Thursday, 30 June 2011

30th June 2011

      Well, it's all over for another year. I'm back in Ulverston, piles of washing over the floor waiting to be sorted washed and put away for the next race. (After 85 miles some of the gear was so high it could have walked home on it's own!) It's accompanied by the comedown following the race, but that is tempered by the high associated with a satisfactory performance. Something that stays with you forever and experienced now by many new Parish finishers. The feeling you get at just over 84 miles as you come round the final bend at Port Jack onto the final stretch on the flat (phew, no more climbs) and down the prom towards the finish line is one that money can't buy. That buzz is the thing that keeps you coming back for more, and in my own case, looking for new challenges.

Photo from the Isle of man Examiner. I almost look as though I know what I'm doing...

       Apart from the 8 page supplement in the Independent tomorrow which will be pored over and safely stored away by finishers to be looked at in future times, plans will start for next year. Hopefully others will be motivated by stories of exploits by friends and work colleagues to try themselves for the first time. Some might be put off by the sight of colleagues in work suits and flip flops limping in with dressings around blistered feet, but these heal, the pain goes away, and all that is left is a fitter better person, with more motivation and a keener eye for a challenge. The thought "I've walked 85 miles, so this should be no problem" to challenges in your life help you in all aspects of your everyday life, your personal ambition improves. what were major worries become minor.

I honestly look at this photo and think, "How am I stuck here in the middle of so many of my heroes, legends one and all" It makes all the work in training worthwhile, and is going in a frame in a quiet corner of the house to make me smile on dark days.

        So to next year. As soon as the presentation night is over, organisation starts for the Scottish Widows parish walk 2012. Many, many thanks go to Race Director Raymond Cox, Secretary Liz Corran, and the rest of the committee who work tirelessly to keep the race on the Calendar. Thanks to Murray Lambden who keeps the website going, seemingly without sleep to keep everyone informed with his facts and statistics. And (I know you shouldn't start a sentence with "and", but here it's fitting) for asking me to do the blog back in September last year. This blog has been my personal motivation, a reason to train on those dark winter days, and a reason to train and research to keep the blog from going stale. Murray, thanks, this blog kept me going and got me, and apparently so many others who followed me, our personal goals.
       Thanks to the NSC and the Manx sporting associations who give us wonderful facilities and help with training and preparation throughout the build up.
       The main sponsors, Scottish Widows, with their help and association the race would not be any where near as successful as it is.
       The emergency services, police, ambulance and coastguard amongst others who make a safe environment for the athletes.
        The Manx government who actively promote the race and allow the island to become one huge race track for 24 hours a year, road closures and one way systems make a great difference.
       The media, radio, tv and press for their coverage. I have a manx radio feed which keeps me in touch with what's happening, and gave me some warning when a microphone was going to be thrust under my nose. (although can someone tell the presenters that Peel is 32.5miles, it's a basic which most people know. A little research can go a long way.)
        The Marshalls. Volunteers all, often rushing round to keep up with the race, all with a very pleasant smile and a "well done" to help you on your way. Many thanks.
       The support crews. A good support crew is worth it's weight in gold, and often are happy to stand back while the walker gets the glory. It's a very tough job and without them we wouldn't have a race. I'd like to say a personal thanks here to Pauline and Will, my other team members who went above and beyond the call of duty to keep me fed, watered,cool and warm when necessary, and happy.
       The local businesses who set out and stock feeding points with water, bottled sports drinks, bananas, mars bars and all the other bits and pieces to keep the walkers refreshed and walking.
       The special villages which make it a highlight of the year as the race passes through their normally peaceful and idillic communities, with marquees, barbecues and offers of help to the seemingly endless stream of participants making their annual visit to their neighbourhood. Maughold and Andreas stand out, but the likes of, amongst others Peel and Bride also provide welcomes that help us along.
       The people living on the route who set up trestle tables, from the small with a plate of oranges and some jelly babies, to the large where the kids are eagerly holding up cups of water and bowls of sweets waiting expectantly for a Parish walker to take their offered assistance.
       And finally the spectators, along the entire route, to the people standing at their gates with a programme in hand to offer verbal encouragement by name to all who pass, to the crowds lining streets applauding, standing outside pubs with a beer in the evening sunshine, to the night owls lining the prom offering motivation on the final stretch. The bands that play as the walkers pass, the groups in fancy dress, like the clowns at Kirk Micheal, the passing motorists who beep their horns (or as the night comes and the passengers imbibe some falling down water, hang out of the windows and scream encouragement).

       If I've forgotten anyone, apologies, and hopefully I'll be reminded. Everyone, literally thousands, who make the Parish Walk so special, Many, many heartfelt thanks, for giving me and all the other competitiors memories that will stay us me for the rest of our lives.

            One final, final thing. (honestly)
               Many thanks to the people who clicked on the blog. When Murray asked me if I wanted to do it, I was flattered, and decided to write the kind of blog that I wanted to read back in 2007 when I was an unfit couch potato, a heart attack waiting to happen, not the super fit athlete (not my words, the words of the Manx FM reporter who watched me approach Maughold and expressed astonishment that I had breath left to wave and give a cheery hello.) and sub 16 hour Parish walker. I started out at 21h 30m 7s. A good first time, but about average for a finisher. I did the research, put in the training, and eventually got good enough to start making a name for myself. I wanted to prove I could do it, and if I could, anyone could.
        A special thanks to all who not only read my blog, but followed the tips, techniques and encouragement, then came to me after the event and thanked me for helping them finish for the first time. Probably not true, anyone with the right mental preparation can do it, but one of the finest memories I'll take from this years Parish is the thought that quite a few people feel that if it wasn't for me they wouldn't have even  finished. I was asked by a few people if I would leave the blog for them to read next year? Can I publish it? So, what I'm thinking of doing is to work over the next couple of months and tidy up the blog. I'll add plenty that I've either forgotten or have found out since. Let some experts read it, tell me it's rubbish and start again, and add more, bulk it up a bit with stories and snippets that I've picked up over the last few months, other walkers motivations and stories, a guide to being a support crew, and publish it as an e-book. Minimal cost, and if it makes any money it'll go to my charity, Macmillan Cancer Support. But hopefully one useful guide to training for the Parish 2012. If anyone has any ideas, suggestions or contributions for the e-book, please feel free to e-mail me at . I'll reply to all, and any good motivational stories or funny anecdotes from the Parish will hopefully be in the book.

        See you on the start line next year.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

28th June 2011

              Just a quick post, so I lied earlier on when I said my next post would be my last.
       The presentation is over, a great night, and so many stories of courage and determination. I know I got a good time, a great finish, one I should be proud of, but seeing and talking to other Parish walkers who put so much more into it, a motivating, encouraging night which showed it's not just about the top finishers.
       The merit award was won by a brave guy who deserved all his applause. To put himself through so much despite the diabetes and the troubles the disease causes, and still reach his target was humbling, a true sign of courage maybe worth more than the top guys who take being at the front for granted.
       Us at the front, (and I still feel humbled to say that, I have all the right training and help so have an advantage) feel like we have a right to be there, but listening to all the stories of walkers who don't have all the help, the training facilities, or the lucky breaks to get those top positions, find the stories of people walking through the night despite all the bad times, injuries and terrible luck still have the determination to drag themselves over the finish line. And still have a smile on their faces despite hobbling injuries to call themselves a Parish walk finisher. It's a piece of glass with a bit of etching on it, yet to all finishers it's a precious trophy which stands for probably the most couragious thing they have ever done. I know that from all my belongings, almost all can be replaced. But, if my house was on fire and my family was safe, the only thing I would go back in there and save would be my Parish trophies, because they stand for a thing which can't be described, unless by another Parish finisher.
     So, congratulations to all finishers, feel proud, and tell everyone about it. When people ask "How far did you get?" Smile, and just nonchalantly say "Oh, I finished..." and soak up the congratulations.

