Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Parish walk NSC to Rushen

After walking the first quarter(ish) of the Parish Walk route the weekend before last I thought I would post a little bit about the route itself along with how I usually tackle it.

In a later post I will add my thoughts on the next quarter, Rushen to Ballaugh (which I walked last weekend), and then follow this up with Ballaugh to Ramsey and finally Ramsey to the finish.

The biggest mistake I make every year is starting off too fast, although the first year I did it is probably an exception as my strategy was just to walk nice and steady in the hope of finishing (which I did, in a time of 19:40:24).

In subsequent years no matter how many times I tell myself on the start line to start slowly I get caught up in the moment and before I know it I'm zipping along a little faster than planned.

Common sense tells me to ease off a little, but the adrenalin is pumping, the crowds are cheering and I'm feeling good so no matter how much I know I should back off, it usually doesn't happen. 

I try to convince my legs that I know what I'm doing.  "Listen up legs, you are going to start hurting and get a lot slower in a few hours, so bank a few good miles in now while you are fresh."

I know this is wrong.  Yes, my legs will get tired later and I will slow down, but if I start a little slower then hopefully I can delay the inevitable a bit, hopefully a lot, longer.

While getting to Rushen 10-15 minutes ahead of plan may seem like a good idea at the time, that gain can easily be wiped out over the rest of the course.  

My plan for this year was to walk this first section to Rushen a bit slower than previous years in the hope I can recover that time, and more, over the next 65 miles.

The trouble is, as I sit here now writing this blog I am feeling a lot stronger than in previous years.  I have been following heart rate training for 3 months, I feel quicker than I have for a long time, my stamina is building nicely and I have dropped just over 1.5 stone since Christmas.

If I can keep this momentum going for another 3 months and walk a good Firemans 50k in a few weeks, and a good 50 miles in Rotterdam a few weeks later then it seems a shame to hold back when the gun goes off at 8am on the 18th of June.

I think I'm going to try and walk this route a couple more times between now and June and experiment with 2 different paces (not heart rate), one being a slower pace and another being a quicker 'A' game pace.

Based on how I feel when I get to Rushen at both paces I can decide my exact strategy for race day, and stick to it !!  

Anyway, on to the route itself.

My Garmin recorded a distance of 19.22 miles for this section.

It's a surprisingly hilly 19 miles, and my Garmin measured an elevation gain (uphill) of 398 metres and a loss (downhill) of 390 metres.

Mile 1

Flat.  Lap of the athletics track and out onto the TT access road, with the 1 mile marker being just underneath Braddan bridge.  Nothing much to say here really other than 84 miles to go!  Woohoo!

Mile 2

Continue along the TT access road and then it's a pretty sharp climb past a few houses.  It's not a long climb, but it is quite steep so try and keep your boundless energy under control and take it steady. 

After the short downhill back to the oak tree at the roundabout you will pass the first church in the parish of Braddan.  There is no checkpoint here, so continue straight past the church.  The rest of mile 2 is slightly up hill again, with the mile 2 marker just before the right turn into the Snugborough industrial estate (B&B furniture).

Mile 3

Past the industrial estate and a short downhill past the first pub directly on the route, the Railway, and into Union Mills.  The Quarterbridge pub is not quite on the route so I didn't include that.

It's then a fairly flat few hundred yards before the first real hill of the day, the Ballahutchin.  It's not overly steep, but it is approximately 0.5 mile long and it's all too easy to get carried away on fresh legs.

The mile 3 mark is about half way up.

Mile 4

At the top of the Ballahutchin it flattens out a bit, past Glen Lough campsite and around Ballagarey corner or, as the TT riders call, it 'Ballascary'.  Nice downhill and flat section towards the second church in the parish of Marown, but again there is no checkpoint here.  Mile 4 is more or less the church itself.

Mile 5 and 6

Other than mile 85, mile 5 is probably one of the best miles on the course because it doubles back towards the traffic lights and you get to see hundreds of other walkers swarming towards you, exchanging "Hello's" and "Good Luck's".

At Marown school, about 4.25 miles, is the first official feeding station where you can get bananas and small bottles of water.

Depending on pace you burn around 100 calories per mile so it's never too early to start eating even if you don't feel particularly hungry, so I always take a banana here.

Just after the school is where you start to see support vehicles, but I've never quite understood why they are needed so early.

For the past 5 years I have arranged to see my support around the 4.5 hour mark, which usually puts me between Ballakillowey and The Sloc. 

I use a larger water bottle/bag for this first stint and can easily carry a few extra energy gels, energy bars, jelly babies etc, and there are more than enough feeding stations en route to Rushen offering bananas, mars bars, water refills etc to happily keep me going. 

Shortly after the feeding station we come across the next big climb up Glen Darragh road.  This is a long steady climb at approximately 1.5 miles long, and does get quite steep at one point, so again it's important not to overcook it up here.

The 6 mile mark is reached just before the Braaid crossroads.

Mile 7

This starts with a welcome flat and very slightly downhill 1/2 mile across the crossroads and towards St Marks, before taking a left turn onto Clannagh road where you will find the next official feeding station offering bananas and water.

Straight after the feeding station is another climb up Clannagh for about 3/4 of a mile, and is probably the steepest climb so far.

