Sunday, 20 February 2011

No Hope for Senile Blogger

I'm afraid that there appears to be very little hope for me. I published the previous posting on the wrong 'Blog Account'

It should have been on:

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Umpah Umpah

Realizing you're older than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, being treated by Doctors aged 10, not able to train through injury; all cliched signs that the years are catching up with me but the other week, an invitation dropping through the letterbox to my nephew's 30th birthday party this coming Saturday, really drove the message home.

Oh and one further clarification that you've definitely turned vintage is the total lack of enthusiasm when the reality dawns that it's not only fancy dress but a 'Bavarian' theme.

However, cajoled by Mrs. George whose imagination unfortunately matches mine, I managed to find the Costume Shop in Peel and with a stroke of luck brought about by my legendary lack of prowess at preparing the staff rota, I'd brought Adam in too early and we were able to dash out yesterday afternoon to try on and collect our costumes.

So it's lederhosen for me, this weekend and on hearing this news, my 13 year old son Terence to whom I am a continual source of embarrassment, immediately booked himself a trip to the National Cross Country on Saturday near Alton Towers to avoid the humiliation (actually that's a bit of artistic licence: it was already booked and paid for before we received the invitation but he's not too secretly pleased.)

Of course, yet another reminder of our time of life is the frequency of our nocturnal excursions and though usually, we are fortunate to go out once a month, we've also been asked to go to a 50th birthday party, the very same night. We may just call in to that afterwards (if the ravages of senility allow) but we might just have to change costume on the way.

Pictures to follow if uncensored.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Well Done, The Amazing Bethany Clague

Bethany Clague's remarkable two lap feat did contain the odd moment of humour and I'd like to share with you one gem which I heard from Elizabeth Corran:

As most of you will probably be aware by now, towards the end of the second circuit, she was becoming really tired and even hallucinating. She was well supported over the final few miles by her family and close friends but really pretty much 'out of it.'

However, travelling along the promenade, she passed the bottom of Mona Drive (where the Welbeck Hotel is situated) and suddenly chimed, 'That Michael George is going to owe me alot of money,' before continuing for her final few metres.

I wasn't sure that she could definitely achieve her goal especially with the weather as vicious as it was but I am truly amazed at her tenacity.

Regarding the recent post on the 'Forum' by one of her back-up team, though I think the organising committee were very helpful towards Bethany on what was, let's face it quite a perilous attempt for which they no doubt would have received criticism had it not gone according to plan with Bethany arriving back in one piece.

She received no end of publicity through them to help with her charity, The Hyperbaric Chamber, yet they would have been within their right to wash their hands of what could have been a dangerous distraction to their main event.

I think by popular demand and with great sense, she was also given a platform to speak on the night of the presentation and I thought that she did receive something from Manx Telecom.

To summarise, let's all applaud Bethany's fantastic endurance and athleticism in what was a magnificent performance that most us could only marvel at and wouldn't dare attempt. That having been said, I think that anyone else should be actively discouraged from trying to follow in her footsteps especially during the race. The next person may want to do four laps or do it with a leg tied to their friend's and it may become a bit of a circus with the additional worry that the they might not be so brilliantly prepared both mentally and physically as Bethany.

I really hope that Bethany earns thousands of pounds for The Hyperbaric Chamber as she deserves to and I it think it may be their place rather than Manx Harriers (who are another non profit making organisation) to recognise the achievement with an award.

In Praise of The Ogre

Nigel & Mark Clague in the London Marathon 2008.(Pic by Margaid Gosschalk)

I ended my last posting in a bit of a hurry and re-reading it I may have given the impression that my support, Nigel Armstrong is a mean, sadistic bastard with a savage mean streak that only ogres or say er.......dentists may possess.

Nothing could be further from the truth. He's a fantastic bloke and there are few more genuine chaps in athletics and in his defence, he was only following team orders (wasn't that what they said at Nuremburg?)

So I must publicly thank Nigel, Emma and Mark Clague because without them, there's no way I'd have even been out there, never mind finishing 4th.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

I wasn't Careful What I Wished For!

