Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Last Post

I'm quite sad that this will be my last post on the blog now that the Parish is all over for another year. :(

Firstly I hope that you all had a good time yesterday whether you were walking, marshalling, supporting or just watching. A big well done to everyone involved!

I had a great time even though the walking side of things went by the board, because yesterday really helped bring home to me the spirit and camaraderie of the event even more than in previous years and I saw so much more of the route.

I drank too much, went too fast, got cramp and felt below par. This combination is what forced me to stop, but I'm convinced that it was due to the combination rather than one isolated factor. I think I might have been able to go a bit further had I not filled up on Lucozade. I eased off a fair bit after Malew but eventually just felt too queasy to carry on without doing some damage. Sometimes you have to know when to stop. The Parish may be as much in the head as the body, but maybe there are times when you have to give in to the mental side to protect the physical.

Even after I got home, the Parish wasn't over for me. I had agreed to do some support driving for Alex Wijsman, who finished on his debut last year and was hoping to do so again. I got home, freshened up and then drove out to Jurby at about 5.30 to sort out the first shift of support. One of my friends was doing from 5pm until 10 and then I was going to take over after that. Once we made contact with Alex, I came back home for some hot food and to prepare some flasks for the night shift. I then went out at about 9.30 to meet Alex at Maughold and see him through to the finish.

I took a roundabout route to Maughold so I could see a bit of the northern part of the course and just check on a couple of people to see how they were getting on and to see if they needed anything. I hooked up with the course at Bride and drove to Andreas. I was amazed at the atmosphere at the Andreas roundabout, which I had heard about on Manx Radio but had never actually seen in the flesh. It seemed like all of Andreas village was out having a BBQ, and this was near enough 10pm! It was fantastic and really epitomises the community spirit of the event, which I think is one of the reasons that makes the Parish so special.

After a quick 'I'm ok thanks' from the walkers I was keeping an eye on, I headed straight for Maughold. I followed Alex home in the car with his wife and a friend of mine. It was really satisfying to know we were making a difference, especially as we were able to give water and a bit of food to some of the other walkers who needed some. I was also able to appreciate for the first time how hard it must be from about Lezayre to the finish, because of the darkness and the loneliness of it all. I know the whole course is hard but plodding under the trees on that single track road in Maughold, miles from anywhere, must take real determination. Very well done to everyone who made it that far and further.

I'd also never seen the finish, so it was great to be there to welcome some of the walkers home, many of whom were really flying along the prom - a great effort after 84 miles! I'd not long got Alex back to the hotel when I got back down to the prom just in time to see Bernie Ball finish. I've done some training with Bernie and her dad Tony this year so I was glad to be there to see Bernie finish for the first time and also as the first lady in her category.

Finally then, some thank-yous. I'm indebted to many many people who have helped me this year, whether it's been improving my technique, accompanying me on training walks or just putting up with me talking about the Parish all the time!

I'm very grateful to Murray for asking me to do this blog in the first place, something that took me totally by surprise. I've really enjoyed it and hope that you have been able to take something from it, however small. Thanks also and a big 'well done' to my fellow bloggers Julia and Martijn, who not only provided me with ideas and hints but who also achieved exactly what they hoped to do during the race.

Many people have suggested to me how to improve my walking and get the most from it, especially during the evening NSC sessions I attended, so I owe many thanks to everyone I met down there, especially Allan Callow whose advice has really improved my technique over the last few months. When I decided I wanted to take walking a bit more seriously, I entered some events and went to training sessions without knowing anybody but could not have been made to feel more welcome. Now there are many friendly faces at all the walking events.

Thanks also to everyone between Malew and Rushen yesterday, whose advice on what to eat and drink when I wasn't feeling to good really helped me recover!

It may be 364 days away but I'm already looking forward to next year(!) I'll be too old for the U-21 event so the sprint to Peel can no longer tempt me. I'll be sticking to 4mph and just walking for fun to enjoy everything along the way and get as far as I can. See you on the start line. :)

Friday, 19 June 2009


Finally here were are, the night before the Parish. How scary does that sound. This time tomorrow we'll either be reminiscing about what happened in Rushen or slogging through Smeale in the evening sunshine(!)

I've packed my box for my support car with all the drinks and food I hope I'll need - pineapple, watermelon, crisps, chicken sarnies, rice cakes and lots of Lucozade/Powerade. Just need to register now...I'm off to do that in 10 mins and then to Paparazzi for the now-traditional pre-Parish pasta and chicken with mum and Sue. Just a word on the coke/pure orange juice mix I mentioned yesterday - I only intend to use this in the last 4 miles before the finish and I don't think it's suitable to drink in the middle of your walk because of all the sugar and of course the caffeine (I will be avoiding the caffeine for the rest of the walk.)

