Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Quest for Speed.....Part One

Well, inspired by Dave Walker's non-stop walking/running/cycling/swimming/fell running around the Island, I was finally shamed into doing something today.

So after tea tonight, I went for my first evening walk - and in the dark. Such bravery. From Onchan down Royal Avenue to the Douglas Swing Bridge and back was a six mile walk finished in 1 hour 12 minutes and 4 seconds. Coming home back up Port Jack and Royal Avenue knocked a bit of a shine off the time, and I know I slowed a bit by breaking one of my rules and listening to The Archers.

Which brings me to the bit about getting more speed.

My first revelation as to how to get quicker came a few years ago when I was out for an early Sunday morning walk. This was a 12 mile walk from my home to the Everlasting Bend at Laxey and back. As I reached the halfway point, at the Everlasting Bend, some Walking Superstars came towards me from Ramsey. They included such Gods of Walking as Robbie Callister, David Doyle, Roey Crellin, and I think Sean Hands. I turned at my halfway point and followed them into Laxey. They didn't know that a Lesser Mortal was behind them as I tracked them all the way to Whitebridge, gradually losing ground all the time. But I copied Robbie's technique, which seemed to be flinging the arms violently from side to side. And it seemed to work. I definitely speeded up and used that technique for a couple of years and knocked down the times on all my training walks. I have since learned that is not the real way to walk, and Robbie only suceeds because he is A Freak of Nature.....

Second Tip for Speed - I always used to walk with a radio, and always listened to Radio 4. I discovered eventually that when you concentrate at all on what you are listening to, without realising it, you DO slow down. I have learned that to maintain a good rate, and concentration, there should be no distractions at all. You need to THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP -- THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP -- THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP -- and keep the tempo up. Or for the likes of Steve Partington and co, it is more a case of Glide.......Glide........Glide.......Glide.....

So discard the radio, and just concentrate on what you are doing. You move faster.

I reckon The Archers slowed me down by a minute or two tonight, but it is important to know if Helen and Annette actually went through with it (they did) or if Susan's job in the shop is safe....

One good point tonight - while walking on the Prom tonight, I actually overtook a jogger.

Next Post - The Joys of Being Nagged by a Garmin 305....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

S'Not Fair....

Let's talk about Snot again. The Great Snot Of 2009 receded a little about ten days ago, only to be replaced with the Great Snot Of 2010.

I struggled a couple of weeks ago on the treadmill, mostly because of feeling a bit low, being unfit, and the Great Snot making it hard to breathe....

However, after a few treadmill sessions at the NSC, described earlier, I felt a lot better and The Nose even cleared up a bit. So, a week last Friday, I managed a full five mile continuous walk, on the treadmill, without any real problem. Progress at last. On Sunday, the first nice day for weeks, I went for a six mile walk around my "Groudle - Lonan Old Church" route, and felt fine, clocking up a 1 hour 11 minute time, nearly back on the hoped for schedule.

Then last week a bit of a hiatus - I had to go to Wrightington Hospital near Wigan on Monday for a follow up for my shoulder operation last year, the result of a football injury, and the reason I could not do the Parish last year as my arm was in a sling until the middle of May. That trip was basically a five minute consulation surrounded by twelve hours of waiting around in hospital canteens and airports.

The next two days were 10 hour shifts sitting in Tynwald, and you really do not feel like any exercise after that.

I managed another 5 mile treadmill stint at the NSC on Thursday, but failed again miserably over last weekend as the Great Snot took an even greater hold. My new Hi-Viz jacket is still a virgin.

Six weeks of it now - I mistakenly thought my head was filled with a massive brain, but it turns out it just contains a very efficient Snot Factory. Anyone any ideas how to get rid?

Still, for all the setbacks, I have managed about 60 miles in total since October, 60 miles more training than I would normally have done by this time in previous years - and to be honest, my
total training hardly amounts to much more than that each year - so doing this Blog will be good for me in the end.

I am so impressed with the amount of work fellow blogger Dave Walker is putting in. He is an inspiration, and his latest blog is definitely spurring me on.

As to Angie and her toenails - I used to keep a collection of mine, in a plastic container. I had a couple of dozen at one stage, but my wife threw them out in disgust when she found them. I thought they might have been useful to her in the future if she ever wanted to clone me. Surprisingly that hadn't occurred to her... I lose five or six most years, a couple of times all ten have gone.

So in the future, instead of disgusting tales of Snot and Toenails, I promise tales of real progress.....

Finally a Top Tip - Government desperately needs more turnover, so get down the NSC and make use of the facilities. I discovered that rather than pay £3.60 a session for the gym, you can buy ten at a time, which works out at about £2.90 a session. Bargain. Use your NSC.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trouble at T'Mill.....

So I need to start some training. First step, I bought a reflective jacket. That didn’t get me out.

I charged up my Garmin 305 (as recommended by Mark Hempsall). That didn’t get me out.

I read the excellent little book which came with the Guardian on Saturday – “Walk Yourself Fit” – That didn’t get me out.

