Monday, 3 November 2014

Victor Meldrew Licensed to Coach

After no days off since my the beginning of the month when Irene & I were away in London, this last weekend I was able to have a couple of day's leave, so you will imagine that I took the opportunity to put my feet up and take a break?

Unfortunately, not. Some time ago, I had decided that as I am starting to suffer from the onset of late middle age, I would scale back my athletic career and move towards helping others achieve their sporting goals. 1st & 2nd of November happened to be the two days that the 'Coach's Assistant' course was to be held over Saturday & Sunday.

After some time away from the classroom, the first shock was that I had to do pre-course homework. Therefore, I tried to start Tuesday, so I wouldn't do 'The usual' and end up in a frantic rush on Friday.

The first part was to write information about myself, my athletic background and my motivations to coach, something that those who know me will appreciate that I attacked with gusto. However, the second task was to watch a video and make comments about it, so being a little short of time, having written my life story, I opted to save it and have another go later.

At least I thought I did! Next day I found that my computer had helpfully had kept the form but none of my input! Not to worry. I did it again but then I found I was unable to access video because the Isle of Man is not in the U.K! I was struggling opening other files and inadvertently through my frustration, closed down the window with my personal information and lost it a second time!

Therefore, I e-mailed both my contact over here and 'England Athletics' to explain my difficulties and finally received a reply on Friday morning, thus being placed in the very position, I'd hoped to avoid in the first place, cramming it in after work and before training, the day before the course.

As usual, my expected easy Friday threw me a few unexpected problems and turned into frantic rush Friday. I ended up starting much later than I'd anticipated and by the time I'd re-written everything, watched a 22 minute video and given my thoughts on the questions about it, I had hardly any time left before I was due to babysit, Harry.

I thought I'd just check my email before I left to train and there was one from our course co-ordinator saying that he'd heard we'd all been having problems but not to worry because the tutors would go through it with us in the morning! Aaaargghh!!!

It was a genuine 'I don't believe it!' moment and I think Victor Meldrew* (for those not familiar VM was a grumpy old TV character with said catchphrase. See link at the bottom of the page) would have been proud of me!

Anyway, it was an intensive but hugely enjoyable weekend with a variety of other attendees of all ages with very different backgrounds.

Thanks to our guests at the Welbeck Hotel and course facilitators, Jackie Newton & Bashir Hussein, both former top athletes and now great coaches for their hard work and to Trevor Christian of the Isle of Man Athletics Association for running the event.


I am now officially a licensed Assistant Coach! So watch it you slackers, I'm coming to get you! **

(Michael George would like to point out that this last sentence was not part of the lessons delivered by Jackie & Bashir*** and that the photographs featured in this blog may have been taken a little time before last weekend)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLNrLI3OBwg

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Terence Reaches a Peak, Though His Fashion Sense Goes Downhill

At the moment, the local athletics scene is enjoying a surge in popularity with large participation numbers across quite a few of the disciplines.

A couple of weeks ago there was a record of 256 for the Microgaming Cross Country first round at Ballanette and last Saturday the Aston sponsored Winter Hill League resumed with a huge line up of 114 adults and juniors. The hill races are a bit of an introduction to fell running, not being as long or tough, on courses which are marked out rather than being a test of navigational skills. Therefore, you don't require the map, compass, full body clothing and whistle etc. to be allowed to set off as you would for a full fell run.

Saturday saw our son and in all probability your waiter at some stage, Terence, running for the first time since 2010. A little time in the gym being all the preparation he'd had.

Here he is, attempting to grasp victory in the 'Worst Dressed Competition' but incredibly one or two were even worse. Pic by Steve Partington

The distance was 4km (2.5 miles) which of course with the nature and contours of the terrain is much harder than it sounds. That having been said, our local fell running superstar, Lloyd Taggart won, breaking the course record in only 15min 10secs, though the much younger and upcoming, Ben Corkill was only 15 seconds in arrears. Jackie Taggart (wife of the above) also broke the woman's record in 18:17.

LLoyd Taggart Pic by Steve Partington

Ben Corkill Pic by Steve Partington

Jackie Lee Pic by Murray Lambden

Our Terence? He's naturally pretty fit and though I harboured fears that he may fall flat on his face both figuratively and literally, as he was only wearing a pair of road running trainers, he came a highly respectable 33rd place only just over 4 minutes behind the leader.

Results: http://static.squarespace.com/static/50c834e5e4b0a53fd189c25c/t/544e644ee4b05929edbc556a/1414423630788/WHL1%202014.pdf

The great thing about these events is that you get to see places that you rarely visit, in this case, Cringle Plantation and Reservoir which is yet another area which has been adapted for Mountain biking, too. In fact the following day, there was an 'Off Road Triathlon' at the same venue.

Of course I was wearing about 15 layers, armed with flasks of hot coffee, expecting to be frozen and blown off the hill, only to find it to be sheltered and almost tropical in temperature for the time of year which explains my state of half dress in the photograph.


Over the course of the year, Manx Fell runners organise a series of races, culminating with the prestigious Manx Mountain Ultra (formerly Manx Mountain Marathon, which sees the athletes climbing all the Island's major peaks from North to South.

