Monday, June 28, 2010

The Longest Day..... Next year.....

Well, I beat 20 hours, but very disappointingly, not in the way I hoped.

First though, congratulations to Angie. For sheer determination, and being the ultimate Superwoman, no-one will ever beat her. Six finishes now, on top of all her work for charity, holding down about seven jobs and as Supermum bringing up a delightful - though on Saturday less athletic than her - family. It wasn't easy out there and she showed what commitment can do.

Congratulations also to Dave Walker, for a first finish in a remarkable time. I watched his progress through the evening and night on the Live Timing, and I suspect he has a story to tell of his last few hours. A brilliant first time finishing performance. Also congratulations to Jock for such a storming performance and to everyone else who finished this year in difficult conditions.

Several people I know, who I thought were certainties to finish, didn't make it and the lower number of finishers shows how attritional conditions were on Saturday.

Now for my excuses. I was very disappointed not to finish. I started off this blog signalling that I wanted to break 20 hours, but I knew that with my knee injury I would be unlikely to. We also started right at the back and took nearly 20 minutes to get through the first mile, so the aim was then just to finish.

Because of my knee I had to drag my left leg up Ballakillowey and the Sloc, and on each hill I lost touch with my walking partners. I just could not keep up the speed on the hills - however, my Winter Walking League exploits stood me in good stead, as on the flat I was able to 'sprint' and catch up with Kevin and co. But the effort of that way of walking, slow on hills, too much effort on the flats, was physically very draining.

The prospect of perhaps walking through the night without Kevin, led to the appearance of a nasty little voice which kept whispering to me "Peel". "Peel". And once the doubts start, they are hard to quell.

The effort of dragging the leg, and falling behind really drained me mentally as well as physically and that voice got louder and louder. I hated that voice. Also, for family reasons, I should have been elsewhere this weekend and the other doubting voice were the words of my Doctor to "listen to your body".

As I have said in earlier posts, finishing the Parish is mostly mental, and if you are not 100% mentally committed, you will fail. Kevin carried on after Peel but stopped at Kirk Michael, with cramped thighs, and probably boredom. I really let Kevin down because if I hadn't have given in to my 'Stop at Peel' Voice we probably would both have finished.

On arrival at Peel I had my legs massaged by a lovely lady and it was wonderful. When she had finished I was invigorated, the tiredness had gone from my legs, I was totally refreshed, and I really was ready to carry on. Too late, as I had officially retired. I think next year, a massage at Peel might be a good tactic before carrying on.

Also, because of the massage I have had no stiffness after the event, or even today.

So what lessons have been learned for next year?

1. Train a lot more on hills - I have not been able to do that for the last three months. I usually train a lot around Glen Roy and I felt the lack of that work in the climb after Rushen.

2. Sort out injuries before you walk. Mental doubts are exacerbated if your expectations are lowered because of injury.

3. Feet - Wrapping Compede around my toes worked - a tip from Carl Senogles. However, my heels and balls of feet are well blistered and would have been a real mess if I had carried on. I need to find a way of sorting out the Blistered Foot problem. Maybe losing a stone or so would help.

4. The Winter Walking League was a real help. I was able to accelerate when I needed to and relied less on the steady plod.

5. Leave Rushen with a good supply of energy drinks and gels. I messed up on that and went through the heat over the Sloc with just water, and I think I needed a bigger boost than that.

My son Richard, beat me to Peel, as did Olivia Graham, my niece and daughter of Kevin. She was totally fresh and could be a future star. My daughter Rose also finished at Peel. She walked with a friend from University who had never been to the Island before, and who had no conception of what the Parish was about.

He also finished at Peel, and viewing the event through his eyes, I was so proud of the Island on Saturday. He saw how well the Parish was organised, the great camaraderie of the event, and was amazed at the roadside support and the kindness of people. We almost take it for granted but when viewed through the eyes of a stranger, the Parish is truly a wonderful event.

Thanks to all the stalwarts who you see time after time manning crossing points, and the organisers who make it that wonderful event.

Finally thanks to Murray for the huge amount of work he does, both on the website and in other ways. I am very grateful to him for the chance to burble along about an event I have come to love. The blog has had nearly 5500 hits which is startling.

