Thursday, 27 June 2013

Walk a mile (or 85) in my shoes...

In this, my final post for this years Parish Walk, I'll give you my view, thoughts and feelings on how the day was for me... One thing's for sure, my experience will be different from others who took part and no two walkers will tell you exactly the same story!

I woke up just before my alarm went off and got up filled with anticipation. I ran a warm bath and got in to warm my muscles, after that I dried off, applied some Vaseline to areas that may become affected by chaffing and got my kit on. After a nice bowl of porridge, my wife and two daughters got into the car and drove me to the NSC, I was very nervous, but my girls managed to help calm the nerves by telling me how proud they were of me and wished me luck before I got out and made my way towards the NSC Grandstand.

I walked about to warm up before stretching and thought it best to make a toilet stop before heading to the start line. I chatted to a few people I knew about their expectations and goals for the day and it gave me some focus on my plan of finishing. I joined the queue a little bit further from the start line than I would have liked, but I was on the outside, so it would be easier to overtake those in front if I chose to do so.

The starting pistol went off and the race had begun, I quickly moved up the field and the before I knew it we were leaving the NSC track, my mum (Janet), sister (Jo) and nephew (Thomas) were there to cheer me on which gave me an early boost! I had started very quickly and as I'd been carrying an injury all week, I was worried that the current pace might cause me problems so slowed up a little as I walked along the TT access road. It wasn't long before my friend Liam Parker (#85) had caught up to me, we had been walking at a similar pace during training so it made sense to walk together for as long as it was beneficial to us both.

The first part of the course to Rushen went by very quickly and I'd posted PB time to that church. My pace was slowing as I walked up the Ballakillowey Road and Liam seemed to have paced to burn, so as he began to stride out, I wasn't going to try a keep up as this would almost certainly result in me burning myself out to early. As I approached the Sloc, my legs felt heavy and sore, this hadn't happened to me since my first Parish Walk over a decade ago! I was now filled with dread that I might not make it to Peel, let alone back to Douglas Promenade, so decided to make my first toilet stop of the day, fill up with isotonic drink and eat a Mars Bar (other chocolate bars are available), I was given a pep talk by my mum and sister (who were doing my back up) and then started off up the Sloc once again. After about 15 minutes I was feeling better and had more energy, so powered up towards the round table, my first low was a big shock, but from my experience, walkers will always have lows somewhere around the course, but it's mentally dealing with the low points and pushing though that gets you to the finish line. I noticed that the sequence of support cars was reminding me of the background in a Scooby Doo chase scene, as it usually goes something like this "Mirror, Table, Flowers, Grandfather Clock, Mirror, Table, Flowers, Grandfather Clock, Mirror, Table, Flowers, Grandfather Clock", the cars were the always parked up in the same sequence which indicated that the pace I was doing was similar to that of the walkers around me, maybe I hadn't lost as much time as I first thought?

I had a strong walk into Peel, where I was met by my wife and daughters, my eldest, Holly was holding a sign saying "GO DADDY #79" and cheering for me!
my youngest daughter Lucy was there too and gave me a big smile! I gave them both a hug and then headed off to Kirk Michael feeling like a million dollars. So far, the weather had been really nice, but the clouds started to gather and we saw the first shower of the day, I put my jacket on, but the combination of the wind and rain soaked though the jacket and I was feeling a bit damp. The shower didn't last too long and the sun could once again be seen in the sky so I dried off in no time.

I had my girls waiting for me one final time at Kirk Michael (before they went back to Douglas to their Nana's for a sleepover) so I was able to have one final cuddle with them before I headed off into the evening. At this point it's worth mentioning that since walking with Liam, I had not really walked or talked to another walker for longer than about 2 minutes, which I found a bit strange? The weather was bad from Jurby to Bride and the rain had started which began to annoy me. This years race seemed so much harder than the one I'd taken part in 2011. My back up team continued to do a great job of keeping me fuelled with food and drink (as well as some well timed pain killers). As I entered the church at Bride my wife and sister in law, Jennie had joined the back up crew, so I now had more people to help me along the way... how could I not finish?! I must have started taking on more water, because I was starting to lose a fair bit of time on toilet stops, I weighed this up against dehydration and decided that more water was definitely the better option!

