Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Mission Accomplished

It is the Tuesday after the Parish Walk and I am writing this before I get ready to head to the 2014 Prize Presentation.

I finished the 2014 Parish Walk and it went pretty much exactly to plan.

After the start I was soon walking in around 15th place with Dave Walker (2nd place) and Alex Eaton (1st place to Peel u21) and we were soon out of Glen Vine and heading to Marown.

By Marown Alex had headed off to the front of the race and Dale Farquhar drifted back to join Dave and I.  We stayed together until nearly Malew when Dave decided to pick it up.  Dale and I caught Tufty Nash and the three of us went through Arbory, Rushen and up the the Round Table together.  At Rushen we were in around 13th place.  On the way up the Sloc we passed Janette Morgan, Chris Cale, Brian Kelly and the South African Sinethemba Bono.

I used the downhill section and pushed on to Patrick.  At Patrick I could see Robbie Callister and Dave Walker up ahead but didn't see them again until well after Peel.

I arrived in Peel in 6th place in 5:58:53.  My pace had been constant since the access road and I was two minutes down on my schedule which was 5:56.

Climbing out of Peel I caught Robbie and we walked for a while and chatted.  He passed on some great advice/wisdom and I pushed on again through Kirk Michael and Ballaugh. At Ballaugh I was up to 5th place and was only one min behind schedule of 7:44 (7:43).  I saw Dave Walker had caught Phil Marshall, they walker together and actually went away from me even though I had been steadily closing on Dave.

Just before Bride I caught Phil and moved into 4th spot.  At Andreas I saw Dave Walker and much to my surprise, just behind him was Dave Mapp - 2nd and 3rd places.

I caught Dave Mapp just after St Judes, he pushed on and stayed with me for a few miles and we chatted, having never met before.  I pushed onto Lezayre still feeling very strong, in 3rd place.  I was absolutely bang on schedule 11:32.

I arrived in Maughold and was told I was 8 mins behind Dave.  I was 30 seconds up on my schedule and had a good feed going up Ballajora.  I recommend this strategy, gives you something to look forward to rather than fear.  Makes it very slow but you hit Hibernia with a full tank.  I also changed my top for long sleeves.

At Glen Mona I put a red light on my back for safety.  Dropping into Laxey I pushed on quite hard still full of energy from the feast of Ballajora.  At the Tram crossing I put on a head torch and it started getting dark.  There was a real party going on at Lonan.  I arrived there still in 3rd place but 4 mins behind schedule.  I was surprised by that, but still really happy to be going well and feeling good.

Dropping back into Laxey it is very steep and for the first time all day I allowed myself to acknowledge that my legs actually felt quite sore. this happened again at the Whitebridge and Onchan Church and Port Jack.

Going along the prom was quite surreal.  I was still well fed and able to really push along.  Suddenly the lights, hum of the generator and sound of applause all appeared in my vision and it was all over.

3rd place, 16:03 still 4 mins behind schedule - beaming faces from my support team, Richard G and Dave W and all my friends in the crowd.  What an unbelievable feeling.  It didn't seem real.  I was struggling to get my head round it.

Things that went right:
Support.  Number one, my support were nothing short of phenomenal.  For me the Parish Walk is about two things - Pacing and Nutrition.  I did my part by keeping the pace to schedule.  Michelle Turner did her part by feeding and watering me and getting the nutritional balance perfect. Mike Turner kept me cool all day sponging me with ice water every half mile - riding his bike at least 60 miles to do so.  Bryan Moyer was the domestique and ran back and forth with supplies all afternoon. Encouragement, energy and positivity all day long.  Relentless people.

My support was what made my walk possible.  No doubt at all.  Tireless and technically perfect.

The Team - Mike Turner, Michelle Turner and Bryan Moyer

The crowds.  The crowds are nothing short of amazing.  From the very start the support from everyone all round the course was genuine, heartfelt and incredibly enthusiastic.  Every step of the way they share their energy and boost you along.  I still can't believe it.  How do they all know your name?

Things that went wrong:
Only one thing really.  I decided Janice Quirk's 15:59 2009 walk was the best walk I have seen from a pacing perspective.  I wanted to see if I could match it.  I tried to follow her splits church by church.

I achieved that apart from Maughold to Lonan.  Janice's "ghost" effectively took 4 minutes out of me on that section.  I'm a racewalker and I pushed on hard on the flat and downhill sections. Janice must have gone up Ballajora in 2009 like an absolute train!!

I can hardly classify this as things that went wrong really, but I thought you, the reader might find it interesting.  2015 I will be fitter and stronger and the schedule will be quite different.

So I am heading off to the presentation now.  3rd Place overall.  Fastest Fist Time Finisher and team prize.  Dale, Richard Kev and I were "Dale with two Dicks and Kev.  We won the team event by 9 hours in a total time of just over 71 hours.  Who could have predicted that?  Still pinching myself.

The Parish Walk 2014


Thursday, 12 June 2014

There is nothing more that I can do

Training for me is, effective, over.  With 10 days to go there is nothing I can do to get any fitter for the Parish Walk 2014.  There are lots of things I could do to get less fit though, like falling over and breaking or twisting something.

I find myself in a strange mindset, which is probably why I have not blogged for a while.  I know I have done all of the training necessary, but I am really anxious about going into the realm of the unknown.  I am worried about the pain.  I am worried about blisters.  I am worried about over heating.  I am worried about over eating.  I am worried about under eating.

