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

D-Day!

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

Weather

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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolyte

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: http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/scf/out64_en.pdf

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.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

My very own London Marathon

I was in London on Saturday for the FA Cup Final, possibly not a good idea given that I had 2 exams today - fortunately the last 2 :)- but I didn't want to miss out on the atmosphere. I couldn't get hold of a ticket for the stadium itself but went to a bar right next to it to watch the game. I was hoping to post an amusing pic but it hasn't been 'Facebooked' yet so it will have to wait until the next post.

Sometimes you forget just how much walking you do when getting around in London, even if you take the Tube. I had to get from Kings Cross to Baker Street then Marylebone to Wembley, which wasn't too bad but of course it was very busy. The more challenging bit was after the match when I went the wrong way for Wembley Park station and ended up nearly a mile away at Neasden! Not so pleasant in 24 degree heat, I was a little bit toasty. It was a close run thing getting back to Kings X in time for the mainline train, and overall taking the day as a whole it was a pretty gruelling physical workout. I probably walked/ran further than I would have done during an hour's training session!

I cannot wait to get home tomorrow. I'm a big TT fan and it's very frustrating missing out on uncharacteristically sunny practice week weather, and the practising itself. As well as that, I am going to hit the training pretty hard for about another week and then start to wind down before the big day. I'm thinking a hill workout round Saddlestone after the bikes tomorrow and then a 12 mile loop around the Sloc on Thursday. I'll probably go up on the Mountain for the last practice on Friday so that will be good training in itself. After that I think it will have to be Baldwin and Marine Drive for a week or so.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Preparation time

It's been a good week so far both in terms of work and doing some training. I managed another run at the weekend and then played football for 2 hours on Monday evening. It was the first time I'd played in about 4 weeks and I felt pretty sore afterwards but it was a good session and I was still going at the end so I was happy enough with that.

I'm hoping to get out again this evening to go running again. I had Tuesday off to recover from Monday and yesterday was the Champions League final so I think it would be useful if I can get out tonight. It probably won't be for too long but even just 45 minutes here and there will hopefully be useful, and at least psychologically I feel as if I am doing something productive.

At lunchtime I'm going to Boots to get some surgical spirit. I've decided to try toughening my feet before the Parish in an attempt to help avoid the blisters that I invariably end up getting. I know that there are plenty of other things that can be done but I think this has to be worth a try. The Boots' own stuff isn't very expensive and if I can use it every day for the next 3 weeks then maybe it will make a difference.

As well as that, I'm also going to buy some cheap flip-flops and just use them around the house. Some of my housemates wear them around town all the time (despite the weather) and their feet look horribly hard when they get home. This is exactly what I want though and I will be giving it a try. I've left all this stuff later than I had planned but any preparation is good preparation and who knows, it might just make a difference.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Almost there...

Four exams down and only two left, both on Tuesday 2nd June which gives me 10 days welcome respite from the late nights and ready meals. This week had played merry havoc with my body clock, I didn't know it was actually possible to go from lunch until 11pm without eating! Damn the library and its guilt-inducing late opening hours.

Fortunately this break means that I'll hopefully be able to devote a bit more time to training than I have been doing. This week I've been out running twice - once last night for about 3 miles and also on Tuesday for about 45 mins. I'm still feeling physically quite good and have even gone for the last 4 weeks without any alcohol (?student?!) but I decided to have a crafty pint earlier after walking out of the exam hall with the pub literally across the road. Plus, I can't complain at the stupidly cheap North-East prices ;)

I'm starting to think about all the little things that I need to make sure are bought and ready in the house a couple of days before the event. I've decided to try a few new bits and pieces this year in terms both of food and equipment (new socks) so if I make a list now of the important things that I can't just get from Tesco then hopefully that will remind me to leave enough time to get them sorted in plenty of time. I definitely need some of those electrolyte drinks - the Lucozade version is quite nice - as well as the obvious things like plasters, suncream (he says) etc. Oh, and a yellow hat. Apparently it makes me easy to spot for mum, because "Nobody else has one, I can see you in the crowd!" Sadly (but it was quite funny) my previous one blew off in the wind at Ronaldsway during the winter league. So please don't all go out and get one otherwise you'll be getting offered random food by my mother!

I'm really looking forward to getting home for a week during TT. It's something I enjoy every year, both for the bikes and the atmosphere. Thankfully there are only about 10 days to go (I get back on Wednesday 3rd.) Last year I was unlucky with exams and missed half of race week but with the event falling later this year, I'll be able to get it all in. In terms of walking I'll probably stick around Baldwin and Marine Drive because it can be difficult to find other suitable routes, especially in Douglas. I know Maughold is a nice area to go walking, but it's the fighting through 20,000-odd extra bikes to get there that puts me off a bit.

For the weekend, I'm optimistic of getting a decent walk done on Sunday, and will try and do some speed training tonight if the Uni. athletics track is free. Next week I'll try and get back into the working mode but I have a big treat coming up a week on Saturday...the FA Cup final. I haven't actually got a ticket for the stadium (£600 online; no chance) but I have got one for the bar just across the road, for a rather more modestly-priced £10. There are a few of us going down on the train and I'm sure we'll have a great day out. It will be even better if Phil Neville lifts the trophy for the toffeemen!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Support Drivers: the dilemma

Welcome back blog fans - having gone to ground for a while, it's certainly about time that I wrote a new post. I'm getting pretty excited for the Parish now, and although it's still over a month away, I suppose that's not really very long at all. Plus, the entries have now closed and the numbers have been allocated, so that's one of the first things I like to look for on the build up to the big day.

I've been having a look through the entry list and was quite surprised to come across some interesting stats (which hopefully you won't find too boring, it intrigued me a bit but maybe I am having an 'anorak' moment...)

This year there is a record entry of 1620, compared to last year's 1598 - so only 22 extras. My race number however is only 5 higher than it was last year, which suggested two things. The first was that perhaps entry numbers in one category e.g. senior men might be a bit lower and there might be a slightly higher entry from (for example) senior women, to allow for the balance which made my race number stay virtually the same. The other (and much more obvious answer in my view) was that the rest of the field was pretty static but that this year there is a boost in the number of entries from under-21s. Looking through the entry list, this is immediately obvious. Last year there were just 22 under-21 men, this year there are 43. Last year there were 45 U-21 women whereas this time round there are 49, making a total of 92 under-21s which equates to about 1 in 20 walkers...not bad at all.

The explosion in the U-21 men category is pretty interesting given that in the last 3 years is has hovered stubbornly around the mid 20s/low 30s mark. The women's entry is virtually always slightly higher but the gap has closed quite substantially this year. Should make for two very interesting races on the day I think.

Something different to which everyone can relate though is the subject of support drivers. Every year as the field increases in size, so inevitably does the amount of support cars cruising along beside you. It's quite good fun to catch snippets of Manx Radio through the open windows as the sun blazes down (in theory!) or spot the big white numbers in the rear windows and then find yourself alongside the person wearing that number - "Oh so it's you who has the Ford Focus!?"

The problem is of course that the amount of vehicles creates a headache for the organisers and the other drivers, not only in terms of walker safety but also keeping the roads as free as possible for general traffic. Yet just about everybody agrees that support cars are essential for most people - I know I certainly rely on having support. We are encouraged if we can to try and limit the support, or even wait until after Peel, but in practice that can be difficult and from a personal point of view I wouldn't be comfortable going all the way to Peel just relying on the free water and bananas - valuable as they are.

