Sunday, 23 June 2013

An honourable 'Bust'

Good afternoon. Here's my mileage from yesterday (including a short warm-up walk down to the start).

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals) 
Since last post (21 Jun 2013)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

And here are my official race stats:

But, of course, the stats only tell part of the story, so here's as full an account as I can muster of my experience of the race.

My Parish Walk

At the start we were near the back, but had made our way up to the middle of the field by Santon, finding a position that matched our pace. After a short toilet break at Santon and time for Mrs W to Compeed a blister we forged on to Arbory. Unfortunately, Mrs W's blister popped shortly after Arbory, and she decided to call it a day at Rushen. She was very happy with the result: she'd reached her primary goal in a decent time.

Mrs W and I getting ready for the start
I was starting to feel an impending blister on my left heel, so I patched it with a Compeed at Rushen before heading on up the Sloc. The first steep section was a little challenging, but after that it was a fairly comfortable climb. I spent a few miles on the way up chatting with some fellow 'overseas participants': they'd both been over to the Island several times for the Parish Walk. Coincidentally, it turned out that they were in-laws of Murray Lambden.

Once I reached the plateau, I returned to my 4 mph pace, as I'd slowed a bit during the climb. After grabbing some refreshments from my supporters at Round Table I started the long drop down into Peel. I struggled a bit during the early miles, after finding myself out on my own between two groups: quicker than one group but not quite quick enough to make much headway on the other. Eventually I did catch them on the way into Dalby, but was re-passed when I stopped to tend to an emerging blister on the ball of my right foot. I caught up again and it was then to-and-fro with that group until Patrick.

I got renewed energy between Patrick and Peel, especially on the final stretch into the checkpoint at Peel: I passed about a dozen people between the turn into Market Street and the checkpoint. Having reached my primary goal I decided to continue, although I was very conscious that my feet were starting to struggle with the distance and that any hope of reaching Douglas Promenade was gone.

Arriving at Peel

I changed my shoes and socks outside the chippy on the corner of Church Street; it helped a little, but the climb out of Peel was a struggle, and it was clear that I was falling off the pace and back through the field. My legs actually felt fine, but I was having to walk a little more gingerly to accommodate my feet.

Looking strong, but feeling the blisters on the way out of Peel

At some stage I thought that my feet might take me as far as Jurby, but unfortunately this was rather optimistic. By the time Murray Lambden's in-laws caught up to me again a few miles from Kirk Michael it was clear that I was struggling, and would have to finish my race there. As a first-timer, I was happy to have made it to Peel in a decent time and to have gone on at least a short way beyond Peel. The weather, which had been unexpectedly kind during the day, was starting to worsen, and the heavens really opened as we made our way back to the car, so it seems like I chose a good time to stop.

On the way in to Kirk Michael with Murray Lambden's in-laws, Alan and David

A dramatic postlude

After I finished at Kirk Michael we continued round the course to see how the rest of the field was doing. It was truly humbling to see just how far ahead of me some walkers were. We stopped at Bride to cheer my cousin's husband, Ed Walter, through the checkpoint. While we were waiting, I got out of the car to chat with my other cousin and his wife. Aside from rather tender feet and a natural amount of tiredness I felt fine, otherwise I would have stayed in the car. However, I was suddenly aware of my vision rapidly receding and the next thing I knew I was on the ground with a lot of concerned faces around me: I had blanked out for a few seconds before coming round.

I was up again and sitting in the car within a minute, with nothing but a bit of grazing on my leg where I fell. As we headed homewards I felt fine again, but Mrs W and my parents were understandably concerned and wanted me to get checked out. The decision was made when I blanked out again for a few seconds in the car as we went round the mountain, so we set course for Noble's A&E. After various tests the verdict was exhaustion and slight dehydration: I thought I'd been drinking (and eating) quite a lot on my way round the course, but evidently not enough. I was also surprised to end up looking like a lobster: based on the weather forecast I had anticipated that it would be mostly overcast, and hadn't expected sunburn would be an issue, so I hadn't greased myself up before the race, and didn't think to do it at any of the stops once it was clear that the weather was turning out better than expected.

