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!
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.