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!

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)
Since records began (27 Dec 2012)

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!