Thursday, 29 May 2008

Hempsall Out, Cowin in Great Form and Oops I've Done It Again!

Having been initially concerned that I wouldn't have enough material to fill a 'Blog,' now I am more worried that I won't have time to complete all the things I intend to include. With this site being launched so early, late last year, my plan was to follow the rough template set by last year's 'Bloggers,' Dave, Steve and Mark (Mark, I promise there is no insult intended by putting you last in that group of three) by posting roughly once per week. I suppose you could say I've gone for quantity rather than quality.

Unfortunately, today's 'Post' is yet another example of me leading by bad example. The idea for Wednesday was to walk a steady hour and a half, then follow it up with a fast 5 miles on Thursday.

Today's lesson: This close to a big race, don't try anything radical or new.

Rapidly running out of the usual suspects that I walk with as they either weren't coming out to play or had already trained, I telephoned Mark Hempsall who I usually try to avoid midweek as he does all these mad hill sessiony things. However, on this occasion as I didn't fancy being 'Billy No Mates,' I decided to give it a blast.

Alan Cowin, was also in the company and we set off to climb the Saddlestone Mountains. I really intend to rest on the uphill sections of the course, so although I have included many, many inclines in my training which I have ascended at a much swifter pace than I will be on the day (lets face it we can hardly avoid them over here) I have shied away from specifically targeting hills as part of my programme.

As I mentioned previously, the original plan was for a fairly easy walk and therefore, I wasn't trying to mix it with the lads on the first four reps and they showed me two clean pairs of heels. However, as the fifth materialised and it was longer and less steep than the initial ones, the competitive juices had began to flow and I couldn't resist 'Giving it a blast!'

Mark who in the past I have labelled, 'Conan the Destroyer' because of his Arnold Schwarzenegger physique and aggressive power walking technique, is a formidable opponent at anything but the hills are his particular domain. Given the gentle rise on this one, though, I just about managed to hold him off.

Despite knowing earlier in my own mind that I would finish after one round, we went back to 'Copse Hill,' our first one. I was now, fancying myself to beat Mark up a steeper incline especially as he has laid off walking training since the 'Sarah Killey,' only cycling some 2 to 300 miles a week. We had a great battle but Mark, switching from 'Arnie' to 'Groucho,'(You have to see it to believe it) emerged the victor by about 3 to 4 yards.

And then, they were doing, 'The Fun Part' i.e. walking backwards upwards which apparently is very good for strengthening the 'quads.'

What is wasn't good for though, was my long standing groin injury which I finally thought I'd cured (by specific groin strengthening and core strengthening excercises given to me by the aforementioned Mr Hempsall) and only after about 40 or 50m, it was hurting once again and now I'm sidelined for another few days to try and fix it.

Incidentally, there is no truth to the scurrilous rumour that Mark deliberately sabotaged me so that he could make more money putting me back together again. However, what is true is that unfortunately, he has decided to withdraw from this year's race. As I alluded to earlier, he hasn't properly recovered from what he thinks is a stress fracture he sustained during his epic battle with Jock Waddington and though there seemed little evidence to me that he was anything but 100% fit as he disappeared into the distance the other night, he doesn't feel confident that it will hold out for the full 85 miles.

The better news is that he has generously agreed to support erstwhile team member, and captain, Dave Mackey into the wee small hours. One question for Dave though: Will we now be called, Eminem & Em now that we are missing an 'M?' Suggestions for new name in the comments, please.

Bob Corrin's recent question on Manx Athletics Forum opened a discussion about seedings which Murray has followed up on his blog. I don't quite know how I have been placed in front of Peter Kaneen. One who seems to have slipped under the 'Planter's' (of seeds getit?) radar is Alan Cowin who has been training for this event for the last 16 months or so. The top football referee (he was in charge for this year's F.A.Cup Final) is in great shape after his 3rd place in the 'Seven Stations.' He has entered the Parish five times previously, finishing 10th on his 4th attempt in 2004 in 18:07, following that up with 16:39 and 6th place in 2006. He is unbeaten against me in all the four races we have both competed in, yet I only actually met him earlier this year. Of course whatever number is on his vest won't affect his performance but I have a sneaking suspicion he will once again be in that top ten belying his lowly seeding of 151.

So to recap, I'm cursing my stupidity because I went and did something very out of the ordinary in the lead up to the race. This is the time to develop ultra conservatism. Try not to do anything out of the ordinary over the next few weeks and scale down your training. I seem to have got away with it this time but I won't be doing that again.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Training at the Bowl. Or was it the Bowel?

Well Bloggophiles! If you haven't done the training by now, it's really too late to start going out walking 20 miles.

We are now into 'The Taper,' where you start knocking down the miles and it is also a good idea to spend 2 to 3 hour sessions, at your intended Parish pace, perhaps practising taking food and drinks on board.

Shorter walks at a faster pace will also do you no harm.

