|17th Jun||Rest Day|
|TOTAL||785.26||1263.71||6 days 06:33:48||18,229||18,241||86,911|
I did it!
I achieved my 'Plan A' target, set some 6 months earlier, to finish the Parish Walk in under 18 hours.
I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor on the day because it drains the Garmin battery quicker but it 'felt' like Zone 1, nice and steady.
That was my 5th finish and I can honestly say it felt the easiest of all, despite the warm conditions.
A few weeks ago, while on a curry night with some other walkers, Mike 'pace master' Bonney asked what my target was and, for 'sub 18', he suggested I start off at 12:15 minute miles and maintain for as long as I can.
I was quite surprised because I have never started the Parish that slowly, even on my debut, and just a week prior I had been in Holland with Mike where I averaged 11:44 pace for 50 miles so I felt like I could definitely start quicker.
Admittedly the 50 miles was flat compared to the Parish, but I was thinking of starting at 12:00 miles and maintaining that for as long as possible.
Mike was quick to point out that 12:15 average would give me a time of 17:20 so even allowing for the hills if I could average that pace to Jurby I would have an extra 40 minutes in reserve for the final 40 miles, allowing me to drop down to 13:15 average if necessary.
I always go off too quick and start to struggle from Rushen so I bought into this plan immediately.
You may have read in the paper about 'pasta gate' that affected several walkers following a carb loading session on the Thursday night. I was one of those affected but luckily the vast majority of my symptoms "passed through" on Friday. I just put it down to nerves.
I didn't think anything more of it until I caught up with James Quirk near Andreas who himself had been suffering that day, and he also told me that Ray Beattie dropped out at Bride because of it. I remember seeing Dale Farquar out of the race and supporting his wife Jayne in Dalby and he just told me he pulled out sick, but I had no idea it was for the same reason until the next day.
I then heard Richard Gerrard and Dave Walker had been suffering and couldn't believe it.
That was the third consecutive year we have carb loaded at that particular restaurant and have never had any problems, and I was there in TT week and was absolutely fine so I think we were just unlucky with something.
Anyway, at the NSC on Saturday morning I was feeling fine. Slightly nervous but at the same time strangely relaxed because I knew I didn't have to start as fast as previous years.
On a hilly course it's very difficult to maintain an average pace so my plan was to go no quicker than 12:15 and no slower than 12:00.
My first mile was exactly 12:00, followed by 11:46 (too quick), 12:02 (perfect), 11:46 (too quick again but this included the long downhill from Ballagarey to Marown), 11:54 (ok....) and then dropping to 12:31 in mile 6 which is the long climb from Marown school towards Braaid crossroads.
In previous years I would panic if I saw my pace drop to 12:31 and just push harder up the hill, but this year I just relaxed and didn't worry about it.
Just after Marown school I started to get a pain in my right shin. I rarely suffer from sore shins so was just hoping I could walk it off, but unfortunately it persisted through to the end.
I arrived in Rushen with an average pace of around 11:55, so about 6 minutes quicker than I should have for a 12:15 pace. Other than my aching shin I felt pretty good, certainly better than I have ever felt at this stage of the race.
I had eaten and drank plenty along the route, although the Nutrigrain bar I had just before Rushen nearly finished me off as they are very dry and I took a rather large bite of it.
The climb up Ballakillowey and the Sloc felt much easier than previous years, and when I finally reached the very top and turned the corner at Cronk Nyairey Lay (sorry about the spelling) towards round table I was comfortably walking around 11:30 minute miles, whereas in all previous years I have been lucky to get under 13 minute miles.
I went through Peel in a new PB time of 06:31:56 (my target was around 06:45) and then just took it steady for the next 7 miles to Kirk Michael which are quite undulating. As usual the Mitre was absolutely buzzing with a large crowd cheering which really does spur you on.
By the time I reached the half way point at Ballaugh my average pace was 12:04, so well under the 12:15 target. I knew an 18:00:00 time required an average pace of 12:41, so if my average at the half way point was currently up 37 seconds per mile I knew I just had to walk each of the remaining 42.5 miles no slower than 13:18 (12:41 + 0:37) to hit my target.
This was a big mental boost as I still felt pretty good and the next 20 or so miles are pretty flat into Ramsey so I was feeling really confident I could do it.
Unfortunately just as I was coming into Ballaugh I started to get a few hamstring cramps so I had to take a few seconds to stretch them out every mile or two, or when I came to any slight incline. They weren't bad though so I just had to manage my pace. My sore shin certainly helped keep my pace down.
At the short up and down section at Jurby I saw my first other walkers since Glen Maye some 20 miles earlier, James Quirk and Jayne Farquar.
James had been struggling with his calf (and pasta gate) for a while but it still took me another 12 miles to catch him, just after Andreas.
A few miles before Bride there was an official '50 miles' sign, however according to my Garmin I had walked 50.5 miles. This threw me a little because if my Garmin was 0.5 mile over then I was approximately 6 minutes behind where I thought. I had been walking in the low 12:nn since Ballaugh, including a few under 12:00, so I knew I had covered those 7 - 8 miles about 6 - 7 minutes quicker than the 13:18 I needed, so now I just needed to maintain 13:18 for the next 33 miles.
Crunching the numbers while I am walking makes the miles fly past!
A few minutes after passing James I was passed by Jock Waddington, shortly before St Judes. I know Jock had walked with Rebecca Greatbach to Peel (big well done to her for winning the under 21 ladies race), but now he was on a real charge. Jock eventually finished in 5th place, pulling out just over 1 hour on me between St Judes and the finish.
If it hadn't been for my shin and the hamstring cramps that were waiting to bite I would have tried to stick with him for a little while, although that would have only been 10 yards!
I've often thought if it would be possible to do a 'negative split' in the Parish Walk, and Jock answered the question with 08:42 to Ballaugh and 08:06 to the finish. Given how well I was going there is definitely a lot to be said for starting slower.
This year was the first time I have arrived at the Maughold checkpoint in daylight, and it was good to see the return of the party atmosphere. The daylight soon vanished though, so the lights came on just after the first steep climb up Hibernia, a few miles before joining the main Douglas to Ramsey coast road.
After a couple of loo stops, coat stop, lights stop etc James had caught me again and we walked together for a few miles from the bottom of Glen Mona to the Dhoon cafe. Unfortunately he was having another bout of sickness and slowed down a little. I knew he wouldn't quit with about 11 miles to go so I just carried on at my pace, but I did feel really bad about not sticking with him.
I arrived in Lonan at 12:25. I wasn't completely sure of the exact distance from Lonan to the Finish as I thought it was 6 miles but Ed Walter told me it was 6.5.
I had 01:35 to do it. It was going to be close.
As I climbed to the top of Whitebridge in Onchan my Garmin gave me the low battery warning. I arrived at Onchan at 01:21. I had 39 minutes to cover the last 2 miles. In previous years it has taken me about 32 minutes.
Half way down Royal avenue my Garmin switched off. There was no point stressing about it, I just had to keep walking.
It took me 28 minutes to cover the last 2 miles, finishing in 17:49:35!
All in all an excellent day. Apart from my shin I couldn't have asked for anything more.
I'm writing the blog entry just over a week later and unfortunately my shin is still really painful. The bruising has gone, but it's still swollen and very tender to the touch.
As a precaution I went to the doctors today, just in case it was anything more serious, and it doesn't appear to be so I just need to keep resting it. I think it will be another 1 or 2 weeks before I'm back pounding the streets as I prepare for my final big challenge of the year, the US Centurion in New York.
And don't forget, 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.