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'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 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 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!