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 Blogger.com 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.