If you've just noticed the date on the calender and think you've totally blown it by not doing any preparation at all, don't panic, you still have time to work on conditioning which could involve runs and/or walking quickly but nothing for too long or you will be knackered come the big day. It's certainly not the recommended way to go and possibly a little dangerous if you intend to go the full distance but some have managed pretty amazing feats with little prior work.

Training over TT week can be difficult but I'm sure there are plenty of places where the bikes rarely get to and there's always the 'Bowl,' not forgetting that next week (Wednesday I think) there is a rare opportunity to compete in a 10k track race.

I'm always conscious that this is a blog that could be read by all the family and also by those of less than strong constitution who've just eaten but feel I would be failing you loyal bloggies, especially race newcomers if I didn't mention it. Get into the habit of visiting the toilet first thing in the morning and filling it. Too much information, I know but holding your cheeks together while trying to ascend the 'Sloc' is not where your concentration should be aimed at. Keep your focus on the bum in front!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Jocked Off

The weather may have put a few people off but I would like to thank Mo Cox for coming to watch Jock Waddington, Maurice Bellando and me walking downhill a few times last night and then for judging in the 5k race that followed.

There was a small but good quality field including Vinny Lynch, Dave Mackey, Carl Wild, Brian Brough, James Green, John Robinson, juniors Hannah Kelly walking 2k, Lauren Whelan and Jessica Isherwood 3k.

I think it would be fair to say that in the absence of Peter Kaneen (well he was there but not racing,) I started the race favourite. Some people have questioned whether he trains quite enough but since his superb joint win in the Sarah Killey Memorial, Jock Waddington has put in a 20 miler and two 11 mile walks in every week.

We were locked together in battle from the start with Jock pulling out a slight lead over the first 2k with Vinny and Dave vying for the third spot. By the fourth k, I decided to take Jock on but was unable to break away and over the final 500m, he really turned the screw and left me trailing in his wake, winning by 12 seconds in an impressive time of 23 minutes 39 seconds.

Marie Jackson said it was the first time she'd ever seen him not look like he was out walking the dog.

Dave Mackey in his first 5k race, couldn't stay with Vinny Lynch who also recorded his fastest ever time. Dave agonisingly missed out on breaking 30 minutes by just 15 seconds. They were followed by John Robinson, junior & 5k debutant, James Green and Carl Wild. Brian Brough walked on gamely despite Mo pinching the course marking cone on him, being saved by the famous graffiti artist Allan 'Leapy Lee' Callow who had drawn little yellow arrows on the road.

Many thanks to Bridget & Judy who seem to contribute so much that they should be on 'overtime' money, Allan Callow, Elizabeth Corran and Steve Taylor.

Despite being beaten, I was very pleased to set my new P.B., a full 13 seconds quicker than I managed in this race last year. I have recently described Jock as a 'Coming Man' and he certainly came last night. Perhaps if the survey was run again today, he might gain a little more than 10% of the votes and I certainly can't see him finishing behind 'Others' again.

So, I turned up for my two dates last night but another bloke walked off with my prize.

I'd Love to Meet You for a Date Tonight, Maybe Two

Another hurried 'Post' I'm afraid but things are quite frantic.

Tonight as I mentioned on the 'Forum,' yesterday, Maureen Cox has kindly agreed to help me and anyone else who would care to turn up by making sure that our downhill walking actions comply with the rules.

For anyone who has designs on a top ten placing, I reckon it is very important as 'Time Penalties' are to be used for the first time for walkers breaking contact with the ground and hard earned time gained could be very easily added.

Whatever style you use to propel yourself, it is best to be able to walk with confidence, though it won't actually be Mo judging on the day it is useful to know what the officials are looking for and at.

The session will start at approximately 17:45 on the Marine Drive which has some fairly decent hills on the closed section. If you want any further information or know where exactly to meet, call me on 491695.

Immediately following is the Open 5K walking race on the TT Access Road which is a good short, sharp test and the second last race as far as I am aware before 'P Day.' Signing on for this 'FREE' race is at the Manx Harriers Clubhouse

I hope to see as many of you as possible this evening at either or both events.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Abducted by Aliens

Greetings Blogophiles!

I couldn't keep this from you a moment longer:

The key has returned! Apparently it spent the last 10 days on top of a beer barrel with another keg on top of it. Vaguely, I seem to remember breaking the plastic covering on a case of cider with it. I was so close to giving up and calling the vehicle recovery firm, only the reluctance (some would call it stubborness) to break into my hard earned cash prevented me from doing so.

A lesson has been learned though and I will have to take it to the dealers to have another couple of spares programmed whatever the cost.

On the walking front, I only trained(a euphemism for going to pick up the car after a boozy night) for 25 minutes on Sunday. On Monday, I attempted to play football extremely badly even by my standard and followed that up by doing 6 x 500m with Lauren Whelan.

