Tuesday 31 December 2013

Total immersion

I'm feeling substantially better in myself and decided to get out for a swim. My usual pool and the local council pool are closed for the holiday. Ponds Forge was open and going for a swim fitted in nicely with a trip into the city.

Stolen from the SIV website
On first appearance the 50m length wasn't too terrifying but on jumping in I was shocked to find that the end of the pool was 2m deep and the water was cool. Both fine for active lengths but not great if you need a rest. My first length was very rough as I was in a mild panic and going too quickly but gradually I paced myself. Mostly I managed complete lengths with bilateral breathing but occasionally I had to stop short and do a few lazy breaststrokes. Both ends of the pool were 'shallow' at 2m and the central portion was significantly deeper. No opportunities to stand up then!

As I crept towards a mere 14 lengths (still 700m) my arms were struggling to keep me progressing as they weakened during the course of a length. As I've mentioned in a previous post, I don't have aerobic arms.

It was a good practice session and has given me an insight into the 'next level' of longer lengths and a need to keep active to maintain body warmth. Open water swimming would be a vast leap beyond this!

Saturday 28 December 2013

Ongoing ache

Yesterday morning I felt as if I was improving a little but by lunchtime I knew that wasn't true and so took 10mg Omeprazole. Same again today and with little recovery in sight I've recently taken 20mg more. Let's hope that breaks the cycle, it has worked previously. I really hope so.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Return of the ache

Today I've been attacked by an abdominal ache once again. I'm never sure when I get these pains if it's the 'functional gastritis' first occurring in May 2012 or whether it's something else; such as an off chip! However, we've been eating and drinking very sensibly (especially in view of the traditional seasonal excesses) and mostly food of our own preparation so it's hard to blame an external agent.  It seems harder still though to blame my epigastric pain on stress as the week has been very relaxed with no transport or travel issues so common in the 'holiday season'. Yesterday's run was easy too, a very usual length for me and taken at a leisurely pace so it's hard to ascribe the pain to abdominal muscle effort.

I've just slept for 2 hours in the early evening and intend to go straight back to sleep until a goodly hour tomorrow morning. How can I be tired? I must be ill to a degree.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Christmas day around the block

With nothing much going on, a dry sunny morning and an empty apartment it seemed the ideal time to do a 10km run around the local countryside. We'd walked to east and west so I set a route to the south. The paths and bridleways weren't as wet as I'd feared and I made fair time although I had to stop at each junction to check with the map.
The ford in Shilton was too wet to cross
At Shilton though, the centre of the village was flooded  and as I didn't want to get cold by wading I had to detour along the road thereby missing out Mount Zion Bottom. That was probably no bad thing as  I expect that the valley would have been flooded as it holds the same beck that was flooding Shilton.

Descending on the bridleway to Widford

As I'd missed a little distance and ascent I extended the route to the north through Widford. Luckily there is a bridge there! Swinbrook looked as though it could flood very easily as water lapped across very minor side roads but the main thorough, if one can call it that, was dry.

Monday 23 December 2013

Cabin fever

The pre-Christmas weather has been foul. We've not been travelling which is a good thing but the wind and rain have kept us indoors.

Stolen from BBC news website
With only an hour of daylight remaining we decided to don the waterproofs and set out. I can't say it was pleasant but it was helpful to move beyond the building.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Still affected by the cold

It's amazing the difference that a few days makes. On Wednesday I was glad to be off work but on Thursday and Friday I got on OK although I was looking forward to the weekend. Today I felt able to go out for the Saturday morning run.

However, despite a good start, as the ascent started I could tell that I  wasn't really right.  I made it to the top of Porter Clough but needed a few walking rests and decided that I must 'listen to my body' and take a direct route home. My breathing was strained and the aches of earlier in the week had reappeared.

At least I went out and covered a relatively easy 12km and know that I need a bit more recovery time.

This afternoon I was in the car for a few hours and found that pretty uncomfortable. The roller came out as soon as practicable!

Thursday 19 December 2013

Horrid cold

This isn't an entry about the weather which is mostly acceptable, but about the common cold virus. Last Sunday I knew a cold was on the way and by Tuesday afternoon I'd decided that I'd be off work at least on Wednesday and that a run and circuits were inappropriate. Today, Thursday I feel a fair bit better even after a day in work and so hopefully I'm on the mend.

It's no wonder that I got an infection as colleagues at work and other circuit participants were suffering from it and I've probably passed it on too.

Its' a pity as I'd hoped to have another good mileage week but I suppose it has been a rest for my legs, even though many joints have had a feverish ache. I just have to remember that's it's only a week.

Monday 16 December 2013

At the physiotherapist again

Another session after a 2 week gap but things actually going well. A bit of tension in the left calf but nothing extreme (last week a similar know went with copious use of the roller) and not much else. I'm starting to believe that I am getting strength in the flexors of my left leg and they are up to the demands currently placed upon them - that is less than 30km.

We also discussed potential coaches and there's a list of 3 to try, including the circuits coach so that's something to follow-up in 2014 if I'm serious about the 100km.

Saturday 14 December 2013

50 mile training plan

I found this whilst googling. In theory quite doable but is a lot of time, whatever they say!

Round walk (3rd attempt)

Today was my third attempt at the Round Walk route and my third saturday run over 20km in a row. I feel if I want to achieve an ultramarathon distance reliably I have to make my long runs more regular and with a more gradual increase in difficulty. Last spring I went form 20km to 30km to 40km in rapid succession and that didn't work out well. Likewise in September I achieved an over 30km distance but it was very hard going and I can still feel the consequences now. My plan is to do at least 4 weeks for each stage before going up; even if, as this month I approach the next block.

The Christmas tree in Porter Valley

The Round Walk today was much harder than last week's Blacka Moor run. I thought that it might be due to a greater elevation component but on Strava there is basically no difference in total height gain. It might be that the ascent occurs throughout the run whilst moor runs tend to be up outbound and down on the return. This could show that I'm struggling with lactate buildup; do we believe it this theory?

