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.