As I hadn't had a day off this week, today after working breakfast, Irene and I did the Baldwin Valley loop, though it was a bit of a struggle for her as she is struggling to recover from a hip injury.

Don't forget to turn up on Thursday night for the 5k TT Access Road Race, signing on at the Manx Harriers Clubhouse from 18:30.

I wonder was that key really there all that time or are there darker forces at play?

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Well Done Terence

Congratulations to my son Terence who by virtue of some rather generous handicapping, not to mention a fine run, managed to win the 2nd round of the Dave Phillips two lap race by a staggering 4 minutes and 23 seconds!

He'd better enjoy it while it lasts because I can see him starting the next one quite a little bit later.

Greetings To Elizabeth and Matthew in WebSurfers Paradise

You know, apart from other obvious reasons, such as guilt and betrayal etc., I would never have an affair for the simple reason that by some quirk of fate, I'd immediately be caught.

There am I thinking that I'm totally safe in my own personal 'Garden Shed,' otherwise known as 'Michael's Parish Blog,' when all of a sudden, Mrs. George announces over lunch, 'I read about the Marathon in your blog the other day,' I actually blushed like someone found with their trousers round their ankles!

It turns out that Elizabeth and Matthew, our eldest kids who've gone all antipodean on us were looking for my 'Blog,' for a taste of home. Irene couldn't remember off the top of her head exactly where it was in Murray's web of intrigue and actually ended up reading my latest posting after searching for the whereabouts of my ramblings. It's only the second one she's looked at since I started way back in December and there am I boasting about me being safely in a wife-free zone!

However, I reckon lightning couldn't possibly strike twice, so if you are logging on and indulging in Websurfers Paradise, how about looking to see if there are any races on Down Under over Christmas when we come to see you? And don't tell, Mum!

It's quite incredible that anyone will be able to follow the race from all the way down there in Australia and I'm going to put Matt's text no. down as one of my two mobiles to make sure they know what's going whether they're too busy enjoying themselves or not.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Racewalk Blog? More of a Ramble Really

Back to the present for now and I was very pleased on Thursday to put in my first proper 'pace' session for about 5 to 6 weeks as firstly, I was tapering for the 50k race and then in recovery afterwards.

It's an injury waiting to happen if you try to come back too soon to hard training after a hard race or a long practice walk.

The task I was set included 12 x 500m in 2 minutes 20 seconds with 50m strolling to try and rest my wheezing lungs. I couldn't quite ascertain how to work out the 50m distance, so using the hot weather as a convenient excuse, I extended my mid sprint break to 100m. If you're wondering how I know when I've travelled 100m, there are yellow paint splodges all around the perimeter track at the N.S.C.

The secret to achieving the maximum benefit from interval training for walking and running is to ensure you don't start too fast and are still able to maintain the speed until your last rep. This is excellent for improving your conditioning and most endurance athletes would agree that this method of improving your pace is essential as part of your build up to a long distance event.

Fortunately, I managed to keep to my targets and was even able to cut my last one down to 2:13.

I then used Allan Callow's Thursday evening training session to warm down with the aim of reducing the lactic acids from the muscles for the following day.

This last tactic (lactic tactic?) was fairly successful, so yesterday (Friday,) I walked in a roundabout way to Kaneen's Garage in Union Mills to collect my mother's car which had been in for service. Another recommended idea is to practise walking in the way that you will on the big day and therefore I tried to maintain a steady 10.5 minute mile. Don't forget to test which foods will suit you and to try and work out a basic menu for 21st June. As with any predeterminations, don't be afraid to change according to the conditions or because its not working but there is nothing wrong with having a loose framework for your support crew.

Dave Mackey has asked on the 'Forum,' about 'carb-loading' and it's possible you could receive a different answer from everyone you ask.

Personally, I try and follow the method taught to me by Nigel Armstrong and this is largely corroborated by the Australian Institute of Sport website. Over a five day period, I greatly reduce the protein from my diet, not eating meat nor much at all in the way of fatty foods. A common mistake is to actually pig out on carbohydrates but the idea is just to replace protein with them to increase the amount of glycogen in the muscles.

As you know the scientists are always changing their minds but interestingly, last year when I read the AIS information, they were stating that you can only effectively 'carb-load,' four times a year and that there was no evidence that ladies gain any benefit from using it.

Making sure that iron levels are correct was given great importance especially for females.

Oh well, that's the conclusion of today's ramble. I hope it's useful to somebody but bear in mind that I'm not a coach, not qualified in sports nutrition and am prone to getting things very wrong in races.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

My Final Run

So Bloggies, back to 2006.

The Flora London Marathon is a great experience and I would urge anyone to have a go at least once in their lifetimes.

We travelled on the Friday to London City Airport which is in itself enjoyable as we had a tour around the capital in the air before landing.

The original deal was that if Irene and I ran the Marathon, then when we returned we would both learn to dance. Fortunately, for me and possibly her own toes, she has never actually held me to that.