I have stated to taper now.  In other words I am doing A LOT LESS.  And that makes me anxious.  I am so hungry all the time, I have been eating for three over the past months.  Today I have been craving sweet things all day and gave in more than once.  However I am not burning it off.  Am I going to start the walk like a beach ball and undo months of work?

So lots of anxieties everywhere.  My plan now is to just try and focus on my preparation.  My kit list and my plan.

Jock Waddington did a blog entry a couple of weeks ago that talked about a plan, which was mainly about bananas, but in amongst the fruit was a lot of wisdom.  I have read it many times and hope you have too.

He then went on the win the European Centurion 100 miles race!  He knows what he is talking about.

When I hit my transition period of mental focus, the War Memorial will, I hope, be at the front of my mind.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Over the peak

This weekend was my longest training session in my preparation for 2014.  The sessions all get shorter from here on in.

The goal was to see how far I could walk comfortably in 6 hours and practice eating and drinking as much as I could en-route.

I live in Bride and so I set off tracing the Parish Walk route in the reverse direction.  There was quite a strong headwind all the way but I managed to keep the pace steady.  First pitstop was the shop in Ballaugh where I filled my water bottle, drank a sports drink and scoffed down an egg and bacon sandwich.

Next was Shoprite in Peel where I refilled by bottle, had another sports drink, a banana and a cereal bar.  I was also inclined to buy a little pot of vaseline as I was getting chafing on my arms of all places.  I won't wear that top again, but I got away with it, just.

At Patrick I left the Parish course and turned towards St Johns and up to the Hope.  Straight over and up the back road to the Earie towards Braaid.  I have driven up there countless times.  I didn't realise quite how steep it is and it keeps on going uphill beyond the plantation - a 3km 600ft climb.  As a consequence I was out of food and drink and getting hungry by Braaid; but right on cue, Michelle arrived with supplies!  I had another sports drink, a packet of crisps (salt), a banana and three much needed jam and peanut butter sandwiches.

Refuelled, I carried on past B&Q, Kewaigue school and on towards the South Quay.  At the Nunnery I still had 15minutes to go so I managed to push on up to Douglas Head along Marine Drive to the arches and back to Douglas Head again in 5:59:54.

The total was 52.6km or 32.7miles, almost exactly the Parish Walk distance to Peel.  6:50/km or 11:00/mile 5.4mph.  Bar the hills, the splits were even all the way, no speeding up or slowing down.

The pace felt very comfortable; I managed to scoff loads of food and so kept my energy levels pretty much topped up all the way.  It felt like a sensible pace for me to try and stick to on the way to Peel on the big day.

All the hard training over the past three months seems to have paid off.  I felt quite stiff after the Sarah Killey (although that was a much faster pace) and yet I felt fine on Sunday day and have managed to continue training as normal; albeit a bit fatigued.

As a novice, it is hard not to feel anxious about the Parish, especially when everyone you speak to emphasises how hard and painful it all is.  I know I do!  So this weekend was a confidence booster which is what is needed at this time.

I only have weekends left to train before the 20k race in york which is two weeks before the Parish itself.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Eat Walk Eat Sleep

I have never exercised as much as I have in the last four week training block.  I feel very lucky in two ways.  First that I have been supported by friends and family who have been tirelessly patient either keeping me company on walks, supporting me in events or giving me the flexibility to be out there training.  Secondly that I have managed, to stay relatively injury free.

Over the past 4 weeks, I have averaged 95km (59miles) a week at an average speed of 6:09 mins/km (9:54 mins/mile, 6mph)

I'll share some highlights.  Last Saturday I met Jock, Vinny and Dave at the Manx Harriers clubhouse bright and early.  I brought along a mystery guest 18 year old Alex Eaton.  Alex has entered the 18-21 parish walk to Peel this year and wanted to test himself over some distance.

The route took us to Ballacraine, up to Cronk-y-Voddy.  From there we went through Little London and up to Brandywell.  Alex showed his class climbing up to the top and powered away from the rest of us as if we were standing still.  Then we descended down through Baldwin.  There are no shops on this route and we were all out of water so looked for an appropriate mountain spring which we found opposite Injebreck.  This led to a series of high jinx and wind ups.

We rolled through Baldwin and then Alex upped the tempo and started pushing hard back to Douglas.  I could see he was encouraging me to stay with him which I just about managed to do - absolutely flat out.  It was a good walk, 35km (22miles).

On Sunday I was back out with Alex, Adam and Michelle.  We did 20k round the Western 10 (Julie Brew) route with a couple of laps of The Hope.  Even after 35k the day before Alex was flying.  Very impressive.  I managed 1:55 for the 20km which I was happy with after a hard session the day before.

This Saturday Richard, Dave, Vinny and Dale came to my house in Bride.  We walked the Parish Walk route back to Laxey, where I had strategically left my car the night before.  We set of at a very sharp pace, much faster than I was comfortable with which pretty much continued to Maughold.  From there things were a little more conservative up Ballajora.  I was determined to treat that climb with respect and backed right off climbing up.  I was roughly 40 seconds behind the others at the top.  A lively discussion of the merits of backing right off climbing up there on Parish Walk day followed. My own philosophy is that I am happy to lose the 40 seconds.  If I am honest, I don't think it will be optional.

