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)
39.7
10:37
7359
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
549.9
161:34
90501

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)
3.9
1:32
3145
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
510.2
150:57
83142

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)
21.5
7:20
3145
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
506.3
149:25
79997

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 wunderground.com)
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

Floodpocalypse!

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)
12.0
5:41
1392
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
484.8
142:05
76852

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)
39.1
12:56
3134
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
472.8
136:24
75460

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)
28.3
9:26
2787
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
433.7
124:28
72326

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)
30.8
8:26
4688
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
405.4
115:02
69539

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!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Back to nature

Good evening (albeit a few evenings later than usual - sorry about that!):

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (22 Apr 2013)
20.2
6:49
3207
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
374.6
106:36
64851

Nothing remarkable since last time in terms of distance or pace. However, I did get in a couple of short but fairly challenging walks.

At the weekend we headed out to the Divoká Šárka nature reserve. If you've ever visited Prague you're sure to have passed it: it runs alongside the main road into the city from the airport. From the road we dropped quickly down into the gorge which runs through the centre of the reserve before climbing through an orchard to a rocky outlook. Our route continued down through woodland to join the gorge further downstream and we made a steady ascent from there back to the car.

Blossom on trees in Divoká Šárka nature reserve
Today is a public holiday in the Czech Republic, and the third anniversary of our engagement. We made our annual trip back to Mariina Vyhlídka where I popped the question. It's a lookout point in the national park known as 'Czech Switzerland'. The walk up from the village below isn't that long (less than a mile) but pretty steep. From there we wound our way through the forest to a few other viewpoints in the area before making our way back down into the valley. It was rather hazy and a little chilly compared to 1 May 2010, but still an incredibly photogenic location.

Mariina Vyhlídka (centre) snapped from one of the other viewpoints in the area

The ruin of a good walk

While it has often been said that golf is the ruin of a good walk, for me it's rather been work-related shenanigans getting in the way a bit since last time. In the last two weeks I will have managed to keep to my daily walking schedule for only three-and-a-half out of nine working days: not good!

There's not much I can do about disruptions to the weekday schedule, but they make it all the more important for me to get out and put in a good walk or two this weekend.

And finally...

... you may have noticed that the training page on the Parish Walk website has been updated with a general tips sheet and a six week plan for novices by Elizabeth Corran (plus a link to the previously mentioned video of this year's 'Walk Talk'). Well worth a look.

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Summertime and the livin' is easy

Good evening from Budapest at the end of a fairly light week:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (15 Apr 2013)
23.2
6:22
3501
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)
354.4
99:47
61644

Recuperation from the knee pain caused by last weekend's long excursion lasted until Wednesday, and I missed a couple of planned sessions thereafter due to work-related activities. I've also been breaking in my new 'clone shoes' which arrived in the post on Thursday, so I've been keeping my walks fairly short.

Today has been by far my best of the week in terms of distance. My hotel is close to our office, so I was able to walk the 2 miles each way. This evening I walked a 6 mile circuit around Margaret Island: a largely carless haven in the middle of the Danube, criss-crossed by lots of decent paths. It's a popular spot for runners: there was still a steady stream crossing the bridge to the Island even as I was heading back to the hotel at about 9pm.

Apparently 'the powers that be' have decided to cancel spring this year; in the course of a little more than a week the weather has shifted from unseasonably cold to unseasonably warm. If only it stayed like this and didn't get any hotter I'd be very happy: for me, 20C is just about perfect for walking. Being able to get out in light gear really makes a difference.

The kitting out continues

Aside from the arrival of my shoes, I've also been looking at other aspects of my kit this week.

I didn't have much luck with socks: most of what I found on offer in Prague was overpriced and underwhelming. The outdoor shops were mainly offering really thick hiking socks and the general sports shops were stocking 'big name' sports brands, where you're paying more for the name than for the quality. I opted to try a pair of Thurlo socks, which looked a little more promising. Not bad, but the dual layer Hillys I got back in December are still the winners so far. I might refer to my old friend The Internet to see if I can find a supplier that stocks Hilly's and is willing to ship them so I can try out a few of their other styles ; especially the Monos that Michael George recommend in response to an earlier post.

I had a rather better find for shirts and shorts. With the arrival of warmer weather I've been on the lookout for something lightweight. After a while browsing I settled on some Columbia stuff. I've yet to see how they'll perform on longer walks, but so far so good: they're incredibly comfortable.

And finally...

