Sunday, 27 January 2008

Should Have Ditched My Modesty

It probably wasn't too wise of me to forget to mention Allan Callow in my last post who measured the course, put out all the signs, picked them up again and spends so much of his time coaching and advising any of us that care to ask him.

And another who I forgot to mention in my original post is Jock Waddington who beat his time in the previous round by almost a full minute and set another P.B. by 43 seconds. I had a word with Jock before the start and he seemed disappointed that he wasn't training enough. I think he's training too much and I'm looking over my shoulder. A sub 50 minute time is surely beckoning if he could just get out a little more or I don't trip him up.

So back to 2004.

Fortunately, Barry Bridson had managed to get as far as Maughold the previous year and was equipped with such necessities as a torch which would have been wonderful had I not lost him at Andreas.

For those of you that are new to the Parish, Andreas is the best place on Earth! I couldn't believe the atmosphere when I arrived that 1st time. Everyone seems to be having a party, there are tents, music and countless offers of alcohol to ease the pain. The only drawback of being one of the faster contenders these days and also probably because the race now sets off one hour earlier is that I have left before the fun has begun.

My trainers were very cheap 'Pumas' but funnily enough had served me better than some of the more expensive shoes I was to purchase later on and I had to stop to remove what I thought was a stone and to put on some more clothes because I was getting cold. Two minutes later, I had to stop again in one of the tents and discovered that the 'stone' was actually a blister.

More worryingly, I had lost Barry and the trek up to the Church in pitch black along the stones and gravel was very difficult with no light but the camaraderie of the competitors helped me out and luckily for me, I met Edward Marshall who really helped me through the next few miles when I reached my low point.

As you've probably gathered if you've been reading my blog for a while, modesty has never really been one of my more obvious traits but on this occasion it was very nearly my undoing. Responding to the 'Call of Nature,' I briefly marched ahead of Edward to look for relief. There were a few other walkers around us at that stage and I edged further behind the hedge I was using to protect my privates from the proletariat and the next thing I knew I was lying at the bottom of a three foot ditch!

The next hour or so was pretty much a blur for me and both my back-up who by this stage included Stuart & Liam Murphy as well as Barry Needham, not to mention my wife Irene who I mumbled to on the telephone were extremely worried about me as I must have been suffering from shock. Fortunately, I had re-attached myself once again to Edward and with the extra help from his support who were using their headamps to help us see. I also vaguely remember getting a bollocking from a passing police car somewhere around the Ginger Hall area, although I felt the pavements were far more likely to cause me injury than any passing vehicle.

Until I was given a real lesson in hill climbing last year by Robbie Callister and Ray Pitts, I always considered it to be my strength and it was on the ascent to Maughold that I eventually regained my composure and started to feel that I just might finish the race. Now we were three, having rejoined with Barry Bridson. As all the finishers amongst you will know, it's feels like a long way from Maughold back to the main Ramsey to Laxey Road with the last really major challenge of the Parish being Ballajora. Barry especially was buoyed by having passed his previous furthest and Edward was just always quietly confident and very good company. We were now starting to pass people and a sorry state some were in too, particularly one gentleman who was a previous finisher (you can tell by the low number on the back) staggering all over the road. To this day I don't know whether he completed the lap but he assured us of his health if not his sanity.

When you do reach the main and you're still feeling in half decent shape, you really do begin to believe that you're definitely going to succeed, although even now I believe that there is an extra mile or so of tarmac put betweeen Glen Mona and the Dhoon and another couple put between Bulgham and Menorca especially for the Parish.

It was at Laxey Village that I slipped into another gear. I had stayed with Edward & Barry until then but I suddenly just wanted it all to be over and pressed on for home. For the underprepared and uninitiated though there are still surprises to be had and most of them on the Parish Course aren't pleasant ones. For some reason, I'd always assumed that Lonan Church was the little one at Baldrine and climbing that hill up back away from Douglas came as a real shock and I'd also thought it fairly obvious that we'd cut through the little lane from St. Peter's to Royal Avenue.

I'd sent my back-up off for a sleep sometime around Dreemskerry but it was here in Onchan that Barry Needham who had gone to pick up Irene rejoined me. That was a real boost. I also phoned my Mum who I think thought I'd gone completely off my head and had no idea I was still walking.

