Sunday, 25 March 2012

Is Summer here?

A pretty uneventful week, but got still some decent training sessions in. Monday was a run after work, followed by the 'Kewaigue Loop' on Tuesday. I hadn't eaten much during the day and literally ran in from work, got changed and down to the NSC. 5 minutes into the walk I knew it was a mistake as my energy levels felt particularly low as I dragged myself around chasing Dave W up the hill past the school. I had to give circuit training a miss on Wednesday as it was an End to End Walk Committee Meeting. Things seem to be going to plan, even if the entries haven't started to flow in yet, plus we have also had another company approach the Committee wanting to get involved alongside the other sponsors.

I plan to enter this year's End to End, to walk with Kyley, but the only problem is that it falls a week after the Roubaix 28 hour walk. This annual event in Northern France has been running since 1953 and the objective is to see how far you can walk in 28 hours, with the current record standing at an impressive 255km (158 miles). As publicised on Murray's website there are a number of people from the Island planning to have a go at this year's event, so our support teams should be able to a establish a Manx quarter somewhere on the circuit. As well the fact that physically I won't be able to be competitive for the End to End, it wouldn't be too clever to go for it due to the high probability of doing some permanent damage to myself only a week after Roubaix (assuming I can still actually walk at that stage!).

On Thursday night the two Daves, Vinny and I met up at the NSC and we headed out along the promenade, up Summerhill and Blackberry Lane and back to the NSC. On Friday evening I wasn't feeling too good and as Kyley was out with work I took the opportunity to lie on the sofa and do nothing part from watch Sport Relief. A superb effort from the comedian John Bishop as he cycled through Northern France, was delirious whilst rowing across the Channel before running 3 marathons - with millions raised for charity. Whilst the Parish is obviously on a smaller scale to Sports Relief, it shouldn't be forgotten the money that is raised for local charities through this great event.

Had a terrible night's sleep and got up on Saturday morning not feeling like walking at all. However, I didn't want to miss the long walk of the week so decided to see how things went. Vinny, Dave M, Michal and I met up at Dave W's on Ballanard Road at 7.30 and Dave's wife Sally joined us for the first few miles as we set off through East Baldwin, up past St Luke's Church and down the hill to Injebreck Resevoir. It was at this point I started to feel very intrepid about lay ahead, in my delicate state. If you haven't ventured up the hill from Injebreck to Brandywell then I recommend it as an excellent training walk to build stamina for tackling the hills in the Parish. It is very steep at the start and then is a long slog to the top, plus there is very little traffic on the road. Dave W and Vinny set the pace and I had to dig really deep to hang on to them.

It was a very warm morning, by comparison to the last couple of Saturdays and the concern was we wouldn't have sufficient fluid, as the route we were taking was around the middle of the Island with no shops to get any supplies. Fortunately, we needn't have worried as Dave W had been out on his bike the day before and had strategically placed bottles of water around our route. On reaching Brandywell we continued on the road before taking a left turn past the entrance to the former Sartfield Restaurant and down the hill to Little London, which really feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. It was at this stage we expected to see a 'good ol boy' sitting out the front of his house playing his banjo, with his shotgun propped up beside him! On joining the TT course at Cronk-Y-Voddy we traced it backwards to Union Mills before returning to Dave's house for refreshments, finishing a little over 21 miles.

Unfortunately, I was unable to compete in today's Manx Harriers 10km Racewalking Championships, but congratulations to Alex Eaton and Michelle Turner, the men's and ladies's winners. Instead my morning was spent in the glorious sunshine in Ramsey watching Tom playing for Corinthians V RYCOB in the U17s football. Tom is currently studying PE at A Level and one of his assignments involves documenting and filming a sport he participates in. As such, I was on camera duty for the morning. RYCOB had already won the league and when Corinthians only had 10 players to start things didn't look good. However, at half-time the score was 0-0, which was a fair reflection. During the second half RYCOB made the extra man count and matters weren't helped when Corinthians went down to 9 men as a result of injury to one of the team. The match finished 3-0 to RYCOB but a really committed performance from the 'Super Whites'.