So I went to the gym. NSC on Tuesday, still suffering with a bad cold (ManFlu for the weak and feeble) Set the treadmill at 8.5kph and set off. I was so tired, I needed a break after two miles. Then I managed a half mile, and needed a break again. Finally after another short rest – I managed a continuous two miles. When I was last reasonably fit I could blast off six miles at a good speed without too much trouble.

What I have discovered is that apart from struggling with a cold, I am basically unfit after a lengthy layoff. I need to get fit before I try to improve my speed and technique.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I went to NSC again, and this time it was a bit easier. I managed two two mile stints, with a lot less discomfort. I know that a degree of fitness can return quite quickly if you stick at it, so some gym work over the next week is my priority.

This exercise is small beer compared with some of the efforts listed in Blogs in previous years, but when The Great Snot stops, I promise more action.

A little bit more history…..

My next involvement in walking, after the Parish Walk Relay, was in the TT Course Relays. I entered with Police teams for four years, twice doing the leg from Ginger Hall up to the Black Hut. I definitely had a Jim Peters moment at Guthries the first time I did that. I definitely got my line wrong and nearly came off* (*Staggered from side to side)

The second time I did that leg, Kevin Madigan(?) told me my time was quite good, and asked had I considered taking up walking. The agony of Guthries had convinced me that walking was not for me. Ever.

Other years I also did the leg Glen Helen to Ginger Hall, and the final leg down to the Grandstand. This would be around 1969 to 1972 – the point about those days is that those walks were done with NO training at all – probably the same for most people. And the other point is that for them all, I wore a pair of brown suede Hush Puppies, my ordinary (but very comfortable) workaday shoes. Thinking back, there were no such things as trainers then. Most people just had a pair of pumps from Newsons or Osbornes - though I do have a dim memory of once having a pair of “baseball boots” – pumps with a high ankle – the nearest thing to a modern trainer. I am pretty sure that my only footwear in those days would be my Hush Puppies, my football boots and my cricket boots. And two pairs of socks.

I had my first meeting last night of the Sports Council – now Isle of Man Sport – and was amazed at the amount of voluntary work done by members of Council, particularly with the Sport Aid recipients, and how much of their personal time they put into Sport in the Island. We are truly blessed on this Island and punch well above our weight in Sport because of the dedication of those people and hundreds of others who give up their time and expertise.

Once again, I am so fortunate to be working with such people.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter Walking League - Part One

No training last week, as I was mostly trapped in the very snowy, but beautiful city of York, where the main skill was just in standing up....

So, the Winter League....

To break twenty hours I need a little bit more speed, and to avoid the injuries I definitely need a better technique.

I noticed from the Parish Blogs of recent years how many walkers joined the Winter Walking League and how most of them showed rapid improvement and several went on to become Famous, with sub 20 hour times.

And over the years several experts have attempted to persuade me that my arm movement needs to be honed down from my random gangly stabs and swings into something fit to take home to meet your mother.

Then Maureen Cox, who looked after me in my time with Social Services, joined in the subtle persuasion and so I decided to have a go.

I had one training walk - 5 miles from Laxey to my home in Onchan, in 1 hour 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Not great, but as it included the hills out of Laxey and Baldrine and Whitebridge Hill, it seemed reasonable for my first walk for over a year...... I felt ready.....

The first round I entered was at the TT Access Road in October. A mass start and I quickly realised I didn’t have the technique or speed to be better than a middle ranker. Ahead of me were two doughty veterans, Ron Ronan and Dave Wilkinson, who definitely had the technique, but as they were a lot older than me, I was SURE that in the last couple of laps I would be able to blast past them. Also just ahead of me was Colin Moore, who I had walked with in training a couple of years earlier, and I KNEW I was a lot quicker than him.


I just watched them get further and further ahead of me, and no matter how much I put my foot down, they just receded into the distance. I learned then that endurance was definitely not enough and a lot more work was needed. Watching Steve Partington glide (by that I mean he seemed to float about the ground) past and lap us several times was like watching a magician whose tricks just could not be rationally explained.

My time was 1.12.20 for the 10k - a marker to improve on.

And a Little Bit of History....

My first memory of involvement in the Parish Walk was of a Parish Walk Relay race - either 1963 or 1964. I was a young Police Cadet, bundled into a van with a group of others to take turns pacemaking in the night between Jurby and the Finish.

Was there really a Parish Walk Relay? I have not noticed any mention on the athletics sites of such an event, but I am sure I am not dreaming. Does Murray have any info on them? And I heard today from Noel Cringle of a similar event called the "Harvest Moon Relay" using the full Parish Course. Any info on that?

I am not sure of the Police Team that night, but it included Albert Lowe, who did a lot of walking in the early days of the walking revival, Peter Corrin, John Platt and George Haring. I walked through the night, a few miles at a time with George to the finish, by which time he was staggering like Jim Peters. Little did I know that forty years later I would be staggering in the same way.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Training so far......

Away for a few days now, so you get two posts on one day...

I had done no training for a month, due to a very, very, heavy head cold. I competed in the first two Winter Walk Leagues, (which I will describe in later blogs) and then was struck down with the Great Snot of 2009. I am told that I had two beautiful meals at L’Experience over the Christmas and New Year period, and a great Christmas Dinner, but I will have to take everyone’s word for that, as I have not tasted or smelt anything since the middle of December.

