Saturday, 7 May 2011

7th May 2011

            Checking the calendar, I see that there are seven weeks today when, at the back of my mind, I thought there were eight. So, a week snatched away, but still nearly a couple of months preparation.
       I've been resting, and the niggly pain is receding fast. I've pretty much had to refrain from walking, only two pilots available with ships twice a day during the afternoon and the early morning tides I haven't really got time to do the twenty miles required to get to work and back. Enforced rest, maybe a good thing. After today there is a weather break at the wind farm site out at sea which has been most of the work over the last few days. The large cranes that lift up the 800 tonne sections can only work in winds of 8 metres per second. (technically, enough wind to blow a loose hat off, or lift a small kite, or beaufort force 4) and the sea has to be less than 1.5 metres maximum wave height, so windy weather means we get time off. It's going to be windy from this afternoon until Tuesday allagedly so time to get out walking again.
        At the moment though, todays job won't be confirmed until it's cancelled at midday which means sitting around until midday when I go into the office at Barrow and sit around until high water at 2pm, then come home. They still pay for my services even though I just drink tea and read the paper, not my problem, I'm making myself available. And they wonder why the windfarms cost billions of pounds......
        Today is the annual Keswick to Barrow walk, not officially a race but an annual chance to get hundreds of people walking the 40 miles and stopping off on the pubs along the way, although some take it seriously, runners setting off at 6am start arriving in Barrow soon after 10am, most take advantage of the hostelries, and at the same time make thousands for Charity. Ulverston is in the middle of it's annual walking festival and also the flag festival so the towns gearing up for a busy day and it's three quarters of the way along the Keswick to Barrow route. It seems dry and trying to be sunny so lots happening to welcome the hardy walkers and tourists alike.

       I've got another chance to go windsurfing on Monday while the weather is suitable, and at the same time a chance at kite surfing later in the week which needs a patient instructor, lots more practise, and, especially, a boat as unlike windsurfing you have less control to where you end up. They attach the kite to a belt and you have a steering bar but unlike windsurfing if you come off you need help to get started again. At the moment I'm relying on the vanity of the good windsurfers who feel compelled to shell out for the latest board and equipment so have sheds and garages full of spares (although pulling on somebody elses spare neoprene wetsuit, especially if it's still moist from it's last outing, is mildly uncomfortable.) Still, it's good exercise, and actually more fun that expected.  

       I've booked my ferry for the Parish, going across on the Wednesday and returning the following Thursday, so that's done now. At the same time, I've filled in the entry for the Olympic trial race at the end of the month. It was a toss up between the 20k on the Mall and the Bradford Walk which is being held on the same day. A chance of walking with (I was going to say racing against but I'm not going to be threatening any records) the top British 20k walkers on the Olympic course is one not to turn down, although returning to Bradford was tempting.
       The Bradford Whit Walk is the oldest continuous annual race walk in the world. Not as big (In size or race stature) as it used to be, it's still one to take part in. (Continuous as in it's run every year, not people walking all year for 135 years. And run every year as in walked, you can't run, not allowed.) It's 35k around a fairly tough hilly course at Baildon Moor north of Bradford, it's 5 laps of 7k which includes a punishing half mile climb three quarters of the way round. It also includes past winners such as a certain Murray Lambden who had a hat trick of wins in the early eighties. Old races used to be 50 miles, and Bradfords streets used to be packed with spectators, although those days are long gone...
        Last year I had three Parishes under my belt, and a ninth place in 7h 35 at the previous years End to End had given me an appetite for more. I hunted round the internet, seemingly ten or twenty years too late. With the advent of health and safety, and worrying about being sued for the slightest discretion, and a lack of interest, all the old long distance races such as the Blackpool 50 amongst others were falling by the wayside. Still, I sent off my application form and turned up with family (It was a bank holiday, hot and sunny, and a day out) a couple of hours before the race. With no outward sign of an impending race it seemed I was in the wrong place. It turned out that I had been spoilt by the Parish, thousands making their way to the start, radio coverage, roads closed and signed off and spectators readying themselves for the sight of their favourites at the head of the pack. Instead, we sat in the car in a side street wondering if we had got it right. A man walked up with the vest of the IOM VAC on, which meant either we had the right place or we had both gone to the wrong place. Simon Cox had come across from the Island to use the race as Parish training, pretty much the same reason as myself. Slowly, others started turning up, and headed towards a local cricket pavillion to use as changing rooms. I was apprehensive, never having tried a race like this before, and didn't want to make a fool of myself.
       I approached the registration where I was asked which club I was with. I said I had no club, I was just along to "have a go, see what it was like". Not a good answer. He was reluctant to let me start, but I had explained I had come a long way so he gave me a number and said that if I started to make a fool of myself then he would withdraw me.
The start of the 2010 Bradford Whit walk.
Myself number 47, Simon Cox (IOM VAC) just to my right, John Constandinou(Birchfield Harriers), editor of Race Walking Record, in Black in the centre, and in the red 4th from left, Paul Evanett, (redcar) eventual winner. I know Paul well from behind as he seems to be in front of me at every race this year. He'll be in London at the end of may, which gives me a chance to win Bradford this year... tempting...maybe...

