Wednesday, 27 April 2011

27th April 2011

               So Easter is over, although a one in a million chance has given us two bank holiday weekends in a row so a few days off for the majority of people and excellent weather to get some foot/miles under your belts. I walked to work a couple of times, got in a couple of cardio sessions on my steep 3 mile hill, and a couple of fast twitch exercises, so a productive weekend. I was going to get a couple of mountains under my belt but an over abundence of tourists (The locals here call them weekend gypsies, all piling in pulling their caravans...) meant that most of the mountain car parks and surrounding roads were full, and going up was like a waitrose deli counter where you took a number and got in a queue for the top behind well overdressed city folk who had been keeping the windemere branch of "I Saw You Coming" particularly busy putting at least 50% on their already high prices. Also mixed in were the groups of "lads" lugging cases of ale up to the top, and families with pre school age kids dressed in shorts and flip flops trying to scale Helvellyn's striding edge (difficulty rating officially 'Oh s**t!') or the Sharp edge on Blencethra.
        So, stick to the local area, and leave the car parked up. Sunday midday I was fast twitching my 12 mile route. Trying to get the "Sprint" parts much longer. One particular quarter mile downhill section I got up to 5m 30s a mile, still walking although very quickly, and unable to stop as gravity was stronger than my inbuilt brakes, so I had to keep going until the road levelled out. Not very nice, and planning the fast sprint sections is something I plan in advance now.

       This morning I was boarding the tug taking out the latest monopile (The bit of the windmill that sticks in the seabed) or so I thought. early to bed, alarm went off at 04:30, and at 04:50, while I was getting dressed, a phone call to say it had cancelled so I had the morning off. I looked out the window to see the faintest promises of dawn so out with the bike and off to the north. 45 minutes later I was in Grizedale, a natural beauty spot between Coniston water and Windemere to watch the sun rise. (above pic) Back here by 9:30, and brekky.
       I had a final fast twitch exercise on my 8.5 mile circuit planned for lunchtime, so sky + bargain hunt (I get too much time off during the day!) and off I went.
      Everything was against me. It was nice and sunny, so thin fleece on for warm weather training. It wasn't long before I was dodging cars and especially white vans. The roads to the North of Ulverston just join up local villages, and in a two or three hour walk you see one, maybe two if it's busy. Today it was like the M62 in rush hour dozens of vehicles hogging most of the road, most going too fast and coming up from behind too close. Then a swarm of black bug like flies, and I'd forgotten my sunglasses so picking them out of my eyes. Nothing biting though, so not all bad. Still, stopping to dodge cars and picking flies from your face upsets your rhythm somewhat. Perseverance is the main thing, traffic and flies are part of the parish, so possibly good training, or so I kept telling myself.
       Then I hit the sewage, or silage, or whatever it's called. a farmer was muck spreading his fields, although tha's not particularly accurate, he was spreading it from his farm at the top of the hill all over the roads, the grass verges, and anywhere he could with foul smelling muck, and me just finishing one of my sprints, heart rate at 200 and gasping for breath while every taken breath made you feel like vomiting, trying to avoid the muck on the road with my feet, and every time a car went by, the muck was getting kicked up.
       I couple of miles from home, not really enjoying this by now, I was going down the hill into north Ulverston, round a quite sharp bend, when I cam face to face with a herd of cows running up towards me followed by a farmer behind them on a quad bike growling angrily whilst waving a big stick. He'd been driving them across from one field to another when they made a break for it. In a matter of seconds I wondered if I waved my arms and shouted, would they stop, then newspaper clippings of farmers kicked to death by their own cows flashed through my mind, and wasn't there a late night show on channel 5 called "When Cows go Mad" recently? I summed up, saw twenty or thirty tons of muscle with large horns coming towards me, and I did the honourable thing.
      I turned and legged it.
      Uphill though, and after the days exhertions I soon tired, so ended up scrabbling over a wall into a field, where I waited for ten minutes until the farmer rounded them up, drove them back down hill, into the field, and closed the gate behind them.
      A warm bath and an afternoon sat in the sun relaxing, and getting ready for work tonight, this mornings cancellation going at 7pm. A gentle 5 miles in the morning, home to Hull on Friday then nothing now until Sunday, the National 20k's. Protein at first, then carbs until the race. Oh, and Crystal Palace at home saturday afternoon. No promotion this year, but looking good for next.
      It just goes to show, training doesn't always go as planned.

      Happy training!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

26th April 2011

        Less than nine weeks to go.

       Or 62 days, or does it sound better if you say just over two months? Still lots of time, unless you're one of the few who have been putting off starting your Parish training, then it's probably time to get a wiggle on.
       I hope everyone had a good Easter, remember, if you've been training regularly then the indulgence in food alcohol and chocolate will have been a minor inconvenience as your metabolism will have adapted to burn the extra calories, and will probably have benefited from the excess as the body will think it will be a regular thing and so will go into overdrive to burn calories well into the next few days. Your metabolism can be fooled like this, if you are constantly sticking to a rigid diet just below the required necessary daily amount, then your body cuts back and burns less, as it thinks there is a drought in your nutrition. Its a primordial thing, cavemen didn't know when their next mammoth steak was coming from.

      Not such a good Easter for me. My wife's father is not very well so she's had to go back to Hull when we had a couple of weeks planned for here in the Lakes. I covered the other two pilots for Easter and ended up working every tide, which over the weekend was around 3am and 3pm, not great times. Easter Sunday was our 27th wedding anniversary and at 2 o clock in the morning I was boarding a jack up wind turbine construction rig. At 12.30am I stepped out of the flat to go to work and ended up stepping over the semi comatose bodies of revellers drinking to excess outside the full to overflowing pubs. So, no alcohol, no Easter eggs (yet, I'm going home at the weekend so fingers crossed my wonderful teenage daughters have spared a though for their old dad and spent some of their pocket money on something for me instead of spending every penny they earn on make up and clothes.... haha!) and no massive dinner.
      To cap it all off, the extra large bunch of flowers I ordered to be delivered to Denise didn't turn up, so even though she sympathises with me over the inefficiency of interflora, deep down I'm worried she thinks I forgot our anniversary. When I phoned this morning they said "sorry, we'll refund your money." with a tone in the voice which said "what are you gonna do about it?" and that was it. Not really sufficient in my opinion for an organization on which the outcome of their actions is so important but I was past arguing as anything they suggested would have been insufficient. To make up, I'm having to organize something for next weekend. I have a race in Chigwell on Sunday, the National 20k's, so why not a romantic weekend in London? Sounds good, but apparently there's a wedding going on somewhere that quite a few people are interested in, as well as being a bank holiday weekend, (didn't we just have one?) so, I'm sat here with a cuppa wondering who I've upset who is powerful enough to put a voodoo curse on me...