It has been hard to breathe normally, let alone take exercise.

However, the Power of Murray and his Blog Slavery made me get down to the NSC yesterday. I had to put something on here about training.

I have been warned not to exercise with a heavy cold, and I think that advice holds good after my experience yesterday.

However……..onto the treadmill, set on ’Hills’ at Level 6. I find hill work is more beneficial overall than just plain walking. I set the speed to 8.5kph – a bit over 5 miles an hour, set it going and just hung on through the Great Snot. I tried to concentrate on the technique that I know gives greater speed, but when you are really tired, it is hard to keep that up, and I often reverted to the Farmer’s Lope just to stay on the end of the treadmill. I intended to do 5 miles, but in the end got too tired and stopped at 3 miles – in a time of 35 minutes 20 seconds.

I was reasonably pleased with that because it matched the times I had been achieving in the Winter Walk League, but I had been hoping that by the next Winter Walk I would have made more significant progress.

But some good news – after the NSC I went for lunch with friends to have a Final Pint before giving up drink for a few weeks. And I could actually TASTE the Okell’s and my substantial lunch of Plain Crisps. The exercise had cleared me up. But only for a couple of hours, I am back in the taste free zone again.

Other goods news for me– As of this week my political duties changed and I have been given responsibility for Sport and Leisure with the Tourism Department. I spent most of the morning down the NSC with Andy Varnom and Paul Bridson (the heroic Laxey coach who won us the Grand Slam in 2006) and there is some very impressive work going on, especially with the young, and with elite performers.

You may hear criticism of the Department of Tourism, but rarely about how Sport is dealt with and I believe, after just one day in post, that Sport is in good hands. In addition I will be Chairman of the Sports Council, and working with such legends as Steve Partington and the Heroic Midfielder General of the Laxey Grand Slam Team, Jim Travers. This is a dream job for me in many ways and I know that Geoff Karran, Andy, Paul and the teams working there are making a real difference to the sporting climate of the Island.

Apart from The Snot, I am very fortunate….

Longest Day - Shortest Night

The Longest Day - in so many ways.....

And the Shortest Night. The beauty of the Parish Walk is the day it is held. It is usually very close to Midsummer’s day and that is a magical time of the year.

On a nice day the experience is sometimes overwhelming. You walk round the Island - as the sun goes round the Island. When dusk comes, the golden light stays in the sky all night. The walk towards Bride, where the hedgerows are at their wildest and ripest, is wonderful with the sun setting almost in the north as a golden background. The glow gradually moves round and by the time you get to Ramsey the golden glow hovers over Queen’s Pier. Of course for Robbie and the rest they are almost home and miss that experience.

The first year I finished I was walking with Dermot O’Toole, and more of him later . The walk started later then, maybe 10am or 9am, so most people got to see the sunrise. As we rounded the Dhoon corner and headed towards Bulgham, the sun rose over the sea, and it was a fantastic sight. By that time I knew, in the good company of Dermot, that I was going to finish, and that knowledge combined with the beautiful sunrise, gave me a memory I will always have.

Mind you, thinking about it, there have been some days where it is not so pleasant, it is cold, dark, wet and windy. Thunder and lightning one year through Maughold was particularly depressing. For those who bravely managed 2008 maybe there will be a golden glow all night this year.

Top Tip: If it is sunny, your left side is always exposed to the sun, so make sure you have plenty of suncream on your left leg. The year I finished with my particularly bad feet, as I went on crutches to the Presentation that Sunday night, I asked my walking partner, Kevin Graham, how he felt and his only complaint was "Me left calf is a bit sunburnt"

More of Kevin later as well.....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Let's get those feet out of the way....

When those curtains close on me at the Crem, and if people talk about my life, what will totally overshadow my Life on Mars (without the violence) career as a Detective, or my trifling achievements in the political field, will be that photograph above.

The newspaper article will simply say " Man with bad feet dies after long struggle with 1000 Mile Socks"

I will only be Famous for my Feet. And that is why I am doing this blog, because although that photo was taken after a finish in 2003, my feet have been like that after most finishes.

In addition, and far more seriously, my back also collapses somewhere around Glen Mona, and that is a much greater problem than a bit of foot pain, and that makes finishing a real problem for me.

The reason for these injuries is a lack of proper training, so when Murray asked me to do this blog, I seized the chance, because if I have to publicly show what training I have been doing, maybe I will be shamed into actually doing some. And I hope any readers of this will learn how to avoid the pitfalls I repeatedly stumble into.

I know that finishing the Parish is 95% a mental issue. The brain can and usually does over-rule the body. I hit the 'wall' in 2008 at Ballakillowey and just had to stop. Entering this year is an attempt by me to see if my brain can once again over-rule my body and get me to a finish, and with more training the aim is to beat 20 hours.

I never thought someone like me could ever finish the Parish, but I know that it is possible for all of you, and as recent years have shown, hundreds are now able to do it.

So good luck everyone - and don't follow my example - just learn from it what not to do.