... well done to everyone who completed the Sara Killey Memorial Walk last weekend, and congratulations to Michael George for another great win!

Congratulations also to all the Manxies who took part in the London Marathon, especially to my cousin, Paul Sykes, who not only finished in 3h14m but managed to get a photo with last years' winner and the reigning majors champion. Nicely done! :)

Paul Sykes with 2012 winner Wilson Kipsang and World Majors Marathon Champion Geoffrey Mutai.
Posted by Murray Lambden at manxatheltics.com

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Failing to prepare...

Evening all! The modest increase in distance this week belies a fairly substantial achievement:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (8 Apr 2013) 35.1 10:15 5467
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 331.2 93:25 58143

My shorter walks were sporadic this week due to work-related distractions, but I managed to cover 26.5 miles during a single walk on Saturday: over 60% further than my previous longest training walk and slightly more than marathon distance. Here's the trace of my route from the city centre out to the tourist town of Karlstejn, from where I caught a train home.

Yellow line is my route, blue outline is city limit, green outline is district boundary
I followed the river down and out of the city to the south-west where I joined a network of cycle paths, which made for a rather pleasant journey mostly away from the main roads. However, the day was not without incident.

About 20 miles into the trip the balls of my feet started to burn and, in an example of excellent preparation, I had neither a change of socks nor blister pads with me. Not to be deterred, I hobbled on. Clearly the hobbling did nothing for good walking form and, about a mile from the railway station, my right knee seized up too! My problems over the last 5 miles brought my average pace down from nearly 4 mph to an overall average of just over 3.5 mph.

What have I learned?

  • It's difficult to predict how your equipment will perform or how your body will react over longer distances until you try it. Don't leave it until the Parish Walk to find out. I'll definitely be attempting a few more walks of the same length between now and early June (but probably no longer than that).
  • Being prepared is critical: I should have anticipated the possibility of blisters forming and brought some supplies with me that could have helped better control the situation: I had plenty of spare socks and Compeed plasters, but they weren't much use to me sitting in a drawer at home.

My feet were actually fine on Sunday, but my knee was still very painful. I kept it rested on Saturday evening and all day on Sunday, applying the recommended RICE principles (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Thankfully it was much improved by this morning, and loosened up further during the day. I'm hoping to get back out for some short, gentle walks by midweek, but for a while I was pretty worried that I might have done myself some Parish-threatening damage.

Walk Talk 2013

I saw that Murray has posted some edited highlights of the Walk Talk on YouTube here. It includes a lot of good advice and interesting insights from some very experienced walkers and coaches, so it's well worth checking out.

Were you at the Walk Talk? What were the main points that you took from the event?

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Knowledge is power

Evening all! I'm back on form:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (2 Apr 2013) 31.6 08:48 5318
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 296.1 83:10 52676

I was surprised at how out of condition I got after just a week of illness: I was huffing and puffing for the first few days, and it took me until the weekend to really get back into the swing of things.

Uncharacteristically, I was raring to go by 8am on Sunday morning. I covered 11 miles at an improbably precise 4.00 mile per hour pace: if I can keep that up for 85 miles in June I'll be very happy! I covered another 6.5 miles with Mrs W on Sunday afternoon, making it the most miles in a day of my training so far.

The temperatures are gradually working their way up towards seasonal averages. Based on the long-range forecast, next Sunday looks like a good candidate for my first 20 mile walk of the year: from home to the nearby Karlstejn Castle. If I manage that then I should be able to report 40 miles for the week next Monday.

Equipment

After a bit of research I found a good deal on Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 shoes from a UK company willing to ship overseas: half the price of the only Brooks stockist I found locally. Fingers crossed that they emerge from the Czech postal system relatively quickly and unscathed otherwise it may prove to be a false economy.

Walk Talk

The annual Walk Talk takes place tomorrow (Tuesday 9 April) at the Manx Museum: 17:30 for a 17:45 start. It's a great opportunity to get advice regarding your preparations for the event from people who (unlike me) know what they're talking about, including last year's joint winners (and record holders) Richard Gerrard and Vinny Lynch. I'm hoping that, as in prior years, Murray will post videos to the Parish Walk website: handy for those unable to make it in person.

Up & Running Events

I also received an email newsletter from Up & Running at the weekend which might be of interest.

They're holding some free Parish-related information evenings in conjunction with Robin Perrie of The Foot Health Clinic and Isla Scott of Scott Physiotherapy. The information evenings are planned to take place at 18:00 on 9 April and 7 May at the Foot Health Clinic and on 24 April at Up & Running. Places are limited, so contact upandrunning@manx.net if you'd like to book a place.