Coming down on to the Promenade, the feeling was fantastic and I was absolutely delighted. To cross that finish line for the first time was unbelievable, though this was somewhat tempered by the fact that he who thought he was so fit hadn't even managed 4 mph in 22 hours 20odd minutes* and actually ended up in 66* place which was behind the total number of finishers in the previous year.

I sat down on the bench and had a beer wrapped in a blanket (that was me not the beer.) I think I waited for Edward and Barry to finish and wanted to stay there until the whole 24 hour
s had elapsed but for some reason this plan didn't go down to well with Barry N. and Irene on this chilly June morning....

....... and I'd be buggered if I was walking home.

Today at the Races

There was a fantastic HSBC Winter Walking League round at the Ronaldsway Industrial Estate Course with some really good performances right down the field in all age groups.

Despite the blustery wind and the hill which we all use as the excuse when when we've walked too slowly (let's face it, it's hardly the Sloc or Hibernia,) there were lots of P.B.s but surely the most outstanding was U15 Lauren Whelan who clocked in under 58 minutes on her debut at the distance. Unfortunately, I am relying on my age and alcohol besieged memory as the results haven't hit the Manx Harriers Website as yet but I am sure that there were also great times from the winner, Ian Wakley and a first sub one hour from Maurice Bellando. He missed by 40 seconds or so but I'm positive that Dave Mackey will soon replicate that with better conditions and a faster track at the N.S.C. in two weeks time for the 10k Championships and last H.S.B.C race of the winter.

My apologies to the many others who had brilliant walks today but I'm sure they will merit a mention on the the Web and in this week's Independent.

Those of you who are regular readers of this Blog will know by now that foremost of my many addictions is tea and therefore I must thank Junior Coach and today's top caterer, Elizabeth Corran(How many of you know that she is a Master's 40 gold medalist and former World age group record holder for 20k?) for doing the honours.

Manx Sport would be non-existent without the many people who help to put these races on for our enjoyment, so also I would like to add my appreciation of the judges, Mo Cox & Dougie Corkill (note the creeping racewalker puts them in first,) timekeepers, Bernie Shimell and Judy Morrey, marshals, Helen Renecle and Marie Jackson and of course Bridget Kaneen and Steve Taylor. I really don't know what Brian Brough was doing with the stopwatch hanging round his neck but his presence and kind encouragement are always welcome. If he's surplus to requirements and not racing, he can shout out my times at the next walk if he wants.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Take Off at Ronaldsway

Especially for those of you who don't run or tend to do any cross-training (i.e. anything else vaguely sporting under the sun,) it's a must to do other things than just plod along for a few hours at the weekend if you want to improve your Parish time and what better way of doing it than bashing around Ronaldsway Industrial Estate for 10k on Sunday morning.

I have to admit that we have prettier courses and faster courses but there's usually plenty of tea and lots of biscuits to talk to. There's even a couple of people to eat sometimes. It is also very safe with little traffic.

Signing-on is at the social club from around 09:30 for 10.00 off and I am told by Bridget that it is a staggered start according to your handicap time. Don't worry if you haven't yet been given a handicap, you'll still get to race, though Mr. Taylor doesn't often let the bandits in for a win.

Juniors are welcome and if you're not quite up to 10k yet, you can usually walk any distance up to that, so bring your kids and your granny too.

Adrian Cowin has even predicted reasonable weather, so there's no excuses.

See you there.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Less Helpful Hints, More What Not to Do! And How Not to Win Friends and Influence People Part One.

By the time 2004 Parish Walk came about, I was established on the Manx Athletic scene as a midfield Cross Country and road runner. After finishing my first walk (I still didn't really consider myself to be in a race,) the End to End in September 2003 in a blistering 9:30ish, I decided that I should follow up on the smattering of talent I'd shown at school for cross country twenty odd years ago.

I'd actually won the school race in 1980 and put down my defeat/absolute trouncing to Russell Collister a year later down to a bad day at the office or perhaps something to do with all the naughty substances I was abusing at the time. I'd always considered myself as a bit of a handy runner who just didn't fancy the pain, so it was a little bit of a shock to me to be beaten so comprehensively by so many people on my return two decades later, as I thought myself to be very fit, from playing 1&1/2 hours of football every week.

When June came around, I had started to do basic running training as well as my football and I had what I thought was a pretty good plan for the race depite not really having done any walking practice besides a few 2 hours with the family off road on a Sunday. By this stage, I had started to tell people that I was going to finish this time, although I didn't really discuss it very thoroughly with Irene.