            We set off, and I chatted with Simon for a few minutes, but two walkers started to pull ahead. I didn't know the strength of the walkers and had no way of knowing how hard to push, so pushed on from the group and went after the two in front. Once again, as the sports psychologist has told me again and again, I was in third, happy with that and set out to defend it rather than try and catch the walkers ahead. The two in front were visible on long straights, but I kept up a pace that meant every time somebody came within a few hundred yards behind me, I pushed on and kept ahead. In the end a comfortable 3rd, in 3h 45m for a tough hot 35k a good time and only a couple of minutes behind second, although I didn't know at the time if it was good or bad. What I did know was that I wasn't making a fool of myself and was capable of doing well, so from then on, I was hooked.
       Simon did marvellously well to come in fourth a few minutes behind me in under 4 hours, and the pub at the finish line with it's gardens and benches gave me a perfect vantage point with the majority of the spectators and tannoy comentator to watch the rest of the field, including an Olympic walker (okay, it was Tokyo before I was born, but when I'm wrapped around a few guinness with my mates in the pub I still beat an Olympian.) 
        Afterwards, I was approached by several clubs asking me to join, and the rest of my year was changed. I still go into races wondering if I'm eventually going to make a fool of myself. Looking at this years Parish entries I wonder if I'm going to make the top ten! Then again, I look at the UK overall race walking rankings at the moment and see I'm in the top 30, and I'm the only one in that top 30 who hasn't done a 50k which would get me another 600 + points and get me in the top 15 or better (I don't understand how it works, just that you get points for each distance you do and they add them all up - and the parish and Centurion are not counted!), and wonder if I'm just in at the right time, if there are very few people who are trying race walking. I know on the Island there are a few, Jock, Micheal George, Vinny and Richard Gerrard who are ranked highly but that's because it's taken seriously over there, so the standard is very high. 
         So, based on that, it looks like I'm stuck with a problem. The End to End in September is six days before the National 50k in Nottingham. Is that enough time to recover? 40 miles in under 7 hours (fingers crossed!) takes it out of you, but massage, Protein for three days then onto the Carbs for three might be enough. The End to End will be training enough. All I need in Nottingham is a half decent time. 
        Still, plenty of time to decide. And Roubaix will still be there next year.
        I've just had a call from work and this afternoons job is cancelled, possibly till tomorrow afternoon so maybe a walk round town watching the Keswick/Barrow walkers, a lap of my 8.5m circuit this evening and a good nights sleep and I can walk into work tomorrow?  Feeling better, and sitting around too much can create lethargy. If you stop for too long it might be difficult to get started again.

       Hapy Training!      


  1. I would say it is not enough. I was hoping to do the Manx Mountain Marathon on the Saturday after the Sara Killey but my legs weren't close to being recovered. In the end I withdrew my entry and went for a light run (10km off-road) and a 10 mile bike ride - both of which hurt enough to tell me I'd made the right decision on the Marathon.

  2. I spoke to a couple of experts about a similar situation that's coming up in this years Parish but on a much bigger scale. A Lancashire walker at the Northern 20k in leeds told me he's doing the Parish for a finish, then a week later he's off to Lingfield for this years centurion race, again for a finish. It is possible, but complete rest two weeks before the race, a good sports massage straight after, and complete rest with lots of Carbs and protein in between. The training has to be right, and you have to go into the first with no injuries. I have my doubts, but I'll have to decide closer to the time. Admittedly, all I'm after in the 50k is to get a finish in a half decent time. Both together is only 70 miles, and the 50k is on the flat, all things to take into consideration.