Also, Chris from Up & Running will be holding some training evenings focusing on walking technique. The training walks will last about one hour: meeting at the shop at 17:30 for an 18:00 start. The training evenings are planned for 10 April, 22 April, and 1 May. Again, please contact Up & Running if you're interested in joining.

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Evening all! In the improbable event that you're waiting on tenterhooks for the resolution of my midweek dilemma (whether to resume training or not after a bout of man flu) my stats tell the story:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (27 Mar 2013) 2.2 00:45* 500*
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 264.5 74:21 47358
*Estimated

I felt worse again on Thursday morning, so I stayed at home for another day. On Friday I went into the office by tram, and the 2.2 miles represents my walk home that evening after a few drinks with my colleagues... mainly because public transport is pretty sparse that time of night, and I hate taking taxis.

Today is the first day I've been really keyed up to get out again, but the fates were against us: when we got to our chosen spot (a nature reserve at the edge of the city) a snow flurry had started. The first snow of winter was on 27 October 2012, so we're now into our seventh consecutive month of snow. I'm seriously thinking of moving to Siberia for the milder climate!

I'm now more-or-less back to full health, so no more excuses: I'm determined to be posting 30+ miles this time next week.

Equipment

Inspired by Tony McNally's latest post my attention has turned back to kit. With less than 12 weeks to the big event it's time to get myself a second pair of shoes. Tony makes the excellent point that most trainers are only good for 300-500 miles. Even with low mileage weeks like this one and sometimes using my older trekking shoes during the colder months I must have done close to 200 miles in the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12s I bought just after Christmas. I'm inclined to get another identical pair (or possibly the next iteration GTS 13s), taking the view that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. By alternating the pairs I hope to ensure that both remain in a decent condition until 22 June. My mission this week: to find somewhere to buy them locally, or a supplier willing to ship them to me...

A question to experienced Parish Walkers: are there any non-obvious items that you now find essential?

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

When will it end?

Evening all! Movescount is back online so I'm back in business, although unfortunately I've got a poor week's trading to report:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (18 Mar 2013) 13.1 03:36 2649
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 262.3 73:36 46858

The figures are actually correct for the week to Monday, as I haven't done anything since then. Everything was going fine until Friday, but I was brought down by the dreaded lurgy over the weekend and didn't leave the house between coming back from the supermarket on Saturday lunchtime and taking Mrs W to the airport this evening.

The Czech equivalent of Lemsip has finally started having an effect and I've been feeling much better as today has worn on, so I'll probably go back to work tomorrow. I'm pretty keen to get out walking again immediately, but should I let sense prevail and give myself an extra day or two to get back to full fitness? [A dilemma which I put to all you seasoned walkers!] 

It's still winter here, and seemingly everywhere, and it doesn't show signs of improving much until the second week of April. I've never known anything like it. What I've seen from back home is unbelievable: my dad shared a few pictures and I must admit I did glance at the calendar to check it wasn't April 1 already.

Cronk y Voddy. Photo by Andrea Lace.
Dalby from Facebook Page 'Snow Storms - Isle of Man'
I really feel for the farmers who've lost livestock, but it's great to see how many people have rallied round to help. I saw that Manx folk band Barrule have offered up a track from their debut album (aptly 'The Sheep Under The Snow': the lyrics are eerily poignant) in exchange for a donation to the IOM Agricultural Benevolent Trust. Done!  It's a great track, too: you've got yourselves a new fan, lads! Please, give whatever you can afford: for more information click here.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the Easter break!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Normal service will be resumed...

Current message when trying to upload data from watch
Sorry folks: looks like I'll have to write my blog tomorrow. It wouldn't be the same without stats! :)

Monday, 18 March 2013

The winter of our discontent?

Evening all! You know the drill by now... stats first:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (11 Mar 2013) 27.6 07:24 4228
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 249.3 70:00 44209

We've been plunged back into winter. It was freezing all last week, there was a little more snow this evening, and more is forecast for tomorrow. Fortunately there hasn't been much snow (no need to send in the tanks), but it has kept my walks relatively short.

