Friday, 21 March 2008

Look Out Cavan, Here I Come

This could be my last blog for a while. I am going on holiday for six days and therefore probably won't be able to train either (any bloggy burglars out there, we are leaving our son, Matthew behind and he's 6'2" and much wider than me.)

Panic is setting in. I know that logically six days off doesn't really affect anything in the grand scheme of things but I think that one of the by-products of Murray launching the website so early is that the anticipation seems so much greater. I've always been a 'What Pressure/stress?' kind of person but this time I feel very wound up about this year's event and I find myself worrying about the odd missed session or the fact that I'm not going long/fast enough when reason would suggest that I'm fitter and faster than I've ever been.

Certainly, a good 50k in England at the end of next month is a 'must' for my confidence. The fact that I 'blew up' in Holland so badly (my last 10k was about 74 minutes) has eroded some of my belief and it is essential that I put in a good performance at Stockton.

The other thing about this holiday is that I'm missing two races which is a minor catastrophe in itself, as the only event in April is the Sarah Killey Seven Stations Challenge on 6th which I can't complete because it is too close the 50k.

Apparently, The Fire Service are still taking entries for the aforementioned event until the week before, so get your entry in for what will be a really good warm up for the Parish. The fees go to the Fireman's Benevolent Fund, so you will be helping a good cause too. They say that you should allow one day recovery for each mile raced, so that should gives you plenty of time but also illustrates why I won't be going any further than Peel as my next race is only 21 days after.

Oh well, I'm off to pack my tin whistle and shillelagh (apologies to the Irish for the spelling.) I'm going to get it all in perspective during my break and return relaxed and ready for the fray (I hope)

P.S. I wonder if they've any races on in Ireland next week?

Monday, 17 March 2008

Race Walking: The Best Cure for Constipation

I was pretty stiff after last week's 20 miles, so my pathetic attempts to play football on Monday were even more laughable than usual. It took nearly 50 minutes before I could run at all and felt every one of my 42 years and more.

During junior training, I helped out with the little dude beginners and they were just about the right pace for me.

Tuesday, I skived work to begin my wife's training for the Sarah Killey Seven Stations Challenge. I know she's left it a little late but she was a finisher with no training at all last year which was very impressive.

For these jaunts I usually get to pick the route and then pass it for approval to Mrs. George. I measured it on the map to be about 10k, so therefore the fact that we started late (about 1 o'clock) and after lunch at Nyarbyl didn't really matter and at least the rain had cleared.

We walked south to Glen Maye and then off road across to Rushen Mines. It is particularly beautiful and the fact that Spring hasn't really kicked off yet means that you are able to see everywhere that the trees would normally hide.

My son, Terence had an appointment at the dentist, so we had to be back to pick him up from school at 3:30pm which was no problem bearing in mind that we only had to walk 10k or so. Except somebody's calculations appear to have been a little inaccurate and we were only hitting the main road at about 2:40 and the wind was in our faces and strengthening. Bearing in mind, I was still as stiff as a crutch, I took the decision to run and to abandon Irene on the storm blown mountain top which didn't go down too well at the time.

Well, I've walked quicker and it was very frustrating to be able to see the car park at the cafe and have to go all the way around to Dalby but I finally managed to get there at 3 o'clock, picked up the Irene and despite all the panic, arrived at the dentist with two minutes to spare. I stopped my Garmin at nine miles but I haven't quite worked out what went wrong with my map reading yet. Maybe I measured the Bayr ny Skeddyn instead?

Wednesday, I started a steady walk at the N.S.C. but was lacking a little in motivation. Miriam Kelly asked if I wanted to join their running group and I ended up enjoying the walk around Kewaigue.

Thursday, following the recommendation of Allan Callow, I did a pace session but without goals. It sounded really easy 1&1/2 minutes fast, 1 minute stroll, 2 minutes fast, one minute stroll, 2&1/2 fast, stroll and back down again for 40 minutes. It nearly killed me! I was wrecked.

Rest day Friday.

