Monday 31 March 2014

An odd month

March has been strange. I started the month feeling strong and eager to try to increase my weekly distance. However quite quickly I had knee pain and had to cut back on longer runs. On the physio's advice I have gradually increased the length of my runs back to a level close to that of February although I'm keeping the 'Long Run' a bit shorter and being fairly slow on descents.

 By undertaking some extra short runs and keeping close to a programme I achieved a good final distance and a sub-4 minute kilometre.

I know that my knee isn't right yet, I'm conscious of it fairly often, but it doesn't seem to be causing too much trouble at present. I'll have to see how it settles as we go into April.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Manufacturing ethics

Vegans are often aware of ethical purchasing issues but recently my wife has become more interested through a Lent study group. Almost everything we buy in Europe today has been manufactured in China where employment and human rights are poor. I took a quick look online and discovered that my recent show purchases could have been better researched.

From Ethical Consumer today
Quite why Brooks hit the bottom slot in this review is unclear as I'm not a subscriber (yet perhaps?).  A quick scan of the company's website shows quite a bit of policy documentation and another consumer website suggests that Brooks are one of the more ethical manufacturers, but perhaps that's out of date now?

Inov-8's policy is very weak by comparison and occupies just a single webpage screen. A climber's blog suggests that Inov-8 had a strong eco policy in 2006 but that might not extend to its personnel.

Saturday 29 March 2014

Say hello?

This post, more than others is especially trivial! Over the last few weeks I've developed a hypothesis that I'm more likely to get a response to saying hello to a runner if I don't have my trail running rucsac on. Do runners think that trail runners with extra gear are daft? Perhaps we are, what are we training for? The general topic of runners acknowledging each other has a couple of threads online and it might be that there is no need for runners to acknowledge each other; after all I don't speak to everyone I pass whilst walking into work.

A cheery Harley rider in Winnipeg
The topic reminded me of the perennial bikers' topic of 'Why don't Harley riders wave back?' which has a large number of threads with many hypotheses. In this domain there is also the issue of coolness of wave and even why bother?

I suspect that runners aren't formed too much into cliques, more that they either think frequent greetings are pointless or they are so focussed on the next few steps and current pace that they haven't really seen me go past...

Devil's Elbow path

Today's part in the ongoing rehab of the knee was to be 17km contributing to a week of up to 40km. I planned a slightly shortened version of my Balckamoor half-marathon  which saw me ascend the bridleway to 'Devil's Elbow' on Hathersage Road. I've tried going down it on a bicycle and found that frightening, running up was slow and hard work.

Strava shows that others have run it far faster than I did, indeed the record is amazing. I couldn't follow the footpath across the road and ended up adding a bit of distance to my circuit. During the descent to home I was very careful and walked a few bits in Limb valley to avoid overloading either knee. That was very wise as the total distance was over 18km and I was becoming aware of both knees by the time I was home. But that's OK and resulted in a week total of 45km which is more than I'd planned. Hopefully not too much!

Here's a movie of a descent of the Devil's Elbow path by someone far braver than me.
I also noted that the last two runs were in effect back-to-back so I've undertaken around 25km in the last 24 hours.

Friday 28 March 2014

Back into neutral

Whilst walking to and from work, and moving around there, I had no hint of the right ITB pain. I decided to risk a short run in my unsupportive and very 'neutral' Green Silence shoes. After a very gentle descent to Millhouses park I made a bit of effort and achieved a PB.

I'm sure I could have gone faster as I was only making 'some' effort as I'm supposed to be in rehab. I returned home very gently especially as the last 1.5km is moderately uphill, it certainly feels more than the 60m shown on Strava!

Anyway, the key thing is that during this I had no hint of ITB pain from either knee. Does this mean that I've caused and cured a problem within a week? I'll find out tomorrow - it took 24 hours for my knees to 'collapse' earlier in the week.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Making matters worse?!

Now I have knee pain on the right as well as on the left, perhaps localised to the ITB area. At the circuit last night I couldn't do anything resembling a squat or lunge with either leg! Although I hoped the red shoes would provide some helpful support and cushioning during this rehab phase I wonder if they are making matters worse, as others have found. Ok, personal anecdotes are useless evidence but I think I'll try my next run in other shoes.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

15km in the new shoes

Having managed 14km on Saturday, tonight I tried the 15km road route that I first ran a few weeks ago. I blame that run for some of the knee pain and therefore tonight I had to avoid a repeat occurrence. A key feature of this was to take the whole route at a very steady pace and to be especially cautious on descents. Often downhill sections are an opportunity to improve the average pace but they are also when loads are greatest on the quadriceps fibres and patellar tendons. Whilst some claim that running downhill trains (and another anecdotal report) the musculoskeletal system for future downhill sections, in Sheffield it could be possible to become overtrained by repetitive downhill runs.