Overall though I'm happy with the pace as it seems to be my fastest attempt:

  • April 2013; gaining lots of speed and strength, 2:25
  • September 2013; not as strong as I thought I was, 2:34
  • December 2013; improving again, 2:22

Monday 9 December 2013

Stretch & swim

The tender calf has been responding well to the roller in that the spasmed zone has relaxed; or maybe time would have healed it whatever. The important thing is that it's recovering.

Today's swim was no great advance. Three consecutive lengths with bilateral breathing are still a struggle but can be done with careful pacing. When my stroke is at its best I can feel how I'm pulling against the water at the deepest reach but maintaining form is a challenge. In general though it seems I am able to keep form more than I was a few weeks ago.

This is an interesting blog entry about how inefficient human swimmers are. So now I know why I can run so much further than I can swim. It looks as though I'm around the 3% mark.

Sunday 8 December 2013


I woke in the middle of the night with cramp in my calf muscles. This isn't all that unusual and seems to have as much to do with genes as running as my mother suffers from leg cramps and I don't think she has ever run 10km, and certainly not in the last 30 years. This time the pain was a little higher than usual and the muscles were reluctant to relax. I had to get the roller on them for 10 minutes before I dared do much stretching.

During the day I've used the roller and stretched a few times and now it's only mildly irritating. Hamstring and behind the knee seems OK. All the same chain of muscles though. I'm wondering if it has anything to do with wearing my more worn (>500km) shoes. I don't know, but it's logged here now.

I'd best go and do more rolling.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Half marathon PB set

I've not done much distance this week for a variety of reasons but that meant that I felt able to achieve something this morning. I decided to aim for a good time on my Blacka Moor half marathon. I set off in drizzle and as that eased and the sun rose I became a little warm. On the uphill section the pace was looking good and I arrived at Oxstones only a little behind 6min/km. During the descent to home it occurred to me that a sub-2 hour time might be achievable, I estimated that I needed a pace of 5:40 (having calculated it at home I have found it's nearer 5:38). Of course, to pull down to that I'd have to be going close to a 5 minute pace for the last third.

An atmospheric sky
I made a real effort; the descents I kept steady but I tried hard to keep going on the few gentle and not-so-gentle rises close to home. Anyway, I achieved it just, with a time of 1:58:48. That was very close!

Pace (lower) and grade adjusted pace (upper) show very good consistency during the run

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Hard work on the circuits

Observations from the last 2 weeks lead me to believe that the circuit class is hard on the delicate hamstring. Of course, they are supposed to be strengthening sessions and that requires an element of overload. During Monday and Tuesday the irritation eases but then exercises such as single leg squats (using TRX for balance) reactivate it. When you're doing day-to-day activities and exercises there is usually some compensation between legs but in this sort of isolation exercise the weaker one can't be helped out. Hopefully as it strengthens the problem will fade...

Saturday 30 November 2013

A slack two weeks until today

During the first half of November I got a lot of kilometres under my belt and wondered if I'd achieve 200km during the month. Due to some long work days and evenings out the second half of the month was less active and I only managed to just exceed the 160km. That's my usual average though so not too bad.

After much deliberation, today I decided to do a little over the half-marathon distance and see how my leg coped. At the beginning of this week I thought I'd got it licked by avoiding a certain pair of shoes. But then during the week the niggle re-appeared even without any running. I thought that if it can recur whilst at work I might as well run on it!

SO after 6 months avoiding the area I returned to Stanage. I didn't do the descent into Hathersage but stayed high (that meant crossing the bog unfortunately and gaining shoes full of muddy, cold water) to shorten the loop and returned home via Higger Tor. The weather was lovely, indeed rather too sunny in that the early morning low sun was a distraction whilst I negotiated the rockery on the edge. 

View from the pole

Looking towards Hathersage

Looking back to Higger Tor and Carl Wark
The stones and ascent around the 15km mark took their toll on my legs and I found the return journey hard work with 'empty' feeling legs. I had been eating and drinking a little so hypoglycaemia probably wasn't the cause.

I was satisfied with the outcome though, achieving just under 27km at better than 6 minutes/km. I suspect that is one reason it was 'hard work' as I did it with few walking breaks and only walked when the gradient or terrain was too strenuous for me. Once home I ensured that I went through the various roller and stretching exercises and they'll be repeated in the evening too.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Camera choice

The images and videos on this blog have been done with two Panasonic cameras. I think I've mentioned them in the past but doing yesterday's little DIY demo highlighted that they are by no means equal.
LX5 (Image stolen from Panasonic website)
I bought the LX5 a few years ago as an upgrade from a Nikon compact due to the excellent reviews it received. It was heading to being obsolete then but I went ahead and haven't regretted the decision. It's a great little camera and takes excellent photos even in low light conditions. The replacement LX7 builds on its success with an even faster lens, better burst rate, full HD movies and improved in-camera processing and even without holding on I'd recommend one of these to take really nice pictures. However the LX range aren't waterproof and the lens assembly protrudes all of the time and extends during use. These features make it less than ideal as a runner's camera.
FT25 (Image stolen from Panasonic website)
I bought the FT25 to have a shower-resistant 'flat' camera that would withstand a little abuse on the trail. The menus have a similar feel so there isn't a steep learning curve and the little package still has a quality feel to it. The lens system is wholly integrated into the casing ('folded optics') resulting in a rather poor F3.9 maximum aperture and that is the camera's Achille's heel. In dull conditions images are rather grainy, with image noise making a mockery of the 16.1 megapixel specification. The panorama mode is very convenient to use but can create artefacts during stitching and in general the results aren't as good as using the LX5 followed by Hugin. I wonder how the LX7 performs?

