Sunday, 26 February 2012

Mixed Results

After good cardio sessions on Monday and Tuesday last week I ran down to the NSC on Wednesday night, to warm up for circuit training. It was a really good workout, but there were quite a few exercises involving squats and lunges and boy did my inner thighs ache for the next couple of days - obviously muscles I don't exercise enough! On Thursday Vinny, Dave W and I met up at the NSC and did a 5 mile loop, down to Douglas Prom, up Summerhill and back past the Grandstand with a good average speed of just over 6 miles an hour, but it felt comfortable.

Saturday was the usual 'long walk' with Dave M, Michael and Vinny. We decided to do about 15 miles, apart from Michael, who with an eye on the 20km race at the Manx Harriers Ascot Hotel Open Meeting on Saturday, planned to do slightly less. The walk was a fairly easy pace from the NSC, along the promenade and out past Groudle. On arriving in Laxey we turned left opposite the Queens and up Rencell Hill, which Dave claimed to have never been up before, so was a bit surprised at how long it drags on for. The 'prize' when you reach the top is the great view back over Laxey and the hills past Glen Roy in the opposite direction. It was at that point the sun came out, so it was almost perfect. We then followed the back road from Creg Ny Baa to the top of the Whitebridge (where Dave picked up an unfortunate injury, that I won't go in to) and then back into Douglas - a distance of 17 miles, so a little further than planned.

We had a new edition to the family on Saturday afternoon when Kyley's sister Steph and her husband Gareth become the proud parents of a baby girl, Daisy Elizabeth, a little sister to Ethan. Below is a picture of Daisy, who weighed 7lb and 3oz at birth and Tom (our first and best baby, as he likes to claim). Hard to believe at 6ft tall now that he was also the same weight 17 years and 6 days ago!

Today was all about the football. It started this morning at Pulrose where Tom was playing for Corinthians A against St Marys. St Marys are probably the strongest team in the league and Corinthians had quite a few players missing, so had to call up some B team players and had no subs, so they were expecting to get battered. Deservedly Corinthians took the lead after about 15 minutes, but St Marys equalised just before half time. In the second half Corinthians were under a lot of pressure and eventually they conceded a late goal with the game finishing 2-1 to St Marys, but they could be proud of the effort they put in and a great team performance. I thought Tom's day was going to go from bad to worse when his football team Arsenal went 2 nil down against Spurs, but shockingly they came back to win 5-2.

The mighty Colby Vets were also in action today against Onchan. We hadn't played a match for 4 weeks, but we were upbeat following our last performance against St Marys. Unfortunately, we had a lot of players either off the Island or injured and struggled to get 11 today. This wasn't helped when one of the team picked up a hamstring injury after about 5 minutes and we limped to a 3-0 defeat, with two of the goals self-inflicted. Credit to Onchan for the way they played, but one thing you do need in the Vets League is to have the full quota of substitutes and use them correctly. On the positive side Man U beat Norwich to keep the pressure on City and it also brought up an amazing 900 appearances from Giggs. We could do with him in our Vets team when he finally decides to call it a day in professional football!

I will probably take things fairly easy this week on the training front, as I'm going to have a go at the 20km on Saturday, with my objective to get under 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

What to Wear!!!

Got shouted at by Dave Mackey tonight, as he had sat down at his computer yesterday morning with a cup of coffee ready to read the latest weekly drivel I had posted, only to find no post. I usually write the blog each Sunday, but this Sunday it was my son Tom's birthday, so didn't get round to it and I was busy yesterday, so didn't get an opportunity then.

Last week was a poor week for training, mainly due to work commitments, so I only managed to get out for a couple of runs. On Saturday morning I met up with Vinny and Dave W and as per the previous two weeks it was raining as we set off. When I had left home it looked like the rain was going to be around for a while, so put on an extra layer of clothing, as its better to be too hot and take layers off, than too cold. We set off from the NSC, up Bray Hill and past the Grandstand. Before we reached Onchan the rain had stopped and I quickly started to overheat - I never seem to get it right! Up to Whitebridge we headed past the Liverpool Arms and after crossing the tram lines took the next right, as you enter Lonan. This road then takes you up towards Ballanette and Lonan Old Church, but we stayed on it and it brings you back on the Groudle Road. From there we held a good pace all the way back to Onchan Head, along the Promenade and a final sprint to Mash.