Today, my legs are a bit stiff, my feet are a bit tender, and my skin is glowing, but otherwise I'm unscathed. Lessons learned:

  • Take on food and fluid at every opportunity;
  • Don't underestimate the power of the sun;
  • Effective foot management is key to achieving significant distances.

Thanks and congratulations

Overall, it was a great event to be part of. I'd like to extend my thanks to all the sponsored and impromptu refreshment stands, to those around the course applauding and offering shouts of encouragement, and to the fellow walkers who chatted to me on my travels: you spurred me on. Also, to the race officials, who give so generously of their time to make the Parish Walk possible.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank my support team for their help and to apologise for giving them rather a nasty fright at Bride, and to the fan club at Rushen who gave me a great boost. I'd also like to thank the staff at Nobles A&E for their kindness despite my self-inflicted condition.

Congratulations to all participants: I hope you reached or exceeded your goals.

Some particular honourable mentions:

  • Regular contributor Michael George for a well-deserved win!
  • Cousin-in-law and contributor Ed Walter for a Top 100 finish and a personal best time
  • Regular contributor James Bassett, who made it to Maughold in just over 16 hours.
  • Fellow blogger Paul Callow for a great performance.
  • Team Cooil Ny Rhunnings for getting to Peel in a bobsleigh

Cooil Ny Rhunnings at the start
  • Family friend Terry Qualtrough for winning 'Best Dressed Male' and making it to Peel
Terry Qualtrough at the start

It only remains for me to say thanks for reading one last time. Writing the blog has been a great motivator for me during my training, and I've received a lot of great advice and encouragement from the contributors.

See you on the start line for Parish Walk 2014?

Friday, 21 June 2013

A midsummer night's dream?

Good evening! And it's...

... the final countdown! Just twelve hours until the start.

For the sake of consistency, here are my stats since last time:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals) 
Since last post (15 Jun 2013)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

Here's hoping that I'll have bigger numbers to report in my next and final post!

We arrived on the Island yesterday evening, and have spent today enjoying the sunshine and stocking up on food, drink and medical supplies. Boots in Strand Street had a special display of items for Parish Walkers: blister pads, plasters, anti-inflammatory gels, painkillers etc. We'll need to watch the dosages  or risk violating the 'lifting' rule by floating round the course!

We walked down to the NSC earlier this evening and there was a steady stream of people arriving to register. Having the tag on your wrist definitely makes it feel more real and imminent! I also had to notify a non-starter: unfortunately my dad won't be walking with us, as he's damaged his achilles. He and my mum will support us during the day and, if I'm still on my feet, my brother and his girlfriend will be supporting during the later stages. Thanks in advance to them, and to all the volunteers who make the event possible.

For now, all is calm: no more training to be done nor preparations to be made. My only task for this evening is to keep the nerves under control and try and get a good night's sleep.

Thanks for reading and good luck to everyone taking part tomorrow. Give me a shout if you see me out on the course: I'll be wearing race number 494.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The end is nigh!

Good afternoon! It's been nearly two weeks since my last post, so bear that in mind when looking at the miles I've clocked:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals) 
Since last post (4 Jun 2013)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

I've cut right back on my distances: mostly just a mile or two to/from work. The temperatures have picked up a bit, so an equivalent distance at an equivalent pace does leave me feeling more drained than it did during the cooler spring days.

Looking at the long-range weather forecasts for the Isle of Man next weekend I don't think heat will be a problem; in fact, it looks fairly promising at the moment:

Long-range forecast for the Isle of Man next weekend (from
If the forecast holds true then I'd settle for that: fairly windy, but dry and not too hot or cold. Fingers crossed...

The flurry of activity on the Parish Walk Facebook page has alerted me to a lot of good new information posted on the website. It's weird to see our names up there in the programme for the first time: I've got race number 494 and Mrs W has the rather more memorable 999.

