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 http://www.parishwalk.com/ 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.