We cruised along to the Dhoon and took the short cut over Ballaragh. Steve Partington has walking classes up Ballaragh on a Wednesday evening sometimes.  I can still recall the pain from doing them in the past.  I decided this was worth a good push and drove hard up there as if I was in one of Steve's drill camp sessions.  Half way up I heard someone closing on me like a train and Richard flew past - he always likes a challenge.  He slowed slightly and invited me to push with him and drove me hard to the top.  It is a big descent from there to Laxey and we did the final 3km in 15:25 (7.4 mph).  I blogged in February that I did 15:10 in an indoor 3km race in Birmingham.  This was downhill but we had done 36km already so I was really happy with that.

A good walk, I learned the Maughold area and got in another long walk at a good pace.  39km (24.5 miles)

Today, Sunday I watched the Northern 10km.  Dave and Richard raced which I think is both brave (bonkers) and impressive.  They both said they could feel the miles in their legs.  Richard did a storming time - 83 minutes (8:13 per mile, 7.3mph)!!!

I managed a more comfortable 11km on my own later in the day but felt fantastic and pushed on at a slightly more sedate 9:07/mile or 6.5 mph.

So I have one more four week block left before the big day.  I feel stronger than I did in the new year and my confidence in my fitness is building.  However, I am left under no illusion that I am a Parish Walk novice and that my real test is yet to come.

My Mum entered the Parish Walk yesterday.  Entries close at midnight tonight!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

7 Weeks to go.

By my calculations, there are 55 days to go until the big day.  We are getting into the serious training now that will make a difference on the big day.  It is the training that you did 6 weeks ago that has the most significance.

So - 7 weekends of training left.  Or, in my plans, 5 big weekends.  The final two weekends will be a big 20k race in York - the "British Gran Prix" and then a bit of a taper.  So it's all starting to come into focus.

The past two weeks have gone to plan.  After the Sarah Killey 50km race I needed to recover.  I went out the following day and did 7.5km feeling a little stiff and tender, but it was good to loosen off. I struggled to find any pace all week and felt really sleepy and very hungry.  Over the following weekend I managed to get in a decent 18km with Adam, Michelle and Marie around Marine Drive.  I was still feeling the weekend before.

A fully week after the Sarah Killey and I started to feel my strength return.  I had a pretty good start of the week and felt my speed return on Wednesday. On Friday I did a quick 12km with Michelle and felt I was fully recovered.  Recovered enough to attempt the Sloc with Richard, Vinny, Dave and Brian yesterday (Saturday).

We met at the NSC and caught the 06:50 bus down to Gansey.  It was an awful morning, windy, foggy and raining.  By the time we got to Gansey the rain had stopped and we set off towards Rushen Church where they introduced me to Ballakillowey, the steepest part of the climb up towards the Round Table. By the time we got onto the Sloc, the fog was thick and the wind was quite strong.  "Character building" was the way Richard described it.

I learned a few lessons as we descended into Dalby.  Lesson number one - tighten your shoelaces on the descent.  Make sure they are nice and tight to help prevent heel slippage and hot spots forming on your feet.  The second lesson is probably only applicable to racewalkers, and that is to allow the knee to bend slightly on the really steep descents to allow the leg to act as suspension.  This may help prevent too much impact injury later in the day.  Category "A" rules Racewalking is never done on terrain like that, for obvious reasons, so it is best to make use of the Category "B" rules which allow for the terrain in these circumstances.  The same can be said of the very steep ascents, of course.

By the time we got out of Glen Maye I got into a nice rhythm and pushed the last 4k into Peel at a good pace.  However, Richard likes a challenge and picked up the pace even higher and dragged me into Peel at my flat out race pace!

Bottles were refuelled at the shops in Peel and we went into a cafe for Bacon and Egg baps and a brew.  This is my kind of training!

At this stage, a lingering virus was starting to get the better of Dave and he dropped out and tagged in Michelle who arrived wearing sunglasses and immediately starting ribbing us (me).  After explaining the finer idiosyncrasies of her car's psychopathic electronics system, the broken volume control of the stereo and strange (unchangeable??) choice of hardcore music to Dave, we headed off back to Douglas.

As we left Peel, Dave drove past waving through open windows with deep bass and slamming techno booming up the road which was hilarious.

Then the serious work began.  We passed 30km at Greeba Bridge at a good steady pace similar to Sarah Killey race pace.  Soon we were pushing up what Vinny calls "Greeba Mountain" to Colby which I found tough.  Michelle and Richard pushed hard and left the rest of us for dust.  We regrouped in Crosby through Glen Vine for final refreshments and started the last push into Douglas.  From the Ballahutchin on, Michelle pushed Richard and left the rest of us again.  I was able to maintain about 6:15/km pace but they were out of sight very quickly.  It was clear Michelle had worked hard at the end, which is testament to Richard's strength.  As demonstrated at the Sarah Killey, he seems to be a different level of strength and fitness to the rest of us at the moment.

For me, the walk was 39km or 25miles and I covered it in 4h 14mins which is 6:40/km or 5.7 mph average in old money.

