Monday, 15 June 2015

At Richard's

I get out the car, still feeling a bit lost, and look around. The garden is beautiful, well kept green lawns and trees and kaleidoscopic views of a fairytale sunset all round. I gather my things together - my phone, a scrap of worn paper and a half-drunk bottle of red wine. I look around some more. Is this the right house?

Then I see Richard Wild perched on a picnic table on a patio some twenty or so steps away. He watches me as I cover that distance, the bottle of wine tucked under my arm, the other hand returning the affections of his dog as it jumps around my legs. There are greetings and how-do-you-dos before he shows me the view over the Point of Ayre that envelops the rear of the garden. Soon we are sat in an enclosed ornamental back garden beside a babbling pond, a glass of wine each and, I'm told, chips on the way.

'Yeah, I think I'm out the race,' I announce.
'What's wrong then, tell me what's wrong with your knees.'
'Ever since the Northern Ten, they've both had this nagging aching feeling that hasn't really got any better at all over the last five weeks.'
'But it's not a stabbing pain?'
'No - in fact, if it weren't for the Parish, I dare say I wouldn't notice it too much. But there's something wrong in there, and it seems like madness to start an eighty-five mile race on bad knees!'
'That would be a shame after all the training.'
'I know it's annoying. But I am holding out hope that they'll recover in time. In which case, I was going to ask you what you thought of this.'
I produce the scrap of worn paper - my training record. Until this evening it has lived mostly in the living room over the piano, next to the homemade map of the course that dominates the wall. I explain how the chart works and Richard ponders it for a moment.
'This looks like the sort of training that will leave you exhausted and knock your immune system out.'

He's certainly right about my immune system - there are large shaded out patches over the sheet of paper representing a number of bugs and infections that had me bedridden. He points to one of them and reads out the word 'Sick,' then looks at me.
'So nothing at all here?' he says, waving his finger over the shaded out area.
'Not a couple of miles here and there?'
'No, nothing.'
'And what's this here?' he asks regarding the whole shaded out area at the bottom fifth of the page.
'I've been trying to leave these knee's to recover. That last ten written there is the Northern Ten.'
'And since then nothing?'
He puts the sheet of paper down.
'You know most of us don't really go over twenty miles very often, because of the recovery time required... but you do it all the time and it seems to have been effective for you.'
'Yeah. But you don't think this is the right way necessarily?'
'Well it looks to me like you're doing too much on single walks, and yet your overall mileage is still too low.'
'So more shorter walks?'
'Well, yeah...'

He goes on to explain how he trains, and how some professionals he knows train. He outlines a form of discipline and structure that has never occurred to me. To me training to walk means walking, and walking is just walking. But as I listen to him I realise that he makes perfect sense - measured and meaningful distances with prescribed purposes, some working on speed others on endurance, still others working on recovery. He points to an average training day on my record again.
'See, I would only do this a couple of times a year, only really at events.'

We discuss plans for the race itself, how much we can expect to drop in speed towards the end, what will make sensible targets for us, how many really great walkers are in the race this year. And however well or badly trained I am, with shoddy knees I'm a non-starter anyway!
'You know what you should do,' he says, frankly, 'is go out for a walk. Do ten miles, at Parish pace, and see how they feel. If they get bad, you've got your answer'

I lean back and rub my right knee absent mindedly - it's throbbing slightly now. The sky is infinitely empty but for a faint and indeterminate wisp of white. I imagine that that wisp is the seed of an enormous change - that that wisp will grow and mutate until it has become a vast, deep grey sky of its own, laden with water and water, all tense and ready for the morning of the race. I look back at Richard in sunglasses sipping his wine. He's right of course, but now, as the left knee begins to throb a little as well, I worry that I already have my answer.


  1. Ha ha! This blog really makes me sound like a drink driver!

    I wasn't, I brought the bottle over precisely because it needed drinking and I couldn't because I was driving!

    ....... just so that's clear.


  2. There are many things that can be wrong with your knees but often it is just simple things like your IT band pulling your kneecap across (which can be cured with squats to build or quads) or other ailments that a physio can just whack a bit of tape on your ear and the knee pain will miraculously disappear.

    These days most physios will not tell you to rest through the majority of injuries and often to train until the point of pain.

    I'm glad I'm retiring if you are thinking starting training seriously at some point ;)

    If you can do 1:23 for ten miles with no specific training or coaching, the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast is an option you should seriously consider working towards as it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    Anyway if you want any help or dodgy advice, you know where I am.


  4. Ah, thanks Mike, really appreciate the advice and encouragement!

    I'm seeing a physio this afternoon and a masseur tomorrow morning, I still have hopes of a sound effort on Saturday! Really looking forward to watching your race as well! If I'm not out racing I'll be driving around harassing you lot with what would have been my support crew.

    Good luck Mike!

  5. I just love your style of writing - brilliant blog! Good luck, I'm hoping (hoping) to get past Ballaugh (my furthest point so far!)

    1. Thankyou! :D Ah, best of luck! 42 miles is absolutely killer, the stretch from Kirk Michael seems to last forever. Weather looks great though, you're going to do it!!! What's your race number?

    2. Really enjoyed reading your blog which I have binge-read over the past few days, wishing I was on the island and walking tomorrow! How did physio session go? Are you walking?

    3. Hi Phil! Glad you liked it, cheers mate. Yeah, I always look out for your name on the entry list, shame you couldn't be there, it was a really really good Parish, loads of brilliant performances. The physio said there was nothing wrong beyond some bad inflammation basically everywhere, ha ha! He told me not to do the walk - but I took it easy and stopped when I felt it coming on. A sports massage lady said the same thing - my whole body pretty stressed out. I think it was the Northern 10 - I didn't train properly to do that sort of speed and the shock of it took me back a few steps. But I've learned my lesson and itching to get back out training in the next few days!

      What about you, do you think you'll be competing next year? It's time to start training if so! Do you ever do the other IOM walking races, there's a load of really cool events all through the year.