     No, really though, I can't complain. Well, I can, but I know there are people out there a lot worse off than me and so I've learnt to count my blessings. My work with Macmillan Cancer Support brings me into occasional contact with people who put up with unbelievable hardships, yet still have a smile on their faces. This years Humber Bridge walk is coming up, one of Yorkshire and Humberside's major fundraising efforts, and we are hoping this year to beat our record of volunteers, fundraisers and members of the public dressed in green and making their way across the bridge. I think back to the first one we did a few years ago. Walking across the bridge doesn't seem much to me, so at the back of my mind I was wondering what was so bad about it. I was North side team leader and head of First aid, (An insurance thing)  and so we set off on the 4 mile round trip. There we're so many people there holding photo's of loved ones lost, people who were ill with cancer themselves, some in wheelchairs and on crutches, people who were scared of heights and were combating their fears (it's a scary high bridge!) and, even though we started at 11am, when the heavens opened at 3pm and almost everyone had finished, one woman, on crutches, was still only halfway back. I walked slowly with her. any offers to help were kindly rejected, and it came out she had been crippled with a childhood illness, couldn't normally walk a couple of hundred yards, but had decided, as she had lost so many family and friends to cancer, to complete this task. No umbrella, a borrowed crash helmet to keep her head dry in the torrential rain, it took her nearly five hours but she eventually made it back to the staging area. It's efforts like this that keep me going, not just in the Parish but in most walks of life. Mental fortitude which can overcome the most severe hardships and even make you finish with a smile, and with pride.
        Whatever your goal this year, and whatever your chosen charity you're walking for, I wish you every success.

Friday, 22 April 2011

22nd April 2011

                        Nutrition and the endurance athlete.
          Nutrition is one of the most important factors for any athlete as it forms the fuel which makes the muscles work. In the early stages of exercise and sport, carbohydrates provide about 50% of the energy requirement. Carbohydrates yield more energy per unit of oxygen consumed than any other form of dietary fuel, and as oxygen is often the limiting factor in endurance events, it is beneficial to use the energy source requiring the least amount of oxygen per kilocalorie produced.
         Complex carbohydrates come from foods such as pasta, potatoes, cereals and other grain products. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, milk, honey and sugar. When you eat, the body breaks down these carbohydrates and stores it in the muscles and liver as glycogen.
         During exercise and sport, the stored glycogen is converted back to glucose and it used for energy. The ability to sustain energy levels for long periods in endurance events such as the parish is directly related to the initial levels of these stored glycogen deposits. If an event lasts for 90 minutes or less, the glycogen stored in the muscles is usually enough to supply the energy needed. Extra carbs will not help, just as adding fuel to a half full tank in a car will not make it go faster.
         For events lasting more than 90 minutes though, a high carbohydrate diet eaten for at least three days before the event allows the glycogen storage to be at it’s maximum. This is usually referred to by athletes as “carbing up”, something which I’d heard of but didn’t really understand why until I heard the above explanation. In studies, it was found that extreme endurance athletes reported benefits from a pre-competition diet consisting of 70% carbs. High carb foods taken little and often during the day, and a largish carb meal before bedtime which the body absorbs into glycogen while sleeping. Training is considered to be done by this time, so little exercise should be done to avoid using the stored glycogen. This time is also beneficial to repair muscles after all training for the event is over.  It isn’t recommended to keep to a diet like this all the time though, as you will be missing out on essential nutrients and fatty acids essential for a healthy diet, and a high carb diet will eventually lead to weight gain.
        If this pre diet is done correctly then there should be energy enough for three to four hours. After this, carbohydrates should be taken regularly to top up energy levels. Simple sugars are absorbed and used almost immediately and can give a lift, although this is often in the form of a sugar rush and can be over quickly leading to a drop in energy levels. Simple sugars contain mainly glucose, fructose and sucrose which is absorbed easily by the gut, although sufficient water levels are necessary to help absorption. This was thought to be sufficient for long endurance races, but recent research shows that a more mixed diet is necessary, with a simple and complex carbs/protein/fat mix so that constant energy levels are achieved. There are powders and gels available on the market but these are expensive and a much easier option is a mix of, for example, fruit and vegetables, pasta and chicken. The body can absorb liquids better than solids, so make a chicken soup, blended into a fine liquid, and take little and often. I got a good tip last year of very thin porridge with honey, I got a 2 litre flask with thin porridge and poured in a full jar of honey, easily digestible, it has simple carbs in the honey, complex carbs in the oats and fat in the (full fat) milk. It can be quite refreshing. Mixed with another 2 litre flask of chicken soup, alternating between the two, with protein shakes and fruit, pretty much all you need. After four or five hours, the body reacts differently to food, and if possible different foods should be tested on a long distance training walk. Everyone is different, some can eat burgers and sandwiches some can’t eat anything. Remember, if the weather is warm, you will be fighting de-hydration, and a dry mouth is not good for eating dry foods. Also pack in some treats, Michael Bonney got me onto Jaffa cakes, which have simple carbs and complex carbs in the sponge, milk chocolate and the smashing orangy bit in the middle. Sweets, cold fruit such as pieces of apple, orange, water melon and fresh pineapple. Cut up, put into small pots and keep in a chiller box in the boot of your back up car.
       In endurance athletes, fat consumption may grow to 75% of the aerobic energy consumed, training for longer periods can teach the body to burn fat more efficiently, at the same time, athletes with minimal amounts of fat can suffer in longer events. It has been said in the past that caffeine helps burn fat during exercise, although this is frowned upon now as it is a diuretic, taking water from the muscles and expelling it, so avoid coffee. I like a cup of tea later on, it’s refreshing, and I know it has caffeine, but I’m weighing up the psychological benefits against the physical benefits, and a grand cuppa when you’re parched just can’t be beaten. The lovely ladies at Maughold have filled my flask in recent years with one of the finest cuppas I have ever tasted.
       Carbs can be taken with water, you can get mixes and powders that carb up the water, but this has also proved to be not as good as previously thought. Any carb mix in water up to 6% to max 8% can be okay, but tests have proved that the water is absorbed more slowly when taken like this. A simple drink made from a fruit juice high in vitamins, such as barley water or Ribena with a pinch of sea salt for sodium electrolyte replacement is as good, if not better than expensive sports drinks. Also, make them weak, as later on during the parish the taste buds are affected to such a degree that what at the beginning of the race was a tasty drink, will later on taste rich and sickly. Chilled drinks are better as they are absorbed by the body faster and can also help lower body core temperature. A couple of bottles of ginger tea, chop fresh ginger into a saucepan, add water, bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes, add lemon and honey to taste, then bottle and chill, can help stomach upset, and can also clean muscle waste away as well as reducing swelling.
       Protein is necessary although in small amounts, to prevent sports anemia, a reduction of red blood cells caused by endurance exercise. The muscles take about 10% of it's nutrition from protein, and, later on in the race as protein levels drop, the body starts taking it's protein from an easy source, your own muscles! This is called lean muscle tissue catabolism and can affect performance. Protein taken during endurance events can also help post event recovery. I take an occasional weak protein shake in milk, the cold milk makes it palatable, especially the banana flavour…
       Vitamins and minerals. There is no evidence that extra vitamins and minerals are necessary, especially if you are taking a proper varied diet with the simple and complex carbs, fat and protein, although some minerals can run low, sodium, potassium, iron and calcium, these can be replaced with fruit and vegetables which contain them. Bananas for potassium, green vegetables for iron, milk for calcium, and a pinch of sea salt which, unlike table or refined salt, is 50% minerals including those listed above. So, mixed diet again.
The pre race meal.
     This is something I’ve been interested in for a while, I’ve long been the advocate of a large bowl of porridge with fruit and honey, but with me this tends to sit in the stomach like a heavy lump as it settles without being digested, eventually solidifying and causing problems later on. The meal should be high in starch with complex carbohydrates such as pasta vegetables, potatoes and cold cereals. These are digested at a constant rate to provide energy and can be emptied from the stomach in two to three hours. Avoid fats, simple sugars and fibre. Fats and fibre take much longer to consume and can sit heavy in the stomach. Simple sugars, sweets and sugars such as honey lead to an early rise in blood sugars and can lead to premature exhaustion of muscle glycogen stores. If possible, blend the pre race meal to a liquid so it can be easily digested.
     This blog isn’t exhaustive, research is still going on, and everyone is different so, although I’ve tried to explain the reasons why we take different methods of nutrition into a race, if you try out your own and it works for you, or, indeed, if I’m proved wrong, please feel free to let me know. 
     Google can give you a list of simple and complex carbs as well as lists of food high in carbs as well as recipes and suggestions for high carb meals for pre race preparation. Personally, in the days before the race I eat pretty much the same as during the race and as often so that the stomach can get used to what it’s going to have to put up with, so the diet changes only a little from pre race to race diet.
Now, I'm off to a high protein/carb meal with an iron rich drink. Steak in ale pie and chips, with a pint of guinness!