Mile 8

Starts just before the top of Clannagh road and then turns slightly downhill for most of the mile.  The road surface is really nice and smooth and the downhill is a welcome break after the last 3 miles of constant up hill.

You get a really good view of the south of the Island along this mile, and you get your first glimpse  of what the weather might be like on the Sloc....

Just before you join the A5 Douglas to Castletown road is another official feeding station although if I recall correctly only water is supplied here.  Mile 8 ends just around the corner after joining the A5.

Mile 9

This remains nice and flat down past the old Lancashire pub (now demolished), although take care on the pavements here.  They aren't in great shape, and it's a fast road to be walking on.

At about 8.5 miles you cross the A5, thankfully aided by the Police who stop the traffic

It's a short, sharp climb after crossing the road (about 100 metres) before a nice long downhill to the end of mile 9 just before joining the old Castletown road.

Mile 10

This is a relatively flat for about 1/2 mile before heading downhill for the rest of the mile.

Mile 11

Continues downhill before quickly turning into a steep up hill towards the 3rd Parish Church, Santon, and the first official checkpoint at around 10.5 miles.  My times are below.

Year       Leg Time      Total Time
2011       02:17:35         02:17:35
2012       02:08:06         02:08:06
2013       02:08:54         02:08:54
2014       02:03:31         02:03:31
2015       02:05:57         02:05:57

Just after the checkpoint is another feeding station offering water, mars bars, other sweets etc.

You can also fill your own water bottle here which is very handy.  I will normally carry some extra energy tablets that I can pop into the water.

Mile 11 continues slightly downhill from there.

Mile 12

Continues about 1/3 mile down hill before another sharp climb towards 'The Blackboards' where you briefly re-join the A5 that you crossed at 8.5 miles.

This climb continues to the end of mile 12, but just before it is the next feed station, and if you are lucky you might get a sausage bap too.

Mile 13

This is a nice long downhill section as you join the A26 St Marks road towards Ballasalla.  Just before joining the A26 is yet another feed station again handing out water but also a variety of snacks such as nutrigrain bars.

The downhill ends with a short (100 yards) up hill section, with mile 13 marker being more or less at the top.

Mile 14

Here you enjoy another long downhill and relatively flat section into Ballasalla where you take a right, with mile 14 ending just before Cross Four ways.

Mile 15

At Cross Four ways there is usually good entertainment with a band singing out your name as you come into view. 

This is a flat mile that takes a short out and back detour up to the 4th Parish church, Malew.

You will find another feeding station here.

Year       Leg Time      Total Time
2011       00:49:26         03:07:01
2012       00:47:11         02:55:17
2013       00:46:55         02:55:49
2014       00:44:56         02:48:27
2015       00:47:03         02:53:00

Mile 15 ends just after you pass the band a second time.

Mile 16

For some reason I really struggle over these next 4 miles to Rushen. 

I'm not quite sure why, but I think part of the reason is the condition of the pavements.  At this point there are now a lot more support cars around, so walking on the side of the road is not an option. 

The 4 miles are reasonably flat which is good, but the pavements are very gnarly (especially mile 16) and it seems to take a lot of energy to navigate over the lumps and bumps.

There isn't really much to say about mile 16 other than watch your step!

Mile 17

Another flat mile.  The pavement improves a lot here, and around 16.5 miles you come to the 5th Parish church, Arbory.

Year       Leg Time      Total Time
2011       00:24:38         03:31:39
2012       00:24:11         03:19:28
2013       00:23:16         03:19:05
2014       00:22:37         03:11:04
2015       00:23:20         03:16:20

Mile 18

Another flat mile where you pass the second pub on the walk, The Colby Glen, and it's probably not far from opening time either! 

Right next to the pub is a small shop, so if you do urgently need any extra drink or snacks you could quickly pop inside.

Shortly after the shop there is a very friendly family who offer their loo to walkers in need, and I have to say last year they saved my life. 

Last years Parish walk was the first time and, luckily so far, the only time I have experienced that '30 second warning' while out training or in a race.  If that house hadn't been so welcoming I really don't know what I would have done as it was still over a mile to Rushen church. 

Mile 19.22

The final relatively flat mile (and a bit) as you close in on the 6th Parish church, Rushen.

A welcome sight after my least favourite 4 miles, before the sudden realisation that the long 1 mile climb of Ballakillowey followed by the Sloc is next!

There is another feeding station here too.

Year       Leg Time      Total Time
2011       00:34:34         04:06:13
2012       00:33:00         03:52:28
2013       00:31:22         03:50:27
2014       00:31:48         03:42:52
2015       00:34:08         03:50:28

As you can see, my PB to Rushen was in 2014 by nearly 8 minutes...  but that gain soon unravelled over the rest of the race, before I finally retired at Maughold.

This is a clear example of how an 8 minute improvement can easily be wiped out, or worse.

And that's it for now!  Sorry I have waffled on quite a bit here.  I hope at least somebody finds the information useful, especially first time Parish Walkers or entrants from overseas who won't get a chance to see the course in advance of the race.

And finally: The second part of my challenge is to try and raise £2,016 for Finley's Tracks and all donations are welcome here.  A big thank you to everyone who has already sponsored me online or offline, and to those who have pledged to donate later.

No comments:

Post a Comment