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.



20;00.

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.

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