Friday 28 February 2014

Lunchtime swim

For the first time in many weeks I had both the opportunity and motivation to go for a lunchtime swim. The pool was quiet and just warm enough. I tried to focus on the technique I've been learning on Mondays and generally it felt good. I focussed on single lengths in an attempt to optimise technique but I did finish with 2 lengths (with a mere 5s breather). Multiple lengths still feels to be a great barrier. I did receive 1 tip today and that was to keep my fingers, and thus arms, looser, not pressing my fingers together 'like a shovel'. See:

Thursday 27 February 2014

New head torch test

For short sections of unlit roads I'd bought a basic headtorch from Decathlon. It's worked pretty well with NiMH AAA cells although the low voltage has stopped the rear facing red LEDs from working unless the batteries are freshly charged.

On full power the light is enough to show a pavement but wouldn't do much on the fells. With an eye to my potential 100km event I felt that a brighter lamp with good battery life was essential. I didn't want to go for a full on mega-lamp an settled on the Petzl Tikka RXP. It doesn't come with a battery case for plain cells but recent experience suggests that well-charged lithium packs work well for many cycles. USB charging is pretty convenient when away as I always have a charger with me for tablet PC/GPS watch etc etc.

On a short night hike the Petzl showed a far brighter and broader beam than the Decathalon and the fixed angle was OK. The control buttons are a little small and almost inoperable when wearing winter gloves. It was also hard to know when the power had been increased from economy to standard whilst on the reactive programme as the light dims itself!

A quick photo shows that even a bright lamp doesn't really illuminate the world very much! I only had a basic camera with me so I couldn't do sensible comparative images for both torches. Perhaps I'll find ti e to do that one evening soon. This evening's little walk was a good reintroduction to night hikes as it's been many years since I walked far in the countryside in the dark. I'll have to get more practice as even though my chosen event is close to the longest day I expect that I'll be doing at least 2 hours in the dark even if I get on well.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Seems that foot is mostly OK

Until the last 1km of today's loop I wasn't aware of my 'stoned' foot which is very good news. On the final descent I was mildly aware of it, in no way could I describe it as painful; two toes just felt a little unusual.

I got a clutch of Strava 2nd and 3rd on segments showing that I was travelling at a very average pace for me. An interesting thing is that although no single segment was fast, I did appear to achieve a PB for the whole run. That shows a good steady performance more than fast spurts. Today's goal was to run without a problem after a heavy week and that has been achieved.

I'm wondering if I should make the additional effort to achieve the 200km monthly award or stick to my routine. If it were a longer month I would manage both but 28 days is 10% shorter than normal! Empty miles?

Monday 24 February 2014

Freestyle legs

This evening I made an effort to flex my feet and kick from my hips and keep my legs together and keep my legs high. The instructor commented that my leg action was looking good so my efforts must have been working to a degree. Despite these aims of reducing drag I still found single lengths an effort although I could feel that I was making good progress with each stroke. When I remembered I was also trying to initiate the breathing out period earlier so as not to have too much breath-holding followed by a pant.

There is a lot to think about but I'm beginning to think that some elements of my arm stroke are becoming more automatic and requiring less mental effort to keep them tidy.

Sunday 23 February 2014

So far so good

Yesterday was only my fifth week of over 50km and a couple of those have resulted in injuries that have stopped progress. Now I feel much stronger but when I hurt my foot, an acute injury rather than fatigue damage, I feared this week might suffer the same fate.

Over 24 hours later and things seem OK. Some very minor knee and muscle aches and a very diffuse tension in my sole after a few hours of strolling in the woods are the only problems. Let's hope for the best.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Nasty rocks

Today's forecast was unseasonably excellent with sun predicted until mid afternoon. That was excellent for a long run. In line with my plan to do 45 to 55km per week over this 6 week block I decided to go to Hathersage and do just over 30km. The ground was drier than it has been for a few weeks but the streams were flowing rapidly and there were still many damp areas.

Hopefully the water is draining away well now
From Porter Clough to Stanage the wind was ferocious and forward progress seemed to be very slow. I was very glad when my walking minute came around every 10 minutes of running.

On the descent of Long Causeway in a combination of stepping on a sharp stone and traversing a cross drain I hurt the sole of my foot. An injury would not be welcome now!  I carried on thinking that if it got worse I could get a bus home from Hathersage (well I had to carry on as there was no other way home). Over those few km the foot settled and became only a minor niggle. I'm often told by the physio that it's OK to carry on with niggles but anything painful or causing loss of performance should be rested so on that basis I felt it safe to run home.

It was hard work getting home and I ended up walking a little more often than scheduled as I got closer to the destination. I was guarding the sole slightly and I think that was affecting my gait and increasing the effort. I wondered what would hurt tomorrow.

As a 'long run' the pace isn't very important but I was very satisfied with my timing.

The Strava  moving average was 6:10 mins/km which is a great improvement for this route over the last 9 months. Even some of the sections I found hard work were good times, explaining why it was hard work. So the foot hadn't been to much of a handicap in the final reckoning.

The thought of doing the run twice agin is pretty scary though...

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Return to Long Line

Today's run goal was to do Long Line as well as possible. I've not run up there since last Spring; in winter it's too dark and in summer I'd rather be on the trails. However I was able to leave work a little early this afternoon so I had the chance to run it before dark. Moreover, I'd not run yesterday as I was in town for some shopping and pizza. It's a long steady drag, not exciting but probably good training experience.

I was happy to get a PB on the ascent especially as I'd done well on the ascent through Dore which leads to it.

