Monday, 25 June 2007

Bruised,battered and blistered...but not beaten !

Well, that's it for another year, I can't believe it's all over. Look at me there just before Braddan Bridge, don't I look fresh !

Much to my disgust, I didn't manage to get round but it wasn't for the lack of effort. My big toenail became loose just before Peel and from there onwards it was a constant struggle with my feet. I had 2 large blisters on each heel by Jurby and another 3 nails had become loose and blistered by Bride. Then my right knee buckled under me at Andreas and it was a miracle I managed to limp to Lezayre where I cried enough. I was going well up to Bride( was in 26th place overall) and was on for roughly an 18.5 hour finish had the wheels not come off . I literally could not put one foot in front of the other and ended up in A & E at the end of the night. Never mind, I have 12 months to put things right !

I really enjoyed the day out and the atmosphere throughout the race was sensational - it really spurs you on when people are shouting for you. Personal highlights for me were :-
1/The Sloc - I did quite a bit of training up there and it paid off. I waltzed up there and must have overtaken 10 people.It is, without doubt, my favourite section of the course
2/Walking with Roey Crellin - I was with her when things were starting to go pear shaped around Jurby/ Bride and what a friendly and positive lady she is.
3/ My sodium blood level was taken in hospital and it was normal so I got the logistics right, despite struggling to eat.
Things not so good were :-
1/ My feet obviously. I got something drastically wrong - whether it was my shoes, socks or virgin feet I don't know but I have to address this.
2/ The drag from Jurby to Bride - it was endless ! It measures the distance at 7.5 miles in the route but it felt double that in the rain
3/ The path up to Andreas Church was horrible. In my Saucony shoes, which are quite light, I could feel every blister and toenail screaming on the uneven surface.
I would also thank to thank a few people in passing, if you will forgive me, hope this doesn't sound like an Oscar speech! Firstly to my wife Kerry who supported me from Arbory onwards accompanied by my mum and my kids. She did a sensational job for a first timer( also to my father in law Dave who, blisters and all after his walk to Peel, drove out and took the kids home). Secondly, to George Blair's bride-to-be Theresa who helped us both though the bad times with words of advice and gee-ups from Peel onwards. And lastly to Dick Haddock and previous finisher Dave Hall who I both knew from my football days at Onchan. Thanks a lot lads for the encouragement from Sulby onwards, sorry it was to no avail.

Personal congratulations to Mike George, for a great walk in third place with better to come in the future(maybe I can sponsor you for next year's race Mike with Ascot Hotel on the front of your shirt ?) and fellow blogger Mark Hempsall who walked the race he intended to the letter.Sorry for missing any other's out, I am new to this game and probably don't know you well enough! Also apologies to Mark, Steve and Matt for letting the team down, I was the sole non-finisher !

I have learned so much from this year's race and intend to come back fitter and stronger next year.It has been an amazing experience as a first timer so roll on 2008...only 362 days to go !

Friday, 22 June 2007

Last minute posting

This will be my final posting before the race and then hopefully the next update will be my personal review of the day itself and how, well or otherwise, it went for me.

This is a bitter sweet moment for me as I have immensely enjoyed writing and reading the blogs( I hope you have too) and have, on the whole, relished the training. However, the whole experience has somewhat dominated mine, and my family's life, for a number of months and I will be happy ( and yet sad) to get off the treadmill and have a bit of a rest.As I say bitter sweet.

I would just like to thank all the organising committee for their hard work and organisation so we can have our fun (?). It can't be easy putting on a gig like this and without their effort and committment, there would be no race. So thank you all. I would also publicly, before the big day, like to thank my wife for putting up with me over the past few months and for all her help in my preparation. She is also my sole support team and deserves some sort of medal for taking it on by herself with the kids !

I would also like to wish all competitors the best of luck for tomorrow. This is a fantastic event, second in stature on the island only to the TT in my opinion, and just enjoy being part of the day/ night. My simple tips would be :-- don't start off too quick and warm up first, eat and drink regularly, make sure you have applied some sun screen and vaseline your feet.

See you all tomorrow !

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Turning into Howard Hughes

I am so buzzed up for the race now and am writing this update at 5am - I can't sleep. I just wish Saturday would come so I can calm down !Anxiety has been manifesting itself into amusing dreams - I have a recurring nightmare where I have missed the start while my wife Kerry dreamt she ran out of bread making sandwiches! Michael George also told me he dreamt he got to Ramsey but wasn't allowed to carry on until he scored a goal - and kept missing !

I have been a nightmare at work for the past week as well. Catching anything off anyone at this late stage would be disastrous so I have turned myself into Howard Hughes - if anyone dared sneeze or cough near me, I've been legging it in the opposite direction ! I have also the heavy burden and pressure ( of finishing) of sponsor money for the IOM Anti Cancer Association weighing on my shoulders and any guest staying with me who asks me a question gets a sponsorship form thrust in their direction ! I will be lucky enough to be off work from Thursday onwards and will be glad of the rest - June is our busiest month and I intend to burrow a hole somewhere and come out on Saturday morning. By the way, if anyone would like to sponsor me, I would be delighted to hear from you - you can get me at work on 675081 or email

I have started getting ready for D-day ( it's literally like trying to organise one) sweets, gel bars, compeeds, sports drink,head torch, energy bars... I could go on ! The car has even had its yearly clean out and will be full of petrol for the first time in its life.

