Tuesday, 26 February 2008

No Comment

Luckily, my fellow blogger (well he used to be but we haven't heard from Richard for a while. I hope he didn't ski or snowboard over the edge of a cliff) set up a 'stat counter' for me, so I do know that there are a good few of you who do read this rubbish on a regular basis but I was finding it quite frustrating that I'm not really getting any feedback.

Finally, I have discovered the reason why not one single comment has been left on my blog. It's next to impossible! Using hitherto undiscovered internet skills, I actually found the 'settings' 'tab' and after a brief journey into the wrong part of cyberspace, I found a 'tab' remarkably labelled, 'Comments.'

I don't remember ticking a box saying that people must have one leg and be able to recite the Russian alphabet backwards to be able to tell me what tripe I'm writing but it does seem that, that's what you had to do.

No longer. You are now free to insult me anonymously if that's what you care to do! So go on, tell me what you think, that you haven't a clue what I'm rambling on about, that you'll leave me trailing in your wake come June 21st or just ask a simple question.

Ahem. Did someone say be careful what you wish for?

P.S. That comment on the last posting was mine.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Following Johanna's Footsteps (I hope)

Wow! I don't know how many of you have followed the U-Tube link to watch Johanna Jackson's performance in Australia but to knock so much off her P.B. is awesome and I'm hoping going to be my inspiration to dip under 100 minutes for the first time.

She stayed at the Welbeck last year with her sister and parents, so I was lucky enough to have ferried them around and talk to them a fair amount. She really has improved beyond recognition since then and she lapped me at least twice as it was. Johanna knocked nearly six minutes off her time in Douglas which was her then P.B.

Saturday's H.S.B.C. Security Services Manx Open meeting with due respect to the Manx Mountain Marathon, the Marathon proper and the Easter Festival is probably the premier athletics event to be held on the Island most years as it is the only one which regularly attracts top international competitors.

Although we are a little short of first class males in the 20k so far (the Irish Team has yet to be announced,) the former British record holder, Lisa Kehler and former Commonwealth Games contender Niobe Menendes have both entered. U.K. No.1 junior, Ben Wears is walking in the 10k and of course our own Lauren Whelan will be battling against the best of the young Ireland entrants.

It's disappointing that more of our local walkers haven't entered. It would seem that some are intimidated by having such a high quality field but even on my debut in 2005 when I finished in a ripping 2:15:32 nobody laughed at me (not to my face anyway) and everyone was friendly at the social event afterwards.

It's a shame Robbie Callister doesn't enter any more because I reckon I could beat him at this distance. So far, I've never beaten him in any walking race, although my claim to fame (I'll be telling this one until I'm a great grandfather,) is that I overtook him in the the 2004 Syd Quirk Half Marathon run. Such are the tales of an athletic journeyman.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Not so Kaneen on being complacent

I did actually go in and work for a few hours on Monday but it is also the day when a mainly ageing crew mainly from Hotels and Restaurants like to go to the N.S.C., mainly to pretend that we are still able to play football.

It's like the league of nations with Italians, Poles, Swiss, Chinese, English, Maltesers and on occasion with the odd sprinkling of Manxies all convening to see how many languages they can swear in. Over the years we've had Greeks, Tunisians, French and many others I've probably forgotten.

Always being an enthusiast has been my greatest strength in football, never quite having had the skill, presence of mind nor explosion of pace to be a decent player. My fitness , a small ability to time a tackle, concentration enough to get some part of my anatomy to connect with the ball, though not always the sweet spot of my boot or forehead and not to be frightened to go in where it hurts has always just about kept me from being a total liability to any team I've played for.

After 10 minutes of attempting to play, following my morning walk of 18 miles, it seemed I was bereft of even my usual thinly spread assets and I really was beginning to wonder quite what I was doing there. However, I kept plugging away and eventually I did get slightly better.

Following the soccer, I used the junior's racewalking training warm up to warm down, reckoning I'd done enough for one day.

On Tuesday, I was quite sore but I think the football had taken off the worst of it by loosening off my muscles. Even so, I only did half an hour's recovery and the following day I just did a steady hour in preparation for my big pace session on Thursday.