     So, one final blog to come, at the weekend, when I've sorted out the info.

     I'm raising a glass to all finishers, well done, and see you next year.

Monday, 27 June 2011

27th June 2011

       Good evening, and I hope all your aches and pains are minor and easing.

          I got back in the early hours of Sunday morning and laid on the couch with a laptop watching friends slowly make their way round to the finish, making sure people I knew made their goals. Congratulations to my niece Helen's boyfriend Kevin Quirk, 558, who made it round for the first time just after 5am. He walked with Bernie Ball most of the way, she's now walked a Parish with Helen, a Parish with Kevin, and the Centurion with me, so we're asking round the family for anyone else who wants a walk in the park with her. Obviously a big well done to Bernie as well, looking good as she walked over the line, probably egged on by the boisterous crowd. (If you've seen the video clip "99 give us a wave, 99, give us a wave!)
         One I was watching out for and was really pleased to see was number 901, Sailash Shah, who was across from the Lancashire Walking Club. We first met at the Centurion last year, myself and Bernie watched him lap pretty well and were surprised to see him only get 95 miles, so failing to get his Centurion number. I bumped into him in Leeds at the Northern 20k championships earlier this year when he told me he had an injury which slowed him down, which lost him the 5 miles. He said he was trying for the Parish in memory of his father, and at the same time he was also trying again for the centurion at Lingfield on Saturday the 3rd July, only a week after the Parish. Did I have any advice?
        I did want to say don't do it. I remembered last year with a 5 week difference I was suffering and only just managed, but I did push for last years target of sub 17hr, and did a lot of damage on the way. He took it easy, used the time, after all, it was just a finish he wanted over the weekend, not a record time, and now with a weeks rest and plenty of protein for recovery and carbs to bulk up again, I will be watching at Lingfield next week, hopefully to see a brave and courageous effort that I hope is successful.
        I was also very pleased to see Berti (Roberta) Convery, 1022, finally walk over the line to get her first finish. I walked with Berti from Rushen to Peel on my first Parish in 2007, chatting all the way, which made my first taste of the sloc a pleasant one, it seemed to pass quickly, and is one of the things that helped me get round that first time. She's been dogged by bad luck, trying in 2008 her car broke down towards, I think, Lezayre, and had to pull out. Well done, not just on the finish, but I promised to buy her a drink when she did finally finish, so she's one of the few to get a drink out of a Yorkshireman!
        Michael George. I passed him on the sloc, he didn't look brilliant (who does on the sloc?) and when I passed I asked if he was okay, he said he was suffering from cramps. I was listening to Manx FM's commentary on my phone and feared the worst when I stopped hearing him in the reports. I was pleased to see his picture on the finishers photos.
        Fellow blogger Jonathan Wild, an excellent walk, just a shame he was outside his 17 hours, but an improvement, and all the more impressive seeing those blisters!
        Michael Bonney, an excellent 9th place, another walker who helped me finish, this time in 2008, dubbed "The Great Wet One", where we walked from Maughold to the finish trying to convince ourselves the rain was stopping.

        And to everyone else who I haven't mentioned who will no doubt pull me up tomorrow evening at the presentation, well done, even stepping on the start line is something to be proud of.

        The race itself?

         I went in with a plan, a year too early for me to do an all out assault on the leadership, and as I said near the start of my blog, I was racing myself, the myself of last year who made a hash of everything. I knew I had a sub 16 hour race in me and the plan was there from months ago. It was just unfortunate for me that three better men set out with better plans than mine! May I add my congratulations to Jock, Vinny and Richard who walked a tremendous race.
       I set out to keep a steady pace up, 12 minutes a mile is a 17 hour finish, so 11 minutes a mile would save me a minute a mile, and after 60 minutes that 17 hour finish would be a 16 hour finish, and the last 25 miles would be 12 minute miles and get me in by midnight. The pace at the start was 10 minutes a mile though, comfortable and getting my goal quicker. I didn't know how far I could really push though, and made the decision to let the others go and drop back to 11 minutes a mile just before Rushen, in my mind the 16 hour finish was more important than possibly burning out to gain maybe a place. I kept the 11 minutes a mile to Jurby then found I was 1 hour and 15 minutes quicker than last year so just kept to the 11m 30s miles, 15 minutes to midnight schedule (just in case of any mishaps) and the plan worked perfectly. (I understand the maths, there won't be a quiz later...)
        Very pleased, although having the I think 17th fastest time ever and becoming the 9th fastest person over the course, and still only coming fourth, shows how the standards of this race are improving. I'll have to up my game for next year! I know ways to improve, I only started proper race walking with a coach after the End to End so there is scope for improvement, I'm 13 stone, and 2 ston of that is blubbery heavy useless fat, imagine walking round the course with two seven pound bags of potatoes and that gives me some idea of the bonus to be had. Lose a pound a month, see what happens. there are a few other bits and pieces where i know I can improve, all to be worked out and sorted.
         The race seemed to go nicely this year, A good start, even though everyone sat behind me all the way round the stadium! It seemed no-one wanted to go off too quickly. It always amazes me when you get round the second bend and see the whole field strung out behind you. It's the only place to see all the walkers before they all start stretching out over the miles. It stayed cool for us at the front, the deserted sloc, so different from a couple of hours later when it's full of cars and walkers (unfortunately in the heat this year). The number of spectators was impressive, so much of a boost when you're walking, whether at the front or just out to get to your goal.
         I stopped for a quick toilet break at Colby and had my first shock. It was bright red! I thought blood for a moment, but soon realised that it was the side effect of drinking beetroot juice in the days before the race. (It creates nitrates and steadies blood pressure, also boosting stamina. I did put it in my blog, you should have paid attention!) It was the colour of vinegar that pickled beetroot comes in...
        The flies! Around Ballikillowey they were swarming around me, irritatingly buzzing in my ears. Waving a wet towel round my head helped but they were soon back. Not nice. So, possibly insect repellent on next time.
       The welcome at Peel. A good crowd, noisy and encouraging. Thanks.
       The clowns at Kirk Michael. Can't stop Laughing!
       The crowds at Andreas, I feel guilty because I can't take a jelly baby off every wide eyed child who offers, and getting a little more guilty when you refuse and they look so upset. I just say I've had one, but there are a lot of people behind me who want one, and I'll look out for you next year.
      Maughold, always fun, always welcoming, and another cracking cuppa. How long before Parish day up there has a funfair and roller coasters, the way it is expanding over the years.
      My only bad part? I don't like the climb out of Maughold up to the Hibernian, although I only slowed to 12m 30 a mile where I had thought I'd lose more, and it seemed to come quicker. At the Hibernian that's the point I know I'm home and dry, home run just counting down the minutes.
     The fog at Laxey. The people coming out of the pubs, beer in hand, to cheer me on by name. I've always been impressed by the spectators who make that extra effort, programme in hand to cheer on the walkers.
     And finally, at twenty to midnight, one man halfway down the prom who applauded as I passed and said "From one Hull man to another, well done Richard" I almost stopped and asked him where he was from!

