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.

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