This leads into the subject of what clothing and accessories should you have with you on the day? I usually pack the following items:
  • A spare pair of trainers. Ideally these should be a similar pair to the ones you start in and both pairs fully 'walked-in'. You don't want to be turning up on the line in a pair of trainers you are not comfortable walking distances in and ones your feet are not used to, making them more susceptible to blisters.
  • Spare pairs of socks to change into if your feet get wet.
  • A cap. It keeps the sun out of your eyes and also useful if it rains.
  • Spare shorts or tights, if you're that way inclined (you know who you are.... Ronnie Kelly/Dave Mackey!)
  • Two or three spare t-shirts. Even if you don't get wet, if it is a hot day you will sweat a lot and will feel a great deal more comfortable later on, if you have a fresh top to change in to.
  • A high-viz showerproof jacket, or if the weather is anything like 2008 a more heavy-duty waterproof/windproof jacket is probably more apt!
  • A warm hat and gloves. Before the 2008 Parish Walk experience I would not have even considered needing a hat and gloves in June. However, even if it isn't wet, it can still get quite cool during the night and after you have been walking for hours on end the body is more susceptible to feeling the cold.
  • A base-layer. Again, if it is a cold night a base-layer under a lightweight jacket should keep you warm. In last year's walk I was wearing a t-shirt as I approached Bulgham Bay, but there was a cold mist coming in. Kyley was telling me it had got quite a bit cooler as the sun was setting, but I hadn't noticed at this point. Similar to making sure you are eating and drinking enough, this is another area where your support team can make a difference, by ensuring you change clothes or put on another layer as it starts to get dark.
  • A high-viz bib to put your race number on. You can wear this all the way round and makes changing clothes easy.
  • A head-torch and a red light to clip on to the back of your jacket. As mentioned in an early post on my first finish I carried a hand-torch round after dark, which wasn't ideal! you can also pick up the lights the wrap around your arm fairly cheaply.
  • Spare batteries for your lights.
  • One of the most important things you will 'wear' during the walk is Vaseline. Apply it liberally to every nook and cranny and reapply regularly, even if you don't think you need it! This is particularly important if it is wet, otherwise when you start to feel the pain from excessive rubbing it is usually too late and it will bother you for the rest of the race.
  • Insect repellent. As well as the enduring the long trek from Jurby to Bride, last year was made worse by the unbelievable number of big black flies that were around, unless it was just me attracting them! Whilst it didn't disperse all the flies, spraying my hat with insect repellent made it more bearable.
  • Waterproof plasters. Whilst I can't speak for the ladies, I would recommend the gentlemen use waterproof plasters to protect themselves from the dreaded nipple-rub. Personally, I have found Vaseline to only be effective for a short period of time.
  • My Garmin GPS watch. The model I have is a 310XT, which I have used for the last couple of years and it has a 20 hour battery life. Before I start the race I will have gone through my times from the previous year to each church and from this will plan times for this year. The Garmin watch helps me keep on track and will tell me if I am going too fast or need to speed up a little.
I was off work yesterday, so got up early to drop Kyley off at work for 8am and then went out and did an 8 mile run. It didn't stop raining at all, so got particularly drenched and it took me a while to warm up. Did some weightlifting yesterday afternoon, but not in the conventional sense. We had bought Tom a new TV for his birthday, which was a straightforward job to set up. The problem was moving his old TV out of his bedroom, which is the heaviest TV you will ever come across, When we originally put the TV in his bedroom I enlisted the help of my brother, who is a strapping 6 ft 3in and leaves just across the road from me. We could just about get the TV out of his house but couldn't lift it across the road, so had to use Tom's Courier trolley to move it, before 'having fun' moving it upstairs to his bedroom, inch-by-inch.

Without my brothers assistance this time around it took Tom and I an age to shift it. Tom slipped going down the stairs and let go of the half-ton TV with me below it. It could very nearly have been the end of this year's Parish Walk attempt had I not been able to wedge myself underneath it, before it flipped on top of me. In the evening Kyley went out to exercise classes in the evening, so given my lack of training the week before I decided to go out for another run and covered 5 miles, again in the rain. Must have overdone it a little as my calves were quite painful this morning.

Now going to undo the good work from yesterday and have a few pancakes!!!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Importance of Electrolytes....

