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!