Thursday, 31 March 2011

31st March 2011

      Well, it's nearly April, Race day is closing quickly, and if you haven't done any training yet, there are only a dozen panicking days left before you get on the "It's too late now" days, so get those trainers on, put down the pie, and get out into the refreshing spring evening sunshine!

      I didn't get out yesterday, so it was three days without any training after sundays race, and didn't it show today! I was up bright and early, quick breakfast and walk into work, against a westerly gale, I checked in the control tower once I arrived and it averaged 28 to 36 knots full in the face, and I still knocked nearly 4 minutes off my personal best from Ulverston to Barrow! The importance of rest in training.

     I managed to get my Garmin working again, well, the downloading bit, so lots of past things to download and sort out, including the race on Sunday. 14 laps, just under a mile a lap. Long enough so the leader only lapped me once and I managed to lap a few of the others.

             The average heart rate is a little scary, but as I didn't feel fatigued it shouldn't be a problem. A good 2 hour cardio workout really. Nearly 2000 calories in the 2 hours, burn't off  a good pound of fat! The elevation chart shows how each of the laps went, up, then down in equal distances, pretty accurately. a total of 90metres climb when the sloc is about 400 metres, shows how tough this course was. I started the race after calculating I needed 9m 45s for each mile, and looking at the results, that's what I did. The pace graph doesn't help as it just randomly up and down. GPS is more accurate the larger the measured distance as it often jumps from satellite to satellite as you swing your arms. From the little I learned at work (I slept through most of the GPS lessons at Captain's college, it was boring and unnecessary as the machines give you a position which is all you are after!) accuracy is dependant on whichever way it is pointing, as, although the satellites are geostationary, you are moving, twisting and turning. Keep turning and you lose accuracy. A friend here who does fell running ties his GPS watch to the top of his backpack so it's reasonably steady and reckons he gets a better reading.
       The picture here shows the accuracy a little, it's a close up and bird's eye view of the Track section. Now, according to this, it appears that I turned early and walked down the middle of the centre field. I know I didn't do this as there was Javelin practise going on at the time and I would know as I wouldn't be able to turn round in corridors as I would have a javelin through me. Best take the absolute accuracy with a pinch of salt, and just accept it's accurate enough to help.

       Just a little bit here for Tony, I went back and found my garmin record of doing the sloc in february.

               I was quite pleased with this, if any of you remember the 4th February this year it was windy, Westerly 5 gusting 6, rain showers, and wet greasy roads. Average 5.4mph, with a backpack, this is from the church gate at Rushen in the south (Where the bus driver kindly diverted to drop me off, with no moans from the other passengers... this could only happen on the Island!) and if I zoom in to Patrick I even did the diversion to the church gate, all the way to the Town Hall steps in Peel.
      Moving time 2h 24m 33s, despite rucksack of gear, heavy waterproofs and jeans. 13 miles overall, and to all those fearing the sloc, thinking it's uphill all the way to Peel, the Elevation graph on the bottom will be pleasant viewing. Rising for 4 miles, (The steep ballakillowey barely over a mile), then relatively downhill all the way to Peel. There are a few climbs, but they are relatively short.
      Everyone who is attempting to complete the Parish this year should try and do this section at least once so when you approach around lunchtime on the day of the race itself you will be doing so with confidence instead of trepidation.

      Just to finish off this evening, an article in today's Sun, the advantages of Porridge for breakfast! Someone in the wapping office has been a bit lazy and based his days work on one of my earlier blogs...
      If you missed it, it recommends Porridge, cooked with milk, with a scoop of whey protein. I usually add a couple of portions of fruit, some seeds, and a pinch of sea salt to make a complete meal.
      The Sun lists (if you missed it) the advantages as;
1. Boost sex life, as it rebalances testosterone and oestrogen.
2. Quit smoking, compounds calm the nervous system and reduce nicotine craving.
3. Fight infection, proteins repair the body and boost the immune system
4. Beat heart disease, porridge fibre contains avenanthramides (no me neither!) which are chemicals  which stop blood cells sticking to artery walls preventing fat deposits.
5. Cut diabetes, by absorbing sugar in the gutcutting need for larg quantities of insulin to be produced.
6. Beat depression, as it's high in vitamin b6, which contain seratonin, promoting feeling of wellbeing.
7. Fight fat, as it has a low glycaemic index, making you feeling fuller and less likely to snack later.
8. Lower Cholesterol, as the soluble fibre by absorbing fat, binding the cholesterol in the gut to be removed.
9. Relieve Constipation, as the high fibre increases the movement of food, say no more.
10. Fight osteoporosis, the milk contains Calcium which strengthens bones. They're struggling here...
11. Cancer busting, as oats contain vitamin E protect the body from free radicals.
12. Lower blood pressure, they say it lowers blood pressure but don't explain exactly why, maybe the journalist was getting bored.
13. Live longer. Lipids found in oats contain a good balance of essential fatty acids which have been linked by american studies to longevity and good health.
        Unfortunately he stopped at 13, probably didn't count them either that or the pub was open. whatever, good reasons to change your diet in preparation for the Parish. Oh, and it doesn't work if you eat your porridge and then a full english, sort of cancels each other out there.

       Right, I'm off for a bowl of Porridge flavoured with a dash of  jack daniels, to help me sleep:-)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

29th March 2011

       Good Evening.
          Tuesday evening after my first 20k, many thanks for the messages of support by the way, and still feeling it a little in my hamstrings and calves. Normally I would have been out trying to walk it off but now realize that it needs rest to repair so, frustratingly, just cycling to work and wait until it's all cleared up. A good day at work, I spent most of the day playing with the Sultan of Brunei's warships.

    Looking ahead, I've got a form for the national 20k in London on the 1st May so another chance to get some speed up. It's been mentioned that it's unusual to do a sub 2hr 20k before a sub 1hr 10k, but all the coaches and the boss at Yorkshire have said my route into racewalking has been unorthadox. Normally it starts as a child at 1k and 3k then building up to 10k etc etc, or the other route is running, then when you get too old (mid 20's) go into 10k and build up. Not 85 miles and work down! But at my age there's not much time for faffing about at 5k's.
         Still, as I only started proper race walking, rather than power stomping which I employed earlier, just before christmas, my coach says I'm coming on really well. Normal race walking for a beginner takes a year or two to pick up properly, start slowly and when it feels comfortable work on speed. I've been working on my flexibility with the stretching which still requires work, hence the still sore leg muscles. I've had 3 10k's, the first I had trouble keeping up the race walk, yet still managed 60.07, my PB, annoyingly 7 seconds outside the hour. The second, around York race course (where the horses run, but not on the turf for us) I got lost, took a turn too early and ended up in a dead end, doubled back and probably lost a minute or more, for 60.35. The third was on a tough hilly course with a strong head wind up the hill and did just over the hour again. Everyone was a couple of minutes slow on that one. (On a normal course you would have done 58 minutes etc, blah blah. Do it on a normal course then!!!!)  So, overall not too bad. The walking is feeling more natural and my coach says my technique is good and speed will come.
        So, improving, a couple more 20k's then up to 50k's? Got to do one at least, tick all distances off before retiring...
        Things to help improve speed. Interval training, short bursts at very high speeds until the muscles burn, then short rests, then do it again, and again. twice a week to let the muscles repair. It creates micro tears in the muscles which repair stronger. cardio work, although still doing this now it's less of a necessity, in my races so far stamina has not been a big issue, probably an advantage of doing the long distances. Lots more stretching, especially leg muscles and back. Upper body work to help the arm swing, and more fell running. Running up mountains is a sure fire strength and stamina builder. Helen and her boyfriend Kevin came across late October and amongst others we did Helvellyn and Scafell in two days and they staggered onto the ferry afterwards due to aches and pains. There will be more of that before this years parish.