There are times when I start to think I'm getting quite good at this walking lark and get a little bit cocky in terms of how I see my own ability. The best way to knock any kind of complacency out of myself, I found the other night is to train with Peter Kaneen. Once again, I was looking to do 7 x 1km at 4:45 and I had already done my first two reps before he showed up (he was only scheduling 5 x 1k and I knew I wouldn't carry on if we started together) and in true athlete style, I was blaming the wind for my very slow 5:06 and 5:02. With Peter to drag me round, the next ones took 4:35, 4:46 and 4:39 and I think he was at least 20 seconds in front of me on all of them. Attempting to stay within shouting distance on my 6th rep, I really blew up and struggled home to a 4:59 and having lost my form, I decided enough was enough and quit while I could still stand up.

Parish Walk Training goes off The Road

Like most things in life, being your own boss has many sides and while you may occasionally hear me bemoaning missed training sessions and cancelled evenings out, last Monday certainly showed how rewarding it can be.

Taking advantage of a quiet Monday morning at work, I had scheduled an 18 mile walk with Mark Hempsall and with the weather as fantastic as it was, I suggested something a little different.

The morning frost hadn't even begun to thaw as we set off from Vicarage Park towards the N.S.C., me like a cross channel swimmer after my lack of lubricant on Sunday, we then cut through the Nunnery grounds out onto the Kewaigue Road and up Douglas Head.

Despite my usual trouble with Reynard's syndrome (I lose the blood supply to my fingers even in quite mild weather,) the sun was heralding a truly glorious day and there are few more beautiful places to be than Marine Drive.

For those of you who have never walked up there, it is on the east coast of the Island, chiselled out of the the sea cliffs with undulations that make it a great test for walking, running and cycling.

Depending on your point of view, the fact that part of the roadway collapsed during the seventies, causing the closure of the route to vehicles halfway along has made it one of the best traffic free zones on the I.O.M. and ruined the possibility of anyone ever making a go of the pub/restaurant facility at Port Soderick (though I personally think that if the right people owned and ran it with the right financial package they'd carry it off.)

After the descent towards the bay, we headed inland, past the Railway Station and laboured up the steep hill back to Old Castletown Road. The ascent up by Crogga is also hard work and by this time, we were grateful for the cool air preventing us from overheating.
Following the Raad-ny-Foillan (road of the gull,) we then turned off towards Meary Veg and eventually ran out of tarmac as we neared the sea once more. Although not quite as spectacular as the sheer drops on the Marine Drive this too, is a very pretty place to walk. Unfortunately, racewalking is not really an option on such rough terrain and I had to resort to a jog behind Mark who is really powerful. Indeed I haven't decided yet which technique to use for the hills during the race.
Many people recommend not to expend too much energy and have suggested that I walk normally as I did last year while climbing the Sloc and Cleaynagh Road but I did lose heaps of time while Robbie Callister and Ray Pitts were able to use their much practised action. In fact I didn't use racewalking(uphill) until I was desperately and unsuccessfully trying to catch Ray on the East Coast.

There were areas where the path was more of an obstacle course and we had to negotiate overgrown gorse and fallen trees.

Despite all the dry weather we have had recently, it was still extremely muddy in places underfoot, especially around the river in the Ballasalla area. My foot actually 'plugged' at one stage and I now have a slightly pulled muscle where I tried to lift my leg but it was sucked down.

There was a ewe blocking one of the styles and despite our efforts to persuade her to move, she was going nowhere. We had to climb over her which worried us immensely, as sheep are normally extremely timid. After crossing farmland towards the Airport, we popped into the office at Kniveton's to ask them to ring the farmer as we were sure she was pregnant. We would have asked, Ray Cox, Race Director to join us had we known because it shouldn't happen to a 'Vet,' nor a Parish Walker for that matter.

We then crossd under the proposed new runway and wondered what provision has been made for the path when it is constructed. Anyone out there know?

