Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Last Word

This is my final blog and I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who took the time to read it and those who also left comments. Hopefully you found it interesting and some of the tips useful? If not, it might have been a good aid to help you sleep the night before the Parish!

It was good to see so many people at last night's presentation and well done to all the various category winners and Michael George for receiving the MT Merit Award. I'm not sure whether he was more proud of this prize or seeing his wife Irene go up on stage to pick up her finishers award. If you were there I hope you didn't find the speeches from Vinny and I too drawn out. I was fine when I got up on stage, but the longer Vinny took the more nervous I became, but I seemed to get a few polite laughs and claps in the right places. There was also a treat for the ladies with the pair of us briefly going topless!

It's hard to believe it is over for another year, but I will definitely be back and I think the competion will be tougher than ever, with the return of Jock and an even more determined Michael. I will be taking it easy for the next couple of weeks, trying not to eat and drink too much, whilst I'm inactive. The training will start to build up again shortly in preparation for our trip to Roubaix in Northern France in mid-September, where a few of us will be attempting to see how far we can walk in 28 hours.
Finally, for all you statisticians out there, I received the spreadsheet below from Michael Bonney - thanks a lot Michael. I had problems with my Garmin on the day and at the finish I forgot to stop the timer, so I there was no point posting a link. The spreadsheet shows the split times between the churches and average pace, comparing my 2012 times to 2011. Average speed to Peel was just over 6mph and overall it was 5.769mph, with only one leg (Lezayre to Maughold) being over 11 minute mile pace at 11.01. From Maughold into the finish each of the last 3 legs got progressively quicker and I covered them over 15 minutes faster than in 2011.

Thanks again for reading the blog and see you on the starting line in 2013.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Squeaky Bum Time!

Well what can I say - things still haven't really sunk in yet, but it seems a long time ago since the alarm went off at 6.40am on Saturday morning. A lot of people mentioned that they had been up since 5am that morning getting everything ready, but if I had got up at that time I would have just been sat around nervously waiting for the start to come, so why not get an extra hours sleep. I did sleep better than expected on Friday evening, as in previous years that hadn't happened, but I would be lying if I said I hadn't worried about the fact that some people had tipped me to win. In the build up I just tried to ignore it and brush off any questions around the subject.

After a quick shower and the usual pre-race breakfast of a banana and bagel with peanut butter, I packed the remainder of my gear into the support vehicle and we set off down the to the NSC. Kyley's dad Paul was to do the first section of support, so he dropped me off in the QB car park and drove off towards Braddan Bridge, to spectate from the bridge above the Access Road. Back at the start the excitement and intrepidation was building up, combined with the speculation about whether or not we were going to go along the Access Road or main road, given the pool of water under the bridge. Having done numerous training sessions over the winter, where we set off from the NSC along the Access Road, I knew to expect a large amount of surface water and Dave Walker had the same thoughts, as we had exchange texts earlier on that morning about it. My initial feeling was to walk through the water and then change trainers immediately afterwards, especially given the previous issues I have had with blisters on my feet in wet weather. On the other hand I didn't want to waste time at the start and lose sight of the leaders at such an early stage. Dave, however, had an interesting alternative, which was to bring two plastic bags and put them over the feet before going through the 'lake' under the bridge, so I also grabbed a couple of bags before I left home.

15 minutes before the start I heard that we were no longer going along the Access Road, so I dumped the bags in a bin. 5 minutes later the Access Road was back on, so I went back to the bin to retrieve them, only to be told by someone else we were definitely going along he main road. Hearing this last piece of information I passed my bags to Marie Jackson and asked if she would get rid of them for me, only to get the definitive confirmation, with 3 minutes to go, that the Access Road was back on. I hurriedly ran back over to Marie, grabbed the bags and pushed back into the front, where I got a few funny looks and comments. Finally the countdown from 10 began and the wait was over, the 2012 Parish Walk had started. The field is now getting so big that as we completed the lap of the NSC track before exiting on to the outer road, we caught the competitors at the back of the field, who had barely crossed the start line! We then proceeded out on to the main road and turned on the Access Road, where my earlier fears were confirmed when we approached the 'lake' under the bridge. However, bags at the ready Dave and I stopped (you can see the two of us in the middle of the photo getting prepared), slipped them over our trainers and then waded through, much to the amusement of the crowd watching from above. The end result was nice dry feet and an early confidence boost.

The next 3 miles to Marown were steady but not too quick, as we all had a bit of a laugh and joke before the serious stuff started. The next couple of photos were taken from the end of Glen Darragh Road on the way to Marown Church and the 6 of us (Robbie, Vinny, Richard, me, Michael and Dave) had opened up a sizeable gap from the field and it was at this point that Robbie decided to pick up the pace at the front, as we set off towards the Braaid, closely followed by Richard. As we walked up the Cleanagh Road Vinny and I discussed the fact that we didn't think we had started as quickly as 2011 and it was just after this point in 2011 when Jock had made his break, never to be seen again for the rest of the rest. It was a bit surprising then when we went through Santon in a slightly quicker time than the previous year and the 6 of us were all still together.

Nothing particularly exciting happened from Santon to Arbory, but after this there was a noticeable increase in the speed as we headed towards Rushen and I said to Vinny that the race was about to properly start. Richard shot off, closely pursued by Michael, with Vinny and I a few metres behind. Robbie and Dave had backed off a bit, so it looked like it was shaping up to be a race between the 4 of us. Going up Ballakillowey Richard started to increase the gap between him and me and Vinny, but Michael was slowly starting to get back in touch with him. Unbelievably, given the steepness of the ascent, Michael was actually race walking up it!