There's no doubt in my mind that the feeding stations are well-positioned, and I think that walkers are very well provided for. There are just about as many banana stops as can reasonably be accommodated - from Marown to Rushen there is one virtually every 3 or so miles, and I hope you'd agree that the Lucozade stop at the bottom of the Sloc is an absolute lifesaver. After that one, there's the best feed station (the Round Table - check out the palm trees and the butlers) and usually a few friendly old ladies with oranges on the way towards Peel.

I think if I really tried, I could probably go to Peel without support, relying on the free stuff all the way. But from a comfort-zone perspective, I like to have some things that you just can't get from the tables. I think this is probably the reason why there is a lot of traffic, especially in the early stages - people like to have that backup there and it's someone to talk to if nothing else.

The question is how to persuade people not to have a support stop 'early doors,' so that the field can get strung out a bit. It's difficult though, especially if you're like me and you don't like to carry much (if anything) on your person. I've got a lot of respect for anyone who can carry a backpack or even a bumbag - at least it helps you to be self-sufficient for a bit longer. I usually set off with a full bottle, get a top-up and some fruit at Marown and aim for a first support-driver base just before Santon Church. I'm quite lucky too that we have family friends who live on the course at Ballasalla, so that allows me to pit-stop again until about Ballabeg. After that I can just about make it up the Sloc but between Eairy Cushlin and Peel I usually get mum to drive on every 2 or 3 miles and meet me again in case anything goes horribly wrong, which is has done in the past!

So it's a bit of a dilemma - most people have support cars, most people need them, but could we really do without them until later in the walk?

What does anyone think?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

'Follow his distractions'

That's what it says on the bloggers page on the website. Well strictly speaking, it actually says 'Adam is hoping to get to Peel... follow his progress and his distractions.'

Unfortunately, this week has been geared far more towards the distractions than the progress, hence the blog title and a post that I'm afraid is not likely to be particularly interesting. Nevertheless there is hope for the end of the week to get a bit more training done.

Physically I am feeling pretty good at the moment, so there is nothing stopping me from walking/running/playing football on that score. Sadly it's that time of year for students though and there is no escape from the dreaded 'e' word. Mine start exactly 2 weeks today, I have 4 in the space of 5 days (could be better) but then a 10-day gap before my final two on the 2nd June (could be much worse.) To inspire my revision and provide an end-of-exams treat I have today swelled the coffers of the Steam Packet to get me back to the rock the very day after the exams - for what's left of TT practice and all of race week. :)

Yesterday and today were the final two days of revision lectures, so between now and the end of May I have a blank timetable with no academic commitments at all - just revision. I have been trying to work hard and get as much done as possible, meaning that on a few occassions in the last few days I have been in the library until late in the evening and have not had the chance nor the will to do any training. I'm thinking I'll treat myself to a 6 or 7 o'clock finish on Friday so there should be enough light left for an hour or so of running or walking, whichever seems the more appealing. By then I'll need a Tesco trip so perhaps I could walk up there and get the bus back.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Road to Recovery

It's four days since the walk and happily I am now virtually back to 100% although it has taken longer than I'd hoped for the blisters to go down and the legs to stop aching. After the walk was over I felt better than I have done after similar distances but it always takes time and a few sleeps before the aches and pains wear off. At least now I am just about able to walk properly without shooting pain on my heel!

I did enjoy the walk though, despite a few teething problems. There was a good atmosphere at the start and the weather was virtually ideal. It didn't take long for everyone to be able to get into their stride, probably just out of Peel was where the crowds started to thin out just a little bit, and the walk along the coast road was quite pleasant. Normally I'm not a big fan of this road because it always goes on longer than I remember, especially with the two big dips towards Kirk Michael, but when you have company and are feeling fresh it does pass by much faster than when you are dragging yourself towards Peel with 20 miles already behind you!

The run on the main road from Kirk Michael to Ballaugh was pretty quick so it was nice to be able to get onto the quieter Ballaugh to Jurby road away from most of the traffic. This was where I suffered the most as the blisters had already started and I was getting passed by a few people, which at the time can be a bit demoralising but you just have to walk your own race and try not to worry about anyone else, particularly if there is no way you can keep up with them. Eventually outside the prison I had to stop for a blister pit-stop, which was partly successful but to be honest I didn't have the right materials to properly ease the discomfort. Once I had gone up the steep hill past the little humpback bridge at the Lhen, I felt great and had a really good 5 or so miles into Bride, when the worst of the blisters burst and suddenly the nagging pain had gone. Happy days.

Bride to Sulby Bridge is a very flat section indeed, so I was able to just about maintain the pace I had managed into Bride. The field was very well strung out by now, and between Bride and the finish (10 miles) I only saw 4 walkers to speak to. The last bit from Sulby to Ramsey was hard, with an uneven pavement and the knowledge that the end was virtually in sight. Once I got to Milntown I realised that I was on for a decent time so I pushed as hard as I could in the final mile to get it over and done with!

The most satisfying thing apart from the result is that I am confident I know where I went wrong, and how to improve for next time - not in terms of technique or speed but preparation, eating and drinking. I was aware of the basic concepts beforehand, like the need to keep your protein levels up and get plenty of carbs into the system (bananas, pasta, chicken, are all good in these respects) but I had not appreciated some of the finer tips and essentials that can really help you feel better and get more from your body. It was only after a conversation with Mark Hempsall that I realised that my tight muscles were not so much to do with either failure to stretch properly or repetitive motion (as I had thought) but due to lack of salt intake. I simply didn't take on as much salt as I was losing through perspiration, which was why I didn't feel as good as I might have done.

I think some of the electrolyte drinks you can buy can go some way towards redressing the balance but perhaps the best thing I have come across so far is the 'do it yourself' energy drink recipe (loads on Google) which basically combines pure orange juice, sugar, water and salt (and possibly some other ingredients that I can't remember.) They sound very easy to make and I'll be making some to see if I can stomach them during a walk. I'm certainly no expert when it comes to nutrition and what to eat but I am making an effort at the moment to research this. I think in the past I have probably got away with not eating or drinking quite the right things at the right times, either due to cool weather or slower walking speed.

There were some great performances at the weekend, with a lot of people I think going much faster than they had expected to, or just seeing if they could sustain a quick pace for 30 miles because I'm sure they certainly won't be trying to go that fast in the Parish. Well done to all. I think it's important to be objective and uncontroversial but just from a personal viewpoint I think Paul Jackson did very well in what I believe to be his first competitive walk, so too a good friend of mine Rob Wright who was very quick. Well done also to Bernie and Dave who went virtually all the way together and must be very pleased with their Parish preparation - good stuff guys! Anne Oates, who has been one of the featured walkers on the website this year, posted an excellent time as well. It was disappointing that a few people were forced to retire through injury, one of whom I've walked with in the Parish before, but better now than in June I suppose, if it's any consolation.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Cream crackered


I've not long been back in the house after the Sara Killey walk today. Weather conditions were virtually perfect, with the sun pleasant but not too warm and quite a bit of cloud around to keep the temperature just about right. There was also a very pleasant breeze on the coastal sections, especially between Peel and Kirk Michael and Ballaugh to Jurby.

It's still too early after the race for any results, especially as we didn't use the Manx Telecom timing wristbands this time, however I do know that Mark Hempsall won the race. Jock Waddington was second in 5h 3 mins but I don't have a time for Mark at the moment - fantastic walks from both of them and well done to Mark who is hopefully hitting his best form at just the right time. Apart from that I know nothing else so fingers crossed that the results might be published tomorrow so we can get a clearer picture.