The airport is also very close to the place where you sign on and on the Friday when we travelled it wasn't too hectic in the exhibition centre.

In my opinion, the most difficult aspects of travelling away for events are managing to eat properly, particularly if you are carb-loading, being on holiday and not having loads to drink and trying to relax and do nothing, especially if your hotel room is not that large or comfortable.

The Regent Palace is perfectly located for the FLM, being very handy for the Tube and close to the finish. In addition, they provide pasta meals specifically for the athletes, the rates are reasonable but in honesty, the rooms are quite small and not ideal for spending lots of time in.

When you are accepted for the FLM, you get advice by the bucketload and one piece is to remember what you are there for and not to get too much sightseeing in the day before. Saturday was a lovely day, so we just went for a wander down to the 'Mall' to see the finish and then on to the next park, then the next park, then the next park and before you knew it, we had been walking for two and a half hours, were knackered, starving hungry and thirsty. Yep we'd broken just about every rule in pre-marathon preparation.

As usual my planning also reached farcical levels. The day before I left the Island, I finally forked out to buy a stopwatch, so I wouldn't have to carry my mobile phone as I'd become famous for doing in races by this time, only to unpack it in London to discover my purchase was actually a heart monitor. I'd also decided to look for a bumbag or pouch to carry my gels in but we just didn't find one in the shops that we passed.

The day of the race, the fine weather had disappeared and there was a steady drizzle that hadn't been included in the original forecast. For the London Marathon, there are three different starts, so therefore Irene and I had to part company in Black.

The atmosphere is one of eager anticipation and fortunately having brought a black binbag to wear before the race, I was in good spirits and not too cold. For the first time, I was running a long race without pockets in my shorts, so now my failure to acquire something to contain my food became a major worry.

I decided to pop them into the waistband of my Manx Harriers kit as I'd also neglected to get some sticky tape or plasters. The FLM is started in groups determined by the time you mark down on your entry form, so the beginning was a little bit like the PW because you can't get a decent run and in my case this was exacerbated by the fact the all the celebrities were set off in front of me.

Of course, my planned first mile of 6:50 was a minute slower and therefore I panicked and then put in a couple of quick ones after that managing to lose all but one of my gels.

I actually remember very little of where I was during the race but I supppose the features that really stood out were the pubs and the people, all braving absolutely abominable weather. Live bands were creating a cacophony of sound which at times overlapped. There's that chef, I heard at one stage and briefly wondered how they knew I used to cook before realising I was passing Gordon Ramsey.

When the three starts came together, I saw Andy Gosnell one of our local runners and former top parish competitor and it was a great boost to see Manxies at the side of the road such as Gary Ashe, Nigel Armstrong's mum and John Rogers.

All the kids want to slap your hand as you go past and everyone shouts the name written on your running vest. Even slower than usual, it was a while before I realised I was the subject of, 'Come On, Manx!' It was an unwanted surprise to pass Murray though who was struggling.

In my previous marathon, I hadn't 'hit the Wall' until 25 miles but this time after 18 miles the extra pace and the dropped gels began to tell and I really suffered for a while. Eventually, I turned on the the Embankment and I had a girl just behind me whom everyone seemed to be shouting for. From somewhere I gathered my strength for one last effort and flew for home. I think it was around here that I overtook Mark Clague and Ed Gumbley before rounding the corner towards Buckingham Palace and racing on the outside of Paul Curphey.

My target of 3 hours was all but gone but my endeavour was still there and I really powered towards the line to miss out by just over a minute. It was really flattering to see recently that my 40k to finish is still in the top ten quickest of locals since about 2002.

Irene without any prior training managed to circulate in 6:02 which I thought was pretty good in the circumstances (I'm not buttering her up; I can say anything I want because she doesn't actually read this rubbish.) I've no time to research this now and I can't recall where I was placed but I was second local behind Nigel Armstrong and beat my P.B. by around 13 minutes. In typical athletic/fisherman style I still consider this as the one that got away and the what ifs are still hanging because it was to be the first and last running race I ever seriously trained for.

Since that day I ditched the two feet off the ground branch of the sport to concentrate on the walking.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Some Key Points

It's a good thing I had the 'Dream Sunday' because Friday and Saturday I had a double recurring nightmare!

The only tenuous link that this story has to do with the Parish Walk, is that it will be a minor miracle if I manage to arrive at the start line, never mind put in the organisation and planning needed for an 85 mile race.

I don't know what it is about me and keys but we've never been comfortable bedfellows which I suppose is handy in some ways as they can hurt when you roll on top of them but has cost me thousands of minutes over the years in searching time, not to mention cash for things like having to call out the autoshield people to retrieve them from inside the car.