Monday 24 March 2014

Reaching down

On my way to swimming I was aware that I had a stiff left shoulder and gradually realised that it was probably due to carrying a box around the University this morning. It was a light box but  little large and unwieldy. The swimming instructor noticed my stiffness and encouraged me to try to roll more and reach downwards more on every stroke. I did gradually loosen up and noticed that when the 'reaching' went well the strokes felt more efficient and powerful but not more tiring. On quite a few occasions I managed pairs of bilateral breathing lengths. If I could maintain the style I should be able to do more lengths consecutively.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Short long run

The recovery programme from the physio is that I add 2km to each of my 2 main weekly runs and link this with a weekly increase of 10% - assuming  no problems arise. So today's run was to be 12km achieving a week goal of 31km. Within this, all downhill sections were to be run very gently or even walked if I feel they are steep.

Today I ran up Porter Clough, the usual start of my traditional 'Saturday run' and remembered what a long slog it is. It is very picturesque though.

Looking downhill, good underfoot

My route home was via Limb valley where I had to be very careful not to rush and over stride along the easy descents. I walked for a few hundred metres near Whirlow Hall and was home soon after 09:00. Then I found that I'd done a little over 14km (ie more than the plan) but the knee didn't seem to have objected.

There was nothing magical or even evidence-based about the 2km increment so I just have to hope that 14km will be OK.  

Friday 21 March 2014

The Red Shoes

My plan needs 31km to be completed this week but only 12km tomorrow. That meant that I had to run 6km this evening; also a good excuse to take the new shows out for a test.

First time out for the Ravenna

All of the run had to be done gently but on the ascents the shoes felt distinctly firm. I'd expected them to feel a lot plusher but I suppose with my current midfoot strike I don't gain the most from heel foam. Anyway on the descent I could feel the cushioning so long as I weighted more towards my heels. Nonetheless I took it very steady!

I wonder if I've bought ½ a size too small, it's always hard to know. My Inov-8 shoes are 44, my other road shoes are 44.5 and these new ones are 44 so nothing radical there. In all probability they'll slacken with time, or I can wear thinner socks!

Thursday 20 March 2014

A new local running shop prompts $pending

A new running shop opened on Sharrowvale Road, roughly on my home a few months ago. I popped in today for a quick look around and Mark assisted in my choosing a pair of more cushioned road shoes. I explained that I'd been using more minimal shoes and that I wondered if I'd increased the distance a bit much and whether that had been a factor in the sore knee. The outcome of all of this after a few episodes on the treadmill was the purchase of a pair of Brooks Ravenna 5 in the rather garish red/white colourway. They'll clash with my blue gear!

Being slightly injured at present, the purchase of a Grid roller from TPTherapy also occurred. The budget one bought from Argos many months ago has started to soften and crush into an hourglass shape and doesn't feel up to the job anymore.

Stolen from the company website

Quite a costly bit of browsing then! We did have a little chat that running isn't as 'free' as one might hope it might be, at least in the western world, but concluded that cost per hour per km is not too extortionate.

Monday 17 March 2014

Topical Ibuprofen

I was at the physio again this evening and she agreed with her colleague that my knee pain is due to relatively mild inflammation of the tendons and that nothing structural appears to be damaged. I'm still below the level of true Iliotibial band or Patelo-femoral pain syndromes although I do get discomfort in the areas affected by those problems. That in itself suggests a general background of irritation and inflammation rather  than a localised overload.

Image stolen from the online shop
She suggested that I try a topical ibuprofen gel since I can't take NSAIDs orally due to the ongoing functional gastritis, although as one might expect, there will be systemic effects if it crosses the skin at all. We discussed the evidence a little and as she said, it's rather weak but worth a try. I quick PubMed search showed that there are few good papers but at least any side effects tend to be minor.

Sunday 16 March 2014

First step in automated graphs

The summary graphs on the right hand side of this blog were built from XLS files, charts saved and then links updated. This upset my sense of what computers should do and so I started a quest to generate these automatically. I've not mastered the Strava V3 API yet but today I did manage to make the weekly target from a MySQL database using pChart. Now for that API...

First pChart, still a lot to do to

Saturday 15 March 2014


Today I risked a run just beyond the boundary of the wood with a little loop here and there to achieve a grand total of 10km. I was cautious on descents and took the whole thing very steady, that's just under 6min/km. My knee was basically OK but on reaching home there were a couple of niggles. I hope it settles OK over Sunday.