Walking into Andreas is one of my favourite parts of the race, there always seems to be a great community spirit there, with BBQ's on the go and drinks flowing... the smell was amazing (and the support they showed wasn't bad either). I saw my fellow blogger Tony McNally sitting on a wall in the village with a can of Carling in his hand... I was a bit jealous to be honest but he gave me some encouraging words and I headed off to Lezayre in the knowledge that he would probably prefer to be waling than having a drink at this time (yeah right!).  From here to Leyzayre seemed to pass rather quickly (maybe because the rain had stopped and the weather was decent?), but I could feel the blisters on my right foot getting uncomfortable. Upon touching the gate at Lezayre, the blister under my big toe burst (which was a Parish Walk first for me), I looked down to see a patch of blood on my trainers and thought "never mind that, it's only a bit of blood, get walking lad"! My back up team told me that I was upwards of over 15 minutes on my previous time, but that didn't matter, I really just wanted to finish and if my time was quicker, then it was an added bonus. I arrived in Parliament Square to the sight of my Auntie Susan and Cousin Nadine taking pictures of me and saying that I was making good time (they'd been following my progress on the Manx Telecom timing website).

As I headed out of Ramsey towards Maughold I could feel myself slowing due to the blisters on my feet and an intermittent pain I was getting in my left knee. The decent into Maughold was the straw that boke the camels back as far as my knee was concerned, the intermittent pain had turned into a constant stabling pain, this lasted the duration of the decent and eased as I made my way uphill towards the church. It was still relatively light when I arrived at the Church, but darkness fall in the blink of an eye. The moon was shining bright which lit up the road well, but what a long road it was... and boring! My dad joined the back up team and said he's been checking my progress and listening to Manx Radio for the majority of the evening, he confirmed that Michael George has won the race and I was really pleased as Michael had been in contact with me on Facebook and the blog about walking over the last year, giving me tips and encouragement, I knew how much the win would have meant to him and I gave me a lift as I forced my way up the Hibernia and back onto the main road. A number of walkers who'd been quite far behind me had now caught up, my ambition of finishing never wavered, but the chance of beating my previous time of 19 hours and 47 minutes was fading as my pace continued to deteriorate. I chatted with a fellow walker about her day, but the conversation didn't last long as she had lots left to give and walked on ahead, she was certainly not running on empty like me.

As I got to the top of Minorca Hill in Laxey, I'd lost a lot of time and ad been passed by quite a few people, but at that point I didn't care, I was just concentrating on putting one foot in front for the other and trying not to think about how long it would take to get to the finish line. I started walking with a woman who I'd had walked and chatted with briefly earlier on in the race, she looked in pain and we agreed that it would probably be beneficial for us both to walk together, she introduced herself as Jane Foster (#35) and had just enough energy for a hand shake. Upon leaving Laxey I felt like I ad a stone in my trainer, so had to stop whilst my wife removed my trainer and blood stained sock to reveal that it wasn't a stone at all, but a blister, I changed the sock and laced up my trainer, but by this time Jane had carried on and I thought that would be the last I saw of her. My eyes were feeling heavy and the rain was really lashing it down. I lost another few places to walkers who were giving it the final push, my friend Paul Corris (#172), who by his own admission had looked shaky at a few points around the course was now powering past me and said "Come on, we can get in under 20 hours if we keep going", my reply was "under 20 hours will be difficult for me, but you should go for it mate", he disappeared off quickly and I turned up to Lonan Church. Jane passed me on her way back to the main road and said "hurry up, I need my walking buddy", I said that I doubted I catch up, but would do my best! After checking in at Lonan, my knee pain had flared up when going down hill. I had support from my sister's friend Clair, who was in her Pyjama's and appeared to be mooning passing walkers to spur them on?

I trundled along the road that I'd walked so many times in training and my support crew all seemed concerned that I'd gone very quiet and refused my iPod  (which I would never normally do), I tried to keep the smile that I'd had on my face all day going, but it was getting harder to find anything to smile about. The rain had made a river appear in Baldrine and I splashed my way through it like I was Peppa Pig! The decent into Whitebridge saw me speed up a bit and  caught Jane as we entered Onchan, I shouted "have you been waiting for me" she laughed and we started discussing the pain we were in, it made me feel better knowing that I wasn't the only feeling dead on my feet. We checked in at Onchan and were not on the home straight, my mother in law, Joyce had joined the back up team to see me finish, which was really good of her... but who was looking after the kids (she assured me that my father in law was on the case and the girls were fine).