Thursday, 21 April 2011

21st April 2011

            Another fine day, excellent warm weather training conditions, and I got out at lunchtime for my 8.5 mile hilly circuit for some more fast twitch muscle training in preparation for next weekends national 20k in London. Now I know the exercises on picking up speed are working, looking to improve on 1h 59 for the 20k. Everything went well today, the circuit is nicely spaced out with the hills, uphill for a few minutes with evenly spaced flat and downhill sections to work on sprints.

              I'm quite pleased with the results, on the sprints I got up to 7 minutes a mile (only for 30 seconds at a time....) and up to 6 minutes a mile a few times, legs and arms off like crazy, and heart rate up, over 200 a few times to give excellent cardio as well. The slow (relatively) stretches in between were about 10m 30s a mile, so normal walking is quickening up. Average for the circuit is 5.8mph which, obviously, I can't keep up for 85 miles! Still, I've been working on required speeds for various finishes. Last year, at 16h 51m, average was a shade under 5.1mph, or 11m 55 s a mile. To do a same day finish, 16 hours, is just over 11m 30s, or 5.3 mph, so a little improvement to get done on saturday night before the pubs shut. (A figure of speech, I know the pubs are open a little later...)
          Still, anyone who has a target can pretty much calculate speed required. 4mph or 15 minutes a mile can give you a highly respectable 21h 15 mins, or 5:30am finish, and if you're out training just to finish, the average is just over 3.5 mph, or 18 minutes a mile. I had no way of timing my first two Parishes, mainly because I didn't really know where I was, so no way of knowing how far I'd gone or how far to go. In the end, Helen checked I was okay, drove on two miles on her car milometer, and timed me catching up. Under half an hour meant i was keeping up around 4mph, which helped my psychologically as it meant I was cutting time off the 24 hours finishing point, and crucially meant I knew when I could ease back and rest for a while to get ready for a push. It's worth taking time to plan your parish, especially if it's your first attempt at finishing. Distances and times at each church, that's planned times and latest times necessary, can help mentally if you know you're up on your time. And at the end, knowing times can give you a target for next time. I finished my first in 21h 30m, in my mind I was calculating and knew this was about 3.9mph, making me determined to break 4mph next time. It also gives your support crew an idea on how well you are doing, they can gee you up if you're a little behind, or congratulate you if you are doing well.

       I'm taking a short break now, got a fresh mackeral off one of the boats this morning and I can smell from the oven it's almost done, braised in white wine and milk, with vegetables and garlic, high in nutrients and omega oils. I'm preparing a piece on nutrition in endurance events which I've gleaned from the University, advice from other race walkers, triathletes and marathon runners, which I hope to post in the near future. It's taken me four years of trial and error, and research to get a pre, during and post race diet. I bet I still feel queezy on the day though.

             All done now.
             I had a rest day yesterday, Tuesdays exhertions took their toll. I ended up with 60 miles on the bike, 10 miles walking, and an hour and half on the windsurfing. I felt it necessary because one of the things you can't plan for is the latter stages of the parish, when the muscles are aching and you don't know if you have the physical and mental stamina to push through and get to the finish. It started at 10am, went through the afternoon, with a cycle to work at 10pm, and after work, at 1am, a 10 mile cycle home, when you really want to go to bed, but push up those hills on the pedals to keep going that bit further. It was tough but it gives me vital experience on going that little bit further when you don't want to. On race day, the whole atmosphere of the event gives a further impetus to carry on, but it's nice to know you can push when you really don't feel like it. I know it's probably unnecessary but really, every little helps. It also gave me a post Parish feeling of aching muscles and tiredness. I find that even after 20 miles nowadays, there's no real muscle ache I used to have. My feet are in good condition now, the trouble I've had with my right heel falling to bits since 2007 and up to last year is not making itself noticed, although 85 miles is a long way so fingers are crossed.

           On a completely different note, and one which I find interesting, is the write up on the 2002 Parish. Peter Kaneen did no training for a month beforehand due to a virus, one 10 mile walk a fortnight before was abandoned and a walk a week before had the same outcome. So, bad preparation, and he expected to get no further than Santon. The result? He fended off a challenge from Robbie Callister to register the second fastest time ever! True, he was an accomplished race walker, but make of it what you will, an outstanding walk despite all the problems and most likely proof that the Parish is just as much a mental challenge as a physical one.
        I read that report and others of the time, only ten years ago, admiring how much the Parish has come on in recent years. That win made him only the sixth man to get under the 16 hours, and here i am even daring to plan for the same feat. Last year was so annoying because of the problems I had, I was heading for pretty much the same feat, and it would possibly have got me a top 3 place. This year, looking at the times in the winter races on the island and further afield, it could well be possible to see the top five or more under the same time.
        It would be nice if I was one of them. First priority though, like all parish walkers say, you have to get to the finish line. It's a long, long way.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