From a personal point of view I suffered bad blisters again, which started even before Kirk Michael. I had to stop in Jurby for a change of plasters and this seemed to help for a while, but then I felt one of them burst just on the section before Bride. After this it was much less painful but my feet were in a bit of a sorry state by the time I got to Ramsey. I get blisters in the same place without fail every time I walk, and have gone through 3 pairs of trainers and 3 different pairs of socks in the 3 or so years I have been walking but the same thing happens, so I am at a bit of a loss.

I expect socks are most of the problem because today's pair weren't nearly as comfortable over 30 miles as they are over 12! Added to that, I don't think the second skin plaster I put on at the start was really thick enough to act as an effective cushion. I do always put plasters on beforehand, with the hope of preventing rather than having to cure, but predictably there is always some discomfort. I'm considering more extreme measures like taping my feet - I've never done this before and am just getting my teeth into a book with some advice about this so hopefully that will pay off.

On a much more positive note, I completed the distance quite a lot faster than I had expected to, without any cramp. The legs were a bit tight from Jurby onwards, particularly my left hamstring, but I felt ok and the pain didn't get any worse so I was able to press on at the same speed. It was a bit lonely on some of the northern parts of the course but again I struck up some nice conversation with fellow walkers and had a lot of people I could see in the distance to aim for, which I think always helps spur you on. At the end I was 100% more mobile than last year, so I think the training I am doing and my general fitness must be paying off. Hopefully I can keep moving around the house tonight (on tiptoes) to stop everything siezing up!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Bumper (and top-quality) entry for Sara Killey

Firstly, the housekeeping: I managed 6k down at the NSC on Thursday evening, all alone which was a bit of a shame but it was a nice evening and there was plenty going on down there to have a nosey at (especially the frustrated drivers in the MacDonalds drive-through queue!)

I was away over the weekend but did loads of walking along cobbled streets in France. I certainly walked further than I would normally do in a weekend if I wasn't on a training walk. I was visiting a town called Rouen, which is in Normandy and about 1.5 hours' drive north-west of Paris. I'm studying there from this September through to June of next year so I went for a preparatory visit to get a feel for the place and practice some french! My feet were really sore after three days of walking virtually everywhere but I'm sure it's all good training. I'm not quite sure how far I walked in total but I reckon over 3 days I managed something like 7 miles.

Yesterday was my final football match of the season. We've got 2 games left but they are not until next week and by then I'm back at Uni anyway. I played the full 90 and felt good at the end - for the last 3 evening games I have had 'breakfast' again before going to play - bowl of cereal and 2 rounds of toast - just to keep me going until I can have something hot when I get home around 8.30. It really seems to have worked and I've been feeling surprisingly fresh even after the whole game. Either that or I am simply not running around enough...it's probably the latter!

Housekeeping over, I'm looking forward to this Sunday and the Sara Killey Memorial Walk, which starts at 8.30 and covers a 30-mile route from Peel to Ramsey (which exactly mimics the Parish course.) I had debated for a long time whether to enter, as I am supposed to be back in Durham by Monday morning, but in the end decided to go for it and enter the walk...giving myself Monday to recover and flying back on Tuesday. Luckily I'm not missing any lectures, it's just revision, and I didn't want to miss out on what will be my longest and best chance to train at something like target pace for the Parish. Plus I can experiment with food and drink to see what's going to work best when I am walking, because I don't really like walking and eating and often don't feel hungry but I know I have really got to eat something even if I don't feel like it. Melon pieces and chicken sandwiches were the favourites in the rain last year but who knows what will happen at the weekend!!

The entry for the walk is really good - I have counted 193 people which is I think about 40 people more than last year if memory serves me correctly. Virtually all the people you would expect to be in contention for top-15 Parish finishes have entered, with a couple of exceptions, but I think it will be a great walk for everyone involved - hopefully there will be a high percentage of finishers with the route having been shortened this year.

Steve Partington, Sean Hands and Robbie Callister are all taking part, and I don't think any of them walked in this event last year. Steve has been in great form over the winter and won the Fire Stations in 2007. He's one of the best walkers the Island has produced and I expect him to be in contention on Sunday if he decides to do the full distance. The new course is flatter than the old one and that will play nicely into his hands. You'd expect most of the finish hopefuls for the Parish to complete the full 30 miles but that's not always the case so there may be one or two surprises.

Sean Hands set a blistering pace in last year's Parish, inside his own 14h 46 mins record, and then won the End to End in September. Since then I'm not sure what he has been up to, but he is without doubt going to be one of the quicker ones. Robbie will be there or thereabuts in Ramsey I am sure - if your house had to go on someone finishing a long-distance walking race in the top 4 or 5, there can't be many better candidates.

Add to the mix everyone else who did compete in this event last year and performed very well - joint winners Jock Waddington and Mark Hempsall, then Alan Cowin, plus others who will be near the front - the likes of Chris Cale, Dave Mackey, Andy Green, Marie Gilbertson, Lisa Motley, Vinny Lynch and other people I will doubtless have missed, it's going to be intriguing at the front. It's great that both Ray Pitts and Sue Biggart have entered and it will be interesting to see if they line up at the NSC in June. Just having a quick flick through the entrants and the internet, where I've been able to find results for the Fire Stations for 2007 and 2008, there are a number of people taking part who finished the event in both years. Hopefully you can all make it a hat-trick in 2009 (unless you finished in 2006 as well, in which case all the best for an even more impressive string of finishes!)

I expect most people hoping to go past Peel in June will be walking at the sort of pace they will want to do for the Parish. This must be a bit frustrating with the race distance being shorter than their Parish will be, but I am sure it's important to try and get everything working on Sunday as it will be in a couple of months, so that you know the pace is good and you feel ok. I've just read Julia's blog post and I know that she is in this boat...I'm sure it's frustrating but I am equally sure it has to be the right thing to do.

I'm quite chuffed that 30 miles is the distance. In effect this will be a mini-Parish for me, but with fewer hills so I expect (and want to) go faster, plus the fact that the Sara Killey is 2 miles shorter which will take about half an hour off the time. I'll walk at the speed I want for June so happily I won't have to try and slow myself down or pace myself - I am just going to go for it and see how it goes. The first section from Peel to Michael is the hilliest so I will use that to get warmed up and into the swing of things before the main part of the walk begins.

Hopefully I will see some of you on Sunday, if there are people actually reading this, so all the best for the walk, especially if it's your first one. I have a friend who has entered for the first time so I'll be looking out for her, plus the guy in whose company I walked from Michael to Ramsey last year (who made things go much quicker!) and a certain gentleman who I always seem to fall into step with whenever there is a walking event on the Isle of Man. Hope to see you on Sunday! :)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

It's all go

Since my travails on the Sloc on Sunday, Monday has been the only day where I haven't done anything physical. I am never this active at Uni so I am enjoying every day back home and trying to pack in as much as possible. I really feel that it is paying dividens because I am feeling in better physical shape than I have done for a quite a while, and this is showing in both my walking and the football.

On Tuesday I managed three laps of the NSC roadway before I had to leave to go football training. The evening was cool and cloudy, what I consider to be ideal walking conditions, and I enjoyed the laps at a leisurely pace with Bernie and Tony Ball who are regulars in the Parish. The childrens' cycling league is just getting started again so I think if we had tried to stay any longer we'd probably have been told where to get off anyway!

Afterwards I went to football, which was supposedly a relaxed session because of the rearranged game that we had this evening. In the event we ended up playing 45 minutes, full pitch 11-a-side with everyone (1st team and Combination) getting involved, so we weren't exactly fresh when we called it a day to go and watch the Chelsea v Liverpool game. Despite that, I felt pretty good this evening before the match. Quite frankly we were taken apart by the opposition but from a personal point of view, when the final whistle blew I felt like I could have kept on running for a bit longer, which is always a good thing. Plus I actually managed an effort on goal, not bad for a defender who very rarely enters the 'nosebleed territory' of the opposition half, let alone their penalty area!