Every step was agony, even stepping off the pavement was a chore. My support team were great along this road and when I got to the Promenade, they said they'd see me at the finish. The time was 03:40am and getting to the war memorial in 20 minutes would be a big ask. Jane had picked up a groin strain and said that she'd understand if I wanted to go on ahead, I said "What's the point?", I knew that it was more important to make sure we both got over the line, so we walked at a slow but 'comfortable' pace. There were 2 random people running on the beach, which bemused me as it was too early for someone to be either walking their dog or going for a run surely, this mystery remains just that and I still wonder what they were doing now! A few walkers passed us by in the last 20 yards, but I didn't care, at 04:06am we crossed the finishing line and the ordeal was finally over!

I had a foil blanket thrown round me and Emma was told by the St John Ambulance lady to take me straight home and get me dry. Jennie pointed out that I'd not had my picture taken and I thought... I've not walked all this way to get now visual record of me at the finish line, so I shrugged of the foil blanket and put on a smile as Emma cuddled me and we got the official photo.

When I got home I was tired and aching, but insisted that I had my photograph taken in my kit with my medal, especially as Emma had taken the photo above of me wen I got out of the car and I looked a mess!

Emma had popped home earlier to put the heating on, so the house was nice and warm. She ran a hot bath and made me a couple of bacon baps and a cup of tea... I was in hevan! As I climbed in to bed I hoped that the other walkers who were still out on the course were still in high spirits... I however, was very sleepy, so drifted off quite quickly!

I woke up at 11:30am the next morning and my daughters had arrived back home. Luckily for me, Nurse Holly and Nurse Lucy were ready to look after their dad and his weary legs...

I just want to say a big thank you to my great back up team, my mum and sister (who looked after me all day from start to finish), Emma, Jennie & my dad. I wanted to make them all proud of me and hope that I did?

Another thank you goes out to all the well wishers who contacted me by text, Facebook, Twitter etc. before/during/after the race, I was amazed at the amount of people who said they were following me throughout the day online.

Also, I want to thank my fellow bloggers Tony McNally and David Watterson for the entertaining insights into their training and preparation for this years event... Well done for your achievements!

Lastly, I need to thanks anyone who has read this blog over the last six months or so, I hope that it's helped some people or at least made you laugh!

One final question you might have is "Will Paul be doing the Parish Walk next Year"?...

... Never say never!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The morning after the Parish before...

This is only a short piece to say that after an emotional roller coaster of a day yesterday I crossed the finishing line just after 4am this morning in a time of 20 hours, 6 minutes and 3 seconds. It wasn't easy and I felt worse during this years event than I did in 2011, but my back up crew (including my 2 daughters Holly and Lucy) got me through the day and night, Thank you so much!

My analysis of the Parish Walk 2013 will appear in the next blog post (I might need a couple of days to get over it first though!).

Friday, 21 June 2013

'Twas the night before the Parish...

It feels like Christmas Eve in my house tonight! I finished work a bit early (so I could go and see my Grandma who is in hospital, she is worried about me doing too much in the race tomorrow, so wanted to reassure her that I would be alright), then got home to my girls who went to bed especially early tonight (as I have stuff to do before tomorrow that won't get done with two girls roaming about). I've now had chance to sit down and check that all my supplies and clothing are ready and in my bag. I don't feel prepared, probably because I'm one of those people who never do! Well, there is little else to do now, but make my dinner of pasta and then write this blog...

I could harp on about the weather, but I'm not going to, I mean, you've all seen the forecast and will be wondering how we'll be walking on the only 2 days this week when it's not sunny! The forecast could change though, you never know!

My injury is another thing I'm not going to write about either, as I'm told that this "groin problem" is the best set up for an excuse of not finishing they'd ever heard (thank you to my wife, Emma for that comment)... She was joking though... I hope!

One thing I will write about is yesterday afternoon, as I looked out of my office window at the NSC and saw the queue growing for registration (it was only 4:30), everyone seemed eager to make sure that they were ready to collect the timing dibbers and be prepared for the start of the race. After registration had opened, I wandered over the tent that had been set up especially for the occasion. As I walked to towards the queue, I met Minister David Cretney who wished me luck, I offered him my best wishes and he walked off smiling, it was then that I realised that everyone else coming from the registration tent was also smiling and laughing, obviously the buzz of the event had begun and was seemingly infectious.