So it's the age old photographer's dilemma, quality versus convenience!

Flashing running light

As the night starts earlier every day I was looking for bright things and found a DIY solution.

One question is though, why do runners feel they have to be more visible than pedestrians?

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Powered by cake

On  my way home from work I ate a slice of New Roots' Everythingless cake. Of course it can't really have nothing in it but it does have lots of dried fruit and a little wholemeal flour. I think it is responsible for a great run this evening where I gained 11 Strava achievements. Some of these are nested so the real achievements aren't so great but it does mark a good consistent turn of speed. I might also have been helped by trying to achieve a good 1km pace alongside the park and so as I eased off after that nothing felt as tough as usual. The icy weather could have been an incentive too as I needed to keep going to stay warm. Whatever the cause, the whole loop was probably my third best effort but, most importantly, under the hour. Beyond that any differences are only seconds which are irrelevant on a road circuit interrupted by junctions.

The Brooks shoes do still feel fast and even after applying a bit more effort I've not suffered from sore calves so I'm probably getting used to them at the 11km distance now.

Monday 18 November 2013

Two going on Three

Swimming progress is very slow but this evening I comfortably managed a number of double lengths with bilateral breathing and a few treble lengths. During the third length my form was weakening and I especially developed a rocking head and reduced the degree of torso twist achieved during breathing. But nonetheless, that's (slow) progress.

Saturday 16 November 2013

3 days running

Today's saturday run was hard going, in part because I was trying to keep up with triathlete R, but also I suspect due to lack of recovery from Thursday's and Friday's exertions. Whilst such overload is a bad thing as it's close to overtraining it can be helpful to go out on a run repeatedly to practice the experience of running on tired legs - as will occur in a long event.

Now a good rest is essential though, especially as the hamstring/piriformis issue has been reactivated a little.

Friday 15 November 2013

A sunny day off

I'd booked today as annual leave some months ago and as the neck, shoulder, hamstring and knee (!!!) all felt good I decided to take advantage of the pleasant autumn weather.

The ground was moist throughout with plenty of fallen leaves and rotting vegetation, all part of proper autumn.
Sunny at Oxstones today
Last time I visited Oxstones the mist limited visibility but today there were panoramic vistas. Even with the sun it was fairly cool and I kept my jacket on throughout although for a few minutes now and again I was just a little too warm.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Pain in the neck

Since returning from Birmingham I've been suffering from a painful stiff neck. This is a problem at least a decade in duration but for the last few years it has been a minor, infrequent irritation on the whole. Taking care with sitting and regular massages seems to keep it in check - mostly. I've no idea what set it off this time; thin pillow, heavy rucsac, cold air, all of these plus swimming? Who knows? Anyway, it's not pleasant although the only impact it seems to have on exercise is making it uncomfortable to lie down for floor exercises.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Low drop run goes above 11km

Previously I've worn the low-drop Brooks shoes up to 8km and today I wore them for an 11.4km road trip trough Dore village. The shoes do feel 'fast' and indeed I recorded some of my best times in months but during the last few km of descent I could feel tension in the calf muscles on both sides. That's an indicator that I must be careful about lengthening runs in these shoes. Although they are a long way from 'barefoot' the heel drop is a few mm less than my usual road shoes.

Monday 11 November 2013

Hamstring OK, but still discomfort

I've been making quite an effort with the stretches and curls over the last 2 weeks and now the left hamstring has has much movement as the right. Nonetheless, over the weekend, whilst away in Birmingham the discomfort started to build up again.
The dusk skyline from the Library of Birmingham
Luckily I had an appointment already booked with the physio and she felt that doing 'tourist' walking, stopping, photos was possibly responsible for irritating it. Now, the pattern of tension and referred pain is classic piriformis syndrome; which is an issue I'd long suspected to be within the problem. Sitting on trains and planes is definately an irritant too!

I did do some shopping and came home with a Rab AL long-sleeved shirt. (Note added later: I've worn it a few times now and it is quite warm, OK for me on cold days but too much if you're a hot runner).
Image stolen from the Rab website

Thursday 31 October 2013

The end of October

October has been a little disappointing as I had hoped to complete a marathon distance and could not. Perhaps I could have, with resulting discomfort and slowed healing, but I've been advised to restrict myself to runs under 20km until the hamstring issue is distinctly improving. Presently the irritation ebbs and flows but the muscle is clearly upset once the half-marathon distance is exceeded. However I have tried to do more short runs and although this hasn't been a great success I still managed to do 160km this month. That puts me on a par with previous months although the pace hasn't been great.

Another positive outcome is that I have done an 8km run in the low heel drop Brooks road shoes without problems in my lower legs, so that has rewarded my very slow increments in distance with those shoes.

Sunday 27 October 2013

A few little updates

Over the weekend I finally found time to collate the photos I'd taken on my last run of 'The Round Walk' into a YouTube video. I've embedded that with the text retrospectively.

Additionally I've updated the 'Pace of the longest run a given month' image to reflect this weekend's run as I won't be doing anything longer and I've added colour for the years of data and given it a hyperlink to a larger image. Now it's quite clear that my pace is broadly the same for much longer distances than previously and that I'm doing a greater variety (unfortunately an injured month is quite evident) of runs now. For 2011 and 2012 I was not doing much different month after month. A similar chart for all of my runs could illustrate pace very well.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Blacka Moor 'half marathon'

As last week's saturday run combined with Parkrun hadn't irritated my legs I'd decided earlier in the week to do one of my informal race-length loops. A few weeks ago I had hoped that I might be doing a  marathon this weekend but with  the ongoing leg-ache that wouldn't have been wise, or perhaps even possible.

It was only just light as I set off with the street lamps adding to illumination. By the time I reached the woods there was a little more light and the colours of autumn were apparent.

