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 http://www.manxathletics.com/ 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.