Today (Sunday) was another good walk.  I met Adam, Michelle and Alex for a (much flatter) 20km up North.  I was surprised how fresh I felt after the 25miles the day before - no aches or pains or niggles.  We set off as a group and laughed and joked for the first 10km, when, once again, the serious business began.  I was not sure how I would react after the Sloc the day before, but I felt good and pressed on.  The second 10km was a pretty speedy 57minutes for me.  I decided to award myself a treat and had two massive slices of Michelle's Victoria sponge at the end.  A big thanks to Alan Callow for following us on a push bike and providing refreshments (and wisdom) all the way.

So a recovery week and then a really solid week.  Some good lessons learned and still injury free.

Recover week total 53km.   This weeks total 97.3km.

Monday, 14 April 2014


This entry is about my first real test, the Sarah Killey 50km.  I will come onto that shortly.

My last blog was about Finding my Mojo.   I continued to have a good week.  I was at the track in Leeds the following week and found myself doing 1kilometre repetitions, all well under 5 minutes.  I am convinced this is a Mojo thing.  Again I found myself with the mantra in my head "it's easier to give in" and just gritted my teeth and blasted it.

I was fortunate to do a big training walk the following Saturday (29th April) with Dave, Jock and Richard and we were also joined this time by Vinny Lynch and Brian Wade.  We took the bus to Port Erin and walked to the Sound and then back to Douglas via Marine Drive.  A solid 37km walk with some good speed in the final 10km.

So training has gone well.  I was still really nervous about the Sarah Killey race though!  I had no excuses.

The Sarah Killey Memorial Walk is organised by the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service in memory of former Fire Service worker, Sarah Killey who died in 2007.  It is a 50km walk and basically it covers the Parish route from Peel to Ramsey.  A lot of people use it as a real test in preparation for the Parish.

I was nervous, not because I was worried about position or racing, but because I really wanted to test myself.  I have no real idea what happens to me when the real pressure or fatigue sets in.  I just didn't know what to expect.  According to the stats, a 20k race walk of 1:48 would put me on a 50km time of 5:05.  I put myself just under 1:48 form from my training and so felt 5 hours would be a good target, the maths was simple.  However, that seems awfully fast, especially given the terrain.  Surely I can't possibly do that?

I was nervous because 5 hours is 1 hour for 10km or 6mins/km.  When I go out and train 10km at that pace, I am chuffing for the first 10 or 15 mins.  The thought of trying to maintain that for 5 hours was making me feel sick.  I was in a bit of a mess on Saturday, tummy churning like mad.  5 hours?!

Michelle Turner offered to support me.  I probably do at least 30 kilometres a week training with Michelle and have done for several years now.  What better than someone who knows your weaknesses - and makes awesome soup!  Michelle reminded me on the way to Peel that it will be more like a training walk for the first 20km.  She pointed out that 2 hours for 20km will feel comfy compared to 1:48ish.  I liked that thought and relaxed a bit.

At least the maths was easy.  10km 1 hour  20km 2 hours 30km 3 hours 40 km 4 hours.  6 mins/km.  Bosh.

The race started and I quickly found myself in a group with Richard Gerrard, Vinny Lynch and Dave Walker.  Spirits were high and there was the usual good banter I have got to know from these guys.  It was quite a relaxed pace for the first few km - 6:21 6:13 - then again it is a steep climb out of Peel so that is to be expected.

As we climbed up out of White Strand towards the Switchback, Dave pushed on up the hill really fast.  I decided that was too quick for me at this early stage and held back, Vinny stayed with me.  We continued to the Devils elbow like this, the pace a bit higher than I expected still, but I wasn't ready to be dropped yet.  When we went down into Glen Mooar we were really flying, going under my 20km race pace.  I pointed this out to Vinny.  Vinny decided he no longer wanted to be dropped by Richard and Dave and charged off after them.  Deep down, this was the moment I was waiting for and deliberately dropped the pace back to my original plan.

In Kirk Michael (my childhood town) we turned in the Fire Station down Station Road.  At that point we were still within a hundred feet of each other.  However, I was going slower than the other three for sure.  The first 10km was 57mins for me, which was too fast and not part of my plan.  I looked back down the road to Peel as I turned back onto the TT course and I could see a walker in the distance, but I could not make out who it was.

I settled into a comfortable rhythm then towards Ballaugh. I was still worried I was going too quickly and struggled to hold the speed down.  I told Michelle this and she just told me to focus and stick to my plan.  I ate a sandwich and carried on.  The last time I saw the guys was at Bishop's Court.  I carried on up the Lhen Road, which I know very well.  I was on home soil now.  Michelle gave me soup at the Cronk which went down very well.  I think I managed to get a banana and some sandwiches down before 20k.  

I did my second 10k in 60 minutes and the clock was on 1:57 for 20km.  At least I had got back on track a little.  That 10k was spot on.  I carried on winding up the Lhen Road and hit 30km just before by house.  Another 60 minutes for that 10k,  2:57 for 30k.  All my family were at the end of my lane cheering me on which gave me a boost - a one mile boost to Bride hill!

I trundled up the hill - remembering what the guys had told me about slow and recover up the steep ones.  I knew I had a lovely flowing walk down to Andreas next - I usually fly down there in training, I was really looking forward to it.  Michelle was waiting at the top and fed me some more sandwiches and gels and off I went - straight into an awful headwind!

Despite the downhill, I was pushing hard to maintain 6:20 per km.  I has done a 7:16 climbing out of Bride and I started to panic that I was losing it.  I pushed like this all the way to 40km.  I went through that nasty 10km in 1:04.  40km in 4:01.