Not a great week for training, but made up for it with a good session yesterday. Following last Sunday's 10km race I didn't do anything on Monday, as I was feeling a bit under the weather and as football training was cancelled on Tuesday night I went for a 5 mile run instead. On Wednesday night I was out with guests for work and on Thursday and Friday I had to work late.

With a few of the usual Saturday morning crowd either off the Island or injured it was left to me and Mike George to brave the elements. As mentioned in an earlier blog we will build up the longer walk by a mile or two each week, but given the weather Mike and I were initially undecided how far to go, especially if it deteriorated any further. Therefore, we decided to head out to Baldwin, so we could cut the length of the walk if needed.

Before I started going out with the group on a Saturday morning a year or two ago, I would quite often head out by myself and do the loop round Baldwin and then do it in reverse the following week. I now know the route like the back of my hand, but I still enjoy it as it has a variety of testing hills and the views are great. It is only in this last couple of years that my walking has significantly improved and apart from being due to improving my general fitness, it is as a result of going out training with a group of quicker walkers. You end up pushing yourself a lot harder and there is a friendly competitiveness. One mistake I use to make was to go out on longer walks without anything to eat and wonder why I would be short of energy, so I now always make sure I have some sort of snack with me.

This leads on to the question of what should you eat and drink during an event like the Parish Walk. Given you could potentially be walking almost constantly for up to 24 hours it needs careful consideration, planning and trying out what works for you beforehand, rather than hoping it works out on the day. During my first two Parish Walk finishes my diet and drinking regime throughout the race was shocking and mainly consisted of jaffa cakes, jelly babies, Mars Bars and bananas, washed down with Lucozade.

I'm certainly no expert on sports nutrition and what works for one person is no good for another, therefore it is important to experiment with different food and fluid combinations on long walks. Eating during an endurance event like the Parish can often by tricky when you are on the move. To maintain sufficient energy levels throughout a race, adequate proportions of fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes are essential. Eating too many carbohydrates or not drinking enough fluid can result in cramping, fatigue and will ultimately affect your performance.

Some basic tips are below:

  1. Ensure you are hydrated before you turn up for the start i.e. start taking on liquids a couple of hours beforehand.
  2. Don't drink endless isotonic/energy sports drinks such as Lucozade or Gatorade during the race. They do have their place in an endurance event, but they tend to be too sweet and you may feel a little sick later in the race and it could affect your ability to take on food as well. I tend to use the powder sachets of High Five Energy Source (but watered down more than the recommended level), as they contain carbohydrates, whey protein and electrolytes. Electrolytes are responsible for keeping the body properly hydrated, so the muscles and nerves can function properly. Since the body is composed mostly of water, it is important that we take in adequate amounts of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphates. When we sweat and lose these vital minerals, we need to replenish, not only with water but with these minerals. If we combine intake of fluids with electrolytes, we will actually hydrate quicker, as water follows electrolytes. Dioralyte can also be used to ensure hydration and electrolyte levels are maintained
  3. Load up on carbohydrates a few days before, on the lead up to the event. A pre-race meal should consist of high energy foods like bread, cereals, pasta, rice, fruit and vegetables and lean sources of protein.
  4. Take on small amounts of food on a regular basis. The best and most natural way of replenishing electrolytes is from food. In fact, sugary sport drinks only provide a quick burst of minerals, but deplete the body over time. Easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods such as a banana or granola bar are ideal, but bearing in mind that during the time you will do the Parish Walk (without evening considering the extra energy you will expend) you would normally eat 3 or 4 meals, this won't be sufficient. As I pointed out earlier my diet during my first couple of Parish Walks was poor, but more recently I have tried to vary what I eat and a lot of it is down to trial and error. Last year I ate a fair amount of fruit in the early stages such as dried apricots, bananas and melon and later on I ate mash potato and gravy as it was easy to digest and also salty, so kept the sodium levels up (some of the top walkers swear by soup, with sweet potato being a favourite, so something I plan to try as well this year). Towards the end of race I did fall back on the jelly babies, but at that stage I just needed them for short bursts of energy.
  5. Make sure your support team are fully briefed beforehand on your eating and drinking requirements. In the early stages of the race you will probably be telling your support exactly what you want and when you need it, but after you get past half-way it is easy to lose track of what you are consuming, so it is important they know your plans and essentially they recognise the signs if you are not taking on enough fluids or food. As it is often said, if you start feeling really thirsty then the chances are you are already dehydrated. Similarly, if you don't take on food you will 'hit the wall' and it will take a while to recover your energy levels and wreck your chances of achieving whatever objective you have set yourself.
  6. As part of the the post-race recovery it's important to take in carbohydrates as soon as your body will allow, this enhances glycogen replacement. Try something like a fruit smoothie, chocolate milk drink, banana, or yogurt. Taking on a protein shake is also important as it helps repair exercise-induced muscle damage.
Back to training - this Saturday Mike and I started at a fairly sedate pace and slowly started to wind it up as we headed towards Mount Rule on the way to West Baldwin. Turning right just before Injebreck Reservoir we ploughed up the hill and past St Luke's Church. Rather than turning left to East Baldwin we decided to go straight on and back down to West Baldwin and retraced our steps to do a quick loop, past Injebreck and St Luke's Church again and then finally down to East Baldwin. It was at this point that someone must have strapped a rocket to Mike as he shot off at a ridiculous pace. When I got home I looked at my Garmin watch and I had covered that mile (admittedly it was mainly flat or downhill) in 8 minutes and 3 seconds and Mike had pulled out a decent gap on me at the time!