I joined the queue and there were loads of people in front of me, the atmosphere was great, people chatted about how far they wanted to go and how much (or little) training they had done. As I got to the registration tent, the steward asked for my number, when I said it was 79, he said to me "Ah, so you're the elite then?", I was secretly chuffed to bits, but replied "not quite"! I got the dibber activated and collected my goodie bag (thank you to the organisers for this).

Today I've done a few things differently to most other days, like not drinking tea or coffee, as you will probably know these make you want to go to the loo more often, so I drank loads of bottled water... which ironically made me go to the loo more often! Another 'break from the norm' today was that I've been very conscious of how I walking as I'm paranoid that I'm going to get injured and have done my best to avoid any bumps in the pavement and to ensure that I don't walk too fast and pull a muscle. If you're a walker in the Parish, then you're probably thinking "there's nothing strange about what he's just wrote" but if you're a casual reader of this blog, it'll sound absolutely mental... But that's what Parish Walker's are! I mean, who in their right mind would think that walking 85 miles in one go with a 24 hour finishing limit was a good idea? I suppose that the reason why there's such a good atmosphere on the day is because we're all like minded fools and understand that whatever your goal during the day, at some point you all looked at the application form and thought "I must be mad, but I'm doing it anyway"!

I'd like to thank my fellow walkers and readers (all 7 of you) for taking the time to look am my rambling a over the last six months. When I agreed to write this blog in November last year, I was so excited that I would be able to share my experience with everyone and I hope that it's been interesting to you, but to be honest, I think it may have been harder work writing than actually training (although maybe that means I've not trained enough?!). Your comments and advice have been really helpful and I hope that as your walking by number 79, you say hello!

I've been trying to think of a good picture for my final blog post before the day and have taken pictures of my breakfast, the muscle rub I've been using and even the sunny weather from earlier on today, but I think this is the picture that conveys the hope, the what if, and the pride I have at taking part in this years Parish Walk...
#TeamCallow #79 #ParishWalk

Good luck to everyone taking part in the 2013 Manx Telecom Parish Walk and thank you to all the supporters, sponsors and organisers!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The positives...

Well, in my last blog post, I said that the next would be a bit more positive... I found out my racing number is 79, I never thought I'd get such a low number in the Parish Walk, but I have, sounds like such an insignificant thing, but I'm really pleased with it!

Injury update: After aggravating my groin whilst training on Sunday, I'm resting all week, which has to be a positive. My confidence has taken a hit though, as I want to give myself as much time as possible to let the injury sort itself, so decided I should take it easy up until the last minute i.e. the start line on Saturday. Fingers crossed I can get out of the NSC pain free!

I've checked the weather forecast and initially thought "this doesn't look good", but then had a zen like thought... You can change a lot of things, but you can't change the weather, so don't let it bother you. In wet weather positivity will be the key, I'm sure that there will be times during the race that I will want to give up and get in my support car, but the crew have been told that if I say I want to quit, then they must drive off and not let me pack it in.

Probably a good time to introduce my back up crew for #TeamCallow79 (get it trending people!):

Janet Callow (my mum) and Jo Healey (my sister) are taking the day shift and Emma Callow (my wife) and Jennie Walker (my sister-in-law) will be looking after me through the night (and early morning I hope?!). They were all involved with my back up in 2011, so the interview process for select my crack team didn't take very long at all. Just want to say a big thank you to them for volunteering, it's not going to be the most glamorous of jobs, but I couldn't do it without them.

I'm off now to put the kids to bed and make my dinner. Get yourselves rested up and "always look on the bright side of life"...

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The week of risk and fear...

It gets to this time of the year, right before the Parish Walk when I'm scared to do anything in case I get injured. You can pull something moving a piece of furniture, picking up your child, or going up some stairs. Training is the obvious fear, I went out walking yesterday to get a steady 8 miles in and went over on my ankle slightly, it didn't hurt at the tine and I'm hoping that it's nothing, but it was one lapse in concentration and the pavement was uneven.

The reason I went out training was to see if the pain I experienced last week whilst walking was still there... I'm happy to say that the morning after I feel ok (touch wood)!!

I put my trainers on the radiator to dry after getting in from the rain and noticed that the tread has worn down near the front (see pic below) and am concerned, do my readers have any advice on what I should do? They are my preferred trainers, but I do have pairs of back ups, but psychologically, changing my lot at this stage may knock my confidence and mental positivity?

Thanks for reading this paranoid rant... Will be more upbeat next time (promise)!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Not long now...