Tomorrow I'll try and do a bit more than three laps of the NSC, football having been cancelled to let us rest after tonight. I'm pretty annoyed that it's changed from Monday and Wednesday to Tuesday and Thursday (when I usually try and go walking) but at least tomorrow I won't feel pressured for time when I'm walking.

Finally, I received a catalogue in the post today from www.sportsshoes.com. These are the people from whom I bought my latest pair of trainers, but they sell all sorts from gloves to water bottles, waterproofs and high-vis bibs. The website is very comprehensive and worth considering I think if you are in need of some new bits and pieces. Some of their trainers are very cheap at the moment too.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Tough at the Top






A belated happy Easter to everyone, hopefully you are off work today and enjoying some of the leftover chocolate from the weekend. The pictures above will make sense once you've read this post - click on them to enlarge.

Thanks to the very nice weather I managed two walks - one on Saturday and the other yesterday, which have put me in a positive frame of mind and put me in the mood for doing more this week.

On Saturday I covered about 9.5 miles with a friend who I trained with last year. She's hoping to make it to Peel in June, having reached Rushen in the blizzard last time, so we followed one of my favourite routes that has some good hills to mimic the real thing. We went from the Cat With No Tail down to Ballanard Road, turned right and went along to Abbeylands, left down the hill and up the other side before turning right onto to Ballaoates Road towards Baldwin and St Luke's Church. When we got all the way to the crossroads just before the church, we turned left, down into West Baldwin over the little bridge, and then left again to Mount Rule/Strang Crossroads. To finish we went past Union Mills FC to retrace our steps along Ballanard and up to the pub.

I'm conscious that I do this route more often than any other and that you're probably sick of hearing about it, but there are three main reasons why I like it so much: 1) lack of traffic, 2) the views and 3) the variation of flat and hills (both down and up!)I got back feeling pretty good but with sore feet because I didn't bother to wear proper socks or put any plasters on. I didn't have any blisters but I think had I carried on for much longer I would have developed some, as I could feel my feet rubbing in the shoes.

Given that the weather was so nice yesterday, and the fact that Saturday had whet my appetite a bit, I went out again on Sunday and decided to take on the infamous Sloc. I'm very interested in the debate about the Sloc because many people I speak to hate it and can't wait until it's over whereas others tell me it's a doddle and to stop complaining about it. It's horses for courses I suppose - if you don't mind going uphill then obviously you'll find it easier than those who prefer the flat. I actually quite enjoy that part of the course and consider myself to be quite strong going uphill. Both years so far I have managed to get past a few people from Ballakillowey to the Round Table without being overtaken by too many people, which is always a good feeling. It's just the coming down the other side that I find more of a problem!

I did this route last year as training but I don't think I managed it quite as fast as yesterday. I park on Glen Road in Colby (just by the football club) and then go back out onto the main road, following the Parish route into Rushen. I didn't really get going properly until out of the village where the new houses are on the right hand side (Carrick Bay View I think it's called?) just before you get to the nurseries on the left. Once I swung round the roundabout though and 'up the Ballakillowey' (yessir) I started to get cracking and really try to walk as I will do in the event. It's tough going on that first climb (which I think is the most difficult and the steepest of the whole 'Sloc') but when you get to the picnic site at Tom the Dipper's you actually get some downhill(!) and then a flat-ish stretch before the sharp bend at the bottom of the main Sloc. By the time I got to the right-hander at the very top, at the foot of Cronk-ny-Arrey-Laa, I was pretty tired and my feet hurt already but as I was only about halfway there was nothing to do but carry on. This I think is the highest part of the course and the views on a clear day are fantastic - Snaefell and the northen hills in front, and pretty much the whole of the south of the Island behind you.

This time I did put some plasters on before setting off - mainly on my toes to stop them rubbing together but also on my heels. I get very annoying blisters right on the bottom of my foot and up to the heel, sort of off-centre, making it very hard to get the plasters on smoothly because they seem to crease up very easily. Added to that the hammering that my feet had on Saturday, blisters were only to be expected and it was my own fault really.

Eventually I got to the Round Table (that road goes on forever?!) and turned right to head back to the car via the South Barrule quarry, Magnetic Hill etc. I was bored and cold out of the sunshine (it was about 5.15pm) and just wanted to get home! No iPod this time because my shorts didn't have pockets, so it was just me and the Manx countryside...although it is lovely around there. I got back to the car at about 6.10 having covered something like 10/11 miles, feeling tired but pleased with the time it had taken (about 2hrs 15 mins.)

The plan for this week is to do some hill training tonight, flat stuff tomorrow and Thursday and play football on Wednesday evening (we have a rearranged match in the league.) I'm away next weekend so I need to build up some miles whilst I have the chance.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Day of rest, for once

I've had another busy but productive week both from a work and sport point of view, but am really looking forward to the week ahead where I plan to do very little (except maybe a couple of essays that really need to be finished.)

I managed 45 minutes of walking at the NSC on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as football on Monday and Wednesday and the match yesterday. Neither of the football training sessions were too taxing but I have spent most of this weekend feeling quite run-down, with the classic headache, temperature, aching limbs etc that come from doing too much in a short space of time. Yesterday I got in from the football, watched the Grand National and then didn't really move from the sofa until I went out for an 18th birthday in the late evening.

My walking action is, I think, getting better all the time. The acid test will be doing a longer walk, say around 10 or so miles, at Parish pace to see how I feel after that distance. I didn't feel like doing anything physical today so for once Sunday was devoid of any sport-related activity. I'll hopefully feel better and a bit more motivated on either Tuesday or Wednesday when I hope to get out and do a decent route to see how things are going. I used to get really sore shoulders after just a few miles but the lower you can keep your arms, and the more relaxed your shoulders are, the better it should feel. I'm still getting to grips with this but I'm certain it will be of benefit in the long run.

That's all for now, especially after the length of last week's posting!

Monday, 30 March 2009

British Summer Time?!

It certainly felt like summer this weekend. The clocks going forward on Sunday coincided with what was probably one of the nicest days of the year so far...hours of sunshine and barely a breath of wind. Ideal conditions for just about everything, although as far as the walking was concerned, maybe a bit more cloud cover would have made things more comfortable. Still, I'm not complaining, let's hope the good weather carries on for a few more days at the very least.

I really enjoyed the race on Sunday morning. There was a strong turnout of walkers, marshals and spectators and the course round the NSC was more enjoyable than the Ronaldsway route I entered in January in near gale-force conditions. It took me the first couple of laps to get into any sort of rhythm, it sounds strange but I found myself struggling to know what to do with my arms, they felt all out of sync with my legs. After that I managed to settle down and concentrate on trying to keep a consistent pace without going too fast.

After about 4 or 5 of the 10 laps I got a really bad stitch, which slowed me up quite a bit - it was painful to draw breath. I'm not quite sure why this happened but I think it might have something to do with drinking before the race - I find if I have Lucozade or Powerade etc prior to starting something physical, I tend to develop a stitch after a while. I thought 'just keep going, slow down' as I was more bothered about finishing the walk and getting some good practice than trying to keep up with people. After about half a lap, from the swimming pool to the clubhouse by the roadway entrance, I started to feel better and was able to push on again. It's great to have company when walking and I was fortunate enough to be side-by-side with a couple of fast walkers for the majority of the race. So Bridget and Mike, thank you!!