At that point I was feeling rough.  I had just worked really hard for 8km and felt I had gone backwards.   I couldn't see how I could do 10km in 59minutes now and I hadn't seen anyone since Bishop's Court.  I decided I'm not cut out for this stuff.  My head dropped.  I just wanted this to be over, I felt rough.

I told Michelle "I don't care any more, I just want this over."  She used some choice words that I won't put in my blog.  The essence of her motivational talk was right; I would never forgive myself if I stopped trying now.  It was the easy option.  It would hurt less.  She game me a piece of banana, a piece of sandwich, a piece of her mind and off I went.  Failure is not an option.

As I got onto Sulby straight I saw a fluorescent object about quarter of a mile ahead.  Michelle told me it was Dave.  I could see from his movement that he was not flowing like he had been earlier.  So I decided to push on and see if I could catch him.  Michelle noticed my change of pace and told me to be careful not to overdo it with 7km still to go.

I felt better now I had something to concentrate on.  I knew trying to catch Dave would be really tough.  It was going to hurt a lot.  However,  I figured that if I caught him, we could work together and push to the finish.  He disappeared at Ginger Hall.  I know the climb to Kerrowmoar well, Michelle clatters me on it about twice a week.  I decided to plod up to the top knowing it is the last 5km from there.

At Kerrowmoar I pushed on and went well  5:59, 6:02, 5:57.  I eventually caught Dave at Lezayre with 2km to go.  We chatted briefly about making the 5 hour mark.  He said he was not going to push and encouraged me to give it a go.  Feeling strong I decided to push on and Dave wished me luck.  The final 2k was a blur.  5:49, 5:56.  The last 10k was just under 1:02.

I collapsed in a bit of a heap - having wrung myself out at the end.  I was passed some sweet tea and a biscuit and congratulated Richard and Vinny.  4:43 and 4:49 respectively (from hazy memory).  Awesome effort.

I came round realising I had finished the Sarak Killey 50km!!  Apparently I was third and I had done it in 5hours and 3mins.  It didn't sink in at all.  It was like it was happening to someone else.

I woke up this morning after rehydrating with lots of red wine feeling a little tender.  I went to Michelle's house and we did a steady 8km.  I am sure I must have looked like a Thunderbird puppet trying to breakdance.  I certainly felt like it.  All the textbooks say "active recovery".  Apparently it gets blood back into the muscles and reduces any longer term inflammation.  I guess it is hard to judge but psychologically it felt good to get back out straight away.

I need to reflect on lessons learned.  There are so many...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Where is my Mojo?

Since my last entry I have experienced a few ups and downs.  I thought I would share them as they may resonate with some of you on some level.

Life can grind away at you at times and that can have a direct effect on your training, motivation and morale.  This entry is about how I experienced that phenomena over the last few weeks.

I went to Lugano and watched an incredible display of walking.  I was lucky enough to travel and stay with the UK teams.  Lots of people recognised the three legs on my clothes and some remembered the Lugano Trophy in 1985.  That was a wonderful feeling.  The sheer athleticism of most of the competitors was incredible.  The heat was intense - 24 degrees in the shade on race day.

While out there, I was informed of the passing of a family member.  It was difficult to be away from the family in those circumstances.  It put a taint on the trip.  I lost my way a little, struggled to find any motivation or pace and pulled out of the race after 11km.

The week following the trip I was feeling heavy and slow.  In my training sessions I was struggling to maintain any pace and felt breathless and it felt a real struggle.  I cut a few sessions short, simply not enjoying myself.  I experienced dark thoughts about it all being too much and that 85 miles simply seemed a mountain too high for me.  I had serious conversations with myself about failure.

Then I read Jock Waddington's blog entry.  Jock described a 10km race he had done that weekend.  He described how, contrary to expectations, the fitter you get, the harder it becomes.  That is SO true.  He came out with a line in his blog that stood out for me, like a neon flashing sign:

"Without mental strength and a willingness to succeed, it is very easy to give in and either slow down (because it doesn't hurt and you will be more comfortable) or quit altogether. For those wishing to achieve their target, neither is an option."

Here is a man who won the Parish Walk 4 times in a row - a unique achievement.  He knows what he is talking about.  

This was a bit of a wake up call for me.  You only fail once you stop trying.

So I decided to go for a walk with Jock.

I arranged to meet Jock, Richard Gerrard and Dave Walker at the NSC last Saturday at 0730.  They very kindly agreed to let me tag along.  I felt like a Domestique in a cycle team.  These are seriously tough guys.  Between these three they have a phenomenal pedigree:

5 Parish Walk wins
The Parish Walk record time
18 Parish Walk finishes
What's more, each of them has completed the Roubaix 28hour race.  The week after Roubaix 28,  Dave went on to do the End to End walk (39miles) and came 3rd!

We set off down the quay at a sensible pace to warm up and got into a good rhythm.  Richard explained that they would go "steady" for the first half and then "pick it up" later once they had some miles done.  We went along Marine Drive to Port Soderick and then along the Old Casteltown Road.  

The pace was conversational and I felt relatively comfortable.  There was lots of banter and joking which made the time pass really quickly.  Before I knew it we were in Ballasalla refilling water bottles at the shop.

