Sunday, 24 June 2007

Quick, slow, quick, quick slow....

And relax... Another memorable Parish has been and gone and with it some amazing performances. There's no point trying to highlight them all - so I'll just mention the ones I know about. From the top... Robbie, being the wrong side of 50 (and grey, as our Dutch visitor pointed out) is an inspiration. Fantastic performance one again. Ray & Michael - pushing themselves to new levels and wonderful times. Eammon is truely Mr Consistent and ever-thoughtful of his fellow walkers (thanks Mrs Eammon). Tom Melvin was lying down with an oxygen mask on by the time I reached the finish - clearly 100% effort. A 90 minute PB saw Jock Waddington storm through the field. Sue B. yet again fastest lady, but Jane Mooney, Jane Kennaugh and Alison Brand all excelled and weren't so far behind. Martin Beismanns had a can of lager in his hand seconds after crossing the line, much the same as Terry Moffat had a smoke - both outstanding walks. Michael Shipsides finished faster than anyone I saw - another top walk. Mark Hempsall - wow - proof that a proper, serious approach reaps rewards. Fantastic. 154 finishers must represent a higher percentage of finishing entrants - well done to everyone who made it round in what were far from ideal conditions.

For my part, my support crew have told me that, unless I do some proper training, they won't support me next time. I don't blame them either. I was OK to Michael, but slowed to Bride. Walked with our Dutch friend to Andreas and then really slowed on the stretch to Lezayre. By Ramsey, I was totally spent - nothing left at all and really shuffling. I apologised to my crew for the long night ahead of them and was prepared for a sore throat from greeting the hoards that would pass me. Then a miracle! On the drop into Port Lewaigue I just got going. From there to Laxey I was storming along and was 20 minutes faster than last year at the Glen Mona. After Laxey, my second wind, which had been gale-force, was dropping to a breeze and soon after Lonan I was becalmed in the energy doldrums. The Liverpool Arms to Onchan was awful - pitch black and really dangerous. The pavement is terrible and the road is very fast. The heaven's opened again in Onchan but even the smell of the finish couldn't raise my game. The Prom was embarassingly slow. The final 300m was the worst - I knew I was going to be sick and suddenly got cold. Top marks to the finish crew - a chair, a coat and a bag to throw up in - what more could you want?

Good bits - no real blisters and I (just) beat last year's time. Bad bits - I won't bore you. An hour in the bath (Cal had to pull the plug out to get me out) was followed by more throwing up. Then seven hours sleep before getting up for a wee and another vomit! Stiff as a board, various abrasions and a bruised foot where I'd tied my laces too tight (noticed at Marown) but couldn't be bothered to loosen them.

My recovery will continue with a four day trip to Barcelona! Our first holiday 'on our own' for 17 years. So, enjoy the presentation, sorry I won't be there to applaud you all. It was a pleasure to have taken part in such a wonderfully-organised, well-supported local event. What sums it up for me is the number of little tables set out on the roadside supplying drinks and food for the walkers. It could only happen here.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The nitty-gritty of nipple-rub

This will be the last I write before the race. Much as I'd like to share my thoughts in the final hours, I know I'll be too busy tomorrow doing all the last-minute stuff I've been telling you all to avoid. It's OK being a bit laid-back in the build-up, but it does make for a hectic final few days. I'll be more organised next time... By the way, following on from Mark Hempsall's request for suitable songs - '25 Miles' by Edwin Starr get's my vote every time.

First of all - lets hear it for the support crews. They do a largely thankless task, but an essential one. If twenty hours in a car, punctuated by driving slowly for a mile or so, before sitting and waiting for your ever-slowing walker to come around the corner and demand whatever it is that you haven't got, is your idea of fun, then this is the job for you. My crew will hopefully be a bit more supportive than last year ('When are you going to start trying..?" and "I know it's raining, but you're not having your jacket. Speed up a bit and you'll warm up")... Thanks also to the army of checkers who man the churches. The further round the course you get, the longer their shifts. At Onchan, it will be a ten-hour stint!

Right - time for the nitty-gritty. Right at the start of this blog I emphasised the value of a liberal application of Vaseline before embarking on a long walk. This is especially important if it's going to be wet. Don't be embarrassed - at 7.45am on Saturday the NSC will be full of people with a tub of Vaseline in one hand and the other reaching somewhere inside their clothing to apply the stuff. Usual chaffing areas are the ones to cover (literally) - thighs, bum-cheeks, underarms etc. In a similar vein - don't forget to protect your nipples with plasters. You have been warned.

Toilets are few and far between on the Parish route. It's a rural course, so there is plenty of opportunity for nipping over the hedge for a wee. However, for anything more than that, you might not be too keen to 'crouch in the clover'. Think ahead and work out where there are loos. On Saturday, if you are particularly nervous (or you have had a curry and 10 pints on Friday evening) you might want to think about taking an Immodium or two. Toilet availability will then be of no concern to you. In fact, you can get that new bathroom fitted next week, because you probably won't be needing it until about Wednesday.