 Kevin and Helen peaking Helvellyn after traversing the full length of Striding Edge, scary but very rewarding! I particularly enjoyed Kevins comment after climbing a particularly scary section; "When you said we would be climbing a mountain, I didn't think we'd actually be climbing a mountain!" Snaefell doesn't prepare you for this...

        Hopefully I'll be ready for a light walk tomorrow to get things going again. Rain forecast, so waterproofs and a nice hot bath afterwards.

Happy Training!

Monday, 28 March 2011

28th march 2011

    Countdown, just under 3 months. If we countdown in months we don't have to do it so often, and it somehow seems we have more time. 3 months sounds better than under 90 days.

     I had a successful day yesterday, despite the wrong preparation. I set off for the northern 20k wanting under 2 hours, with my coach stating I should get under 2 hours, and finished in 1 hr 59 dead, in overall second place. At the finish I had energy left and was wondering yet again if I could have gone faster. All I can say is that it's yet more proof that it's all in the mind. I went out and did what I wanted to do, I knew I couldn't catch the winner (Paul Evenett, Redcar, 1hr 37mins) so did what I had to do.Still, more shelf bling for Denise to polish...
    A silver medal for our team performance, Redcar came first in that too. It would have been better if young Nathan Duncan could have walked but at 16 he's too young. He started with us but just did the 10k, in an excellent time of just over 50 minutes. Now he has his technique up to scratch he's just lopping off seconds every time he does a 10k. He'll be trying for the Island's commonwealth youth games later this year so the island might get to see him.

    My race? I did too much beforehand, too many miles on the road didn't help during last week, I went out for a gentle walk on Saturday, the day before the race, and ended up doing 8 miles. I tried to walk slowly but it seems I can't. I ate a solid breakfast of porridge and fruit on the morning of the race which just seemed to sit in an annoying lump in my stomach, and not enough warming up. My shins were burning for the first three miles which was my fault, I go on and on in this blog about warming up and making sure you're fully stretched and then ignore it myself! Still, it was a good result so nothing lost, and it was only my 13th ever race so my inexperience shows. It's a learning curve, and I hope I can take things from it.
    Russ, My coach, was very helpful. Apparently if your shins are burning then lift your toes up to put less stress on the muscles. it worked, they eased a little, but then you just have to wait until they are clear and the pain's gone. Towards the end I felt I was just walking normally and said so. I was race walking, but it's finally coming together and it's now more natural instead of forced. Thanks to starting slowly (10mins a mile) I had to speed up towards the end and pushed it up to 9 and a half minutes, and for the last lap felt I was pushing it a little fine for the 2 hours so upped to 8m 45s. I still have to concentrate on pushing with the arms to keep the speed up so I need to work on that. Everyone said that it was a tough course. It was at the University in Leeds, with 12 laps, round the athletics track was okay but round the field in front of the main building was uphill on one side and downhill on the other. with the access road onto the track 50 yards quite steep as well. I was told 1m 59 here would be 1m 56 or 57 on a normal course. Which begs the question, why not do it on a normal course? I kept shtum though...
     All in all a good afternoon.

     I spoke to a couple of entrants for the Parish from Lancashire. They are taking part for the first time, both want to finish (obviously...) and neither of them care what time they finish in. What advice could I offer? Difficult to put in one sentence. Just go to the start line with the belief that you're going to get over the finish. They train regularly so there was nothing I could add there, a little advice on food and drink, and, if you really are trying just to finish in any time whatsoever, slowly up the hills to conserve energy use mother natures fine invention, gravity to get any speed downhill.  Go with a plan, set out latest times for each section so you don't take it too easily and lose out. There is a time limit of 24 hours after all!

     One of the Parish hopefuls was Sailash Shah from Lancashire Walking Club, who I last ran into at the Centurions race last August. He did 95 miles, which I thought at the time must have been really annoying, but he explained to me he had an ankle injury so had to sit out for an hour during the night, which means he would have got his Centurion number. Still, he intends to get it, and so, six days after the Parish, which he intends to finish, he'll be off to Lingfield to try for his Centurion number again. His doctor advises him to get home, rest and bulk up for the six days and it might be possible. I waited 5 weeks last year but made the mistake of getting out and training a couple of days after the parish (inexperience again!) and ignoring the injuries. Also, I was out for a quick time in the Parish so was pushing from the start, whereas he will be taking it easy (if walking 85 miles can be classed as taking it easy...)  I'll be keeping an eye on him closely and wish him all the best in his exploits. He also said he'd checked over the previous results and wasn't sure, but was wondering if any Asians had completed the race. I don't know personally but was wondering if anyone out there knew.

        Right, finish here, then drive back to Ulverston, a couple of days rest, then work on the shins and quads and try and digest all the information from yesterday. There were plenty of coaches there yesterday, and one thing I've learned about coaches, they all want to give you advice!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

24th Mar 2011.

         Good Morning.

     It's a year today since I picked up the keys on the flat here at Ulverston, not really notable apart from the fact it was the day my Parish walk training started properly last year. I was a month in a hotel about 4 miles from Barrow, and walked into work and back, but as the Hotel was on the coast overlooking Morecambe bay and the road was coastal and flat it was just walking, not real training. I suppose we all have a fixed point in our minds when we are going to step up for real and get down to business, whether it's New Year, an anniversary or birthday, Easter (it's late this year, that's mucked your plans up!) or, one I've been hearing, the clocks going forward heralding springtime proper.
    I'm lucky because I kept a training diary for the University marking down all I ate, every training session, weight and other such things as heart rate and BMI amongst other things. I am up on last year, I was a little wary of the walk into work last year at this time, only twice a week and nothing afterwards. Now it's every day, with a 8.5 mile hill training session or a Cardio if I have time. Standing heart rate (a good indicator of heart strength) is down, Weight is similar but body fat is down, hours put in is much more, and I'm stretching properly which is something I didn't do at all. I thought I wasn't doing enough to warrant stretching, and didn't understand why it was necessary.
    I put all this down to lessons learned last year and the taking part in winter short distance races, picking up experience and speed. I have a coach who has helped me immensely understand the mechanics of race walking, and all this has kept a good underlying fitness, and has helped me walk at the same speed with less energy output. After walking back from work I now have something to eat, top up my fluids and look to get out again. Last year it was flop on the settee and let the aches settle.
    There are downsides. I'm more susceptible to injuries, although the stretching is helping to prevent this. I'm not sure how much certain training is helping, just out walking gradually is possibly helping very little so I might need other ways of training. And, my main problem last year, reaching a peak too early and then trying to maintain peak fitness for months at a time. Recovery and rest from training is vital for muscles to repair themselves.