Saturday, I was up at 06:30am, went to the toilet, had banana sandwich, washed up after previous night's excesses and out by 07:00. A perfect start to the day (I often struggle to make my target start times on Saturday mornings,) except that by the time I reached Tromode it became obvious that I hadn't quite stayed long enough in the loo. Plan B was put into place and I decided to head for the hospital. Oh dear! Half way up Ballafletcher road I had to dive over the hedge. It wasn't a high hedge. Luckily a double decker bus didn't come past and my modesty was preserved but it was a bit of a close run thing. Once again, I messed up with my distance and timing and I ended up having to run from Union Mills to N.S.C. to join up with Marie Jackson.

Either Marie is on top form or I still hadn't quite recovered from Saturday but I really struggled to keep up. It's also probably a little daft of me not to be practising with gels, drinks and other foods. In 2 hours and 37 minutes, I covered 14 miles which isn't brilliant when you consider I did 20 in only 20 minutes longer the previous week.

And Sunday was another day of rest.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Here's Hoping The Preacher Doesn't Fall Off His High Horse

As I've said before, though my main goal is the Parish Walk for this year, I intend to do as many races as I possibly can, as long as they don't interfere with my training for the 'Big Race.'

In fact for the 10k championships and the recent Manx Open 20k, I did actually put the PW work 'on hold.'

In my humble opinion, with the possible exception of one or two of the front runners who perhaps want to keep their form and fitness to themselves, I would advocate more of you that don't usually take part in the shorter distance walks or even the runs, should have a go.

For one thing they're great training and though it is important to make sure you've done enough endurance sessions, it is also essential to improve your conditioning by walking fast and running or some kind of aerobic exercise if you are hoping to get the best from your body.

It is also enjoyable to meet and talk to people, many of whom you'll be competing with and beside come June. Who knows you may even pick up a tip or two.

Last night, while sitting on the sofa watching television, my back began to itch. Trying to relieve myself of this distraction, I tried to rub against the material of the couch and believe it or not managed to hurt a muscle. If the Parish Walk had been today, I probably wouldn't have started.

So, really that's the main reason for not sticking all your eggs in the Parish basket. By all means be focused. Let it set all the parameters for your programme. But remember anything can happen between now and then, as well as during the event, so make sure you have plenty of other things going on.

Of course, if you don't want to enter any of these other events, remember that many of the athletic community that make the Parish Walk possible, also compete in and organise them. Therefore, you could put a little back in yourself by becoming a volunteer. You'll be in good company as the likes of Sean Hands, Robbie Callister and Jock Waddington to name just a few are all regular contributors.

I'm sure that Paul Jackson would love to hear from anyone who has any free time over Easter as he is still short of marshals and other helpers. You can contact him on or call him on 487873.

It would be fantastic if I could now get down from this pulpit without breaking my leg.

Sermon endeth.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Chief Dan George? Nowhere! But Michael beats the Weather by a Short Head

Howling wind, driving rain. Yeuch! How are we supposed to go training in this?

Suffering from an extreme motivational breakdown, brought about partially by copping a soaking this afternoon trying to compress the Welbeck rubbish into the wheelie bins, I struggled to even contemplate going out this afternoon.

During such moments, it's often a good idea to try and muster some company. And that's probably the worst thing I could have done! My phonecall found my team mate ensconced in the Pub, claiming injury but very obviously enjoying the Cheltenham Festival and probably a pint or two.

Thoughts of going down to join him were high on the agenda but as I'm going away Easter Monday, for a week's holiday, I really can't afford to miss any training at the moment.

Miraculously, my dark ruminations seemed to have the opposite effect on the weather and from the most miserable of days, suddenly there was sunshine! My legs were still heavy from Sunday but having had three days strolling to recovery, finally I regained a little speed.

Talking of Cheltenham, I toyed with the idea of putting a couple of quid on 'Chief Dan George' this morning but having checked the results, I'm glad I kept my money in my pocket.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Improving Our Circulation by 40 Times

After last week's minor injury scare, I very much doubted that I'd be up for the Leinster twenty mile running race held at the N.S.C. on Sunday.

However, the combining miracles of frozen peas and the human body contrived to get me to the starting line.

What was I doing competing in such a race? Well contrary to rumours that I was just entering to wind up certain a certain individual who don't seem to like walkers 'cheating' by doing the runs, it was the perfect distance for me as a prelude to the National 50k race in Stockton on 27 April which is my main goal at the moment.