My first objective in the race has been reached - I have no regrets at all with my preparation. When I started training in November, I told myself I didn't want to line up on the day with any doubts of "if only ...". Aside from the usual niggles, an aggrevated blister in the Fireman's Walk and my illness over TT week, I have had few problems and have done all I could possible do as a first timer. I have made, and will make, mistakes no doubt but will be better for the experience. I have talked the talk, now I literally have to walk the walk !

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Relief and Obsession

Thankfully, I am now feeling much better ( though still not quite 100 per cent) after the dreaded virus which flattened me. I am back in training and can't tell you what a relief it was to pull my trainers back on after 9 days in the wardrobe ( shoes not me). I am very much a confidence walker and need to be out quite regularly ( you are only as good as your last walk kind of mentality). With the race being so close, the lack of activity was playing on my mind, draining me of belief.

Anyway, rant over,I went for a bit of alternative training this weekend ( felt a bit like Sylvester Stallone training in the snow in Rocky IV, kept singing Eye of the Tiger in my head ! ) and managed a two hour hike in the company of Matt H up and over Greeba Mountain. I had never scaled it before and was bowled over by the peace and beauty of the surrounds. Once I had got used to the sheep poo and the rocky terrain, I really started to enjoy it despite the sweltering heat. I obviously didn't time the session as it was just time on my feet and the perfect tonic after the lay-off. I also managed a faster 11 miler the following day (up the Sloc) in again boiling conditions - my legs felt ok and I got to try out my new I-Pod shuffle which is only about an inch square and simply the best invention ever. I will be using this when the going gets tough in the race - I am hoping it stays in the boot of the car until at least Andreas !

I really am becoming obsessional with the race -I must have walked it in my sleep a dozen times and have tried to visualise myself at the finish line with a smile on my face ! I have also been scanning the race programme and noticeable absentees, if I am reading correctly, from last year's race are Alan Cowin ( 6th), Mike Readshaw ( 7th), Deemster Doyle ( 14th) former winner Chris Flint ( 16th) and surprisingly Jane Gibson ( or is it Kennaugh) ( 22nd). Metcheck is also currently predicting a temperature of between 9-15 degrees with occasional rain for the day - perfect if it can be trusted. Hopefully with a hot early June out the way, the weather will break and be kind to us all - I await Adrian Cowin's weather forecast on the Manx Athletics forum with bated breath !

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Last minute problems

18 days to go. I remember when it was 196. I think this period is definitely called " twitchy bum " time. This is where it can all go wrong, having put so much in.

And I am not well at the moment. Caught a cold virus off the kids and can't shake it off. Including today, that's 5 days with no training, confidence is evaporating and I'm beginning to wonder whether I will be fit for the day. I think Steve mentioned in a previous posting that athletes are all hypocondriacs - I must be gold medallist then.Still, better it happened now than 2 weeks later.

Still managed to get 30 miles in last week prior to the dreaded lhergy, one 20 miler, which took just over 4 hours, and did some hill repeats in Glen Maye next to the post office - a steep hill and a good session with Matt H. The Fish needed the workout to blow away the cobwebs after a week in Greece. The trip was a disaster - ask him if you know him.

Due to the inactivity of myself and the presence of our two-wheeled friends, I have been busy preparing for the day. High viz jackets, sports drinks, extra tops, energy gels, bars and am still nowhere near there. It really is like trying to organise a D-day landing, particularly if you are a first timer. I think once you have competed in the race, you know what works and discard what doesn't, whereas I will be loaded to the gunnels with stuff I shall probably never use or need. But I would rather have it there than not.

I am looking forward to my " taper down " once I'm back on form but am not really sure what that means. If it means, doing nothing at all and having a good moan, then I am already into it !

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Doubts and fears...

Due to work piling up and a lack of time, I have only been out twice this week but the mileage was still ok. I did a 16 miler ( Boundary Stroll route in reverse ) on Monday which I found quite hard near the end. I didn't have much sleep the night before and was feeling quite sick and the last 3 miles were difficult. If anyone is aware of the Boundary Stroll route , which I mentioned in a previous posting, I suggest doing it the reverse way ie Douglas to Peel and back from Foxdale, as it is a much harder walk as you are constantly on the climb from Ballacraine onwards.

Then, due to the fact I missed out on a Champions League Final ticket in the ballot, I decided to punish myself with 2 laps of my Sloc - Colby- Rushen Church route on the day of the match ( 23 miles in total). This is a killer of a walk, especially if you don't carry enough liquid ! I ran out of fluid with 4 miles still to go which wasn't the best of planning.All I had left were dextrose tablets which made me even more thirsty ! However, having done the climb on numerous occasions in the past few weeks, the Sloc holds no fears for me whatsoever - in fact I quite enjoy it. I have got to know the route like the back of my hand and one bit of it always makes me smile. At the top of the Sloc, there is a road bollard which has been knocked over by a car and it lies at the side of the road. It looks like a huge mobile phone and reminds me of Dom Joly in Trigger Happy TV ! Well it amuses me, ok !! At the end of this particular walk, I was really knackered and had nothing left - so much so I hardly shouted at the telly at all during the match !