At the top of Ballakillowey Vinny and I were still together, but Michael had caught Richard and the gap back to us was slowly increasing. Vinny dropped back a bit at this point and I did think about try to catch up Michael and Richard, but given I had 'overcooked' things last year going up the Sloc I decided to back off. On reaching the Round Table I was informed that Michael was now 3 minutes ahead, which was a bit of a concern given his obvious speed on the downhill sections, given his race walking technique and I fully expected him to pull out a lot more time on the run in to Peel. After the Round Table the heavens really opened, so time to put on the trusty orange waterproof jacket and I took on a lot of soup for both energy and warmth and kicked on, with the plan to get in touch with Richard. This happened at Glen Maye, as he stopped to change his trainers at the top of the hill passed the Waterfall pub and we set off towards Patrick and then into Peel. As I had mentioned in an earlier blog I always get cramp going up the hill into Glen May, but unbelievably this time I didn't - maybe it was the cooler conditions!I knew Vinny was getting ever closer again, as his support driver Sean Hands was appearing more and more regularly as we arrived into Peel. I knew I walked the section from Rushen quicker than 2011, but was surprised that I arrived over 7 minutes quicker in 5:23. Below is a shot of Richard and I arriving at the Peel check-in.

Not long after Peel my replacement support driver James joined me and immediately gave me a top up of soup, a gel and a couple of ibuprofen and Richard mentioned he had been suffering with a bad patch, but was starting to come around again. I was feeling strong and pushed on, but was aware that Vinny was less than 50 metres behind, so knew it was only a matter of time before he was back with me again. If there is a chase on and you want someone to close a gap, Vinny is the man to do it, as he would prove later in the day. As he caught me he explained that he had really suffered on the run down to the Round Table, so had done the sensible thing and slowed down a little, regrouped and then pushed on. We set a storming pace into Kirk Michael and were definitely there a lot earlier than in 2011, as there was no-one in fancy dress outside the Mitre. Going through the village I had a welcoming party of our good friends Glen and Jo and their kids Rocco and Reuben (Rocco is also my godson), with the banner below, which provided a great boost, especially as news had reached us that Michael was now 10 minutes ahead!

From Kirk Michael to Ballaugh and then on to Jurby we really put our foot down, but didn't seem to be getting any closer to Michael with reports on the gap to him being anywhere between 9-11 minutes. I was still feeling really good and knew there was more left in the tank than at the previous point in 2011. On the approach to the turn off at Jurby Church we got a very brief glimpse of Michael, who had already checked in and was on the road passed the prison. Approaching Jurby my Garmin watch had started constantly buzzing and telling me that the memory was full and I need to delete some of the history. This was particularly annoying and I should have checked beforehand. The photo below is off me taking the watch off to hand to James to try and sort out, whilst telling him to make sure he didn't press the stop/start button.

After Jurby you have the long stretch to Bride, which seems to go on and on, but this year it flew by and Kyley joined me at this point. Kyley has done my support for the last 5 years for both this race and the likes of the End to End and Sara Killey, so knows what I want and when I want it can can also see when I am suffering or need a boost. Another bonus was due to the cooler weather and rain, the black flies that have plagued everyone over the last couple of years were nowhere to be seen. We got a lot of mixed updates on this section ranging from 12 minutes behind to 3 1/2 minutes. Where the 3 1/2 came from I don't know, as on arriving at Bride I was disappointed to find out we had lost further time and the gap had increased again to 13 minutes and we both thought that was it and we would be fighting for second place. However, Vinny made a point of telling Sean his record was going to go today - nothing like a bit of confidence! Between Bride and Andreas Vinny was struggling a little (don't know if he reconsidered his record-breaking thoughts at all) and I opened up a gap of about 100 metres on this quick leg. I always find it is a good time to relax a little and conserve a little energy before pushing on towards Lezayre. 

At Andreas Church Vinny had closed the gap a little and looked like he had pulled through his bad patch, so I expected him to catch back up shortly afterwards, which he duly did. It was then than Tony Mepham from Manx Radio told us Michael had been unwell and had stopped for a massage, bringing the gap down to 8 1/2 minutes. I still didn't believe we could catch him, but there was still hope. From this point to Lezayre Church we knocked off some really quick miles and arrived there around 5 1/2 minutes down. Coming out of Ramsey I took a bit of a breather up the steady climb and then picked up on the descent on the way to Maughold, before another uphill drag before reaching the village.

At the check-in we were now just over 4 minutes down and the race was on! Coming out the village there was a barbecue and the smell left me feeling a little queasy, which wasn't the ideal preparation before the difficult slog up Ballajora. As we passed by the farm gates at the foot of the hill Michael's dog was standing there guarding them. If you read one of my earlier blogs you may recall a training walk we had done on this part of the course and a few months back, where Vinny, Dave W and I had left Michael at the bottom of the Ballajora, only for him to be harassed by the dog, resulting in a quick escape to avoid being savaged. Fortunately for Michael this time around the dog left him alone.

This climb and the one up to Hibernia on to the main coast road took a lot out of me and if you see Murray's video on the Parish Walk website that is probably evident. At this point we both said "lets really go for it now and reel Michael in" and posed the idea of finishing together. Given the difficult climb and how I was feeling I started to have a few negative thoughts, as my energy levels had completely dipped and I really felt like I was finished; however, the I knew the next mile or so were downhill, so my plan was just to try and hang in there. At the Dhoon School I wasn't feeling much better, whereas Vinny was storming ahead and a gap started to open. The next couple of miles were torture, as I just tried to keep in touch, but could feel my chances slowly slipping away. I was still getting closer to Michael, but Vinny was pulling away. Kyley stopped and filled my up with soup and I had a gel, but said I thought I was finished. Her response was "just get over yourself" - nothing like a bit of encouragement, but it was the kick up the arse I needed and from the Dhoon cafe I started my fight back.