I've spoken to quite a few people over the past few days. Many, especially the newcomers, have been really nervous. People have been unable to sleep, unable to eat and just want to get it over. Try and remember to enjoy it. You're going to be part of a brilliant, local event and it's going to be a memorable day for us all. Don't forget that it's just a really long walk. If you've done enough training then you will hopefully achieve your aims. If you haven't (are you looking at me?) then you may well struggle. Either way, you'll meet new people and find out new things about yourself. We're lucky to be healthy enough to take part and to have such beautiful surroundings to walk in and, if you think you're struggling - turn around - there will always be someone behind you (unless you're last of course).

Have a fantastic day.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Soggy realisation is dawning

It looks like the forecast for Saturday/Sunday is a bit 'changeable'. That's OK - yes, ideally you'd like a calm, mild, dry day, but as long as it's not a scorcher or a wash-out, we should be happy enough. The chance of a shower en route underlines the importance of clothing options. So here goes...

In a nutshell - be prepared for hot, cold, dry and wet. I know it's unlikely, but we might start in rain, be basking (basking sounds like something you'd do lying down, so that's perhaps the wrong word) in 20C+ sunshine up the Sloc, battling into a cold headwind at Jurby and finishing in a downpour on the Prom. So, I'd want everything from a vest and shorts to a waterproof coat and even a woolly hat and gloves. Whatever you start the race in, you need to have the confidence that you are equipped for any weather eventuality. Otherwise, at the first soggy realisation that you've got another 60 odd miles to go in the same soaking wet, heavy, t.shirt, the option to stop and head home for a hot bath will become very hard to resist.

So, just get a bag and fill it with anything you might possibly need. If you're unsure - put it in. Far better to not need something you've got, than to need something you haven't got. The Parish is an endurance event and success depends upon energy-efficiency. Getting cold is a sure-fire way to waste energy. The body uses loads of energy trying to stay warm and your performance levels plummet. So, it is essential not to get cold. I know it's late June, but if you get wet - especially if it's after dark and windy too - then get some extra, dry layers on and keep moving. Often, as a walker you don't necessarily notice the onset of a cold evening or the big black cloud on the horizon. This is where your support crew can save the day. Listen to them and do what they tell you (unless they say 'get in the car, we're bored now').

For regularly updated, Parish-specific weather prospects from met-man Adrian Cowin, keep an eye on the forum.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Fancy a jam bap?

Another day, another lesson learned (should that be 'learnt'?). A few weeks ago I spoke to a girl who was walking the Parish for the first time. One of the main things that she and her friend were looking forward to was being able to eat all the 'goodies' they had planned for the day. Planning what you are going to eat is a great idea.

Last year I didn't eat enough. Oh, I had a pretty good breakfast and on the way to Peel, I had a couple of bananas and a Mars Bar (generously provided by spectators and sponsors). However, I didn't have any sort of eating plan to follow. I just ate when I fancied something. Unfortunately, as my fatigue increased, my appetite reduced. I had supplied my crew with a pile of grub to see me through the day, but in the end, I think I managed to finish six caramel shortcake slices - and three of them were wolfed down in the final hour!

If you are spending a normal eight-hour day at work, then you would expect at least one meal of some sort. (I've usually eaten all my packed-lunch two hours into my working day...) If you were to spend 16 hours at work, then you'd be needing at least two meals, probably three. So, it goes without saying that, for a Parish Walker, doing a very hard 16 - 24 hour day of constant exercise, nutrition must be taken very seriously.

Sometimes you will feel a bit rough and the last thing you want is to force down a raspberry jam bap. That's Ok, just try and have a bit of something - even a few jelly babies or a boiled sweet will help (albeit a teeny, tiny bit) - and as soon as you feel better, remember to restart your feeding. Aim to try and have something every hour or so. You should really have experimented with feeding patterns by this stage, but if not, just see what you can handle.

So, what should you eat? Whatever you can stomach basically. Top of my list for high-energy snacks on the hoof are malt loaf, jam sandwiches, fruit cake, flapjack and fruit, but it is really a case of whatever you fancy. A raspberry-ripple 99 in Peel won't do you too much harm and there are loads of stories of people picking up fish and chips in the Sunset City too. There's a place for energy gels too - they are easy to digest and swallow, but one an hour could prove a bit expensive. Needless to say, regular fluid intake is essential, even if it's a cold or wet day. Drink everytime you take on food, but you should also drink regularly in between feeds. Water, isotonic energy drinks (Lucozade Sport, Isostar, etc), coffee, flat coke, sweet tea and fruit juice will all be evident on Saturday - again, the choice is yours. However, alcohol is best avoided (unless things get really bad..?). Before you all head to the shops for jam and flat coke, remember, these are the (very unscientific) opinions of someone who did it wrong last time. Bon appetit Yessir!

In the dark

I've just remembered this. If you are hoping/planning to get to the finish on Saturday/Sunday, then think about your personal lighting. Last year, I hadn't considered it at all, and if it wasn't for the kindness of Roey Crellin's support crew equipping me with half of her lights, I'd have been in the dark for the last three hours of my walk.

There are some nasty corners on the Ramsey to Douglas coast road, and the object is to be seen rather than to light your way. With this in mind, a head torch along with a clip-on red flashing light or an illuminated armband should be sufficient. Last year, driving home to Laxey up the Whitebridge and along the Liverpool Arms straight (before I had to stop the car to throw up), it was brilliant to see all the walkers really well 'lit up'.