Thursday 13 March 2014


A little run into the woods at dusk went OK. I was really cautious on the downhills and all was well.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

The physio and the gym class

I'd managed to get an appointment at the physio just before the runners' circuit class which saved a lot of travelling around. The physio was quite positive which was good to hear. Hopefully it was all true rather than just said to bolster my spirit. The keys points as I recall are:
  • There doesn't seem to be any tears, dislocations or fractures in my right foot after its impact with the stone
  • The sole of the right foot is probably bruised internally and that could easily take another month to heal
  • A dodgy right foot could have added load to the left leg due to a gait alteration
  • Try to run 'normally'
  • The tendons of the left knee are a little inflammed but not badly
  • Tension in the posterior of my leg (hamstrings) will aggravate the condition
All in all I'm probably experiencing the result of some overtraining as:
  • This is the first time that I've done 40km weeks consecutively - trend now broken!
  • My long runs are 2x my faster midweek runs, that is possibly too much, say 1.5x
The outcome is:
  • Continue rollering and physio sessions to minimise tension
  • Practice a very awkward squat with tensed quadriceps, 10x twice daily
  • Avoid long downhill runs for a while
  • Try building up, perhaps 2km further twice a week
  • Don't press for speed and distance
  • Cardiovscular systems adapt faster than middle aged connective tissues
The circuit was OK; I was aware of the left knee tendons in squats and lunges and had to do less than I might have done for fear of strain and pain. It feels like a control issue and the tensed squat is supposed to train for that.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Starting again, again

Once again I'm back to sub 3km jogs around the block at  6min/km pace. At least it went OK with only a vague awareness of my knee. I still wonder if the problem is due to the foot incident on Stanage a few weeks ago, it'll be interesting to hear what the physio thinks tomorrow.

Monday 10 March 2014

Pairs of lengths

Last week I proved to myself that I could manage four 33 yard lengths in quick succession, even if the style was scrappy and I took a few big breaths at each turning point. So this week, having loosened up a bit, I worked to do most of my lengths as pairs, albeit with slight extra breaths sometimes. The trick was to go steadily and force myself to slow down as I feel breathless, not to make a hasty dash for the end as panic set in. That might be an advance on a few weeks ago as I now only do bilateral breathing. That aspect has gone from forced to habitual without me really knowing when the transition occurred.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Forced to walk!

The plan to spread distance between days hasn't worked out very well although I have done detours on my walk home form work to various shops which will have added mileage.

This morning I set off to do the Round Walk in reverse and made a really good start, steady and consistent with only minor niggles from my knee. However around half way round, in Lady's Spring Wood the niggle became pain and running was not sensible. I chose to walk home rather than complete the circuit walking as I was getting cold and even walking was uncomfortable. I tired a few jogs but after only a few steps decided I couldn't do it. As I approached home the discomfort seemed to fade away and the rollering and stretching wasn't painful.

I can't believe anything is torn as a range of movement isn't painful; perhaps just another odd spasm, I certainly hope so. I'm seeing the physio early next week so hopefully I'll be told that nothing is damaged and the tight things forced to relax.

Tuesday 4 March 2014


While 'the knee' seems to have made a very minor come back I thought it sensible to try to spread the week's distance between days rather then load it into the saturday Long Run. This evening therefore I extended the Dore road run up towards Totley before ascending to Hathersage Road. I also made an effort to go at a very steady pace which meant that I was slow on the Strava segments but a 5:03min/km over 15km was a good outcome and resulted in a 15km Best Effort award.

Monday 3 March 2014

A bit of competition

This evening I made a point of trying 'bear claw' hands and making slightly slower progress together with more prolonged expiration. I can't say that I noticed any speed or efficiency improvement from slightly spread fingers but going a little more slowly was essential to join lengths together. I did a couple of pairs (I was at that stage a few weeks back!) but managed 4 in quick succession in response to a little challenge. I'm sure that technique was lost a little but it was good to see that I could manage a bit more continuous swimming than  I thought I could. I wonder if it can be repeated?

Saturday 1 March 2014

Legs with niggles

All of this week I've had niggling pains in my legs. Last weekend I upset my right foot, at Wednesday's circuit ligaments around my left knee were a spot sore and the long term tight left hamstring reappeared. All at a rather low level but irritating just as I felt I was getting stronger. On that basis I decided that I wouldn't strive to reach 200km by yesterday and that today's run should be relatively modest.

My plan was to do the Blacka Moor half marathon route so that I was never too far from home and add on a little extension if all was well. I also committed to not worrying about pace.

It was a sunny spring morning
 I added on a short stretch across an extra section of moorland that lead me to Foxhouse where I decided, as things seemed OK, to add a short extension (1.5km) and an additional ascent (60m that felt like a lot more). From Houndkirk Road the view was stunning, as a little mist had settled in the valleys forming gradients of shade.

As usual I turned up towards Oxstones where the frost was still evident.

From there it was all very nearly all downhill to home. I could feel the left knee when I flexed it and I wonder if squats at circuits aggravated a bit of soreness from the previous long run. The delicate foot was OK throughout and I'll have to leave that body part out of any excuses now!

As I'd stopped to take a few photos and not rushed I was very pleased to have a moving pace of  5:50min/km and 6:02 as a door-to-door pace.