At this stage I'm doing final equipment checks and planning for the day, including a bulk order of Jelly Babies: my food of choice should I continue after the food stations run out. I worked out (using the calculator here) that I'm likely to burn around 9500 kcals over full race distance: that is equivalent (based on info here) to nearly 3kgs of Jelly Babies!

As a first timer I'm not sure how far I'll get: Peel would be my primary goal, but if I'm feeling fine at that point I'll certainly press on, and I'm prepared with everything I'd need to finish. A quick analysis of Murray's stats on entrants this year with prior finishes would suggest that debut finishes are fairly rare:
  • 22% finished on their debut
  • 56% finished within two years of their debut
In terms of my training I think I've put in a decent number of miles in preparation, although my general fitness is still a little lower than I'd hoped and my weight a little higher: evidently I started carb loading about six months too soon for the race! :)

Last questions

As the big day approaches I'm left with a few niggling doubts regarding my race strategy. I'd be interested in your views.

  1. To tape or not to tape? I get a sense that opinions are pretty divided on this, but what are your experiences of taping your feet from the start to prevent blisters? My inclination is not to tape them, as my feet have hardened through training and I haven't suffered from blisters lately. However, I'm concerned that I'm potentially going to be putting much more miles into my feet this time to the extent that blisters may be inevitable without drastic countermeasures.
  2. Positioning at the start? When I was over for the Parish in 2011 supporting my dad and brother they started right near the back of the field and seemed to put quite a bit of energy in the early miles weaving their way up. If you're planning to continue beyond Peel is it worth lining up early behind the seeds to get out ahead of the pack? It goes without saying that it would be important not to be driven to an unsustainable pace in any case.

Thanks for reading! I'm hoping to make one or two posts when I'm back on the Island before race day.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Good evening. As it's TT Week I feel like I should have had the scoreboard painted by a scout, but here it is anyway in its usual digital glory:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (28 May 2013)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

You may have seen in the news that it's been a bit damp in Prague this week. As dedicated as I am to my training I draw the line at walking through torrential rain and wading through flood water, so my totals are pretty meagre. Let's call it 'tapering' :)

River flow rate near Prague in the last few days (source here)
[Hint: above red line is bad; above purple line is very very bad]

River water level near Prague in the last few days (source here)

The first I knew about it was on Sunday afternoon when I was notified that our office's emergency plan had been activated. We're close to the river, and the basement and lower ground levels of our building were flooded during the catastrophic floods of 2002. My team sits on the upper ground level, so rather than taking any chances I spent Sunday afternoon shifting the important stuff to a storage area on the fourth floor. Fortunately the water didn't reach 2002 levels and is now dropping again, although it'll be a while before the full extent of the damage is apparent. Prague seems to have got off fairly lightly; other towns, such as Passau in Germany, have been much more severely affected.

The rain abated yesterday evening, so I spent a couple of hours after work walking along the river from our office to see what I could see. As is evident from the first photo, quite a few others had the same idea.

Roads closed to traffic, flood barriers erected by the river near Charles Bridge

Fancy a beer? Submerged parasols at a 'riverside' cafe

Flood barrier just about protecting the tow path at one of the many inundated locks on the river
(when I checked again this morning the water was spilling over the top of this barrier)

The weather looks like being a bit unsettled well into next week, but I should be able to get out often enough to keep myself in condition. At this late stage I'm not planning any further long training walks.

Thanks for reading and have a good TT Week! It looks like yoú've got decent weather for it!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A confession

Good evening. Here is the information you have been craving:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (20 May 2013)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

The energy figures might be a bit off again, because I didn't have the heart monitor for a couple of the walks. I also filled in the blanks for some longer walks that I made without GPS.
Now for the confession. Last week I said
"We arrive back yesterday from a weekend trip to Hungary..."
Not strictly true... in fact I was writing from Lake Bled in Slovenia. We conspired with my mum to surprise my dad by showing up in Venice while they were there on a sixtieth birthday trip that my brother had organised for him. We stopped off in Slovenia for a few days on the way, which was intended to serve as 'Parish Walk Training Camp'. If my dad had known we were in Slovenia last week, he might have put two and two together and work out that we would show up in Venice. Apologies to any readers who are offended by my subterfuge: it was with the purest intentions, and my dad was duly surprised!