This afternoon Kyley and I walked down into town to pick up a few things and as the weather was so nice carried walking along the promenade instead of heading straight home. We wandered up Summerhill and then through the Glen that brings you out by Governor's Bridge. I hadn't walked through the Glen in years but I have really fond memories of it as a child when me and my brothers would pester my parents to take us there to see the lights at night and then work on them to take us to the chippy at the bottom of Summerhill afterwards. It was a little bit of a let down this time around! Walking past the Grandstand we noticed some of the new fitness equipment installed by Douglas Council in Nobles Park at a cost of £20,000. We only found 5 of the 7 pieces of equipment but tested them out and were both impressed. It looks to be a good circuit running between each of the 'stations' and I just hope they remain untouched by vandals. All-in-all a good day out in the sun and hopefully the start of a long, hot summer!!!

I am in Guernsey this week, so will unfortunately miss the Parish 'Walk Talk' on Tuesday evening, which starts at 5.30pm with doors opening at 5.00pm. If you have any concerns about the Walk and need some advice I would recommend you get down to the Manx Museum where a panel of experts will pass on their experience. Also if you need a little motivation or are undecided whether to have a go at the full distance, this is a great opportunity to meet fellow entrants and pick up useful tips.

Anyway, I plan to bring my sports gear with me this week, but when away with work it is often difficult to find the time or the enthusiasm to use the hotel gym. However, now that the training schedule is increasing I will be disappointed in myself if the kit comes back unused!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Bus Wa**ers!!!

After last Sunday's football I took Monday off from training, plus my ankle was feeling a little tender after the Union Mills's left back caught me a little late. I seem to have developed this knack of getting hit either above or below my shin pad when I get tackled. Maybe it is a sign I should wind up my season before my 9 lives run out.

Tuesday's training session with Dave W, Vinny and Jock was a good one, as we did the loop from the NSC down to the Quay, through Kewaigue and back to the NSC. Not a long walk, but we had the usual 'race' up the hill past the school, whilst pretending it wasn't hurting. Dave Mackey couldn't make it as he said he was off work for the Cheltenham horse racing festival. I assumed he was actually going to Cheltenham, but instead his week was spent moving back and forth between O'Donnell's and Joe Jennings. On Wednesday I went to circuits at the NSC and again managed to cripple myself doing side lunges!

Thursday was the Dursley Stott Spring Handicap 5K Walk and my first race in the V40 category. Neither Michael or Jock were walking so I started off last; however, instead of assisting the lap counting or just providing support from the sidelines, they were in new roles - as judges! Both had successfully passed the judges exam the previous weekend, so were there on the sidelines with their cards at the ready. I managed to avoid one all race, before picking up a yellow from Graham Young 20 metres from the line! I knew I was close to 25 minutes and I think with a final effort to get under that time I lost my technique a little, finishing in 25:03. Still a PB though, so I was pleased. There were some excellent performances on the night, namely the top 3 - Alexandra Valentine, Stew Jones and my fellow blogger Ed Walter. Also worth a mention was Michelle Turner who with a  time of 26:59, seems to be making big improvements in every race with more to come. I had guests over from the UK with work, so after the race I met them at the Regency Hotel where they were staying and we popped into the Queens for a couple of pints before heading to Chillies. Nothing like a few beers and a curry for your post race recovery!