This has also been my longest run in the Brooks flat shoes at just over 14km and at a good pace of under 5min/km.

Later I've got circuits so I hope I'm not too tired! 

Monday 17 February 2014

Swimming legs

Until this evening the swimming instructors have been stressing that most of the power for freestyle comes from the arms. Today it was suggested to me that I should use my legs a bit more and that some drills would be useful.

Armed with two floats I set off to kick my way through a length or two. It was very hard work and showed quite clearly that I was barely using my legs for propulsion. Having said that, an online article describes how power is not a primary concern; the key thing is learning to not hinder progress with a poor leg action! I can relate to this as it was clear that during the leg drill my legs were higher in the water than when swimming with arm strokes. Low legs are a source of drag and I need all the efficiency I can get! I can relate to issues of foot flexion as during the leg drills I could feel my calf muscles becoming tight so I'm exhibiting typical runner's feet; more flexibility is stated to be beneficial yet again.

Saturday 15 February 2014


Will it ever stop raining? Perhaps it will tomorrow but I didn't want to break my habit of saturday being the opportunity for a long run. I've started a new 6 week cycle this week and so the Round Walk at 26km or so seemed to be a good place to start, longer ones can follow in a week or so.

As soon as I set off I felt tired and wondered how I'd ever get around. Perhaps it was the rain, lack of a long run last week or too much to eat during the week; or perhaps too little of something? I walked a few of the steeper ascents and resisted looking at my pace until I'd nearly finished. After the apparently hard start I thought I'd got on quite well as I didn't have any sore calf muscles and I managed to jog the usually horrid ascent to Brincliffe edge. The finishing pace was just within 6 minutes including a stop to remove twigs from a shoe so that was OK; especially since I'd had to make little detours to avoid a fallen tree and particularly deep mud..

A sign of Spring or harbinger of worse to come?
My moving average pace from Strava was 5:49min/km which is my best pace on the Round Walk which shows that my perception of pace is dubious and that a few short walking sections doesn't affect the average adversely.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Hard work at the circuit

On the whole I've become accustomed to the Wednesday circuit and know how to pace myself on the exercises. Considering that I started going to the sessions to strengthen my weaker left leg I've not had many instances of it feeling feeble. This evening though I felt  few little twinges on single leg squats if I didn't keep it very well balanced.

Balancing type exercises are where I can detect its limitations. I suppose it's just a little inflammation in something around the joint. It might be due to my boots that I've been wearing to commute  during the wet spell. I must ensure that I continue my exercises at home as I've been a bit lazy with them recently. I can't afford anything to become more than a little niggle if my summer target is to be achieved.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Sprint finish

I've finished my rest week with a quick 6.8km to give me a total above 30km which is fine. Although this was a fairly easy run I determined to make a bit of an effort and I was rewarded with a clutch of Strava awards including a best mile at 6:55 minutes. That won't trouble the record books!

I think that I have also determined that it is the nice fast Brooks shoes which rub my heels. I've done 3 runs in them this week and the skin has become increasingly sore. No blisters, just a little irritation.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Taking it easy

So this has been a week for resting after over a month of effort. From a distance I doubted whether I needed a recovery week but the closer it became the more it felt necessary. On Tuesday I'd intended to do a more-or-less usual road route but a few km into it I decided that I'd had enough and turned for home.

It has been a hectic work week too and so I jogged to the circuit session from work, with a full rucsac, in the rain. Apparently it rained 30 of 31 days in January and I think February is yrying to beat that proportion.

By Friday though I felt a little stronger and completed Tuesday's run. I even managed a few good segment times. A Saturday long run wasn't on the cards but I'm hoping to exceed 30km before the week ends.

Saturday 1 February 2014

What should I do today?

At the end of 2013 the physio recommended that I should aim for consistency, perhaps 45km-ish per week, rather than the fluctuation that I've exhibited previously. But, what about a rest week? During this week I've felt that 5 weeks of over 40km has started to affect me. I'm feeling a little tired and the skin on my heels isn't far from being blistered (I don't think pictures of feet will improve the blog!). Perhaps a rest is needed? Due to various commitments next week I think that my mileage will be low and so that can be defined as my rest week. That means that today had to be a long run day. Earlier in the week the weather forecast for the weekend had been grim but this morning was sunny and the forecast good until early afternoon. This the die was cast for making an effort.

Long shadows from the wintery morning sun 
I didn't want to exceed 30km ideally so I planned a simple route to Hathersage with an intention of avoiding as many habitually boggy spots as possible. The very wet January has made every path wet at the very least so the always-wet bits are now bottomless bogs.

An amazing blue sky over Stanage Edge
My plan was to use a 10:1 run:walk cycle with acceptance of walking uphill to avoid too much effort. As it happens, the wetness of paths sapped my energy and even the road sections had to be run cautiously as there were patched of black ice, even as I was nearing home at 11am. I slightly exceeded my 30km target and although it felt tough my average pace was significantly better than last May. I didn't run quite the same route as last year but I think that the difficulty was at least as high, in part due to the condition of the paths. Importantly I don't think my calf muscles are as tender even though I do feel generally worn-out. It's notable that early on on the run I felt tired and my suspicion is that Tim Noake's 'Central Governor' (click for an interesting podcast interview with him) was trying to keep the pace down at the start, knowing how far there was to go.

Pace per km related to overall average
The chart shows that my early pace was really too fast and that the ascent of Higger Tor was a tough. On the road descent my pace improved, not quite a negative split but not too much slowing; it was an easy gentle road though!

Now I must keep up the roller work and take it easy to ensure that after the coming week's rest I can complete a good February.