      The race is advancing, getting quicker for those at the front, and with more entrants and finishers. Still, there are few coming across from the UK and the continent, walkers who would like to do it but are restricted by the cost. I only originally took part because I have family here. My wife moans that the money I spend getting here we could put towards a proper holiday! I just state that a week here is a proper holiday. Deaf ears...  A truly international race would be the next step, and one that would make the Parish known far and wide. People here want to get involved, racers want to come, maybe something can be worked out. Homestay works for the TT, maybe a register of Homestay who can also offer Support crew as part of the deal? Something to think about in the future.

      I'm having trouble uploading pictures here on Helen's broadband, and there are still issues and acknowledgements to write, I wouldn't want to miss anyone out! I'll be doing one more blog towards the weekend where I'll have feedback from finishers and friends at the presentation (mine's a guinness if you owe me one...) I got so many messages and e-mails from other walkers and I'd like to put faces to the names, and e-mail addresses. The most encouraging thing is the e-mails from walkers who have followed the blog and sent messages to say thanks and even saying they wouldn't have finished if it wasn't for my tips and advice. I'm sure that isn't true, but when I originally started the blog, that was the intention, pass on all the information I've learned over the years so (1) hopefully they don't suffer as I did, and (2) they can be as well prepared so they enjoy the Parish as much as I do.
      So, one more blog to round off this long work, towards the weekend, and I'll leave you with a story of the finest of preparations. Kevins mate, who I only know as "Hendo", prepared for the Parish by going to the pub on the friday night. On Saturday morning, he arrived to walk with Kevin, to the finish, with 8 mini pork pies, a bag of jelly babies, and six fizzy bottles of lucozade. he asked for advice and all I could say was put the pork pies in a blender. And get a motorbike. Helen refused to give him the pork pies, they're still in the fridge, and all our food was divvied up so he could survive. Remarkably, he made it to Ballaugh where he slipped on the new chippings in the road (not a very good idea, loose chippings and Parish walkers don't mix! Very irritating and uncomfortable.) and suffered a groin strain. He'll try again next year, with Kevin spoon feeding him along the way.

      See you at the presentation!


      I got an e-mail the other day from saying my blog was quite successful and did I want to advertise? Place a couple of small adverts and I would get cash for each hit. A week before I finished my blog!!!!!! I've had over 13,000 hits so far (astonishing, truly humbled and thank you for following) and could have made hundreds for Macmillan, if only I had done it from the start...
      Never mind eh?


     Last bit for tonight, (I've started on the celebratory Jack Daniels, straight, the bottle's been in the freezer for 5 days so nicely chilled.) A mile is 5280 feet. Studying the information from my Garmin, during Saturdays race, I climbed a total of 5481 feet and descended 5,506 feet. More than a mile up and then down! So, officially, I can now proclaim the Parish walk is 87 miles 427 feet.
         Not that it makes any difference in the end.

    Night all!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

26th June 2011

         Good afternoon all!
                   Hope the good feelings from reaching your goals are balancing out the interminable aches and pains from a tough quick Parish.
         I'm busy at the moment, protein shakes for recovery and lots of lying down on the couch with my eyes in the general direction of the telly, answering the phone from wellwishers, sorting out photos and generally living the day again with Helen's boyfriend kevin who got round for the first time (and seems annoyingly fresher and in less pain than me this morning!)
        Just to say it was a very memorable day, one of my favourites, with everything going much pretty well to plan. feeding and watering was perfect, I planned for a 16 hour finish and got it comfortably so over an hour off the personal best, learned more lessons, things to do in training to get better next year.

he's a big old unit, I'm 6 feet and I'm on tippy toes!

      I'll be collating data from the day, sorting pictures, going over memories, and lots of other things, hopefully get a chance to thank everyone and hand out credits in the next post before the presentation, at the moment its all about quick recovery.
      Take it easy, I'll be back later.

Friday, 24 June 2011

24th June 2011.

      16:00 hours, 16 hours to go.

          The usual bedlam of the final day. I always plan to just sit around and relax, always end up running round like an idiot getting final things. making up food for myself and support crew, making plans, checking equipment, I'm lucky I'm not working like a lot of walkers will be who have to do it all tonight after a full day and a rush hour commute home. (Rush hour, a misnomer if ever there was one for the islands evening journey home. I see half a million people sitting in miles of solid traffic in Hull and see the delight that is quarterbridge where 5 minutes is a long wait.)
         Final preparations? Constant picking at liquid carbs, done a nice chicken stew with pasta, fresh vegetables, and noodles with extra bits thrown in. Two pans, one thick and lumpy for the support crew, one transferred to the blender then watered down until smooth and easily digestible. Drinking water and green tea with ginger. Not too much, just enough to keep things flushed through.
       Make sure all the gear is packed in their proper boxes, clothes, waterproofs, extras (headlights, batteries, flashing armbands other bits and pieces) all in their own boxes. Food in it's own box, water in the cooler, all sorted so I get the right ones at the right time.
       Some stretching this evening and also tomorrow morning, and all ready for a warm up in the morning. If you do start walking in the morning and feel twinges, aches and pains, don't worry initially, it's usually muscles and tendons warming up and sorting themselves out. 
       Toenails trimmed, all other bits and pieces checked and sorted.

      I've spoken to a few of the top walkers, they all seem quietly confident, and it has the makings of a fast race if all goes well. I'm not making any predictions, its a long long race and anything could happen, and I'm not normally one for predictions, which are more hopes than sensible forecasting.
     I should be making excuses about now for when I fail but I don't feel too bad. I could have changed a few things in preparation, but then again, I'm fitter than last year, the training has gone better and I have the experience of last years failures to go one better this year. If I don't improve on the day it'll be because I'm not going to improve. I'm only racing one person, that's me, any time improvement will be a bonus.

      Things to remember? Concentrate at all times, although it'll be easier to do in a race than when walking uphill in the Lakes on a training walk which tended often to see my mind wander and gradually slowing. Eat and drink at the right times, and in the correct proportions. Dehydration messed up last years race for me, remember, dehydrate and you're asking for blisters and muscle pain as well as reduced energy levels. don't overdose on isotonic drinks, take at least twice as much plain water as sports drinks, they are meant as one at a time exercise boosts or recovery drinks, not constant rehydration fluids. Don't think you can drink litres of water before the race to store up, you'll just end up wanting the toilet before Union Mills!
      Enjoy the race. Not much need for a reminder on that score. The whole atmosphere, and the way a large majority of the Islanders pull together to help out makes it memorable.

     Weather? It's pretty much settled on rain overnight and into the morning, dying out during the morning and dry and warm in the afternoon and overnight.

         With a bit of luck it'll be just light showers if anything at all by 8am, and if there are any more showers after the start they'll be welcome cooling showers, not drenching torrential stuff. It was a worry that if it was raining too hard at 8am, then it would have been like the formula 1 grand prix and we would have started behind a pace car for the first lap and finished in the order we started in! All those who did the native american anti rain dance, it seems to have worked.