Well done to all of you who competed this year in the worst ever conditions (or so I am led to believe.) As I have not stopped saying all week, the sensible ones stopped at Rushen and to even reach the top of the 'Sloc' in that foul weather, was a major achievement in my opinion. If it was tough for the walkers, at least we were on the move. We should all take our hats off and bow to the marshals and officials who stayed at their posts when desertion would have led not even the hardest of hearts to call for their execution.

That 122 competitors finished, I thought was remarkable and the list of superb performances would be too long to type out here but I should mention Jock, Robbie and Maurice as they all trounced me, Sue Biggart who I I think would have beaten me and even threatened Maurice's third place had she not valiantly gone for the record. My own team mate, Dave Mackey was the fastest first time finisher and Marie Jackson with whom I did much of my training before I lost my momentum, somehow made it into 16th place and was surely the lightest finisher in the top twenty and perhaps in the race.

For me, everything was going perfectly well and according to plan. At the bottom of Ballakillowey, I was only about a hundred yards behind Jock and feeling in great form. Even at the top of that most difficult climb, I was still within two minutes of him despite not feeling that I had not put a great deal of effort into the ascent. I did drop back slightly further on the approach to the bottom of the Sloc but I could still see Sean already high up, Robbie at the base and Jock still within striking distance.

When I turned the corner, I did begin to struggle but I still was positive, thinking everyone else would be in the same boat. It was when the Sloc began to even out into a gentle hill that I should have regained my technique and pressed on but the strength just wasn't there and every time I tried to move up into my racing form, the wind would blow me off and I'd have to stroll along for a while and then begin again.

By the time I'd made it to the Round Table, I felt dreadful. The pain in my groin that I'd taken time off training trying to fix returned and my back was hurting. To ensure I felt thoroughly miserable, I was now 6 minutes behind Jock with Sue catching me fast.

Even on the downhill sections, I couldn't find my rhythm and it was chastening coming into Dalby, thinking I was really starting to motor when Sue overtook me! This is a tribute to the way she has concentrated on the technical aspects over the winter but at the time didn't make me feel any happier.

The excuses started to infiltrate my mind and I had more or less decided that I was going to quit at Peel. My back up, Nigel Armstrong was less than sympathetic, lets face it only a week earlier he'd ran two Marathons uphill and assured me despite my protestations it was too early for one, that this was just a bad patch and I'd come through soon.

Tactics now became essential. Not the ones that I should have been working on i.e. how to get back in the race but how could I convince Nigel that I needed to give up and go home. True romantic that he is, he'd met a young lady triathlete on his Comrades Marathon in South Africa and invited her to the Island to spend a weekend of love, watching a wimp like me, in the pouring rain and howling wind try to yellow belly my way out of the Parish. Surely, he'd just take the opportunity to whisk her off to a quiet warm restaurant and ply her with wine before making his advances. Not a bit of it! He was staying out there, so was she and that meant me too!

My one last clutch at the swinging straw was the 5,000m I'd been invited to walk at in Birmingham. I was going to save myself by retiring at German, so I'd be capable of recording a good time at the U.K. Athletics meeting. Nigel gave that short shrift too, reminding me what I'd been training for all this time.

The only thing I could do, my devious little mind concluded was throw in the towel at Patrick and then Nigel wouldn't find out until later! The only thing was that there was no nice hot car, steaming cup of tea or nice warm pub there and before I knew it, I'd been dibbed and off I went.

By the time I reached Ballaugh, I'd recovered somewhat and was quite amazed to hear that Jock had overtaken Robbie and despite all my travails, I was only about 18 minutes behind the latter man. Finally, I overtook Maurice and had Sue within about 20m on the approach to Jurby.