Autumn leaves are just falling

My plan was to keep running, that is not do my 5:1 cycle and see what effect it had on my average pace. Initially it looked like a really bad idea as I was only achieving 6:30min/km but that was uphill! Also I was getting too hot as I'd got my jacket on as it was raining. eventually the jacket came off and that made me feel better and faster even if I wasn't. In just over the hour I reached a notional halfway point where I turned homewards at Houndkirk Road.

At Oxstones with a dreary view
Although it wasn't raining the clouds were hanging over the fells removing any chance of a view across the valleys of Sheffield. From Oxstones the trend is downhill although there are a few uphill sections to impede the weary runner. As the descent progressed it was obvious that my pace had improved and the average gradually wound back towards 6:20 and then 6:10. Perhaps I could just get under 6 minutes/km?

As is so often the case, the final few km through the woods were hard work and I was doubtful that I'd manage the magical '6'. With a final push on the tarmac, some of which is markedly uphill I made it home, and yes, the average was 5:54! Hoorary! Even this didn't get me a half-marathon badge on Strava as it seems I've done better a number of times before, especially around 6 months ago when I seemed to be at my strongest. Nonetheless it was a fair effort and doesn't feel to have inflicted damage on the hamstring.

Friday 18 October 2013

Swimming backwards

This evening I had to take a step back from my bilateral breathing to re-focus upon a  good stroke action. It had even slipped a little on my slow single-sided breathing. It's quite an effort keeping all the technique in place. I think I was probably tired after a long week in work too.

Monday 14 October 2013

Two swimming milestones

Whilst my legs seem fragile I'm making an effort at the swimming to try to maintain or even build fitness. How much is transferable between the disciplines is very debatable but at least I'm keeping busy.

This evening I've passed two milestones. First, I've been able to swim 3 continuous lengths, a grand total of 100 yards. Not a great deal I admit, but it is a step up from last weeks 2 lengths. The instructor had been encouraging me to go slowly and today I set off with a very stable, slow stroke and a goal. I managed this a few times and thought I could have managed a bit more so hopefully I'll be able to progressively increase the continuous distance now.

Second, I wanted to start on bilateral breathing so as to make my stroke more symmetrical (I have potential shoulder problems as indicated by previous events) and as a base for any future open water swimming; should I ever want to do that. The instructor encouraged me to just try it. After all, I can touch the bottom of the pool anywhere if I don't manage. First time I managed a fair first breath and a gulp of water for the second; a good job it's all the shallow end at this pool! Then I achieved a few lengths with a nice 3 stroke cycle. The left breath feels more awkward than the right and I don't think it was as effective but that's how my breathing was on the right just a few months ago. Many websites suggest all sorts of drills to introduce this technique but after all the nervousness it didn't seem too bad!

I didn't quite manage 2 continuous lengths of this pattern but I was tired by then. That can be next week's goal. Of course, a 3 stroke cycle risks more gas transport problems (oxygen debt or carbon dioxide buildup) but I think I can cope with that at my new-found cautious speed.

Sunday 13 October 2013

More new shoes

My old road shoes are Saucony Rides; the version 6 is currently for sale but mine must be 2 or 3. They show some wear but not all that much as I moved on to Inov-8 trail shoes as my distance increased. Perhaps more importantly, the pattern isn't how I currently wear shoes as I used to use them with orthotics. Combined with my ongoing adaptation to low-drop shoes it seemed best to retire these and go for some new road shoes.

The local shop had a special deal on a pair of Brooks Green Silence and I came away with those. Subsequently finding online comments relating these to racing flats put me off a little but the eco-friendly and broad fit aspects remained attractive. It appears that they are now discontinued but have a loyal following of runners; some of whom do large mileages so they should be OK for my relatively short road hops.

Note the marked asymmetry in the design

This evening I took them for a sub-3km spin and they felt comfortable and fast despite the slightly tired legs. An easy 15 minutes but at least they didn't induce any new strains.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Not the routine

Today I was unable to do the normal, routine, Saturday morning run as I was on a course. Not work related either. I'd been bought a day's introduction to pole lathe turning in the local woods as a birthday present. Over the morning our little group converted half a large log into a piece of wood each that would be suitable for turning. This involved a fair bit of axe work and then shaving the roughly hewn lump into an approximate cylinder. During the afternoon I turned a garden dibber. We were all satisfied with our work and had needed only minimal hand-on intervention from the tutor. An entertaining and educational day.
My handiwork
As we finished late afternoon I had the opportunity for an early evening run and did a pleasant 15km. I'd hoped the ascent would have been faster than it was but the descent was as fast as it felt resulting in a best time for 15km.  I was happy with that especially as both legs were playing up. The left has the ongoing hamstring tension (worse downhill it seems) whilst the right had a hint of ITB tenderness (worse uphill). I wonder if the latter was a result of lathe work?

Both improved with stretching and roller work and I'll be seeing the physio on Monday anyway.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Nano biathalon

Today I swam at lunchtime for just over half an hour and then ran this evening, also for just over half an hour. That's a first. Also I misjudged the time so came back through the woods just after dusk; so a first on a nearly dark trail run too. Finally, I was wearing new shoes as the ones that I bought in May which seemed to cause problems are now showing quite a lot of wear. The physio recommended starting to wear-in a new pair before the old ones are worn-out so that there is a less sudden transition when they've finally had enough. With even quite modest mileage shoes don't last long!

Monday 7 October 2013

A whole two lengths

At long last I've managed to do lengths of front crawl consecutively! The second had pretty scrappy technique but it was one. Then I repeated this twice more to make sure I could do it.

I'm surprised how long it's taken me to achieve this but really I've been finding 1 length quite tiring which is odd as I consider myself to have fairly good aerobic fitness. I suppose that swimming has far more restricted opportunities for breathing which puts demands upon tidal volume. Although I feel to be out of breath I suspect that there are regulatory issues from 'the central governor' perhaps initiated by fatigue of  upper body muscles engaged in anaerobic metabolism which cannot be sustained for long. I wonder how many years it takes to get 'aerobic arms'? Perhaps only 10 weeks if you train 3 times per week according to this article.