The wind might be a factor, breezy from the south west during the morning, dying out for a while in the afternoon, before picking up again overnight.

       Nothing much else to say now, good luck to all those entering, hope you first timers enjoy it and achieve your targets. When those photo's start coming through on the website in the morning, we want to see smiles on faces! Anyone spectating, be sure to encourage the walkers along, it all helps and creates that unique atmosphere. Thanks in advance to anyone who puts out drinks and nibbles for the walkers, it's most welcome, as with the hoses on spray when it's hot, and the cuppa at Maughold I'll be looking forward to.

       Good Luck everyone, and I'll next be on here after the race with my own personal take on the day.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

23rd June 2011

          T minus 36 hours.

         ......and counting.

          Registered, met a few friends and old faces. It seems that everyone is feeling confident and looking forward to the race, and now it's a case of get the next 36 hours out of the way. Conversations seem to be along the same lines:-
     "Weather doesn't look too bad."
     "So what time are you hoping for?"
     "Are you going for a finish?"
     "What are you having for tea?"
     "And you?"

     And so on and so forth. Me, I had pasta.
     The weather? Much improvement.

          The Low pressure area is being pushed up to the north by the High pressure area over Europe. They were hedging their bets with the rain forecast, but it just goes to show, whether it's a look out of the window with a guess, or a state of the art experts on a billion pound windfarm project, a forecast is a forecast and it could change either way. So, possible light showers during the morning dying out and getting warmer during the afternoon, pushing 16 or 17 deg C. Still not the 24 deg we saw last year, although if the sun does break through it'll feel warmer. Final weather forecast tomorrow, but it's pretty much set now.

        Relaxing. Walk along Strand Street this afternoon. Lunch with Dad. (Pasta!) A trip to the library at the museum to confirm I am Olaf the Black's great great great (20 times) grandson, by his daughter Gunni. Confirm my manx and viking roots and all that, then try and get my island back! Or maybe some of his bling would be nice. If not, the lottery tomorrow would do.

        Another day sitting around doing nothing tomorrow, just getting all the gear ready in the right boxes for quick access. Watch a bit of telly, a walk down Peel seafront to stretch the legs (nothing too vigorous, don't want to ruin Dawne's handiwork on the massage table this morning.) and basically twiddle thumbs and wait.
        The newspapers are out tomorrow with their previews, bringing it all a little closer. Until then, nothing to do except wait.
       And wait.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

22nd June 2011

Good Afternoon.
          I'm writing this sat on the ferry about an hour after leaving Heysham, worrying that I've forgotten something important having resisted the urge to stop on the M6 and check the boot to make sure I'd remembered my trainers, gear, first aid kit etc. Things didn't work out yesterday and I didn't get finished on the inbound tanker until 5am, and when the alarm went off at 9.30, I didn't want to get up! Not good practice for the parish, good sleep is a vital part of recovery before the race, but there are a few more days to steady down, and in truth I've been doing so little the last three days that I haven't been tiring myself out.
         Travelling across brings it closer now, getting into the atmosphere of the island is the final preparation. I've got my massage tomorrow morning then out for a walk with Dad in the afternoon. Although he's 80, he's still sprightly enough to give me some exercise, although not fast enough for me to do any damage so just gentle blood circulation and keeping things ticking over.
         After the massage the toxins and muscle waste will be worked loose so drink lots of water to flush out the system. I've been off red meat for a few days now, it takes an age to break down in the digestive system and apart from solid fat is most likely to give you gippy tummy on the day, a healthy carb diet with a good supply of fibre to flush out the system, with the parish food on friday, little and often as on the day, to get the body used to the feeding regime it has to deal with. I'd check the weather forecast but as it's a fiver an hour to go wi-fi on here, I'll just wait until I get to Peel later on. I'm still hopeful it'll change on the day, although light rain wouldn't be too bad, and if it doesn't then I'm well prepared for a four hour drenching.
         As with probably everyone else who's getting ready to toe the line on saturday morning, at the moment, after three days of doing relatively little, I'm feeling bloated, and when I stand up I think I've forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other. Or is that just me? Really though, speaking to others getting ready, negative thoughts are normal, especially during this winding down preparation period. I've thrown away the scales, although trying to cut down on food, especially after eating over 3000 calories a day, is difficult. Doing at least a couple of hours tough training a day keeps the weight down so feeding correctly is vital for energy and recuperation, but at the moment its all about storing up on glycogen for the big day. Having fresh muscles and a full energy store will be beneficial on the day.
        Anyway, I feel like crap at the moment, 3 hours sleep and with all the panic and worry about whether I've forgotten anything, with 3 hours before docking in Douglas, I'll finish this later when I've had a chance to check the weather, time to stretch out and have forty winks.

          20:00. (about eight o clock in real money)

        Well, finally arrived okay. The atmosphere is building, and driving down Peel road past Marown got me smiling. It was surprising how many people were out walking, especially around the NSC and surrounding areas. I don't know if they were tempted like I was my first time to train every day up to the friday. One thing I've learned especially over the last year is a few days rest before a race is so much more beneficial than trying to pack in that extra mile right up to the end. It'll do more damage than good.

       Checked the weather, a little change.

          As you can see, the rain will be earlier and heavier. 12mm is half an inch to us oldies, but that'll be before 6am, with it tapering off up to 9am. This is because the Low pressure area is moving more quickly whilst intensifying, so passing over earlier with more intense rainfall. If this keeps up, it'll hopefully pass over during the night and make everything fresh, cool and moist enough to avoid dehydration. The 2mm during Sunday afternoon will be no problem, I'll be lying in front of the telly watching formula 1. The temperature will still be rising during the afternoon though, up to 18 deg C.
         So, in conclusion, starting in the rain and drying off before Santon? The other forecasts show pretty much the same, and I'll be checking tomorrow.

        An early night for me, got to get back into routine, early alarm tomorrow, one for my massage at 9.30, and to get sleep patterns back so I'm tired early on friday evening. I don't want a repeat of 2009 when next door put the dog in the garden which barked til 2am and I ended up sleeping in the bathtub which was the only place I could get away from the noise.
       Does anyone know whereabouts in Douglas I can get some industrial strength earplugs, just in case?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

21st June 2011

            Just a short one, I've been busy packing and checking gear all afternoon, I've got a ship shift at 8pm, then another sailing at 2am, so it's going to be a disrupted night.
         Weather? The forecast is changing significantly. The one they use for the windfarms has been changed in the last few hours, it's a particularly good one as they have to forecast when and where to send all the ships and as it costs many thousands of pounds a day to hire the ships, and they have to work in extreme tolerances when lifting and carrying 800 tonne sections, then there's not much room for error.
        The latest, from this afternoon, is much different to the last one from Sunday.
Wind is at sea level, possibly up to force 7 or gale force 8.

       As you can see, Saturday morning has been filled with south westerly winds and a considerable amount of rain, a quarter of an inch before noon, easing from early afternoon to become showery and much warmer, although at a maximum of 15 to 16 deg C at 3pm, then not as warm as last years 22 deg C most of us experienced. 
      This change in the forecast is because the high pressure area expected to give us the cool and dry weather predicted earlier has indicated it's moving off to the south letting wet and windy weather onto the Island, London and the south east is now expected to be cool and dry. Still, 4 days to go and things could still change. At the moment these forecasts are used up to 2 days in advance so fingers crossed. 
      If it does stay like this, rain and wind until noon, then drying off, warming up and staying better during the evening and night. Looking on the bright side, we're not going to get struck by lightning...