I guessed this might have been the end of the first half and felt a little nervous and not sure of the route when I got dropped.  I was right - at some unseen signal Jock changed two gears and flew up the hill towards St Marks.  The others also changed gears and went with him.  I was left standing even though I was half expecting it to happen and had been warned.  I didn't actually have two gears left to change up!

I found going up that hill to St Marks very hard.  I was doing 5:25/km and they were going away from me.  As we still had 20km to go and that is my 20km race pace I wasn't sure what to do.  What was I doing there?  Who was I with?vvJocks words came back to haunt me...

 "it is very easy to give in and either slow down (because it doesn't hurt and you will be more comfortable) or quit altogether "
My body was screaming at me to slow down.  What the hell, I knew I had no option.  I had to speed up.  I didn't think I could sustain it but decided I was going to push at all costs.  By St Marks the gap was only 10 metres and then they slowed up and had a drink and a snack.  I could hardly speak, drenched and gasping for air.

Off we went again towards Crosby.  There is another climb up that road and exactly the same thing happened again.  They just flew up it - so I gave it my all.  We regrouped and dropped down the very steep descent into Crosby, then up the other along the Mt Rule Road heading back through Strang.  During the steep climb out of Crosby the three experienced guys spoke to me about nutrition and pacing on hills during the parish.  I was given some great advice about what to expect and how to react.  Some real wisdom.

I also knew what was coming next!  I took the advice and fuelled up on the steep section of the climb, estimating we had 6km to go.  Richard then injected some really serious pace again and off we went.   I decided I was going to see how long I could hold on and stuck to him. We did the final 5km back the the NSC considerably faster than my 5km personal best - yet we were still chatting all the way back.  I was fatigued though and told Richard this.  His reply was "yes I am feeling a bit peckish myself"...

At over 35 kilometres (22 miles) it was the second longest race walk I've ever done and it was brilliant! Great experience, completely exhilarating and I learned a lot, mainly about myself but also about endurance walking.

I also realised I had found my mojo.  

Since then my training has felt great.  Quite a contrast to how I felt a week ago - and I still managed a weekly total of 85km (53 miles)

Thank you guys!

My advice this week is two fold.

1. If you lose you mojo, it isn't gone, you will find it again
2. If you can, get out and walk with people better than you.  It will push you to do things you didn't realise you could do or won't do on your own

Sunday, 9 March 2014


So for me, the very word Lugano conjures up a whole range of memories and emotions.

It was the name of the race walking World Cup as Lugano was the first city to host it in 1961.  It was also hosted there in 1973.

The "Lugano Cup".

In September 1985, just after my 15th birthday, the Lugano Cup came to the Isle of Man.  It was held at St Johns.  All of the world finest race walkers came to the Isle of Man and as a 15 year old race walker, this was the most incredible thing I had ever seen.

Martin Young and I used to go down the promenade in Douglas every night where the international teams were training.  I don't think they could believe their eyes when these two kids were matching them stride for stride - albeit for a few hundred yards - absolutely killing ourselves to do so!

The 20k was won by the Spaniard Jose Marin and in second place was the Italian Maurizio Da Milano - two of the biggest names in race walking history.  The 50k was won by the big East German Hartwig Gauder.

It was both inspirational and formative.  The memories are etched forever.

Jose Marin (58) and Maurizio Da Minano(38) coming into St Johns from Peel

Hartwig Gauder(22) the 50k winner in St Johns.

So for me, the very word "Lugano" is synonymous with race walking.  It is, of course, a stunning city in Southern Switzerland close to the Italian border.  The city itself is on the edge of Lake Lugano, set in the Alps.

Every year, there is a large international race walking even in the city, around the shore of the lake.  It attracts the best race walkers in the world.  A flat fast course in stunning surroundings.

I do not count myself amongst this elite by any stretch of the imagination, however - I have the qualifying time.  All of my friend from Leeds are either going or have been given an international selection and...


So I am off on Friday to race in the 20km on Sunday.  I will probably be last but I will have the best seat in the house to watch the race and I may just get a personal best as well, inspired by the occasion.

This week has been less hectic than last week as I have started to taper for the race.  I have to admit I was pretty tired for most of the week after last weekends efforts!

I did manage an up-tempo 15km this morning and got round comfortably in 1hour 25.

My weekly total was a mere 61km this week and average pace was exactly 6mins/km.

I went to watch the Ascot Hotel Manx 20km yesterday.  I didn't compete as I am saving myself for next weekend.  I saw some solid personal bests set.  I though the 20 walk of the day was from my fellow blogger and four times Parish Walk winner Jock Waddington.  Jock has had a lot time out of the saddle and only recently been getting his strength back.  To have put in a 1:45 shows real quality and some serious strength.  It was very windy and he effectively doubled his 10k time from only a few weeks earlier.  The other spectacular performance for me was from from young Tom Partington.  25:00 for 5km.  He would have beaten me.  I think Birmingham was the last time I will ever beat that young man.  Following in his parent's footsteps, a thoroughbred if there ever was one!

I also had a good chat with Richard Gerrard - Parish Walk joint course record holder.  Rich was also spectating arriving in late from a Michael Buble concert.  .  He patiently let me quiz him for ages.  I was privileged to be able to tap into his knowledge and experience - trying to pick up tips for the big day.  A big thanks to him.

So, next time I post it will be back to serious distance training.  Of course, I will try and get lots of "selfies" with me and the stars of walking for my next post.  I can't think of anything more blatantly self indulgent. 