Friday morning was pouring down, so I had to pick Irene up to bring her down to work. I stood in the rain, waiting for her to get her things together, then locked the car by remote control and that's the last I (or anyone else so far as I'm aware) saw of the key. It has to be in the Hotel somewhere but over the the ensuing days, I have looked everywhere, including the bins and short of pulling the place apart stone by stone, I've done everything.

Saturday was the third and final time that I have been involved through my son Terence playing hockey in the Manx Youth Games. It is a really tremendous experience, particularly the Olympic Games style opening ceremony which culminates with a mass aerobic warm up before they all disappear off to their respective sports.

My Mother-in-Law also came down to watch but there isn't any seating by the synthetic pitch, so I had what turned out to be a disastrous idea. I went over to find my athletic chums with the intention of blagging a clubhouse key and borrowing a chair as she isn't too good on her feet. Unfortunately, Allan Callow had temporarily disappeared and Bridget had given hers to the Tag Rugby people but Elizabeth Corran's was in her car in the park over by the main n.s.c. building. As instructed, I removed the only key from the compartment in between the two front seats.

Many a time, I've watched Allan struggling to use his old key in the lock, so I wasn't particularly perturbed when it didn't fit perfectly. I fiddled with it a little before eventually managing insertion but it still wouldn't turn. Then, I could get it out! Then yippee, it did start going round! ... and round... and round. The teeth had totally snapped off the spindle and were stuck fast in the eye!

Panic set in and I went back to Elizabeth. The offended key was the wrong one and the correct one was actually in the compartment between the two seats but actually at dashboard height. Well, I pushed and prodded but I couldn't budge the broken one in the slightest. My big fear was that the tag rugby crowd would turn up looking for kit they'd left in the Harriers Clubhouse.

The feeling of panic was growing, so I asked the N.S.C. staff to help me. As you can imagine, they were delighted, right in the middle of probably their busiest day of the year but I managed to persuade them that the Manx Harriers Clubhouse did have something to do with them because I thought that there was kit in there. To his credit, Colin McMullen brought out his super-duper pen knife style tool but still nothing would shift.

Okay, I'd just have to bite the bullet and call out a locksmith:

24 hour Company no.1 : Answerphone

24 hour Company No.2 : 3 locksmiths- one on holiday, two off sick.

Oh Heck! (or words to that effect!) and my poor mother-in-law still waiting for her seat!

Did you ever start something with the best intentions, then really wish you hadn't bothered?

Fortunately for me, Colin now had the bit between his teeth and brought out the heavy artillery i.e. big posh toolkit and he managed to remove the handle, though breaking it in the process. Finally, he was able to push out the broken key part and Elizabeth's correct key turned perfectly.

However, a search of the N.S.C. stores was carried out and there wasn't a spare door handle anywhere, so if anyone reading this is wondering why the Manx Harriers Clubhouse now has a shiny handle, we had to pinch the one off the storeroom door. I have told the chairman and offered to replace it.

So there was at least a happy ending to this part of the story as Irene's, Mum, Irene (and you wonder why I look perpetually confused) got her seat and a cup of tea (left the money by the till.)

The Ford Focus is left where I parked it on Friday. We have a key but it won't turn the engine over and apparently, you need two keys to program a third or you have to pay £4 million pounds to recover the car, then a further £13.6 million to put everything through the computer to create new codes and finally about £45 pound per key for every copy.

The moral of the story: If I come and ask you if I can borrow your key, punch me in the face.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

I Have a Dream!

I had a dream yesterday.

Firstly, I dreamt that I couldn't sleep on my day off, went to the Hotel at 0730 and took the recycling to Nobles Park where I saw Murray Lambden training.

Then I went to Andreas where only five of us had turned up last year for the Manx 20k Championship and in my dream, there were Robbie Callister, Sean Hands, Peter Kaneen, Marie Jackson, Andy Green, Vinnie Lynch, Dave Mackey, Bethany Clague, Alan Kinvig, Ian Wakely, a good scutch of juniors and the ghost of a former top international racewalker who retired ages ago.

As the race got underway, Peter pretty quickly established a lead, then after moaning for a couple of laps about his thighs hurting from his first race walking training session in nearly a year, the now talking ghost broke away from me to try and close the gap on the front man.

Behind us, were Sean Hands, a fast starting Andy Green, Robbie Callister, Vinny Lynch, Marie Jackson and Dave Mackey.

Eventually, the ghost drifted back towards me and indeed, Peter Kaneen had stopped extending his lead and gradually came nearer to us. Disappointingly, Peter stopped after 10k, it is great to have a target in front to try and reel in but the ghost and I were still locked together.

In fact, despite insisting he would definitely 'blow up' during the race and me thinking that he was trying extremely hard just to keep me company, the dream started to turn into a nightmare as the other worldly figure began to push to escape me. Although, I tried at first to stay with him, I decided to let him go and over laps 10 and 11, he managed to forge a lead of some 25m.