After that exertion we 'strolled' up to Onchan and the rain started to get a bit heavier, so it was a relief to head back in to Douglas. By the end we had covered 14.9 miles in 2 hours 31 minutes on a fairly hilly route, so I was pleased with the walk given our reticence at the start. After a nice hot shower to warm up (and a protein shake!) I went into town to pick up a few bits before having lunch and settling down in front of the TV to watch the Man U v Liverpool game. I won't gloat about the score Ed - as it will probably come back and bite me on the arse at a later date!

Today's vets game against Braddan was cancelled as the pitch was unplayable due to the rain over the last couple of days, so I ended up going round to my godson's 8th birthday party for coffee and cake. Settling down now for a relaxing evening and to watch the Hangover 2. Bye for now.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Don't try this at home kids!!!

A pretty normal week on the training front culminating in a slightly shorter walk on Saturday morning, given it was the 10km the following day. There was only Jock, Dave W and I out and when we met at 8am it was overcast, but not too bad. We headed out from the NSC and along the promenade, up Summerhill and through Onchan to the top of Whitebridge, where we took a right turn. At was at this point it started to rain and the wind started to get stronger. In the dip at Groudle we were fairly sheltered, but as soon as we reached the top of the hill on the way to Onchan Head it was completely exposed and the rain got heavier. 

Dave W left us at the bottom of Broadway, as he had a flight to catch for a family holiday on the ski-slopes and from that point it was race to get out of the rain as Jock and I were both starting to seize up. On arriving at Mash the first few minutes were spent trying to dry out and warm up, but the tea and sausage baps that greeted us were the ideal reward! Fortunately, Sandra Halpin had also stopped in Mash for breakfast and offered us a lift home.

The poor weather takes me back to my first Parish finish in 2008, which was the wettest on record. Throughout the week on the lead up to the walk the weather forecast seemed to change numerous times with predictions that the bad weather was going to arrive later on the Sunday so everyone would be finished. Then the forecast changed and the rain was definitely arriving on the Saturday, however, you couldn't have predicted how heavy and persistent it would turn out to be. I had worn a jacket from the start, so when it started raining on the climb up to the Braaid it didn't bother me too much, but there were numerous people with just t-shirts and vests on, who would pay for it later.

By the time I reached Rushen Church the rain had started to get heavier and as I headed up towards the Sloc the wind got stronger and stronger. My abiding memory climbing up the Sloc was being in a line of about 20 people each of us trying to shelter behind the person in front, whilst I tried to stop my hat blowing off. At the top of the hill there were people sheltering in hedges trying to get warm or waiting to be picked up as the cold had got the better of them. My jacket had kept me reasonably dry but my hands were chilled and I was having trouble using my phone to contact Kyley who was doing my support. Thinking the weather would be fine and that I would have all the food and water I would need, I didn't arrange to meet her until just before Peel, so she had planned things for earlier in the day. I had to phone my mum and dad to get them to bring me a hat and some gloves.