From the Bulgham rocks into Laxey I knocked off two sub 9:20 miles and Vinny was getting closer. Michael was also only 2 minutes ahead, but reports were he was in particularly good shape. I caught Vinny by the Isle of Man bank in Laxey and it was then we agreed we would put everything into one final burst and if we passed Michael we would finish together. Vinny turned to me and quoted the Sir Alex Ferguson by saying "it's squeaky bum time"! As we headed towards the turn off to Lonan, I slipped and fell (see my war wounds below, but the more painful one was my ribs), but as I said in my last blog Vinny stopped and made sure I was okay, before we continued the chase. As we started the climb towards Lonan church, someone shouted that the gap was 40 seconds and we could clearly see Michael up head and I knew it was only a matter a time. We passed each other, going in opposite directions, just after he checked in and he smiled/grimaced and said "you b******s". We pushed our dibbers in at the church and the gap was a mere 25 seconds.

As we we turned back on to the main road John Watterson was a couple of hundred metres ahead and got the shot of the 3 of us that was on the front of yesterday's IOM Examiner. The roads were really wet at this point and I couldn't believe the amount of people either out in front of their houses or passing in cars, as there was real congestion as we motored on into Baldrine. Michael had stayed with us down the descent and was hanging on up the other side as well. My thoughts turned to Douglas promenade, as I knew in an out and out race, Michael would have too much pace, so I dug in again. Vinny had the bit between his teeth and from here until the top of Whitebridge we really hammered it. Having said that, at Onchan church Michael still wasn't that far behind and the visions of getting passed on the promenade returned.

As we passed the Queens Hotel Michael was no longer visible and thoughts then turned towards Sean's record. Vinny, the human stopwatch, knew exactly where we were up to and said to me we would beat it by 5 minutes, but I wasn't so sure so was really pushing it - I felt stronger then, than at anytime in the previous 20 miles. We needn't have worried too much about the timings, as the Mackey family gave Vinny and I updates about every 10 seconds on where we were in comparison to the record.

The last 100 metres were unbelievable and given the weather the turn out of people at the finish was fantastic. To cross the line as joint winner of the Parish Walk in record time and with Vinny - someone I have spent hours training with, is something I will never forget and feel proud to have been involved in the race. As I have said before it would not have been the same race without Michael's grit and determination and the record would not have gone, as I certainly wouldn't have walked that fast without someone really stretching things out at the front.

Congratulations to all that took part, everyone involved in the organisation and the sponsors. Hopefully there was a lot of money raised for local causes as well. I'm now off to try and cobble together a quick speech before this evening, so see you later.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

A few words of thanks.

Good afternoon everyone. The sun is out and it's hard to believe it was such a wet day yesterday. Having said that the rain kept things cool, which was a bonus.

This is just a very quick post, as I intend to do a detailed run down of yesterday's events over the next day or so and also I'm still in shock after winning the event alongside Vinny and with a new record. I knew we were making good progress and were inside record time, but when Sean broke the record he was particularly quick in the second half of the race, so I wasn't sure if it was possible. Vinny walked another excellent race and proved what an unbelievable competitor he is. An example of his great sportsmanship was displayed yesterday, as he and I were a few hundred metres down the road from the turning off to Lonan Church. We were walking in the road an a bus approached, so I stepped up on to the kerb, but my standing foot slipped and I had a fall, cutting my hands, knee and banging my ribs. Vinny, without any concern for his own performance stopped to make sure I was alright and only continued when I was back on my feet and okay.

A special mention to Michael George for such a courageous performance yesterday, who was also inside the previous course record. Michael was out on his own for about 55 miles and without the bouts of sickness would have been a comfortable winner. One thing you can't question is his guts and determination.

Sue Biggart was worthy winner of the ladies event, followed by Maureen Moffat and Samantha Draper. Congratulations to the three of them and also to my fellow bloggers Ed Walter and John Watterson for notching up a third finish and PB, respectively. Congratulations to Tony, who was the unofficial Parish Walk blogger, on a first finish. I was at the finish this morning when Tony crossed the line, so it was good to finally introduce myself,

A big thank you to the Parish Walk Committee for staging another superb event, to Murray Lambden for his excellent coverage throughout the day, the main sponsor Manx Telecom, Graham Young and his team off judges; all the marshalls and people who manned the drinks stations and check-ins and all other volunteers on the day (Civil Defence and St John's Ambulance) - all of whom gave up their time to help stage this unique event. Finally, a mention to the Manx public for their support and encouragement throughout the day.

My support drivers, also deserve a massive thank you, as they did an excellent job looking after me and without their assistance it wouldn't have been possible - starting with my father-in-law Paul until Peel, followed by my mate James and finishing with Kyley and her sister Melissa, from just after Jurby to the finish..

I haven't slept yet, but I'm still on a high at the moment, so off to the pub for a few celebratory drinks!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Final Thoughts with 12 hours to go!