19th April 2011

         Good evening. Looking at the UK weather and the dire offerings on telly this evening, no doubt most of you will be out taking advantage and putting a few foot miles on the clock, from my contacts on the Island, parish walkers can be seen out training most evenings which can only be a good thing. In Hull, on evenings like this, most people are walking... to the nearest beer garden!
         Reading Murrays report on the Sara Killey Memorial 50k, it seemed a fast and interesting event, well done to Michael George, and also Richard Gerrard, obviously out to beat his fourth place in last years Parish. Hopefully the injuries to Jock and Vinny are soon cleared up, everyone wants to see the big names on the day.
         The weather was perfect this morning for something I'd wanted to do for a while, lightish easterly winds and warm water, for my first windsurfing lesson! 10mph winds were enough to get me moving but not too strong not to control. I picked it up fairly quickly, I learned to sail as a teenager through school, and have kept it up on and off ever since so the dynamics of the sport were no problem although I usually prefer to be out on the water with an engine. Windsurfing is like sailing without the boat to sit in, just a board to stand on. The training I'd been doing for race walking, fell walking and the Parish gave me stamina necessary and a good balance, although I have aching shoulders, back and legs as it uses all the muscles, especially when the board moves about unexpectedly. Great fun too, it won't be long before I'm out again hopefully, even though I didn't pick up too much speed, I can see why people do it.

       I cycled there and back, thirty miles altogether, not my favourite method of transport really unless there's no wind at all, cycling against a strong wind isn't much fun in my opinion. Today wasn't too bad though, and it does help in fitness. No work this afternoon so as the sun was shining through the skylights I was eventually tempted off the settee and out on my 10 mile medium hilly circuit, just trying to keep up 5mph/12 mins per mile. I hadn't felt the pull at the top of my left quad I'd suffered in Sunday's race but at the same time didn't want to push it too far. The aches from the mornings exhertions made themselves felt after an hour or so, especially up the hills, so see what tomorrow brings, depending on how I feel, it's either a rest day or fast twitch exercises.

      Less than ten weeks to go, with the rushing around at the weekend I'd missed the ten weeks to go mark on Saturday morning, and it's rushing by quite quickly. Also, the final week is mainly rest and injury prevention, which makes it even less. So, time to start sorting out travel, equipment and other details, can't leave these thing too late, especially as I have to have everything ready nearly a week beforehand before coming across on the wednesday.

     I'll finish this now as I have to go to work, high waters at one in the morning and they're taking advantage of the calm weather to get as much done as possible, I'll leave you with a picture taken this afternoon of a buffalo scratching his arse on a tank. He was doing it again, although this time I had my phone to take a photo, so apologies for the poor quality. There are two emu's in the field as well as a few wooly pigs, but getting them all in the same shot would take some timing. Eventually one day maybe. I haven't met the owner of the field yet, I was wondering if the buffalo were there to stop people climbing on the tank, they are scary looking with those big horns.


Sunday, 17 April 2011

17th April 2011

            Well, a wonderful day for all sporting exploits, be it marathons, 50k's or whatever, warm dry and sunny with light winds. The Sara Killey was a good precurser for the parish in 10 weeks time, an indication of how hot it could be, and good reason to get out training in the warm weather.

        A bit hectic for me, around midnight last night whilst towing an 800 ton monopile out to the new walney windfarm, we were told this morning's job was cancelled due to mechanical problems, so off the tug and on my bike (I had left the car to start exercising again, a lovely night for cycling!) and back to Ulverston in the early hours for some sleep and mild panic. So, after preparing meticulously, when it all seemed to go down the pan yesterday morning, I pigged out on fish and chips, and then a tough hilly midnight 2 hour cycle ride, panic, not enough sleep, then a three hour drive down the M6 and M62 to Sheffield to arrive with little time to warm up. I pulled something at the top of my left quad trying to warm up too quickly, a sharp pain which wasn't good, then away we go.

       I must say it was a good venue and race, around the upper tier of the stadium which was very busy with the local Lord Mayors athletics event, a mini olympics which had a great atmosphere and was well attended. It was warm, and the race was fast, but, surprisingly, I knocked nearly 4 minutes off my personal best for 3rd place in the Northern, with 56m 15s. After 3 one hour sessions of fast twitch muscle training. I looked at my garmin after a couple of laps and saw I was doing 8m 35 a mile, despite the pain in the quad. So, a big stupid grin, another trophy, and a reasonably healthy 10k time at last. Now I can concentrate on the longer distances, and work on sub 55mins next winter.

       The race was held in conjunction with the Jeff Ford memorial 10k, a National race, in which I was happily 6th overall. Wth 12 walkers under 60 minutes, a good race, and one which a month ago I would have struggled to finish 12th. So now, once a week, I'll be doing the new exercises to develop speed.

      Had a few texts and e-mails from friends who have done the Sara Killey 50k, and the London Marathon. all seem pleased with their times, (some with the fact that they finished, but like I say, set a goal and if you achieve it, all's well. You can always set a higher target next time. from little acorns etc.) which can only help confidence and fitness for further endeavours. I think the Sara Killey would have been better for me as preparation for the Parish, and good luck to those who did so and step out after the 50k on their next training walk with a little more confidence. The sub 1hr 10k was bugging me, maybe I let it get too important in my mind. The coaches said I was a long distance walker and maybe it was out of my reach, just live with what I've done already etc etc, but I had to do it. I set a goal, now it's out of the way, time to set another goal.

     Now, a nice green tea with Ginger to flush out the bloodstream, a warm bath, then off to work. If you're stood on Douglas Prom about 11pm, and see a tug and tow over to the east, give us a wave... 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

16th April 2011

          Firstly, I'd like to say good luck to everyone in action tomorrow, whether in the London Marathon or the Sara Killey Memorial. Whatever happens, enjoy competing, and i hope you achieve your goals.

       Bad news for me though, a last minute rush here in Barrow means I'm needed here in the morning for work and I won't be finished until lunchtime, no chance to get to Sheffield before the Northern 10k starts at 2.30pm. It's being held as a joint race with the Jeff Ford Memorial open 10k with competitors coming from all over the UK, which would have been good training and interesting to be up against some of the UK's better short distance walkers. Yorkshire Race Walking were a good chance for a place in the team positions so a little bit annoyed at the outcome, especially as I've been preparing for this one for a while now. I was realistically hoping for sub 58 mins, now it just seems that I'm forever doomed to be stuck with a 10k Personal Best of 60.07 from my first ever 10k before christmas as there are no more chances before next years winter season. Anything else will have to wait now, with the National 20k's in London my next race in two weeks, got to knuckle down to Parish training again. at least the weathers good and I'm nice and rested after my preparations for this weekend.

       On a good note, Hull City winning against Doncaster means it could be another trip to Wembley as we're now only two points from sixth and play offs. Not keeping high hopes for it though, as being a Hull City supporter for forty years, I'm used to being disappointed. Funny how you never get used to that feeling.

Good luck for tomorrow everyone, whatever you're doing.