Mrs W has been out of commission with a chest infection since Friday, so I stayed close to home over the weekend. On Saturday part of my route took me through two very large cemeteries (here). We've walked through the larger of the two before, but never the smaller one opposite. I was interested to find within it the Prague War Cemetery, built by the post-war Czechoslovak government according to plans provided by the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Memorial stone at the entrance to Prague War Cemetery

Graves in the Prague War Cemetery

Central Cross in Prague War Cemetery
I also found a Soviet War Cemetery adjacent. As you might expect it's a little more austere than the Commonwealth cemetery, and there are a staggering number of graves.

Central Memorial in the Soviet War Cemetery
Wider view of Soviet War Cemetery
It's even more sobering when you consider that the graves here represent only a small proportion of those who died liberating Czechoslovakia from Nazi occupation: it's estimated that up to 144,000 Soviet troops lost their lives.

The cold weather is set to continue for yet another week, but I intend to keep on keeping on.

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Monday, 11 March 2013

The 2013 Prague End to End IKEA Parish Walk

Evening all! Another reasonable showing this week:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (4 Mar 2013) 35.6 09:40 5689
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 221.7 62:36 39981

Mrs W and I successfully completed a walk from one end of Prague's longest underground line to the other (hence 'End to End'). Why 'IKEA Parish Walk'? Well, there's one IKEA at either side of the city very close to each end of the underground, although I grudgingly gave in to my better half and didn't take us half a mile out of our way to touch the doors of each 'church' (or to sample their horsemeat-tainted products... although I suppose a bit of horse is better than the zero meat beef pies found in Iceland).

On our 'End to End' we covered 16.3 miles in 4h24m. Here's a route map:

Yellow line is our route, light blue line is the city boundary
Evidently the training is paying off: my legs were a bit stiff the next day, but otherwise no ill effects. Mrs W, with rather less miles under her belt, had a few blisters by the end. Still, it gave us both some confidence that, even if the Parish Walk were tomorrow, we should at least be able to make it to the first natural stopping point at Rushen (19 miles)... but (to mangle Chris Tarrant's catchphrase) we don't want to settle for that!

The weather in the last week has been great: relatively warm with plenty of clear blue skies. It certainly wasn't difficult to get out each day. After seeing snowdrops in the park I thought Spring was definitely on the way.
Spring is here... or is it? Snowdrops in Vitkov Park on Saturday.
Unfortunately I jinxed it: there was a dusting of snow overnight last night, and now we're set for at least another week of sub-zero temperatures. Oh well... after more-or-less two months of face-numbing coldness I don't think another week of it will kill me!

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Back in black

Evening all! After last week's washout I've got some better figures to report this week:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (25 Feb 2013) 30.2 08:11 5103
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 186.1 52:56 34292

I put in 5.2 miles on the way home from work this evening to pass the psychologically important 30 mile marker for the week. Unfortunately I made it hard for myself by leaving my trainers at home this morning: five miles doesn't sound that far, but in my office shoes it felt like a marathon! If I'd had more sense I would have walked directly home, changed to my trainers and gone back out. Still, beating my previous best was worth it!

I had hoped to go further over the weekend. The weather is much milder in the city now and the snow has all but vanished, so we thought a walk in the countryside might go down well. We headed out to Konopiště: the home of Archie Duke before he shot an ostrich when he got hungry, precipitating the First World War. [I always think of Blackadder when we go there!] It's a beautiful spot for a walk, but the temperatures had stayed a bit lower, so there was still a lot of snow on the ground and much of the lake was frozen over.

Konopiště château, with frozen lake in the foreground
Some of the paved paths around the estate had been cleared, but the unpaved paths through the woodland and around the lake were icy, so it was rather tough going. We completed one circuit relatively comfortably (albeit slowly), but decided against a second lap.

Stepping up a gear

January and February have come and gone, so it's time to check progress against my plan again. I'm now over a third of the way between day zero and race day. Aside from last week, I think I've stuck fairly closely to the plan: building up regular mileage, and putting in a couple of longer walks during the month.

I'm cautiously optimistic that I can stick to my original target for March of at least one longer walk a week, and that I can start steadily building the distance of those longer walks. One idea for next weekend is to cross the city from one end of the longest metro line to the other: about 15 miles. So far, I've found that keeping variety in the longer routes has helped keep me interested and motivated.

My aim for the shorter walks during March is to inject a bit more pace. It wasn't considered in my original plan but, per the comments on a recent post, I'm also going to start building other exercises and sports into my schedule.

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

P.S. From the Parish Walk Facebook page I see that congratulations are in order to regular contributor Michael George for his win in the Ascot Hotel 20km Walk on Saturday. What a pace!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Snowpocalypse!