Fortunately, this became one of those dreams where you can influence the outcome and with Ken & Theresa(THE COMMENT) Hands cheering me on, Les Brown handing out the drinks and Jock Waddington supplying us with sponges, at the end of the penultimate lap, I started to catch the vision in front and by the back straight, I had overtaken him. Now it was a matter of concentrating, trying to relax while at the same time pushing for all I was worth, scared that he would find some of his former speed to overhaul me in the last few hundred metres. Luckily, I hung on to win a shield that had spent the last 20 years or so ensconced in various Partington attics.

Bethany Clague 9th overall won the ladies race after Marie Jackson pulled out. Andy Green really struggled in the heat but rallied to finish well after Vinny who walked a big P.B. but a minute and a half in front of Dave Mackey. Ian Wakely was next and Allan Kinvig worked very hard bringing up the rear of what was a small but high quality field.

Well I don't seem to have woken up yet but I have posted this blog in case somebody pinches me and I find out that I didn't finish ahead of Steve Partington, Sean Hands and Robbie Callister in the same race in the same day.

Thanks to Elizabeth and Gordon Corran, Judy Morrey, Allan Callow, Dougie Corkill, Paul Jackson, Les Brown, Jock Waddington and Bridget Kaneen for all their efforts on our behalf.

I think I'll dream about the Parish Walk next.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Michael George - 'Aiming for the Top' (Errr, Andreas that is!)

The Blogathon is off!

Unless Murray is coming out of retirement or 'New Mum' makes an unannounced appearance, it looks like you're stuck with me. Richard, the 'First and Earliest Ever Entrant' used the pathetic excuse of an important international conference in Barcelona. The things people will do to get out of walking round Andreas!

That means that your participation is even more important! It would be a great shame if our intrepid team of organisers, judges, coaches, marshals and timekeeper all navigate their way over mountains, through rivers, braving wild animals (well some might have to drive past The Curraghs Wildlife Park) and fierce temperatures (warm and sunny forecast) to find that only 5 people turn up to race like last year.

If 20k isn't long enough for you, you could always walk home afterwards.

I must make a correction because on a previous post, I suggested the signing-on would start at 09:15 but it is in fact not until 09:30.

Personally, I'm not sure how I will perform. I seem to have recovered from the 50k to some extent but I still haven't tried a hard session since then and I do feel very lethargic. If Peter Kaneen is walking, then he must start favourite, though he hasn't been in his usual top form in recent weeks due to a virus of some kind. The door may be ajar for some kind of a surprise but I will need to be at my best to break through it as I have never even got within a minute on previous occasions. That having been said, despite the likely absence of Chris Cale and Jock Waddington, it is possible that someone such as Andy Green could come through and shock both of us.

So come on you Parish Walkers and anyone else out there, come up to Andreas on and make my Sunday!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Join the Blogathon

I don't know if Kerry & Richard are readers of my Blog but I happened to mention that it would be a good idea if we all competed in a race together on Sunday. Mark Hempsall broke off from torturing me for a second and agreed that it would be very interesting to read about the experience from the three different perspectives.

So here's throwing down the gauntlet to my fellow scribes to join in the fun/agony for a walking 'Blogathon.'

I'm not entirely sure whether or not prams are smiled or frowned upon in races but it would give Kerry an experience of competition before the big event, provide an opportunity for Richard to rejoin the fray after a quiet few months racing wise and inform me of just where my body is up to following the rigours of my 50k race.

Remember that walkers of any age or ability are welcome and you can complete 1k, 2k, 3k, 5k, 10k or 20k.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

You Need Hands

I had a great chance to 'take out' one of the opposition's back up team last night. Sean's Mum & Dad were in the Welbeck restaurant to belatedly celebrate his Uncle & Auntie's 50th Wedding Anniversary, along with another uncle & auntie that I hadn't met before.

The Chef was under instruction to administer the strichnine when I had to make a last minute dash to save them. Just like Jenny of 'The Apprentice' fame, I had no qualms about using such underhand tactics but when Mrs. Hands suddenly revealed that she is an avid reader of my 'Blog,' I just had to rescue them!

Seriously, they are a lovely family and they have always given me great encouragement even when I have been in competition with Sean and I would like to add my congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Hands for passing such a milestone. Apparently, they were in an exotic part of the world for the actual date.

Sean's Mum berated me for not updating this more often as she is always checking it but unless you went on-line last night, Mrs. Hands, this is now three posts you have to catch up on!

For those younger readers, the title is an old Max Bygraves song that I think if I am not mistaken was 'covered' in the seventies by the Sex Pistols or someone.

I was nearly right it's actually Malcolm MacLaren singing on 'The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle.' Thought I'd better get that in before the pedants attack.

Come Walk with Me.

To All Walking Dudes!

Don't forget that it's the Manx 20k championships at this Sunday 10am at Andreas. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a good sustained speed session, to improve your conditioning for the big race, to blag lots of free tea and biscuits, not to mention talking up your big day prospects and asking advice or swapping tips with fellow competitors.