I'm going to try and write something each day this week - highlighting some of the things I learnt (i.e. mistakes I made) last year. I'll start at the start... I got there in plenty of time (no, it's true), but then got caught out socializing! Chatting to a few people, the gun went and I was right at the back. I was dodging around people and stopping and starting all along the Access Road. I didn't really get into my stride until after Union Mills. Most people will, rightly, warn against starting too fast (minutes made up at the start can turn into hours lost at the end), but the sooner you can get into a comfortable rhythm the better. One final point - if the weather is looking dodgy as you leave home, bring a couple of bin-bags with you. With a hole for your head it will provide a waterproof 'poncho' while you stand around waiting for the start. The other one is to give to someone who hasn't been as clever as you.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Corner shop Lucozade

Time to start finalising your plans for the big day. Again, everyone is different and there are numerous approaches. Some need to know that every detail and eventuality has been covered. These people will have already had lengthy meetings with their support crew to discuss feeding plans, menus and race strategies. At the other end of the scale, there will be walkers who have yet to arrange a support driver (obligitory if you intend to carry on past Peel). They'll ring a mate a few days before and will be rushing down to the corner shop the evening before the race to buy a couple of Mars Bars and a bottle of Lucozade. If the latter sounds a bit like you, then do yourself a favour and just move everything forward 24 hours. Take it from someone who knows (I've had a year to complete the T.Shirt design, but, as usual, finished it an hour or two before the deadline), you do not want to be rushing around getting stressed on Friday evening.

I'm getting a bit worried now. The imminence (is that a real word?) of raceday can no longer be glossed over. For a while I was confident that, albeit far too little, I had at least done more training than last year. Now I'm not even sure of that. I've had a so-so week. A few walks, a run and a race. If I'd had a plan, then the Glen Mona Fell Race didn't go to it. Too fast at the start, too slow at the end and too hot all the time. It was a real scorcher - it's a rare day on the Manx hills when a headlong fall into a freezing bog improves your mood.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Stepping-up the resting-up

I was never happy with the 'serious' tag attached to this blog. To start the Parish aiming for a fast time/podium finish, you need to have been highly motivated and to have trained hard for months. I'm not and so I haven't. Murray was having trouble finding someone to fill the 'serious walker' slot in his line-up of bloggers and it's not too hard to work out why. Anyone harbouring genuine high hopes for a fast lap on the big day is probably keen to keep their preparation secrets to themselves. My knowledge of the training of the stars extends to the fact that Robbie C. spends a few weeks in the spring hiking alone in Northern Spain and that Sean Hands can usually be found circulating the Baldwin Valleys. And that's it.

We are all different and while Mr X may walk 100 miles a week, Miss Z will do just 30 but they finish the Parish together. Others have finished well up without any training at all. Either way - it's too late to make any real difference now. So relax and keep positive. With less than three weeks to go you can't do much to improve your chances, but there's plenty of time left to spoil them. So banish any thoughts of epic final training sessions, relax and stay positive.

My blog-posting has reflected my level of training recently I'm afraid. Poor at best. Taking my own advice to stop chasing last minute mileage, I seem to have embarked on a lengthy period of resting-up. For example, today's planned hour's walk never happened. I was all ready to go and sat down on the bed to put my socks on. Woke up an hour and a half later. TT Week earlier starts are catching up on me. What training I have done has gone OK, but a persistent problem with a 'soft corn' (prognosis from those respected practitioners, Dr World, Wide & Webb) on my little toe is curbing (kerbing...) my confidence. Saturday will see a blip in my rest diary because it's the Glen Mona Fell Race. After that, it's another week at work before the resting-up steps up (or down?) a gear with a week off leading up to the Parish. Maybe that's why I'm looking forward to it...

Monday, 28 May 2007

Faster and heavier than you

Busy at work. Sore foot. T. Shirt design. That's three of the reasons for not getting much training in this week. It certainly wasn't the improvement I was looking for. A good 90 minute effort on Monday tweaked the foot problem I picked up the previous week. Couple of days off before a lap of Snaefell (Bungalow - Black Hut - summit - Bungalow) on Thursday morning and the evening hill session. Sore again, so left it until Sunday. A three hour walk - glad to get a few miles in, but felt slow and tired. Crikey... this year I was planning to get a bit further than Rushen before blowing up.

TT fortnight is here. Love them or loath them, the bikes are faster and heavier than you, so try to avoid sharing the road with them. If there is a pavement, fine, but if there isn't, don't walk on the busy roads. Find a quiet route (Baldwin, Marine Drive, Maughold, Regaby etc) and stick to it, leaving your iPod/walkman at home. For the ultimate in safe (but tedious?) road mileage, don't forget the half-mile NSC roadway. The hill session was another damp affair on Thursday, but everyone enjoyed it. This coming Thursday (31st), we're meeting at Axnfell Picnic Area for a walk around Glenroy. All very welcome.

Got the gumpf through the post about the Telecom-sponsored 'Sportident' timing system. It will be brilliant (and painful) to be able to see just where (and by how much) you lost/gained on your rivals in the weeks after the race. Another winner will be the ability to have your progress sent by text message to two mobile numbers. I was wondering whether Robbie and Sean might put each other's numbers down - just to keep a tab on each other... The organisers are hoping that this facility will enable support crews to avoid unnecessary driving on the day. I for one will be repeating last year's plan and telling my support to stay at home until I reach (that's right Steve - stay confident) Peel. There were so many drink/feed stations in the early stages last year that I didn't need to have had breakfast. Maybe I'll have an extra hour or two in bed this year.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Up and Dhoon

On the positive side, last week saw me train six days out of seven and three of those days were over 90 minutes. On the less than positive side, I reckon that I did about 45 miles, so there were some very short walks included. Still, it's a move in the right direction.