Can't wait!!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hail and High Water

I seem to have a recurring theme in naming my blogs after horrendous weather.  This weekend has been no exception.  The hail on Saturday morning was actually painful and the roads were a cm deep in slush afterwards - not fun.

Last week I hinted that this weekend was going to be a heavy one.  And I was right.   I will try and explain.

Everyone you listen to will tell you their story about their way to train for the parish walk.  I have listened a lot.  I struggle to distil any particular formula; it seems to be very personal - almost every aspect of it from mileage, pace, nutrition, recovery etc.

As a noobie, non finisher, I am worried about "hitting the wall" and walking on empty.  For me, training for the Parish has to be about mitigating or avoiding this for as long as possible.

So this weekend was designed for that purpose.  It is impossible to emulate the last 1/3 of the Parish walk, but you can do things to push your body hard and feel fatigued. This was the goal.

I had a relatively high mileage week so I would go into the weekend with heavy legs.

The goal was to totally empty the tank on Saturday and go into Sunday with really heavy legs and energy fatigue.  On Sunday, I wanted to be forced to refuel on the move and experiment with soups and bananas etc to see how my body copes.

The formula Saturday was 2 hours hard fast walking.  Then Sunday to walk 30km (19miles).

I felt anxious about Saturday as 2 hours hard hurts, I find it hard to keep driving with a big effort for that long.  I got into a steady rhythm and after 10km felt great.  I did the second 10km quicker than the first and went through 20km in 1:51:10, Half Marathon in 1:57 and ended up doing 21550 metres (13.5 miles).  That is 5:34/km or 8:56/mile.

I was wrecked at the end.  I had some lunch and fell asleep for an hour!  I spent the rest of the day eating, trying to recover for Sunday.

I was more relaxed about Sunday (today) as the goal was not to go hard, but just to get round the 30km. I was worried I would hit the wall at about 10km though.

I set off at a slow steady pace and did the first 10km in 63mins. At 10km I joined Adam, Michelle and Marie on the road. They wanted to do 20k.  The company was good and buoyed me up significantly.  Someone had stolen my flask of soup I left behind a tree at 12km and that made me a bit flappy as I was feeling very fatigued so I ate a gel and drank some orange squash instead.

I found my second soup stash at 19km and guzzled down a whole pint of soup and half a banana. I was famished and beginning to think I was hitting the wall at this stage.  I was on my own by 20km, dropped by the others but I got to 20km in 2:07 (16minutes slower than the day before!), another 64min 10km.

The soup and the banana seemed to do the trick.  I felt good quite quickly after them and picked up the pace.  I didn't mean to, I was working at the same rate/effort but the speed just picked up naturally, I began to feel good again.  The final 5km felt great, probably the best 5km of the weekend mentally.

I finished the 30km in 3:05, the final 10km being just under 58mins. Given the punishment I had given myself on Saturday I am really happy with how the weekend went.

Weekly total was 99km.
Weekend total was 51.5km (32miles) 5:55/km average or 9:32/mile

I have been worried about my fitness and race form, suspecting I was on about 1:54 form for 20km, but the 1:51 on Saturday with heavy legs told me I am stronger than I thought.  It must be all this training or something?

There is an international 20km in Lugano, Switzerland on the 16th of March.  The qualification standard is 1:52 and if you go over 1:55 your time does not count.  I am now seriously thinking about going.

Watch this space...

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Building miles

Three weeks has passed since I last blogged, but I have been training.

Week after my last entry I was struck down with a crippling and debilitating disorder which indiscriminately strikes down male members of the species.  This illness is often referred to pejoratively by females, who are in fact immune from the illness, as "man flu".  Anyway, I couldn't train for a whole week, and I know at least half of you will have considerable sympathy.

Then I headed off to the UK for a solid block of training.  Last Saturday I did a solid 20k with the UK racewalk team in Leeds.  A comfortable 59mins for the first 10k and a quicker 55mins for the second 10k.  A cruised 1:54 in training is okay for this time of year.

On the Saturday I did the indoor 3km in Birmingham.  It was a brilliant day out, nearly 30 walkers of all ages and abilities as well as a large team from the Isle of Man in the other athletic disciplines - so loads of noisy support.

I was told I has set a Manx record for my age, which sent me a bit giddy until I found out I was the first manx M40 to do an indoor 3k.  I did it in 15:10 which I was content with, given the heavy legs from the 20k 20hours earlier.  Not quite the same as the senior men's lung busting Manx record of 11:47 by Steve Partington though!!

Training this week has been quite good, again geared towards endurance rather than speed.

Today's walk was a steady 30km (19miles).  The conditions were challenging, it was more like a steeplechase, having to walk through floods.  The average windspeed was 40mph gusting 55+.  I was tag-teamed for company with Michelle joining me for the first 20k and a runner friend Phil joining me for the last 10k.

I did it in 03:01:20 which given the conditions I am happy with.  That is 6:03/km or 9:40/mile in old money.

Hopefully I will start picking up the distance now and get in some good back to back walks on the weekend.  Next weekend looks quite brutal, but I am looking forward to it and will blog about it if I survive.  The weekend after than is the Manx Open 20km race - which will be a chance to open up the throttle and see what kind of form I am in.  I can't wait.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


A really solid weeks training.  Feel I have made real progress.  I am not as sharp as I was in December but I am passed the sluggish feeling I had over the past few weeks.