I've had a pretty stressful day running around trying to get last-minute things and get arrangements made for tomorrow, but now I'm actually feeling quite relaxed and am looking forward to the event. If you're worried about anything then just try to relax and not panic. It may be easy to say but the bottom line is to enjoy the day and have fun with 1,624 other like-minded people. Blisters, sunshine, rain etc may all happen but just deal with them as they come and don't worry beforehand about what you might/could do, otherwise it's a lot of fuss over nothing if it doesn't happen!

I wish everyone all the best of luck for tomorrow and I hope everything goes to plan. I am now number 1550, which seems to have changed in the last couple of weeks for some reason, so please come and say hi or give me a wave at the start or during the walk. I've got a black and green hat this year as attempts to get another yellow one were unsuccessful, so look out for that!

Fingers crossed for the weather and most importantly, enjoy the day! :) :)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

'Spanish' Walk

I promised myself that I would be early to bed tonight to help my body prepare for the early start on Saturday, but it wasn't to be, and when I remembered I hadn't written a blog for a while I thought I had better post a quick update.

I went out in the car tonight and drove the Parish route from the start to Peel. This was for a friend of mine who is attempting the event for the first time as she wasn't quite sure where to go. As we were driving up the Sloc the sun was just beginning to set and the view across the sea reminded me of the view from a place that I stayed at in Menorca a few years ago. That then got me thinking about Spain and then that led me onto thinking about something very funny that happened a couple of years ago.

Mum has a friend, Sue, with whom she always does the Parish. This is their 5th year - they always go to Rushen and sometimes Sue goes to Peel as well (she was one of the hardy souls who managed it last year.) A couple of years ago she was talking about the Parish walk a few days beforehand and her son, who was only about 5 or 6 at the time, overheard the conversation. He then began telling anyone who would listen about his mum's entry for the forthcoming 'Spanish walk!' It gave me a chuckle anyway and it's now a running joke with the three of us: "Have you got your Spanish entry in," "It's the Spanish in 2 days" etc etc. Hopefully the weather won't quite be Spanish in temperature on Saturday!

Monday, 15 June 2009


Following on from the previous post, a friend of mine has recommended that about a pint of fluid (568ml) every hour should keep you hydrated. That sounds like a lot - one bottle + a little bit more of Lucozade Sport every hour - but I suppose it makes sense especially in the hot weather.

The latest forecast for Saturday is dry with variable cloud, a moderate breeze and moderate temperatures 16-18 celcius. There is apparently a small chance of showers in the evening/overnight.

This sounds to me like ideal conditions. Blazing hot sunshine can be very uncomfortable to walk in, especially where there is no cloud cover or breeze to give you some respite. It's nice if there's a bit of wind and I'd certainly have that than hot sunshine all day. I'm a bit mixed about rain - I don't mind it if it's light but anything approaching last year's monsoon will not be good news!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Munch and beverages

Apologies for the lack of blog action in the last week. I have had various internet problems and gruelling days at the Grandstand which pretty much wiped me out. I'm going to try and post something every day now in the run-up to the Parish to try and get myself (and hopefully you too) in the mood!

I threatened last week to share what food and drink info I had found when trawling through the depths of Google. Of course there is the standard stuff like Lucozade Sport, Powerade etc but in past years I have found that sometimes those energy drinks sit too heavy on the stomach and that you need something different to break up the sickly sweet taste a bit. Water is always good of course, especially as it is in such plentiful supply from the food stations during the event, but although it's obviously very important to drink plenty of water, drinking too much can effectively wash out the minerals and nutrients from your body. I think it's good to try and find a balance somewhere in between.

Last year I predominately used Tesco own brand energy drinks. The info on the label was certainly encouraging - from memory I think they had almost as many kcal as Lucozade. I had two different flavours - citrus and raspberry. I found the citrus to be too sharp, almost to the point of being sour, so I pretty much exclusively drank the raspberry flavour along with some other drinks. One of these was the electrolyte version of Lucozade Sport (it comes in the same bottle but with a sort of white ribbon on the label to mark it out from the standard stuff.) You can either buy it in bottles or buy the sachets separately. Last year I raided Boots about 2 weeks before the event and loaded up, and having looked in town yesterday and found none, it seems that many others have had the same idea!

The advantage of these electrolyte drinks is that they help to replenish what you are losing through effort and perspiration, particularly the salt. It's easy to forget that you need to take on board salt as well as carbs, protein and the like, and electrolyte drinks help with that by balancing what your body has lost. Wikipedia offers a good explanation of this under the 'Sports Drinks' subheading at

Of course, you don't have to buy the sachets. It's easy enough to make your own drinks at home, which will certainly help keep the already-increading Tesco Parish bill down a bit! There are all sorts of recipes out there but some of the more interesting are as follows:

1) 4 tbsp glucose powder, 1 tsp salt, 750ml water, 250ml fruit juice

2) Rice pudding, milk, salt and a tbsp of jam (!)