I suppose that pressure is only what you make it yourself but it was actually quite relaxing, knowing that I was to be the only walker in the race and although I did have anything 'sub 3 hours' at the back of my mind, it really was case of getting the miles in on my feet in a race situation.

The number of times I am reiterating this point is probably becoming boring now but although many athletes abhor the N.S.C. perimeter track for its lack of interest, to me it's brilliant because you are easily able to monitor your pace and it would have been very silly of me to race after the faster runners in the early stages.

Luckily for me, I had a long battle with Alan Pilling (who really does give truth to the 'more races than hot dinners' saying) and looking today at my 'Garmin' sports watch we really set consistant lap times.

The other bonus of circulating around 'The Bowl' is that you see the other competitors on a regular basis and you are able to almost 'spectate' on the sharp end of the battle. Not that anyone was coming anywhere near Nigel Armstrong who was clearly in a class of his own despite running a 2:50 marathon less than a month ago.

To achieve three hours, you have to lap in 4 minutes thirty seconds or to put it another way do 9 minute miles and my plan was to do this for the first two hours and then see what I had left. Although I tried to accelerate for the last 10k, the question was answered quite simply by 'Not a lot' and I was unable to maintain the extra speed, though I didn't quite ruin my race by not being able to hang on in at my earlier pace.

The last few laps is certainly a slog in such a race but it was mentally easier for me because by this stage I was catching a few runners and even unlapping myself on occasion.

My final time was 2:57:59 (so much better than 2:58) and I finished with a last lap of nearly 14km/h to complete the 20 miles in 20th place out of 34 starters and 30 finishers.

As I mentioned on the the Forum, the real heroes of these events are the organisers, lap scorers, timekeepers, feeding table operatives (how's that for a bullshit title but I couldn't think of another) and Brenda Charlton who I think made me about 15 cups of tea. In fact Brenda, Sean Hands, Bridget Kaneen, Judy Morrey and Marie Jackson(sorry if I've missed somebody out) deserve special mention as that was their second weekend on the trot.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Kerry joins the Webload of Bloggers

Welcome to Kerry, this year's fourth and first ever lady addition to blog team. By the way what is the collective noun for bloggers? Answers in 'comments' please.

It didn't take you very long to work out what a load of self obsessed, vain bunch of dayglo lycra clad geeks a most of us are did it?

In all seriousness though, one of the great things about walking is that you really don't need much in the way of expensive clothing and equipment and per mile, it must really be one of the cheapest activities you can indulge yourself in.

A t-shirt, pair of shorts, socks, trainers, bumbag, waterproof jacket for the wet days, a couple of globs of vaseline and away you go. The high visibility vest is optional but it does slightly reduce the risk of being mown down by half sighted, three quarter asleep mad manx drivers.

It is worth spending a little dosh on your feet but my first finish was in a cheap pair of pumas and I didn't get a blister until Andreas. Yes, you can buy GPS watches, grow super epidermal 'Skins,' but it'll not really take you any further any faster and there's no better way to see the Manx sea and landscape.

Who knows, after you giving your first training secret away, we may soon see Robbie Callister and Sean Hands out pushing prams. I reckon that has to be a great idea for improving hip mobility and it won't look quite so daft as me walking along with my hands on my head.

Anyway, good luck and the main thing is to enjoy it.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Hamstrung by Paranoia

Well, the euphoria's died down but unfortunately, some of the pain hasn't. I played football for 70 minutes and then did 5 x 300m on Monday hoping that that it would ease my hamstrings.

They were still pretty sore on Tuesday when I went to see Sports Therapist, Masseur, ex-blogger, long distance walk rival and team mate for PW 2008 (IF HE EVER GETS HIS BLOODY ENTRY IN), Mark Hempsall.

He diagnosed pretty quickly that I had damaged part of my hamstring that joins the tendon above my left knee. When I went in there I couldn't feel the difference between my legs but today it is evident that the left is worse that the right, so hats off to the professional.

To make matters worse, he has grounded me for at least a couple of days to prevent it becoming a proper injury and although this probably will have no effect in the grand scheme of things, it's very frustrating.