Once I arrived in Glen Maye I had started to warm up a little and from that point on I was determined I was going to finish. The time wasn't important to me, as all I wanted to do was to banish the memory of 'failing' the previous year. At this point I did consider changing my socks and trainers as I could feel blisters starting to form, which had been exacerbated how wet my feel were. Given the rain was constant I thought there was little point in changing, as my feet would only be dry for a short period of time. That was a big mistake! Shortly after Peel I started walking with Rob Wright, who had finished in 2006 and 2007 and we got chatting. Not having finished before he said he was going to help me get through the rough patches and we carried on together until Lezayre. At that point he said to me that I was over the worst of it (walking through the 'river' running down the middle of the road in Andreas was fun), was looking strong and he had no doubt I would get to the end. I would just like to say thanks to Rob for the encouragement that day and helping me get through the times when the easiest thing to do would have been to pack in and get out of the cold and wet.

After Lezayre I knew I was going to finish and the only mishap I had was just after the climb out of Maughold. I didn't have a head torch at this time, so was just wandering around in the pitch black with a small hand-held torch. I fumbled in my pocket to get something to eat and fell into a ditch at the side of the road! Fortunately I didn't hurt myself but it slowed my progress and it took me hours to get to the next church in Lonan. The rest of the walk was straightforward, but the feeling as I turned the corner at Port Jack and looked along Douglas promenade was unbelievable and I haven't felt the same sense of achievement in any of my further Parish finishes. The sun was just starting to come up and after trudging through the rain for hours I couldn't believe the end was in sight. I eventually crossed the line in 21:12:38 for 60th place. It was a few minutes afterwards that someone pointed out my red trainers, which was the blood from the numerous blisters on my feet.

When I arrived at home taking off my trainers was extremely painful, but mild in comparison to the excruciating pain peeling my socks off and realising the whole layer of skin on the bottom of both my feet was moving round independently. Kyley was tears as she tried to patch up my feet in vain. I didn't sleep a wink and couldn't walk properly, so in the end Kyley persuaded me to go to A&E and get them properly looked at and cleaned up. There were a number of fellow Parish walkers in A&E with hypothermia, but I felt pride when the doctor who saw me said I had the worst feet he had seen that day!

Since then I have tried numerous different things to try and avoid blisters, with limited early success, but my tips are as follows:
  • Get yourself two decent pairs of trainers and wear both in well in advance of the Parish walk. If it rains and one pair gets wet then you have a spare. Get the experts to help you choose a pair that fit properly, by carrying out video gait analysis (Up and Running on Bucks Road offer this service). As your feel will swell as you walk, get a pair half a size bigger than you would normally wear.
  • Find socks that suit you. Some people like the double skin sock, which act against each other to reduce friction. Personally I prefer a sock with padding on the heels and toes.
  • I have tried putting vaseline and bodyglide on my feet and it hasn't worked, but others swear by it. Similarly, some people like to strap their feet up and even put Compeed plasters on their feet before they start.
  • Lastly, keep your feet dry!
All I do these days is make sure I am wearing the right shoes and socks, as my feet have naturally toughened up over the last 5 years. In the 2011 Parish Walk I only had one small blister, so this year I am hoping for none!

Back to the present day - on Saturday night Kyley and I had been invited to a party, where cocktails were the theme. Unfortunately, my will-power isn't the best and I succumbed to sampling every cocktail on offer. We had a really good night but eventually I decided that it was time to walk home, given the 10km the following morning. Unfortunately, with an inebriated wife in tow the walk took longer than expected and we stumbled in about 2am. The following morning I started to regret having that extra Blue Lagoon and considered staying in bed, but managed to drag myself out and down to the NSC.

Expectations weren't high, but over the last couple of weeks I had started to feel fitter, so thought I could do a reasonable time. The pace was really quick from the start and whilst Michael George (congratulations on your PB Mike) and Alex Eaton disappeared into the distance I tried to hang on to Jock and Adam Cowin. I went through the 5km mark about 25.45, but given the excesses the previous night I expected to tire a bit in the second half of the race. Shockingly, I managed to hang on and finished in 51.49, which was a new PB. However, I do not recommend drinking cocktails the night before a race, which is the theme for the this blog title. I now intend to have a few alcohol free weeks until my 40th birthday in March.

Just a final word of thanks to the organisers, marshalls, timekeepers and sponsors of the Winter League for another excellent series.