Friday, 15 April 2011

15th April 2011

          The sun's breaking through the clouds on this friday afternoon, Just dropped my Dad off at Heysham for his trip back to the Island, (the thought of buying a ticket and jumping on board passed through my mind, just for a moment...) and now back with the breaking clouds visible through the skylights, but, as I've decided to test the theories, I'm sitting in watching telly. Rest, a very important factor in training, and one I usually want to ignore the moment the sun comes out. For the last month I've done some form of training or fitness work every day, whether it's a 20 mile + walk to work and back, a cardio 5 miles up the local hills, an evening round a hilly local circuit, to biking to work and back or running up the fells, usually something every day. My last walk was first light Wednesday morning when I did my last fast twitch exercise training, I've done two long sets now which could improve my performance a little, although it'll probably take a lot more before any noticable results show.
          10k Northern Championships on Sunday, and a last chance this season to officially get under the hour for a 10k. So, a couple more days rest, stretches, carbs (got a chicken pasta for tea, fresh ingredients of course... mostly any stuff left in the fridge chucked in!) and plenty of rest. I'm working tonight, tomorrow morning, and possibly tomorrow afternoon, so home saturday night, to Sheffield on sunday morning, then back here to Ulverston with Denise and co for Easter. Denise has a couple of mountains she wants to do so that's me sorted for a couple of days at least, and it's our 27th wedding anniversary next week, another go at the Parole board... only kidding! Still, after this rest experiment I'll probably be back to normal training on Monday.

          This time last year I was looking ahead a little more optomistically. I'd completed 3 Parishes, improving well on each, and with a 15th place in 17h 43m on the last one, was looking to do something else. I'd gone back to the Island in September for the end to end in 2009, and had a good result despite other efforts. I went out for a walk round Peel the night before and ended up having a couple (okay, four!) pints of Guinness, after being so good for the few days before. bed early, up early, and off we went at 8am. At Jurby I found myself in the top ten and doing well, keeping pretty well level with Chris Cale, who asked what my target was. I didn't have one really, just to finish well as it was a new kind of race to me. I'd only ever done Parishes and comparibly, this was a virtual sprint. I looked at my watch and said, "top ten, 7 and a half hours?" It seemed pretty do-able. (Is that a word?)
         So, all going well to Peel, about 12.10 and 5th, and then the climb out of Peel, the sun comes out, Hurricane Pauline and my sister Barbara were supporting myself and Helen, and Pauline asks if I'm okay as Helen was about 30 minutes behind me.. and off she went to assist her for a while. This was when I started sweating guinness, gasping for breath, aching and utterly feeling the effects of the previous nights alcohol. Other walkers passed me, drop down to 6th, 7th 8th and when I dropped to 9th, the mental energy kicked in and I started pushing, and back to my usual trick of looking over my shoulder and keeping the position I had, wanting to reach my target even though it was a casual shrugged target chucked out at random only a couple of hours before. It was a target and it became important. Once again, mental effort overtook physical condition, and despite all the best efforts Cregneash could throw at me, and it was painful, I carried on for 7h 34m, and Ninth place, pleased with my efforts, as I considered it almost as tough as a Parish, being a comparative sprint, so just as satisfactory at the end. It also got me wanting more of this. The next day I was on the internet looking for long distance walk races in the U.K.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

13th April 2011

              Bassenthwaite Lake, the only official lake in the lake district, with Skiddaw (3100ft) on the left. Pictures from up Skiddaw, which I haven't done yet, coming soon. 

     Good Afternoon.

      It's been a funny few days, after going home, training, parties and family gatherings, then bringing my Dad back to the Lakes for a few days R+R, I've had trouble getting any training in. Every other day this week, doing the fast twitch exercises my coach set me. I'm doing my hilly 8.5 mile circuit, but on the downhill sections, getting down to 7 to 8 minutes a mile for a few hundred yards, legs and arms going as quick as I can, push the heart rate up, and then back down to 11 minutes a mile for 5 or ten minutes. Doing this sets the muscles aching for a couple of days afterwards so walking round the Lakes with my 80 year old dad keeps me down to his speed. I managed my 8.5 mile circuit this morning using this method in 1hr 32m, which is a good 4 minutes faster than my personal best for this hilly circuit. that was 6.30 this morning and my quads and hamstrings are still aching so it might be a good idea for a steady 5mph walk over the 6 mile circuit tomorrow then rest until the 10k Northern Championships on Sunday, plenty of protein and stretching. I haven't really taken 3 days rest in a row for a long time so it might be beneficial. Mind you, it's 3 days to the next race, Dad goes back to the island on Friday, and it's supposed to get sunny. I've never been one for taking my own advice so it will be a struggle not to get out for some walking. Still, fitness is looking good, and I have to work on speed, technique and heart rate, which isn't easy to do when your muscles are aching from over-training.

           Above is the graph from last years initial session in March at the University sports department. The upper graph shows how much the heart rate increases the faster you go. It was walking on a treadmill with all wires attached and oxygen mask measuring volume of oxygen taken in and volume of Carbon Dioxide exhaled. 5 minutes at each speed and a blood sample taken between speed increases to check lactic acid levels. The upper graph is self explanatory, the faster you go, the faster the heart rate. You eventually reach a speed where the heart rate increases much more rapidly, which is the Lactic tolerance level, when the blood cannot clear the waste and oxygen depletion starts. This is shown in the second graph, the blood lactate initially drops as the increased Heart Rate flushes it away quicker, then it increases as the start to build up, then increase dramatically at the lactate tolerance level. We all have this level, it's just a case of knowing where our own is and what to do when we reach it. I have written earlier in the blog about how to recognize it. The oxygen cannot get to the aerobic muscles as they are filling with waste faster than the heart can clear it. It escalates, and if you keep on pushing, you'll burn more and more calories just to keep going. Gasping for breath (as the body just knows it needs more oxygen, but not why) burning muscles and eventually dizziness, they all mean you have to slow down. You can make up the time later when you've recovered.

              This graph goes into more detail. just ignore the bit at the top, that just shows how fat I was last year...
            It just shows that up to 9 kmh, my lactate tolerance level last year before picking up training, Oxygen (VO2) in was less than Carbon Dioxide (VCO2) out. Afterwards it was burning every bit of oxygen it could get. when the RER, (respitory exchange ratio) hits 1, then you aren't getting enough oxygen.
            As it passes through that level, the g of CHO/hr, the grammes of carbohydrates per hour consumed, rise rapidly, meaning you need so much more food to keep going. Between 8kmh and just over 10kmh the rate doubles. this is the same for everyone so keep the speed down to burn less food when you reach this level. between 8kmh and 11kmh the fat per hour doubles, so if you want to lose weight, lots of Cardio work! Between 8kmh and 11kmh, the calories burned doubles. 
         So, before the Parish, push yourself up hills till you're heart rate is pushed, as this makes your heart stronger and more likely to clear the waste from the muscles and carry the fuel round. Keep hydrated, as the blood is mostly made up from water and if it's lacking in this water, then it's thicker and harder to circulate.
        If you just want to get to your personal goal, or even complete the Parish, then a little Cardio, some long distance work to prepare the muscles, and lots of stretching prepare the muscles for lots of fuel in and waste out. If you're aching after a long training session, then rest and let the damage repair. Training isn't fun with damaged muscles and it may even put you off training in future, and try to get plenty of protein to help repairing them. 