    ....although looking at this, I'd be careful if you're playing golf on high ground tomorrow!

       Hopefully this will change, you can be sure I'll keep an eye on it. If you're making final preparations though, an extra check on the wet gear wouldn't hurt.

Monday, 20 June 2011

20th June 2011

        I really hate sitting around doing nothing. It was a cracking day today in the lakes, days when the mountain tops are clear have been few and far between so far this year, and when |I popped in to the office this morning, the view across to the North was one of the best we've had in a long time. You could sense the lines of tourists making for the big ones in their flip flops and t-shirts with mobile phones speed dial set on mountain rescue.

       I nipped in to town in the car, walking in past lines of traffic is so much more stress relieving than sitting in the lines of traffic behind tractors, caravans and busses, but legs must be rested. last minute shopping, coconut water for hydration, batteries, more tupperware boxes for carrying stuff and keeping it sorted. Flasks, bottles, no doubt I'll forget something. I was at sea for twenty five years, and there wasn't a single time when I remembered to pack everything I wanted before flying out to join a ship. I'm off tomorrow, the tanker due in tomorrow afternoon has been delayed til 3am Wednesday so everything out tomorrow on counters, chairs, liing room floor, all in their separate sections, then into bags and boxes and into the car. I don't have to set off til 11am wednesday, it's only 40 minutes to Heysham. Luckily, as Helen is fairly athletic, anything I've forgotten she'll have something similar. Once I set off on the Ben My Chree, then it'll finally seem real.

      Pauline's geared up and ready and the thunder wagon is ready for it's long journey.Your support crew are your lifeline, vital to your efforts. They also need feeding and watering, and I can't imagine what it's like living in a car for twenty four hours, walking in the same gear's bad enough but at least you're out getting fresh air and moving around. Make them soup or sandwiches, and there are plenty of takeaways on the way round, as well as the villages who have barbecues fired up. The first time Pauline supported me I started to make provisions and asked everyone what she liked. "Vodka" was the reply. So, a non starter, I just try and get to Peel by lunchtime so she can stop for a snack, and Ramsey by late teatime for the chippy.
Pauline's safety bib. Nineteen voddies is her record for a session, and her real middle name by deed poll in Peel on a Saturday night.

         So, make sure you have everything in the car, especially in the middle of the night, asking your support crew to drive off to fetch something you've forgotten not only annoys them, it leaves you wandering in the dark alone and tired, not good. Keep them happy and they'll look after you. It helps if they are enthusiastic about the ordeal, after all it's as much an endurance for them as for you. A good support crew is worth it's weight in gold, giving you confidence and keeping you happy. She considers it a vital part of learning to chat with other support crews on the way round to pick up tips that we may have overlooked. a lot of my preparations and activities on the way round have come from Pauline nicking a good idea off someone else. Little things count, like the flask of tea she organizes at Maughold (some of the finest cuppas I've ever tasted) so that I have my traditional post race cuppa at the finish.

        One final thing, a Pauline moment of madness. In last Septembers End to End, Richard Gerrard and myself were making good time after Peel, although the sun had come out so she wet a Tea towel to put round my neck to keep cool. After fifteen minutes or so I would drop it by the side of the road where she would pick it up, wet it again, and catch up to pass it back. After it got blown into a bush where it tangled up, she said to throw it over my head. Which I did. Unfortunately it got caught in a low branch of an overhanging tree. It was only an old tea towel, and we had spares, so no problem. Only Pauline wasn't going to let it go. Flagging down a passing tractor, she climbed in the bucket and raised up to get the offending wet cloth! We maintained a speed of over 5mph for most of the race, but at that moment we stopped, looked back and said "What the ****?"

What's the safe working load for that thing, mate?

       Now, back to packing.

Remember, a good night's rest is better than a training session this close to the race.

Night Night!


Sunday, 19 June 2011

19th June 2011

          Good Afternoon and Happy Fathers Day!

         6 days to go, this time next week etc etc, this is probably the worst time for Parish Walkers. I was out for a gentle 3 mile stroll this morning along the canal bank to Morecambe Bay, slow and no strain at all on the muscles, keep the circulation going. A protein shake beforehand so the protein and amino acids circulate well and do their job. A good stretch beforhand and afterwards. No doubt like the rest of you I was running the race through my head, planning and trying to anticipate problems. I have to say that I normally worry about the race something dreadful, so much so that Helen ends up getting annoyed with me. This year though, quietly confident of improving.
         I must say that the Parish that everyone runs through their head in the week before the actual race is ten times more difficult than the real thing. The time sitting around just builds up all the hills, difficult stretches, distances, and all those niggly and anticipated problems you gradually try and talk your way into to such a point that you end up worrying over nothing. The real thing ends up being a better experience. Try and run the race through your mind in a positive light, worrying about anticipated problems is just inviting those problems to manifest themselves on the course.
        Think positive.

        I was going to enter the British Masters 5k in Horwich today, a nice little half hour race as a wind down 6 days before the big one, there were arguments for and against. I've not done a 5k, anticipated under 30 minutes, possibly close to 26 or 27, so would have been in contention, (Masters is over 40's I think, definitely has a high lower age limit, and Horwich is in lancashire, a 30 minute drive away.)  but in the end, if it was close, I wouldn't have been able to push and the last thing I need is a pull or strain 6 days before. I was going to send my entry form in and decide on the day but I dithered and missed the deadline day for entries, maybe subconsciously the right thing.

        Thinking tactics made me think back to the Centurion in August last year. I met Bernie on the start line, we had 5 minutes discussion before the off. It was only 5 weeks after last years Parish, and I was still troubled by my sore heel, the deep blister hadn't fully healed, my piriformis syndrome from limping the last 30 miles of the Parish which I thought at the time was a strained hamstring, and other niggles, left knee and groin, sore back, again from the limping. I didn't decide to do it until a couple of days before because I wasn't in a good state.

         We decided to set off at a slow pace and see how things went. For the first time I didn't go racing off with the leaders, we dropped to the back and watched the field, especially the Dutch team, race off into the distance. It was 54 laps of 1.82 miles, and after an hour we were lapped. I was a little worried, but my cousin was on the start line timing every lap, and as we needed to do 27 minutes for each lap to complete in the 24 hours, we were ok. We kept up a steady and consistent rhythm, all the way round we kept repeating, it's not the race, it's all about the number, completing the 100 miles in 24 hours for the precious Centurion number was more important than trying to gain places.
          A few hours in, it started raining, and after 2008 held little fear for us "Parish Veterans". It slowed others down though, and our steady pace, now fully warmed up and currently 24 minutes a lap, meant we started unlapping ourselves, slowly but surely. Into the night and on with our headlights, the park was dark and unlit for most of its distance, just the glow from the "camp" at the start finish, and it was surprising the number of walkers who didn't have headlights, one who passed looked at us and declared "Nightlights! That's a good idea!"
          Into the morning we hit low points. the race had started at 2pm on the Saturday so unlike the Parish it went on into mid afternoon. When I hit a low point bernie talked, and vice versa. Just keeping our spirits up. Passing halfway was a good point, it meant that there was less to do than we had done, which sounds obvious but mentally rewarding. The halfway point in the Parish is just after Ballaugh checkpoint at the gates of the old Ballaugh church, a right turn on the road. A couple of miles after this is Jurby at 45 miles which means well over halfway, just tell yourself you're on the homeward leg. It may seem a long way, and some say it's incredibly boring, but no big hills or climbs for 20 miles so a chance to rest, recuperate, and gear up for the Ramsey to Douglas portion and a finish. Think positive.
          Back in Cochester and 65 miles in my left ankle swelled up like a balloon so restricting walking a little, but we had kept on a steady pace and could maintain it. We were both flagging but come sunrise and our spirits lifted. We had got through the night and considered it the home leg.
        A massive blow was to come. On what we thought was our final lap we approached the start finish only to be told "2 laps to go!" Horrified, we plodded on angrily, the extra lap seemed to last forever. We assumed that when the generator keeping the start finish line lit up packed up for ten minutes during the night and left the area in darkness, we wandered through unseen and uncounted. So, the last lap was done on adreniline. Still unsure myself what happened, maybe we miscounted, I don't know, but we (eventually) finished with an hour and a few minutes to spare.