The hill session for all-comers was a success (look at those smiling faces). Mind you, that's easy for me to say - for a proper review you'll need to ask someone who was there. It rained throughout, but eight of us managed a useful work-out. For anyone interested, we will be doing something similar this Thursday evening. Again meet at the Dhoon Cafe car park for a 7pm kick-off. Don't be put off if you haven't trained in a group before - it's easier than going on your own and it's more fun.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Positive pensioner feedback

Probably too little and probably too late, but I've notched up three days consecutive training. No unexpected niggles and feeling pretty good. Well, I was, until a very old lady, shuffling along towards me on the other side of the quiet country lane, stopped. She leaned on her walking sticks and watched me walk past. I smiled and said 'hello'. She shook her head said 'I hope you're not damaging your hips'. So do I.

With the countdown really on now, I'll try and think of a few things to think about leading up to the big day. Let's start with shoes. It doesn't matter what they look like or how expensive or cheap they were - as long as they are comfortable. That is the only thing to consider. If you haven't got them sorted by now - do it sooner rather than later. Preferably get two pairs (if it pours with rain, you may be glad of the extra pair) and make sure you wear them in. New, untried shoes are usually a recipe for disaster. However, old, worn out shoes - the pair you've had since 1985 and are held together with tape and safety pins - can be equally dangerous to your long-distance chances.

So find the shoes you like, buy a couple of pairs. Then wear them in but don't wear them out. Easy.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Time to ease up

Right, 'cards on the table' time. There are six weeks to go. I'm not ready and I'm not going to be. The past three weeks have been 'stop-start' with a planned recovery from the 50 miler and an unplanned sore knee from lifting paving slabs. I've been out on my bike and been for a couple of jogs, but that's been it.

In the pub on Saturday (two cokes and no crisps), someone said 'oh, just six weeks to go? You'll be easing down now then..." Hmmm. To be able to ease down suggests a period (however brief) at which you were operating at a higher level. So I need to ease up a bit first. I started the ease up with a 90 minute walk yesterday. I think I'll give the Carragyhn a miss this evening though. It is one of the steepest local race descents and has 'sore legs for the rest of the week' written all over it.

For anyone who might be interested in a different training session, I've got a group of mainly novice Parish walkers lined up to do an hour's hill session on Wednesday evening. It will be useful for all abilities and anyone who wants to join in will be made very welcome. Meet at the Dhoon Cafe car park in time for a 7pm start.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Wonders never cease

If it wasn't for the wonder of on-line entry, I would be tip-toeing up Liz and Gordon Corran's path on my way to work in the morning to drop my envelope quietly through their door. As it is, I have been on the official entry list for almost a week. Amazing.

After the 50 miler, my recovery has continued at a leisurely pace this week. Apart from a 90 minute run on the hills and a day moving concrete paving slabs 100 yards uphill (a day which confirmed that gravity is a cruel mistress and that I am a proper weakling) this week has seen little exercise. The run was memorable. Not only was the sun shining and the hills clear on both sides of the Irish Sea, but I went with Cal. Nothing special in that - except that we very rarely go training together. This is mainly because one of us (not me) usually spends the whole time checking that the other one of us (not her) isn't being 'held up' or 'having to wait' for them. Apart from the compulsory 'you run in front' ruling, our run this week was great fun and we even discussed making it a regular date. Wonders never cease...

There are Parish walkers out everywhere at the moment, lured onto the roads by the warmer conditions and the fact that time is against them. We play 'How Many Parish Walkers' (I've thought long and hard, but a catchier name eludes me) whenever we're driving in the car (it's a rubbish game if you are just parked up somewhere). Basically, everyone in the car decides how many Parish Walkers they think we will pass by the time we get wherever we're going. Then you count them and... well you can guess the rest. The driver has the final say if there are any 'disputed identification issues'. As a rule, walkers pushing prams or bicycles, carrying shopping bags, holding an infants hand or walking a dog are not Parish Walkers. Likewise, men waiting at bus-stops don't count - even if the little voice from the rear seat says 'I saw him before and he was walking then - he must be so tired that he has to get the bus home'.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

I got away with it!

Two and a half training sessions and I clocked up 58 miles last week. Yes, I got round the Firemans Walk (or 7 Stations Challenge to give it it's correct name). It was a great event and the organisers are to be congratulated on a debut success. Yes, there were a few grey areas (not least proceeding up the Ballamodha in dense fog), but the marshalling, drinks stations and officials were all excellent.