The most satisfying thing about the day was being able to get more advice from people really in the know. When I first did the Parish and the End-to-End, I walked at my own pace just as I would walk to work or around town, probably somewhere in the region of about 4mph. That always got me to the finish line but I used to suffer really bad shoulder and leg pain afterwards. At the time I put it down to the distance, but then reflected a bit and thought that the way I was walking probably wasn't helping me very much. So ever since 2007 I have been trying to modify my walking style to be as economical and clinical as possible - not only to go faster but also to feel better.

I've had plenty of help and advice from a lot of people, without which I'm sure I wouldn't be so bothered about the whole walking thing. In actual fact, there is a heck of a lot more to it than just putting one foot in front of the other. If you can get your arms working a bit, you can generate drive from the top half of your body - taking some of the strain off your legs. So what if you feel self-conscious and start saying to yourself 'this isn't natural' - I'm sure most of us have been there - if it helps your technique then go for it. Nobody cares on Parish day - if everyone is mad enough to do the event, then nobody is going to care whatever gets you through if it works for you.

On Sunday I also had a very useful and constructive discussion with a Parish finisher (and former blogger) about pacing yourself in the Parish Walk. Different things work for different people and I don't want to seem like I am dishing out opinions on how you should be walking, but I think setting the right pace is something that many people can relate to and have difficulty coming to a decision about.

The key thing is not to start too fast. We hear this every year, and it's a maxim that applies to many sports, not just the Parish. Although it is extremely frustrating walking 4 miles to Marown essentially in convoy, and although it's hard to resist the temptation to overtake that group of people in front, try to resist it as much as you can. I think that's stating the obvious a bit, but it's nevertheless important to get warmed up and get your body working before you start to go for it 100%.

You also hear that, for those hoping to finish, the race doesn't start until Peel. Having no qualifications on the subject, I was happy to listen to the advice on Sunday, which is that there is nothing more satisfying than picking people off one-by-one as you slog through Kirk Michael, Jurby and Bride - often the very same individuals who blasted past you through Colby and who you just knew would 'hit the wall' later on.

If like me you have more modest targets than the full 85 miles, then I think there is room for the argument that going for it from the off is not such a bad idea. If your training has gone well, you're confident of making (for example) Rushen without any problems then I'm sure there is no harm in going for it. The Parish only happens once a year and I'm sure some people look back on the day thinking 'if only I'd tried that bit harder, I'd have broken 5 hours to Rushen, or 8 hours to Peel...' Having regrets after the event is irritating, but I would suggest it's better to do that than to retire injured a couple of miles short of your target.

Last year I decided before the race not to hit the pace I wanted until the Braaid crossroads. I did manage to stay reasonably disciplined - I to within about half a mile of the Braaid before making a real effort. I didn't want to burn out before Peel and was worried that if I tried too hard too early, I would suffer the same problems as I did first time round, which was cramp at Eairy Cushlin.

When I got to Peel I was very happy with my time (and happier still with the Tangy cheese Doritos - anyone else get massive salt cravings? I think there is a lesson there) but felt I still had something left 'in the tank.' That frustrated me a bit - obviously nobody wants to be on the point of collapse when they reach their target but I think I could have given it a bit more, a bit sooner. I'm not sure what to do this year, but I want to beat last year's time. That probably means going faster at an earlier stage...which conflicts with the voice in the back of my head that says 'dont start too fast!' So I am in a quandry and still totally undecided. The key is finding the balance, and it takes practice.

At the minute I'm just glad to be home. I did a really nice (and quite last-minute) 7ish mile walk on Friday evening with a friend - from Governors Hill, along the Prom, through town and back to GH again. I spent about an hour hill walking on Saturday morning and then drove to Ramsey as taxi service for a hockey match in the afternoon. On Sunday I did the 10k, went home, had lunch, played 35 minutes of dire Combination football (rearranged because of the IOM national team game on Saturday) and then went for a lap of the TT Couse in the car in the evening, a vice of mine which I have been deprived of for too long. Tonight I've had circuit training for football and I am suffering, to say the least. I'll still try and do about 45 mins walking tomorrow night and then there is football again on Wednesday. Might need to stock up on the Lucozade I think!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Winter League Finale

No excuses - just a few days after I get back home there is an organised race on a flat track! Time to dust off the trainers I think :)

The race in question is the HSBC Winter Walking League, the final round of which takes place on Sunday morning at the NSC. All the details are as usual online at manxharriers.com - there are the standard 10k and 5k options for the seniors and 5, 3 and 1k for the juniors.

I've had minimal involvement in the winter league this year, having only been home for one of the rounds back in January. That was the first short-distance race I had ever entered, and had no idea what to expect, but everyone is very welcoming and friendly so if you're feeling in the mood for some walking this weekend then I'd encourage you to give it a try even though it is the last round (plus the fact that the NSC course is not too demanding.)

To get in the groove for Sunday I had planned to have a few laps of the NSC last night but had forgotten that there was a veterans race taking place. I did manage football on Wednesday though, which was a good session, so it's not as if I haven't done anything physical this week.

The weekend is going to be a departure from normal routine for me. I've got a football match on Sunday instead of Saturday (because the IOM national team have a game tomorrow.) The kick-off on Sunday is at 2.30 so I intend to do the walk in the morning, go home for lunch and a bath and then go out to the game. I'm not expecting 90 minutes, and even if I was, I doubt I would be able to manage it after doing the walk in the morning. But we'll see how it goes. Tomorrow I've got to get out to South Barrule to check up on a letterbox hidden up there, so I'll get a decent hill walk there.

I think tonight will be devoted to catching up with friends in town and trying to avoid the ridiculous beer prices. I have missed driving whilst being away, so there is prefect justification to take the car and have a few lemonades tonight.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Still alive

I've just logged on to the website and realised that it's almost 2 weeks since the last time I posted on the blog, which is pretty poor really, considering that I've generally managed to do something more often than that. Having said that though, there hasn't really been anything interesting going on, as I have been busy trying to clear work out of the way before Easter so that it does not get left until the last minute.

Last Saturday the football team won 3-1 and therefore we were promoted for next season. Unfortunately I didn't play as I was in Middlesborough with my housemate, watching football of a slightly better quality! I was disappointed to miss the game not only because of the result but also for the exercise...it's nice to be able to get some fresh air at the weekend after 5 days of mental effort. I did however manage a training session last Wednesday, followed by an 80 minute practice game for another team from the same college who were short a few players.

Training is happening again tomorrow against the college 3rd team (we have 6 teams and I play for the 4th team.) We have actually beaten them twice out of three attempts this year so fingers crossed that it will be third time lucky tomorrow. After that I plan to get a walk done on Thursday, with the ever-lengthening evenings being good motivation. I leave Durham on Friday to spend the weekend in Somerset with my housemate at his place. We are going to Portsmouth v Everton on Saturday (he is a Portsmouth fan) so that will be 2 Premiership games in as many weeks...a nice end-of-term treat, plus a chance to sample some decent pie and cider!

I'm back home on Monday and straight into 2 weeks of work experience in town but hopefully I can get out in the evenings, whether it be running or walking, and play some more football at the weekends. It's very frustrating listening to Manx Radio sport every Saturday and being unable to get home to at least try and help halt our worrying lack of form!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Back in the walking groove

Tonight at long last I managed to get out for a proper walking session instead of football or running. Well not strictly true, as I mixed the walking with some running, but it was the first time in about 3 weeks that I have done any serious walking.

I was out for around an hour and deliberately chose a route with some steep hills. There were also some good flat sections and a bit of downhill too, so I was able to have a good balanced session covering all the important levels of gradient. I finished off with a flat-out sprint over about 150m back to the house and felt surprisingly ok afterwards, so from a fitness point of view I think I am doing quite well so far.