Grand Plan: Walk with Irene to Peel at approximately 4 miles per hour, then meet Barry Needham who I'd arranged to back me up overnight and up the pace to the finish to 5 or 6 miles per hour to the finish in about 19 hours.

It all seemed so simple for a fit young(ish) lad like me and I'd even had a side bet with Peter Thor, that he was going to double his charity money (Mighty Oak Appeal was all the rage in those days) if I finished in under 20 hours but the enormity of the mental aspect of the task was starting to kick in by the time I reached Glen Willyn.

I didn't know him in those days but Gordon Corran pulled over and warned me that what I thought was my race walking technique down the hill was more of a jog and that I should just calm down because I had plenty of time.

Settle down I did but I was still a man on a mission, trying to catch all the people I'd let go in the early stages of the race and it was probably a good thing for me that I managed to draw level with Angie Southern and Kuba Szymanski and was able to talk for a while at not such a break neck pace (Not that my neck is very strong.) They lasted until Ballaugh and Jurby respectively and then once again, I was on my own. Despite the fact that I was working very hard, I was a little peeved to note that I was no longer catching the lad just ahead of me and once again, my strength of mind came in to doubt. He was obviously feeling the same way because eventually he stopped and waited for me.

The course of our conversation turned to what we did for a living and it turned out that Barry Bridson was an airport fireman. Using diplomatic skills honed over the previous 39 years, I blurted out, 'You're not the fella that turned the engine over the other week are you?' And if you are reading this now, Barry I apologise again for then and another time for resurrecting the story.

He must be an easy going lad because he didn't punch me or walk off in a huff. Apart from the little mirage that is set for first time parish walkers i.e. the 'Welcome to Bride' sign that's about 450 miles away from the Church, another factor of my lack of preparation was coming to light or more appropriately dark. Yes 'Brains' here hadn't actually considered that to go wandering around the Manx countryside at night, it would be a marked advantage to be able to see!

I think perhaps this is getting a little long and I may be boring you, so for those getting comatose from my turgid prose, I'll give you blessed relief if you've stuck it this far. For the 'Blogaholics,' I'll leave you wanting more (You may be the sort of person more likely to finish the race actually) dangling by a thread on the Northern Plain.

Part two to follow

What not to follow:

1. Its probably not a good idea to make up your preparations as you go along, even if you're feeling a bit silly in case you don't finish. Remember better athletes than you (unless you're Tony Okell) have failed to get to the end but planning properly might just help you get there.

2. The first part of my pace plan was fine. It's certainly no shame to do 32 miles at four miles an hour and many an old stager will say, 'The Race doesn't start until Peel' but if you are increasing the speed do it gradually and don't panic by thinking that you must suddenly go as quickly as you can.

3. Me in the dark. Buy a head torch! With the hand held variety, the light is always moving around and even if you don't find it a nuisance to carry, it's going to be a real handicap when you want to eat and drink.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Scooting Past the Fwo Feet off the Ground Dudes

Like buses and bad luck, for my blog posts, you had to wait for weeks and then you get three together. Of course if I had any brains, I'd just save them as drafts in times of great inspiration and then drip feed them to you. (Oh dear. That sounds like I think this is more than the rantings of an idiot)I promise that after this epistle, I will not rub your noses in my holiday any more.

Five sessions were all I managed over my three week break but I suppose the best one I did was also the most boring. After a couple of glasses of wine and a large beer, I decided to have a go on the hotel treadmill and settled on a 5km time trial. Somehow I managed to walk 24:40 which is only 30 odd seconds outside my P.B. (PERSONAL BEST) but I don't think I want to make the treadmill more of a regular thing.

Also I did another pace session along the promenade. As I alluded to in an earlier post, for some some illogical reason, I hate being passed by runners. Therefore, Los Pocillos to Los Jameos promenade really is the perfect place for me to walk because they all seemed so slow!

One of the less savoury aspects of my character is that I love overtaking the two feet off the ground dudes. It's silly and not a little smug, I know because I don't know the distance they are running (could be a marathon while I'm just doing 300m reps,) whether or not they have passed their 90th birthday or even just on a warm down having just broken the world 10k record but I get this amazing feeling, almost of schadenfreude (apologies for spelling) delighting in the fact that I'm passing them as opposed to their misery.

