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


Anonymous said...

Well done Michael, a silver medal at national level is a fine achievement on your first attempt.

I was just wondering about a point you made in your post, specifically about not starting off too quickly. Last year was my first 'Parish' and from my experience (and that of others I've spoken to from previous years,) unless you are at the front of the field it's very difficult to really 'get cracking' until the Glen Darragh road from Marown Church to the Braaid. The sheer volume of people from NSC to Marown dictates the pace to a large extent.

I think in some ways this is a good thing, certainly for me anyway it forced me to forget about the frustration of getting caught up in the crowd and pace myself properly for the rest of the race (my target was Peel, I made it eventually.)

I realise it's a difficult issue, as everyone has their own pace, target distance and style, but do you think there is a specific distance or landmark where it's appropriate to just pick up the pace a bit and try to get into your stride? I hope to make Peel again at about 4.4mph average.

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

I do see your point and I have been there, getting frustrated that you can't really get into stride.

Firstly, I would say try and get there early and on the track.

Secondly, it's about 4 to 4.5 miles to Glen Darragh Road, so even if you do get caught in the throng, this will waste you no more than about 5 minutes and I honestly believe you can make this towards the end.

Make sure that your pick up is gradual, probably starting at Glen Darragh Road. In 2004, I walked with my wife to Peel in about 7:50 and then had this mad idea that I was going to complete the course at full tilt and suffered very badly between Jurby and Maughold.

I'm probably the last person qualified to state this but it really is about patience and there's nothing better than watching all those people who strode off in the first few miles coming back to you between Rushen and Peel.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good, cheers.