Friday was a rest day, as a long walk was planned on Saturday. Looking at the weather forecast on Friday night, I was all prepared for rain all morning, so it was out with the thick base layer and waterproof top, as we were taking on Ballakillowey and the Sloc, starting at Colby. Vinny sent a text message to remind us all the bus was leaving Douglas bus station at 6.40 and not 6.45, so make sure we were on time. I was running late on Saturday morning, so decided to drive down to the NSC and catch the bus from there. Whilst it was a clear morning, my car windscreen was frozen, so I considered the warm clothing a good idea. On arriving at the NSC Dave M was wandering around looking agitated, so I pulled up and asked him what was wrong. The bus had gone through 10 minutes earlier and we had missed it! We phoned Vinny who seemed upset that the bus timetable had changed in January, but no one at the DOT had personally contacted him to let him know! Fortunately, the delay meant that I could nip home and pick up my Garmin that I had forgotten and Dave could get himself a banana. The bus eventually arrived at the NSC and Dave and I hopped on to join Vinny, Jock and Dave W. The title of the blog is taken from a scene from the series the Inbetweeners, which if you have seen it is hilarious and dedicated to Vinny.

We stepped off the bus in Colby and started at a slow and steady pace. By this time it was clear blue skies, with a really warm sun - so much for the forecast rain! Ballakillowey was the usual slog and it was immediately evident I had put on too may layers of clothing. Next the Sloc! When anyone talks about the most difficult part of the Parish Walk on the way to Peel, the Sloc is always mentioned. Personally, I find Ballakillowey much more of a challenge, as it is considerably steeper and tougher on the hamstrings. After going through the Round Table we raced into Peel maintaining a good pace all the way. As we headed into Glen Maye it was good to know that it is not only me who suffers from cramp walking up the hill past the Waterfall pub. Every year I suffer in the same place and it must be something to do with such a steep hill after miles of downhill.

In Peel we stopped for refreshments - tea and sausage/bacon baps, or just eggs and bacon in Vinny's case, as part of his gluten free diet. After sitting down for a few minutes it was really difficult to get going and it was only by around Peel School that my legs started moving freely again. We then pushed it most of the way back into Douglas averaging 10 minute miles by the time we reached the NSC. Overall we covered not far short of 25 miles in a shade under 4 hours and 30 minutes, so a good workout. It was a bit of a step up from our previous longest walk and I think we all felt it by the end. I managed to spend a lot of the afternoon watching the Rugby and well done to Wales for winning the Six Nations, but England's performance later in the day was equally impressive considering the young age and limited experience of the team.

Sunday was more relaxing, but given it was another beautiful day Kyley and I decided to go for a walk around Onchan and Douglas for a couple of hours in the morning. I am trying to talk her into doing the End to End Walk, so a good start to her training! It also helped build up an appetite for the day of eating that lay ahead to celebrate Mother's Day. We commenced our eating Marathon at Kyley's parents' house for Sunday lunch and whilst I tried not to fill my plate too much, the food that was on offer was too hard to resist and I admit I did have more roast potatoes than I should have done. I also should have avoided the after dinner mints! After leaving Laxey the next stage of the endurance event was meeting up with my side of the family at the Italian Job. Garlic Bread for starters before demolishing a large pizza and I still found room to share a desert with Kyley. A really good meal but the service left a bit to be desired. Got home too full to do anything but fall into bed. On day's like this it's not too difficult for me to remember how I managed to get so big in my 'jabba the hut' days; however, I now know I need to take it easy the next few days and train that little bit harder.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Win at Last

After having Monday off after a heavy Sunday night to celebrate my 40th birthday, I arrived into work early on Tuesday and there was a large photo of me on the front door, lying naked on rug. Fortunately for all concerned it was a baby photo!!! From the reception area and throughout the floor I work on there were various other photos from my childhood, kindly supplied by my brother to try and humiliate me. In keeping with how I was 5 or 6 years ago, I was big lad as a baby with rosy red cheeks (probably from heaving my over-fed body around), which everyone at work found particularly amusing. Kyley did once say that if she had seen photos of me as a baby before she got pregant, things might have been different!!