Bled was beautiful: a bit cold with showers at times, but generally the weather was kind to us. A slight fly in the training ointment was that Mrs W strained her back the day after we arrived. She graciously sat on the sidelines while I completed a longer 20 mile walk (five laps of the lake) on Wednesday; our walks together last week were understandably rather more sedate, although she's much improved now. Here's a photo from the castle which overlooks the lake, where we admired the views and sampled some of the delicious local speciality, Rezina cream cake (and not for the only time!).

View of Lake Bled from Bled Castle, Slovenia
Not great in terms of pace or distance, but the walking highlight of our time in Slovenia was the nearby Vintgar Gorge, which we found by happy accident one evening. At the bottom of the gorge was the magnificent waterfall pictured below.

Waterfall at the bottom of the Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia
To complete the travelogue, we proceeded via a stop at the impressive Postojna Caves (near the Slovene/Italian border) to Venice for a couple of days. We avoided the vaporetti that ply the canals, preferring to get in some more miles walking through the labyrinthine streets and the magnificent St Mark's Square.

Piazza San Marco, Venice
As in Slovenia, we had some sunshine in Venice, but also some sharp showers. In particular, we got soaked to the skin trying to find our hotel on our last night in the city: if it's like that on Parish day I won't last long!

Socks: the verdict

As mentioned last week, I've been road-testing a few sock types ahead of race day. All of them performed pretty well, but my choices for Parish Walk day are:

  • Hilly Mono Skin Anklets
  • 1000 Mile Fusions
I'm going to order one more pair of each so I can make up to three sock changes during the day if needed.

And finally...

... now's the time to start assembling equipment if you haven't done so already. Besides the obvious clothing and shoes, don't forget some of the more obscure items that you may not be using day-to-day but that are required/recommended for the race. The tips list on the Parish Walk website covers many items. Following advice from an earlier blog I've ordered a decent high-vis vest, and I'm going to ask my brother (who hasn't entered this year) if he'll lend me his lights in case I'm still on my feet by the time darkness descends.

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Best foot forward

Good evening. The stats are a bit off this week, but here they are anyway.

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (8 May 2013)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

I've covered a bit more distance in a bit less time, expending a bit more energy because:

  1. I did a few completely unmeasured walks;
  2. I did a few walks without the heart monitor (for which energy wasn't calculated); and
  3. I did a couple of measured walks where I forgot to stop my watch until a while after stopping.

It's symptomatic of my training of late, which has been all over the place. We arrived back yesterday from a weekend trip to Hungary to attend a friends' wedding. It was in a small town called Tata; quite a picturesque spot, but unfortunately my photos don't do it justice, so here's one I found later.

Tata Castle. Photo by Barry Dinning from Wikimedia
Under any other circumstances it would have been a good opportunity for a walk: nice weather, staying in a hotel right next to a large(ish) lake with quiet pathways all the way round. However, my resolution to get up early on Sunday to do a circuit before the wedding brunch and before heading home was unfulfilled. After eventually getting to bed at 4am I was deaf to the alarm at 7am and it was 10am before we surfaced. I'm hoping that this week is going to be more productive.

Tried and tested

I've recently ordered and received several new pairs of socks: Hilly Mono Skin Anklets, 1000 Mile Fusions, and 1000 Mile 1187 Tactel Anklets. I'm relatively happy with my existing Hilly Dual Skins, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to try out a few others ahead of race day. So far, I'd say the Hilly Monos are my favourites of the three new varieties, but I haven't really tested any of them over longer distances yet.

And finally...

... congratulations to my dad for completing his Parish Walk 'fitness test' last week: an impromptu charity walk from Douglas to Peel and back. He's definitely going to give me a run for my money... which is now a smaller amount after sponsoring him :)

Wednesday at 8am will be exactly a month until the 2013 Parish Walk. Don't forget that you should start to taper off your training in the next few weeks so that you're fresh for the race. If you're planning to put in any longer training walks get them in now!

