weeks ago I saw an offer on one of the local deal websites, offering a reduced rate sports massage at Performance Sports Therapy, so decided to take the plunge and went along for the appointment on Monday evening.

I remembered Kirry, who runs Sports Performance Therapy, from the Parish Walk a couple of years ago as she was doing massages at the finish. She also remembered me as the guy who about 15 minutes into the massage realised he had forgotten to stop his Garmin watch when crossing the line. Anyway, after a brief consultation I mentioned my dodgy hamstring as an an area I would like to Kirry to look at. After getting to work on left leg she couldn't find any problems at all with the hamstring but said my IT band was quite tight. Moving down to my left calf she found a massive knot in the deep muscle and proceeded to pummel it. I like to think I have reasonably high pain threshold, but getting rid of that knot was quite painful at times as I tried to conceal my pathetic screams!

My calf then had most of the focus, but on working back up to the top of the leg my IT Band had loosened considerably as a result. Kirry advised the cause of my hamstring issues was very likely due to the issues with my calf. No such deep knots on my right leg, but after the massage was finished both calves felt like they had been through the mill and Kirry advised me to ice them both when I got home and I duly obeyed. Waking up Tuesday morning the calves were still a little tender, but my hamstring felt completely different - no tightness and a lot more flexibility.

Tonight, I was at circuit training at the NSC, usually a trigger for the hamstring to give me a little grief, but it didn't bother me in the slightest, so I am definitely going to book in some more massage sessions prior to the Parish Walk. Sorry if I disappointed anyone with the misleading blog title!

Tomorrow, it is the Manx Harriers 5km Walk on the Access Road and an ideal speed session. So if you haven't got anything on get yourself down to the Manx Harriers Clubhouse for registration from 6.30pm, for a 7pm start.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Don't Miss Out!

It's a big day today for two reasons; firstly, the final day of the Premiership and secondly, entries for the Parish Walk close at midnight!

Starting with the football, I am holding out little hope of QPR getting a result against Man City and letting Man United sneak back in, but you can always hope! One person who won't be hoping that QPR get a result this afternoon (and not so Man City win the league), is Michael Bonney. Michael has been a training partner of mine over the last couple of years and a 4 time Parish Walk finisher, but is giving it a miss this year and has instead been spending time in the gym and doing more running. Hopefully he will be back next year, as I'm sure he can still improve his PB. Anyway, Michael hails from Bolton, so will be nervously watching his local team hoping they avoid relegation.

Back to the battle at the top, I'm sure that most neutral supporters will be cheering on Man City. It hurts me to admit it, but Man U haven't really played that well this season, with City playing the more attractive football. I think there needs to be a clear out at Old Trafford over the summer, as there are too many average players with an over reliance on Scholes and Giggs and very few players in the team that can change a game. Fergie has done it before and I'm sure he will build one more title winning side before he puts his feet up!

I had a look on Murray's 2011 pre-race blog and on the closing day for entries last year there were nearly 200. At the moment the number of entries is 1683, in comparison to 1756, which was the closing number in 2011, so it looks like we will have a new record, but unfortunately the target of 2012 entries looks to be out of reach, but lets hope there is late flurry.

If you are reading this today and still haven't entered, below is the link, so do it now!

A fairly standard week on the training front. A 5 mile run on Monday, followed by a 9 mile walk on Tuesday with Vinny. With there only being the two of us, we decided to give the Groudle loop a miss and instead headed out along Marine Drive and out to Port Soderick taking the right turn up the hill on the Old Castletown Road. We then took a right turn back into Douglas, past the Nunnery and up Woodbourne Road. Vinny always like to set a good pace on all training walks and we ended up covering the 9 miles at an average pace of 9.40 per mile. Wednesday was Circuit training at the NSC, followed by the Groudle Loop on Thursday with Dave W and Mike George.

Saturday's walk was a 7am start at the NSC with Dave and Mike again. Given the Rally was being held on a number of roads we would usually walk round in the middle and north of the Island, we decided to head south along Marine drive. We followed the route initially as on Tuesday night, but instead of turning right on the Old Castletown Road we took a left turn and joined the Parish Route. We passed the entrance to the Orrisdale Road and down into Ballasalla for refreshments. On the way, Mike mentioned that he had been on Manx Radio the previous evening along with Robbie Callister, Maurice Bellando, Maureen Moffat and Gillian Cunningham to discuss this year's Parish Walk. I had also been invited along but had to decline as I was working. If you missed it live you can catch on the listen again feature (Friday Sport Preview) on Manx Radio's website and the link is below:

During the radio discussion Mike mentioned the cheery comment he made last Saturday when he, Dave W, Vinny and I were in the same car on the way to Ramsey, which was "I wonder how the dimension of this year's Parish Walk would change if the 4 of us were to get wiped out now"!!!

After a fairly easy stroll to into Ballasalla and re-supplied, we set off towards St Marks, through to Mount Murray and then the Parish Walk in reverse back to Union Mills. This was a lot quicker than the first half and when I got home, after just short of 23 miles, I was absolutely shattered. Took the dog for a long walk in the afternoon and certainly slept well last night.