For me, the race went better than I'd feared (and largely expected). I walked to Peel with Marie Jackson, where two of the Parish top-guns, Sean Hands and Eammon Harkin had already stopped. Clearly, they weren't taking any risks... With little training mileage in my legs, I twisted logic and told myself that I had nothing to risk and carried on. Other than having to walk through a flock of slow-moving sheep at the Devil's Elbow, I was feeling good to Kirk Michael. From there I started feeling rough, but a quick (I didn't have anything to read) excursion to the excellent toilets in Ballaugh restored my inner calm and I was OK until Sulby. Into Ramsey was a real struggle and it was hard to maintain a race-walking technique. The hills out of Ramsey provided a real boost and from there on, apart from the steeper downhills, I was OK. A tremendous cup of tea - worthy of some sort of award - at Laxey, washed down my final energy gel of the day and I felt strong on the final section to Douglas. Top marks to everyone who finished, but a special mention to youngster James Moore.

None of the things that I was worried about happened and I seem to have 'got away with it'. Fifty miles is a long way in anyone's book. In my book, the 50 Mile chapter would feature 'blisters' and 'lengthy recovery'. Apart from the usual pressure sores where the heel strikes the ground, I didn't suffer any of the former, and although I'm only a few days into it, recovery looks to be nearer than I'd dared hope (especially as the Mountain Marathon was just two weeks ago). To hurry it along, I shan't be putting my trainers on this week.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Gumption required

Sorry that this is old news, but I thought I'd published this post a few days ago... What a ride by Mark Cavendish to win the 95th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen race in Belgium. He is building a reputation beyond his years. On the website, it says "...this man has the guts to become a big gun."

Anyway, it was a better week walking-wise, in so much as I did two training sessions. A planned hour on Tuesday was halved when I got a fire-call. I managed to complete a full hour on Thursday. It wasn't fast, but no problem from blisters. Hope they hold together for the Fireman's Walk on Sunday. To be honest, if I wasn't involved with the Fire Brigade, I wouldn't be walking on Sunday. It's a bit too close to the Parish for me. If you are fit and well-on with training, then it could provide a perfect shake-down to test feeding and pacing etc. However, I'm not and I'm concerned that if I get to the finish, it will take a lot of time to recover. Time I haven't really got. Hopefully, I'll have the gumption to stop when I need to. Hmmm...

Pity the walk clashes with the London Marathon - especially as there looks like being such a great field (like every year) at the front. In the old days, I'd have been up and done my Sunday training in time to settle down with a big breakfast and watch the race on TV (turning the sound down after suffering Brendan Foster superlative overload). I'm sure the big guns will clean up, but look out for Ryan Hall of the USA in his marathon debut.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Big 'P' Word getting ever closer...

If I was to tell you that my week had revolved around getting over last weekend, then I'm sure it will be no surprise. They all seem to be going that way! This week has seen a minimal training effort (think of the minimum you could do... yes that's about it) and the big 'P' word gets ever closer. My main hold-up this week has been blisters. I managed to produce a large, broken one on each heel and, although they have healed pretty well, I've been keen not to aggravate them.

So, apart from work, a bit of tame Laxey Bay kayaking (no wind, warm sun, mill pond conditions - could this really be April in the IOM?) and some family plantation cycling, my feet were redundant. By Sunday, I'd had enough and, having liberally applied Vaseline to my feet, went for a walk. Hoped to do three laps of the Ballaragh loop, but with the handy get-out clause of knocking a lap or two off. One and two were OK, but the third lap was a real struggle. Breakfast was a distant memory, so it could have been a lack of food, or perhaps a knock-on from the MMM? Either way, with only 2 and a bit hours on the clock it wasn't too encouraging. Happy that my feet held up pretty well though.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

A brilliant day

Manx Mountain Marathon. A fantastic event and a truely memorable day. I'd failed to prepare, so I was prepared to fail. If I'm honest, it was a bit of a surprise that I got as far as I did before the wheels fell off. Up to South Barrule it had been a brilliant day to be on the hills. After then it became a brilliant day to be sitting down somewhere. When my backside did eventually hit the grass, I looked down over a sparkling Port Erin, and with a lump of fruitcake in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, reflected on my luck. To live here: to be healthy: to have beaten Allan Thompson.

When I last did the MMM, it was my favourite local event and I was desperate to do it again. That was 1985, and as my walking career was kicking off, Mountain Marathons didn't really fit into my annual plans. Now that my walking career has reached full time (deep into injury time anyway), you may have noticed that I don't have an annual plan. As in last year's Parish, I learnt a great deal from the race and will hopefully be able to remember some of it for an improved race in 2008.

The organisation was superb - drinks galore, loads of marshals and 'computerised' timing at every checkpoint (the read-out of 100+ runner's split times is truely mind-boggling - see the link on Murray's homepage)! Last year I did the Easter Athletics Festival - another wonderful event. Two big, nationally recognised events organised by separate groups on the same tiny Island on the same weekend. Both are excellently marshalled and cater for upwards of 300 visitors. An amazing feat. Also it's surely the ultimate local fixture clash - either would undoubtedly be bigger if it was a lone Easter event.

Now that the MMM is out of my system (though not my legs), I can start concentrating on doing some walking. Just as soon as my blisters heal.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

All at sea

Good run on Sunday. Well, if I'm honest, most of it was good but some of it was rubbish. This was to be my last harder run before the Mountain Marathon and so I was looking for a confidence booster (to paper over the harsh truth of prolonged and persistent undertraining). It started off so well...