Remember early in this series, I told you that I was careful what I wished for? This time I'd told Nigel that he had to bully me into taking food and whilst also giving great encouragement on my progress, he was making certain that I ate what he was giving me. Unfortunately, some months previously, I had bought a pack of energy food where you don't get to pick what the flavours are. Unfortunately, one of the things it contained was a banana flavoured bar and me being me, instead of making sure it got the full treatment in the waste disposal or incinerator left it in the bottom of my bag and half of it had now been supplied to me and was sitting in my hand. Agonisingly slowly, I nibbled it until I was left with the tiniest piece. Absolutely disgusting but finally I disappeared that last morsel....for all of two seconds. My party piece was back and I threw up three times, losing all that hard fought ground in the process. Despite the diuralyte and whatever else Nigel gave me, about half an hour later ,I had another big slump in energy levels caused by the vomiting.

Once again though I was again on the up and by the top of Bride Hill, when faced by the race walker's paradise which is the long gentle slope down to Andreas, I was really able to power past Maurice and catch Sue who had been about 200m in front. By now, we were really paddling in the huge puddles, Sue trying to navigate between them with me just following due to the lack of wipers on my specs.

More good news. Robbie was down to 12 minutes in front by Sulby Bridge and with Sean already in retirement, I was feeling confident of being able to catch him up and perhaps even exert some pressure on Jock.

With Sue just in front of me, we were fairly powering into Ramsey, yet just as everything was feeling fine, sickness hit me once again and I was doubled over four times on the way into Parliament Square. Nigel, who had been almost everpresent had gone for provisions and when I found Mark Clague who was acting as deputy, he had none of the rehydration stuff.

After that any thoughts I had of the win were finished. The timing was bad but I'm not sure whether I was in good enough shape to have challenged anyway. The whole of the walk down the East Coast was horrible and I think quite dangerous as well with visibility very poor.

Once again, I was searching for any excuse not to complete the job and I was trying to think of a way to escape. To my mind Sue was nearly as tired and not moving with any of her earlier zeal and I was on the verge of asking Ray Pitts (Sue Biggart's support) to call the Control to see if he could get the race stopped and offer to share third prize, when Maurice stormed past us as though we weren't moving and I had to forget about my ghastly double dealing to try and catch him. Although, I was able to open a gap I was able to maintain to Sue, I have to give Maurice the credit he deserves and there was no way I could catch him.

I have to say that by the time I finished, I was just glad to have completed the course. Definitely, never again!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Jock Waddington is Brilliant

I only have a few minutes, so I will probably write a more detailed account of my race a little later.

Sean Hands and Robbie Callister have already shown what great sportsmen they are in victory and defeat and I really admire the two of them but I really am thrilled that Jock won the Parish Walk (although obviously I would have preferred it to be me.)

Jock and I started the winter leagues at around the same time and he is always a true gentleman. I've been telling anyone who'd listen and many more who wouldn't that I felt he had a real chance this year.

As detailed in Murray's earlier feature on him, Jock also puts plenty back into athletics, can often be seen marshalling at events in which he isn't taking part and is a member of the IOMVAC Vets committee.

He and his wife Terri are always helpful to other competitors and I'll never forget the soup they gave me in the 100 mile race.

In short, it couldn't happen to a nicer bloke. Actually that's not true. A nicer bloke couldn't have made it happen. Oh well. That sounds like a load of bolocks but you know what I mean: He deserves it for all the hard work he put in.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Just Do it!

Well Blogophiles, this is it. The next time I blog it will be from cloud 99 or from under a cloud and most of you will be feeling extremely sore, yet I hope we will have the satisfaction of having achieved our goals.

I have been planning to write this preview for a long time but typically have left it until the very last minute. Many times, I have mulled over what I would write and the phrases I would use. One of them was going to be: 'It's a long time since I actually managed to get a long distance walk right.' However, the truth is that having thought about this, I never have. All my 'ultra' walks have been beset by problems and I have never quite managed the 'even effort' which we all should aim for. Last year, despite finishing third was probably the worst ever, when my support crew came so close to 'Throwing in the towel' and calling for an ambulance when due to dehydration and failing with my feeding, I became very disorientated and almost collapsed at Andreas. They almost caught my 'meltdown' on camera as I was just about to 'hit the wall' but was saved by my back-up Nigel Armstrong who was ironically described on the commentary as 'A judge giving me a warning.'