     So, a good point to be at, especially as the warm days are here (for now?) and lots of people are out walking. I've dug out the shorts to get some sun to the pale winter legs and t-shirts instead of fleeces. I've eased right back in the last few days, with an important 20k race on Sunday. I've never dona a 20k before so a new experience. It's a slow build up, a few 10k's, a 10 mile, then 20k (12.2miles) and my coach hopes to find me a 50k to fit in with my training for the Parish and Roubaix 28. It's important to trail off the training before a race to allow the muscles to repair so plenty of protein. I also find that if I've not been out walking for a few days, toeing the start line sees me eager to get off, not wondering if those little niggles and aches are going to slow me down.

     A couple of things, answers to queries.
     Firstly, the food on the day. A study has seen that liquid food is more easily digestible, burns at a steadier rate, and less liable to upset the stomach. It was a study to try and find why people get tired at mid points in the afternoon at work, but we can take the results and use them ourselves. One group was given a healthy lunch of meat and vegetables, another group was given the same meal but it was blended to a fine soup. The second group fared much better as the food was easily digestible and mixed to such a point that there was a steady stream of all nutrients. Over time, they lost weight as fat wasn't absorbed in lumps, but all digested. No indigestion as chunks of fatty food weren't stuck to the stomach wall which gives us the "stitch" athletes hate, and the stomach didn't have to give bursts of acid to break down larger portions. I usually regulate my food during the walk, and a large flask of blended chicken and vegetable soup is in there. I can't eat solids after more than 3 or 4 hours as it feels uncomfortable. Blended liquid food is absorbed almost immediately, which, halfway up the sloc, is when you need it.

     Secondly, protein shakes during the race. There are different times during performance when you need different food and liquids. During say, a 10k walk lasting an hour, there are more than enough nutrients in the body that you need nothing at all. During a 2 hour race, or a good 2 hour training session, plain water is fine, and a very light healthy snack before is more than adequate. Over this, and sweat loss means you lose minerals and electrolites so I use ribena and a pinch of sea salt, and home made flapjacks, possibly a banana or glucose tablets. I also make sure I top up with green tea with ginger afterwards (a pint mug) and a healthy snack.
     But, on race day, if you expect to do 16 to 24 hours solid, then your body starts eating itself if you don't have a good healthy balanced diet. Shorter endurance races up to Marathon and possibly a little further, you need Carbs to burn, usually simple sugars which give an immediate hit. After a while though, you burn up your reserves of easily burning fat, certain amino acids and slow burning carbs, and the result is that you start breaking down muscle mass to burn as fuel. Research is being done all the time as these ultra distance races are relatively new and unknown, but a balanced diet including healthy omega fat and protein can help prevent muscle wastage, and keep nutrients travelling round the body and brain. It also helps the recovery of the damage done by 85 miles almost immediately.
     Research is still in it's infancy so if you know any different I would be grateful to hear from you. Also remember everyone is different. Some can't eat solids whilst walking, some can tuck into a greasy burger after 85 miles! So, what's best for you, and the main thing is, if its healthy, and you can keep it down, then eat it. Always try foods out first during training sessions, it's no good finding out that you're allergic to bananas whilst passing Jurby with only a car full of bananas for company.

Hamstring stretches.

Vitally important for walkers as the hamstrings are one of the main muscles especially when climbing uphill. (Personally, before my walking days, I thought hamstrings were handed out to athletes when they got their athletes badge, and we mere mortals didn't have any, and I couldn't have pointed out a hamstring in a line up!).  Good range of movement in the hamstrings gives speed and strength and help propel you up them there hills.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

22nd March 2011

       It's a glorious spring day here in the Lakes, unfortunately I'm waiting in to see if the ship discharging today will finish in time for this afternoons tide, or will go just after midnight, so a chance to do the cleaning, ironing etc that I keep putting off.
       Got over 30 miles in yesterday again, feeling better every time. 10.25 miles to work and then back again, and a lap of the town to warm up before out on my 8.5 mile circuit. I got my new cap light on, so I timed it to do the last half hour in darkness to see how it fared. As the nights get lighter we're going to have less opportunity to walk in the dark. It's good to get some experience of this, if you intend to finish for the first time, some of the walk will be in darkness so it's good if the experience is not a strange one. I have a new cap light this year, the normal type are all elasticated with a relatively bulky light at the front, but now I have a fisherman's light which makes it slim, with two clips to fix onto the visor of a baseball cap which makes it almost weightless. The only problem is that they are built cheaply from plastic, on the plus side they are inexpensive, on the downside they are flimsy and I don't know how long they'll last.
       Hence the testing.
       It's getting more springlike outside at dusk here, I had to stop and pick a frog off the road at one point, a car was coming and I couldn't just leave it there. I was surrounded by bats just after dark although having short hair they won't get caught in it... or is that a myth from childhood? And there seemed to be a few insects flying around, although not too many to be annoying. Still, I'll be checking my first aid kit for insect bite cream and repellants today.
        I'm winding down for Sunday's race now, something I have to force myself to do. Still lots of stretching though to help repair any damage in the muscles from the last two weeks exhertions. I've a little time so I can explain what I can about stretching, and why it's important. If I use photo's or quotes, they are from a very useful book recommended to me by Dawne, my Island sports masseur, "The anatomy of Stretching" by Brad Walker.

The Benefits of Stretching;
1. Improved range of movement.
    By stretching the muscles we are increasing the muscle length, and therefore increasing the range of movement of the limb. By increasing the range of movement we increase the distance the limbs can move before damage occurs to the muscles and tendons. The more flexible and pliable the muscles of say, the leg, then the further the leg can move before strain or injury occurs.
2. Increased Power.
     It used to be thought that if you stretched too much then you lost stability and muscle power. This has been proved to be untrue. By increasing the muscle length, you are increasing the range over which they are able to contract so giving strength throughout the increased muscle contraction. It also gives increased dynamic stability as the muscle is more in control throughout the extremes of it's contraction.
3. Reduced post exercise muscle soreness.
     We've all experienced the pain the day after a vigorous workout. This is post exercise muscle soreness, and is the result of micro tears, (minute tears in the muscle fibres) blood pooling around these micro tears and accumulated waste products such as lactic acid. Stretching, especially as part of a cool down, helps to alleviate this by lengthening the muscle fibres increasing blood circulation so allowing proteins to repair damage, and taking away waste products. Also, if stretching is done on a regular basis (Muscles cannot be stretched in one session...) the lengthened fibres and increased blood flow improve recovery, so on race day, after trudging up the Balleykillowey road, once it levels out, you can zoom off that little bit quicker as the muscles will clear themselves much more efficiently.
4. Reduce fatigue.
     There are two types of muscle in every movement, the agonists and the antagonists, The agonists are the working muscle, and the antagonist is the opposing muscle which returns the limb back to its starting position. Now, if the antagonists are not stretched, the agonists have to work harder. For example in a race walker, when the foot goes back, the toes push off. This is done by the calf (agonist) contracting and straightening the foot, giving a push off before leaving the ground. In this case the antagonist is the shin, and if the shin isn't stretched regularly, it restricts the push off as well as damaging the shin muscle. More energy is used to contract the calf muscle if the shin muscle is not as pliable, causing more fatigue. I found this out on my first Parish as my shins turned black afterwards with bruising and pain.

