Tuesday 30 December 2014


Last week I noted that the Plug-N-Play connector on my UltrAspire drinking bladder had broken. The part bought online arrived very promptly. But, and there always seems to be a but, it was subtly different to the broken one in that the ridged pipe part was slightly smaller diameter. I noted that the red pie is 'Big Bore' so presumably this part suits the normal piping?

Anyway this is the only part listed so I widened the push part using 2 layers of heat shrink tubing. Note that I'd already checked that the plastic wasn't damaged by hot air by testing it on the broken one.

By only placing a loop at the tip I hope to have made a firm hold and a seal for the Big Bore tubing. It was certainly a tight fit and it was only possible to fit the pipe after a fair soak in hot water.

Just needs testing now. When's the next 'long run'?

Sunday 28 December 2014

Christmas Week

I'd idly planned that this would be a 30km week, the third running week of the block. I don't know how this was ever going to work out as we'd also planned to walk on Christmas day.

Christmas Day near Oxstones
At the end of the week we'd booked to be away in Staffordshire. There was a plan to do lots of walking which I tend to count within my run distance as although it's low impact that's potentially offset by pack and boots. Anyway soon after arriving on Boxing Day it started to snow.

Lovely looking if you're a tourist
We'd not packed for snow and so only did a few shortish road-based walks. That was lovely nonetheless and show that the moorlands are neglected by visitors in comparison to the hot-spots of the Dark Peak.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Skipped Tuesday

On Monday, a hundred yards away from home my right knee/quad was irritated and only improved by my taking dainty little forefoot-landing steps. Big strides were at best uncomfortable. This was a nuisance as I was going swimming and then had a circuit of shopping to do; into town and then back via a few independent shops. Really I should have turned around straight away and worn my usual shoes but I wanted to rest my legs!

At the physio she found tight muscles in both legs but nothing of concern in the joints. A new finding was tightness into my left foot probably due to more forefoot running.

Tuesday morning was to have been a run but by the time I was dressed by right knee was twinging and so it din't seem wise. So I went swimming again. The legs seemed fine on the walking so perhaps I back out too easily?

That meant that today, Wednesday, I went for the run even though I wasn't convinced. I went into the local woods for the slightly softer trails and varied terrain rather than the road route I'd missed yesterday. I've a wide variety of options in the woods and as things were going OK I adjusted for a just-under-10km circuit. As time wen ton there were no problems and so put a little bit of effort in.

Much of the route was done at a pace that kept me between 135 and 155bpm for most of the time (higher on the first ascents) which certainly felt tougher than my long run rule of below 140bpm.

The good news is that both knees felt fine, clearly running gait is dissimilar to walking, although there were some knots in my calves but they went after some rolling at home. The goal is another couple of 10+km runs this week to complete around 33km.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Untimed drills

Monday and Tuesday have been leave days for me but rather than take a lie-in I was at the pool at 'work time'. I tried to track lengths but failed to count some of them and then took ages finding floats etc that made the record useless. That's probably no bad thing as at least half of the time I was doing drills and they aren't intended to be timed, technique is the key.

I'm quite clear now that my legs are a problem for me. When using a pull buoy I feel faster (not sure if I am) and less tired than using my legs. Lengths of with just leg kicking are glacially slow and barely achievable. Basically my legs are wasting energy and probably slowing me down.

Having scanned the swim-smooth site once again a contributory factor could be over lifting my head when breathing as they comment that this pushes the legs down. With a pull buoy this will be resisted and help efficiency. At the Goodwin I tend to rotate a lot for breathing as the pool is so choppy. 

Sunday 21 December 2014

Slow drilling

Before going to listen to a choir I had a spare 50 minutes to go for a swim. The pool was very quiet so I took the opportunity to try the freestyle drills we did over the last few weeks on the course. My leg kicks are still almost useless! Overall I felt a little more confident in my stroke but didn't record a clear development as I was doing too many things to give a tidy record. I messed up length recording too.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Slow, but not slowest

I wasn't sure what my knees would be capable of this morning. Both felt tired, presumably from swimming and standing around at work but neither especially uncomfortable. As they didn't feel great I wasn't confident enough to skip today's run and go with the group to Hathersage tomorrow.

As I was getting ready I discovered a leak in my water bladder (more of that later perhaps) and it was raining so I left the house in a less than perfect mood. I was aiming to run my Blacka moor half marathon circuit. The rain stopped and restarted but managed to reach a zenith at Fox House where it was pretty unpleasant. Over the next km or so the weather cleared and the view became quite dramatic.

Looking south. Lumix FT25 images merged in Hugin
The descent via Oxstones was slow as I focussed on form rather than speed. I really want my legs to feel comfortable again! I've noticed that on ascents and level ground I feel more comfortable if I lift my legs more and on descents I'm starting to get a feel for lifting my heel to facilitate fore-foot landing. Both are more effort than the 'ultra shuffle'!

The whole pace was slowish but I was walking ascents I've run previously in order to avoid over working on my long run.

Broken connector

Whilst organising my bag for today's run I noticed that it was dribbling. When I examined the bladder there was a slow trickle from the hose connection point. The hose seed a little looser than usual and didn't have an O-ring which I though should be present. I poked around with a screwdriver and recovered a piece of plastic and O-ring from the connector. Basically the end of the male portion of the connector had sheared off.

Should be one piece!
I've not been unreasonably hard on the connection although it was always a bit difficult to get to seat. Last time I'd even oiled it as per the instructions!

Notably the parts are available online and although the webshop suggested that they can be used for an 'upgrade' I'm sure there's wear and tear element in there too.

Image stolen from Ultramarathon Running Store
The part attached to the bladder feels to be pretty firmly inserted so I'm hoping that I can just repair the pipe and use the old connector. I must oil this more often!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

End of swimming block

This evening was the 5th and final session of the Goodwin block. As time has gone on I've found the sessions more enjoyable and actually worked harder in them. I'm still hopeless at breaststroke as my legs do not want to go in the right direction. At least that is now clear to me. I've gained a few tips on freestyle and I suspect that when I next try a general swimming session thing will be easier.