That is one thing that I would like to clear up once and for all. The fact is that I was spoken to at Dalby Mountain by Graham Young, the chief judge and he said, 'You aremaking contact (i.e. totally legal) but I'm going to warn you unofficially to be very careful and make sure you get in a good long stride when you go down 'Glen Rushen.'' And then he watched me nearly every step of the way for about 6 miles.

There was another period towards Lonan when apparently 'Race Control' received a complaint about my walking from person unknown and I was told by someone in a marshal's top to 'Watch my walking' as I approached the church UPHILL! This could have put me off my stride but I was fortunate enough to have had Marie Jackson, an experienced racewalker and also a judge as the other member of my support team and with her encouragement was able to have confidence in my technique. That said, I was still unable to catch Ray Pitts.

Before I step down from the 'Dock/Witness Stand, Soapbox,' I would also like to point out that I have since competed in 'A' standard* races in Holland, England and in front of our own 'International Judge,' Steve Taylor and have not yet been even close to being disqualified. You should see me trying to type while gripping the desk for all its worth.

I hope you haven't fallen asleep before I actually came around to my thoughts on the race itself. Once again my opinion has changed as we approached the big day. A few months ago, I was beginning to see the challenge as 'just' beating Robbie. Since then Peter Kaneen has entered, Jock Waddington has supplemented his obvious talent with greater fitness and then Sean Hands who I was beginning think was a spent force after his early bath in 2007 and his subsequent non-appearance at any of the winter races has obviously put a lot more work in this year. His relaxed and confident manner in Murry's interview had precisely the opposite effect on me.

In some ways, I wonder if we can draw an analogy between Sean and a boxer. 'They never come back' was the old saying and there must be a similar fear about putting your body through it again after a couple of years absence. However, I believe he has the temperament to overcome this and I now see him as the 'favourite' to accomplish a repeat performance of his 2006 triumph. One man whose mental or physical strength can never be questioned is Robbie Callister and while I do not foresee him ever going much faster than he has already due to the limitations of his style, whoever is challenging him knows that they have to put in a really exceptional performance to beat him.

My gut feeling is that even if Peter Kaneen crosses the start line, he doesn't really possess the background fitness this year that is required for the magnitude that is the Parish Walk. He has not been on form even on the shorter distances (though still quicker than me) and I can't really see this translating into victory come Saturday night. One man who has been in top form and peak condition is Jock Waddington who despite being given little chance by other pundits, even being described as a comparitive novice last year in one piece. It is rough justice that he has been laid low with a cold over the past few days, yet he told me last night that his appetite has been unaffected and could he possibly still be a contender, though I suspect that his misfortune may just take the edge off his chances of glory.

Me personally? I've gone through the worrying whether I've concentrated on endurance enough or should I have tapered for my 50k race, thereby losing valuable training opportunities and whether I could have managed a few more decent sessions in the last two months instead of trying to sort my groin injury and am now just looking forward to enjoying the day. My plan is to sit in behind Robbie and Sean, get quite close at Rushen before letting them pull out a bigger lead over the Sloc. Last year I wasn't nearly patient enough and put in a huge effort to reel Robbie in on the approach to Peel and suffered the consequences. If I am able to stay in touch, I imagine, Sean will be hoping to make the break in the area between Kirk Michael and Bride and I will try and join Robbie and keep Sean within striking distance. The idea is to sail into the lead toward the end of the race, me being the fastest man with a chance of victory at that stage, though I know only too well how speed can be blunted by distance and am very well aware of the power and iron will of both of those fine athletes.

I really don't see the point of me trying for third place again and if the opportunity does present itself, I intend to go for victory even if it ends in humiliation but that said; I still have to use my brain and must be aware of many different scenarios that may arise besides the one I have imagined.

My expectation is that battle behind the lead from 5th place in the men's will be between Alan Cowin,Martijn Biesmans, Terry Moffatt, Chris Cale, Andrew Titley and perhaps Michael Shipsides.

Try your best to beat them (but not me.)

If you're walking tomorrow, I wish you the best of luck and if you're spectating, assisting or officiating I hope that you don't get too wet and enjoy a not too exciting race that I win quite easily. Unfortunately, that is more of a dream than an expectation.