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.