We did a 'sprint' length of freestyle and even though I was amongst the slow group I managed 33m in 38 seconds. Ok, I was out of breath, but how come I can't manage a regular 60s per length when I'm going gently. Perhaps, as in running, some fast sections can train for faster slow lengths (if that makes any sense!?). We've also been given a little training plan for freestyle detailing the various drills we've tried. As we're able to borrow the floats at the pool there's no reason not to include the programme, or elements of it, at a general session.

The wednesday circuit is my favourite session at Fairplay so I don't think I'll be doing the next swim block but perhaps I'll try to find a way of interleaving blocks. On my feedback form I mentioned my wish for 1-2-1 coaching so I might hear something about that.

Garmin error on Dore loop

Yesterday evening I ran the Dore moor road loop that's my traditional Tuesday circuit. Before and during my knees felt fine although today the left is a bit delicate around the patellar tendon (again!). I'm going to the physio next week so I wonder if she'll advise more recovery time?

For some unknown reason the first 1.5km didn't record on my GPS so the whole trip pace appears slower than it really was. It was fairly slow though as shown by individual segment times. Anyway, I shouldn't be bothering with that. It's training, not a race, and I've a bit of an injury!

Heart rate was pretty good- less than 140bpm averaged in each 1 km and even looking at the steep ascents it was below 150bpm.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Back to the park

The knees felt OK, but rather than hammer them I went to the park to meet the not-quite-a-club and ran Porter Clough and back - via a few extra hillocks. The ascent time was unremarkable and not as good as I was doing 18 months ago. As I'm 'injured' perhaps that's not surprising. The new segment history tool on Strava is great for showing progress, or lack of it.

The icy weather had made the grass into a forest of silver shards which cracked as you ran over them. There could have been some lovely photos but I was travelling light. (The local Parkrun had been cancelled due to hazardous conditions.)

I was very careful on the steep descents (that means slow) but tried to be speedy and precise on shallow gradient. I also noticed that I was being lazy on ascents and then worked to lift my feet a bit more. It felt better.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Easy 6km on the road

I was undecided whether to run tonight. My knees felt much improved so 'relative rest' made sense. But equally they weren't perfect so should I abstain for another 5 weeks? So many mixed messages. I went for the physio's usual approach of doing less, more slowly and set off to do 6km which is half of my normal Tuesday loop. Also I dressed warmly to encourage a slow speed.

The weather was pretty foul so it was good to be warm although perhaps not necessary when running into a strong headwind. On the final descent I was aware of both patellar tendon and quadriceps insertion discomfort (although very mild) from both knees. My solution was to focus on my gait, lifting my feet more, a good forward lean and feet up behind me. That felt to improve things and I reached home uneventfully.

After rollering and stretching everything felt fine so all's well. There's swimming tomorrow which is non-impact, late working on Thursday so little opportunity for a run, thus there'll be rest for the knees for a couple of days.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Saturday swim

I hadn't swum much in November as the running miles increased but as this was a run rest week it seemed wise to do  second swim. As usual it felt like hard work but I worked at a front quadrant approach and having a tiny glide element. I also used my legs a bit more, mainly to try to stop them from sinking and acting as a brake. During the session I had to move into a 25m section and that is always a lot easier than the full 33.3m as 'breathers' happen more frequently. Conversely at one end there's nothing to push off from so you have to build up speed from a 'splosh'.

The timing was good with a pace under 4min for 100m for the first time in ages. Is this due to the swimming class, a rest week or merely a chance outcome? It might, but hopefully not, be a timing error.

Wednesday 3 December 2014


Last week I was content with missing the swimming class as I understood it to be the breaststroke week. I was wrong. It was backstroke and today was breaststroke. I elected to run with the class and found it hard work. On some occasions I seemed to be moving backwards despite moving my legs. I've come to the conclusion that I will not be able to do the stroke well now as my legs are just too stiff. I cannot put my feet 'like a penguin' and when I make the effort my legs are locked and refuse to fold inwards. The idea of whipping my knees together doesn't sound great either! Compared to all of this freestyle/front crawl seems to need fewer contortions.

I've had reservations about this block of classes and if there's always a week of breaststroke I'd not want to do that again.

On the walk home my legs felt a bit delicate around the knees but it soon settled. My hip flexors were painful for two days!

Is 4 days enough?

So after 4 days of non-running my knee is feeling much better. There is some slight stiffness to it when I wake up, overall I think there's a slight patellar tendonitis. Naturally I've done over 6km of walking each day just to and from work but no other exercise. I'm going swimming soon and hopefully that won't upset it.

The big thing to consider now is when to try a run and how much can I risk? The 40km per week really seems to be a threshold for me. Over 2014 I've ramped up to it twice and each time had to back off. This time I have been more gradual and included a rest week after 2 weeks of effort. I'm disappointed that this scheme hasn't worked out. Maybe this is just a little set back as my knee is not as delicate as it was in spring - I really don't want to over do it and go back that far again.

Being self-critical I know that I have neglected the leg strengthening exercises at home. At the circuit class I have been doing more squats and lunges and managing to get them a little deeper without invoking pain.

Looking online there is a lot if excitement around declined single leg eccentric squats, some articles suggest they are great (note there was 6 week's rest in this study!), others warn off. The whole business of eccentric loading is very unclear from serious literature. One of the physiotherapists I saw last year was keen on eccentric single leg squats without the decline board but then again he encouraged too much loading!

Platelet-rich therapy is up and coming and some authors claim great success. Indeed they may genuinely be successful as many innovative techniques are incredibly sensitive to operator's skill and methodological 'tricks' (indeed I went to Scandinavia to do post-doctoral research specifically to see certain techniques in the hands of experts). Unfortunately it seems that PRT does not offer a reproducible gain.

I am thinking that long term slow loading is the way to go; slower but fewer risks?

Saturday 29 November 2014

Good until 22km

This morning I ran my Dore Moor Half Marathon at a leisurely pace; as before keeping an eye on heart rate. The weather was indifferent to poor. I set off in mist and it was drizzly until Fox House. There it was raining needing hood up an head down. Luckily as I moved towards home the rain stopped. Whether this was due to the loss of height, the shelter from the plantation of just the passage of time I don't know.