Well one thing is for sure  - we are going to see rain at some point tomorrow. Latest weather forecast from the Met Office is:

Patchy rain is likely to develop tomorrow morning but more widespread outbreaks of rain are expected during the afternoon, possibly turning quite heavy at times and then more persistent in the evening with lowering hill fog. Top temperature 14C / 57F, with fresh southwest winds

With the above in mind I thought it might be worthwhile investing in some waterproof gloves to keep my hands warm. Unfortunately, other people must have had the same idea as Charlie Turner at Intersport said they had sold out earlier in the day! I have two waterproof jackets ready for tomorrow and numerous changes of clothing.

All the preparation is now done and I plan to put my feet up for the rest of the evening. I registered last night just after 8pm and it was really quiet, so I was straight in and out. However, I was told that earlier in the evening it had been packed with people queueing well before 5.30pm, so I missed the bedlam. This morning I packed all my spare clothes and other items and a box for food and drink -  can't believe I have so much, but better to be safe than sorry (see photos below). Made some sweet potato soup this morning, which will be ideal for nourishment and also keeping warm, if it is cold and wet tomorrow. My support drivers are all well briefed and know what to give me when and where, but with the changeable weather it may not quite go to plan.

At lunchtime today I met up with some of my fellow walkers for what has become a traditional pre-race get together. Lots of pasta, last minute tips, mind games and generally a good laugh before getting down to the serious business. Some final thoughts before tomorrow and apologies if I have covered some of them before, but here goes:
  • Eat your normal breakfast. Have what you would normally eat before going on a long training walk, rather than trying something new like power muesli or a bowl of pasta.
  • Make sure you are hydrated before the race, but start drinking a couple of hours before and take regular sips, rather than drink gallons just before the start, as all you will succeed in doing is increasing the number of toilet breaks during the first couple of hours.
  • Don't go too fast at the start, you can always speed up later. Conserve your energy, you might get a burst of adrenalin and decide to push hard, but try and keep a steady pace.
  • Don't count the miles, as if you do you are in for a very long day. Break the 85 miles down into chunks, so you feel like you have achieved something as you pass each target. For me the race is in 3 parts - firstly to Peel, when the pace is quick and there is a lot of support. Second section is from Peel to Lezayre, where I just try and focus on maintaining a decent pace and keeping it together and finally from Lezayre to the finish. This final section is both the most difficult and the most rewarding, as you have the difficult section out of Maughold, but for me one I reach Hibernia I know it is a fairly easy run in.
  • Ensure you have warm and waterproof clothing. I didn't think we would see another day like the Parish Walk in 2008, in terms of how wet, windy and cold it was, but if it had been held today it would certainly have rivalled it. Tomorrow won't be much better, so don't get caught out on the Sloc and end up with hypothermia, like some people did in 2008.
  • Avoid blisters - not always possible, but trying to keep your feet as dry as possible will help.
  • Thank the marshalls and everyone helping out around the course, as they have given up their own time and will also have to put up with the same weather as the competitors, but won't be moving around keeping warm.
  • Push through the wall. You will have a bad patch, but try and remain positive and it will pass.
  • Most of all enjoy it. This is something you will have been training for and thinking about for months and it really is an amazing event. The support on the day is magnificent, with thousands getting raised for charity, so don't miss out on the great atmosphere.
All that is left for me to say is have a good night's rest and good luck to everyone taking part tomorrow. Whatever your objective; whether you are a first timer and just aiming for as far as you can go, or your target is a first-time finish, or you want a top ten finish, I hope you achieve your objective and again make sure you enjoy the day.

I'll be back after the race with my take on how things panned out.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Top 3?

Dropped the GPS tracking device back to Manx Telecom today, so they can recharge them and get them ready to hand out on Saturday morning. To be honest I only managed one walk to test it, but I kept it my bottle belt and didn't even notice I had it with me. Should be a great addition to help family and friends follow progress on the day and I can see the number of devices increasing for next year, as I think they will really prove popular.

If you read Murray's blog that he posted last night on his Manx Athletics website, he mentions that he was helping Adam Russell from 3FM compile his Parish Walk programme and that Adam caught him out with one of his questions. Michael, Vinny, Dave W and I were in 3FM's office on Saturday morning to also be interviewed by Adam. Jane Foster was leaving as we arrived and mentioned that some of the questions had been difficult. Adam wanted to interview us individually, so Dave went in first, followed by Vinny, me third and then Michael.

When it came to my turn I sat down ready for the interview and Adam asked me about how I got in to walking. I use to work with Adam's wife Louise, so he knew about my earlier days as a fat lad and posed a few questions around this topic. He then moved on and asked the question about whether I thought I could win the Parish Walk and my answer was along the lines of I would be lying if I said I didn't want to win, but that I think it is too close to call and that if conditions are right there could be quite a few quick times, to which Adam replied "that was a diplomatic response".

So, continuing in that same vein, without including myself, my top 3 predictions in reverse order are:

  • Richard Spenceley. Similar to me, Richard has improved year on year over the course of last 5 years and I would expect that improvement to continue. Whilst I haven't seen Richard in training or in any races since the End to End, due to the fact he lives on the mainland, I am aware he has been continuing to work on his technique and also recorded PBs over various distances. Richard showed through his blog last year that his training and preparation was meticulous, so definitely a threat.
  • Michael George. Michael is the quickest walker in the race and I know from training with him how fit he is at present and hungry he is to win on Saturday. He has covered more miles in training than ever before and his stamina can't be questioned. Michael has been troubled with bouts of sickness in previous walks and if he can keep this under control he could easily win, with a very quick time.
  • Vinny Lynch. Vinny is the most committed in training of all the guys I walk with and when he misses a session there is definitely a dip in the intensity. I was glad when Vinny made up his mind to enter this year's race, as I knew I would train harder having someone like him around. Whilst he will acknowledge that there are a few quicker walkers than him, in terms stamina he has few rivals. Vinny has the knack of keeping a consistently high pace in the first half of the race and then picking up in the second half, when those around him are lagging, as I know from bitter experience. He is leaner than he has ever been and after being second for the last two years he wants to go that one step further. It is for this reason, Vinny is my tip to win.
There are a number of top quality walkers and Parish Walk legends that I haven't mentioned, such as Robbie Callister and Peter Kaneen, but I haven't seen how these guys have gone in training so it is difficult for me to comment on how they will perform, but either could make a big impact. Terry Moffat is always consistent and will finish well up the field and as I highlighted before, a surprise package (if you had mentioned his name this time last year) is Dave Walker, now he has put his recent injury behind him. I think this year may be too early for Dave to challenge right at the front, but potentially a future winner. In the ladies race Sue Biggart has got to start as favourite, even thought she hasn't competed in the last couple of years, based on her impressive record in the event.

Will be trying to get some decent rest and sleep over the next few days, so I'm fully refreshed for Saturday. I don't need much sleep and have a nasty habit of waking up around 5.30am every morning, so we'll see how that plan goes. Apparently, if you don't sleep well the night Parish you shouldn't worry too much as the previous night's sleep is more important. Friday will be my last post before the race, with some final tips for the big day.

Monday, 18 June 2012


I'd planned to do another post over the weekend, but I was particularly busy with various things so never got the opportunity. I do intend to do a couple more blogs before the big day, if I can find something interesting to write.

Last Thursday I had planned to get out for a walk, but got stuck at work, so when I got home I thought a run round Douglas was the next best thing. I set off from Bray Hill and within a few hundred yards it started spitting and I bumped into Vinny, who said "rather you than me", but it didn't look like the rain would get too bad. I headed down to the promenade, past the Sea Terminal and along Peel Road. By the time I reached Waltons the rain was getting considerably heavier, but rather than take a right turn at the Quarterbridge, I decided it was ok and continued on to Braddan Bridge and up towards Braddan School. At this point the heavens really opened, the rain was bouncing off the road and getting home was the priority, as I didn't want to get a chill. Running by the Test Centre the road had turned into a river and a work colleague of mine drove past, flashed his lights and gave me a wave. All very nice, but a lift would have been the best idea!

On Saturday we met up at 7am for a 10 miler round Baldwin, which was my last walk before the Parish. Last year on the Saturday before the Parish Walk we did the same route and it was probably the slowest 10 miles I had walked round Baldwin. This time around Vinny and Michael didn't have the same idea, so whilst Dave W and I strolled round chatting they raced off on a couple of occasions. I tested the GPS tracker that will be handed out on the day and historic data can be viewed on the following site - Dave W said that on Friday he had gone on the site that you can use for live tracking on the day ( and 'followed' Vinny and I, only to find out that our tracking devices had us wandering aimlessly around the back streets of Douglas all night!

On Saturday night Kyley and I were out for a meal and I couldn't resist a pint of Guinness and a glass of wine, that turned into a bottle, but it wasn't too late a night. We were out again on Sunday evening for a Father's Day meal at La Piazza and on the other side of restaurant was one of the competition - Michael George and his family. Michael was having a few beers, so being the committed athlete I stuck to the diet cokes.

Tonight was a sports massage and I'm feeling ready to go now. It's going to feel weird over the next few days not training and trying to keep busy, whilst trying not to constantly think about the walk. This is when you have to stop irrational thoughts creeping into your head; such as:

  • Have I done enough training? It's too late to anything about it now!
  • Have I got the right kit? Don't wear any new clothes or trainers now. If you haven't tried the item out in training then don't use it on the day.
  • Trying out new food and drinks on the day. As per the previous point if you haven't tried it in training then don't bother.
  • Listening to other people's plans and changing yours because it worked for them. Stick to what you know at this late stage.
Other than accepting you will have a rough patch and pushing through it, if you are planning a first time finish the two bits of advice I would offer at this stage are:
  • Walk your own race to Peel. Don't get too carried away the start and get dragged along far quicker than you expected. With the great atmosphere and support early on it is very easy to set off at a fast pace and when it gets a bit quieter later on, you run out of energy and motivation. It's easier to set off slowly and then pick up the speed after Peel, if you are feeling good. If you have been by yourself the second half of the race is good to find someone to walk with, who is going a similar pace and you can encourage each other.
  • Plan your approach with your support driver and make sure they keep you hydrated and fed on a regular basis. They are also there to keep you focused and to drive off if you have any thoughts about packing in and trying to get into the car!
This is the latest summary weather for Saturday, which apart from the wind seems to be perfect.

Saturday 23 June 2012
Temperature: 12 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: South west

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Last Minute Essentials

Following on from an earlier blog where I mentioned that I had purchased some High 5 gels and sachets of the Energy Source extreme, I received an email from Brian Wade with a new discount code from Discount Supplements for 15% off. If you're interested it is WBJ15 and hopefully still valid - thanks Brian.

As you would expect it has been a fairly relaxed week of training. Nothing on Monday, followed by a short run on Tuesday after work. I ended up at the Manx Harriers clubhouse where a few of the lower seeded Parish Walkers met with Ray Cox, the race director, and Manx Telecom staff to pick up the Parish Walk GPS Trackers. The idea is to test them over the next few days and get comfortable with the devices. The GPS is about match box size and fairly light, so I intend to put it in the pocket of the belt I carry my water bottle in, so I won't even notice it. On the day the plan is that family and friends can follow up to three competitors around a map of the course with live updates. The website link is and you can also track average speed and current speed.