I managed to fit in a quick run on Wednesday night, followed by a 5 mile walk on Thursday with Dave Walker. We didn't push it too hard as I still had tight hamstrings from the 20km the previous Saturday and Dave had run the Leinster Management 20 mile on the Sunday, so we just kept a steady pace going. I had mentioned in an earlier blog that Dave had been training well, is a lot fitter than last year and is a potential 'dark-horse' for the Parish. This was evident by the fact that he knocked 22 minutes off his time for the 20 mile run from last year and if he could have maintained the same pace this year for marathon distance, he would be around the 3 hour mark.

Friday was a rest day and yesterday morning I met up with both Daves, Jock and Vinny at the NSC. We set off up Bray Hill, through Onchan and to the top of Whitebridge where we took a left and started the climb up along the back road to Creg-Ny-Baa. As you reach the top of the hill there is a lay-by that looks like 'Tom the Dippers' on the Parish Walk route at the top at Ballakillowey and the next section of the road looks bizarrely similar to the Parish route from Regaby to the bottom of the Sloc. It was at this point that Dave M and Vinny started to discuss the benefits of a gluten-free diet, but I don't want to put anyone off their tea, so I won't share the gory details with you! Continuing, we turned off towards Glen Roy, which surprisingly some of the guys had never walked before, which was probably best as there are 3 decent hills to climb prior to reaching Baldhoon Road. If you want a decent training route, this has everything in terms of terrain and great views. On reaching Laxey we stopped at the Co-op for refreshments, before racing back into Douglas via Groudle. Unfortunately, I was pushed for time so couldn't enjoy the late breakfast at Mash this week.

I always forget how hard the climb out of Laxey is and the first year I finished the Parish Walk I tried to turn off right too early for Lonan Church. The second year I finished I didn't have the same problem as my father-in-law Paul joined me going past the Queens Hotel. I should point out that he had been drinking there during the evening and jogged alongside for a while providing 'encouragement'. Kyley and I now have a running joke each year when I ask where the turn off for Lonan Church is.

On the lead up to the Parish Walk in 2009 I started to get involved in the Winter Walking League, as well as few other races and discovered what a welcoming bunch the race-walking fraternity is and the considerable amount of time that various people volunteer to keep the interest levels up in the sport. It was through doing these races and being given tips to improve my technique, plus going to the Tuesday night sessions at the NSC that I started to see a rapid improvement in my times. Whilst my race-walking style has a lot of room for improvement, I wouldn't be able to walk anyway near as quickly and maintain the pace I can over longer distances without the friendly hints and guidance I have been given. If you have finished the Parish Walk before and are serious about improving your time, then I would recommend you go along to the various races in the build up to the main event. Murray Lambden's website has details of forthcoming races and there is a 10km walk on 25th March at the NSC hosted by Manx Harriers.

To give you an idea of how the shorter races helped me, in 2008 the time for my first finish was 21:12:38 and I improved this by 4:00:18 to record a time of 17:12:20 in 2009. Normally this would have won the award for biggest improvement in a single year, but Gillian Cunningham did a fantastic walk to improve by 4:12:46. My memories of 2009 were of setting off fairly conservatively and getting to Peel not too much quicker than I did in 2008. However, this worked to good effect, as I slowly worked my way through the field in the second half of the Walk and had some of Stephen Harvey's chips as we left Ramsey. From that point to the end I continued to maintain a decent pace and only Andy Green passed me going to Laxey and he had a storming finish to the end and just kept me out of the top 10 placings. At the end I actually felt really good and knew at that point I could push myself harder to quicker times. One thing I should mention about 2009 was that Michael Bonney, Malcolm Newton, Selwyn Callister and I won the Team Award. We certainly weren't 4 of the quickest walkers in the field, but we were the only team with all four members to finish the full distance.