Just to close, there are some interesting comments in here that relate fatigue to carbon dioxide build-up rather than oxygen deficit (increased blood carbon dioxide is a potent stimulus for breathing, oxygen lack is not) and ideas for bilateral breathing. That's something I need to introduce as the right is a preferred side already.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Ongoing hamstring issues

After the Strava 20 mile run I had knots in my left hamstring, similar to earlier pain in The Knee but not so bad. Clearly I'd overdone it again! Whilst in Spain it had been niggling and a massage at the hotel hadn't helped very much. On my return I'd seen the physio (well a new associate) and he had worked hard at some trigger points and managed to get a lot of relaxation along my left leg. Now I need to keep up on the stretches and not re-irritate them by overload.

The physio recommended looking at 'Becoming a Supple Leopard' and some of Kelly Starratt's videos although the book gets some criticism here for being rather outdated in its view of musculoskeletal pain.

But back to practice rather than theory: Today's run was a standard saturday run with no extra elements at all! So far the left leg feels fairly good with no sign of an adverse effect. I'd hoped to achieve a marathon this month but that is looking to be too much; I'm not being progressive enough!

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Return to Sheffield but not to form

This evening's run was very slow and uncomfortable throughout its meagre 11 km. Both legs felt stiff and achy and it was all hard going. Perhaps the slight cold that I have doesn't help or perhaps the change from holiday shoes back to work shoes has upset my equilibrium?

Saturday 28 September 2013

Costa Blanca

I've done 3 short runs and a lovely coastal walk whilst on holiday in the Costa Blanca. Even at 7am the temperature was at least 20°C and this was a substantial barrier to speed even though the terrain was easy. At least it kept me in practice. I've also been in the water most days although not really swum much as the hotel pools are too short and the sea too rough.

Benidorm can be quite attractive in the right light

Looking back to Altea

The walk along Sierra Helada  was quite hard going in places despite being short. We went south to north and I think that might be slightly easier than the recommended direction as there is a rocky scramble which needed attention on the ascent and so would be worse descending.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Take it easy

This week I'm taking it easy to allow recovery from my 32km run. I saw the physio a few days ago for a maintenance review and she found a few tight areas (especially hamstrings) indicating ongoing weakness on the left. No specific knee issues though, which is good. I've also done my first proper swimming session after two weeks away. I did get in pools during these recent breaks but they were too cold/too chlorinated/too short to offer decent exercise opportunities.

Hopefully after a couple of gentle weeks I'll be able to increase a bit more to prepare for the next goal; marathon distance at the end of October.

Alongside all of this I've been doing some of Vibram's preparatory exercises although I've not attempted the 'towel grabbing' as yet.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Mid September acitivity

I've been on a non-running holiday and then on a conference so I've not had opportunities for running for the best part of 2 weeks. Whilst away I did do some shopping and came home with these:

Image stolen from the Vibram website
There'll be quite a learning curve getting used to these. I can get them on in just a few minutes now!

Wearing the well-worn Inov-8 shoes I managed 7km in the woods at a good pace and then, today, as the weather was pleasant, I decided to try for the Strava 20mile award. 'It would only be a little more than The Round Walk' I said to myself.

Well it was a good 7 or 8 km further and I found those very hard work. After the half-marathon distance I ran out of steam probably due to lack of practice. Anyway I did make the distance...
Another virtual award
 I'll need to take things very easy over the next week to allow a good recovery.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Consistent virtual prizes

 Will I achieve the 240 km badge one day?

A regular Thursday run

Today was a basic 15 km, fairly slow and gentle and very slow after Monday! However Tuesday's swim seemed to go fairly well and I seemed to be in a good equilibrium between breathing and swimming which promises progress. Yesterday's circuit had left me with tired legs so a fair time was  a good outcome. Although there is a strong argument that some speed is essential it is also well reported that base training is the foundation; this article makes that sound complex though! I'm sorry to say that I don't have much plan to my distance, except that any medium length trail run in Sheffield will have a variety of physiological demands due to the hills!

By the way, another Strava Course Record of mine lost, it looks as though there is a new entrant in the area who is quite fast (5km in 18 minutes) ad taking similar routes to me.

Monday 26 August 2013

Fast, faster, fastest!

I joined my wife's running group this evening and chose to go with the fast element with the proviso that I might drop back. We set off at my '1km pace' so that didn't bode well for a 6km run! Anyway with a bit of effort I achieved some good times (including a sub-23 minute 5km) and suppose this is what's called a Tempo run. Whether skeletal muscle lactate is the barrier is debated in 'The Lore of Running' but it does make sense that it's not helpful to get stuck into a plodding pace rut.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Strava half-marathon

I've managed to consolidate my longer runs and achieved a half-marathon again today. No photos this time but this makes a bit of a stronger base as I did this back in July too. This week I also ran 16km on Thursday so I didn't have a very fresh start. 
The virtual badge
As usual the pace was slow at 5:52 minutes per km but well below my trail target of 6 minutes per km at this distance.

Now there's the 20 miles and 26.2 miles to complete in September and October respectively.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Getting in the mood

This evening felt far too warm and humid to do a decent run. I'd got tired legs from yesterday's circuit but decided to go out anyway. The first 5km were terrible, very slow, too hot and rather grumbly altogether. Then I caught up with the saturday morning group (they also meet on Tuesdays and Thursday) and after a little chat agreed to push on. I accepted that it was hot, I'd go slowly and enjoy it...

Lo and behold, I achieved my second best time on that segment to Oxstones and it felt easy. It just shows what a change of mood can achieve. As well as feeling better, I even ran a little quicker!