My stomach was fine. I ensured I didn't over eat last night and I had just a single slice of toast with tea for breakfast. Some part of that seemed to help. All was good until I was very nearly home when my left knee developed a bit of pain laterally and in the patellar tendon. After more food I walked into town to collect some pre-ordered trousers. This didn't seem to trouble the knee but on the homewards journey it became quite uncomfortable and that remains.

I can't find a spot that's tender to pressure so hopefully nothing serious. It's a great shame as for the last three months I've been making slow, but clear, progress after injury. Although my chart shows this as my first 40km week I did a 'rolling' 50km in Spain so this wasn't an especially heavy week.

Next week is a recovery week, I hope it is.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Hilly intervals

The latest edition of Trail Running magazine included a pull out training guide, as it so often does. The programmes all included hill sessions as an opportunity to improve power but that's something I've not tried. This evening I estimated a stretch on a local street which turned out to be 360m rather than the recommended 400m. That was a fairly good guess. The gradient was 5%, again acceptable.

I did 5 ascents, trying fairly hard after the first time. As a first time I didn't see a need to do the recommended 8. One of the notable things about the plans was their lack of progression. They started with 8 and finished with 8. Maybe one should try harder, or perhaps the same effort would result in better performance? The plans also seemed to be a bit short of rest days and rest weeks, some were less than others but not as much as I seem to need.

Anyway, the hill intervals were OK and my knees survived. A good first step.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

No swim

I'd been wondering about today's breaststroke swimming session but in the end it didn't matter. An after 5o'clock work meeting went on much longer than expected, partly because I arrived late for it. If I'd rushed I could have been 10 minutes late for the session but I just didn't have the motivation. This is reminding me very much of being 10 years old when I found excuses to not go to a swim training session where we all got shouted at to push harder. It'll be interesting to see how I feel about next week.

Saturday 22 November 2014


Today's run was spoilt a bit by stomach pain. It appeared around the half way mark and ebbed and flowed until I got home. Eating a bit of Clif bar seemed to dampen it a little. As soon as I got home I took an extra Omeprazole and the pain went - far too quickly for a pharmacological action!

There is some sort of link between running and my gastritis, although there's also something to do with eating largish meals and travelling. Stress is a key factor too. This bout seems to be being a little harder to shake off than previous ones but maybe there is more ongoing stress.

Should I be cutting out breakfast, meals the night before a run, or even stopping running. When I spent a week trail riding on the motorcycle in France I couldn't quite stop the tablets - no running then, but there was travelling.

Some interesting papers to read about poor guts in runners and my interpretation:

  • Simons and Shaskan (2005) - Running can aggravate gastritis and Omeprazole is prescribed. Not eating for 3 hours before exercise helps some people. Best to avoid carbohydrate pre-run too.
  • Choi et al., (2006) - Runners at 200km/week training bleed into their guts from oesophagus and stomach. H2 antagonists (ie different class of drug to omeprazole) reduce the pathology seen by endoscope and blood loss. Even though I don't train this hard, and don't have lesions (or didn't have) my guts are delicate post irradiation.
  • Thalmann et al., (2006) - A proton-pump inhibitor reduce faecal blood post-ultramarathon. Some of the sample already had gastritis.
My take home message from this is that gastritis is fairly common in runners. The studies look at athletes far more active than me but a link is there.

Mostly round

Today's quandary was whether to do a long run or not. It's on the rota but my knees were a little niggly despite 3 non-running days. Despite the mist and drizzle I set off to do the Round Walk in reverse direction and go as far as felt comfortable. As a long run I tried to keep my pulse down although it did creep to 150bpm a couple of times.

Early in the run my left knee felt a bit weak but as I relaxed into it things seemed good and so I kept on going. It was only on the steep descent early in Porter Clough that  it was clear my legs should be given a rest as both quad insertions were slightly sore on the steps down. As the gradient lessened they were OK. Rather than go all the way to Hunter's Bar I turned home via Ivy Cottage Lane.

Plenty of rain last night...
So that was just over 25km. This is my longest run in terms of distance, elevation and time since 1st March. That run occurred during the time of the knee breakdown so I'll have to be careful. Some rest, rollering and hemp protein powder called for now.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Swim for fitness?

I've joined 'Swimming for fitness' at the Goodwin centre as I was a bit unhappy with my progress KES. I'm not sure if it was a good idea or not. It's a stroke per night and today's was crawl, really all I want to do. There were a few tips and then off we went for a couple of lengths prior to next tip or drill. I was one of the weaker swimmers and I was a little reminded of a class I did when I was 10 years old that put me off swimming classes for nearly 40 years. That's not a good recommendation is it? My biggest hesitation about it is that I got very little feedback on my style. Partly this is due to the class size but it also seems to have something to do with the class format.

Perhaps I'd be better in another session? Next week is breaststroke and I'm not sure that I want to do that at all since I've been advised to avoid that stroke to limit lateral loads on my knees. Do I skip the session, let the leader know or just get on with it?

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Dore road loop

I was rather unsure about doing a run this evening as my knees (both) had felt tired and stiff through the day. Not sore, just less than ideal. Ultimately I had to adopt the approach that I'd only know by getting on with it. I tried hard to have good form and on a level 1km section I was very aware of a fore to mid foot strike with my heel barely touching. The pace was smooth and I felt I could have gone for ever. The speed was not great, just a 5minute km but I approached the ascent to Hathersage Road feeling fresh. I was able to pace it so I stayed running and kept my heart rate around 140bpm.

Heart rate on 140bpm after initial weirdness
I wonder if the lack of a Monday swim and an easy saturday has given me a good cardiovascular recovery even if my legs started off a bit iffy. During the run my knees behaved and really did loosen up with use. As soon as I got home I was on the roller as my calfs especially were rather tight - all that fore foot use!

Saturday 15 November 2014

Tired knees

This nominal rest week has been a little harder on my knees that I expected. Perhaps unwisely, on Tuesday I did a fairly fast run which was inevitably stressful. This was followed by circuits where I managed some squats and small lunges and collectively that was quite a load on the knees and quads.