Finally, we once again regained the road and I found it releasing to be able to use my technique once more, though poor Mark was knackered having taken the harder option by continuing his usual cadence.

The plan had been to go and have a look at Mr. Clarkson's house to see what all the fuss was about but our intrepid explorers unfortunately advised by yours truly took the wrong fork and ended up on Fort Island instead.

We headed back along the seashore, then when we passed our 18 miles, we jogged and cut through King Williams College grounds to catch the bus on the main road.

As far as I can remember, that was my first time on that soil since June 1981 when I ran down the Drive, aged 15, having completed my last 'O' Level .

I can thoroughly recommend doing a similar training session or even the very same as it can become a little boring at times, plodding along the roads and not always very pleasant with the volume of traffic on the Manx roads these days. All in all, I think we did about 10 miles off tarmac and 8 on.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

A Week in the Life of a Parish Walk Hopeful

I thought that for this post, I'd detail my training for one week, though I don't really do typical. I find that it is hard to keep to a routine because of work and family commitments but last week was also affected because of the 10k race the previous Sunday.

As I had had to dash to work straight after the WWL presentation, I took Monday off work and as it was half term I decided to use it as a rest day. Nothing to do with the hamstrings, honest.

On Tuesday, I found myself with a spare hour before training (17:45 at Manx Harriers Clubhouse if anyone's interested) and therefore decided to do a recovery walk around Kewaigue, trying to average about 6mph. I bumped into Michael Shipsides who was walking his dogs on this occasion but is working hard on his Parish form. I'm sure most of you have seen him out and about with his very distinctive style. I did nearly four miles including a detour out to Battery Pier and then returned to join up with Allan Callow's group. This included Sue Biggart, Chris Cale, Andy & James Green and top juniors Karen Renecle and Lauren Whelan.

The cyclists have taken over the N.S.C. for the summer (ha ha it was bloody freezing,) so we went doing strideouts (involves accelerating from very slow to as fast as you can, whilst ensuring that you maintain good body form and technique) along the walkway by the swimming pool.

Wednesday, I ran out of time and didn't get out at all. Thursday, I was on a pace session which was supposed to be 7 x 1km at 4min45secs. This is interval training, where between each kilometre, you either rest or stroll until you recover your breath. As the weather was so cold, I strolled 200m, so my aged muscles wouldn't seize.

However, I was unable to go at the required speed on any of the reps except inexplicably on my 4th. I categorically deny that this was because I had a rather nice looking lady runner to chase.

Friday, I managed a steady hour around Douglas and the promenade before heading off (in the car by the way) to Ramsey where Irene and I were staying overnight for our wedding anniversary.

We had a good meal in Harbour Lights and then asked some locals at the next table where 'the action' was of an evening. They recommended Royal George which seemed quite appropriate and off we toddled.

Last year, we resided at the Glen Helen and following our meal, took a taxi into St. Johns. There was a 'bring along an instrument folk evening on' and we got talking to a violinist called Katie (whom I knew vaguely through athletics) and her parents.

We walked through the door of the Pub in Ramsey, exactly 12 months later and there was Katie playing in a 'Folk/Rock' band! We also just happened to sit down next to her parents. Life is much stranger than fiction.

Saturday involved a relaxed meander around North Shore Promenade, across the Swing bridge, around the Town and back through the park. It's probably not very relevant athletically speaking but I suppose it did help to loosen the muscles.

Sunday, I circulated Marine Drive on another glorious, though extremely cold morning, managing to average about 6.5 miles an hour for 10 miles, starting steadily but building up to work up a fair head of steam on my way home. But what a wally! Despite being surrounded in our house by pots of vaseline, I forgot to wear any under my arms and spent the rest of the day wandering around like a reject from 'Planet of the Apes.'

As a week, it wasn't really over hard and I probably didn't quite fit in as much distance as I would have preferred with two hours being my longest session.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Thrilling Marathon Championship? Jog around the Countryside really.

In 2005, I was in Mr. Never Again mode. Although I didn't train to race walk, I had managed to break the hour for 10k on April 3rd in a Winter League race but I still really didn't see the Parish as a race I'd ever really contend. As I'd finished in 2004, this year I was just going to walk to Peel with Irene, enjoy the day and hopefully, watch Robbie break the record at the finish.