Yesterday we played and won in the football, and I managed a full game again. So far I haven't missed a minute of the action and our final league game is a week on Saturday so fingers crossed I will be able to claim being ever-present in our promotion-winning season (we need to draw or win our final game.) This tends to be the time of year that people pick up injuries or are buried with work, as term is winding down, so I am fairly confident of a full 90 minutes next weekend.

Whilst having a browse at parishwalk.com earlier, I came across something I hadn't noticed before - the videos section down the left hand side underneath 'photos old and new.' The most recent video is an interview with race director Ray Cox which was shot in November. It includes a brief review of the conditions last year and the organisers' plans for this year's event and is worth a look, at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Eqh2YZJ6W8

Enjoy the weekend...has the snow melted yet?!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Fire Stations Walk Details Finalised

This was something I had been going to post on Friday but I got caught up with the HSBC Open and never got round to it.

The Sara Killey Memorial Walk (Fire Stations Challenge) has been confirmed for Sunday 26th April with an 8.30am start from Peel Fire Station. All the relevant details including route, entry forms, rules and regs etc were posted online on Friday and can be found at www.iomfire.com/saraswalk2009.htm. The cost is £15 and entries close on Friday 17th April so there is plenty of time to make your mind up.

The route is 30 miles in total and finishes up at Ramsey fire station. It's certainly a lot flatter than the old route - it seems like once you get to Kirk Michael via the coast road, the worst of the climbs will be over. I think this must be the first long-distance road walk of 2009 so I would imagine that there should be a pretty large entry.

The last week or so has once again been quite productive in that football-wise I have trained once and played once, and managed a run on Friday as well. There is another match tomorrow, which I think is the last of the midweek ones that we need to play in order to finally clear the fixture congestion. After that the rest of the week is going to be quite hectic from a work point of view - I can't see myself getting out on Thursday although I would like to. On Friday I am leaving Durham at lunchtime to get the train to Crewe and spend the weekend down in Cheshire, so walking is ruled out. On the plus side I only have two more weekends until I get back for Easter, when training will be back with a vengeance!

Friday, 27 February 2009

HSBC Open Meeting Tomorrow

I've probably left it a bit late to be posting this now, but for those of you interested, the HSBC Securities Open Meeting is taking place at the NSC perimeter road tomorrow. The event attracts a quality field not just from the IoM but further afield too, especially Ireland, whose entrants have produced some fine performances in years gone by.

Entries have now closed but if you fancy a sneak peek at the action then the events are taking place pretty much all day tomorrow. The first is at 10am (the 1 mile) and then the distances increase, with the 20k at 12 noon and finally the half marathon at 2.30. Watching the racing might not be your cup of tea but the organisers have issued an invitation for lap scorers, marshals and tea-makers so if you fancy any of that, have a look at the homepage of www.manxathletics.com for all the relevant info.

From a walking perspective there are 5 events: 20k, 10k, 5k, 3k and a 1 mile event - the latter two being the preserve of the juniors. There is a good entry for each event though and I'm sure it will be a good day for all concerned.

From my limited knowledge of him, it seems that the 20k favourite might well be Ireland's Michael Doyle. From memory he was second in this year's Peel to Douglas walk and has I think contested this event before as well, so on paper is the man to beat for me. The field for the 20k, although small, is however very strong indeed and I expect Michael George and Peter Kaneen in particular to lead the local charge. Michael George just seems to be getting better and better of late, having posted some very quick times in the 10k winter league events this season including (I believe) what was his first sub-50 minute time early on in the championships, which was followed up by an even faster one at Andreas about 3 weeks ago around the 48 minute mark. 20k is a different kettle of fish but still a relatively short distance compared to many of the local events. I think Michael also set a personal best over the 50k distance sometime last year, so perhaps 20k will be the perfect middle ground for him.

It's good to see Peter Kaneen taking part and hopefully we'll see him on the start line in June as well. In my opinion he could potentially challenge Sean Hands' incredible Parish record, but I'm not sure whether Peter has been injured over the last few months as he has not contested a great deal of the local walking events. He is however very quick and technically brilliant so there could be fireworks at the sharp end of the field tomorrow.

I'm also expecting Mark Hempsall, Chris Cale and Andy Green to go very well. I'm sure they are all training hard at the moment and at this time of the year, these sorts of events can only be beneficial for honing technique and getting mileage in the legs for June. The Open walk is an important event in its own right though, so I think all three will be challenging hard tomorrow in search of a top 3 place or even better. None of them really need any introduction - Andy Green has a very relaxed, easy-on-the-eye style and has produced some excellent walks over the last 12 months, notably in my mind the End to End last year when he reached Peel in 4 hours 9 minutes. Must be the green trainers. Chris Cale and Mark Hempsall have been consistent performers over the winter too, and I think it will be very hard to split them come the end of the race. I'll be interested to have a look at the results to see how Vinny Lynch gets on - he is getting futher and further in the Parish every year and always goes well in the winter league.

The 10k event is looking very tasty as well, with Sean Hands, Jock Waddington and Dave Mackey all lining up, as does Bethany Clague who incredibly (or perhaps not so incredibly, given what she is capable of) is also entered for the half marathon in the afternoon. It is too close to call between Sean, Jock and Dave so I am going to bomb out and sit on the fence. It should be a cracking race though because you can virtually go all guns blazing from start to finish in a 10k race and I expect that to happen tomorrow.

Over the 5k distance I expect Sinead Kaneen to be fastest - one of the brightest young athletes on the Island at present. Adam Cowin and James Green have both entered winter league events and set very impressive times too, so I hope they get a decent race in as well.

I'm afraid what little knowledge and research skills I do possess does not extend into the 3k and mile classes except for the odd name here and there...but if it's dry tomorrow then I am sure everyone will enjoy themselves.

Hopefully there will be Manx Radio coverage (even if it's a bit sparse) so I can keep half an ear on the radio - if nothing else so I can hear how my close friend and fellow student Ben Lambden gets on in the half marathon. Ben has entered many events in the last few months and is home specially from Uni for the weekend - all the best mate.

Monday, 23 February 2009

my-Tunes

Just under 17 weeks to go until the big day and I am still trying to set up a little countdown on the blog, but to no avail so far. The 'add applications' function won't let me add any of the diverse things from Google weather to 'joke of the day' so I will have to carry on trying to keep you entertained with pictures instead.

I'm very pleased with how the weekend went. Managed to get out on Friday night for a 3.5 mile run with one of my housemates. It took about 40 minutes and included some decent hills so I was very happy with that. On Saturday I trained (football) for an hour and a half and then went running again on Sunday - the same route but in reverse this time. Overall then I probably covered about 8 miles or so, including the football, and was active for nearly 3 hours - an improvement on some previous weeks anyway.

Having spent the last 3 or 4 posts solely on my own training I think it's time to spark off a topic of more general discussion, that of i-Pods in the Parish (and of course other events too.)

As a preliminary point I know that in the race regulations it does state that walkers are discouraged from having personal music players. The regulations clearly state that: "the wearing of headphones is inadvisable as it increases the risk to the walker's safety." (Reg 5.)

Clearly this is not an absolute ban on wearing headphones, but I think everyone can see where the organisers are coming from in cautioning against wearing them. This is particularly evident I believe in the earlier part of the race where you often need to hear instructions from marshals when crossing roads (NSC, Union Mills, Marown, Oatlands Road etc.)

There are many people who do choose to listen to music during the Parish, and one argument which I find it hard to disagree with is 'provided I take my headphones out at the obviously dangerous places, like crossing roads, where is the harm in wearing them?' Add to that the fact that usually until at least Santon (depending on how near the front you are) there is nearly always a big group of people around you anyway, and very little risk of you coming into conflict with any traffic, it seems that there should not be an issue with music.