This evening I went to circuit training at the NSC, which will be my last one before the Parish and had a really good workout. The sports hall was split into two sections, with one side focusing on cardio and the other on weights and exercises to improve the core. I tried to take it fairly easy, but the competitive side of me took over a little.

As it is less than 10 days to go make sure you have all the essential items. My top 20, in no particular order apart from number 1 is as follows:

1. As Ron Jeremy says - be sure to have plenty of Vaseline. I left it to the last minute last year and believe it or not I had trouble finding the stuff, as every other Parish Walker had the same idea. This year I have my supply already and although Kyley uses it on dry lips, I don't think she'll be wanting to use this pot after I have been doubling dipping in it to apply to armpits and down my pants!

2. Insect repellent - if the flies are anything like last year around Bride then this is a must.
3. Plasters - to avoid the dreaded nipple rub
4. Suncream - not sure what the weather will be like, but best to be prepared.
5. Painkillers/anti-inflammatories - but take it easy and more as a last resort
6. Baby wipes to freshen up and clean hands, especially if you have been taking on gels as they are so sticky of you spill a little.
7. Deep Heat for any muscle pain
8. Dioralyte or salt caps to ensure body salts lost through sweating are replaced
9. Blister plasters such as Compeeds
10. Water and lots of it. Whether for drinking or also just washing your face or cooling down if a hot day
11. Sports gels, but don't over do it
12. Energy drinks, but again if you have too many they won't sit well in the stomach
13. Ginger to help settle the stomach if you feel unwell
14. A variety of different foods that are easily digestible
15. Hi-viz vests for you and also support driver later in the evening
16. Head lamp and a light source visible from the rear, if you intend to continue after 10pm
17. A cap to protect you from the sun, as sunstroke on the day is not a good idea
18. A waterproof jacket, warm hat and gloves - remember 2008!
19. Various changes of clothing, socks and a spare pair of trainers
20. Good support drivers, which fortunately I do have

I'm sure there are things that I have missed, so feel free to share any tips.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Weight Worries!

I have been asked numerous times over the last week at work and also by friends I have bumped into, as to how the training is going and they seemed surprised when I tell them I am winding down now. The hard graft is done and it is just a case of trying to stay fit and healthy for the next few days. This has been particularly difficult at work recently, as the number of ill people seems to have increased massively over the last couple of weeks, with chest infections appearing to be the most common ailment. I'm just trying to stay out of the way of these sick people and probably coming across as quite rude.

As I said the hard training over the winter is in the bank and personally I am feeling fitter and stronger than I have ever done prior to a Parish Walk. Having said that I am also about 7 pounds heavier than I was this time last year, currently weighing in at 12st 3lbs, so I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not. I am 6ft and when I started the Parish last year I weighed 11st 10lbs, but at the time I felt a little too thin and it was the lightest I had been since I left school. My current weight feels about right for me, but I have this nagging concern that carrying a few extra pounds later on in the race might count against me. I don't usually suffer much in the way of self-doubt, but occasionally the odd negative thought creeps into my head, especially the nearer the race gets. I have played out the day in my head numerous times and the different tactics I will employ depending on how things pans out. I have decided what my strategy will be, but will be keeping that to myself! One thing I'm sure of is that it is going to be a very close race with a number of potential winners, but more on that next week, on the run in.

Back to training, the tapering was definitely a consideration on Saturday morning as Vinny, Dave W, Jock and I had a very leisurely stroll, averaging a little over 5.1 mph for 14 miles. We followed the Parish Route as far as the end of the Oatlands Road, where we took a left back into Douglas via Port Soderick and Marine Drive, before stopping on the Quay for a cuppa at Mash. Jock still insists that he is not missing doing this year's Parish, but it might be a different matter on the day, seeing everyone lining up at the start! Sunday was an easy 5 mile recovery run and I passed a group of walkers, which included Ed Walter, who seemed to be moving well, so the injury is obviously on the mend and looking good for the big day. Tonight I did nothing apart from watch some of the England v France match (not a great performance but better than expected), before having a sports massage, so the legs are feeling particularly pummelled now!

Friday, 8 June 2012

High 5

Time to start making sure you have got your all your supplies in for the big day. I have been buying items from Discount Supplements for a while now and they always have some really good deals. I use the sachets of High 5 Energy Source, 4:1 and Energy Source extreme during the Parish Walk, which are good for providing the body with energy and hydration. This is especially important if it is a hot day (not that it looks like it will be at the moment if the weather continues as it is), as the more you sweat the more salts you loose, so using these types of drinks will enable better fluid uptake and avoid the effects of cramp.

I received an email from Discount Supplements today advertising 12% off High 5 products (code NRGJ12 if you are interested) and I came across a High 5 Race Faster Triple Pack for £10.99, which was normally £27.97 and when you throw in the 12% discount and free delivery you have quite a bargain! In the next few days I will provide a list of the food and drink I will be bringing with me on the day. What usually happens is that I finish with loads left over, but better to have a wide choice to select from than run short on the day.

It has been a fairly quiet week on the training front, as you would expect with less than 3 weeks left. After my longer than planned run last Sunday I did nothing on Monday, as I was out with work entertaining some of our TT guests. Royal London 360, where I work, sponsor the Superstock race and we always have a few visitors over, most of whom have never experienced the TT before and always end up having a great time. With the weather delaying the Superstock race on Monday the meal we had booked for 7pm didn't start until well after 9pm, so after eating late and a few more drinks I had a shocking night's sleep with indigestion.