99.9 miles done, 100 feet to go. (or 102 miles done?)
       We got the impression that walking over the line together was frowned upon. It's a Parish stable, pairs coming in after walking together and receiving identical place positions and times. The cameraderie is positively encouraged, a positive side of the manx demeanour, warm and friendly, encouraging people working together. At the finish we were told we had to be separated so couldn't share the place, obvious really for the Centurion number, but it's immaterial in the results. So, they decided Bernie 7th and myself 8th. She got C1080, and C1081 for me.

C1080 and C1081, sitting in the sun after a walk in the park.

       Lessons learned? It's a long way, a very long way, and like the Parish, the temptation to set off at speed with the early leaders is tempting. I just wish I had known 5 weeks earlier when Micheal George race walked ahead and I tried to keep up with him.
       Start steady and build up. It can't be said often enough. And, if all you want to do is finish, walk with someone else. My final few hours with Micheal Bonney in 2008 went the same way, joint 45th, but we got through the dead of the night by walking and chatting. You support each other as you both have good patches and bad patches, getting through can be so much simpler than wandering alone with nothing but your negative thoughts. The Centurion? I wouldn't have done it alone, Having someone walking every step of the way with me stopped me from trying too hard at the beginning, kept me going through the bad times and gave me responsibilities when she was at a low point. It also gave me someone who had shared the experience, a friend for life, and a high point I'll treasure for the rest of my life.
       Warm down! Don't just stop and sit down after walking 85 miles, walk slowly up and down and gradually ease off. The above picture shows I walked over the line and collapsed on the grass, cold coke in hand. After 15 minutes I stood up, the blood drained from my head and I nearly collapsed. I could barely make it to the car. Warm down, a few shakes and stretches and drink.
        Enjoy your Parish, don't see it as a struggle, more an experience and opportunity to better yourself. If it's your first attempt, I envy you in a way as the first time is special. It's so much more than you can imagine, from the friendly competitiors, the encouragement of the spectators lining the route, the villages on the course who set up stalls and see it as a special celebration, and the smiles of encouragement from the marshalls who work the timing checkpoints, giving up their time so the race can take part in the first place. It's a wonderful event that gets bigger and bigger every year, and rightly so, second in size on the island only to the TT races, and something the island can be so very proud of.


Weather update, Saturday and Sunday. Light clouds, mainly sunny, clearing during the day, mainly northerly winds of 10 to 15mph, temperature between 10 and 14 deg C. Positive, updated during the week.

Friday, 17 June 2011

17th June 2011

    1 week to go.

         Easing down's boring, got out for a 30 minute cardio this morning after yesterdays rest day, I don't really like sitting around now, and like everyone else, wondering if the training has been done properly, or there has been enough. I've had a few emails and texts asking for last minute advice, not much I can add to what's been written already. I usually find that I go into the race wondering if I've got it right, the simple fact is, if you've done the training it'll pay off on the day. I find that easing off and not walking for the few days before the race make me eager to get out there, and the few days rest as well as the relaxing massage make it fresh come saturday morning. If you've been training regularly then it stops being a chore and more a challenge, and getting out on the day will show how you've come on.

       Now it's just down to the nitty gritty, checking equipment, gear, food, especially consumables and perishables. Making plans for before and after, making sure your support crew are ready and all back ups are in place. Trying to plan for every eventuality. Once you set off it's a point of no return and finding out that you've forgotten a vital piece of equipment, especially at 3am on Sunday morning halfway down the east coast with the finish in sight is something to avoid.

        Don't make too many plans for the sunday either, unless it's the same plans as myself, listed here:-

1. Lying on the settee, drinking tea and watching telly.

    er, that's it.

       No doubt after the stomach upset and most of the pain has subsided, I might make it to the Highwayman for a cold guinness, that'll be down to how I feel on the evening.

     The only difference between myself and most of the other entrants is that I've got to pack all my gear in the car and drive to Heysham on Wednesday, although it's only 30 minutes from here in Ulverston, once I'm on the ferry, if I've not got everything, then that's it. I do know there are a few more entrants from this side of the Irish sea this year making the trip. Logistically it's a lot more difficult, if I didn't have Helen on the Island, I wouldn't have tried it the first time. Race walking is not the most popular sport in the UK, but an event like the Parish supersedes simple race walking to become an ultra endurance event with nothing like it in the UK, there is lots of interest in it, and if it was on the mainland then it would be so much bigger.

     But then again, if it was on the mainland, it wouldn't be so special.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

15th June 2011

         Winding down now.

             A pretty tough day, nothing much to do so I went to the sports track for a final interval training session, putting some sprints and quick laps in. A normal walk wouldn't have been much help on the training I've already done, so some sprints to get some pain into the muscles ten days before the start can only be good, although I was very careful to try and avoid any kind of injury at all. Any twinge anywhere and I pulled up, stretched and continued. You get a little paranoid when the big day is approaching, especially when people announce they think they might be "coming down with something" Months of training being flushed down the pan because of a sniffle on the day must be frustrating to say the least. A friends masseur was at the track as well, so managed to get a quick work down on the legs, and got into the sauna/icy plunge pool a few times, so at the moment feeling very relaxed although rather weak. I just hope I'm okay to drive back to Ulverston tomorrow.

            So now's the time to start making up excuses, although feeling pretty good, the abductor in the left leg only twinges occasionally and only then when not warmed up properly. Pretty much the same with all niggly bits, get warmed up properly and should be okay. Thanks to the race walking I've been pounding out 20k's at  nearly 7mph without much comeback, so no excuse there. Equipment checks okay, the food and nutrition seems to work, although into the unknown second half of the race is always a lottery, but quietly confident. I failed miserably on that part last year and still did under 17 hours, so finishing apart, my goal of improving on last year should be achievable, and hopefully knocking on the 16 hr door.
        All in all, apart from any unforeseen circumstances (Pauline's thunder mobile is checked and passed ready to drive up the sloc this year) then I have no excuse for improving on last year, and as I've always stated, if I beat last years time I'll be here next year. I'm still possibly overweight for this type of event, my current fat weight is 1st 10lbs, down on the near 2st of last year, but still 10lbs over ideal weight, but that's been down to the type of training I've done. My coach says that I need a little fat to burn on the way round, but as a pound of fat contains 3500 calories and I'll only need less than 8000 with the nutrition taken on board, maybe a little overstocking. Whatever, if  I fail to improve, no excuses, it's been great, but time to slink off into retirement.