Entry only £3 on a good fast course, giving the people of Andreas the chance to have a good laugh at us. Go on! You know you want to give it a go!

See you at the Andreas Parish Hall (from Ramsey straight on at roundabout, from Sulby turn left.) Signing on from 9.15am.

P.S. Don't worry about the judges. They are very helpful, give lots of friendly constructive advice, plenty of prior warnings if you are a bit dodgy and you'll only get dq if you are gaining an unfair advantage by pegging it basically.

Just Say No! To Gambling that is.

Hi Everybody,

Mmm. Due to a combination involving work, child and motivation, training has been sparse to say the least since my 50k.

The slight feeling that things are getting away from me has been exacerbated by the lovely weather. Oh and when I was marshalling at Kaneen's Garage Union Mills on Monday night during the Peel to Douglas race, a certain Robbie Callister turned up for a chat looking fit and tanned following his annual sojourn to Spain.

Since my 50k, I have done only two very light training sessions and played one game of football, so I am starting to panic about whether I'll be fully conditioned. As I alluded to earlier, the hotel is so busy that I'm struggling to escape and that hasn't been helping in that some of our team are taking holidays at the moment.

Many of the really big names including previous winners Peter Kaneen and Sue Biggart have finally put pen to paper or finger to keypad or whatever it is these days that you have to do. The excitement is building and the entry is growing!

My unique gambling fortunes came to the fore again this week. In an earlier post, you'll have probably have heard that I bet on the joint winner in the Sarah Killey Memorial work but ended up losing twice my stake i.e. two bottles of wine. This time a fellow Parish Walker bet me that there were only going to be about 850 entries this time around. I think I said 1100ish and he generously gave me any number down to a thousand but then texted last week to ask me to call the bet off, as it seemed he may have been wrong.

Of course, at such a polite request, how could I refuse? I don't think I'm quite getting the hang of this wagering business.

Oh well. I'll try to do some more walking today.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Fabulous Walk by Marie Jackson while Mr. Hirsuite Wows the Locals

The people of Stockton and the supporters were generally very good to the racewalkers who had taken over their park and I only witnessed one instance of a competitor nearly tripping over somebody.

Some of the kids were doing impressions wiggling their hips and I eventually made great friends with one young lad whose mum it turned out worked at the Cafe, so he was there right until the end. It was a real boost to have him cheering me on and wanting high fives every lap.

There was one gang of kids who didn't seem quite so friendly but I had to laugh when one of the girls shouted, 'Ya heery bastud!' when I passed them. Perhaps I shouldn't wear a vest, showing off my great gorilla suit.

During the early to middle parts of the race, I saw Marie quite regularly and the first time I overtook her, she was down in third place but in no panic, walking with great technique. Even that first time, she wasn't far behind Cath Duhig but Maureen Noel took me quite a while to catch.

By comparison with Marie, Maureen was working very hard using a great deal of upper body strength. By the second occasion, probably about 20k into the race, Marie still looked very composed and at this stage had moved into second place. This time the contrast between them was even more marked, despite the Belgrave Harrier being now some 2 minutes clear, her breathing showed that her pace and style were taking their toll. She probably knew already but it was great to be able to report to Marie that she just had to remain patient and the race would be hers.

I think that was the last time I passed Marie because she had obviously used far more racing nous than me despite this being her 50k debut. Indeed she looked so good right until the end that it wouldn't have surprised me if she had unlapped herself by overtaking me.

She took the lead at the around the 40k mark and didn't look back, finishing in 5:37:32 and pulling some 7 minutes out on the second placed lady and now former champion, Maureen Noel.

As I informed you in the previous post, the course had a stiff little hill, so it was a measure of how brilliant Marie's victory was in that it was the 7th fastest ever by a UK walker, scoring 936 IAAF points (compared with my paltry 839.) Thanks to Cal Partington for that information and it is perhaps even more remarkable that 5 of the top ten fastest lady's times have been set by IOM racers.

Lastly, a massive thank you to Paul Jackson and Irene George who were brilliant supporting, feeding and timing us, never complaining about being there for six hours for a good part in the rain.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Will There Be Chunder?

My apologies to Anon y mouse who commented on the last post but it's not always easy to find the time to start and finish a story in one sitting and I am also conscious that if it gets too long readers may lose interest. Leave you wanting more is my motto.

On the other point, which entry did you want me to expand upon? As far as I'm concerned, as I stated many months ago, I have nothing to gain by keeping secrets as almost everyone else has a very different style to me and as Robbie C. has since added, the spirit of the race really means everyone helps each other and if you want my advice for what it's worth, you're very welcome. (Did I really just write that? I'll try but I refer you back to first sentence. Time just could be an issue.)

