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 - 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'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 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:

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 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!