The local club is very friendly and should you wish to participate in any of their organised running up and falling off mountains, see the link below:

www.manxfellrunners.org

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Welbeck Wally with The Welly



Now anyone with even a passing interest in the England football team will remember Steve MacLaren, the Wally with the Brolly who stood in his suit watching his team drown, with more of a parasol to shelter under. Well now he has competition, 'The Welbeck Wally with the Wellies .'

I knew the forecast was decidedly dodgy but I had to do at least 15k walking training yesterday to keep up with my schedule, so I set off at about 4:15pm luckily during a break in the weather.

However, my good fortune didn't last very long because by the time I reached the bridge at West Quay, it had already started to rain. By the time I hit the Old Castletown Road, this had developed into a cloud burst and approaching Port Soderick Village, I was wading through ankle deep water.

It would have been almost possible to surf down the hill towards the railway station!

Although it relented somewhat by the time I hit the coast, by the time I returned home, I was just a dripping mess.

I jumped in the shower because I only had about half an hour before I was due to judge the walking race at Isle of Man Veterans Athletics Club Autumn Handicap.

The one certain thing was that I was going to be dressed for the occasion, so there I was, looking like the Michelin man, wearing tights, leggings, two pairs of socks 15 jumpers and a waterproof jacket. But my Wellington boots were nowhere to be seen.

With a rare flash of inspiration, I realised they had been in Irene's car for the last six months from when she and my son Terence had borrowed them to visit my chum Richard Creer at Ballabunt Farm.

The blood had only just returned to my feet, following my earlier drenching, so there was no way I going to let them get wet again. I grabbed the spare key and drove to her gym where I located her car and quickly grabbed the footwear as I was now running in my usual edge of late zone.

After stopping in the Quarterbridge car park, I took my shoes off and slid the right foot straight into the boot but the left one wouldn't go on. Therefore, I stood and stamped before realising I had picked up one of Irene's, my poor toes were totally squashed! The twylight exposing the state of my diminishing eyesight.

And you've guessed it! The rain had ceased and didn't return until our race had long since finished and the runners were lining up!

Had we been filming our attempts to remove the offending welly, I'm sure we could have sent it into one of the TV programmes and let my stupidity finally earn us some money but in the end all we had from it were sore sides from laughing and a rather bemused cat.

The runners cop a soaking

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Dine in Style with Isle of Man Railways

Irene & I were lucky enough to be invited to the Isle of Man Railways Dining Car in August and we are extremely grateful to 'Inside Track' (our longest standing tour company who have been bringing us railway enthusiasts since 1997) for enabling us to experience it.

Boarding commenced at 18:30 and we were able to relax for half an hour with a drink before the train departed whilst we perused the menu and the Beverage List.


The 'Hooded Ram' mentioned on there, I was surprised to learn was actually hand pumped real ale, brewed in Hills Meadow Industrial Estate, just a few metres from the railway line and I for one was certainly impressed. To me the dinner choices were well balanced:
Irene chose the Corned Beef Hash and the Seafood Pie, whilst I plumped for the Leek & Potato Soup and the Shoulder of Lamb.

The starters were served during the initial journey from Douglas to Port Soderick and my soup was really tasty if not quite hot and then the train pulled up before the station, so we all had a view of the coast as we ate our main course.




Irene's pie was huge and after I had demolished my lamb, I reluctantly came to her aid and enjoyed both meals.

Our trip continued down to Castletown where we were given 45 minutes or so to enjoy the surroundings. You'll be amazed and shocked to learn that Irene & I took Clive (Tour leader) to the 'Sidings,' formerly 'Ducks Nest,' to further sample some more local ale (Bushys in this instance.)

The return journey was very atmospheric although my photograph probably doesn't do it justice I'm afraid and by this time of the evening in August, we'd lost the views. We both had a lovely rhubarb crumble for our sweet.


Isle of Man National Transport has invested considerably in converting the carriage and restoring the beautiful bar area, so I hope the venture is a success and that I am able to make a small contribution by publicising it in this medium. It does have its fair share of critics, including a close chum of mine who is very financially switched on but it really is a marvellous experience, so I would urge you to give it a try whether you are a local or one of my readers from further afield.

They are also still running the 'Pie in the Sky' (astronomy nights) and sunset dinners on the Mountain which I think I have previously recommended on my blogs.

If you are a railway enthusiast and enjoy being in a tour situation, the company to come with is 'Inside Track' who whilst perhaps not being the cheapest option on the market, their Tour Leaders have a depth of knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to 'Go the extra mile,' for their clients that you won't find anywhere else.

Below is the link to their website: http://www.railwayholidays.com/

Thursday, 25 September 2014

There's A New Star in The Welbeck Sky

It's possible that you won't believe this but I have on occasion been accused of hogging the limelight, being a self-publicist and even being a local celebrity (z-list ;) )

Most of which is usually associated with my racewalking feats.

What some people don't know is that Irene and I started racing together back in 2003 and this year was the first time since then that she didn't enter the 85 mile (137k) Manx Telecom Parish Walk because she had promised to support our chum Caroline Cain.

