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...