      Stretching should ideally be done regularly, and if you keep all parts stetched for at least 30 seconds then it will be productive. I know some people have been complaining of sore shins, and the following can reduce this,

           Just by repeating these exercises you can increase flexibility in the lower leg, reduce fatigue, and increase walking speed. And, the lower two can be done anywhere, stood doing the dishes (men, or is that just me?), waiting for a bus or standing in a checkout queue. I'll find some more important stretches for race walkers and put them in future blogs.
        Right, the phone's just rung, he's sailing at 11pm tonight, so I've got the rest of the afternoon off. I'm off for a walk.

Happy Training.


      Thanks for pointing out my ommisson, Tonto. Stretching, and when to do it.

        Before. All stretching is useful at any time, stretching of major muscle groups to increase flexibilty can be done anytime, holding stretches for 20 to 30 seconds or more can increase flexibility and strength overall. So, from no stretching at all to good results, 3 or more times a week for six weeks show excellent results, increased stamina and speed, and better recovery. A half hour session whilst watching Coronation Street is more than enough, (3 to 4 times a week?) and makes you feel better. (Unless you are an Eastenders fan...)
        Immediately before exercise, training or racing, 10 to 20 seconds on each muscle group can help in warming up the muscle, straighten fibres to increase blood flow and prevent injury by making the muscles and tendons ready for the upcoming stresses. This prior to, and in addition to other warm up exercises.
        Immediately after, 10 to 20 seconds after warming down will again straighten and stretch muscle fibres used during the training, which help blood flow so aid recovery by allowing proteins to damaged areas and washing away blood and lactic acids from exercise.

      One other thing, the damaged fibres I mentioned earlier are a good thing. These fibres are usually weak, and when they are damaged they repair stronger, over time, weak fibres are replaced by stronger fibres, hence stronger muscles. No pain no gain!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

20th March 2011

         A relatively quiet weekend, managed a gentle climb with friends up the Old Man of Coniston, about 830 metres, 2600 feet (roughly, don't get pedantic on me!) stopping enough so there was no strain on anything, just gentle exercise. It was clear enough, and the old man is a simple enough climb for a starter, (a couple of mountain virgin's came with me.) And it is quite rewarding, being southerly enough that you can see for miles south, all the way to North Wales, the Isle of Man was visible through the haze and the view over Coniston Water and Windemere is worthwhile. It was still a little cold up there though, despite being the end of March!
On top of the Old Man. Coniston village is to the left, near Coniston Water, and Windemere is further up on the left.

                The only problem with going up the "tourist" fells on a clear weekend is the queue of people snaking down the mountain, usually all kitted out in thousands of pounds worth of useless mountain gear from the Windemere branch of "I Saw You Coming". And the dozens of people on the top, which does little to add to your sense of achievement on the climb, although the "newbies" declared their affirmation, and started to plan another climb later in the month.
         So, no walking as such, climbing helps the back, stomach, hamstrings and calves, and is excellent Cardio so not a wasted day. And, it's great for the mental well being, gasping all that fresh oxygen into the system.
         Today, (Sunday) I was at work this morning, a ship with windmill (sorry, generating turbines...) parts came in, so a definite rest day walk wise. Just a gentle walk after dinner, 30 minutes, to aid digestion. I have a race next Sunday so the diet changes. One of the big problems encountered by Parish walkers is due to diet change, and preparation of diet is almost as important as diet itself. I cooked a large chicken today and the leftovers will be made into a stew, carefully made to have equal protein, carbs, fat etc, and well cooked so that it is easily digestable. No more red meat, spices or man made fats or anything like that, red meat can sit undigested in the system for years, at least a week gives it a chance to clear.
          The other thing is frequency of eating. Okay, next weeks race is only 20k, so it's not essential to change the diet too much, but its good practise so I do it. During the Parish you eat little and often, and as much as possible, simple sugars or liquid food so the embattled digestive system can cope. This is good, quick burning fuel and taken often so the stomach can burn the fuel and prepare for the next lot, but if you carry on eating large three course meals every day up to the saturday, then change the diet completely for the parish, you will suffer as your stomach will be expecting the sit down full english, not a walking banana and mars bar, so think about acclimatising the stomach with the foods you are going to be consuming the week before the race, and try eating and drinking the same foods on those weekly long training walks to see if they will work for you.

Got an outbreak of "Morris Dancers". I dunno, you turn your back for five minutes and they move in. I might have to get Rentokil in to lay down some poison; the only way to clear them I suppose.

Friday, 18 March 2011

18th march 2010

My Parish 2009, part 2.

      I should pay attention to my own advice. I was on board early this morning, all finished by lunchtime, the ship we brought in this morning is so big it's blocked the port until Sunday lunchtime at the earliest so no more work until then. I was back at the flat soon after, a quick cuppa, then looked out of the window to see the last clouds had cleared and it was a fine spring day. I turned on the tv to see what time it was, it came on Dave, and Top Gear was on, so that was no help at all, it could have been anytime, but decided to get out for a walk anyway. I felt okay, no aches or pains, nothing to show the miles piled up in the last week,  so set off on my 8.5 mile hilly circuit. I race walked when it wasn't too steep, the very steep climbs I do on tiptoe to build up the calves and shins which counters the running I should be doing to build them up but can't be bothered. I struggled to get under 11 mins a mile/5.5mph, which shows I was tired but ignoring it. Then, when I got back I got a call from a friend who wanted to do the Old man of Coniston tomorrow... I had mentioned it last week but thought he'd bottle it. So, no rest until Sunday. Protein shakes and a night on the couch watching comic relief and Corry, then hope he wants a slow ascent up the easy part of the mountain...

        Back in June 2009, I had a dilemma. About three weeks before the race, Helen let me know that she had entered and would take part if she was feeling okay. In the meantime she would get somebody to be my support crew. Now one thing anyone who has taken part in the Parish knows is that you must have complete trust in whoever looks after you. You're wandering in the countryside in the middle of the night, close to exhaustion, which is why most people rely on a spouse. I found that Helen was great for me as she had a slightly masochistic streak which not only makes her a good personal trainer, it also means there is no sympathy to my moans and groans, especially as she had done the Parish in 2001.
       So, I was a little wary to the point where I wondered if I would be even starting.
       "What did you do?" I asked Helen. "Go up to the other women at the school gates and ask if they'd drive through the night looking after a mad stranger?"
       "Er, yes!" was her reply.
       I met Pauline Bridson on the Thursday afternoon at Helen's. She rushed in, said Hi, spoke about 20 sentences in the next 3 minutes and then rushed out. Like a hurricane.
      Apparently Helen had asked her to support me and she said, okay, it's something different, it might be a laugh.

      I'd trained with Martin pretty hard and was looking to get into the top 20. We set off from the rented place in Jurby about seven am, but thanks to traffic didn't get there until quarter to eight, so, after a couple of photos found ourselves right at the back. Helen arrived at 5 to, and was even further back. I'd agreed with Martin we'd keep in touch by phone but I'd go on ahead., and it was 8am and we were off. Being at the back was frustrating, trying to get past everyone without pushing or looking impatient. By the time I got to the start line, the front runners were halfway round the track. I said hello to Irene Taggart as I passed her, I'd walked with her and Michael Bonney in 2007 from before Lonan to near the finish. Out of the Stadium and I was passing dozens. At Braddon estate I caught up with Michael Bonney himself and walked with him for ten minutes or so, chatting, before pushing on. I got with the leading pack around Braaid but had made the mistake of starting too fast.