     I keep banging on about Protein, and Holland and Barrett are having another half price sale for their Whey Protein, but if you don't want to shell out, then foods that are rich in protein are;
Nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower.
Meat, especially Beef.
Chicken breast.
Soya beans (very high!)
Tuna, sardines and other oily fish.
or, a nice peanut butter sarnie!

Now a recipe to get all of them in.... it's called Cheesy tuna chicken soya peanut butter stew!


Sunday, 10 April 2011

10th April 2011

Less than 11 weeks.

                First, I'd just like to thank Murray for filming the talk from Roger Black on Thursday evening and posting it on, it gives those of us who couldn't make it to the evening a chance to hear what he said. The old Shakespeare quotation "methinks he doth protest too much" comes to mind when he keeps stating, with convincing exasperation, that he hasn't the fitness or mental ability to walk 85 miles, as the mental ability to push yourself onto an Olympic rostrum is beyond most peoples comprehension. So, when the bookies open, Mr Black to be the dark horse and one to look over your shoulder for...

      Secondly, Well done Hull City! 2-1 win away to Watford, possibly too little too late though. I did actually forego a ticket and ride to the match to go to a coaching session, typical really, one of their best performances! It seems that now they've reluctantly accepted missing out on the play offs, they relax and play like they should do all the time...

        It's been a hectic weekend for me, Dad's come over to Hull from the Island for his 80th birthday so lots of family gatherings, grandchildren and great grandchildren to be introduced, and countless family photos to be integrated into the growing family tree, my bag again, I started researching the tree a few years ago and now take place as the keeper of the family records with over 500 ancestors and counting (no-one famous...yet). My Father's line of the tree goes back to the late 1500's, Yorkshire farming stock from the Yorkshire Moors, just north of Pickering. As the agricultural and industrial revolutions took place, we gradually drifted into towns and then cities and ended up in Hull.  I remember after completing my first Parish that some family wag mentioned that I had walked further in one day than my family had travelled in 500 years.

       I digress.
      I did get a chance on saturday morning to get out with my coach for a very good and informative session.
We met up at Fulstow where he has a measured 5km circuit. After some warming up, some stretches.. he had a couple of good ones for my piriformis, the muscle in my hip/buttock that keeps pressing against my sciatic nerve, and going over the few recent races to try and see what can be learned. He also gave me a 50k training schedule to start working on, to try and improve speed and stamina for the longer distances. At the end I did a timed 10k, 2 circuits, and learned more.

       The intention was to do under an hour. He couldn't understand why I was 1h 59m for the 20k but over the hour for the 10k. I did struggle for the first 5k/3miles, with my shins, a stitch in my side, quads and groin etc, but as they eased off I picked up. Keeping to 10 minutes a mile for the first three miles just to ease in, and when the pain wore off, upping to 9m15s a mile to make the hour. Without race conditions, i.e, no-one to chase or push me, my concentration drifted but at some points I hit 8m 45s quite easily. Total 59m 8secs, quite comfortable in the end, and proof that I take approximately 3 miles to warm up! Lessons for us all there, whether 5k or Parish, warm up properly, start easily, don't push too hard at the beginning until the muscles are warmed up and ready for action.
       My coach wants me to do a 50k, he feels I'm more of a distance walker and would get well under 5 hours, some people are built for sprints some for marathons, which is why I struggle in 10k's. He did remark that in previous 10k and 20k races that where most walkers get over the line gasping for breath, I was just warmed up and wanting to go on. Probably the hundreds of years of Yorkshire farming stock coming through...
      Still, next sunday is my final 10k for a while, and if I get out and race walk for 3 miles first, warm up properly, then set off on the race, 57 or 58 minutes is possible. My coach has also got me some exercises for my fast twitch muscles.
      Skeletal muscle is made up of bundles of individual muscle fibres called myocytes. Each myocyte contains many myofibrils, which are strands of proteins (actin and myosin) that can grab on to each other and pull. This shortens the muscle and causes muscle contraction. Muscle fibre types can be broken down into two main types, slow twitch or type 1 muscle fibres and fast twitch or type 2 muscle fibres. Fast twitch fibres can be further categorized into type 2a and type 2b fibres. Human muscles contain a genetically determined mixture of both slow and fast fibre types. On average, we have about 50 percent slow twitch and 50 percent fast twitch fibres in most of the muscles used for movement.

Slow twitch, type 1.
The slow muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibres and can go for a long time before they fatigue. Therefore, slow twitch fibres are great at helping athletes run marathons.

Fast twitch fibres.
Because fast twitch fibres use anaerobic metabolism (not using oxygen) to create fuel, they are much better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles. However, they fatigue more quickly. Fast twitch fibres generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscles, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly. Having more fast twitch fibres can be an asset to a sprinter since they need to quickly generate a lot of force.

Type 2a
These fast twitch muscle fibres are also known as intermediate fast-twitch fibres. They can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally to create energy. In this way, they are a combination of Type 1 and Type 2 muscle fibres.

Type 2b
These fast twitch fibres use anaerobic metabolism to create energy and are the "classic" fast twitch muscle fibres that excel at producing quick, powerful bursts of speed. This muscle fibre has the highest rate of contraction (rapid firing) of all the muscle fibre types, but it also has a much faster rate of fatigue and can't last as long before it needs rest.

Our muscle fibre type may influence what sports we are naturally good at or whether we are fast or strong. Olympic athletes tend to fall into sports that match their genetic makeup. Olympic sprinters have been shown to possess about 80 percent fast twitch fibres, while those who excel in marathons tend to have 80 percent slow twitch fibres. For the purposes of the parish, slow twitch fibres are essentially predominant, but a combination of fast twitch fibres, especially the intermediate or type 2a in the slow twitch fibres can give speed and help keep form and walking style throughout the race. But, essentially, being able to walk 10k and 20k races at speeds of well over 6.5 to 7 mph can make averaging 5.5mph for 16 hours so much easier, given that the body works so much more efficiently when it has been trained to work at higher speeds, with better oxygen use and stronger heart rate. 

Exercises for fast twitch fibres.

   Sprints. It's as simple as that. Short bursts, as quickly as possible, on a flat surface (Douglas prom would be ideal.) 200 or 300 yards, or even a quarter mile as fast as you can walk at race walking speeds. If you can get on an athletics track, a lap as quickly as possible. Then, when the muscles are burning, and the heart rate is up, then slow walk and recover for 5 minutes or so, then sprint at high speed. And repeat, and again, and again. Ten to 15 times should do. Twice a week, but, essentially, rest afterwards, plenty of protein to aid muscle repair. A good guide from a nutritional expert is 4 grams of protein for every pound you weigh.