As the race approaches, I find myself thinking and worrying about irrational fears of which I have no control. Here is a snapshot of my murky mind :-

1/ What if the kids are unwell and we have a sleepless night on the 22nd June ?
2/ What if my support car breaks down ?
3/ Will my back hold out ?
4/ I have just bought new shoes. What if they are not broken it properly on the day ?
5/ What if pick up a virus from the kids ?
6/ What if I fall out with my wife and she tells me she's no longer my sole support team ?

See what I mean.Barking mad,completely neurotic and not like me at all. Get a grip Dave !

I think the next fortnight is going to be really frustrating for me, as I'm going to be really busy at work and won't have much time for training. That is bound to get me thinking ......have I done enough ?? I will be glad when this race is underway !!

Monday, 14 May 2007

What to eat ?

I don't know whether it's been blind panic on my behalf, with only five and a bit weeks to go, or whether it's because I am injury free but this week has been the most mileage I have managed to complile. In the last 6 days, from last Tuesday ( 8th May) to today ,I have got exactly 49 miles under my belt with amazingly, no flare- ups in any department( if that isn't tempting fate then I don't know what is !!)

The regime in the week was quite simple - I did three loops of my Sloc- Round Table-Colby-Rushen Church route, which is 11.4 miles each circuit, and a 15 miler this morning which was basically the Boundary Stroll route from Douglas to Foxdale, St Johns and back home along the Peel road. Just to prove how sad I am and how obsessed with time I have become, my average speed throughout the entire week was 5.15mph. I just need to string it together at the same time over a longer distance of ground !

The 3 Sloc laps were interesting as no one day was the same. One day wind behind, next day rain and on Sunday a north-westerly wind in your face which made the climb even harder. God help us all if it is a warm day come 23rd June and then having to face a breeze like that in your face. But, that is a reality and it was good to face it and battle through it.

The 15 mile walk this morning was also an eye-opener due to the weather. It started out cloudy, yet by halfway myself and Mark H were in blazing sunshine. Nothing can be taken for granted with the island's climate and both of us voiced great concerns, and a complete change of game-plan, if we have a hot one.

I am still learning the science and logistics of this game, and if I'm honest, I haven't got a clue what I'm doing. It bothers me immensely that I , for a novice and rookie, have trained quite hard yet it can all be easily undone by poor preparation and not eating and drinking the right things. I want to give myself the best possible chance and illiminate as many mistakes as I can and for that reason, I will be attending one of the talks held by Sports Nutritionist Kathryn Sentance next week. Any nuggets which anyone could throw my way in the meantime would be much appreciated too - please feel free to leave me a comment !!

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Making sacrifices

I have always been a relatively busy person and if not, like to keep myself occupied. I run a ( thankfully) busy business, have a hectic family life with two small children, own a Season Ticket at Liverpool FC and am a keen follower of horse racing. So there was never going to be any room for another obsession - or so I thought !

I must admit that since taking up walking in August, it has totally taken over my life. Whenever fit, I enjoy training immensely, which I never did when I played football, and the social side to the sport is tremendous - I have met some great people over the last few months which I would not have done ordinarily. The sport is not elitist in the slightest and everyone involved is helpful and approachable. I am just sorry I didn't discover the thrills sooner as I had literally done no sport at all for 10 years. I think a lot of guys struggle with exercise when they pack in football and don't know exactly what to do with themselves.

In order to accommodate the new love in my life, some things have to give so from today onwards, I have put myself on a strict no alcohol policy until after the Parish. Last week I discovered the negative effects the demon drink can have on your body after just one night on the town. On Wednesday, the night after the Reds had knocked out Chelsea, I went on an 11 miler. I struggled the whole way with my breathing, which had never happened before, and felt extremely sick and lethargic. Just days previously, I had flown over 8 miles and wouldn't have blown a candle out when I got home. SO NO MORE BOOZE DAVE, OK !!!

After a few niggles, which are nearly sorted and have been frustrating, I went out this morning and did one circuit of Mark Hempsall's loop which goes Rushen Church - Sloc - Round Table - Colby - Rushen Church, 11.5 miles in total. The first 2 miles killed me going up Ballakillowey as my shins were in agony with not having walked for a week. But I really enjoyed it once the pain had worn off as it was a beautiful morning and the traffic was very light. On my only previous ascent up the Sloc in April, you literally couldn't see 15 feet in front of you, so to see the views it has to offer was very uplifting. With six and a bit weeks to go, I feel I am back on track. So cheers and raise a glass to no more injuries - would you please pass me that Mineral Water !!??

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Parish warm up

There was a good turn out and a high class field for the Seven Stations Walk last Sunday despite its close proximity to the big race. I would call it a Parish warm up - most of the top guys were walking.

Myself and occasional training partner Matthew Haddock decided that we would go for it from the outset as I was unsure about finishing due to bad feet and he was carrying a groin injury.If nothing else it would be a very good training session under race conditions.We went so well that we were only passed by 2 people in the entire walk - once by Sean Hands early on and then by Jock Waddington in the mists approaching Foxdale. In fact, despite walking together, it was a very lonely race ! We got to Peel ok enough in about 12th place but I was starting to feel the effects of my blistered feet and decided, rather sensibly for me, to pack in at Kirk Michael( 24 miles) before I made the situation any worse. I had dropped about a quarter of a mile off Matthew by that stage and was just behind James Moore. Well done to both those lads for finishing it and to the organisers for such a great job. There were plenty of marshalls and water stations plus the mobile guys who were constantly on your case asking if you were ok. I think if the event can be moved backwards by about two weeks, it may grow and grow. I hope so - endurance events leading up to the Parish are thin on the ground and with traffic an ever increasing problem, walking under race conditions are ideal.