        I've read the rules about team entries and I think the relevant section is the  following;-

To enter your team, add your team name when entering or by updating your entry to include the team name. It is important that all four of your team enter by the closing date and have the team name (spelt the same in each case) on SPORTident's entry database.

       So, reading correctly, all four of us entered before the closing date, and the team name has been updated on SPORTidents entry database, so for the first time I'm in a team, it's just that it's not in the programme. Hopefully reports of the team doing well can spur me on, as well as all the other incentives I set up to keep me going.

       The frustrating period is coming now, you can guarantee I'll get days off when the sun's shining or friends are going up a mountain we haven't done yet, and I'll have to stay relatively immobile, doing a few stretches and checking and rechecking equipment. This time next week though, I'll be on the island looking up old friends so not long now.

      Also, I'm just starting to feel nerves creeping in. Hopefully this year will be the best, not just for me, but for everyone. At least ten people are capable of breaking the 16 hour mark, all being well, and there are always a few surprisingly good times from outside the favourites, so maybe a memorable Parish is in store. A lot depends on the weather, and reports are coming in already, although possibly warm and sunny with chances of clouds and rain don't help much. More by the weekend. 

   Time for rest now, resist the urge to get the trainers on and knock out a quick 10 miles.

Night Night.


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

14th June 2011

        Good Evening.

         Back in Hull for a couple of days, just winding down, making sure I have last minute items checked and packed. Just a little about winding down before the big day.

        There are controversial arguments building up about how long before the race you should finish training. The answer pretty much depends on the individual. (Sorry to go back to that old chestnut, it's just true for so many questions.
      The seasoned athlete will be doing some form of training every day, this not only increases fitness, but also makes the body able to make up and recover a lot quicker than someone who trains once or twice a week. So, if you went on a ten mile walk once a week, a five miler this weekend will suffice, seeing as you will be well recovered from the weeks rest you got every week between training walks. Train every day and you'll need to wind it down before the kick off.
       First, what are we recovering from?
       Exercise and training have certain effects on the body. Using up muscle glycogen stores, build up of waste such as blood clots and lactic acid and muscle fibre tears. Immediately after training you should be stretching and re-hydrating. It's the next day you'll probably feel the effects of heavy training with sore muscles. (Ooh, I could hardly walk next day, etc. We've all said it.) This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or  DOMS. This is caused by tears in the muscles at almost microscopic level, a necessary pain because these micro tears heal stronger than before increasing not only strength and endurance, but also improving recovery time. Recovery time is usually up to 72 hours, although if you've just trained for the first time this could take a maximum of 7 days.
        DOMS has an effect of losing bodily proteins and amino acids in the muscle tears which it needs to recover and heal. So, to assist muscle healing, large amounts of protein, a good protein shake immediately after your workout helps best.
         The muscle tears have the unfortunate effect of snagging waste products such as lactic acid and blood clots from the muscle damage. This can be alleviated quite easily. Firstly, plenty of water to flush out the muscles. The hydrated muscle mass heals much quicker and transports the proteins to the affected parts. Secondly, plenty of stretches. Stretching the main muscle masses can straighten the damaged and repairing fibres by allowing easier blood flow allowing oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
       Cold baths are recommended by sports experts. Apparently an ice bath contracts the blood vessels and pushes out the blood which also takes out the waste in the muscles. After 10 minutes, the muscles are numb and waxy which means almost a complete absence of blood. On getting out the empty blood vessels fill up with fresh new clean oxygenated blood. Simples. Tomorrow morning I'll be at my local baths for a sauna and dip in the plunge pool, which has pretty much the same effect. Three minutes heat which opens the blood vessels then a dip in the icy cold plunge pool to contract, rinse then repeat. It does work.
       Massage. Can help clean and stretch muscles and is one of the best things for recovery. Takes out kinks and knots in the muscles by stretching and elongating which allow easier blood flow.
       Eat properly. Eating a good healthy balanced diet will aid recovery much quicker.
       Rest. Very important, lots of rest, especially a good night sleep, and try and avoid stress.

       And now the bad one. Avoid alcohol. It dehydrates and destroys body nutrients.

       So, roughly, dependant on proper training all done, if you can, wind down 10 days or so before with shorter walks, plenty of water and protein. No speed work 7 days before, just gentle walks of a couple of miles to keeps the blood flowing yet not damaging muscles, and three to five days before, change from proteins to Carbs (pasta, chicken, bread and potatoes, nothing fried) To build up glycogen reserves for the big day.

      Good Luck

Monday, 13 June 2011

13th June 2011

        Good Evening.

        Just got back in from a quick 10 mile circuit over the hills. I walked to work and back, 10.3 miles each way with 3 hours at work in between. Not too quick, just trying to keep above 5mph just to put some miles on the feet. I got back by 2ish, had a doze on the settee in front of Top Gear, (good old "Dave") and woke to the sun shining through the skylight in my face. A quick green tea with ginger and couldn't resist getting the trainers on for a circuit. A beautiful evening, little cloud, a fresh warm breeze, the smell of fresh cut hay and wild garlic gently mingling with the overpowering stench of fresh slurry spread over the higher fields.
           Not just on the fields either. A new smooth section of tarmac has been laid between two villages on the higher hills, no stones or loose chippings. Ideal to take off the shoes and socks and do some barefoot running to toughen up the feet, something that I've been doing for a while now. Today though, the farmers slurry spreader seemed to be set on dribble as he travelled every inch of my route. He either got lost and didn't know that his machine was covering the road with cow muck, or he deliberately set it to leak and smiled as he imagined everyones car wheels chucking filth on the undersides, with runners and cyclists almost vomiting as they gasped for breath taking in a lungful of stench.

          Blister Prevention. It seems to be one of the biggest concerns to Parish walkers, understandable really as it's one thing common to all and something that can put an end to your race.
       Prevention takes a few forms. Firstly, I've noticed if you think your going to get blisters, they turn up. A sort of auto suggestion, although it's possibly walking in such a way that you're trying to prevent chaffing yet aggrevate the feet.
       Proper good fitting trainers. Not new, and not old and decrepit. It doesn't really matter what make and model, they don't have to be expensive, just nicely worn in, relatively tightly fitting with a little space around the toes. The feet do expand after a few hours with the accumulation of fluids and inflammation of the muscles so perhaps a stop at the bottom of the sloc to untie the laces and do them up again comfortably. I have elasticated laces to make this easy and they also expand with the feet. Adjusting your laces like this will also give you a chance to wipe the feet down and apply cream or gel.
      Some walkers apply tincture of benzoin on sensitive areas, it's used by the US army on blisters their foot soldiers get. Difficult to get hold of though.
      Keep the feet dry. Very important, wet feet rub easily against wet socks and blisters are almost certain. If it's going to rain, coat the feet in vaseline before putting on the socks, or a good medicated ice gel if you can get hold of it. Boots do a good foot cooling gel.