Evening all! I'm afraid I haven't covered myself in glory this week. Here are the stats:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (18 Feb 2013) 6.3 01:44 1071
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 155.9 44:44 29189

I'd break down the difference against last week's 30 miles as follows:

[1] Work-related disruptions: -6 miles [Tue am/pm and Wed am]
[2] Pure laziness: -4 miles [Wed pm and Thu am]
[3] Weather-related disruptions: -13.7 miles [Fri pm, Sat, Sun, Mon am]

Categories [1] and [3] were somewhat out of my control, but I'm a bit disappointed with myself for category [2] - those 4 miles would at least have tipped me over the 10 mile mark.

'Snowpocalypse' isn't much of an exaggeration.

Saturday morning - view down our street as I prepare to excavate the car

Saturday morning - on our way to Tesco, with beautiful views of Prague Castle 

Sunday morning - about 2ft deep on our window ledge after a second night of heavy snow

Sunday morning - snow laying round about our terrace, deep and crisp and even
As you'll see from my posts over the last few weeks I'm quite prepared to walk around in the snow and in sub-zero temperatures, but not when I'm up to my shins in the stuff.

A lot of the weekend snow turned to slush overnight, so I gave it a miss again this morning. By the evening the worst of the slush had melted or been scraped to the kerbs, so I got back out. The forecast for the rest of the week looks more promising, so I'm hoping I'll have much better news to report next week.

Handling setbacks

Reading Paul Callow's blog it seems I'm not the only one struggling a bit this week. I like his point that realising our shortcomings can help spur us on to greater efforts. My relative failure in this last week will certainly be a strong motivator for me in the coming week.

Tony's comment to the effect that 'Spring is on the way' is both a heartening thought (better weather, lighter evenings) and a reminder that the Parish Walk is drawing closer: less than four months to go now!

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

0 to 30 in 6 weeks

Evening all! This post is brought to you courtesy of the free WiFi at Prague and Warsaw airports and at Angelo Airporthotel Bucharest... and (in the fine tradition of Sesame Street) by the letters R and O and by the number 30 :) Here are the obligatory stats:

Distance (miles)
Time (hh:mm)
Energy (kcals)
Since last post (11 Feb 2013) 30.0 08:33 5394
Since records began (27 Dec 2012) 149.6 43:00 28118

I walked an improbably precise 30.00 miles this week: for consistency I'm only showing one decimal place in the table, but movescount actually shows it as 30.00 miles. It would have been just over 31 miles if I hadn't been called away during the day, thus missing out on my walk home this evening.

Excepting today, I've walked to and from work each day in the last week, including the extended morning route. We got quite a lot of snow last Tuesday and Wednesday, which has gradually been melting away in the days since, but even a pretty heavy snowfall on Wednesday morning wasn't enough to curb my enthusiasm. I think we can safely say that the walking habit has now been successfully ingrained!

I didn't do anything on Saturday, but covered just over 11 miles on Sunday, buoyed by some podcasts (following James Bassett's suggestion on a recent post, so thanks James!). Again, I forged a route through some parts of the city I'm not familiar with, setting myself a goal of reaching my original home in Prague, which is out on the edge of the city near the airport. In the absence of a walking partner (Mrs W was out shopping with a friend) I found that the combination of the podcasts and some unfamiliar territory made a fairly long walk (just over 3 hours) fly past.

Other training activities

I was interested to read in Tony McNally's latest post that he's including some running as part of his training. My dad also mentioned to me recently that he's considering doing some gym work this year as part of his preparation, having been convinced of the benefits by a past finisher. My current plan doesn't include anything except walks of varying lengths (and, hopefully, increasing pace), but, as Paul Callow mentions in his latest post, plans shouldn't be set in stone and can be revised as needed.

Clearly a mixed training plan isn't that uncommon, but my main concern in introducing jogging or running would be the higher impact (on joints and feet) and what I perceive as a greater chance of getting injured. I can certainly see that higher intensity exercise might help me to build my fitness faster, but I'm wary that the gain could be at the expense of potentially putting me out of commission for weeks or even months. Although I'm pretty ungainly I can just about avoid daft stuff like falling in ditches and tripping over paving stones at a walking pace, but I doubt I could do the same while jogging or running.

Am I being excessively paranoid and missing out on significant training benefits or should I trust my instincts?

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

P.S. Happy Birthday Ed! I hear from my spies that you got in an epic training walk at the weekend!