I rested my feet for 4 days and went out for an 8 mile quicker walk last night. My feet were fine and my time was ok ( for me !) but I have done my back in ! If it's not one thing, it's the other - is my walking training always going to be this way ??!!

I was chuffed to see there are now almost 1000 entrants for the big day, following a little confusion over the exact numbers. This will be my first parish experience and I want it full on, numbers and all ! Hopefully, with a week still to enter, the figures will rise. Get your entries in folks if you haven't yet done so !

Friday, 20 April 2007

No niggles or aches ??

The last 10 days training have gone really well and, for the first time I can remember,I have not felt any niggles or strains. I have decided that the weekly regime will include a long walk, one speed session and one intermediate session of about 10-12 miles, relying on quality rather than quantity on my feet. It's so far so good.

I again managed to walk a part of the course this week and last Saturday walked from Shoprite Ramsey to Maughold and back with Matt H. I am pleased I managed to get this part done as, if I am honest, I didn't really know the route. What surprised me was, not the steep climbs up Ballajora or Hibernia Hill,just how long the Maughold route actually is. I went round there in the car just after Christmas and thought it was nothing, not realising I has taken a wrong turn ! Just after the Ballajora climb, the road forks left and right and I had turned right to go back onto the main road which I now know is the wrong way. There must be a further 3 miles in the loop including the final Hibernia push which I never knew was there ! I must admit I found the two rises not too bad although in the Parish itself I can see why this may be different. Fatigue is setting in and darkness is upon you, completely different from our hot sunny morning and only 3 miles into the walk ! Maybe my viewpoint of this area will be permanently altered in 9 weeks time ! Anyway it was a great session, just under 10 miles in slightly under 2 hours which I was pleased with.

Yesterday, I did my intermediate walk which on this occasion was a 14.1 mile loop from my house in Saddlestone up to Onchan Head and back again via Kewaigue in 2 hrs 45 min, an average of 5.1 mph. The good news is I did this route before with Mark H and struggled the last 3 miles, this time I felt comfortable. Isn't it strange how that happens sometimes, for no apparent reason ?

I am looking forward to the weekend and the 50 mile Fireman's Walk on Sunday. There are roughly 150 entrants and a high class field, from what I can gather, which is good for a fledgling event. At this stage sitting at my PC, I am not intending to complete the course and my intention is to use the event as part of my training and at least get to Ramsey which is 33 miles. Depending on how I feel, if I reach that point, will determine if I go on. However, I stupidly walked in new shoes the other day and am nursing a couple of blisters which may ultimately make the decision for me ! See you there !

Monday, 9 April 2007

Holiday punishment

Firstly, my apologies for not updating the blog in the last 3 weeks. I have been on hols in Florida with the wife and kids during this time and had no PC access. It won't happen again, honest !!

During this time I virtually did no training at all due to the heat and the desire to relax, save for two pathetic 20 minute jogs around the complex and one fast walk of just over 2 miles. However, I am claiming visiting the theme parks as part of training as you are on your feet for about 8 hours per day and must walk about 5 miles around them per visit. Well that's my claim and am sticking to it !

I must admit I really did miss the routine of my training schedule and have come back home with extra vigour and sense of purpose. I am determined to make the most of the next 10 weeks.

With this in mind, I went out this morning with Matthew Haddock, who was a first time Parish finisher last year. He came up with a fantastic loop route which went :- Rushen Church - Sloc - Round Table - Glen Maye - Arrasey Plantation- Round Table- Colby- Rushen Church. In all we covered 20.5 miles in 4 hours and 20min. Not that quick at just over 4.7 mph but we covered some good hill climbs and I got to savour the challenge of the Sloc for the first time ever.

Mind you, that well-known climb pales into insignificance when you take on the awesome hill when you turn right at the Old Post Office at Glen Maye. I believe it is called Molluc Vellyn ( not sure about spelling ) and it must be one of the steepest hills, if not the steepest, on the island. I had never encountered it before -it is a one track road and I swear at one lung busting point I was about 3 foot tall due to the rise and my body shape.It was literally like walking up a wall and I thought we would have to make base camp at one point !The incline is only about half a mile in distance( feels like 2 ) and I would love to know the % rise of the entire slope. Seriously, if you have never been up there, have a bash and I dare you to tell me I'm wrong ! However, it was a really good session and most beneficial to both of us - especially to Matt as he was hung over !

It was also informative to walk part of the Parish course too and this is something I intend to repeat over the coming weeks. I am not totally happy I know the way around the Maughold / Ballajora area and this will be my next assualt of the course, hopefully on Sunday.

I can't believe it is just over 10 weeks to the race and I can't wait for the challenge - I feel like a kid in December. The evenings are getting longer, the weather warming up and the entry list on the Parish Walk site ever growing - I love Spring !

