I've been thinking about what to post this week, and having read Martijn's blog - have a look at http://www.martijnsparishwalk.blogspot.com/ - have realised that we have both gone for the same topic. I'll try not to replicate what Martijn has said, but I hope that two postings by two different people on the same subject of winter training can only be beneficial for anyone who is interested, especially considering our differing preparations.
Firstly though, the entries so far - an impressive 41 as I write this at lunchtime on Wednesday. The list includes a couple of people I know, either through school or local football, and it's nice to check back every few days and have a 'skeet' (yessir) at who has entered so far. I think (I'm sure Murray has the stats) that there were over 30 entries on the first day, which bodes very well for another bumper field this time round...although getting out of the NSC log-jam might end up being even more problematic than usual!
I have always found winter training difficult. It's hard to get motivated to go outside in the freezing cold, especially when the main event most of us are focusing on isn't until next June, and most of us I'm sure are more concerned with Christmas preparations and work deadlines than hitting the pavement on a Saturday afternoon. Add to that the snow that the North-East has had this week (yay) and even walking around town is hard enough without slipping everywhere.
It's easy to make excuses...and mine is the fact that I am still in Durham for another 2 weeks before I get back to the 'rock' for the Christmas break. Hence, it's a bit more difficult to say 'Right ok I'm going out for an hour on the prom,' particularly as in some ways Durham isn't especially well adapted for walking training (although there are plenty of lovely gentle walks along the river and around the city.)
Those of you who have been to Durham will know that it's a lovely place, with very friendly people and a surprising amount of things to do, for somewhere that is (I would say) substantially smaller than Douglas. The problem walk-wise is that the main city centre is full of cobbled streets, shops (obviously) and lots of people - worse than Strand Street on a Saturday, and that's just during the week because it's rammed with students. For training purposes then, I need to broaden my horizons a bit and try and get out of what is affectionately known amongst the student population as the 'Durham bubble.'
I considered this in about March/April time when I was training for this year's Parish. I ended up buying an Ordance Survey map and plotting some circular walks of around 9-10 miles around the city. Because Durham is so small I had never had cause to go anywhere other than on foot (except to Sunderland on the bus for a football match once) so I was unfamiliar with the ring road and other routes around the place. The map was the best investment I made - I would sit in my room working out where to go, scribble the route down on some scrap paper, tuck it into my sock and then head out into the bold blue yonder hoping that I wouldn't get lost (and hoping that my high-vis and shorts wouldn't startle the ladies in the halls of residence.) Fortunately I didn't get lost - or see any ladies for that matter, and after all I should really be able to read a map after doing A-level Geography. Plus, there is always the Cathedral on the horizon to aim for when you are rocking along the country lanes.
It's not just lack of local knowledge that is problematic though. Being a student necessarily entails other distractions too. Hopefully many of them will emerge throughout the course of this blog as the weeks go by, but it's worth mentioning a couple here I think. The first one is exams and other academic commitments - yes, students do actually do some work - honest. Exam time is between about May 15 and June 4, which played havoc with my Parish training earlier in the year, as well as causing me to miss most of TT race week - grr. I did manage to get out for a few walks, but the majoriy of my long-distance training was done in March and April when I was home for Easter.
At the moment I've got a few essays due before the end of term, as well as seminars here and there. This is making it difficult to train, as well as the voice in my head telling me not to start until January, when the walk is in the same year as the training! That's a terrible distinction to make I know, but I promised myself a good rest after this year's End to End (perhaps more about that next week, I'm waffling a bit already now.) I think a compromise will have to be reached - I'll put in a good walk before Christmas day, which will at least be the earliest I will have ever begun training, last year I think it was well into February before I laced up those trainers for the first time. It is said though that Parish Walk training begins in November, but I would like to think that applies to finishers only, as I have certainly missed that particular benchmark!
Will leave it there for now, and try to say something meaningful about the End to End and other training-related things in the next post.
Just one last thing though - if you do fancy some decent winter training, the Peel to Douglas walk is taking place this Sunday 7th December. I'm not sure of entry details/timings etc, but all the details I believe are at www.manxathletics.com. Should be a good event, it usually attracts most of the big names and I shall be sorry not to be back in time for it.