The weather on Tuesday was fairly poor, but I was determined to get out for a few miles and ended up meeting Dave Walker for the short loop around Baldwin. We set a reasonable pace but didn't push it too hard.

Wednesday was the 10,000 metres Track Championships at the NSC with a run and the walk. It was a cracking evening, nice and sunny but not too warm, as there a stiff breeze at times that cooled things down a little. There was a fairly small turn out for the walk, which was a surprise as it is ideal preparation at this stage for the Parish (a good speed session and not too far). After being told to watch my knees on the first lap I soon settled into a good rhythm and felt fairly comfortable most of the way round, which was spent swapping positions with Jock throughout the 25 laps of the track. To be honest I wasn't really looking forward to it as I felt tired beforehand and the thought of doing 25 monotonous laps didn't do much for me. However, once I got the first 5 out of the way I enjoyed it and ended up finishing in 53:02, which was quicker than I achieved in the same event last year, so I was pleased. Congratulations to Michael George on winning the event very comfortably and thanks to the organisers, timekeepers, judges, lap counters and those manning the drinks station, plus Philip Bannan for presenting the awards.

Up early for tomorrow for a 13/14 mile walk  - nothing too strenuous as just over 14 days to go now!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Parish Walk 2011 - Part 3

I can't believe TT week is already upon us and as soon as it is out of the way it's Parish Walk time; seems no time at all since I mentioned that we had 100 days to go to the big day!

If you have been out training this week you will have had to be on your guard at all times with the number of bikes on the roads and routes around the back roads, where you would normally see no traffic at all, suddenly becoming very busy. On Tuesday and Thursday this week we did the usual Groudle loop and with the TT Practices being on at the time the Groudle Road had a constant flow of traffic and combined with a couple of blind corners didn't make for the usual pleasant stroll. In between the these walks I went to circuit training on Wednesday evening. Liz Corran had put together quite a hard session this week, where after completing two stations everyone had their own 'step' and alternated between either a minute of step-ups, squat thrusts or step ups using your arms (like a walking plank). At the end of the session it was 50 squats, 40 lunges, 30 press-up and 20 burpees back to back, to finish us off.

There was only a small turn out for Saturday's morning's walk - Vinny, Marie and I and we were later joined by Dave W, as he was on call for the police until 9am. I believe Jock had decided to have a lie in after a night out and Michael and Dave M were both working, due to being busy hoteliers during TT week. Dave M is know affectionately known as BOB, after being 'awarded' number 808 for the Parish, despite being a previous finisher. We were surprised that Dave had been given such a high number, but as Vinny bluntly put it - "my grandad was still in short trousers when Dave Mackey last finished the Parish"! Anyway, Dave has been walking really well in the last few weeks, so a low number is definitely on the cards for next year.

In terms of the seedings, congratulations to Vinny for getting the coveted number 1 and I was surprised to be given number 2, bearing in mind the previous winners in the field. As my fellow blogger Ed has already covered the numbers for the Parish in his blog, I won't go into them in any more detail, but would just wish Ed (number 137) a speedy recovery from his injury, so he can line up fully fit on 23rd June.

Back to Saturday's walk - as I mentioned last week it is time to start tapering, so this week we only covered about 18 miles (from the NSC, down to the Quay, along the promenade and out to Laxey via Groudle, before climbing Rencell Hill, joining the back road from Creg-Ny-Baa to Whitebridge, back to Douglas Promenade and home). It was a fairly sedate pace and both Vinny and I were complaining we had quite heavy legs (not helped by Kyley and I being out on Friday night until quite late and the alarm going off at 6am), whereas I think Dave was hoping for a quicker session after not doing much over the last two weeks, so he planned to carry on for a while after we had finished. This morning I went out for a run and was only planning to do about 5 miles, but a mile or so in to it I was feeling good so carried on a bit further and ended up doing about 9 miles. I could have done a bit more, but this close to the Parish it wouldn't have been a good idea.

Returning to last year's Parish Walk, in the previous blog I finished last week at Andreas Church with Vinny rapidly closing me down. The inevitable happened not long after we had left the village and on looking at the Garmin at the pace I was doing I hadn't really slowed down at all, just that Vinny was flying - no doubt having the incentive of me not too far in front. We walked together for the next couple of miles and Vinny suggested that the only way we could catch Jock would be if we worked together for the next 15 miles or so to try and get the gap down. I knew at this point that I wouldn't be able to increase my pace, as I had started to feel a little ill and every now and again a gap would open between me and Vinny. If you know Vinny or have ever walked with him you will know he doesn't have a GPS watch, as he doesn't need one! He seems to know exactly what pace he is walking at and can accurately predict what time he will be at various places and also the finish. In this case he said that he would finish in a time of 15 hours and 15 minutes.

As we approached Sulby bridge I could no longer close the gap that had opened and my bad patch was getting worse (I was paying for pushing too hard up Ballakillowey and Sloc, so I something I will be more aware of this time around). I don't enjoy the walk from Ginger Hall to Lezayre church at the best of times, but I was absolutely hating every minute of it. I started questioning why I was doing the walk and didn't have much to say when John Watterson from IOM Newspapers spoke to me on the lead up to the church. Just before the check-in Murray was taking pictures and the photo used on the introduction to this blog is one he took at that time. As you can see I was trying to force a smile, but I was more concerned with how I would be able to continue.