Where I think the pro-headphones argument really comes into its own is for those who are hoping either to finish, or at least continue walking into the evening and night. I'm sure it can get very lonely in the northen parts of the course as the field becomes more and more strung out and the darkness begins to set in. Music can be a great motivator and it is surprising how you can eat up the miles without really thinking about it, once you have a good tune on the iPod. Of course, night walking brings added danger for those with headphones because not only is it more difficult to hear the traffic, it's harder to see it as well...but perhaps more importantly it is harder for you to be seen.

My own personal view is that anyone who wants to listen to music should not be prevented from doing so, provided that they are sensible and are prepared to take out those headphones at crucial times during the day. I think this is reflected in the regulations - the organisers want everyone to enjoy the day as much as possible but have to be mindful of safety considerations as well. I guess the best way to sum everything up is: do what works for you - music or not - but take care.

I've never had an iPod for the Parish itself but I do like to have it with me when I am training (and this includes road walking too, not just pavements.) As long as it is quiet enough for me to be able to hear the whoosh of traffic, I feel safe, particularly as walking on the right hand side allows me to see oncoming traffic from a reasonable distance and adjust my position in the road if needs be. Not that walking in the Manx countryside is ever boring, but some favourite tunes can make the whole thing even better.

I actually went as far as to plumb the depths of iTunes and create a 'walking' playlist (not very difficult, but my first playlist nevertheless.) Prior to that all the music was just 'there' and I would stick it on shuffle and get going. Eventually I got fed up of some of the random songs coming on time and time again, so I decided to tailor the selection so that I would theoretically never have to hit 'next' every 5 minutes.

As well as personal favourites, I also searched for songs with a decent beat that were more or less in time with my walking pace, and added them too. This has been great because it keeps me in a good rhythm and has also reminded me of some songs I would probably not otherwise have on the iPod. Here are a few links to some of them - even if the song is not to your taste (as not all of them are to mine) they are great for keeping in time. Not sure if the hyperlinks will work but if not, copy/paste into your browser should do the trick.

Canned Heat - 'On the Road Again' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIhXiyHjIlg

Brilliant beat. The singing can get on the nerves after a while though.

Booker T and the MGs - 'Green Onions' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFVK0AOB8Vk

...if you don't mind the voice-over for the first 35 seconds!

The Committments - 'Mustang Sally' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sxc8Sm0nXpE

No introduction needed

Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons - 'Walk Like a Man' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LptJktBgbRM

Appropriate indeed

The Ventures - 'Walk Don't Run' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ11y7pYl-8

Even more appropriate!

Madness - 'Baggy Trousers' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LptJktBgbRM

Bit quick maybe, but harmless fun

So next time you're out for a walk, just imagine yourself cruising along to a bit of Booker T or The Ventures...and maybe give it a try.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Motivation

After a week of general non-activity I am now feeling much more motivated to get some training done. Luckily the match this afternoon got the go-ahead as it has been relatively dry in the last few days. I played the full 90 mins and probably touched the ball more times with my head than feet (I play in central defence, in a distinctly average league) but the good news is that the knee felt fine, so with some more hot water bottles/ice packs (I never know which is best?!) it should be ok for a decent walk come the weekend.

I want to try and get out either tomorrow or Friday, and then again on Saturday, to try and keep things going and hopefully build some muscle strength. I'm also thinking about circuit training instead of just football and walking all the time - I think it can be easy to fall into the trap of concentrating too much on the legs, when in actual fact a good all-round level of fitness will be important for the Parish. We've got a decent circuit regime at the club I play for back home (one of the players is a personal trainer) so I will just steal everything from that. It includes press-ups, sit-ups, short sprints etc and provides a decent workout if you have 8 activities, doing each for a minute followed by a minute's rest, and then an repeat circuit at a higher intensity for 30 seconds each.

Although my training has been haphazard so far to say the least, I'm taking comfort from the fact that it's much earlier than I have started in previous years and I feel what I have done has been more beneficial, especially the short 45 minute/1 hour sessions at high speed. I am missing being able to do that with company, but happily I've got 5 weeks at home over Easter (when I think my training will be peaking) to concentrate on technique and speed on the flat. One thing I do need to learn is how to go up hills reasonably quickly without dying...hopefully I can glean some ideas when I am home.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Was that really nearly 6 years ago?


I was browsing the parishwalk.com site a couple of days ago and noticed there is a new featured walker, Gordon Corran. I had a scan through his profile and was amazed to see myself in one of the pictures! It was taken by Murray at the Round Table in 2003...the first time I ever did anything for the Parish. I am standing by the road sign wearing the blue and black jacket (which is still lurking in the wardrobe, but is effectively in retirement)and yellow marshals' bib.

Back on point, the last 10 days or so have been rather poor again as far as training is concerned. I had football training on Wednesday but the pitches were so sticky that I ended up trying to turn body to go one way, but my legs stayed rooted in the ground and I twisted my knee quite badly. Fortunately that was the last action of the session, so I was able to get back home and get some ice on the knee pretty quickly.

I could feel quite a lot of pain on Thursday and Friday but I found that the more mobile I was, the less pain I could feel. It was only when sitting still for long periods that the pain started to come back. Come Saturday I felt pretty good and was tempted to take part in training again but it was called off until today. In the event the knee was still sore this morning so I decided discretion was the better part of valour and stayed at home to eat bagels instead.

I don't think it is anything serious. I was able to run back from town today without any pain, so I expect to play 90 minutes on Wednesday in one of the many games re-arranged because of the snow. I've got lots of work for the first half of this week, but either Thursday or Friday I will get out walking because with one thing and another it has been far too long since my last decent walk.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Snowed In




Once again another relatively unproductive week, so not very much to report unfortunately, apart from the snow. We had quite a lot of it fall on Sunday night and into Monday morning, and even now there is still some lingering in the shade round the back of the house. That has made even walking around town quite treacherous because every night the snow keeps freezing again and you really have to watch your step on the cobbles and the hills.

Last Saturday we did manage to get a football match played, before the cold weather took hold. I played 90 minutes against the 6th team from the same college as me - a local derby you might say. We managed to win, but not very convincingly, so I was given a fair runaround and was glad of the final whistle. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were wiped out with evening committments but we trained on Wednesday, although all the grass pitches were waterlogged so the session was limited to 5-a-side on the netball courts in college. There is supposed to be another game tomorrow, this time against the team 2nd in the league, which will be tough if it goes ahead but the forecast is for -4 degrees overnight and the sports staff are notoriously protective of the pitches so I'm not holding out too much hope that it will get played.

I'm off to Preston tomorrow night until Sunday evening so I won't get chance to get any walking done over the weekend. The plan is to hopefully get out either Wednesday or Thursday next week, even if for just 45 minutes, just to get going again.

I'll be sorry to miss the Winter League at Andreas on Sunday. I had hoped to be home this weekend for an 18th birthday, which would have been ideal to coincide with the walk, but it hasn't worked out because of the Preston trip so I'll have to wait until Easter and the final round before I get another go at a 10k race.

I've recently read on manxathletics.com that the Fire Stations Challenge will be taking place this year...for a while there was some doubt as to whether it would happen at all. The date is Sunday 26th April (the day I am supposed to be back in Durham to start the summer term) so it's not looking likely that I will be able to do it, which is a big shame as I enjoyed very much last year even with the sleet and snow in the morning.