On my 5th and final walk, I set my Lanzarote record, passing seven runners and only having two cyclists zoom past me.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to compete in the Isle of Man Cross Country Championships (Details on Forum, Manx Athletics and probably Northern A.C. websites) this weekend but I highly recommend a trip up to Crossags Farm Ramsey as it will be a great opportunity for you to gather some good C.V. training and to have a splash around in the mud and water. Steve Kelly and his team always make you feel very welcome and you definitely will get a cup of tea and biscuits afterwards.

After the embarassment of giving you a bum steer at Glen Lough, this time I rang Steve up and heard it from the horse's mouth.

by Michael
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Thursday, 17 January 2008

Failed Dancer & Personal Trainer

The Director de Animacion at the Hotel San Antonio was a total nutcase and therefore was totally suitable for our family. We had great fun joining in all the activities around the complex and Alex Williams from the Domincan Republic was the Hallelluja Man who made everyone feel included.

After I won the Hotel tennis competition(more due to the fact that there was a dearth of players than my shotmaking,) he challenged me to a match.
This time I prevailed due to the fact that Alex was somewhat out of condition and I seized upon the opportunity to add personal training to my portfolio, suggesting that we went for a run the following morning (of course I didn't tell him that I would be walking.) In the course of our session Alex told me that he was the winner of a few walking races while he was at school in the Caribbean and indeed he even kept up with me for a few paces at one stage.
My plan was that I would be able to motivate myself better if I had someone else to train with. Unfortunately, Alex likes to party even more than us and this turned out to be a one off.
Although I had the edge on him with the sports that we played, this was strictly not the case with the aerobics or dancing and his attempts to teach Irene and me (there were others most of whom were much better) how to do the Maschatta and the Merengue were predictably disastrous, though it certainly kept everyone around the pool area entertained.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Bitten Off More Than I Could Chew

Happy New Year to All

Brrr! I'm sat in my freezing office with rapidly diminishing memories of sunshine and warmth. I bet you are all really sorry for me.

My last post 'spoke' optimistically about the new beginnings of my winter warm weather training. Well I tried. However the sunshine and sangria (not to mention copious amounts of Tropical & Dorada beer) sabotaged the plan pretty comprehensively and the whole experience is now being rebranded as a much needed training break.

More of my holiday later but after a fairly heavy day at work on Friday, I eventually resumed training at 07:24 (not twenty five past seven. the extras minute is important) on Saturday. The first half hour or so began with a few loosening exercises as opposed to stretching. Apparently, you should not do static stretches prior to a session when your body is cold as it risks injury and weakens the muscles. As I have said previously, I'm no expert but am just repeating what I have been told by coaches, so if this doesn't work for you, please don't sue.

I followed that with walking drills that are intended to improve technique, posture, loosen the hips and stretch the hamstrings amongst other things. This includes walking with your hands behind your back, on your head and also clasped on your tummy. Over the last few years, I have also found that I have struggled with shoulder injuries, so there are also a couple that I use to try and loosen my shoulders before I start walking properly.

It is probably unwise to try any of this without instruction, so if you are able to make it to the Manx Harriers Clubhouse Tuesdays and Thursdays at about 1730 to 1745, walking training takes place usually under the guidance of Allan Callow who makes walkers of all experience and ablilties most welcome.

By eight o'clock Allan, Marie Jackson, Karen Renecle and Lauren Whelan had also turned up and we set off as a group, heading for the promenade via the Quay. Personally, I felt that I had to get some proper endurance work in after my recent sloth, so with detours up to GlenCutchery Road, Signpost Corner, then out to Groudle via King Edward Bay Golf, I headed out on my own. By the time I reached the promenade, I began to realise that my legs were disappearing from under me and time was getting short ( My son Terence trains with St. Georges U11 s at 10.30.)

Meeting Nigel Armstrong, Mike Garrett, Murray Lambden and Paul Curphey going in the opposite rekindled my enthusiasm as I knew they would be turning round and catching me soon and I hate being passed by runners (More of in later post.)

By the time they caught me, I was really struggling and it was getting seriously late, so I ran with them for a short time and then jogged back to the N.S.C. for my car.

So the mistake/moral of todays session was: Make sure you ease back in gradually and don't try and make up for missed training in one big go. Though I have to admit I was pleased to have been on my feet for 2 & 3/4 hours, even if it wasn't an even effort.

P.S. I apolologise to the Blogoholics for not writing for so long.