And so I resume (though Paul Jackson's report in this week's Indie is very good. Don't rate his chances of survival highly though referring to the wife as 'The Manx Harriers veteran')

I was extremely nervous about the race but as usual that all disappeared as soon as the Mayor of Stockton blew the airhorn (like he does in every race. Only seven weeks to get used to this English language thing and I'll be a 'Blogbeen.')

Paul Evenett who in my preview I had down for second favourite stormed off into the lead, leaving Scott Davies the National Championship holder in his wake. Fortunately, none of the other competitors tried to follow him as he really didn't look in control and 50k is a long way to maintain such a style.

I didn't know the identity of the third placed man at the time but fourth was John Constandinou with me making up the top five. As John had informed me he was only hoping to walk 5:10, I wondered whether he had started quickly or whether it was me that was going too steadily. After a few laps Paul Jackson who with my wife Irene was keeping an eye on Marie and myself informed me that after about 3.5k I was about 20 seconds down on my target which was absolutely fine by me.

In the early stages of the race, I tried to keep taking on water and easy to digest carbohydrates to ensure I wouldn't run out of gas in the latter part, although the fact that they had the drinks table before the feeding station didn't really help us too much.

I gradually managed to reel in John C and think I passed him after about 7k. Apparently he always begins quite quickly which breaks with most of the advice I have ever been given but each to their own.

Even this early, I was beginning to lap people as it was quite a short course but I was catching a very brightly attired gentleman of whose identity I wasn't certain. It really is quite confusing with so many walkers going at so many different paces and I wasn't actually very definite on whether he was in front or behind me. 'Are you Glen Blythman?' was my opening gambit in conversation, which was pretty thick even by my standards as he was wearing a bright red, white and blue vest and all the Redcar club members were dressed in scarlet.

It transpired that he was Steve Arnold and that I was now up third place. The very next athletes I lapped were to inform me that this information was already outdated, as Paul Evenett had paid the ultimate price for his undisciplined early pace and had already picked up the dreaded three yellow cards by three different judges. His race had ended within 10k through disqualification.

Although my career has been fairly short, 2nd place, travelling really smoothly and just outside 18 seconds of my intended time, it really couldn't get better than this and indeed it didn't really.

At 20k, I was absolutely spot on, although between then and 30k my old groin injury had started to hurt again. After completing the third 10k, I was still feeling relatively good, only dropping 3 minutes behind my target. That included a dash from the course to the loo which was only 25m away but felt like miles.

My wheels were starting to fall off the wagon approaching the 40k mark and Ian Richards was the first person to unlap himself. The last 15k is when things really start to hurt but I was determined to keep my form (posture and technique)to avoid any comments by the judges and to ensure that I was still walking efficiently. Although the chances of me losing contact had somewhat receded with my loss of speed, in an 'A' race if you don't keep standing tall, there is a good possibility that you are not going to be landing your heel properly, thereby helping to keep the knee straight.

If you haven't paced a 50k race correctly this part of the race is hell and I'm sure many of you have experienced similar sensations during the PW. Ian Richards was quite quickly out of site, though in my favour he did seem to be working quite hard when he came past. My worry was that he would catch me and I would have a battle to keep this easily won second place and indeed Steve Arnold and Steve Crane also unlapped themselves, though the latter was still a full circuit behind. Somehow, I managed to keep going and I actually retook the two Steves but Ian was still not in vision.

By the last few laps the little hill that I had laughed at as an experienced Parish Walker had metamorphasised into the Sloc and the way I had dance up it at the beginning was a distant memory. Scott Davies had lapped me about four times and I was still slowing but I received help and encouragement from around the course, particularly from the Wears family. Irene and Paul were absolutely brilliant helping with the food and sports drinks etc. but it was a real test taking things on like crisps and having to wait a full lap for a drink.

Finally, I came to the last couple of laps out of 42.75 and I realised that not only had I slipped behind schedule but that I was now very unlikely to break 5 hours and despite some consternation from Paul who had an eye on Ian Richards, I decided to ease off to save myself for the my next big race (cannot for the life of me think what it is.)

Of course, I generally tend to back my speed against anyone I'm racing with at the finish but perhaps PJ was right to be worried because the man behind me was none other than a former Olympian albeit Moscow 1980. I did hang on by a minute though and I was so glad to cross that line for a silver medal in my first ever National Championship race in my first ever race in England.

No pewking! The technique held out and the one admonishment and one yellow card for contact from the judge on the hill didn't even make it to the Naughty Board. However, I was 37 minutes behind the winner and very disappointed not to walk 15 to 20 minutes quicker. I think that my major mistake was not to factor the 'hill' into my projected time and I really should have allowed 1 to 1.5 minutes per 10k to compensate for the extra effort.

It is one thing that I would remind everyone having a go on 21st June that no matter how easy it feels at first, you must start steadily and even if you are planning a schedule, don't be afraid to drop time , particularly if it is hot or windy. If you're battling early or late on reassess rather than struggle.

More on the ladies race and other things in the near future