Martin, 773, on the left in the funny hat!

     I got into the top twenty, but was tired and found the sloc difficult for the first time, struggling into Peel in 19th place. The photo on the blog page is me passing through Peel. I didn't pass anyone else during the race, but made sure no-one passed me.
    Just after Bride (up to 18th, one had dropped out) I got the message that Martin had dropped out at Jurby with severe blistering of both feet. This was a big blow as I thought he had the will to finish. Credit to him though, he returned home, had a bath, sorted his feet out so he could hobble, then came to each church to support me. The first time I had someone looking out for me. Support is good in any form, and it really spurred me on. My old injury on my right heel had opened up by Maughold though (Up to 15th with more drop outs), it was walkable but slowed me down. I must say that Pauline was having the time of her life and admitted it wasn't what she expected. We found a similar taste in motivational music so I got a belt of Heavy Rock whenever I passed. She made the best protein shakes on the move, smooth and no lumps, and was bossy enough to keep me eating and drinking when I wasn't feeling hungry.
       Speaking to a sports psychologist later, he explained my finish in 2009 by saying it was a purely mental push. I heard I was 15th from a text message from a relative following the race in the far east, thanks to the internet timing. Once I'd got that message, I wasn't going to give it up. I could see the walker in front of me, which turned out to be Chris Cale. I could also see the walker behind me. I cursed the fool who would dare to take my precious 15th place, when you're this far in the mind acts mysteriously so from Lonan to the finish I got a mental picture of this walker, out to get me, and hated him. Irrational I know, but it made sense to me.
       I crossed the line in 17h 43m 17s. Liz Corran asked if I wanted to sit, but surprisingly felt okay. It turned out I was so stuck on 15th place I concentrated on staying in front of 16th, not catching 14th up. I don't know if I could have done it, now I'll never know.

"Hurricane" Pauline Bridson and myself, Douglas sea front, 00.55am, Sunday 21st June 2009.

      As it turned out, the vicious place pinching evil walker out behind me trying to get my 15th place turned out to be Maureen Moffat. And as soon as she crossed the line and was hugged by her family who had all come out to meet her, she came to me and thanked me for helping her pace across the line in under 18 hours. She said that by keeping me in sight had spurred her on to her PB. I felt awful and I actually apologized for my negative thoughts. We sat and had a cuppa and she turned out to be the opposite of what I had imagined earlier, a lovely person, so it didn't turn out too bad in the end

Martin, myself (obligatory cuppa in hand), and Maureen Moffat, soaking up the post race atmosphere.

        Michael Bonney came in soon after in 19th, and I waited for Helen who came in about 90 minutes after myself in, I think, 42nd, 12th lady. All in all, it was a good result for myself, and Helen didn't even expect to finish at all so was pleased herself, apart from chucking up everything she had eaten in the last few hours! (Apologies to Liz Corran who had to clean it up...)

        At the presentation I was surprised to see the special music and flashing lights before I went up for my trophy, as it turned out Maureen was third lady! Then they played the Superman music as I went up, humbled, but vowing to do better next year, top 10 was the next target.

        Helen with Michael Bonney.

               Helen actuall walked at a gradual pace up to Peel, not expecting to finish and said she only carried on because she hadn't pushed herself at all so had so much energy left. Maybe there's something to take from that! It's always said, start slow, finish fast.
           One final note. Pauline told me that Helen's advice was; Stop and check up on him every half hour or so, give him a butty if he's hungry and a cuppa if he wants a drink. It'll be mostly boring. She actually took some paperwork to catch up on during the night. It turned out to be a hectic rollercoaster of a night, she hardly stopped, started planning next year's race before Ramsey and picked up tips and tricks along the way in preparation. I couldn't have done it without her and now count her as one of my closest friends and someone I'd trust to support me on any race. I just hope no other walker doesn't head hunt her off me...
         I also know theres a video clip somewhere on my computer or on a disc Pauline shot as I walked by just after the Hibernian, (Once I get to the Hibernian, i know I'm going to finish) the radio is playing Sweet Child o Mine by Guns and Roses, and we're both singing along at the top of our voices. My voice gradually fading as I pass and walk ahead.

Thanks Pauline.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

17th March 2011

           Another good day, up early, walked in to work, 1hr 53m compared to yesterdays 1hr 57m for the 10.2 miles, and also never got the heart rate above 147 compared to yesterdays 160. Also the calorie count was 100 less, so either improving fitness puts less strain on the heart and uses less energy or alcohol makes you dehydrated which puts pressure on the heart and burns more calories as the heart needs to work harder as there is less fluid carrying oxygen and nutrients in the blood stream. I'm hoping it's a little bit of both!
      Todays ship was cancelled, the Nuclear waste ships won't really be going anywhere in the near future due to the events in Japan. So, it was a quick chat about upcoming shipping movements over the weekend, then out and down the flat coast road for some 20k/race walk training. This involves race walking, (under 10 mins a mile) for a kilometre, slower (12 to 14 mins per mile) then a couple of minutes stretching, then repeat and repeat etc. Nice in the sunshine overlooking morecambe bay.
      So, 27 miles so far, and I was still home at just after 1pm. An afternoon cleaning, ironing, catching up on other stuff. Which didn't happen, I ended up stretching a little then a pint mug of tea and the Inbetweeners on dvd which someone had lent me and I found quite funny. Strange how 16 year olds are exactly the same as when I was 16.... 30 years ago!
       That was going to be it, but around half past four the sun shone through the skylights in the living room, all blue sky, and I felt rested so I did my 30 minute Cardio, 30 minutes to get as far as I could up the steep hill backing Ulverston, then turn round and back down again, 30 minutes with the Heart Rate at 160+. 5 miles which made 32 today, all mixed and useful. Looking back, over 80 miles in the last 3 days, which is maybe pushing it a little, so a day off tomorrow. I've got to be on board a ship at 7.30 in the morning, so I'll go in the car, which I resent when I've got a good parking space just around the corner. I'll be done by lunchtime, so it's a day on the couch, protein shakes, and maybe a gentle stroll in the evening up Hoad Hill.
      One thing I noticed, about an hour into my walk early this morning I noticed my knee was normal, no twinge, pain or anything. Noticeable by its absence. I've not had anything from it all day, so maybe it needed working out and strengthening up? Who knows, I just hope it's gone for good.
      And all you workers out there who grumble that there's no time after work for training, tonight it was still walking strength daylight until 7pm, so 5 miles in the evening is possibly before dark now, and it's only going to be better.
      No excuses now. Just a warning, if you keep putting the training off, delaying, or just deciding "next week" (which never comes) is good enough, and then you try and walk 85 miles in June, you're going to fail.
     And end up in a bucket load of pain.

     Go on, put your trainers on and get out for a walk.

Just a final note, from the Yorkshire Telegraph and Argus.

Glory for Yorkshire Race Walking Club

6:34pm Monday 14th March 2011

The Bradford-based Yorkshire Race Walking Club caused the biggest upset in years when they lifted the National Ten-Mile Team Championship at Coventry.
Individual winner was Alex Wright of Belgrave Harriers, with Bradford Walk winner Paul Evennett (Redcar WC) in fourth place.
The local club was led home by 16-year-old Nathan Duncan, a comparitive newcomer to the sport, in 11th position. He was admirably backed up by Colin Scott (14th) and Richard Spenceley (18th).