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A River Runs Through It

Good afternoon (now that's a twist!). First, 'Scores on the Doors':

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (1 May 2013)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

As noted last time, my workday walks have been few and far between again. The bulk of my thirty miles this week comprises two walks: 10 miles on Saturday and 20 miles today.

Like 1 May, 8 May is also a public holiday in the Czech Republic. Unlike the Isle of Man, most of the public holidays here are on fixed dates; the exception is Easter (we get the Monday but not the Friday). The big downside of fixed dates is that you get nowt if they fall on a weekend: this year we lose 3 out of 12 public holidays, but 2011 was a particularly lean year. The bad news for Mrs W is that she works for a company that operates a schedule which includes public holidays, and she was 'it' for today.

There's something strange good in your neighbourhood

I'd certainly echo Paul Callow's observation in his latest post that you see a lot when walking that you miss when driving through. I've also found that I've seen a lot more of the city and its surroundings than I had in the previous six years because I'm covering ground that I wouldn't normally cover in my day-to-day activities. It's been the biggest unanticipated positive side effect of training for the Parish Walk.

On Saturday a random turn down an otherwise unremarkable side street led to a beautiful house and botanical gardens belonging to a horticultural college. For some inexplicable reason I didn't think to take any pictures, but you can get an idea from their photo gallery here. It's apparently open free to the public on weekdays, so I'll have to head over and have a wander in my lunch break one day.

'Epic Walk' Mark II

Today, I followed the Vltava river downstream past the zoo and out of the city to the north. Like my previous long excursion out of the city my route was mostly off the roads and on well-maintained tarmac cycle paths. Here's a photo I snapped at one of the many bends in the river. It was like a mill pond, so I got nice clear reflections in the water.

Cycle path by the Vltava river, a few miles north of Prague
About 25% of my route was on narrower gravel or dirt trails, which slowed my pace a little... especially when it got very narrow and I was stepping off the track every few minutes to let cyclists through. My courtesy backfired at one point, as I stepped into one of the many patch of stinging nettles lining the route: a few minutes of discomfort but no lasting damage :)

I had hoped to get to the town of Mělník, which would have seen me push through the 30 mile barrier, but instead I called it a day and took the train back from the town of Kralupy nad Vltavou, as the storm clouds were building and I didn't fancy the dampening of my kit and my spirits that would ensue if the heavens opened. My feet held up well; I had learned the lesson from my last longer walk and came  prepared with blister pads this time, one of which I applied to my right heel at a refreshment stop about half way, as it was feeling a little bit tender. Prevention is definitely better than cure!

The only minor crisis today was the knackering of my iPod: about half an hour in the earphones started flickering from one ear to the other before cutting out entirely and no amount of wiggling the cable could fix it.  I found that podcasts really helped to pass the time on my last longer walk, and rather missed them this time around. I'll see if I can find some Apple branded (read 'horrendously overpriced') over-ear headphones that fit a bit better in the headphone jack than the generic ones I purchased recently. I'd certainly advise anyone against using in-ear headphones on the Parish Walk, as you could get penalised or disqualified if you're not able to hear what's going on around you.

In the absence of podcasts, I kept myself amused by playing 'Vltava' from Smetana's 'Má vlast' ('My Country') in my head. It contains a very familiar tune that's closely associated with the river and with Prague itself: they play it on all Czech Airlines flights arriving into the city. If you've only got a few minutes play from 8m25s to 9m15s: it's the bit that represents the triumphant arrival of the river into Prague after its journey through the Bohemian countryside. I think I must be 'going native': I get a bit of a lump in my throat at that part. Another one for my Parish Walk playlist...

And finally...

... if you've been holding off until now don't forget that Parish Walk entries close this Sunday (12 May). I found the entry process to be very quick but, as tempting as it might be to try for the auspicious position of 'Last Entrant', don't leave it until the very last minute in case of technical difficulties.

Thanks for reading and have a good week!