There was a winter league 10k race today, but I felt my time this weekend was better spent on endurance and not speed.  Therefore I did 25k on Saturday and 16k on Sunday in a solid back to back.

The weather on the 25k was horrific, certainly the worst conditions I have trained in to date.  Some of the gusts were 60mph+.  There were times when I was stopped in my tracks and struggled to stay on my feet.  The rain was horizontal at times and quite painful.  Somehow I still managed to get round in under 2 and a half hours.

That took my weekly today to a much better 83kilometres (8h 16minutes).  My comfortable cruising speed is around 5:55/km (9:28/mile) now which is where I was before christmas.

So doing these longer walks takes some preparation.  There is housework involved before, during and after.  Now I am up to 25km and starting to push beyond, nutrition is becoming absolutely key.

When I prepare for a long walk I think about three things.  Nutrition during the exercise.  Nutrition immediately after the exercise and nutrition shortly after that.

During a long walk we need fuel and we need water.  I have found that "just" water is insufficient for me.  People talk a lot about "isotonic" drinks.  This really means salty.  When we sweat we lose salt.  It needs to be replaced else our muscles stop functioning properly and seize or cramp.  This is a bad thing.

Some people chose a drink which has salts in it.  Some people just add a teaspoon of salt per litre of water and hide it with some fruit cordial.

My advice is do NOT wait until you feel thirsty to drink.  It is already too late once you feel thirsty.  The body has already started going downhill and that is a bad thing.

Fuel is very personal, but on walks under four hours I get by on energy gels.  These are easily digested toothpaste tube sized packets of sweet goo.  I find one an hour is enough to keep me going.  Some types require you to drink water with them, others more runny ones don't need water with them.  You can also get them in a chewy pastel Powershot cube variation too.  They often contain salts too allowing you to drink pure water.

For all of this you need to carry the stuff.  I either carry it around my waist in a pack or sometimes plan a route with big loops and leave a car or "stash" in convenient hedges.

Having only gone over 4 hours once I am not qualified to talk about nutrition beyond that, but I will give my ideas and plans in later entries on my blog.

Immediately after exercise it is essential to eat some carbohydrate and a small amount of protein.  This will allow you to replenish your depleted glycogen (fuel) for your next session.  The later you leave this, the longer it will take to recover for your next session.  This should be in the first 30minutes after stopping.

Shortly after exercising you need a meal.  This is to help your body recover.  This can replace the immediate snack if you do it straight away else is in addition to it if but does need to be within 2 hours of exercise.

If you do all of these things then you have done your best for your body.  Look after it and it will hopefully look after you.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Stormy Waters

A solid week's training this week.  I feel almost back to normal now.  Next week I aim to be back in full swing again.

I decided not to try and walk fast before I can walk, as it were, and limit my mileage in the week and then step it up for the weekend if it felt good.

I did a speed session up at the track at Carnegie in Leeds on Tuesday.  Leg got tight when I started to push on but it was a good session nevertheless.

Total distance for the week was 55kilometres which is a good platform to step up from now.

The week culminated with a brisk 20k today on a tough course in very stormy conditions.  I was joined by Alex, Adam, Michelle with Alan Callow on push bike doing a steadfast job as pack horse and compare.  

We went from the NSC, up Douglas head and along Marine Drive to Port Soderick and back along the Old Castletown Road.  A few laps of a waterlogged NSC at the end to make up the miles.  The youngsters really put the hammer down today and I have to admit I am absolutely shattered now.  My average pace was 5:52/km.

If you are able to walk with faster or more experienced walkers than you, then take the opportunity.  It is the best way to learn and push yourself hard.  Long walks in a pack help a lot.  It is worth dropping into "Manx Race Walking" on Facebook and asking if there are suitable groups going out for your ability.  That is my plan for the next few months anyway.

In my next entry I will talk about racing prior to the parish.  What races I am choosing, why and how I plan to race them.  That gives me a week to do some homework!!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

I got lucky in the snow.

So I pulled my hamstring on the 15th of December and needed to recover.  The process took longer than I anticipated.  In hindsight, I should have gone straight to see a physio.

It took 20 days to recover properly in all. By January the 3rd I was able to put in 5k without feeling any strain.  I managed to do a nice 10k on Friday the 10th of January.

Then I went to France for a week of Skiing, Snowboarding and French cuisine.  I like to travel when I am on the slopes and get serious mileage in, so I was concerned.  I felt I was recovered but was concerned the wrong move could set me back.  I threw caution to the wind and got lucky!  I had a niggle free week.  I didn't manage to do any walking though.

I got back from France last night - 18th of January, five weeks after my injury.  I was itching to resume training.  I put on a few pounds in France - cheese, saussison, wine, beer, apres ski etc.  Perfect training fuel for the next few months!

Normally I would do a long walk on a Sunday.  Being unfit and anxious about pushing too hard too quickly I opted for a 22k loop with Michelle(!), which we managed to fit in round family commitments.  
I was really happy to get round in 2:15 6:13/km average.  Hamstring is fine, but the rest of me is feeling very sore from unused muscles.  Adductors and lower back in particular.  A much needed release of endorphins though.  Easy to forget how good it feels to get decent miles in.  Need a lazy afternoon to recover now.

Feeling UBER positive...I'm back!