Nathan is an up and coming race walker, too young for this years 20k Olympic trials, apparently you have to be 21. He will be attempting to get to the Young Persons Commonwealth Games in September, which this year will be taking place on a small island in the Irish Sea called, (shuffle papers as if looking for an easily forgetful name) Ah, yes, here it is... the Isle of Man. So, hopefully I won't be the only Yorkshire R.W.C member on the island this year.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

16th march 2011

      Good evening.
        Nothing much happening today, nothing at work but walked in anyway as I needed to set a starting pace for my garmin. Once this one was in, I can upload it to do what they call "Virtual Partner". this means that after you've uploaded it to the watch, set off and activate the virtual partner and it constantly shows if you are in front or behind the previous walk, pushing you to improve every time. I have to do this as I'm not as lucky as most of you, out walking in pairs or groups, urging each other on. I walk mostly alone with my mp3 player (I'm learning a bit of conversational spanish at the moment, although most of it is falling straight through the memory banks!) Anyway, despite a few beers last night later on so feeling a little dehydrated, I set off just before nine weighed down with my laptop and some other gear in a rucksack so no racewalk, just brisk walking. Below are the results.
Ulverston to Barrow
Wed, 16 Mar 2011 8:56 Western European Time
Activity Type: Speed Walking | Event Type: Fitness
15lb rucksack

Distance:10.15 mi
Elevation Gain:239 m
Calories:1,226 C
Moving Time:01:54:27
Elapsed Time:01:57:40
Avg Pace:11:35 min/mi
Avg Moving Pace:11:16 min/mi
Best Pace:07:03 min/mi
Elevation Gain:239 m
Elevation Loss:248 m
Min Elevation: 6 m
Max Elevation:83 m
Heart Rate
Avg HR:138 bpm
Max HR: 162 bpm
% of Max
        I like the 1200 calories burned, and didn't realise it was a total climb of 239 metres, Snaefell is just over 600 metres. There are some steep hills on the way, which is why my Heart Rate approached 160 quite a few times. last year it was approaching 170 at the same points so this is an improvement. I think the best pace 7.03 minutes a mile was when I had to run across a road as a lorry was coming. 7 minutes a mile is World Record pace, something I'll never achieve!

        All this information is probably a little too much although I like the pretty maps, which you can also do in google earth style. After a cup of tea and an hours catch up I set off back, taking about five minutes longer. I could feel last nights guinness! That'll be it now until after next weekend, (Beer I mean, not training!) Walking in tomorrow as there are a few ship movements to sort out. 20 miles a day seem to be a good way of building up the stamina, especially this early in the training with over three months to go. Todays 10.2 miles at 5.3mph, over some tough hills, would be close to Parish speed of under 16 hours, so, especially as I was wearing jeans and carrying a rucksack over 15lb, very pleasing. Another month and it'll be shorts and no rucksack, and looking at knocking 10 minutes off the time. Also, Once into Barrow, (If you look at the map,) there is a return road about 5 miles longer but relatively flat along the south coast of Morecambe Bay, a round walk of over 25 miles and a chance to race walk the last 10 miles on the flat. I've lots of podcasts and audio books to listen to, so no problem there, so the next few weeks should see some improvement.
       I'm still hoping to get up a few mountains again, whilst we have all this low cloud it's a waste of time, and also plan to lap Coniston water and Windemere at some point, about 20 and 25 miles all round, although some stunning scenery to be seen on the way. Lots of things to see and do in the Spring and Summer.

      To finish off, a very tall cow, photographed just up the road from the very tall horse. they must breed them that way round here.
       It's one of three things. 1.It's on a hover board. I know they're going to be invented soon as I saw it on a documentary called "Back to the Future 2" which promised we'd all have them in 2015. 2, It's stood on the back of another cow who keeps asking "What can you see now?" to which the reply might be "That man walking past again!" or  3,it's learnt to walk on stilts. 
Buenos Noches!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

15th March 2011

           It's been a good day. I got up at five am, was on board ship at 6am, got a lot of unusual glances from the Russian Captain who thought he recognized me... he did, I was on board the same ship sailing from Immingham about 6 weeks ago. After getting him out of the dock, turning the ship around in an incredibly tight space, and getting it out to sea perfectly well, he realized I could be a Pilot in two places. I was finished and back in the office by nine thirty. He's off to Belfast, I'm in my car and back to Ulverston and off for the rest of the day.

This was my "taxi" back ashore at 8am this morning. Following me to take me back home. Not very inviting, I know, but the alternative is a boat trip to Belfast!

        So, quick breakfast, or maybe not so quick as, thanks to earlier communications I'm strictly avoiding using the microwave to do my breakfast porridge/fruit/protein shake. (More washing up, grrrr) then its out to do an 8.5 mile loosener, then a timed 8.5mile which, surprisingly, as I was race walking despite the hills, beat my record for the circuit by over a minute. So, 17 miles done. A few hours rest in which I made some more ginger flapjacks for future training, and some yoga and stetching, then out for some 20k training. I found some relatively flat road, doing some sprints of 1k, rest and stretch, 1k at race speed, more stretching, 1k at race speed and so on. Feeling pretty good despite being up above the cloud line so I'm in what looked like fog getting wet, but it kept me out of view from other people, training in Hull makes me self conscious. I don't like poeple pointing at me calling me a "mincing poofter" Especially as they don't realise how difficult it is to race walk.

Ulverston from my vantage point 15 minutes into my "Cardio Hill Session" at a point 150 metres above sea level. It's not a good photo, but photo's are not as good as real life. It looked nice.

       Back for a good evening meal, fresh mackerel stewed in white wine and olive oil with vegetables, and a three mile warm down afterwards to finish off.
      Looking over it, I know it looks too much, but it's been an exceptional day in which it felt good, so I've got to make the most of it. I might be tired and bored tomorrow so might not get out at all. I was going to pick a mountain and get to the top today but the low cloudline stopped that.
      Anyway, (I seem to be starting too many sentences with "anyway") I got back, opened my e-mails, and got one from my coach urging me on for the 20k at Leeds a week on Sunday, as I was in with a chance of  taking part in the 2012 Olympic time trial at the end of May on the course used for the Olympic race on the Mall in London. In front of thousands of people! Think of it, a chance to make a fool of myself in front of lots, and lots, and lots... of people. But really, a chance to take part in an Olympic time trial, at the age of 47, is not something to pass up. Considering that just 18months ago I was one of nearly 1600 people just hoping to finish the Parish, it's unreal what a little training and determination can do. I actually wrote "what a little training and self belief can do" there, but had to scrub it out because I have no self belief, never have. I have just worked out that If I do finish under 2 hours in Leeds on the 27th, and get to the Olympic time trials, it will be only my 13th ever race. Including the 3 10k races and the nationals this year. Now that is scary. Still, it proves that.
1. If I can do it, anyone can.
2. Even if you are not very good, you can do things that can change your life. Just taking part can be amazing, and if you beat your own personal goal, your life will be better.
3. If you enjoy it, why not do it, whatever it is. Whatever makes you feel good can only make you a better person.
      These things work in all forms of life. I now look at life's problems and ask myself, "How can I tackle this" not, "Can I get someone to sort this out for me?"'