Therefore today I limited myself to a loop of the woods and included some of the running drills. I didn't have any twinges during that 7km and pain hasn't developed during the evening which are good signs, but I can tell that they are 'tired' at the very least.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Short and (a little bit) faster

This is a rest week, it's also best part of 4 days since my last run. So the idea was to not go far but make a bit of effort. Last winter I did intervals along the park and now I'm feeling stronger I thought I'd try that out.

After a warm up from home I attacked the 1km straight with fair intensity but not as fast as might have been possible. After all I didn't want to set off any of my recovering injuries. My pace for that was 4:17 min/km which is my 4th best time. The average heart rate was 182bpm. The last third of the segment was at a heart rate of around 155bpm which suggests that I could go a little faster. Conversely at the start at was over 220bpm. Is this possible or is it misreading?

Links like this and here suggest that the band and the chest contacts might be too dry until a good sweat builds up. That's good as I'm sure 50 year old myocardium can't move that quickly!

After the 1km effort I headed home with some streetlamp and tree fartlek both on the level and uphill.

Sunday 9 November 2014

That'll do

I had half planned to run 5km this evening but it's not going to happen. I'm tired after a very long return journey last night and I think I have done enough this week; I feel it could be junk miles. Although some argue that distance is crucial I feel that the overtraining demon is near my shoulder and this week has been relatively hard for me.

I'll make do with some rollering and stretches.

Friday 7 November 2014

Guadalest half marathon

My pre-holiday planning had highlighted the valley of the Rio de Guadalest as a potentially easy, but interesting long run. Although it's a day or so early it seemed madness to postpone a long run until back home.

The hotel arranged a taxi for me, which whilst not cheap, was a lot quicker thsn taking 2 buses. Cost wise it wasn't much more than the entry fee to a recent 10km race in Sheffield, so on that basis I justified it as a reasonable holiday expense.

During breakfast I had niggles from my right knee and my stomach and did my best to dismiss these as 'pre-event' nerves. The taxi dropped me in the village at Guadalest ready for me to descend into the valley. From a previous visit I remembered that the swimming pool is on the road to the reservoir and so followed signs to that. I walked much of the road, mindful of the earlier niggle, the gradient and the absence of a warm up.

The tourist hotspot I didn't visit today
Close to the dam the route took md through an open gate where warnings about security were less than welcoming. Side routes were locked so it appeared that access to the main track was tolerated. At the river this was supported by a distinct path passing around a fenced off facility.

Thereafter navigation was simply a sequence of lucky guesses to stay on the track trackng the river optimally. Around the halfway point near Callosa I made the wrong gamble and had to retrace my steps past many snarling dogs locked into small holdings. The route lacked variety being lined with bamboo and passing through agricultural land mostly.

At 23km I reached the beach just to the north of Altea and was pleased with a time of 2.5 hours. The forecast of 23degrees felt a little conservative and I would have been pleased to have a sun hat with me. Considering the run was a mere 'half' my legs feel worn but I suppose I have done 2 long runs within 6 days with Tuesday's steep run to the cross in the mix. My plan is to do an easy 5km or so on Sunday and then it's a rest week. I will need it.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

To the cross

Tuesday is road day so I headed off along the promenade to do 5km or so. Above me I was tempted by the cross on the southern aspect of Serra Helado which didn't look 'too far'.

Working my way up the road the cross was getting closer but time was passing. The sunset over the bay cast lovely colours, accentuated by delicate clouds.

At 31 minutes I achieved my goal, meaning that I could be back to the hotel within the hour. There was a handful of other sightseers who had walked, run or driven to the viewpoint.

Although I agree with the sentiment I can't agree with painting the roadside.

Once at the cross I had to descend as I didn't want to be on the road after dark. I was just in time as night had clearly fallen when I was back on the promenade. I'm not sure if it was the steep descent, gastritis or a substantial lunch in Alicante (reviewed here) but something made me quite queasy!

I was a little concerned about my knees after the descent but in the short term they seem fine. I did try to be careful.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Terra Mitica

As we flew to Spain yesterday my 'long run' was postponed until today.  I'd designed an 18km loop from the hotel and round over Serra de Cortina and back into town. I set off after a medium-sized breakfast and progressed slowly towards La Cala and then turned inland to Finestrat. My goal was obvious as the lowest of the hills inland of Benidorm.

All of this was on road but eventually, after a total of 6km, I headed up a stoney path.

It was a 1.3km walk to the summit, I'd have struggled to try any sort of run but it was off limits on a long run day. The ridge was runnable amd gave good views back to Benidorm. At the northern end of the ridge there was a view down to the theme park and I wondered how it was possible to get permissions to excavate a hillside.

Bright sunlight spoilt this image a little
The descent to the road was shorter than anticipated and didn't upset my knees. This was followed by a long shallow descent on road. I cut through the theme park to stay off the main roads and that worked well.

After more food and a wash I was walking along the promenade.

Thursday 30 October 2014

A fair road start to the week

This is the first week in a longer pair and I've made a reasonable start. On Tuesday I ran a 12km loop through Dore, a route I've used for 15 months or so now. The pace was manageable although I let my pulse rise on the ascent to Hathersage Road. My timings were considerably slower than I managed at the start of the year when I worked to complete the loop in under an hour. With hindsight though those achievements were maybe too close to a race pace and not something to be repeated week after week.

Wednesday's circuit was taken by Alice and was therefore rather more intense than I'm used to. It included lots of squats and lunges within the aerobic section and I was aware that my knees were a little sensitive. That's a clear step forwards though considering that I'd run on Tuesday and not slowed on the descents.

Today I can tell that I have exercised my knees but they are not painful. Thursday and Friday will be rest days so hopefully by the time I do a long run at the weekend I'll be recovered from these activities.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Saturday running group

Today was another opportunity to restart an activity. It's many months since I've been out with the Old Men's Running Group either because I was doing longer runs, or unfit to run. As this is a rest week it seemed appropriate to do 12km with them at a sensible, although not slow, pace. The weather was beautiful too. A lightly clouded sky with  a bright sun, cool although not cold. Perfect I suppose. 