Back to the present day - Colby Vets played against Union Mills at the Bowl this afternoon and after 3 games without a win, we triumphed 3-1. I managed to come through the match unscathed, as Kyley had a dream in the early hours of Sunday morning and woke up convinced that I had broken my leg playing football and that my Parish Walk ambitions were finished for this year! We only have 3 matches left now and I have promised I will stop playing for the season at the end of March.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Midlife Crisis

Yesterday I turned 40, so time for the midlife crisis and to go out and get myself a motorbike or sports car. I also now fall in to the V40 category at walking events! Having said that I am a lot healthier and fitter than I was at 30 and possibly even 20 (as I sit here writing the blog stuffing my face with Lindt chocolates I received for my birthday).

Last week was pretty uneventful training-wise. I did nothing on Monday after playing football on Sunday and on Tuesday we did the loop (the more difficult way round) from the NSC out along Peel Road down to the Quay and out to Kewaigue before heading back to the NSC. The pace always starts off nice and easy and the nearer we get to the White Hoe someone (usually Vinny) starts picking it up before we hit the bottom of the hill before Kewaigue school and then it becomes a race to the top, with everyone pretending that it isn't hurting at all. Wednesday was circuit training and I did nothing on Thursday and Friday, with the 20km on the Saturday in mind.

Come the day of the race I was feeling okay and was pleased to see the rain from earlier in the day clear up. Whilst the sun was out, it was still quite windy down at the NSC and it was difficult walking into the wind down the far side of the circuit. After the earlier 2km, 3km and 5km races the 10km and 20km started together and it was a decent size field. As usual I got a bit excited at the start and went off a bit too quickly for the first two or three laps. I then settled into a good rhythm and tagged on to Jock and he pulled me round for a couple more laps before he stepped up the pace a little and the gap started to open. At this point I managed to acquire a yellow card from Steve Taylor for a bent knee, so I slowed down a bit and tried to focus on the technique instead.

My first 10km was around 54 mins and 30 seconds mark so still on target for the sub 1 hour and 50 mins I was aiming for. I didn't have a great third 5km and was feeling a little rough and left myself just under 27 mins for the final 5km to achieve my target time. There was a lot of encouragement from the sidelines and Richard Wild was kindly giving me regular updates on my lap times, but going into the final lap I still needed to cover the circuit in 4 mins and 25 seconds. Using every last bit of energy I managed to get over the finish line in 1 hour 49 mins and 52 seconds, so 8 seconds below what I set out to achieve. After recovering and having a cup of tea I was then talked into competing in the Vets 3km event, which in hindsight wasn't a great idea, as I had already started to stiffen up. After a quick warm up we were off and to be honest I had very little left in the tank, so took it fairly easy. A big thank you to the organisers, judges, timekeepers, lap counters and the sponsor (the Ascot Hotel) for putting on another excellent event. Well done to Michael George on a superb walk in the windy conditions.

On Sunday morning when I woke up my hamstrings were particularly tight and I could certainly feel the effects of the previous day. Went to watch Tom play in the under 17s for Corinthians v Peel and whilst it was a fairly even game Peel won 2-0, so I had to put up with a grumpy teenager for the rest day. Fortunately the afternoon's Premiership football brought a better result with Man United winning 3-1 against Spurs, despite being second best for long periods of the match. Always a good sign when you win whilst playing below par. On Sunday evening Kyley and I went out with friends to the pub quiz at the Woodbourne and finished second, so won ourselves some bottles of Fosters and a pack of Fruit Pastilles! Managed to force down a few pints of Guinness, followed by a whiskey or two and we were eventually 'kicked-out' of the pub in the early hours. Fortunately, we were both off work the following day.

Woke up on Monday morning feeling rough and every one of my 40 years. After dragging myself out of bed we went to lunch in town before heading off to see Kyley's family in Laxey. As soon as I arrived Kyley's dad offered me a pint of his locally brewed Bosun Bitter, which after a tough first couple of sips went down surprisingly well. We spent the evening at home with my family round for a Chinese as my dad and I share the same birthday. After a few glasses of red wine and too much to eat I went to bed last night planning a few weeks of sensible eating and drinking. At my age I need to start taking more car of myself!!!