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Walk and learn

Its around about this time of year that mileage has to increase so I have been gradually building up distances over the past fortnight.

Last Wednesday, myself and Mark H walked together to Castletown on an absolutely gorgeous day - it was a pleasure to be out. It came to just over 11 miles which we did in a shade over 2 hours. This is faster than I intend to walk the Parish but it was a good session as I felt comfortable throughout it. Also during this week, I did some hill sessions around my estate and an 8 miler around Douglas which is a regular circuit of mine.

Then yesterday, the pair of us upped the distance to 14 miles which again was a good session as I learned a few things. I stupidly didn't bring any liquids with me and I struggled from about 9 miles onwards. I will not be making that mistake again! Also, we maintained a pace of about 11.5 minute miles throughout the walk and I discovered that if I walk the Parish at this speed, I will not get to Peel ! I finished really tired and aching all over, so much so that Mark christened the walk the " Dave whining " circuit ! The good thing to come out of this walk is that I now know at what pace I shall be walking the big one - I intend to start at just over a shade of 4 mph and hopefully crank it up gradually as I get into the race. I do not intend to waver from this plan !

The other good news is :-
1 / I feel fine this morning with no aches or pains, which I put down to a 15 minute soak in a cold bath straight afterwards. I really can't recommend this procedure enough as it speeds up recovery time. Once you get past the first agonising minute, it's not too bad.
2/ I still have 3 months to try out new things and up distance which will help my fitness levels. I have entered the 50 mile Fireman's Walk on 22nd April and may well walk 25-30 miles as a training session. I don't intend the go any further than this as I won't have done enough endurance work to justify going on - and I certainly don't want to compromise my Parish chances.

My intention from here onwards to is to go on one longer walk each week, increasing distance by about 2 miles on each walk, hopefully building up to a 30 mile walk by the end of April.I think it's virtually impossible to train for a 85 mile event and I just hope I'm doing the right things. One thing is sure though - my admiration for the top guys of both past and present increases by the day. How Sean, Robbie et al can walk the course at 6mph the whole way is nothing short of sensational.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Upping the Ante

I have started to increase mileage over the past week and have been on five walks of at least 8 miles in that period. I do not have any trouble at all in motivating myself to hit the road whatever the weather - however I am grateful to Mark H and Mike G who joined me on 3 occasions and were willing to go at my much slower pace !It does make horizontal rain more bearable with someone else to bounce off. In fact my claim to fame is that I managed to keep on the tail of Mike on the climb up Summerhill and Blackberry Lane - trouble is, Mike was dying of a cough at the time !

After an 8 miler plus today though, I am feeling a few niggles so am going to listen to my body and back off for a couple of days.I did try to take a cold bath afterwards Paula Radcliffe style to help but wimped out and only lasted about 40 seconds ! It's not an easy thing for me back off especially when you realise there are only 16 weeks to go to the race, I am on holiday for 2 of them and don't plan to do much in the final week. Plus I am going to be flat out with work over the TT fortnight so that's 5 weeks lost in total. Panic ...Ive only 11 weeks left to prepare !!

Anticipation is building up with each passing week and it was good to see the current list of entrants on the Parish Walk site. However, a few of the top guys are still not listed as entered so come on Sean, Robbie, Ray,Sue, Steve hurry up and get your entries in - this race needs you ! It is going to be a truly great race this year and I know from speaking to a few of the guys that most of the top 20 walkers from last year have high expectations of themselves and are aiming to lower their Parish PB's again. I almost wish I was watching !

Monday, 19 February 2007

A physical wreck

When I first started out with race walking last September, I naively thought I would have no problems, either technically or physically. How hard can it be ?

I now know, not only it is hard to perfect your technique, it can be extremely stressful on the body if you are not properly in shape. I went to see a physio last week ( won't mention names but can highly recommend this person if you ask me ) about my bad back and came out of the session with my head in a whirl - I never knew there was so much wrong with me ! I only went in for a haircut and came out with a makeover ! I found out the arches on my feet were worn away, my calves needed stretching, my core was weak as were my hamstrings, my buttocks were not functioning at all and I have one hip higher then the other. Oh is that all ! We never even got to my back during the hour long session. Basically I was told that I had been happily plodding through life as a Ford but was suddenly trying to convert myself into a Ferrari ( well not in my case but you know what I mean ) and my body was having none of it.My lack of muscle tone has been contributing to my ailing back. So I am going to have at least 8 weeks of intensive physio to strengthen up the critical muscles and also hopefully prevent major injuries.

Anyone else who is a newcomer to racewalking and has maybe been inactive for a while, I would strongly advise getting yourself checked out first with a professional to make sure your engine is up to the stresses and strains of the sport.The mechanics of how your body works is important to know beforehand if you intend to take up this game. I am only glad I went now and didn't leave it until later as there is no way I would finish the Parish in my current condition. In addition to training and working on my technique, I now have 4 months to build up muscle strength.

The turn out for the Final round of the Winter League yesterday was tremendous with a really high class field with Peter Kaneen, Sean Hands, Mike George and fellow blogger Steve Partington in attendance ( nice to see Steve out, the local race walking scene needs him ). I make no excuses for mentioning my father- in- law Dave Capelen who to his credit was competing less than 2 months after a serious heart attack. Well done mate. Also thumbs up to his brother Simon, who despite minimal training, dipped below the hour mark for 10K in his first race for god knows how long.