This is where your support driver can help. I was still feeling ill and mainly eating eating fruit and sweet food up to this point wasn't helping at all, so Kyley forced me to eat to mashed potato and gravy and gave some encouragement, telling me to just slow down a little and get myself together. Within 10 minutes of changing my diet  and reducing the pace slightly I was a changed man and ready to tackle the remaining 22 miles to the finish. Everyone will have a bad patch at some point and when you do the most important thing is not to quit, as with some small changes and a little encouragement it will pass. As covered in an early blog, my biggest disappointment in the Parish Walk was during my first attempt, when I stopped at Andreas as I was convinced I couldn't go any further. Within half an hour I had recovered, but by this time I had handed in my electronic timing wristband, so had a long wait until the following year to undo the 'failure'.

Heading into Ramsey there was some excellent support from the people sat outside the pubs and my mood was significantly improved as I started the climb before the turn off to Maughold. I knew I was starting to make a bit of time back on Vinny as I could see his support car in front. After going through the village I spotted him up ahead at the end of a straight and I knew he wasn't much more than a minute or so ahead of me, so I put my foot down again in an attempt to catch up. At Maughold church the gap had closed again to less than a minute but the dreaded Ballajora was approaching. After a quick chat on the move with Manx Radio and turning down the kind offer of a burger, I ploughed on. Instead of taking it easy going up the hill and then trying to make time back after the top I pushed on hard again, which was a mistake. By the top of the hill I was destroyed and never put myself in a position of getting close to Vinny again. I dragged myself up the hill to Hibernia and was told that Vinny was now over two minutes ahead of me. Physically I knew I had nothing left to have another go and mentally I had settled for trying to consolidate third place.

After Hibernia I knew I would definitely finish, so I just focused on trying to maintain a consistent pace and trying to achieve the target I had set beforehand of getting under 15 hours and 45 minutes. The walk into Laxey seemed to take an age and I continued to take on more mashed potato, which seemed to pick me up. On the descent into Laxey I became aware of some chanting, but was unsure if I was hearing things. The noise died away, but picked up again as I rounded the corner at the bottom of Ham and Egg Terrace. It became louder as I approached one of the pubs, but I couldn't pick out what was being sung and thought it must just be a bunch of drunk idiots. As I got closer I realised I had been right about the drunk bit, but recognised a few faces and realised that my boss Terry was leading some of my colleagues in a chorus of "there's only one Richard Gerrard". Despite being a little embarrasing it gave me an immediate boost and was just the pick me up I needed.

On the way to Lonan Church I passed Vinny who was on the way back down the hill and after a brief hello, I continued to the check-in, where I was now 4 minutes behind him. Vinny later said that he knew I wouldn't catch him, as he still felt strong and apparently I looked grey and unwell! After coming back down the hill I looked at my watch and for some reason I got completely confused with the time, thinking I was half an hour slower than I actually was, which was a little demoralising as I was then convinced I would struggle to break the 15:45 mark. The next few miles passed quickly, as I tried to get my brain in gear to work out how quick I would need to get to Onchan Church and then to the finish to achieve my target, which was proving very difficult. The 'drunked idiots' from earlier then passed me in a mini bus on their way to Douglas, stopping to provide some further 'encouragement' and this took my mind off the problems I was having trying to work out my timings. I arrived at Onchan church in just under 15 hours and to my relief realised that I had miscalculated things and I was still well inside my target.

One thing that I never quite get to grips with at the end of the Parish Walk is the length of the promenade, despite having walked it hundreds of times in training. However, this time around it was a little different as the support was brilliant. All along the promenade and in the apartments on the other side of the road people were clapping and shouting encouragement and I came across my drunken friends again outside the Queens, who started the chant up again, which others joined in with as well! At the Hilton Hotel you think you are nearly there as you can clearly see the traffic lights at the bottom of Broadway, but even from the lights it is still a couple of hundred metres. However, by this time I could see the crowd at the finish and the noise increased as I got nearer, which 'carried' me over the line, to clock in the final time in 15 hours, 23 minutes and 21 seconds. This was well inside my target and as Murray told me the 7th fastest walk in the history of the event. I was absolutely elated but competely wrecked, as it was definitely the most difficult of my finishes. My back-up on the day from my father-in-law Paul, my fried James and Kyley had been excellent, but I just didn't have enough to catch Vinny, who paced his walk brilliantly (and finished in 15 hours and 15 minutes) and as for Jock to win 4 in a row with that superb time was amazing. I know the small mistakes I made, so I'm sure I will learn from them for this year's event.

Just after finishing Chris Kinley from Manx Radio was after an interview and at that point my focus was solely on avoiding being ill. After pulling myself together I did have a chat with him, but I can't remember anything I said, so was probably a load of rubbish. There is a photo at the end of the Parish of Jock, Vinny and I sat in chair and Vinny was right with his earlier comment, as I do look grey and ill. After a black tea with lots of sugar I said to Kyley I needed to go home, but as we drove off in the car I thought it would be good to take a quick drive and see how the other competitors were doing and offer some encouragement. We passed Stephen Harvey just before the Liverpool Arms at which point I shouted to Kyley to pull over immediately. As soon as we stopped I flung the door open and my cup of team came straight back up - projectile! I knew it was best to go home then, but on the way I was hungry so we ordered a pizza, which arrived shortly after but I just couldn't face it, so had a shower and went to bed.

The following morning, despite no sleep, I was feeling considerably better so I polished the pizza off and walked down to the Woodbourne to re-fuel with some of my fellow walkers!