I've returned to training after a weeks holiday in Salou with my family and came to the realisation that however prepared I am now is as prepared as I'll ever be for this years Parish Walk! I spent a lot of time whilst on holiday walking around the Portaventura theme park chasing after my daughters (with the occasional bit of pram pushing), so it wasn't all sitting in the sun and relaxing! I did feel guilty that I should have done some meaningful walking, but family time has been rare (with training and work) recently and I needed the time with my wife and girls before going into "Parish Walk Stress Mode" this week and next!

After getting off the place on Sunday lunchtime I fully intended to go out for a walk, but the pull of a BBQ and a cold bottle (or two) of strawberry & lime cider, I postponed it until Monday night instead. So after a manic Monday back in work, I donned my gear and hit the road to Laxey at a consistent, steady pace, this was due to feeling a pull in my groin earlier in the week (if anyone smirked whist reading that last bit, then you have the same sense of humour as me!). The walk was pretty uneventful on the outward journey, but on my way back to Douglas, I caught sight of another walker who was going at a good pace and I was letting him go past when he said hello and asked if I was Paul, the guy writing the Parish Walk blog (so there was one person reading the blog at least!). I said yeah and he introduced himself as Ed Walter (he'd written a PW blog last year, which I'd read to get my fix of the Parish after not entering in 2012). We had a chat and walked the route from the Queens pub to Lonan Church and he seemed to have the same sort of experience with his training (feeling bored and struggling to get motivated sometimes), I thought that it was just me, but maybe everyone else has felt like this during their training. The chat with Ed, although relatively brief, did me the world of good and highlighted the positive effect walking and talking with others can do to lift you and make the time pass more quickly (so wanted to give a big thanks to Ed for that).

I woke up this morning for work and walked into work and felt the previously mentioned groin pull, which I can still feel this evening. My dilemma now is, do I knock the rest of my training schedule on the head and rest as much as possible, or give it a day or so and then try to do a steady 10 mile walk? If anyone has any advice, then I'd really appreciate hearing it (particularly if you are a doctor or some sort of medical professional).

At this point I want to thank my family, and in particular, my very understanding wife, Emma. She has been great with sorting our girls out when I've been out of the house training for hours on end, I think I may have even seen her reading my blog tonight, so that should help my stats!

You may get these blogs a bit more frequently during the next two weeks as I will have a lot of weird and Radom thoughts that come with nerves and this will no doubt be my 'outlet', so I'll apologise in advance now.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The countdown is on...

I can't believe that it's been 3 weeks since I last blogged, but time can easily pass you by when you are focused on family, training, work, training and even more training. The only thing more difficult than all this walking is actually blogging about it!

So the nights are now lighter and the weather is (marginally) better, so I've been out quite a bit, trying to do between 10 and 14 miles twice a week and about 20 miles at the weekend. The problem I find is that I'm doing the same routes and they are getting a bit repetitive. Last weekend, I decided to walk the first part of the course to Rushen, the first time I've done so since the 2011 Parish Walk... Lets just say that the roads seemed longer and the hills seemed steeper this time round! I tracked my mileage/time and I think I may have been walking slower that I did in 2011, but you always walk quicker on the day with the competition element and the atmosphere created by of the participants and supporters. I got to Santon and was called by my wife to remind me that the Billown course was closing for the Pre TT racing, so I walked to Malew Church and carried on into Castletown (to get off the course before it shut) and wandered back towards the airport and into Ballasalla where I was picked up by my wife and daughters. I was tired, a bit thirsty and sunburnt (note to self: buy sun block before that race), but my legs and feet felt fine. I'm still not sure if I've trained enough for this years Parish Walk, but I can only do what I'm able to and if that's not enough, then so be it... It's more mental than physical anyway!

We have a nice family holiday coming up and although I will be relaxing (probably not the right word to use as my 1 year old and 4 year old daughter's will keep me on my feet and busy), I'll probably feel guilty that I should be training... Scrap that, I'll be sitting in the sun with a beer, so the guilt should be short lived!

I hope to get back to the blogging more frequently as the 22nd June gets closer and I start to taper my  training, the trouble is finding enough things that people will find interesting, I mean, I'm not even sure how many people actually read this?

You can't go wrong with a nice picture in a blog, so this was my view 10 miles into my walk the other week (just before I turned round to walk back home)... Watch out for the pavement from here to Laxey, it's terrible... but the view out to sea is amazing!