The race went fine for me but as usual I went too quick in the early stages of the race and paid for it in the middle. I gritted my teeth for the final 2 miles and was pleased with my time of 66min 54s, knocking almost 2 minutes off my last time. However, I know that my technique is slowing me down and I need to work on it badly. It is a pity the league is now finished so I will have to keep one eye on the fixtures - a race really does bring you on.

One thing I must admitting to not doing is enough ( or any for that matter ) hill repeats. Everyone I talk to stresses the importance of this to build up stamina. This will be my objective over the next couple of weeks - honest !

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Positive thinking

I haven't much to report this week as, besides my niggling back problem, I have had a severe cold which rendered me to bed at 4pm on Sunday ! Man flu can be a killer, can't it guys !

Anyway, tried to get out yesterday morning but stopped after a mile as I was feeling ill. Annoyed with myself at my feeble attitude, I psyched myself up and told myself, in no uncertain terms,not to be so defeatist and that I was hitting the streets again after work at 9.30pm. Which leads me onto my main point...

I have always been a very strong believer in positive thinking - had it drummed into me from my dad at an early age. " There is no such word as can't " he used to drill into me religiously. With that in mind, and a " sod the world " attitude Liam Gallagher would have been proud of, I stomped out last night and managed to do six miles. Not only do them, but enjoyed it too - little traffic ( it was 10pm ) and it was surprisingly mild.It will be great training at that time when the nights get lighter. Not the quickest but that wasn't the point. I managed to overcome my negative thoughts and doubts about my fitness and wellbeing. Cobwebs blown away, I feel I am now back on an upward curve after a couple of weeks of negativity.

Call me a masochist but I am actually looking forward to my body challenging my mind in the later stages of the Parish.I believe this very special event is as much a battle within yourself as much as anything else which is probably its appeal for most people. Certainly it is true for me anyway !As my body wants to shut down, will I have the mental strength to battle through it ? Or will the words of my father ring in my ears and I finally discover he was lying to me and there is a word " can't" ! Should be fun finding out.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Back to square 1

One minute you are up, the next you are down !From having won Round 5 of the Walking League at Andreas the other week on the handicap and being happy with my progression fitness wise, I have had a poor week. And boy has it got me down !

I have injured my back and haven't trained properly for almost a week, except for a half hour session at the NSC this evening which depressed me further ! I have lost a lot of condition and positivity in this short space of time and I feel I am back to square one.

However, a lot of this could be down to my state of mind too as I have had a trying week. I was also aboard the Sea Cat last Saturday which somehow managed to crash into a bulk container on the Mersey Estuary. I am not ashamed to say it was the most terrifying moment of my life as I was sure the ship was going to sink. Thoughts of finishing the Parish were far from my mind at that point ! But, thankfully, it all turned out fine in the end and I have never been so pleased to get back on terra firma. Hopefully, the enquiry will be thorough and lessons will be learned from this potential disaster.

Rant and whining over,with no training and only treatment on my back ( can highly recommend fellow blogger Mark Hempsall's sports massage to ease aches and pains ) I have had time to ponder the logistics of the race this week.This is an area which concerns me greatly as a novice as there are so many variables and situations to cover over the 85 mile slog. What do I drink besides water ? What do I need to eat ? How much do I need ? How many changes of clothing should I take ? What if I need a number two ? The list of questions goes on and on !

I seems to me that you can do all the training under the sun but if your back-up is not prepared and on the ball, then you will fail. At the moment, only Mrs Mackey has volunteered for back-up service( does she know what she has let herself in for ?) but there is no way of earth she can manage it all day and night, especially with two small children to amuse !They will have to sleep at some time !This is something that we, as a family, will have to sort out as the race beckons.All other help is futile -my mother wouldn't know how to get to Ramsey, my father-in-law is competing, while all my mates will be in the pub as it's a Saturday ! All I'd get as support from them is abuse and bottles of Becks !

It's going to take organisation of D-day landing proportions but I am determined to get it right. I don't intend to waste seven months of training on a simple oversight !