I ran from Laxey to the top of North Barrule on one of the best sustained uphill tracks I know. For those who remember the old Laxey Horseshoe course, I followed it up to the slopes of Slieau Lhean, but instead of branching off to reach the summit, I followed the track around the head of the Agneash Valley and eventually on up to Clagh Ouyr. The run along the ridge to North Barrule was beautiful - the views were stunning in the sunny and clear conditions.

Sheltered sunshine at sea level had tricked me into getting my shorts out again, but even before I'd met the couple wearing full waterproofs, hats and gloves, I knew I was a little underdressed. (For those 'tut-tutting' at my lack of preparedness - I had a bum-bag and full body cover with me. No, I've no idea why I didn't stop to put it all on). Anyway it took about 55 minutes to get to the top (running all the way) and I felt pretty strong. It took about 49 minutes to get back down and I felt pretty awful. My ankle was sore and I was whacked.

I haven't trained since Sunday - an enforced 'total rest' approach to race preparation. Ice and Voltarol gel have been applied and I spent an excruciating 10 minutes up to my knees in the sea on Laxey Beach yesterday evening. A week ago I was worrying about the 12 miles beyond St Johns, now I'm just hoping I'll get that far. Good luck to all the locals running at Easter - there is a big entry for both the MMM and the Easter Festival.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Decorating and blister planning

Training was limited to Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week, but such has been my level of inactivity in recent weeks, that this represented a better week. The weather has been great hasn't it? Clocks go forward, sun comes out, wind drops and suddenly summer's coming.

In shorts and t.shirt (global warming?) I did a two-lap walking session based on the coast road-Ballaragh loop on Monday. I took the tougher direction option (up the coast road ) and it felt OK. Not fast, but OK. Then my mind wandered to the enormity of the required Parish mileage. I worked it out that the Parish would be approx. 18 laps of the Ballaragh loop! I decided to think about something a bit more positive and spent the rest of the session trying to work out how many blister plasters I'd need this year...

Tuesday was a day of decorating (upper body repetitions). It went well until I ran out of white emulsion with just half of the final ceiling coat to go. Anyone got any tips regarding fitting coving..?

A good run on Wednesday. Sunny but windy and cold, so no shorts. From our house, up through the farm top fields to the summit of Cronk y Vaar (first checkpoint in Snaefell race). On over Mullagh Ouyr and down to cross the mountain road at Brandywell before climbing Benn y Phott. 45 mins up - didn't feel fast, but I ran all the way and that was the aim. Slight dampner was the onset of a 'sore ankle/shin' on the descent. It got worse during the evening and I knocked the plans for a longer run on Thursday on the head.

Still a bit sore on Friday morning at work, so I decided to finish the week with another walk. Did my usual trick of not leaving enough time before picking the boys up from school and ended up doing one and a half laps of the Ballaragh loop instead of two. A bit of a slow struggle I'm afraid. Perhaps more significant was the posting of my entry for the Mountain Marathon. I'm looking on it as a guaranteed long session. I haven't done enough long sessions and I predict a struggle from St Johns. Still, I don't remember my last Mountain Marathon being too awful. Then again it was 22 years ago...

Monday, 26 March 2007

Another wheezy week

Last week was lost to just being busy. What a rubbish excuse. Missing a week's training needs to be for something unavoidable and big. How does 'having a cold' shape up?

Well, it was probably flu really. I felt a bit rough on Monday and a bit shakey on Tuesday. My sore throat progressed to a cough and a runny nose and by Wednesday I was feeling very sorry for myself. No one else was - Tom and Finn overshadowed me with a couple of days of proper vomitting.

Fuelled by Lemsip, I went for a half-hearted, half mile jog/walk on Thursday - a pointless exercise (but a good pun). Friday I felt a bit better, but was still coughing like a chainsmoker. With half an eye on the Snaefell Fell Race, I tested my coughing limit with a run down to the village and (much more importantly) back up. I managed to keep running the whole way and felt 500% better than the day before. Once I stopped I coughed non-stop, but there was a glimmer of hope...

Saturday was a beautiful morning at work and apart from waking the residents of Cronk Elfin with a 4.15am coughing concerto, I felt pretty good. Snaefell and Clagh Ouyr looked sunny, benign and inviting on the drive back over the mountain and I could hear the 'why not - just jog round' voice much louder than the 'don't be daft - you'll feel awful' one. You can guess the rest. I did it. Despite a coughing fit on the way up in the car (brought on by laughing at Les Dawson on the radio) I got round without too much wheezing and actually felt quite strong.

Sunday's Manx 10km Walk Champs saw a small but quality field walking 12.5 laps of the NSC. Peter Kaneen and Marie Latham were the winners, but there were some fantastic walks behind them. Top billing goes to Michael George (in the photo don't his hands look like wax?) who set his third pb in two weeks (20km, 5km and 10km) and smashed the 50 minute barrier. Jock waddington was faster than ever to take bronze and Simon Capelen set a pb - 30 years after his previous one. Jane Mooney was one of just a few Parish walkers to contest the race (speed is important too folks) and was rewarded with a 61 minute pb. I had itchy feet again.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Wincing like a baby

A race, a lie-in and a hill run made for a tiring weekend. I overslept by two hours on Saturday and it was almost light by the time I started delivering in Ramsey at 5.45am. Two coffees on the way to work (wide awake) and radio off (I'm easliy distracted). Five and a bit hours later, having not missed a single delivery (many people even got the milk they had ordered), I was whacked, but I had broken my Saturday Round 34 record by 13 minutes (I'm sad enough to write down my fastest times).