The whole run was sluggish, not helped by having to detour around some rather angry looking cows and calves but hat started asa chore finished as an acceptable 16km run.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Course Record lost

Strava allows users to gain a course record for all the segments that have been registered.

Somehow, I'd gained the record for a track through the woods even though I usually take it very easy (5:12 minutes) as I'm still warming up at that point. Over the weekend I was sent a notification that I'd lost the CR by 20 seconds (4:56 minutes). That sounds a lot but knowing how slowly I cover that segment, I felt sure I could beat the new time. With a bit of effort I beat the new time (4:46 minutes) with 10 seconds to spare. However my jubilation was short-lived as by the time I'd uploaded my new speed there was a new best time of 4:28 minutes! So now I need to cut off a further 18 seconds to regain the CR. I can't see that happening in the next few weeks as the 4:46 felt pretty much to be a limit.

Although the segment is listed as having a 2% grade that's a lie as the first third is more like 12% and a barrier to speed.

Monday 12 August 2013

If it's not one arm, it's the other

Finishing the stroke whilst breathing is becoming  the key front crawl technique point at the moment. Last week it was the arm opposite the breath that was lazy, now focussing on that, the breath arm is short. Every so often during the evening I managed a few strokes where both arms were fine and achieved a breath, but they were the minority. Also how frequently to breathe? My strokes are neater the few breaths I take, but of course that isn't sustainable!

I was thinking that I was merely running out of oxygen but this article suggests that the muscles themselves may be fatiguing with lower breathing frequency; that's not quite what you might expect. Of course, I'm swimming slowly and not in 200m bursts, even though it feels quite intense to me.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Just another week

Monday's swim was a mixed bag, I'm getting better but trying to tidy technique involved taking a backwards step and losing something else. In this case I wasn't finishing my stroke well when I took a breath; but when I focus on the stroke the breath was inadequate. Hopefully things will pull together next week.

On Tuesday I was able to leave work a little early and managed 16.5km at a fairly plodding pace. Wednesday was the circuit with a few km jog each way and an Thursday I just didn't feel like do anything after walking home!

By saturday it seemed reasonable to do  slightly extended run including the 'extra 2 hills' and that went fine. The time to the top of Porter Clough was unexceptional, getting that below 30 minutes seems to be really hard for me. A key issue seems to be the speed through the flatter part of the park. Too slow and you've lost valuable time, but too fast and you don't have any reserve left for the final ascent.

Descending through the plantation I suffered from a stitch/abdominal cramp but it settled with a walk near Norfolk Arms. It seemed an odd time for it to start as breakfast was earlier and the panting ascent over.

Just another week, just under 40km run. That needs to increase but how to do it without being 'overtrained'?

Thursday 8 August 2013

8km as fast as you can

I did join this challenge even though I knew I would trail; my rank was 5523 out of 8741 finishers. Not great but there were another seven thousand entrants who didn't finish. I should have managed better than a 5:40 minute/km pace but I didn't choose a 'fast' route for my entry.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Back in the Park

I'd got into a brief routine of doing the local Parkrun on the first week of the month. May I was away and then June too sore to try. Another attempt in June was pretty uncomfortable and that was what really showed that I had to get some attention. Anyway, some weeks later and I felt able to have a go, after the usual saturday 12km. I was very happy to do it in under 24 minutes. I have done it in nearer to 23 but it's all progress.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

'Some' km covered again

In May I managed to do 160km in the Strava challenge but June was sparse due to The Knee. Amazingly I have managed to get back on track in July and just achieved 161km. Not great, but a fair start.
I can't see me doing so well in the 8km speed challenge, some of the current entries are really fast and I'd hate to split a longer run; after all there is the August half marathon challenge to complete in the next week!

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Blacka Moor half marathon

I took the opportunity to take a day off work as  the weather was fine and I hoped to be able to increase from my Saturday distance of 18km to the half-marathon 21.5km. I planned a route to Dore, up to Blacka Moor and then onto Houndkirk Road at Fox House. With a slightly indirect route home it was spot on distance.

The main thing is that the distance is increasing. I'll have to be really careful not to overdo it....

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Runners' circuit

I've just returned from a 'Runner's Circuit' session at Fairplay gym; where the physio works. It's only a 15 minute easy run from home so quite convenient. In theory the weather and light evenings make it too pleasant to be indoors but the aim is for me to strengthen around my knees and do (the now very fashionable) core training.

After a brief warm-up around the car park we did 15 exercise split between core (lower back, abdomen and balance) and legs. The former I found quite easy as I'd not done very much of that type before. It was just the wobble board that posed a difficulty but even that had become a little steadier by the second set. There were additions to the exercises to make them all tougher so I have those options ahead of me to gain more - and make it feel less easy!

The leg exercises were based on squats and lunges in various orientations and these showed that The Knee isn't is good as its contralateral partner. I couldn't dip as deeply and felt a bit of soreness on effort if the angle became too steep. It may be that this has been lurking for a while, and there is a lack of ability to cope after too much; hence the more acute pain of a month ago. So,  I suppose that localised weakness means I have to do more of these.

Tuesday 23 July 2013


After the longest sunny period for 7 years or so, now we have the month's rainfall in a day.

Just east of The Norfolk Arms
As I left home it was dry but there had been showers and thunder for most of the day. I didn't want to do too much as the environment was incredibly hot and humid. That made the ascent through Limb Valley harder work than it usually is. With the rumbles gradually sounding to be nearby, and that cooling of the air which is so characteristic of an imminent rainstorm, I decided to head back home and was caught in a heavy downpour just after making that correct decision. 

Luckily the shower slowed as quickly as it had arrived and it was only damp for the next few km. Despite being soaked I was plenty warm enough which is an indication of the temperature.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Scott Jurek's Balls

This is a slight modification of the "SHOCK-O-laht" energy balls in Eat and Run. I've simplified it a little and made tiny alterations to suit the products that I can get in England. Of course, a puerile heading makes for good site stats!