Monday, 29 January 2007

Winter walking league

Due to work and the odd injury, I unfortunately missed the first 4 rounds of the Winter Walking League this year which has been a lost opportunity for me to gain fitness and meet new people. The six round league, each heat over a distance of 10K, is a great starting point for novice walkers to build up fitness for the Parish and pick up advice from the experts.
I managed to swap my shift around last Sunday so I could compete in Round 5 at Andreas. I was told that the circuit there is great for recording PB's as it is flat and over 6 laps. I just hoped I wouldn't be flat and get lapped too often !
Having recorded a time of 115 mins in the Peel-Douglas and finished roughly 2 minutes behind Clive Berriff in that race, my handicap mark was calculated at + 14 minutes. Naively, I didn't even realise it was a stagger start and expected us all to bomb off together ! Matthew Haddock, a lad I have quickly got to know, was 4 minutes behind me in the handicap and I was determined he wouldn't catch me ! Fear would drive me on !
In what seemed no time at all I was off ! Typically of me, I went off too quickly and my first lap of 11m 10 sec was actually my fastest. Second circuit was 8 seconds slower and the third 5 seconds slower than the second. Fatigue then seemed to set in with a 4th lap of 11m 43s , then all the top guys started to pass me - first Emma L,then Jock W, Chris C, Terry M and then Mike George. That really lets you know whereabouts you stand in the food chain when they zoom past you !
At the end of the 5th lap, I realised I was on pace to break my target of 70min so I pushed it for the final mile to record a time of 68m 46 sec. Much to my amazement, I won the race on the handicap, by a not-too-clever margin of 1min 28sec ( please be lenient guys for the next round !) from Matthew , who had clawed 3 minutes back on me.
The race went quite straight forward for me, albeit quite a lonely one(I was glad I had a stopwatch with me though, as recommended to me by Steve P). My shins weren't hurting as much as I expected, which pleased me. My only issue was I was struggling all through the race to lift my feet up and I kept scuffing my shoes. It wasn't until I got home I found I had badly marked 2 treads on both shoes - but oddly in the middle of the shoe, not at either end. It has been suggested to me that I may be walking a little flat in the foot and may need insoles in the shoes. If anyone has an opinion on this, I would be delighted to hear it.
I couldn't wait to get home to tell everyone about my"win". However, try explaining to a 6 y.o that you won the race but were not the fastest!!
I can't recommend the Winter Walking League enough and for anyone who is too scared to enter - don't be, everybody is so friendly and helpful.I am a newcomer to the sport and have been made to feel so welcome by everyone. The final round is at the NSC on Sunday 18th February, around the track perimeter, starting at 10am (sign in from 9.15am). You'll be able to spot me - after blowing my handicap mark forever, I'll be carrying 2 bags of sugar and a rucksack !

Friday, 26 January 2007

Walking with legends

For a variety of reasons, I have really enjoyed my training this week.

One reason has been the weather, believe it or not ! Although it's been cold, the sun has been out which is great to walk in. In my job, although I generally have to get up early, I usually have afternoon's free so managed to get out on 4 consecutive days. It really was a pleasure on Douglas Promenade on Wednesday afternoon - the sun was out and it was just me and my thoughts ! I am finding that the winter, which usually gets me down, is flying by this year due to forcing myself out into the elements. It really isn't that bad once you are out there.

Another reason is the people you get to meet whilst training. Down at the NSC on Thursday night was Marie Jackson, Chris Cale, Jock Waddington and the legendary Sean Hands. Oh and little old me !! I am totally in awe of these people and it was great for me just to be in their company and to watch them in their paces. Every week I am picking up fantastic tips and I can pass on a few : Chris told me he keeps a pace sheet under his vest during the race so he can monitor if he is on his time schedule at various landmarks - a great idea. While Sean told me that, although precautions can be taken to lessen the damage, blisters are almost inevitable in the Parish and you just have to battle through it ! Great ! He also told me that when a blister appears, don't try to compensate for it and just walk normally otherwise you risk injury. The blister will eventually burst which will hurt for a short time but soon passes.Invaluable advice for anyone but not really what I wanted to hear !

My Saucony Fast Twitch 2 shoes arrived this week and they are so light and comfortable, it's like you're wearing slippers - which is doubly useful as I don't own a pair ! They are getting an airing on Sunday with the next round of the Winter Walking League at Andreas. I must confess I am slightly apprehensive about the race as I have never competed at 10k distance and am worried I will be taken off my feet in the early stages, as I was in the Peel-Douglas the other week. If you see a guy breathing heavily with a big red face early on, that will be me !

Monday, 22 January 2007

Learning all the time

Due to a head cold plus one or two niggles,I have had a quiet week with a couple of 1 hour sessions followed by some speed work this morning. I am fighting fit now so intend to step it up this week ! It's important to listen to your body and back off when it tells you to. The last thing you want is a setback with the race less than 5 months away ( and counting !).

Due to being off island at the weekend ( watching the mighty Reds batter Chelsea ) I unfortunately missed the training sessions with UK coach Andy Drake but managed to get down to the NSC for a quick word with him on Sunday. I am constantly learning about this hard game and his input was invaluable. I have been concentrating too much on distance training so am starting to inject a little speed into my work. Andy told me that distance work is fine for an endurance event but ultimately, if you wish to be competitive, you need tactical speed. So my training will now encompass the whole spectrum - speed work, a four mile circuit flat out, a longer walk at a slower pace plus technique drills working on mobility and hip movement. This is an area I am particularly weak on.

One of the things I have noticed as a newcomer to racewalking,is that everyone you talk to involved in the sport locally is so friendly and helpful. Every week I am picking up nuggets of information ... anything from training regime to technique to footwear ! I must especially thank Bridget Kaneen who has helped me no end this week with my novice questions ! Also thanks to fellow blogger Mark Hempsall for highlighting the Saucony Fast Twitch 2 shoe. Steve P and Jackie C were actually wearing them on Sunday whilst Bridget wore them in the Parish last year so two pairs are winging their way to me this week ! They should be nicely broken in by June !