   So, an informative workout for me, fast race walking with mainly slow twitch muscles is why I struggle to keep up speed in slow races. With the training schedule I've been given, I'll mainly be building fast twitch muscles for a 50k walker instead of a 10k, but while I'm not going to be breaking any records for the 10k, my Parish training will come on, all being well.

    Now, I'm off to sprint up and down the main road.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

6th April 2011

       Finally, more signs of spring, sunshine and getting a little warmer. I had to wait until a couple of hours before high water to make sure no ships wanted to move, then it was some butties and a flask and off to the Old Man of Coniston again with a couple of friends. I wanted to do another mountain further north, but when I went for a newspaper earlier I nipped up Hoad Hill, just outside the town. It's a popular vantage point and  from there you can see most of the mountains to the North, and the onle decent size one without clouds was the Old Man. No point going up anywhere if you just climb into cold wet miserable fog.

         I wanted to use it as cardio and leg strengthening, so we split up at the bottom and I started up. My record from the car park to the top was 58 minutes last year and I set off at a decent pace. Worry set in when I had to stop a couple of times to get my breath back, but with a fair while to go until June 25th there is plenty of time to get cardio fit. Still, when I broached the top and touched the Cairn at 54 minutes, I wondered if my watch was wrong. I was rewarded with spectacular views today. Gale force winds, (we climbed the East side which was shelter from the westerly winds) made it difficult to stand on the top, but the clouds forming on the ridge to the west (on the left of the picture above) saw them swirling around us , over the top and down towards Coniston village. Windemere was easily visible in the east and Barrow in distance to the south. The Isle of man was invisible, I've only seen it once in the month I've been back here, thanks to the miserable spring we've had so far.
         My mate and his wife turned up twenty minutes later and decided the view was that spectacular they didn't want to go down again! Lunch, then we did start down. Normally I set off towards the west to take in a couple of other peaks; we had come up the tourist route, but as the wind was still strong on the west side we had to go back down the way we came.
       The graph above shows fluctuations in speed, to be accepted as you climb, and I don't know if it shows lateral speed or takes ascent into account. Still, according to a fell running friend at work, climbing mountains like this has many advantages, firstly the Cardio, the heart rate graph shows high average on the way up and low on the way down. (the sudden change shows the point in which we came back down) The climbing strengthens hamstrings, calves, quads, back and stomach muscles. The uneven ground at speed helps strengthen ankles and all the auxiliary tendons and muscles around the feet and lower legs, my feet ache even now as well as slight ache all over the legs. The gasping for breath in the fresh air helps oxygen circulation, and the rewards of climbing mountains puts a smile on your face which money can't buy!

        I'm resting now, got a session with my coach which includes a timed 10k near cleethorpes on Saturday so I want to be fresh for that, but suddenly its not twelve weeks which I was typing only moments ago, (or so it seems, 2 or 3 days) but 11 weeks. A week gone in the blink of an eye. So, when I got back, I ate, drank plenty, watched "Hot Fuzz" (very funny) then got out for my 8.5 mile circuit over the Hlls north of Ulverston. Overdoing it? I'm currently in a state of panic, self doubt and worry that I'm getting it all wrong and I'm just doing damage to the muscles. I'm like this before every race, but normally no-one knows this as I'm just another anonymous walker. This time I've decided to write it all down for my family, a couple of friends and a few strangers to read on the Parish website so I've put myself in the public eye. I'm convinced it's all going to go wrong and I'm going to have to trot out excuses. I have improved every Parish, and the thing that upsets me most is that there will come a point where I will reach my limit and never do any better. Last year everything came together and if it wasn't for problems on the day I'm convinced I would have had a sub 16 hour race. I'm just wondering now if last year was my peak. 
       Still, what I have learned from experience is that races are completely different from training. The atmosphere, attention, adrenaline and detrmination to succeed all come together to bring out that little extra which you can't normally find when training. 
      At least I'm hoping so......  

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

5th April 2011

            Another wet and miserable day, although we are getting dry periods occasionally, a chance to get out for an hour, or, in the case of the hardy parish trainees, a chance to get out and walk in rain and wind; after all, we haven't got a weather forecast for the day yet and if it turns out to be a 2008 record breaker with gales and torrential continuous rain, then some experience of these conditions will be useful.
        So, yesterday afternoon about threeish, the rain stopped and gave me a chance to do my tough 14 mile circuit, over the top of the Furness peninsula, a climb of about 300 metres (just under 1000 feet in real money) then down the other side, along the A592 for a couple of miles, then back over at an even higher point, the 300 metres + in about a mile which is good Cardio. Averaged 5.3mph, which is good, and it stayed dry.
       To this morning, up early, and a walk into work. I carried made up drinks, but it was raining steadily so try and do the 10 miles into work without water to push the body and get used to being semi dehydrated. Not good to try yourself unless you are physically fit, so I wouldn't recommend it, but it goes some way to experiencing the conditions later in the race. For those who don't know, dehydration eventually results in a decrease in blood volume, there is less blood as it's made up mostly of water and the body is short of water. As a result the blood is thicker and the heart has to work harder to pump it round the body. This means nutrients and oxygen supply to the muscles is greatly reduced, blood lactic acid levels are increased and muscle waste clears much more slowly. Overall, the body's ability to cool down through sweat and circulating blood cooling through the outer capillaries is reduced, so overheating and increasing these effects. In the end, oxygen supply becomes so low that you lose concentration, and eventually lose consciousness. Normally athletes stop when this happens, usually through gravity as you hit the floor. Studies show that it can take anything up to 48 hours to recover from moderate rehydration, which, in a 24 hour race is, well, as our american friends annoyingly say "do the math!"
         I had a cuppa at work, although tea is a diuretic, it takes water from the muscles and discards it as waste. Then a walk back. I did heat training last year about this time, surprisingly it was near 80 deg this time last year, and as the body gets used to the heat it works more efficiently, you don't sweat so much and can manage on less water. Again, not recommended unless you know what you are doing. It involves weighing yourself before and after to calculate water loss, and regular check ups. More about that on a later date.
        Anyway, I was walking back when I came upon a road block, a major road accident and a diversion for motorists and pedestrians which meant a big diversion, putting a few miles on my journey home. I couldn't complain under the circumstances though.
       Altogether today, another 28 miles, averaging 4.6 mph, down a little, and I just couldn't seem to push any harder. It was raining heavily all the way back which helps hydration a little, but I could feel it in the leg muscles and the tiredness meant I wasn't swinging my arms as much which was where I lost most of my speed. It's good experience, and I'm hydrating whilst watching telly. If you do end up dehydrating after training, plenty of electrolytes, the easiest way to do this is plenty of fruits, banana, watermelon, and coconut water are amongst the best. Coconut water is so close to the bodies water that during world war two the Americans used it as plasma replacement during operations in the army hospitals, although it is quite expensive.
       I was in my North Face Hedgehogs, and I have to say, no problems at all, and thanks to the goretex lining, my feet were the only dry part of my body, so come race day, any rain at all and they're the first choice. they are tough and ultra lightweight and have a good grip on the greasy road surface. I believe they also do womens versions in pink!
       It's going to be sunnier tomorrow, so maybe a little hill walking. I was going to pop across to the island for a couple of days to bring my Dad back for his birthday, but I'm on standby here. It's pretty quiet at the moment but someone has to be here in case ships appear out of nowhere. (It does happen, funnily enough. people forget to tell us they're on their way until they loom over the horizon.) So, a quiet hill walking day tomorrow, drive home thursday and rest until coaching on saturday.
     I'm off back to the telly now, catching up on  Professor Brian Cox in Wonders of the Solar System.
"If the earth was a peanut, then Jupiter would be a watermelon 3 kilometres away"

Mmmm, rehydrating watermelon....  