In the six-goal, FA Cup semi-final thriller at Glen Road (we lost), the wind blowing down the valley was such, that both periods of extra-time were 'kicked-off' by a shot on goal! Surely it would calm down for the final round of the Manx Gas XC League at Crossags.

Not a chance. A congheay (north west gale) added to my discomfort as I plodded around one of the best courses on the IOM, albeit in bright sunshine. My first XC race for two years was hard and won't feature on my off-road CV. In another case of car-swap training, Cal had run to Ramsey and I was planning to run home. It would be a tough run after a race, but it would also salvage something from a very poor training week. The forecast had said 'isolated wintry showers', so carrying a bum bag with waterproofs and 'phone (remember the old days when you took a 10p?), I set off towards North Barrule.

Before I even got to the mountain road, the sky had turned black and I was under a gorse bush sheltering from a tremendous 'white-out' snow shower. It eased, and I carried on, wondering if it was still a good idea. On the summit it became very apparent that it wasn't. I had great difficulty keeping upright (I know this is a re-run of last Sunday, but bear with me...), and it was so cold. It was snowing and my windward side was white. I had forgotten my gloves and my hands were frozen, so I dropped down the first wall into the Corony Valley. 100m below the ridge it was calm. Looking up, I could see plumes of snow being blown over the ridge and hear the muted roar of the wind. Looking towards Clagh Ouyr the whole view was silvery grey, with snow on the ground and an angry grey sky.

The run home was fantastic - not for the quality of the running (if only), but for the surroundings. As I crested the ridge looking across the Agneash/Laxey Valley, the grey landscape was off set by a single, sunlit patch of the brightest green on the lower slopes of Mullagh Ouyr. Half an hour later I was in the shower wincing like a baby as the blood worked its way back into my finger tips.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Pig-headed old lady

Saturday's races threw up some great performances on a tough, windy (never..) day. Colin Griffin (left) walked a faultless 30km and a sub 4 hour 50km debut next week looks on the cards. Jo Jackson set a big pb to win the ladies 20km and Dan King led home the men. Fine local walks from Michael, Jock, Marie, Lauren, Alice, Kirsty etc. It was tough watching rather than racing, but I know I'd have struggled to be vaguely competitive. Sunday morning there was a coaching session led by Andi Drake (GB) and Michael Laine (Ireland). It was good to hear their largely positive comments on the techniques they'd seen the day before.

On Sunday afternoon I needed to go to Ramsey to pick up my van for work. (Much of my training seems to revolve around the dropping off or picking up of vehicles at the moment). I ran up to the Bungalow on the Electric Railway line and then to Ramsey via the Black Hut, Clagh Ouyr, North Barrule and Elfin Glen. I know I've been going on about the wind a lot... but that's because it's been windy. There was a cross wind (south easterly) on Sunday, and as I ran along the N. Barrule ridge it got stronger. Having managed to run all the way from home (i.e no walking), I approached the last 200m up to the summit confident that I could make it. I would have done too - if only I could have stayed on my feet! I was blown off the path and had to sit down to prevent being blown into rocks. For a couple of minutes, the elements were very much in charge, and although I was pig-headed enough to stumble on to the trig point, it was only after dropping off the summit towards Ramsey that I had full control over which direction I was going in.

Been really busy this week - didn't get out (training) at all until Thursday! That's the difference between a serious athlete and a recreational one. I trained every day (sometimes more than once) for over a year in 1988. Clearly not good practice (although that is clearly a good pun) - no recovery and it included my wedding day and honeymoon! Everything then was fitted around the necessity of training. Now I fit in some exercise if there's time.

Thursday was another variation on the run over the hill to Glen Mona - this time climbing up to Clagh Ouyr first. It was a real 'blow-the-cobwebs-away' hour and after a few days cooped up indoors, the fact that I was running like an old lady seemed of secondary importance. Bucking the recent trend, on Friday I actually went for a walk! It's 'the thought that counts', so let's not dwell on the fact that a tiny, sharp edge of my little toenail digging into my second little-est (how do you spell that?) toe in slightly-too-narrow shoes caused great discomfort and the abandonment of the session after 25 minutes. So, another poor week for me while, in contrast, my fellow bloggers are up towards 50 miles. Anyone stumbling upon our respective writings would undoubtedly have mine down as those of the first-timer and Mark and David's as the serious athletes.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

South-westerly weak

A week off work. Late nights, lie-ins and the opportunity to fit in a bit of extra training. I didn't take it, but it was there.

Tuesday dawned dry and bright and was predicted to stay that way, with what Adrian's mates described as 'fresh' breezes. I had to question their optimism as I crested the summit of North Barrule. The wind blew my hat off and a contact lens out and I was struggling to keep on my feet. I retreived my hat but for a focused view I had to close my left eye for the rest of the morning. I had parked on the back road from the Hibernia to the Gooseneck, planning to run to Greeba - just to see how approx. half the Mountain Marathon might feel.