Sunday, 14 January 2007

There's nothing like a race

I have come to realise that training, although sometimes enjoyable,is a necessary evil to achieve a level of fitness but there is nothing like a race, and the spirit of competition,to spur you on to maybe another level.
As an aid to my training, I decided to enter the 10 mile Peel-Douglas held on 14th January and see if I could learn anything about myself and gauge how I was progressing. In training, I have been walking at about 5mph so set myself a target of sub 2 hours.
Having got a lift down from fellow hotelier and secret android Mike George, I was quite nervous as this was my first race since September. Especially glancing round at the array of walking talent, you start to think " do I belong here?"
The race started ok enough for me and I was in company with Parish Walk finisher Matthew Haddock(who went on to finish 3rd placed novice)but it soon started to go pear shaped.Taken out of my comfort zone and perhaps going off too quickly, I began to tire, my dreaded shins were screaming and I was passed by about ten competitors. I was breathing hard to get oxygen into my lungs, negative thoughts were going through my brain and I was desperately telling myself to try to keep it together and get through this. I was having trouble just pointing my toe and was not in good shape.
Maureen Moffat, who went on to win 1st Novice Lady, then came past me on the approach to Tynwald Hill and I decided at that moment that enough was enough and I would keep her in sight.
One thing I will never do again, unless it is lashing down, is walk in a waterproof. I was over-heating badly and needed to lose it. No worries, I had pre-arranged to meet my wife Kerry at the Hawthorn pub and she could take it. But on passing there, she was nowhere to be seen. This is a potential calamity for me and it sets me off thinking about things I shouldn't...Where is she ? Doesn't she know I am hurting ? Jesus, I am hot !! (Are all walkers like this or is it just me ? The slightest thing to annoy you can get blown out of all proportion in your head and really put you off your focus !I used to play football with a broken nose but hell will burn if I get a crease in my racewalking shorts ! ) Luckily, wife and kids are around the next corner and I can finally ditch the said item.
I was feeling much better ( and cooler) and by the top of the Highlander was starting to relax, enjoy the race and get into a rhythm. As I turned into Glen Vine, by Marown TV, I was passed by Julia Ferner which spurred me on and gave me someone to race with. Over the next 3 miles, we diced and encouraged each other and passed about five racers, including the afore-mentioned Maureen. I was finishing really strongly and the fastest part of my race was the last mile and a half. I managed to outlast Julia on the approach to the QB ( sorry Julia, if you are reading this ! ) and beat her by 1 second. I was quite pleased with my time of 115 mins, which was faster than I had been doing in training.
I feel I learnt quite a lot from this race. Firstly, never to go all out from the start line as the price will be paid later. I also discovered that I have the mental ability to battle through bad periods,of which there are likely to be many in the big race. I feel this was my own mini- Parish and the first rung on a long ladder!
Just think, if this had been the 23rd June, I would still have another 75 miles to go ! How the hell am I going to do this !!!

Wednesday, 10 January 2007


Wednesday 10th January

I have been in training for the Parish now since November and started out moderately and am gradually cranking it up. However, I am confused as to what I should really be doing. In Dermot O'Toole's excellent book " A Walk Through Time ", he advocates a daily training regime and this is how I started out. However, I found myself succumbing to little setbacks, especially with my back and dodgy ankle. I am currently trying to get out now every other day with at least an 8 mile walk twice a week. But I have since been told that longer walks turn you into a " plodder" and can blunt speed ?? As I am a novice, I am finding the training very much "trial and error" and trying to fit a schedule which suits both my body and timescale. Any feedback on this would be greatly appreciated !
I am also finding the first 2-3 miles of any walk the worst - my shins are absolute agony ! It's horrible and makes me want to jack it all in ! It does then ease off, however, and am told this is common in all race walkers but will get easier to bare as fitness increases. I hope this is right !

What am I doing ?

If you had said to me 6 months ago that I would be training hard for an 85 mile endurance walk, I would have laughed out loud.I would pull a face if I had to walk down to the shop just to get the papers. But this is the situation I find myself in today for the Parish Walk in June and, quite frankly,like a child on Christmas Eve, I cannot wait for the big day.
I have caught the race walking bug bigtime and it is spreading quickly. I first got a sniff of it last year when my father-in-law Dave Capelen, who is well-known in athletic circles on the Island,walked to Rushen- which got me thinking I would like to do that. That's the beauty of it - it's so easy to start walking, you just need that initial push or spark and Dave had provided it. Decent pair of trainers and you're set.
I then competed in my first event in September in the local 25k Boundary Stroll , then onto the shortened End-to-End (30mile) which I managed to finish in one piece in just over six and a half hours despite minimal training. It was this walk which gave me confidence for the big one.
The Parish Walk is now something special, second in stature, I believe, to only the TT in Isle of Man sporting events. Having been on its knees in the past, it is now flourishing with record entries, record speeds and record finishers and it shows no signs of abating. The whole event is a credit to everyone who organises it, which must be a logistical nightmare.
The Parish does not discriminate age, sex or ability - it is open to all comers and all shapes and sizes. Therein lies the simplicity and the pure magic of it for me. I am definitely not the only one who thinks this way either - many of you are just as sad as me, pouring over stats, counting away the days !
What am I aiming for ? Well, obviously priority number one is to get the training under my belt so I have the best possible chance of finishing the race - anything after that would be a bonus. The statistics are weighted against me I know ...many of today's top walkers failed in their first ever try. However, one statement which continues to motivate me, came from the legendary Allan Callow who told me by the time I line up on the starting line in June, not to have any regrets or have any doubts about my preparation. I fully intend to give it my best.Good luck to us all !