I joined the fast group but they were feeling under the weather a little too so were happy to take it a little easier than normal. Indeed one of them sounded terribly overtrained to me. Few rests, lots of spinning classes at a high intensity and an inability to record good times despite pushing hard. Sounds to be a classic case!

 I let my heart rate rise on Porter Clough and a couple of other shot ascents on the basis that it wasn't a 'long run'  although the general pace was well below historical ones for me. On the descent of a steep bank I practically walked as I didn't want to overload my quads and knees.

Overall it went well an ended up as a medium intensity 15km run. That brings the week to 20km which must be the limit. Some drill might be a good idea tomorrow evening if time permits.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Single leg squats

Last night's circuit class was quite a marked event. I managed a handful of single leg squats on each leg without pain. I'll admit that they were relatively shallow and I was supported by a fitball to help with balance but it was a step nonetheless.

Just as importantly my legs weren't sore today when I walked into work and this evening I've a tight rectus femoris but nothing that a bit of rollering and stretching won't settle.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Half round

This morning I ran the south eastern part of the Sheffield Roundwalk as doing the whole route would have been too much for my current programme. The weather was unseasonably mild with predicted temperatures of 18 degrees. Nonetheless the tress can tell that it is autumn.

Contains nuts
For a long run I aimed to keep my heart rate below 140bpm but did spot that on occasion I exceeded this by not walking all ascents. I can find a gentle pace on slight gradients that's fine but I can't always tell when the slope should be walked. I also tried to keep good form, standing tall whenever I remembered that I must and lifting my feet on descents. As I approached the end of the run I was aware of both knees (is it better that both are fatigued?) but pleased that I'd passed the point where I was forced to a walk last March. Once the run was loaded onto Strava I was amazed to see 4 achievements showing that despite my efforts to complete a Long Slow Day the pace was much as before. This is my longest week for many months so some soreness and muscle fatigue is probably expected especially as it appeared I hadn't been as slow as I might have thought I was.

After a little trip to the shops and a few hours at home there's clear irritation in the left patellar tendon but hopefully it'll settle over the coming days. Next week is a rest week and I'll aim to focus on the drills rather than time on my feet.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Knees doing OK

Walking between two sites at lunchtime today I realised that I wasn't aware of my knees. That shouldn't be worth noting but for the last 6 months I have been aware of them to greater or lesser degrees for much of the time. Moreover I ran 12km on road on Tuesday and last night did squats, lunges and step-ups in the circuit; as well as the 5km round  trip slow run.

By the time I was walking home I could feel my left patellar tendon (the current weak spot) so the issue isn't behind me but perhaps it will be soon. This is still forward progress.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Half marathon long slow day

After a rest week I had to get the distance back up again this week. This allowed me to take a little step from the Devil's Elbow route to the Dore half-marathon loop. The weather forecast had said that 'Sunday will be the better day' but it was hard to believe that this morning.

A cloudless sky over Blacka Moor before 9am
I was following my heart rate monitor to ensure that I kept the effort fairly easy which required me to walk all the overt ascents. At Fox House there were cars parking up to photograph the massive cloud bank trapped by a temperature inversion in the Derbyshire valleys.

The extent of the cloud was hard to photograph
As I returned to Sheffield along Houndkirk Road I could see similar cloud settled to the east of the city and apparently extending into Nottingham. It really is possible to see to Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire from the Oxstones as evidenced by the many powerstations that can be discerned on a clear day.

I kept the place very gentle, 50 seconds per km slower than in March, so I was out longer than usual. I am hoping that this approach will reduce the risk of injury. Six months ago I was pushing distance and pace and that is a dangerous combination. Today in that regard is a crucial step, as it's my first run over 20km since April 5th, 6 months ago.

Grade adjusted pace splits show fair consistency
Once home I felt fairly good, a bit of soreness in my left patellar tendon and on the top of my toes. I think I was grasping the ground with my toes on descents.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Short length at Goodwin

As term has begun the Goodwin pool was open from 8am but it was well towards 10am before I was there. This meant that it was set up for childrens' lessons. Previously this split the pool lengthways but today it was split both lengthways and across the width reducing the length to 25m. I always find short lengths easier and so today, for the first time in a while, I achieved a pace of 4min/km. Still pretty poor but not so bad considering I've not practiced for a few weeks.

I tried various arm positions for entry but couldn't discern a great difference. Due to the small pool area I was forced to keep going a little more  so as not to block a lane. Starting a length without a wall to push off from was a bit troublesome but good practice I suppose for swimming away from a pool.

Friday 3 October 2014

Friday night out

I hoped my stomach was fit for a few kms. I got on quite well but had to cut my route short as I could feel runners trots developing. Went well apart from that though.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Stomach ache

This morning I woke with the beginning of gastritis but by 10am it was awful and I was vomiting as the omeprazole hadn't done anything (12 hours to act apparently). I had to leave work and made my way home feeling distinctly unwell. There's a lot on at work and I suppose I must be more stressed than usual but I'm also wondering if yesterday's run was partly responsible. I had my bum bag on to carry the head torch and thinking back I ran with it on Christmas morning and the morning of May when it all started. Perhaps a waist belt is able to aggravate a sensitive gut.

No circuits this evening as even though the pain had dropped I was still very delicate.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Out at night

This evening I went for a run around the woods, knowing that it would be dark before I was done. I took a head torch along for the final third of tree running. It felt Ok running in a little cone of light and not too spooky. Strangely at the end of an urban path I developed that 'someone is watching me' feeling and had to speed up. Perhaps it was because the path is near a road that I thought there might be the 'mad axe man'. There wasn't.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Short training run

I didn't want to do much of a run today but after looking at my blog I was reminded that I needed to do my running  drills. So I popped out for 2km and did high knees, heel lift, ankling and pawing drills. Just 30 of each per leg with short slow runs in between. There was a little oddness in my left patellar tendon but not soreness. Of course, on the downhill sections I worked very hard to keep a neat gait.

Saturday 27 September 2014

18 at 140 again

Today I repeated last week's route although the weather was far more pleasant. Initially it was cold but quickly the sun rose well above the horizon and I was plenty warm enough. On ascents I kept my heart rate below 140bpm and on descents I was very careful with gait.