To my mind(obviously I knew even less then than I do now,) Sean Hands would never beat Robbie Callister and it was a near certainty the best ever time would be set that day.

Everything went pretty much as expected and we even managed to walk down to see him just miss out once again, with Sean not too far behind giving a hint of things to come.

In August 2005, I ran a Marathon for the first time with two laps of the circuit around Ramsey. I had no conception of whether I would last the distance or what it would be like and the only plan I had was just not to try and go off too fast. Steve Partington obviously didn't have too much faith in my athletic prowess because as I passed him and Peter Kaneen (they were in serious training to try and be selected for the Commowealth games 50k, I believe at the time,) I heard him say words to the effect of "There's one we'll be catching later."

I got myself into a nice rhythm and started gradually to chip away at the runners in front of me who seemingly had begun a little quickly. After Bride Hill, on the second lap, I managed to catch a tall chap wearing a bandana and went past him quite easily. However, this seemed to galvanise him and he in turn caught me and we spent the next few miles chattering away.

It's really one of the great things about long distance events. They can be very social occasions when friendships can be formed. Unlike many situations in normal life, if the topic or the person doesn't interest you, you can speed up or slow down to bring the conversation to a close without appearing rude.

He turned out to be Ben Scott whom I knew by reputation but had never met. Soon, we drew alongside another gentleman, a certain Dave Young, known to most as 'Doc' for some unimaginable reason and it became a three way talking shop.

In the press, John Watterson described it as 'An exciting triumvirate battle for the lead' but I honestly had no idea that we were all neck and neck in the Manx Marathon Championship rather than just out for a pleasant jog around the Northern Plains.

On the interminable Burma Road, we passed my wife, Irene who was doing the 1/2 marathon walk and also finally dropped Dave Young. Still unaware that we were really in a race, I managed to stay with Ben until the 25 mile marker when my lack of training finally told and I hit 'The Wall.' Mind you it might have been the flat, warm coke mixed with orange juice that he gave me that really did me in. Don't try it. It's disgusting!

I was quite proud to finish in around 9th place overall and 2nd 'Manxie' in about 3:14 something and I collapsed into a heap on the Ramsey AFC pitch and stiffened in the beautiful August sunshine. There was a great photograph taken of Ben Scott, Dave Young and me which the Doc has apparently had blown up and hung in his surgery. So if you've ever been unlucky enough to be ill and had to visit him, you'll probably have seen my ugly mug grinning down at you.

Organising any race is a massive undertaking, particularly the long road events and so if there are ever any mistakes made, the organisers have my sympathy. I have to say it is horrible when it happens to you though. Some friends that had been staying at the Hotel and our kids had turned up to see Irene and me at the finish. The 'Awards Ceremony,' always takes quite a while to set in place (certainly a justification for the way they do them at the Parish and EtoE) and therefore, to help hurry things up a bit, I went and stood right next to the table, so my limping slowly to receive my prize wouldn't hold up proceedings. They called out the all finishers but somehow missed me off and gave second place to Doc Young, leaving me up there like a bridegroom left at the altar.

Worse things have happened at sea but it was rather embarassing at the time. The Marathon had given me a taste for the long distance races and so after walking the End to End with Irene (her first full finish,) I decided that in 2006, I was really going for it.

Back to 2008 and you have to feel sympathetic towards the £100 million red noses. Well I'm trying to anyway. Perhaps when I stop laughing.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Not as Good as I thought I was

After some seriously wacky posts which not everyone seemed to understand (don't worry; you have to be fairly deranged to plug into my humour,*) this weekend, it was back to some serious race walking.

On Sunday was the H.S.B.C. I.O.M. 10k Roadwalking Championship combined with the last round of the Winter Walking League. After a 2 & 3/4 hour jaunt around the old Boundary Stroll course at an easy 5.5 miles per hour average on Monday with Mark Hempsall and David Mackey, my only other preparation was a 3 x 1 mile (two laps of the N.S.C. for each rep) on Wednesday when I really couldn't quite judge the pace correctly and my times were wildly varied but I did manage to average 7 minutes 40 per lap which was my target speed.