Makes 10 inch-diameter balls

Place all of the ingredients, organic wherever possible, in a stout food processor:

1/2 cupcocoa nibs
1/2 cupraw cashew nuts
10pitted dried (but 'soft') dates
1/4 teaspoonmixed spices
1/2 teaspoonvanilla extract
pinchtable salt
1 teaspoonsunflower or soya margarine
1 tablespoonwater

Whizz the whole lot together until it's well chopped and the particles become a coherent mass. Pinch off bits of the mixture and roll into inch-round balls and place them in a plastic box. You should end up with around 10. Chill for at least 30 minutes and then enjoy. The approximate macronutrient profile of each ball is:
energyfatof which saturatesproteincarbohydrate
So make sure you do plenty of running if you eat more than one!

If you want to get really into the nutrition side of things, consider whether cocoa is 'healthy' or not? Some say it's an addictive stimulant, others that it's a super-food. Go on, do a Google search. My feeling is that we need a range of foods with an array of micronutrients and a 'sensible' amount of any won't do any harm...

Saturday 20 July 2013

Not 'injured' anymore?

Last Monday I saw the physio again and in principle there is now nothing wrong with  The Knee. There is some tightness in muscles of my left leg which isn't ideal and perhaps more strength is needed in certain muscle groups; but that puts me back to where I was in early May. So I've 2 weeks off from physio now and need to get some training (and stretching) under my legs.

Since last week the weather got hotter and hotter and I didn't manage to get out until Thursday. Monday's swim doesn't count perhaps and was really hard work anyway. Thursday was horrid too! Perhaps the large glass of water just before I set out was a mistake as I suffered from a terrible abdominal cramp until I was nearly home. It was a case of run 100m, walk 200m!

Anyway, today was far better and I did a great saturday run, a little extended and with some generally good times. I'm even getting Strava awards again. The weather has broken slightly so not too hot to run.

A relatively expensive piece of foam from Argos

The physio recommended using a massage roller on major muscle groups but rather than try and sell me a medically-specified one she suggested Argos as doing a good one. Decathlon was also mentioned but I couldn't find one on their website. I've tried it briefly and it is possible to get good pressure on the muscles but it's quite demanding to position yourself and move effectively.

Saturday 13 July 2013

The hottest day since 2006

Today is the hottest day this year and also since 2006 and perhaps since 1066 if the forecasters are to be believed. It's also the day of the Dig Deep Ultramarathon and Intro Marathon, the latter of which I'd hoped to be half way through by now. Problems with The Knee made that an unwise idea.

Basic route marking near the start of the events; I can't really understand why the easy to navigate bit is way-marked but the fells won't be.
As I felt fairly fit I chose to join the saturday run group and see how I got on. I made a good start and after Forge Dam met some ultramarathoners on the track. I slowed for a chat (a good excuse for me to rest a bit) and heard a little about their tactics. Generally walk uphill, jog if it's easy and hope to finish before dark. I passed a couple more little groups and their appearance was varied - some had the look of fell-running whippets, others didn't! Compression socks were evident, as were hats. They'll have needed those on the moors.

The brief slow down allowed me to get a good time up the clough so I really must be recovering. I was very cautious on the descents on the return leg and so the overall time was 1 hour 13 minutes.

The view on the descent from The Norfolk Arms

For the first time I joined the team at the cafe for a bit more breakfast, the orange juice was particularly refreshing.

Thursday 11 July 2013


Things must be improving as I've set and reset the course record on a Strava segment through the wood this week. I admit that it was very slow and is still rather slow, but any hint of speed is progress.

A very fashionable zoom lens effect in the 1970's recreated to show just how fast I was going!
The photograph here was a little experiment to see if the 'zoom' effect could be recreated successfully from an mp4 movie. It seems it can. A movie was taken with a compact digital camera held firmly and the zoom moved from wide to tele. The movie was cropped to remove static frames and then each frame was extracted using FFMPEG. The 150 frames were recombined as layers in GIMP. The key thing was the order of layering. Neither wide-first nor tele-first worked. The optimum was to layer alternate frames in opposite directions, like so with the tele image as the 100% base layer (9 in this example):

1 8 3 6 5 4 7 2 9

Note how odd frames run one way and even the opposite. The transparency of each layer was set to 10%. I had to do the build-up manually as I couldn't find a package to do it.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Is a daily marathon an 'Ultramarathon'?

Take a look at this website for "Running around Australia for Charity"

My aspiration to do a single ultra looks pretty tame by comparison!

Summer is here!

After a little disappointment earlier in the week today I was pleased to manage 15km, albeit at a very sedate pace. I easily reached Oxstones without complaint from The Knee but on the descent towards home it started to tense in the hamstrings passing behind it. That seems to be the recurrent issue now. After a bit of stretching (and making an attempt not to grip the ground with my toes) I was able to get back comfortably.

The panorama above Lady Canning plantation including Oxstones

Summer has arrived now, last week in Norfolk was hot and now it's back and forecast to last all week. Too hot for record speeds regardless of knees.

So this week has been 11.4km, 4.5km and 15.5km; that's progress.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Not quite there

Last week I've upped the mileage a little on the physio's recommendation as things had been fine .I did three runs of 9.4km, 4.1km and 7.9km and these felt relatively easy with a noticeable improvement in pace. Whilst away on a camping weekend I also did a 24km walk which whilst fairly level, involved a high proportion of cambered stoney beach. I felt that!

A sizable branch had fallen from a tree, blocking the path
With last week's positive progress I had planned to run 13km this evening but at 6km I was aware of a few twinges from The Knee and so turned for home. Still, 11km achieved without pain so that is a positive step.

Saturday 29 June 2013

Holux M1000C inaccuracy

This table shows comparative features of GPS loggers and notes that the Holux is low resolution. Could that explain the disappointing log data?

