Manx MM – Easter Saturday 11h April 2009

After a seven year absence I thought it was about time to pay another visit to the Isle of Man at Easter to do one of my favourite races, the Manx MM. A 31 mile route over all the summits along the spine of the island, from Ramsay to Port Erin.

I sent off a last minute entry and hoped a “willpower will get me round” approach might make up for the complete lack of training for the gruelling route. As I did my last Manx MM in 2002 unsupported, memories of being handed cheese butties, crème eggs and bottles of Ribena from well-meaning spectators is probably not the best race fodder. Thus Chris Heys kindly agreed to come along this time as support.

With bikes we caught the fast ferry from Liverpool’s Pier Head and then the steam train to Port Erin. We had sea facing rooms in a “land that time forget” hotel called the Grosvenor – the shower was cold only – but it was very clean, pleasant enough and the bath at least was hot! The Port is a fishing village turned Victorian resort which now feels a little faded, but is quiet and its coup d’grace is of course the excellent Bay Hotel pub, which brews its own beer.

Friday was spent on a leisurely cycle ride around the South end of the island (the cafe at Cregneash, a traditional Manx village with thatched smallholdings, is highly recommended). I also recced part of the race route at Fleshwick Bay (in the race I went wrong here anyway – so much for the recce!). Spectated the Athletics Festival 10k which was held in the evening from Port Erin’s harbour.

It was an early start on Saturday morning as we had to catch the special race bus from Port Erin to Ramsay in time to register and start the race at 9am. The conditions on the day were fantastic, not ideal running conditions due to the very wet ground and quite a strong headwind for the entire route, but you can’t argue with blue sky and 360 degree sea views. The Mournes in particular were clearly visible.

At the half way point at St Johns I was lying 4th, but as usual my lazy body finally got going and I picked off 3rd and 2nd. Sudden bursts of cramp in hamstrings and later calfs meant I had to occasionally adjust running style, cursing my forgetfulness at the slow sodium tablets lying pointlessly on the mantelpiece at home on the mainland. At the last road crossing I daftly refused the last helping of power beans and water from Chris’s flawless road support, and this coupled with a bad line to Fleshwick bay and an unintended detour up and around some cliffs meant I really began to suffer for the last 5k over Bradda Hill to the tower and finish. It was another “Fiensdale moment” as I had to lie down in the heather and was passed by the guy I had overtaken half an hour earlier, resulting in a final position of 3rd. Needless to say I was the only Horwich member to compete, will the days of Wilf and Brent going over ever return?

Post race there was nothing to do but eat and drink until the prize giving at 8pm – pasta, crab baps, ice cream, plenty of Bushy’s ale, it all went down the hatch. On Sunday after a breakfast of kippers a 20mile scenic cycle along the cliff tops to Douglas, luncheon in the Sefton Hotel and the afternoon ferry back to Liverpool.

All in all a great weekend, the race being just part of the adventure.

BBs verdict – Recommended.