Monday, 4 April 2011

4th April 2011

         A nice restful weekend (training wise at least, ships in and out morning and night tides) and feeling okay. The groin strain is pretty much cleared up and I biked into work and back a couple of times with no reactions so I was going to get out for a walk today with a view to getting up a couple more mountains this week, but wind, rain and all kinds of meteorological rubbish coming at us for the next few days. As I type, heavy rain is hammering down on the skylights so more stretching and upper body work in my home made gym while watching telly. It seems it's going to be relatively quiet for a week or so at work, One more ship to come in during the week with windmill bits, the busy weekend saw lots of other windmill bits come in, so next week the tugs start towing the windmill bits out to where they will be put together as windmills. (Stop me if I'm getting too technical...)
The "Aura" with transition pieces, which are the bits that stick out from the sea for the upper bits to stick on.

               So, stepping up training in  a way, only twelve weeks to go, but this time I've got to make sure it all comes together at the right time. I have a few more races before the Parish, The Northern 10k Championships at Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield in a couple of weeks, the National 20k's in London at the end of the month, and the Olympic 20k time trial over the Olympic course in London at the end of May, which unfortunately means I can't race in the Bradford Whit walk, a hilly course over 35k at the end of May. I don't think I can get over for the Sara Killey Memorial Walk either, but I'll keep it in mind and see nearer the time for that one. It's just a case of shuffling work and races with other time off and training. I am getting home this weekend, picking up my father from the ferry at Heysham and taking him to Hull for his 80th Birthday, a chance for the family to get together although I'll be taking it easy with the alcohol. Another session with my coach on Saturday morning to assess my progress and pick up some advanced training tips with a good 10k session hopefully. I was hoping to come across the island this week to pick my dad up so we'll have to see how it goes. So I'm going to be busy over the next few weeks, and I'm hoping the spring weather will kick in for me to take advantage.

          Stretching again. Try and imagine what happens when you step forward whilst walking, The right foot goes forward as far as comfortably possible, then hopefully lands gently on your heel before pushing back. The moment before it touches the floor, the muscles down the back of the body are all at full stretch. Starting from the achilles, the back of the heel, through the calves and hamstrings, which are up the back of the leg, through the glutes, (bum muscles), into the back up to the shoulders. Over 85 miles you do this 145000 times on average. (for you pedants out there, on my first parish I was wearing a pedometer and this was the result.) So it goes without saying that you can't stretch your hamstrings and calves then set off on 85 miles, because, as I said in earlier blogs, unstretched muscles are liable to damage when stretched to extremes, almost immediately. So, back and glutes.

          Remember stretch as long as you can hold it 30 seconds or more is excellent, and they are static stretches, which means stretch and hold, not jerking about. Stretching like this and the others 3 times a week can have good results after a few sessions and excellent results within 6 weeks. If it hurts, remember the advantages.
1. Less liable to injury.
2. More strength throughout the movement of the muscle,
3. Better posture and balance
4. Stretched muscles allow oxygen and nutrients to travel where needed easier.
5. Better recovery after exercise.

    It's for your own good.....

Saturday, 2 April 2011

2nd April 2011

         Good afternoon, and most likely an afternoon that'll see hundreds of prospective parishers romping over hill and dale in that pursuit for race fitness. A stunning afternoon after the few days miserable rain and wind.
       Last night, about 22:30, (half past ten to save you counting) I was out on the pilot launch into the Irish sea. It had been westerly gales for the previous two days so the seas were short and high (lots of big waves). We approached the Chartsman, a larg-ish tanker and he swung round to shelter us from the seas, unfortunately putting himself beam on to the seas so he was rolling. I reached up to grab the ladder so I could climb on board as the launch lifted onto a wave top. Grabbing with both hands, I lifted my leg up and stepped onto the rung as high as I could in case the launch lifted higher and trapped the ladder. unfortunately for me, most of my weight was on my left leg still on the launch, which at that moment dropped into a trough.
      It dropped suddenly, and just as suddenly I found all my weight transferred to my right leg which was on the rung at waist height and unprepared for this sudden effort, and I felt something go in my right groin/upper quad.
     What did I think?
     If I let go I'll fall into the rough irish sea in the middle of the night?
     I could get drawn into the spinning propeller and be gone forever?
     Am I going to be able to pull myself up the twenty feet to get onto the deck, then up four flights of stairs to the bridge?
     If I get to the bridge, will I be able to get the ship into port?

    As you've probably guessed, my immediate thought was groin strain, possibly two to four weeks, that's the National 20k out, possibly the Olympic 20k trial, then the sudden realisation that the Parish is only 12 weeks away and that was in doubt. All this while hanging off the ladder. I hauled myself up, started climbing the ladder and felt it wasn't so bad. The stretching and training had paid off and I was left with a slight limp which had almost gone by the time she was tied up on her berth, and this morning it is just a slight pull when I stretch it. A couple of days at most which is probably not a bad thing as rest is important. I've been out on my bike this morning and that's no problem so biking to work tonight and tomorrow which is good fitness with just a few stretches and a protein shake to assist recovery.

    I'm just thinking about what would have happened if I'd never entered my first Parish. I would possibly still be 3 or 4 stone overweight, unfit, blood pressure and cholesterol blocking most of my arteries, and the effort to pull myself up would have probably failed, most likely the strain would have triggered some sort of coronary and the stomach full of pies might well have taken me straight to the bottom.
    So, people often ask why I do the Parish, all the other other races, and pursuits I now find normal, if demanding. The quality of life is probably the answer, the fact that I feel ten years younger, so much fitter, with much more stamina and experiences to look back on, as well as lots of new friends.
    In twelve weeks time to the exact minute, (it's half past one on saturday afternoon) I'll be hopefully past ballakillowey and up the main part of sloc and approaching Peel, Pauline trying to keep up as she gets me to eat something, with another sixty miles to go, and there'll be a smile on my face because I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

    Twelve weeks. Time enough for anyone to go out and get fit enough to finish, or if you intend to get part way, plenty of time to prepare and plan for a finish in another year. You have to enter though, and if it's your first time, then hopefully it'll go on to future success and a better way of life as it has done for me.

    Now get out there and enjoy the sunshine.