     On my first 8.5mile loosener I saw a buffalo scratching its arse on a tank. A real tank, camoulflaged and everything. I reached for my camera, but found I had forgotten it, so it's a sight only I will see. Reminds me to take my camera everywhere. Do'h!

    Whatever you do, enjoy, and try your best.

Monday, 14 March 2011

14th march 2011

       Back in Ulverston again, came back this afternoon, early enough to get out and do a quick 5 miles. Two and a half hours each way in the car every day soon takes it's toll and it was good to get out into the evening sunshine. Down the Ulverston Canal to the sea front overlooking Morecambe bay this evening, mild and sunny it was quite pleasant. Got back for Coronation street though...
      Managed 15 miles yesterday morning before anyone else got up, had an hour on my bike as I had to go to PC world for a cable, needed the exercise, and downloaded a good podcast last night, it was an hour long, so out to see if I could walk 5 miles before it finished. (yes, listened to the last 4 minutes at home.) So, feeling quite good, still feeling the knee, but it seems to ease when doing a race walk, i.e, landing on the heel on a straight leg, so maybe bent leg is putting more strain on it. the sciatic is still making itself felt when I set off, so still doing specialized stretches for that, but it soon clears when the muscles are warmed up.
     I'm here two weeks, got the Northern 20k on 27th, so it's out for some distance tomorrow, then mixing it up with distance, sprint/race walk training, and mountain sprints for cardio over the next few days. I have a ship sailing in the morning, on board at 6am, so it'll be clear by 9am, and probably nothing else during the day so I'll be out over the local hills again. Looking forward to it really, Hull seems so grey, flat and industrial compared with round here, although I'll miss Tigers v Norwich on Saturday, can listen on the internet.

      One point on a recent blog on the race walking, probably very relevent, and thanks for pointing it out. The body stays steady in comparison with its track through the air, whilst all the motion is through the arms and legs. So it's important to move the arms forward and backwards. This sounds obvious, but so many swing the arms outwards to the sides instead of forwards and backwards in line with the direction of travel. This has the effect of not only pushing energy out to the sides and therefore being wasted as it's not used to propel the body forward, but also means you have to move from side to side to counteract this, and therefore waste energy keeping steady. The arms, (in the words of my coach) swing backwards and forwards, not crossing across the front of the body, and the wrists should make contact with the top of the hips on each stroke. It's worth practising next time your out, and it does make a difference, saving energy and making your walk just a little quicker.

Very tall horse, seen today. Specially bred to get over the jumps at Aintree?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

13th March 2011

         Managed a quick 8.5 miles yesterday morning over some big hills, although I didn't push too hard as I was using it as warming up and loosening muscles and joints before walking to work. Unfortunately, just as I was getting violently attacked by a flock of killer sheep, work rang to say the ship that was sailing had cancelled, so I had nothing to do. I spoke to the other pilot who could cover me until tuesday morning, so I jumped in the car and drove home to Hull.
Sheeps. Dangerous!

        It was on the way home that I got a text from an engineer friend of mine who was in town for the weekend and a few of them were meeting up. Suffice to say, a few guinness and the conversation got on to race walking. Most of them laughed and commented on the style of race walkers (I'm keeping it clean here, the comments were the usual Northern insults towards anything vaguely effeminate!) but after demonstrating the walk across the pub floor, my friend cast his engineers eye over it and offered an explanation.
       As the body slides along, it is similar to a turbine. In a turbine, you have a central shaft that must be accurate to within thousands of an inch, while all around it things fly about willy nilly. The more accurate the central shaft, the less energy is wasted. Now, the body during a race walk is similar. Apparently, you draw a line from the centre of the pelvis up through the centre of gravity, to the centre of the head. The steadier this "line of gravity" passes through the air during the walk, the less energy is wasted, and the less impact is put on the rest of the muscles. It means that in a normal walk at speed, the centre of gravity bounces up and down as each step is taken, and every time it comes down to its lowest point, it needs to stop and start going back up. This causes pressure on the landing leg, all the way down, a little like a shock absorber in a car, resultant pressure on the joints, and stretching of muscles, and therefore damage.
      So, as soon as the competitors on the start line finish counting down and you put your first foot forward to start the 85 miles, the damage starts. Micro tears and the build up of bruising. Add in the resultant push to get the centre of gravity to rise again and the wasted power, and you can see the need to train, stretch, and walk as smoothly as possible. A good race walk means that the body travels smoothly through the air, no energy is wasted lifting the body every step, so all the energy can be put to us propelling the body forward.
      He is a good engineer, quite high up in the London underground network, and has worked on many projects all over the world, so his input was interesting and informative, but I'm afraid as the guinness count went up, the conversation was put to standard beer mode, that setting which makes the mind forget as soon as you sleep and reset to default, so anything else he said is gone. Sorry. Still, It all made sense to me at the time.
      It's something for me to think about when I'm out training this morning. Concentrate on keeping the line of gravity steady.
     Happy training.

Friday, 11 March 2011

11th March 2010

    2009 Parish, Part 1.
       I’m back in Ulverston, had to come back on Friday as two of the Nuclear waste ships came back, and now I’m working here until August at the earliest. It was chucking it down today (Friday) and I didn’t get back to the flat until it was dark, so some upper body work at my home made gym was in order, race walking uses the arms in such a way that it utilises the shoulders and upper back, the arm swing provides momentum and the harder you push your arms, the faster you go, if you want more speed you pump the arms heavier. This means you don’t have to put so much emphasis on the legs. So, as an additional part of this years training, more upper body exercise. Stomach and lower back as well, they all play a part so more gym sessions, swimming and yoga to get a full body workout.
       I have a 20k at Leeds on 27th March, the Northern championships so I’m going to combine Parish training with race walk practise to get ready for that. It’s my first 20k, so aiming for under 2 hours this time, the 20k mark at last Septembers End to End was 2h 7m, and seeing as we were going steady and I was crocked after the Parish and Centurion within a few weeks before the race, it should be do-able. (Is “do-able” a real word? My spell check hasn’t frowned at me with its squiggly line so it must be.) I’ll be walking to work a few times, just over ten miles each way, under 2 hours with my rucksack for the legwork, some upper body stuff, and the “Old man of Coniston” mountain is 20 minutes drive away, 3000 feet, steep uphill all the way, and my best up there is just under an hour, for extreme cardio. I’ve let the stamina drop away a little over the winter as ordered by the Uni to help recovery, although after 4 years of training and taking part I’ve built up a good permanent stamina base on which to build so it shouldn’t take too long to get up to scratch. I’ve learnt lessons over the last 4 Parishes and intend to employ them. I’m almost down to my 2010 Parish weight, and can still drop a stone more so that should help, carrying 14lbs less will be a great help indeed!
       So, the training is coming along, the knee is still a little fragile but nowhere near as bad as it was so I’m still hoping it clears up soon. So different to January 2009 when I was still walking 5 miles around the block as training, and little else. I’d coerced my cousin, Martin, to take part with me. He was active, a rugby league player and had done Marathons, and was a keen outdoorsman, the Lakes is one of his favourite areas and one of his greatest achievements was the Windemere row, a team of rowers go the length of windemere, 11 miles, then turn and row back. He’d also done many Iron Man races in the midlands, a winter assault course through mud, fields, fire, ditches, over walls and swims through icy waters, so a long walk was looking to be a simple challenge. Another one to tick off his list.
       He stopped me walking around town and introduced me to some tough country walks round the Yorkshire Wolds. The tough but stunningly beautiful High Hunsley circuit to the west of Hull, at 25 miles taking in roads, farmland tracks and countryside has become one of my favourites. It takes in Brantingham hills where the Hull FC rugby team train, and they’re tough! We also did the Yorkshire Three Peaks in the April, just over 26 miles taking in the three highest peaks in Yorkshire. From the top of the second peak, Whernside, you can see the Lake district (Including Ulverston), and looks down on heysham, so we could watch the ferry sail whilst taking refreshments. All in all, better training for the task ahead!
       He works during the day though, so I was still getting out during the day, then finishing up at his place after getting in ten miles or more first, then off out for another 5 or 10. Inside I felt much better and was confident on improving on my 45th place in 2008, and hopefully into the top 20. I was down to just under 14 stone and feeling good, I was also finding that driving out to the country and training was much more enjoyable so was putting in more training. Springtime in Yorkshire is amazing, and walking through a valley only accessible on foot, striding through a forest with the sun shining through the branches, or cresting a hill to look out over the Humber is a fine way to pass an afternoon. Much better than slumped on a settee flicking through the channels trying to find a programme to waste the afternoon away. Life’s too short.
       If we were to make our way across to the island to compete together then Helen’s sofa was not the right option. We hunted round the accommodations but nowhere was available from Wednesday to Wednesday, only weekend to weekend which wouldn’t work for obvious reasons. It wasn’t looking good until martin’s wife Joanne, stumbled across a place up near Jurby which turned out to be Ideal. A Swiss style cottage with many bedrooms which was isolated enough, yet near to all amenities, which, given the size of the island is probably not that difficult. A few of us came across and settled in.
      Swiss villa near Jurby, hardest part of the parish? Climbing to my upstairs room after walking 85 miles!
      The Thursday before the race we decided to pack up and drive the course taking in the churches and side roads, and stopping at various beauty spots along the way. We set of at 10am, headed into Douglas, and got to the NSC. Down to the south of the Island, then up the sloc, stopping at Tom the Dippers lookout point for lunch. Peel by mid afternoon, making Jurby by about 4pm. Myself and Martin were in my car, his wife, mother and baby son in the other. At Jurby we stopped out and walked towards the others in their car. “Is this it?” His wife asked. “No, this is just over half way” I replied.
      The looks on their faces showed what a massive undertaking it was.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