Even though I set off slightly aware of both knees I didn't get any twinges or discomfort until I walked a little bit near home. Certainly at the 8km ascent where I noted a little soreness last week the knees were OK. On descents I  felt more confident too; thinking of raising my cadence, leaning forwards and lifting my feet quickly.

The pace was much the same as last week with a similar pattern of splits. The splits show a good maintenance of pace, bearing in mind that the terrain is quite varied on this run. Looking back, on my longer runs last year, even though the pace was faster I wasn't maintaining it. To an extent that shows that I wasn't strong enough for that pace. It's also clear that I wasn't doing long slow runs, I was working close to what might be called race pace; as fast as I could go! Hopefully this slower approach will give a sustainable training effect without injury.
The spiders in Limb Valley had been busy overnight

Thursday 25 September 2014

Slightly sore soft knee tissues

Today I've had slightly tender patellar tendons and quad insertions. Interestingly both legs are affected. Not bad, but noticeable.

Is this due to a combination of fast-ish run on Monday followed by Wednesday circuits (with a fast-ish run there) or due to wearing the red Brooks shoes for the circuit run and session? Neither is great as I hoped I was getting a bit stronger. When I wore the red shoes some months ago I set off problems but with hindsight thought I'd been deliberately heel striking to feel the cushioning; yesterday I made a real effort not to! I think the safest option is a combination of 2 days rest and put the red shoes back to one side.

Saturday 20 September 2014

18 at 140

After a hiking week, then a rest week that segued into an ill week I was unsure how to step back into my long run programme. After much debate about swimming, approaching it in small stages I decided to jump straight in. Saturday swimming was there when I couldn't do long runs and now the evenings are darkening it isn't ideal to do a long trail run in an evening.

My ongoing programme would suggest that today's long run should have been about 15km so I decided to run my Devil's Elbow loop; walking as required to keep my hear rate below 140bpm so that the effort didn't make it too intense.

The weather was damp and still in the woods, very humid and I was please to reach Houndkirk Road where there was a little breeze. I had to walk any ascent that was visible to keep to my target zone and this made it clear to me that I was stressing myself too much when I was aiming to do this type of run at 6min/km pace. Towards the end of the run it was clear that the distance would be more than planned (why didn't I check my records?) and I walked a few descents too as I could feel that my knees were fatiguing.

Overall the loop was 18km and although pace isn't an issue for a 'Long Slow Day' I was pleased, and indeed slightly surprised, to see that it was under 7min/km. After rollering and stretching I didn't feel as worn as usual, perhaps the pacing had worked? I'll need to see if the sudden restart has had an adverse effect on anything, of course the left knee soft tissues being the real concern. I noted a slight twinge at 8km when stepping up a rocky path but nothing significant thereafter.

I also had a good look for ticks, my new concern, as I'd pushed through damp heather that was overgrowing the moor path. Luckily I couldn't see any!

Thursday 18 September 2014

Getting back in a shallow groove

I seem to be over the cold now and managed two 5km runs on Tuesday and Wednesday. The pace was pretty easy but at least it's action. On Tuesday I included some of the gait drills and on Wednesday I was commuting to the circuit class so there was training in addition to the distance covered. I'm making an effort to feel how I'm lifting my feet on descents in an attempt to find a low impact non-overstriding rhythm. There is a little familiarity developing but I'm not convinced that I've found the best approach yet.

I'm out of the swimming habit though. My last lesson was cancelled and my swim whilst ill put me off. Then there was work and now it feels to awful to go back! Perhaps I'll manage on Saturday?

Sunday 14 September 2014


Having a cold is awful. For such a basic illness it has a profound effect! Yesterday morning I went for a swim as I felt I'd been lethargic all week but it was probably a mistake. I found it very hard work and struggled to keep any decent form at all. It wasn't just a perception either as my speed was very poor. I probably shouldn't have gone.

After last night's sleep I awoke feeling a bit  better but as today has gone on I've faded and now feel fairly grim. Really any run is out of the question and so this week's total is a grand 5km. On the positive side though, the rest has allowed me to update the blog and enter a little about Spain (a great trip) and it's forced a rest of my joints.

Friday 12 September 2014


I'm a bit down in the dumps now as I've picked up a cold and sore throat. On top of the return to work I feel pretty low. I can't run as I'm looking after my knees and don't feel like swimming. Today's lesson was cancelled which might be good thing or bad. If it had happened I would have done it even if I wasn't really in the mood whereas as it is I've gone home having done nothing but work.

Even though fever and tiredness are symptoms of Lyme disease I really think I've just got a cold. Likewise the ache in my knees was pre-existing.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Circuit time

Although the physio has asked me to avoid running this week I was permitted to do the circuit class and my run there and back. It felt a little harder than usual which was probably due to catching a cold as I can't claim to have become unfit during an active week. The 5km run was OK though which is positive.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Walk don't run

This week I've recorded a notional 30km in my summary graph even though I've run under 5km. How can I do that? I've been in Spain and hiked around 84km which isn't a vast mileage but the walks were fairly tough in the ascent included. I estimate around 4000m of ascent and descent, the latter being the most punishing on my knees. As we hiked at a fair pace and in a degree of heat I've certainly done the equivalent of some Long Slow Days in terms of muscle loading and cardiovascular training. There is no physiological justification for the 30km, merely that it was my run target for the week.

I've returned home with delicate knees from the hill work and oddly the right is worst. That probably has been aggravated by banking it on a rocky lump on the first day. I'm at the physio tomorrow so hopefully I'll have a few knots smoothed out.

Friday 5 September 2014

Refugio de Vega de Ario

I think that it is a HF tradition that the last walk is the grandest of the holiday. On that basis we ascended to the Refugio de Vega de Ario which at an altitude of over 1600m can be considered a 'mountain walk'. As yesterday though the slog was eased by the minibus leaving us at the lakes at an altitude of 1100m. In theory that makes the ascent sound quite easy but I estimate that there were some extra bits!

As we left the lake we were in mist and for a while we wondered if we were going to walk all day whilst enveloped in greyness. We were lucky though and after half an hour we started to break through the layer of cloud.

Rolling clouds are dramatic when you're at their level
I was excited to look around the refuge having never been to one before. It was much like a simple YHA hostel but with better views.