I've collated this example of performance to illustrate my concern. The lack of alignment of the Holux is not due to the Google photo as I've overlayed the GPX on both OS and OSM mapping on different platforms with the same result.

Three GPS logging devices and their respective tracks along a suburban track near home. Mapping is OSM, Google Earth and OS 1:25000 respectively. Software was Garmin Connect, GPS Visualizer and Android Viewranger. 

Holux binary logs record latitude and longitude as 4 byte,  32 bit floats. This should allow 7 to 9 significant figures of a decimal number which is plenty for real world logging.  It is also worth seeing this illustration of truncation errors.
5 minutes of capturing NMEA sentences followed by logging. Plotted as divergence in degrees from the average position indicted from each recording.
I have compared the standard NMEA data against the float32 capture data; the quantization of the latter is very evident. However note that the errors of both fall within 0.0001 degree for nearly all of the time.

A 0.0001 degree ring around a point in the outdoor swimming pool at Hathersage. Most points would be well within this margin.

This Google Map shows that this variation is little more than the width of a road and so the 'theoretical resolution problem' does not account for the real-world logging errors seen.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Out of the woods?

Yesterday I saw the physio again and she thought I could try a 'long run' today. The pain has become little more than discomfort and isn't really knee-related anymore. Just generally in my both legs! Anyway, I managed 9.2km which meant that I had run far enough to leave Ecclesall woods for the first time in a month.

A check of the Holux record showed it to be quite a long way off course again despite making an effort to leave the box exposed at the top of a bag with the battery on the lower surface. It's something to do with the location as the east of the woods has recorded more accurately than the west on 2 occasions now.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Knee recovering

The physio thought that this week would be a key test for how well I was recovering. Well so far it looks pretty good. I've run 1.8km, 3.8km, 7.0km on alternate days with no problems. Today I did feel a bit of tightness in my left hamstrings and that is a bit of an issue as it seems to upset The Knee.  Let's be glad of the success though.

On a down side, today was my first run with the Holux, comparing it with the Garmin 110. It was a damp day and the Holux was in a bag in a pocket and there was tree cover. It lost its signal quite badly resulting in some false recording of position and which increased distance covered and speed.

In this image the pink shows alignment of the routes, turquoise is Garmin and yellow is Holux. From the mapping data it is clear that the Garmin route is the most realistic. Perhaps this isn't the device but position, a wrist is far more open to the sky than a wet pocket. I'll have to test this. On the plus side, it has run for 15 hours on a single charge with Bluetooth enabled, and the low battery indicator is still off, so that's pretty good.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Holux M1000C on Android and OSX

Although the Garmin Forerunner 110 is a great training aid it's not reliable to log ultra runs as its battery life is only 5 to 6 hours in GPS mode. Ok, one doesn't do longer runs very often (indeed ones body can't cope with it) but it would be a shame not to log them. Additionally,  some events don't permit GPS aids, but you might still want to log the route. The answer is a display-free logger, such as the Holux M1000C, and similar devices.
The 'user interface' is very simple, an ON-OFF slide and 3 LEDs, amber, blue and a red/green one. This makes its use pretty foolproof and no one can accuse you of getting assistance from it! In the UK these retail for around £40 from online shops but they do seem cheaper (and dearer) elsewhere. One of the great things is that it has a removable mobile phone type battery so very long use times can be achieved without a socket.

It is supplied without software although some for Windows can be downloaded. However, despite what the manufacturers say, the loggeer will work well on OSX, Linux and Android as the chipset is commonplace and developers have made software to download the data and convert it to GPX files. I've been using Androidmtk so I can read the data via my Nexus 7 and upload from there.

It's worth mentioning that presently the programme muddles the <ele> and <speed> tags in the file as the Holux M1000C swaps the data in it binary file compared to other MTK-based devices. However this isn't a problem as most online GPS mapping services use an altitude map to define height rather than the (usually rather poor) GPS-derived altitude.

Also, the BT747 software on OSX seems good too as it will control the features of the Holux rather than just downloading. I had a bit of trouble getting the USB 'serial' port to be recognised and I ended up using the Silicon Labs USB to UART driver with a recent (ie non default version) of BT747 as there's some issue with the version of a module incorporated into the program:

On my computer (Snow Leopard on 64bit Intel) the correct 'USB' serial port to use is /dev/cu.usbmodem24310 but it could be different for you. My old iMac doesn't have Bluetooth, but that might be an easier route to go. I can't get any version of the software to work on a 6 year old 32bit Core Duo Snow Leopard MacBook with either USB or Bluetooth.

Thursday 13 June 2013


As 2.5 km was fine on Tuesday I tried 3.7 km today. Not good, The knee became an irritation.

The physio mentioned this little muscle on Monday and here's a little summary. It seems like the history, presentation and causes fit. I've had tight hamstrings for as long as I can remember and this is given as a predisposing factor. Notably I gave them a good stretch before setting off on Tuesday but didn't today; historically I've not been a supporter of pre-exercise stretching. This little video is quite useful.

As the muscle is involved in medial rotation of the knee (lateral rotation is the key to breaststroke) perhaps swimming is not ideal as there must be side-to-side loading. I've been doing 50:50 breaststroke and crawl, perhaps I need to adjust that.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Road shoes worn too?

Today I did a gentle 2.5km to test the relaxed legs. A quick examination of my road shoes revealed an issue there. I have 2 pairs of Saucony Grid shoes whose age is unknown, perhaps 10 years? A notable feature is that 1 pair, which I suspect to be the newer, show considerable effects of pronation.

I decided to go out in the apparently less-worn shoes even though the EVA might be harder. I think it's time to try to load my knees consistently. 
This was a slow, gentle jog with mild ascent and descent but went well with no knee pain. A very small twinge from the insertion of quadriceps but that's a step forwards, if you'll pardon the pun!

It's coming up roses?