10th March 2011

          Well, it's been a busy week, I think the lack of long blogs says that. I've finished my training, passed my exams, and enjoying a few days off before I'm back to the Lakes for six months. Enjoying a new promotion, but more importantly, my Parish training starts properly on Monday. Or Sunday, if I get there in time. Just over ten miles to work, (and back) every day, with my Garmin pushing me on this time, and the Cardio of the hills out the back of the flat and the Wainwright fells I haven't done yet to keep me going.
      I've got to add to that the weight of my National gold medal will weigh me down a bit. Seriously though, the added impetus of the result at Coventry last week makes me more determined to get better. Like I've said earlier, and I can't emphasize more, I'm a normal guy, and the trophies and such humble me. I can't understand why more people don't do the same. I spoke to John Constandinou, the editor of Race Walking Record magazine, on Sunday, and he said that in the annual meeting of the RWA, my name was mentioned in the award for the best athlete over 40k. It went to Sandra Brown, (rightly so, she has well over 150 centurion races under her belt) but just to be mentioned in the same class is absolutely amazing for me. As my earlier blogs show, my first couple of years show I was just another competitor hoping to finish. The fact I did so was just down to mental toughness and a fear of failure. How anyone can look up to me just alien to me. I've had e-mails saying i'm an inspiration, which is all wrong. I'm just like anyone else, which shows that anyone can do well, given the right circumstances. I'm looking at the start of this years parish as another place in which I could fall flat on my face, make a fool of myself.
      Train right, and anyone can do well. Believe in yourself.
     Hopefully, in the next few days, I'll carry on my story and tell you about my training and taking part in the 2009 Parish, in which I did well enough that I actually thought I could do well later, and which made me take part in my first end to end. It wasn't a great transition, just gradual improvement, which anyone can do.
Starting to look like a race walker, heel and toe, at Coventry. My coach was barking orders at me, such as "keep your head up! what are you looking at the floor for? Are there pound coins scattered there????" 

Monday, 7 March 2011

7th March 2011

           Just arrived back in Ulverston for a short visit, some work, before coming back for upping the training next week. It's a beautiful evening, and my knee is niggly after yesterdays exhertions, so annoyingly I can't get out for a walk! It is a regression on the knee injury, yesterdays race was probably a week too early. I've found that when the pain comes in, rubbing it gently with an athletics gold medal helps ease any suffering... (sorry, I'll stop going on about it now)
        Still, it's maybe for the good, I was never one for rest days so enforced rest days like this are probably for the best. The digestion is playing up, any tough race like yesterday where you are eating and drinking on the move aren't good for the digestion and it'll take a couple of days for the plumbing to sort itself out. The longer the race the more the stomach takes a beating. There are ways to deal with nutrition and keeping the food down, I'll come to that in the near future.
       Any details about the race and recent training are lost to me at the moment, I've inadvertantly locked myself out of my garmin information. Too many passwords to remember!
       No doubt many of you are out for a bit of spring sunshine training so I'll keep this one short.

Ciao for now!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

6th march 2011

    Well hello there!
         I know it sounds bad, boasting and all that, but I can't help it! I went to Coventry today expecting humiliation at the national 10 miles, but it all worked out at the end. I started off slowly, but got dragged along and went with it. There were some good walkers there, very good walkers, but I knew I wasn't going to do anything spectacular. I was making up the team. I started off okay, walking sub 10 mins miles for the first five miles, then the knee started sending memo's to the brain, sort of "Oy, calm down a bit, we're not quite ready for this!" so I eased off. So I tried to keep to 10 minutes a mile. It felt okay, but as the good walkers passed me, then passed me again, I worried. Still, I kept the long term plan in mind. It was a case of, injury or Parish, and more.
        Still, as I finished my penultimate lap, and 1 hour 40 was in sight, spurred on and finished in 97.53, I think, definitely less than 100 minutes, so was quite pleased.
      At the presentation though, as they announced the team results, I, as well as the rest of the Yorkshire  team, was pleasantly surprised to find that Yorkshire had won! So, a gold medal (which I'm not taking off!!! Sod you, it's mine!!!!) and a massive trophy over 100 years old.
     It makes all the training worth while.

        On another note, an organisation into triathlons and ultra events has organised an event in August at the Humber Bridge from 7pm to 7am, 12 hours to cross the bridge as many times as possible. I've entered before I can change my mind. 4 miles round trip, (it's a big bridge...) I hope to race walk 15 crossings. I've neglected my duties with Macmillan Cancer Support over the last year, what with my work in Barrow in Furness, so this is my way of making it up. Lot's of sponsorship forms going out, and lot's of pubs in Hull doing charity nights to make it all up. Surprisingly, I'm looking forward to walking backwards and forwards over the bridge. Should be fun. (at least my definition of fun... at least my new definition!) If anyone wants to add a couple of quid for those in need, there is an easy way of doing it. Just a few clicks on this home page. Remember, there are people out there who appreciate all your help, and cancer can affect all of us.