I might keep it going, although tales of political shenanigans will be no match for finding out about the progress of a Wounded Knee or The Great Snot......

Thanks for taking the time to read my nonsense.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Parish Eve

Are you sitting, like me with the SportIdent bracelet around your wrist, with butterflies in your stomach, thinking of all the things you need to do to your feet in the morning, and wishing, really wishing, you had done more training?

Drinks are all mixed, car packed with Jaffa Cakes, bananas and squishy Gels, and the most dificult task, getting those numbers pinned on my shirt, is done.

I am feeling pretty apprehensive - my knee is really Not Fit For Purpose - and there are other things going on which may prevent me starting. However, if all goes well, I will push on to the finish, but I suspect my aim of beating 20 hours will have to wait for another year.

And are you sitting there thinking, "this time tomorrow I will be heading out of Andreas" and will you wake up about 2am thinking, " this time tomorrow I will be hitting Maughold".....

And what have I forgotten? A light for the night time walking. I didn't do the exercises advised to make my knee better. Toenails are at present uncut. There will be something else

My daughter Rose Dugdale is walking again, with very little training, as she has been studying hard all spring at University in London. A friend of hers, Andy, from college has come over to have a go, with no conception, until this evening, of what he is taking on. He thought it was a bit of a light hearted walk around a tiny Island where the majority would be wearing fancy dress.....

My son Richard is walking for the first time, and when he puts his Determined Head on he could go on and on. My usual walking partner, Kevin Graham is entered again and I have no doubt he will get his sixth finish - his children Olivia and Alex are also entered for the first time.

All the best to fellow blogger Angie Aire - Angie is unstoppable - and the other blogger, Dave Walker has really inspired me with the amount of work he has put in. I cannot imagine him not making it to the finish, and he has a speedy technique which will put him amongst the early finishers.

Good luck to the other 1600 of you, and thanks to Murray for letting me talk nonsense on this site for the last few months. There will be more nonsense, but that will be After The Event.

Sleep well......

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finish No 2 - A few thousand steps too far....

Only hours to go until the Parish now - and I thought I would tell the story of my second finish in 2003. It is told, not to inspire, but to let you first time hopefuls know that anything is possible.

Once again I approached finishing in a less than serious way - i.e. Not Enough Training.

I walked with Kevin Graham, getting to Peel in about 7 hours 30 - which has proved to be a reasonable pace, and leaves enough energy for later on.

By the time I got to Peel my feet were in agony. I stopped on the ascent out of Peel and took my trainers off to have a look, and saw a soggy mess. It looked serious, and as I said before, only my exposure to numerous post mortems over the years got me through that moment. I put the trainers back on and plodded on, putting each foot down exactly straight, and very carefully. When your feet are in a mess like that, or heavily blistered, it is agony to change direction, or to stop and start.

I was able to switch my mind off to the pain and we made good progress. Somewhere around Ramsey I realised I was having trouble standing up straight, and tried to walk in the crown of the road as walking on any sort of angle was a problem.

By the time we got to the Dhoon, my back was in serious trouble, I was lurched over sideways and had no real control of the direction of my feet. A can of Red Bull gave me enough energy to get from the Dhoon down into Laxey, but after that I struggled. Kevin went on ahead and I climbed slowly up Pinfold Hill, and then made a final effort up to Lonan Church. My wife was waiting with the car at Ballacannell to take me home after I got back from the Church. I made it up to Lonan Church by hanging on to the cars parked on the road.

Checking us in at Lonan was local athlete John Wright. I said to John, "I am knackered, I can't go on." He said the worst words possible to me, "No-one's ever packed in at Lonan before".

Bastard. (I think I said that out aloud).

So I struggled back down the hill, declined the offer of the longed for lift home, and trundled down into Baldrine. I had to hold the wall on the climb up out of Baldrine, and on the Whitebridge, climbed part of it on my hands and knees.

I lurched down Royal Avenue, stumbled into the Port Jack chippy, and then went the length of the Promenade holding onto the railings. I only let go when I saw the cameras at the finish and stood up straight. The picture shows me anything but straight.

The point of all that saga is, that although my feet were a mess, the back pain was far worse, and the feet were in effect a smaller problem.