           Socks. Very important. Avoid nylon or acrylic or plastic or none at all. Breathable cotton, most sports shops have good running socks specially for distance runners, my choice is nike dri-fit, (see photo) shaped for left and right foot for extra snug fit, double thickness around the toe and heel, any movement inside the shoe will mean the inner layer stays with your foot, the outer layer with the shoe so avoiding rubbing. Breathable, sweat wicks out and stays out, and elasticated in the right places to fit snugly to the arch. With good well fitting shoes and good sports socks, blisters could be eradicated. Carry spare clean dry socks. Change them if you feel your feet getting uncomfortable.
         Other tips, walk properly landing on the heel and rolling through the toe. Try and avoid twisting the feet as you walk, and try to walk flat, don't walk on the outside or inside of the foot. Try to avoid landing too hard on the foot, don't bounce along, glide smoothly.
         If you get a stone in your shoe, stop and take it out. It sounds obvious, but in my first one in 2007 I got a stone lodged in next to my second toe which I ignored. It sent the toe black and the tip fell off three weeks later. I still have the mummified toe at home.
         Keep the feet well moisturised. Soft supple skin is less prone to blistering, the essential natural oils in the skin keep the outer layer of the skin supple and conforming to contours of the shoes. A good moisturising before bedtime every night can work wonders.
       Finally, and just as important, keep hydrated. When you de-hydrate, one of the first things to dry out is the skin as the body tries to keep fluid going to the brain and other vital organs. This causes skin turger loss, which is the ability for the skin to change shape and return to it's original shape. If this happens to the skin on the feet then blistering is almost inevitable. Last year I suffered a little dehydration and ended up with a blister on the right heel that meant I had to limp the last 30 miles as I tried to keep the pressure off my right heel.
      So keep hydrated, although don't overdo the sports drinks. 1 in 3 is more than enough, plenty of cold water is good. Sports drinks are for recovery after exercising and too many can cause edema, a build up of fluid in the hands and feet which can have a negative effect.

      I think that's all, although the obvious one is get plenty of miles in training to toughen up the feet, but as it's only 12 days to the race it's a little late for that.

      One other thing before Corry comes on. I asked a while ago if anyone wanted me to make up a team and fellow blogger Jonathan Wild asked me if I was interested in his team, the Callin Wild Clumpers. It was just after the closing date but I updated my entry on the SI entries website and it seems to have put me in the team as it's updated my entry. I'm not 100% sure of the rules though and as it's not in the programme I don't know if it's a valid entry for team competition. Is there a facility for changing team members who have to pull out through injury? Whatever, I'm still awaiting confirmation.

     Now, I'm off outside to clean the cows**t off my bestest shoes. Where's the wife's toothbrush?

Night all!


Sunday, 12 June 2011

12th June 2011

First Aid Kit.

       Right, most of you will have some sort of rudimentary first aid kit, some of you will be first aided up to the eyeballs. I've got this which I've added to over the years, and it travels with me everywhere when I race. There is nothing more annoying than needing something in the middle of the night and finding you've forgotten to pack it, or maybe didn't consider it at all. I'll list all I have here and anyone wishing to make the full 85 miles can checklist off what they might need. Also, if there is something obvious I've forgotten, let me know. Please!

1. A good box. Got to carry it all in something, a clear tupperware box lets you see in in case of urgency.
2. Baby wipes. A good, anti bacterial wipe in case of rash, sweat, over use of various creams (wipe them off and start again) and great for getting rid of sticky hands and face.
3. Kitchen roll. Dry wipes and good for applying tcp or savlon. Clean and dry for application, better than that shammy you have in the car for cleaning squashed flies that clog up the windscreen.
4. Pain Relief. I use Ibuprofen and Co-codamol. Ibuprofen eases pain by reducing swelling. Co-codamol is a mix of codeine and paracetamol, so altogether attacking pain from three angles while not overdosing on any. The problem with pain killers is that the body has to clear them out of the system so use sparingly. Also, if in any doubt, ask your doctor or chemist which is best for you.
5. Plasters and tape. Blister plasters, I think we all know Compeed are the best for blisters. A roll of sticky plaster for emergencies, and ordinary plasters for any other cuts. I don't know, you could brush against a rose thorn, or maybe trip up and fall over. It's for emergencies. Better to have it and not want it than want it and not have it.
6. Savlon cream. This is good for when you start chaffing. Apply liberally for immediate relief.
7. TCP. Liquid antiseptic. Does exactly what it says on the bottle. For cuts and grazes and a good mouthwash, although don't swallow!
8. Foot cooling gel. You can get this from boots, and I shouldn't have to tell you what it does...
9. Foot cooling spray. This stuff is good for hot feet, a quick stop and spray on the soles is refreshing.
10. Chafe ease, body glide and vaseline. All used pre race to prevent chaffing, apply liberally before starting. It's better to feel greasy and icky than painful. If it's going to be wet all day, a good coating of vaseline on the feet keeps them relatively dry and help prevent wet shoe blisters.
11. Ibugel forte 10%, Deep heat. Ibuprofen gel is anti swelling for muscle pain, Deep heat is similar but warms muscles up so opening blood vessels for quicker healing. Both for sore muscles.
12. Ice Gel. Analgesic ice gel for muscular or foot pain, Cool muscles instead of heating them up, analgesic for pain relief.
13. Morgan Blue ice. Foot cooling application for pre race to keep feet cool.
14. Compression bandage. A couple of quid from Tesco, support for sore muscles. Just slip on for compression.
15. Pressure pads and callus relief pads for feet. You don't know what will happen to your feet so nice to have. Slip them into your trainers for support and cushioning.
16. Vapour rub. Some on your chest for help breathing. Footballers use it all the time, although they overdo it a bit and end up looking like they've sneezed on their chest.
17. Lip Balm, medicated if possible because your lips will dry. Vanilla flavour is nice. I believe Katy Perry likes cherry flavour...
18. Orajel. Or anything for inner mouth pain. Your mouth will dry and become susceptible to infection.
19. Gaviscon. Setlers. To settle the stomach.
20. Trapped wind or gas remedies. Sodium bicarbonate tablets or similar. If you take these, warn the person walking behind you...
21 Sun cream. Banana boat do a great sport sun cream, factor 50, 3 way protection and will not come of when you start sweating. It's surprisingly easy to burn while walking, even under thin cloud, which raises body temperature and tires you out quicker. A good sun cream keeps you a little cooler. Sports sun creams are specially made for athletes and last longer in extreme circumstances.
22. Scissors. For cutting off sticky plaster roll, lengths of compression bandage, annoying gangrenous toes, etc.
23. Tweezers, always good in a first aid kit.
24. Insect repellant. A good fly swatter? Can be incorporated in the sun cream.
25. Lucky four leaf clover. My daughter Nicola found this a week before the 2007 race and it's stayed in my first aid kit in its many incarnations ever since (biscuit tin, canvas bag etc.)

Stowage is important. Things that you hopefully won't need (balms, muscle rubs, insect repellant etc)  on the bottom, definite items (savlon, blister plasters and anti chafe etc.) on the top. Makes sense, but easy to just forget and chuck it all in. Wet wipes and kitchen roll live on the dashboard and can be thrown to you while the car is in motion. If possible the first aid kit should stay handy rather than getting slowly buried in the boot under used clothes and food wrappers.

         If I've forgotten anything, I'll add them on.

          Hopefully the first aid kit will stay in the car un-needed, but it's good to know it's there.