So, by the weekend, everything including the Manx weather for once was perfect and I had no excuses for not achieving my aim which was anything sub 48 minutes.

Peter Kaneen, according to the man himself had not quite been in his usual form and I even harboured vague ambitions of keeping up with him for a while if he was hanging around.

Indeed, I wasn't too far behind him for the opening lap and a half and I was bang on where I needed to be on the clock but then inexplicably, I lost 10 seconds on the next one and try as I might, I could never regain the necessary momentum.

By the time I hit 5k (thanks to Dave Griffiths for shouting out the split times,) I had dug in but at 24:21, I was still off the pace but try as I might, I was unable to accelerate and recorded 22:11 for the second half of the race to finish 1:06behind Mr K. at 48:32. That is still a personal best by 37 seconds but I really thought that with all my extra training and with tapering for the race that I would have been faster. I half expected that I'd tire, trying to do 3:50 laps and perhaps fade towards the end but to not be able to keep up right from the off surprised me.

Obviously, I am not so good as I thought I was!

Well done to Peter, to Jock Waddington in 3rd place who also set another P.B. and Lauren Whelan for picking up her first Senior Lady's title. Also congratulations to June Melvin who won the 10k league and all the other category winners who I was going to list but I can't find the results and am too 'chicken' to give you them from memory for fear of repercussions or concussions.

It was good to see Judy Morrey, Bernie Shimell and Steve Taylor receiving awards for all their hard work over the winter but it would have been even better if Bridget Kaneen, Elizabeth Corran & Allan Callow had also been rewarded for their efforts. However, they'll have to make do with my thanks on behalf of you all as I'm too tight to buy them anything.

That's all for now and I hope to see as many of you as possible at the H.S.B.C. Manx Harriers Open Meeting 1st March whether you be racing (go on get your entry in,) spectating or helping out (Speak to Bridget Kaneen.)

*For those of you not in my solar system and Mark Hempsall who is but still didn't get it, I helped my daughter Lucy with her IOM Courier round and I realised that some may think I'd invented a new training routine if they saw me.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

I Blame the Press

Did you know that John Profumo was not given the boot because of his affair with Christine Keeler but because he lied in Parliament about it.

Well, after my promise to you only yesterday, it looks like I too have been caught out. Now, I'm not blaming Andrew Titley (more of him in a later blog,) it could have been anyone who exposed me to the press but it seemed strange to me that I met him today just before I was caught doing my latest covert training technique by the papparazzi.

In fear that I will be in Sunday's News of the World, sports paper L'Equipe or even heaven forbid, Monday's Examiner, I have decided to confess to you and throw myself upon your mercy. I own up. No more secrets, I promise.

Look out! Here comes 'Statto!'

From now on in my posts you are going to be bombarded with statistics. Average heart rates, miles to the nearest yard, max and minimum speeds, how far I climbed, how many seconds I beat my last time by.

Why is is this blog about to become so boring? I've just become a 'Garmin Geek.' Yesterday evening, I took possession of my Forerunner 305 GPS satellite training watch which is the sportsman's equivalent of 'Big Brother.'

There again, you may be reprieved because I haven't learned how to use it yet. If it doesn't start making me a cup of tea in the morning within a week, I'll probably throw it through the window.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Do you promise not to laugh?

Firstly, well done to everyone who ran, supported or officiated the the Cross Country the other day and well done to all the winners who included my son Terence (u11.)

At some stage, I suppose there is a decision to be made about what I should or should not write in my blog. Two reasons spring to mind:

a, being that too much detail of my race plan and training might give my competitors an advantage.

b, being that if I inform all you blogophiles what I'm hoping for, my dreams and expectations and I fail, falling simultaneously onto my backside while getting an omelette mask, I'm going to look pretty stupid (possibly without the pretty.)