Back to the football - Man U have scored, but so have City, so they're still in the driving seat.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Is the Premiership now all over?

Another good week's training and the mileage is building up nicely, so fingers crossed, things seem to be going to plan at the moment. Just a shame the same can't be said about the football, with Man City winning 2-0 against Newcastle!

After last Sunday's vets football game I went for a 6 mile run on Monday around Douglas, but took it fairly easily. On Tuesday and Thursday we did the Groudle loop, which is about 9 miles and sandwiched in between was circuit training at the NSC on Wednesday and a day off on Friday.

On Saturday Michael, Vinny and I met at Dave W's house at 7am and he drove us up to Ramsey, so we could walk the Parish route back into Douglas, as this was the only part of the course we had yet to cover in training this year. Even though I have walked it numerous times, I find it is always good to remind myself of the different sections and how far it is between certain points, so come the big day I know exactly what to expect.

When we set off from Dave's it was a bright, fresh morning and the temperature gauge in his car was reading 3 degrees centigrade. You could have been forgiven for thinking it was early March, never mind early May. Luckily we all had our jackets and gloves. After parking up in Ramsey we set off along the coast road and took the left turn towards Maughold and the pace started to pick up a bit. It was definitely worth covering this section in training I had forgotten how long the gradual climb out of the village is, before you head down towards the church. The following downhill section is then a brief respite before the steep climb up Ballajora.

At the bottom of the hill Dave, Vinny and I walked past the farm on the left hand side, whilst Michael disposed of a banana skin and there was a dog stood by the gates. It just looked at the 3 of us, as we passed by, but it seemed a friendly well behaved dog. We raced up the hill with the legs burning from lactic acid, as just before you cross the tram lines it starts to get even steeper. Fortunately, as you pass over them it is not too far to the top and I was certainly relieved to get there. Looking back, Michael was a long way behind and we just assumed he was taking it easy. When he re-joined us it transpired that the placid looking dog, on seeing Michael separated from the group, assumed he had to herd him like a sheep and refused to let him past. On recounting the story back, we all commented that we had heard the dog barking but didn't think anything of it at the time and weren't concerned. That's what friends are for!

After ascending Ballajora you only have a mile or two before another decent climb on to the main road at Hibernia. Whilst it is still nearly 15 miles to the finish from this point it always feels like you are nearly 'home', when reaching there in the Parish, as you then have a long stretch of relatively flat terrain. Michael used this as his queue to stretch his legs and up the tempo for a while until we reached Glen Mona where we had left refreshments in the hedge. After a brief stop we picked up the pace again and on arriving at the Dhoon we decided to walk along the Ballaragh Road, rather than go along the busy main road, where the pavement is awful. After another refreshment stop at the Co-op in Laxey we made quick progress back in to Douglas, covering just over 20 miles by the end. Definitely a decent session and the Garmin link below has the details. What I didn't do was pause my watch when we stopped for water at Glen Mona and when I was in the Co-op in Laxey.

Untitled by richgerrard at Garmin Connect - Details

In the afternoon I met up with a few mates at the Outback to watch the FA Cup final and enjoy a few pints of Guinness. There was a sweep organised for first goal scorer and the player I picked out first was Petr Cech, a goalkeeper! Being a Man United fan it was quite difficult deciding who to support given I wanted neither team to win. It wasn't a great game and only really came to life once Liverpool got a goal back, but I spent most of the match catching up with friends I hadn't seen for a while. After visiting a few more Douglas pubs we decided to call it at night and to continue with the good work I finished off with a kebab!

Waking up this morning was particularly difficult given I had planned to do the 20km Walking Championship, so with a fuzzy head and 'heavy' legs from Saturday's walk I decided I would take it fairly easy and use it as a good training session. For the first 10km I walked fairly conservatively alongside Michelle Turner and Rich Wild, who were both going well and we went through this point at 57.40. I still felt like I had bit left in the legs, so stepped it up for the second 10km, covering it in 54.48 and the Garmin link is below.

Untitled by richgerrard at Garmin Connect - Details

A big thank you to Manx Harriers for putting on the event and to the judges, timekeepers, lap counters, marshalls and those providing encouragement from the sidelines.Whilst there wasn't a big turnout there was some excellent racing and cracking performances. Congratulations to the top 3 men, Michael George (impressive effort off the back of yesterday's training session), Jock Waddington and Alex Eaton, in his first 20km. A great walk from Michelle Turner in a time of 114 minutes, supported all the way round by Rich Wild and a superb time of 119 minutes from Marie Jackson, who smashed the Manx record in her age category. Marie was well paced (and hounded) all the way round by Vinny and really dug deep on the last lap to get under the two hour mark.

My afternoon has been a combination of watching football and going to B&Q, so real fun considering the Man City score (I can only hope for a miracle with QPR winning at Man City next Sunday)! Anyway, I'm off to the Woodbourne Pub shortly for the quiz, so enjoy the rest of your Bank Holiday Weekend.