So when people exclaim in surprise, 'Oh you walk too?' she is usually too modest to point out that her first finish in the aforementioned race was faster than mine by a good 15 minutes.

However, all this might now have changed because while I stopped after 22 miles of last Sunday's Ramsey Bakery 'End to End Walk,' she completed the entire 39 miles and won her age category (21 - 25 I think.)

Irene at Bride near the start of the race.

On an absolutely beautiful (though a little hot for some of the athletes) 129 of the 218 starters completed the course which is surely the most scenic point to point course used in the British Isles.

Irene and Andy Fleet of Altrincham finish at the Calf Sound.

Congratulations to Richard Gerrard and Michelle Turner (Who also set the women's record) who were overall winners.

As well as being the top male athlete in the event, Richard also works for the secondary sponsors Royal London 360 and here he is in his other role representing his employers giving Irene her prize and certificate.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Costa Del Blackberry & The Tram Horses Trot Off On Sabbatical



We had a day off yesterday and couldn't quite decide what to do with ourselves, both Irene & I having been out training early in the day.

Both our ideas had been thwarted, Adventurous Experiences www.adventurousexperiences.com had no places on their kayaking expedition and Manx Sea Quest www.manxseaquest.com was doing a full day trip to Port Patrick, so having spent much of the last month walking past this years early and plentiful supply, we opted for blackberry picking.

Although they are all over the Island, we fancied a coffee on the Promenade at Peel afterwards, so we went on the coastal path, just South of Knocksharry.

Having failed in our attempts a couple of weeks ago when our bag collapsed and we had to eat them all (that's our story and we're sticking to it,) this time, we managed about two pounds each, so I think it will be blackberry clafoutis on the menu tonight and hopefully, soon we'll have apple & blackberry crumble.



Having finally scrubbed our purple stained hands, there was just time to return to Douglas and catch the last horse tram until 2016*. It was with great excitement that I saw it was the double decker as I have never been on it but it was short lived because once again, we hadn't organised ourselves quickly enough and it was full.

It was very atmospheric down at the Derby Castle Terminus, so we stopped, had a drink, took some photographs and then went for a look around the stables. They had brought down about 20 horses and they really are impressive beasts.



* For those who haven't heard, it would have been possible to maintain the horse tram service next year but this would have doubled the length of the Promenade regeneration scheme, so the decision was made in order to keep the considerable disruption to a minimum.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Chasing Salmon in Laxey

Laxey is a picturesque, former mining village whose name, derives from the Norse word for salmon.

Therefore, I suppose it made sense when it was decided to create three walks around the village to call them the Salmon Walks and they are colour coded as to their degree of length (10k or 6.2 miles, 7k or 4 miles, 3k or 2 miles) and difficulty.

There is a leaflet produced by the Laxey Commissioners (Commissioners are Manx local government organisations elected by the people of the towns/villages usually taking care of parks, public housing, street lighting etc. Only Douglas is a corporation with a town council,) that can be picked up from, Tourist Information Centre.

It is written by local historian and Blue Badge Guide, Frank Cowin, shows the routes and also points out any places of interest that you may encounter along the way.

On the day that we decided finally to explore them, Irene hadn't been too well the previous day and the weather was looking as though it might break, so we chose to do part of the most difficult one.

They are circular, so you can choose to pick them up where you please but the start of the blue and the red walks are only a 200 yards from the aforementioned TIC, so quite handy really.
Our journey began by taking the short cut onto the Baldhoon Road, across the tram tracks and by the Snaefell Mountain Railway sheds. This area is pretty hilly and we trudged up the steep hill towards Glen Ruy. It has to be said that the Salmon Walks at this stage are not particularly well signed, so be careful not to miss the turn down to Axnfell which is a public footpath just after the house with the small wind turbine (don't worry there isn't a big one but I didn't want to confuse it with one of the huge white monstrosities.)

It is fairly steep descent and difficult underfoot, so this path isn't for everyone but eventually you get to a white bridge across the river. By this time, our fears about the weather had proved totally mistaken and the sun was beating down.
There is a very pretty trail that brings you to Laxey Glen, then you cross New Road (the Village's main road) and then back down to rejoin the river.

I 'm not sure what led me to choose this route but amazingly having stopped for refreshment earlier at the Queens Hotel, we had now found ourselves in the car park of the Shore Hotel, a pub complete with its own micro-brewery.
Such was the beauty of the day, we were able to sit by the river and watch the ducks play.


We actually became impromptu marshals for the 'Lighthouse Challenge,' a cycle race which took the athletes around the length and breadth of the Island. Unfortunately, some wally had pinched the sign (more IOM navigational problems!) directing them to the the pier, so from the luxury of our pub table, we were shouting instructions to stop them whizzing past the turn off.


For a small village, Laxey is actually quite spread out, so the Commissioners in association with Bus Vannin are now providing a hopper bus that runs every half an hour. On this occasion, we hadn't quite had enough to drink to necessitate using it, though we had had enough to leave the rest of the walk for another day, so we walked back up Glen Road to catch our bus home.