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.