A fantastic day to be in the hills
Due to the limited competition the food prices weren't low but the freshly prepared bean stew was tempting. Unfortunately it was traditional and included pork. We were required to take any wrappings from our purchases back with us. That's not so surprising as there won't be a weekly refuse collection.

That's how supplies are taken to the refuge
For the first half of the descent we retraced our steps but for the second we detoured via a valley populated by alpine cows. We returned very close to our departure point although by late afternoon the cloud had largely lifted revealing how the lakes lay inbetween the mountains.

Not very impressive lake but the general ambience is great
 Today's walk: 19.4km 926m

Thursday 4 September 2014


We had a substantial step-up from the minibus as it drove us beyond Tielve to start the walk. The route was a simple loop to the head of the valley and back via the village of Sotres, reputedly the highest permanent settlement in the Picos de Europa. It is a prominent centre for the production of traditional Cabrales veined cheese and, even as a vegan, I jumped at the chance to see inside a cave when we had a chance meeting with  a producer.

Cheese maturing at a not very secret location
Even with the mechanised ascent and our walking it was a fairly low-level day passing through meadows and then onto moors that could have been in North Yorkshire.

Gorse and heather
We descended through farmsteads that looked ancient apart from the satellite TV dishes mounted below the solar panels. On a path off the major route we passed below a crag on which a griffin vulture was perched. he birds are very common in the Picos but not readily photographed with a compact camera usually.

A very distinctive silhouette

Todays walk: 13.6km 900m

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Llanes rest day

Halfway through the week we took a minibus to the nearby historic town of Llanes. It has two little beaches but not much of a seaside character.
The fishing boats at Llanes are now mostly recreational
The town supposedly dates back to medieval merchants and was reinvigorated in the early 20th century as traders returned with fortunes from America. There was clearly quite a building boom with many shops and residential buildings showing Arts & Crafts echos.

HDR due to shadowing in the narrow streets
I've found the pool cold but today managed 20 lengths (they were really short ones). There was a shock both on entry and when I started a length and my face hit the water. This latter effect is fairly well known as the diving reflex and the principle effect is bradycardia.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Garganta del Cares

Cares Gorge is a popular tourist destination and well described online. Despite its tourist tag it is quite a challenging walk in warm weather as the heat builds up in the gorge. The path is sound and wide and so even as a timid walker I didn't find it exposed.

Strong shadows due to relatively low September sun
I walked in my trail running shoes. Early on I though this a mistake as the path was quite stony but overall I liked their lightness and on the final descent they were nice and sticky. If your ankles are used to all day walking or running I'd suggest they are appropriate footwear in the gorge in fair weather.

The path is a lot higher than it looks here!
The marked shadows were an excuse to try triple-exposure shots for HDR and remapping but I was too lazy to set up a tripod. The results were good in my opinion and give an indication of both the terrain and the light.

Today's walk: 23km 350m

Monday 1 September 2014


We'd been warned to keep an eye open for ticks and that was one reason I was walking with long trousers. The other was to avoid sun burn. Whilst getting undressed for bed I spotted a fullstop-sized fleck on my thigh. I wondered if it was a tick but it was very flat, I'd assumed all ticks would be engorged with blood and nearly spherical.

I got one of the walk leaders to look and he didn't think it was but still suggested I remove it. Of course the leader who had a tick removal instrument couldn't be contacted. With care I removed it without maiming it and it did its best to run away.

Moving too fast to be an easy photographic subject
The apparent integrity and speed of the thing, which was now clearly a tick, made me feel that I had removed it intact. Over subsequent days this would be confirmed by the lack of inflammation at the bite point.

Whilst Spain, like the UK, is considered to have endemic Borrelia species the tick and small mammal populations the transmission of causative bacteria of Lyme disease is considered to be fairly low if removed promptly. Thus testing and antibiotic treatment are only considered if symptoms develop - especially erythema migrans. I'll have to look out for this through September.


According to the holiday plan this walk should have been first rather than second but I think the amended sequence is preferable. The loop through Asiego is technically easy than  yesterday's hill walk and the inclusion of a bar lunch seemed more appropriate on the second day.

I decided to do the harder walk is it included less descent than the easier one. Mostly it was the easy walk in reverse so there was more ascent but that doesn't pull on my knees so much. The general plan of the day was to contour around some ridges and  drop in and climb out of lesser gulleys. The terrain was split between sandstone and limestone with the former giving an appearance similar to the valleys around the very local Grindleford.

Like Derbyshire but a little more dramatic
The area is still farmed but historically farming involved more people and more movement of cattle between the winter Invernales and summer Mujades. These are small settlements with shelter for both animals and humans.

Ancient and modern masonry
Both groups lunched at Asiego in a highly modernised bar where they served an Espicha meal to celebrate the cider fermentation. Away from the bar the village looked as it might have for a few centuries.

After a long lunch the key point of the walk was a coll where the border of three counties meet. This used to be site of markets and marriage arrangements. Now its role seems to be as a transit point for HV cables.

Auto panorama with stitching artefacts
There was time before dinner for a swim again, I managed 12 lengths before feeling too cold today.

Today's walk: 16km 853m

Sunday 31 August 2014

Cabeza de Juan Robre

We ascended from the village, Arenas de Cabrales, onto the hill to the northeast. The was little respite before reaching the promontory at 876m. That was an ascent of 720m with an amazingly low average speed of 1.5km/h.On our first day we were pleased to have lovely weather and views back into the valley making our effort so clear.

The ridge from Cabrales to lunch
The descent was far more gradual and led through farming land and secluded pastures. It was a bit harsh on my knees even though the gradient was reasonable.

After a snack at the hotel I tested the swimming pool. I had to start with dangling my legs in the water as it was unexpectedly cool. It's considered good practice to ice tired legs but does merely chilly count? I eventually managed 10 scrappy lengths before running for a hot shower.

Today's walk: 12.7km 1008m

Saturday 30 August 2014

A look around before dinner

We arrived in Cabrales early afternoon and after a short snooze I needed to take to the tracks and see a little of the area. I planned a 6km loop through the next village in the valley including tracks and country road. It was a good choice.