After I got home, I realised my feet were beyond the pale, and there was a certain smell in the air which somehow made me think of the word "gangrene" so I rang my son, who just before taking me to hospital, took the now infamous pictures, which are now on web-sites across the world, and even appeared in the lads magazine, FHM.

The final, and worst pain, was when they put my feet in a bowl of water at Nobles - which caused pain like I have never experienced before or since. I knew the Doctor well, and he said words to the effect of "Serves you right, no-one needs to walk that far, that's why God invented motor bikes."

There was a lot more to the story of that night, and my tale of finishing owes nothing to bravery and a lot to stupidity. And to John Wright.

So, to all first timers, anything is possible - and all you need to do to finish is to just keep going, one foot after the other.

Ignore the pain, enjoy the thrill of a Finish.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Training so far and learning to slow...

Well, here is a resume of how my training went. I lost a few weeks with the Great Snot in January and February, and then a few weeks in April with the Great Knee.

The Knee still causes me problems. I am fine on the flat, able to maintain speed etc, but going up or down hill, I have a lot of pain, and have to drag my left leg along.

To finish the Parish you need your head to be in order, and my Knee is looming large in my head as I cannot imagine dragging a leg up Ballakillowey, the Sloc or Ballajora without some other part of the body exploding.

I have made the Knee much worse over last weekend. I spent half an hour trying to kickstart my ancient Triumph Bonneville into life, kicking with the right foot, but taking all my weight on my injured left knee - and anyone who has angrily tried to kick a Bonny into life knows the pressure put on the standing leg. I didn't realise at the time, but a short walk tonight was agony on the hills.

I went for a six miler tonight to try to learn to walk more slowly. My training pace at over 5mph will never be sustainable over 85 miles, so I set off tonight to try to walk 13.5 minute miles. In the end I put in 13 minute miles. It's hard to deliberately walk more slowly when you have spent months clomping along at a certain pace.

For all the geeks out there, like you, I have kept a record of all my training walks. Here are the facts and figures:

Total miles - 316.51 (More than double my usual amount)
Average walk distance - 6.57 miles
Shortest Walk - 1 mile
Longest Walk 15 miles
Times out training - 45.

Where I am worried this year is that I have done little hill work. In my last couple of Parishes I did a lot of hill work, both in the NSC gym on the treadmill, and out around Glen Roy and I am convinced that made a difference.

This year, because of the knee I have mostly been on the flat, with the steepest challenges being Pinfold Hill and Baldrine.

This year, for once, I do not think a Finish is a foregone conclusion.....

Saturday, June 19, 2010

That First Finish...

Just a week to go, and the tension builds.....

Here is the story of my first finish in 2002, to give readers a feeling of what it is like to round Port Jack and know you are going to Make It.

Having felt reasonably sprightly after two Walks as far as Peel, my brother in law, Kevin Graham and I decided to go beyond Peel and see how far we could go. It was also the first time for our support crew wives beyond Peel, and to be honest we had not really planned anything properly, as we did not really expect to finish. As we passed each church past Peel, our support, desperately bored, called out, "are you stopping now...?"

We got to Bride as darkness fell, and Kevin gave in to the siren calls - a family occasion the next day called, though I am sure he was in good enough shape to get to the finish.

I loaded up my kagoul with as much water and food as I could, and set off into the dark alone while the support headed off home and south into the darkness and bed. Quite soon afterwards I caught up with Dermot O'Toole and walked for a while chatting. I had been going faster than him, and as it turned out, probably far too fast, because I doubt if I would have got to the finish with that pace.

I reasoned that if I stayed with Dermot, who was at that time a seven time finisher, I may have a good chance of getting to Douglas. Dermot was very organised and I have memories of cups of tea heated by a primus stove, and even a vision of teeth cleaning going on at one stage. Though that may just be one of my Maughold hallucinations....

By the time we got to Maughold I was feeling pretty rough. At one point I dropped my bottle of water, and just could not stop and stoop to pick it up. Somewhere around that point Dermot told me how much he hated the Parish and I remember declaring that if I finished I would never go through these agonies again. Dermot agreed, saying seven finishes was enough and he was going to stop after this one.

We shook hands and agreed never to do the Parish ever again....

It must be a bit like women and childbirth - they usually swear "never again" and two weeks later deny that it was a problem- some chemical blanks out the memory of pain.