There may be a case for holding back slightly from telling you my tactics on the day, although even then I could be bluffing but I really don't think that there will be anyone who is in quite the same boat as me. Of the fancied contenders, the likes of Robbie Callister, Ray Pitts, Thomas Melvin, Eamon Harkin, Alan Cowin, Mark Hempsall (apologies if I've missed you off and you're going to win but at least there'll be a little less pressure,) none of whom are are race walkers, so nothing that I really do in training will really apply to them. Peter Kaneen, if he competes, is an entirely different level of athlete to me (his 10k is 4mins or so better than mine and he beat me by 2&1/2mins in the cross country the other day) and Sean Hands holds the Parish Record, so like for many of the above, copying me would probably be a backward step. That leaves Jock Waddington and if he wants to do the same as me, he's very welcome.

As for the second reason, if you don't laugh too loudly, I promise I'll give you all the gory details.

Friday, 1 February 2008

My Training with Peter Karran and U.K.I.P.

Brilliant! The weather has arrived to give us all an excuse not to go training and there's no point in getting yourself injured, slipping on ice or snow!

The only ones going out in that are the committed... or perhaps more accurately, the ones who should be committed.

Sit down in front of the fire and have a 'Training Break.'

On the other hand, perhaps now is the perfect time to try 'Cross Training.' Go swimming, try the Gym, squash, badminton, short tennis, anything but if you're not injured, stay active. It's too easy to give up now and the hardest part is getting back in the routine.

I fully intended to go ahead and do my planned session (note to self about being committed) last night but work ran on too long, then it was 'School open evening' and by the time I returned my resolution had evaporated and my tea (not the liquid variety for once) was hot and ready.

In an earlier post, I referred to the fact that I'm no fan of using the treadmill but with only nine days until the Manx 10k championships and the year's shortest month until the H.S.B.C. Manx Open meeting, desperate measures were called for.

Luckily, for me, we have one at work, although this is the first time I have ever used it for walking. The object of pace training is to develop speed with good technique, give you a great cardiovascular work out and make you feel like you are dying. Actually, for those of you a little slow on the uptake, that was a joke but it's a certain by-product if you are putting enough effort into it.

My task today was 2 x 20 minutes. As my P.B. for 10k is a little under 50 minutes, it is not too hard to work out that to improve upon this, I've got to be under five per kilometre. What slightly complicates matters is that because of our strangely mixed society, our treadmill works in miles, though once again I'm very lucky because a 50 minute 10k is almost exactly 7.5mph or an 8 minute mile or 4 minute laps of the N.S.C.

If you can understand all that you're just about ready to start reading Alan Thompson's forum postings but start with the Manx Athletics ones before you move further afield. It's certainly not much of an incentive for me to move to the next level though. Then I'll really have to learn maths.

After a few false starts - my use of gym technology is no better than my arithmatic- I finally managed to get going and completed 2.54 miles in my first 20 minutes. After a break to recover, I managed to get my breath back, this time starting off at 7.8mph. When I went past 5 mins I increased the pace to 8mph, then 8.2 10 mins. By this time, I was really working hard. The sweat was pouring off me. At 15 mins, 8.5mph. Now I just had to hang on. With just 4 minutes left, I tried to visualise the N.S.C. I could see in my mind's eye where I was on the track. When I got down to the last two minutes, I was really going to give it my all. And then........... my hand caught the safety string, the band stopped, the power went down and I lost all the data!

Now in our troubled world, I don't think this really matters too much but it was a bit frustrating just then. I did finish the approximate time I had left but I managed to do the same again before dispensing with the safety cord. If Ronnie Corbett can do it why couldn't I?

Overall I was very satisfied with my performance but I wouldn't read too much into it because when in Manx weather will I again walk a whole race with 0mph headwind and I don't know how accurate the readings are. I would recommend training on the treadmill though because it really allowed me to concentrate on my technique and to ascertain what affected my speed despite Peter Karran rambling on about how he was in accordance with certain aspects of U.K. Independence Party policy on the radio.

This was going to be a quick concise post tonight, so I don't suppose I've much right to accuse Peter Karran of talking too much but enjoy your training or your training break.