The weather was fairly warm even late in the afternoon which would indicate what to expect from the climate.

Friday 29 August 2014

Back to Porter Clough

For the first time in at least 4 months I ran up Porter Clough this morning. I let my heart rate rise to 150 on this run as I'm hopjng to start a few 'tempo' activities soon. Nonetheless the ascent took me 4 minutes longer than my PB. It didn't feel that slow! Of course what goes up must come down.

I tried hard with my gait on the dscents focussing on heel lifting, a high cadence and small steps. On shallow gradients it felt good but where the path steepened I couldn't find a comfortable pattern. I'm hoping that I'll gradually rise the comfortable angle as I practice.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Glide again

My second lesson with Emma included some drills. I had to catch-up for a few lengths. I found a great temptation to windmill my arms. Whdn I succeeded in doing it my lead arm tended to sink a little. I also did one arm stroke. My legs sank a little but with a leg float they sank a lot! I don't know if I was pulling them down subconsciously or whether they are dense. Also we chatted about reach /glide after the lead hand enters the water but before the pull.

This has been a problem for me at the Monday session as I feel I've received contradictory advice. I had been 'spearing' but gradually my angle had been going deeper until I was told to pull immediately. Most online coaching advises a short reach even where a long slow glide is depecated.

Monday 25 August 2014

A round walk

Bank holiday was forecast to be thoroughly wet and when we looked out of the window this morning it seemed that the forecast was going to be accurate. On a whim I suggested that we walk a circle around the house based on the #microadventure idea. We didn't plan to be spending the night out though, so perhaps that doesn't count?

A 3km radius was chosen to generate a 24km trip. A few minutes with the map showed that a pretty good loop could be achieved. The eastern two thirds would be urban, the western third more rural.

The unknown urban streets were rewarding as we didn't know them and they afforded surprise views and "ooh, I see where we are" moments. The least rewarding sections were streets that we knew but had little to recommend them. We reached them when we were tiring and the whole exercise felt a bit futile. We found numerous closed cafes and eventually had a cold drink in a pub where they couldn't serve hot drinks due to an absence of cups. Mush of the route was deserted, I assume the foul weather had encouraged people to stay indoors.

Fairly circular
The route approximated fairly well to a circle and for a 3km radius the walk should be just over 24km. With my rather indifferent GPS the distance was recorded as 33km. There are 'twiddly bits' on the loop so I suppose that it makes sense to be a bit longer than the geometry implies. It certainly felt pretty hard work considering that the terrain was straight forward.

I think it's going to take a week for our kit to dry out. The rain wan't especially heavy but it was continuous and a bit humid so there was also the issue of condensation inside wet cagoules.

My knees coped adequately with the day although a steep stepped descent was hard on my left patellar ligament and my right knee is a bit sore laterally. The physio has wondered in the past if that is caused by a slight twist. My boot soles show some wear at the heels, as do all my shoes that have done any distance, but the right is less affected than the left. Hopefully it will settle after some pre-bedtime stretches and a day of relative rest.

Sunday 24 August 2014

First drilling

I popped out for half an hour into the woods to practice the drills I learnt last friday. After a 1km warm up I went through the ankling, heel/hamstring curls and finally the pawing. The latter left two denuded areas adjacent to the 'easy going trail'. On  the runs I felt that the drills had helped by gait and pace. I commented on friday that I did feel to be running more than shuffling quickly. I flew,  relatively speaking, down a  couple of short descents by thinking of lifting my feet but above a certain gradient I couldn't find a comfortable gait. My recorded pace doesn't show these speedy sections so maybe it was just my imagination?

Anyway, the session worked well and so I need to repeat something similar a few times per week to gain more benefit from the drills.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Annoyed with swimming

I was irritated by this morning's swim as once again the effort seemed to be greater than the preceding week but the outcome worse. I tried to go a little slower and go a little faster; gentle leg action or faster and looser as recommended by the coach; regardless I reached the end of a length breathless. I'll have to see what is recommended to me at the next coaching session.

Friday 22 August 2014

Coaching in Millhouses

I met Dave Taylor in Millhouses park for another coaching session. I'd asked to focus on overstriding, or more accurately how to avoid doing it. We did a variety of drills including "ankling" which is shown here:

This is supposed to encourage a heel-to-toe action as placing the foot is as important as lifting it. A key issue was running with a forward lean so that the hips are above the leading foot by the time it touches down.

The second drill was lifting heel to bum whilst making an effort to keep the foot facing downwards. This is an exaggerated recovery phase movement intended to encourage movement of the leg around the knee axis rather than hip. This should be more efficient as it's a shorter lever to swing on every step.

Finally there is the "pawing" drill to link the stages. This should be done slowly with little pressure at first before developing speed and power.

In the session I did a set or so of the drill and then did a run, with the intention of using muscles recruited in the drill. Photographs from video filming showed that at least some of the time I had a good lean and that I was doing a good forefoot strike.

After practicing these techniques I ran a few hundred metres in socks. The intention was to see how different it felt to running with shoes on. I was pleasantly surprised by the sensation but was then surprised when photographs showed that I was lifting my toes on landing thus very much relying on a ball or mid foot strike. That's OK but it's unwise to the lifting toes as that reduces stability and is stretching the plantar fascia unnecessarily.

At a final run I felt that my gait was improved and importantly my legs felt fine at the end despite the opportunity for                                                                                                                                  

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Lunchtime run

Since I'm on holiday today it made sense to do my long run today in the nice weather rather than do it lat on Sunday, possibly in poor weather. As before I kept an eye on my heart rate on ascents and on speed on descents. That inevitably made the pace slow even with a big effort to have a high cadence!

Crossing the Byway below Oxstones
The weather was perfect for a gentle run with a mixture of sun and gentle breeze. The heather on the moor was bright purple from the edge of Sheffield to beyond Hathersage although that doesn't show on the photograph. I ate lunch at the stones but couldn't linger as I was chilling.

My legs coped fairly well but I was aware of discomfort in the left patellar tendon but not too much considering that this is my longest run in months. Indeed it's slightly longer than my plan suggests but not excessively so and I'll do the rest of the week a bit gently.