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 !