Apparently the route has been revised so that instead of the previous 50-mile course from Port Erin via the 7 fire stations to Douglas, the walk now starts in Peel and follows the Parish course to Ramsey, which is 30 miles because it includes the detour to Jurby, Bride and Andreas. Obviously it won't be a '7 station' challenge any more but I reckon the organisers have got it spot-on for the reasons they have mentioned: 1) the quieter roads in the North and 2) the proximity of the Parish Walk. There wasn't a great number of people who even attempted to complete the whole course last year, although I suppose a valid argument is that for those who want to do 50 miles, the option should be there - especially when you consider it's not even 3/4 distance of what they will be doing in June. I'm sure that it will be a great event though and valuable training time for everyone, regardless of their targets for the Parish Walk.

There will apparently be more info coming up soon on www.iomfire.com but if you fancy the walk, it might be worth keeping tabs on the forums on the Manx Athletics site for the official word:

http://pub38.bravenet.com/forum/3219660836

Have a good weekend, especially if there is still some snow on the Slieaus.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Top 6


It's been a quiet week on the walking front. I haven't specifically been out training but I did manage 2 miles to Tesco on Saturday (although I got the bus back!) Apart from that, all I have done is day-to-day walking back and forth from town, lectures etc. I did play football on Saturday and again yesterday, for 2 and a half hours, so I'd like to think that I have had an equivalent physical workout to doing a decent walk.

I'm sort of in limbo at the moment because it's quite a while until I am home for Easter and to my knowledge there aren't any events going on up here that can help me get motivated to go out training. Another problem is that the dark nights make it difficult to go out, in a strange way I am craving the NSC roadway! At least it's lit and relatively safe - no tree roots to trip you up although admittedly there are plenty of cars. I will just have to knuckle down and get on with it. I have thought about going to the gym and using the treadmill, and one of my housemates has said he wants to go running at least once a week, so either of those could be an option. The latter is more likely I think, so hopefully I can give that a try.

I've been thinking about possible training routes back on the IOM that I can do when I get home, so I thought I would post my limited dossier of 6 and maybe they will give you some inspiration if you haven't tried them already. I tend to stick to what I know and am not really too adventurous, but there are plenty of very nice walks out there if the weather is good and you have the time. In ascending order then:

6. NSC Roadway: I know for some people this would be hell on earth, going round and round the same track and seeing the same things every 10 minutes or so. I only just started training there in the week before Christmas, but I was pleasantly surprised. There are no nasty hills and it's very convenient for me from home. There is always the traffic to contend with, but this only tends to be really bad near to the astro pitch, and if you are there late enough after work you can generally get a good few laps in without being disturbed. Human company or an i-Pod come in handy though...it is monotonous.

5. Marine Drive:. Yes it may be boring, but I have found it very handy during TT week for last-minute training where you just want to keep 'ticking over' without going too far. In the past I have parked at the Port Soderick end and walked right the way along to Manx Radio and back. It's 3 miles each way so the whole thing is about 6 miles and is very pleasant to get away from the roads jam-packed with bikes. Great views on a nice day and there is always something going on out to sea if you get bored of the constant rock faces!

4. Marown 'Figure of 8': This was the first training walk I ever did for the Parish. Park at Chibbanagh Plantation on the back road from Douglas to St Marks and walk back towards Douglas until the top of the Lhergy Cripperty road into Union Mills. Go down the steep hill into the village and then follow the Parish course to the Glen Darragh road by Marown School. Still following the Parish route, go all the way to the Braaid Crossroads. Go straight on and take the first left onto the narrow Newtown Road (also part of the Parish route.) Come out on the main road by Mount Murray, turn left again and go past the hotel, and golf club to come out eventually at the nasty juncton on the St Marks back road once again. Take a left to bring you back to the plantation. It's about 8 miles, some good hill training in there but plenty of flat too. Lots of pavement and even where there is no pavement, the roads are generally quiet anyway.

3. Ballasalla/Castletown 'Figure of 8': Park in the big car park by the ford in Ballasalla next to Rushen Abbey where the recycling bins are. Follow the narrow road in the opposite direction to the ford to bring you out on the Ballasalla to Port Erin road. Carry on to Cross Four-Ways and walk against the Billown Circuit to Ballabeg Hairpin (Parish route again.) Turn right and go into the village, past where the tiny shop used to be on the left hand side, follow the Parish past Arbory Church and walk all the way to Colby. Go through the village past the pub and the Spar until you get to just before where the old Level Garage used to be, on the left hand side of the road. There is a tiny little road on the left hand side (just past the 'Welcome to Colby' sign) which goes over the railway tracks and brings you out by the big house with high walls that borders the coast road at Gansey. Alternatively you can extend this one by going left at the site where the garage was, past Strawberry Fields to bring you out by the Shore Pub.

When you get to the coast road turn left and walk up Fishers' Hill, once again against the Billown Circuit and into Castletown. Turn left at Castletown Corner, walk past the football club and all the way to Cross Four-Ways via Malew Church. Follow the way you came to get back to the car. This one is nearer 9 miles I think.

2. The Sloc: Park on Glen Road in Colby, in the lay-by on the left before Colby FC. Walk back to the main road through the village and follow the Parish route to Ballakillowey roundabout. Follow the Parish all the way up the Sloc to the Round Table. Turn right, go past South Barrule, the quarry and Magnetic Hill and follow the road all the way back, right into Colby past the water works and the football club. 11-odd miles, great hill training, don't do it in the rain though!

1. Baldwin Valley: I really like this walk. I do it from home (Saddlestone) and go to Braddan Bridge, past Jubilee Oak to the school and then Strang Crossroads. Turn right past the new Union Mills FC and take the next left which brings you to East Baldwin. Follow the road past Papermill, into the valley until after about 2 or 3 miles you get to the steep hill on your left which takes you to St Luke's Church. Go up the hill (very steep) and turn right at the junction. Follow the road round to the left past the church, down the hill and up the other side to Injebreck Reservoir. Turn left past Ard Whallin, through West Baldwin, all the way to the junction with the Mount Rule back road to Crosby. Turn left, past Ballamillaghyn and into the Strang. Go straight on towards Braddan school and retrace your steps from there. Again this is about 11 miles or so.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Walking in the dark

This week seems to have gone especially quickly; happily it is Friday tomorrow and the weekend beckons! I've now had chance to get back into the swing of Uni life since getting back on Sunday night.

Wednesday afternoon is always free from lectures as the Uni set the time aside for sports training, so I had football yesterday from 1.30 until 4. Normally we don't go on that late, but we've got a big game coming up on Saturday so we spent some extra time practising corners, free-kicks and the like before the usual free-for-all game at the end.

I've decided to really try and get into a regime of doing some walking twice a week if possible. It was quite easy when I was home for Christmas, given that I didn't have any evening commitments on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. In Durham though it's a bit more difficult because Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays tend to get taken up with other things, only really leaving me with Thursday. Theoretically of course I could go out during the early morning (but would rather be in bed, it's too cold up here at 7am!) or during the day, but work has to take precedence over training.


Tonight I managed to get out for a decent 45 minute session. In all honesty I could have chosen a better route because 3/4 of it was in total darkness along the river and then a public footpath leading into a housing estate. I did manage to build up some good speed on the flat sections and there are a couple of notable hills which just stretched things out a little bit. I was still feeling a bit sore from the football, but nothing too bad, and got home feeling that I had done just about the right amount. It's a bit disconcerting when you can't really see where you are going, so I'll have to re-think evening walks for next time I reckon.

Tomorrow will be a quiet day of lectures, library and rest for the match on Saturday. I might try a gentle wander along the river on Sunday, when I can see where I am going. Also I finally managed to get my entry in for the Parish tonight, so there is no going back now!