Windswept. That's how it felt. Minutes of calm at the Black Hut and Injebreck were offset by hours of leaning into a 'fresh breezy' south westerly gale. It rained on Clagh Ouyr too. I was rubbish on the steep climbs, but managed to run most of the gentler ones. I hadn't done the Carraghyn to Greeba section for years, and although I was flagging a bit by then, it was great to just be up there a bit nearer the clouds with the ravens and hares (white hares north of Snaefell, brown to the south). Despite the knee-jarring, final Kings Forest descent off Greeba to the main road, the three hours ended injury and blister free. Mountain Marathon? The jury's out...

Wednesday and Cal's car had to be dropped at the garage (again) in Ramsey. It was another sunny morning and I said I'd take it and walk home. Well, I intended to walk but started jogging for a warm-up and ended up running up Slieu Lewaigue hill. I was pretty chuffed with that, but reverted to my walking plan from there. There was a head wind again.

To finish the week off, I ran home over the hill from Glen Mona on Friday. I reversed my 'to school' route (see a few posts ago) but added on an extra detour to the top of Clagh Ouyr. Guess which way the wind was blowing?

It's the Manx Harriers Open Meeting at the NSC tomorrow. It will be wierd to be fit (as in 'not injured') and yet not be racing. I got hooked on walking after watching Steve Barry walk his amazing 20km in 1983 in the same meeting. Since then, there have been some fantastic races and I've been lucky enough to be involved in a few. I'm sure there will be some great times set this year, and while I know the legs they are attached to aren't up to it, my feet will be very itchy. Guess what... the forecast is for strong SW winds.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Dhoon the Prom

After walking around like a rusty robot for most of Tuesday, I felt much better on Wednesday and actually did some training on Thursday. (If ever there is a sign of advancing age, it's how much longer recovery takes). I had to leave the car in Douglas, so walked home. It wasn't fast but it was enjoyable - the wind was with me for once and the sun was out.

By Friday the sun had gone in, but my fell shoes had just about dried out from the weekend, so I ran a regular route to meet the boys from school at the Dhoon. I go up from our house and out 'the back lane' onto the Snaefell Mountain Railway track. Head up the track for about half a mile before dropping into the valley to the river. Over the river and straight up the other side of the valley to where the Clagh Ouyr and Glen Mona tracks meet. Then straight down the latter to meet the main road at the Glen Mona pub. It's a good 'up and down' run and takes 45 mins on a good day. I usually leave it a bit tight for time, and end up time trialling all the way, arriving in the nick of time, exhausted.

Sunday saw me stepping back in time with a session on Douglas Prom. I'd walk on the prom at least two or three times a week when I worked in Douglas, but now it's a bit of a novelty. The novelty quickly wore off...
Having dropped Finn at a two hour party, I decided not to sit in the hotel bar and watch what turned out to be an epic West Ham v Spurs seven goal thriller, but to do three laps (six lengths) of the Prom. Lap one was a warm-up. Lap two was pretty good. Lap three was a struggle. Confirmation that I have made the right decision not to race 20km at the Open Meeting.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Jaffa Cake rescue

Two races in seven days! If I'd done any training as well it would have been a good week. Actually, I did one session in the week - a 50 minute, six lap run around the very muddy fields behind our house. I felt the same (very bad) on the last lap as I did on the first, so I saw it as progress. I decided to run at Bradda.

It took me a long time to get over the 10km walk I did last weekend. I felt pretty rough on Tuesday (it's always the day after the day after isn't it?) and didn't do the field run until Thursday. Now it's Tuesday again and I'm feeling worse than last week. The Bradda race went pretty well. Despite a steady start, I predictably struggled over the final few miles. Three emergency Jaffa Cakes at the top of Fleshwick (on the way back!) meant I was able to maintain a jog to the finish. I did feel a bit guilty stuffing them in with two miles to go - what if I stumbled over the cliff, landing on a ledge out of sight with a broken leg and I'd eaten my emergency rations? The prospect of the pot of tea and a cream scone waiting at the Bradda Glen cafe also helped. The cafe was closed and I had to make do with water and the other nine Jaffa Cakes I hadn't packed as emergency food.

I love fell running. It is as hard as you make it. You run until you have to walk then you walk until you can run again. Lloyd Taggart broke the course record and, like all athletes at the top of their game, made it look easy. I heard that he ran up Fleshwick. Wow.

Monday, 19 February 2007

No racing like a train...

There's no training like a race (loosely speaking), so I had a go at the final round of the Winter League. I'd been thinking about it for a week or so, and after a good session on Tuesday thought 'why not'?

Well... mainly because I'm not fit enough to get drawn into a 'ding dong' 5km with Peter Kaneen, that's why! He walked a clever race, and after a close first half, was able to gradually pull away to a comfortable margin of victory. Peter's time may well be a UK vetsO45 record, so he wasn't hanging around, and I suppose I was pleased enough with my time. It's hard to reassess your expectations when they are all downwards!

Some good walking on show. Despite his various aches and pains, blogger David M. repeated his handicap win from the previous round. Is that two starts and two wins? Another big Pb from Michael George, who, despite missing his first sub-50 minute 10km by mere seconds, can be happy that he gave it his all. Those of us around the start/finish can vouch for that. A grown man, on all fours, coughing his Sunday breakfast into the grass verge, is perhaps not the best way to attract casual passers by into racewalking, but was a reflection of 100% effort. Congratulations to Kath Colquitt, Enid Watson, Sinead Kaneen, Catreena Moore and Richard Bell for their overall league titles.