3) Choose an amount of water and then add 4% glucose, 4% sucrose (available in powders) and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt per litre

4) A really interesting one that I'll be trying at Glen Maye: 500ml pure orange juice mixed with 500ml flat Coca Cola. Apparently this is 'rocket fuel' for the last hour of exercise. I'm going to try this out (despite the text I had last week telling me not to experiment with new foods and drinks!)

I also came across a fantastically titled EU Report: "Report of the Scientific Committee on Food on composition and specification of food intended to meet the expenditure of intense muscular effort, especially for sportsmen (sic)" It's available at:

It's pretty heavy going (50 pages in total) but if you can face reading it, there is some very interesting information in there. The main thrust of the report is that sodium is the only electrolyte 'known to confer physiological benefit.' Sodium helps the body absorb carbohydrate and water and the report recommends a concentration of between 30-50 mmol of Sodium per litre of drink (that equates to between about 500-1150 milligrams per litre.) I'm useless with measurements but all energy drinks should tell you on the label. Lucozade Sport for example contains 602 mg of sodium per litre.

Once you've got your energy drinks sorted, the question then of course is how much and how often you need to drink. It will depend on how hot the day is and how hard you are working but from what I've found out the advice seems to be that the best method is to drink 100ml for every 100g you lose through perspiration. Obviously the only way to check this is to weigh yourself before and after a training walk but this is impractical so close to the event. It's clearly impossible to gauge during the Parish itself. I have heard another suggestion which advocates drinking greater quantities than 100ml per 100g, and I want to check and confirm before I post it on here, but I'll hopefully have that done by tomorrow.

The report also talks about carbohydrate and the need to maintain appropriate levels in the body to avoid exhaustion. Some of the best carbohydrate-rich foods include rice cakes, white rice, white bread, jelly beans/babies (classic Parish walkers' fare) and pineapple. Watermelon is apparently the best fruit, higher in carbohydrate than even pineapple and orange.

I have always thought that eating bananas to maintain good levels of protein is very important. The report claims that this is a myth and that there is no scientific evidence proving that protein is particularly crucial - certainly nothing to suggest that protein helps prevent cramp. I'm not sure whether this is true or not but I will be packing those bananas anyway!

I hope this doesn't come across as bombarding you with irrelevancies just days before the walk. It has taken me a while to go through all the info to get straight in my head what is going to be useful and what is not, but maybe it will give you some ideas.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Two weeks?!

I can't believe that there are only two weeks to go. I have no idea where the time has gone but here we are in the final 14 days of preparation before one of my favourite local events of the year.

This has been a very productive week for me, despite all the distractions. On Thursday I went for a 12-mile loop around Colby and the Sloc. It was very warm so I took a large squash bottle filled with water and also a Lucozade sachet to bury in a hedge somewhere, for me to collect halfway round. I started with a full 500ml bottle, drank it all up to halfway and then refilled the bottle from the water and sachet stash. When I finished I drove back and picked up the squash bottle and finished off the rest of the water. I was certainly glad I had done this because there was no way I would have managed with just the one bottle. I was pleased with my speed and fitness but the blisters are still a problem. I don't think my feet ever really properly healed after the Fire Stations and although they are getting there now, I am resigned to the fact that the Parish is not going to go 100% smoothly. I've just got to plan as best I can and put up with it.

Yesterday I went out hiking (in the rain - not a great idea.) I felt good afterwards but if I had looked out of the window before agreeing on the phone to go out, I probably would have stayed at home! I was out for about 2 hours and just went up South Barrule and back again, no idea of the distance but all good training I suppose.

I have just come back now from Marine Drive. It was a bit breezy up there but I managed an 8-or-so mile loop starting from Douglas Head, along Marine Drive, around Port Soderick and back again. I went with mum and she did a shorter loop so that we finished just about the same time. There were plenty of people out walking but only 2 other 'Parish' walkers - it's always nice to see other people out doing the same thing that you are.

I'm going to finish my drinks/nutrition research tonight and will try to post tomorrow some of the stuff that I have found out. Hopefully it might give you a few ideas if (like me) you're not quite sure exactly what to eat/drink on the day. I've got a rough plan in my head but even some basic Google searches have given me some good ideas. Eating enough salt is definitely the main aim so I plan on a few packs of Doritos and some electrolyte sachets.

To end with a quote from one of my favourite films: (as Mrs Doubtfire says) "But we'll get into that tomorrow boys and girls." (!)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

London shenanigans

Well here they are, I did promise some photos, hope they make you smile for a minute at work! Clockwise from top: I celebrate the semi-final win and (far right) Marouane Fellaini poses for a picture outside Wembley!! Or maybe not...!

Bottom: the table pretty much sums up the day...scary masks or what.