Then today, I received an e-mail from Richie Sille, the fellrunner reporting amongst other things that he's seeing Robbie Callister about training all the time. Add this to Sean Hands seeming so enthusiastic about things on Saturday and Peter Kaneen weighing up whether to enter or not and my little muscle tear has grown and is now approaching full blown paranoia.

There may be people who would wonder why I would let Mark treat me as he is going to be competing against me but even though I do trust him, now I've told all you lot, he wouldn't dare risk his reputation!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

A Walk in the Park (King George V One that is)

Owwww! Today everything is sore apart from my memories of yesterday.

As you may be aware, it was the Manx Harriers Open Walks and 10k run.

There were some excellent performances by the juniors in the earlier races see later for the results, followed by a less well supported 10k walk which nevertheless was well won by the superb Andy Green who also picked up the club award for the best newcomer later in the day.

The 20k race which had earlier looked a little thin on the ground, especially following the non arrival of Lisa Kehler, was supplemented by a switch by a good few of the Irish walkers and most notably, Ben Wears from 5 and 10k.

20k walking has one big similarity to the Parish Walk in that at the start it is very easy to go too quickly as the pace seems incredibly slow. Be very careful come race day because an incautious beginning can ruin your chances for the entire race.

My goal yesterday was to break 100 minutes, so if you are attempting this, there is no better place in the world than N.S.C. because all you have to do is 25 laps at 4 minutes. Therefore, I was spared the trouble of washing all the ink off my arms after the race as even with my mathematics, I didn't have to write down the times.

Although there were none of the really top names from British and Irish walking, there was a decent quality field and for once, I didn't spend the entire race between Peter Kaneen and the rest of the field. The company was much appreciated.

I settled into a group of four competitors which included two of the Irish lads and Paul Evenett who is ranked 6th in the U.K. for 20k. Luckily they were going at just the speed I needed to and I wasn't sucked into a battle which was too fast for my own good. Slightly confusingly though the Irish walkers dropped out at 5 and 10k but I suppose they had acted as perfect pacemakers for me as I think my splits were 24:55and 50:11.

As I remarked previously, the early stages are quite painless but from 10k, you really start to hurt. At this stage, I seemed to pull away from Paul who was attracting a couple of comments from the judges and I thought that once again, I was in for a lonely trudge to the finish.

Although the perimeter track has its detractors and I can see their point if they are easily bored, another of its great assets is that you almost always have someone to chase or somebody passing you which is an advantage in the middle stages of a race when you can start to lose concentration.

One more thing that helped me is that I seemed to have a coach on every corner and as your body tires, you sometimes need to be reminded to keep everything together. The Irish coach, Michael Lane also gives great encouragement, as did the rest of their supporters.

Coming on to the last half lap, I was overtaken again and I thought I was being lapped until my something at the back on my somnolent brain reminded me that I couldn't be lapped because this was my last one. Paul Evenett who I thought I'd left a long way back in my wake had just breezed past me. Summoning up one last effort, I gathered what was left of my strength and was able to muster and maintain a sprint for the line, though I was shocked to see later that I'd only prevailed by three seconds.

If anyone can actually tell me what happened, I would be very grateful because everyone I've spoken to watching told me that he was always right behind me but I didn't see or hear him and he doesn't seem to be next to me in any of the photographs. I'm confused and I wasn't able to ask hm last night as he didn't attend the excellent buffet and social night at the Ascot Hotel.

Initially, I was a little disappointed not to have cracked the 100 minutes but it was three minutes better than I'd ever walked previously and I reckoned that the wind was worth at least 2 seconds a lap (see always an excuse) so it didn't take long for me to appreciate the fact that it was probably my best ever walk.

Someone said that my performance was the best of the day but I'd have to disagree because Ben Wears walked an incredible time on his first 20k. Congratulations also to David Kidd the winner. There were also top walks from Jock Waddington and Chris Cale especially who managed a really big P.B.

I lap scored during the excellent 10k running race which was won by Gianni Epifani from Ben Scott and Mike Garrett.

Thanks to all the judges and to Bridget and her team from Manx Harriers who made it a great day, not to forget all the visiting walkers who make this event so special.