And so it must have been with Dermot (now about 16 finishes) and me, finishing another four times.

The abiding, almost life changing memory, is of walking up the long straight between the Dhoon corner and the Bulgham corner - and watching a perfect sunrise break over the sea. That was a glorious moment - I was on the way home, in God's Country (Ballaragh - my homeland) and knew I was going to finish.

As we got to the top of Royal Avenue, we were caught by Kevin Martin, and regulars will know that horrible feeling of being overtaken when you know you do not have enough energy to hold off the challenge. As it turned out, Kevin was a real gentleman, and instead of racing us and gaining a couple of places, he walked with us.

I remember that wonderful moment of hitting the Promenade by Port Jack chippy and scanning, and scanning, and scanning again, for the War Memorial. It is an awful lot further away that you imagine. We tried to speed up on the final walk along the Promenade, but it was nearly impossible. It was like walking through treacle, no matter how much energy went into it, no speed came out the other end.

We three crossed the line together, joint 27th I think. I will forever be grateful for Dermot for breaking me in, so to speak, and getting me to the finish, and to Kevin for sacrificing his places to keep us company.

Later there were some medical problems, shin micro factures, kidney infections, huge blisters and later multi-toenail loss, but that feeling of achievement at the finish, and at the Presentation, that Sunday night was absolutely fantastic.

And more than that, in those days (a mere 8 years ago) finishing the Parish was relatively rare and friends expressed amazement at someone like me managing it. Nowadays, it is just as difficult, but so many manage a finish that that special kudos seems a little diminished.

But it is not, for when you finish for the first time, no matter how many others make it, you will have that very special feeling of exhilaration as you collapse into the helping hands of Liz and co at the finish.

I will blog every day now this week, to build up the tension - a bit like anticipating the next England World Cup game.........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, June 4, 2010

Do Tailwinds actually exist?

Well. I made my promises. Did I keep them?

I started off on the 21st May on the gentle charity walk for Bowel Cancer IOM, a 3.5 mile walk along Douglas Prom on a glorious evening. I walked with Carl Senogles, who I played football with at Laxey for a couple of decades. In those days Carl was one of the few Laxey players with any real talent. Carl finished the Parish last year in about 20.15 and his ambition is to better the time of his father Norman who finished third in just over 18 hours in about 1962. Norman walked with us that evening as well and is still going strong.

Carl has carried on training non-stop since the last Parish and put in some rapid times in the Winter Walking League and I have no doubt he is set for a good time this year - he gave me some useful tips about his training, mostly involving Compede. He is a natural athlete*** and I remember years ago he decided to run a marathon, and with minimal training, clocked 3 hours 18 on his first, and I think, only attempt.

Since the Bowel Cancer walk I have done an eight mile walk in 1.35, around Lonan Old Church and Baldrine, a ten mile walk in 2.03, on the same route, and another ten mile walk in 2.02 where I started at the Shore Hotel in Laxey, up the Glen, Captains Hill, and then the long slog to the top of Bulgham and to Glen Mona and then back.

The return back into Laxey is an exhilarating and speedy downhill from Bulgham, but of course there is the inevitable headwind to take the edge off it. I have noticed recently that despite the reasonable weather, all my return journeys are into the wind, and that does have a real effect on your times. Does anyone ever notice a tailwind? I suspect they don't exist, and the Headwinds leap into existence from nowhere just as you turn around.

They are watching you.

A couple of days ago I did my longest training walk yet, a fifteen mile walk, again from The Shore, and out the the top of Slieu Lewaigue in Maughold and back, this in a disappointing time of 3.07. That was a bit of a struggle, mainly because of my knee, but I also find that sometimes you fly along, and other times things just don't feel right.

The Shore Hotel is a great place to finish a walk. As Mrs Merton said to George Best, "Tell me George, did all that running around make you thirsty?"

For those dietary and medical experts out there, I do have a pint of water before slaking the rest of my thirst with Bosuns.

As to my Promises, I think that means on my promised schedule of at least five miles a day, that I owe you all about 19 miles. This week then, it is head down and no excuses. Does anyone else find the countdown of days on Dave's blog a bit worrying?

Finally, isn't the Island a wonderful place this time of year? It is staggeringly beautiful out in the country this week - the great pleasure of training for the Parish.

***Ginger Whippet