Monday 28 April 2014

No running makes a better swimmer!

At the swimming class I was slightly concerned that I may have picked up bad habits swimming without the watchful eye of a tutor over the holiday. Well that didn't seem to be the case which was good news. After a few warm-up lengths I swam some lengths without a rest and thought 'I don't have to stop'. So I carried on until 10! That was great and was only possible by going at a very steady pace and concentrating on good form. I tried again but stopped after 6 as the tutor was indicating to show that I was getting lazy finishing my stroke. After a pause and a few single faster lengths I did 10 again to prove to myself that I could, but carried onto complete 12. Amazing, 300m in one go. As before I thought I could have carried on for longer but a few faults were appearing as I tired. All in all though that has been the breakthrough that I've been longing for for many weeks. I found it hard to believe that with my fairly good aerobic fitness I couldn't manage to keep going in the pool.

I suspect that the lack of post-run fatigue was a major element but training twice a week for a couple of weeks in a rough 33m pool might also have had a positive effect. I hope I'll be able to repeat this alter this week.

Running is still off unfortunately although I'm to try the jog to circuits. One day I might be niggle-free again after 5km walking!

Sunday 27 April 2014

Looking back

Ok, so is there anything to note looking back through the last few week's records? The recent round of problems started on 6th March and was acute enough to force me to walk. Within 2 weeks I'd done a 30km week in new shoes! In retrospect this was madness although there was a sort-of-logic in trying to use cushioning and supportive shoes.

Moreover, I have noted that I did a bit of heel striking in the new shoes to try to utilise their cushioning. Not only was this a change in gait but it's a gait that is suspected to lead to joint pain! For some reason it gave me ITB localised pain very quickly which forced me to sideline those shoes. Their heel to toe drop of 8mm is equal to that of my main road shoes and nominally 1mm less than my trail shoes (I say nominally as they squash down rapidly) so that simple parameter shouldn't have been an issue. For a few days I walked in and out of walk in zero drop plimsolls which felt good at first, but then set me back, perhaps...

A 2km increase per run was too much and although I've not specifically noted it I'm sure there was some background 'niggle' that I was running through. Certainly early in April I was 'aware' of my knees after 20km runs and that should have been a sign to cut back. Instead I ran twice like this with 4 four days and then pain recurred. I really think the overuse was more of an issue that the flat shoes.

It's now nearly 3 weeks since my last serious run - I've jogged 5km to and from circuits on one occasion - and once again things seem to be settling down. I've walked in Cornwall and around Sheffield and noted some discomfort but that feels to be less frequent and less marked when I notice it. The key thing is that it's still there showing underlying problems. There is an argument that tissue damage is present before you feel it and thus pain is a terrible indicator for when to stop!

Saturday 26 April 2014

1km swim (almost)

This morning I committed to walking to the pool and then putting in some effort swimming as running is still off limits. When I arrived 30 minutes after opening time all 4 'circular' lanes were in good use and a good swell had developed. As I mentioned in a a recent tweet, the University pool is known to suffer from rough water; a very capable swimmer described it to me as being close to open water swimming. That's probably an exaggeration but gives an impression of the surface.

The first few lengths were scrappy but gradually I reduced my pace and increased shoulder twist (to get above the waves) and settled into a comfortable rhythm. That allowed me to do pairs of lengths and I managed 1 set of 3 lengths - a true 100m. Altogether I did 30 lengths thus totalling 1000m, admittedly with short pauses between pairs of lengths or single lengths.

The speed was glacial but as a beginner I was trying to keep my form neat and breathing compatible with my work load. Hopefully a practice a few times a week will help, so long as I don't develop bad habits!

Thursday 24 April 2014

Little recovery evident!

Yesterday evening I jogged to and from the circuit class and abstained from any leg work. Today above my right knee is slightly sore and hamstrings/calves tight despite some roller work this morning. On that basis I feel I'm where I was a month ago - sore left knee and right not far behind. I'm forced to conclude that the relative rest programme hasn't had enough of the rest element and healing is inadequate. So, certainly no running this weekend and perhaps not to the next circuit session.

Looking back over these entries the issue has been ongoing since 12th March but it is worth noting that the sole of my right foot has healed as far as I can tell.

I've just taken a lunchtime half-hour swim but it's not the same. I suspect that I'll be doing more swimming over the next few weeks.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Protein boost

Today I received a pack of hemp protein from Bulk Powders which I'm intending to be a useful supplement to what I hope is a generally sound diet.

Packet image stolen from website
I chose this product being vegan, grown in UK and soy-free. It has a higher fat than soy or whey products but it does contain essential fatty acids. Some of the reviews mentioned its foul taste; I've tried it mixed into commercial 'almond milk' and it was slightly unpleasant but quite edible.

Walking in Cornwall

We spent the Easter holiday weekend in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, hoping for some fair weather and good walks. On the walk to Zennor we spotted some seals resting on some rocks just off shore. They came to our attention due to their rather mournful 'ghostly baby' calls, nothing like the barks and such that I've found online although some of this video has some similarities.

We also spotted a pod of Dolphins rounding Cape Cornwall. Supposedly dolphins are common off the Cornish coastline but this is the first time that we've seen them.

Surf near Godrevy
Walking from Hayle to Hell's Mouth a handful of runners wearing varying degrees of trail running kit ran towards us at a gentle pace. I wasn't sure if they were pat of an event or not and a quick internet search hasn't revealed an event.

HDR image (still overexposed!) within St Uny church
I deliberately didn't take any running kit with me as I had agreed with the physio that my knees needed a thorough rest. But each day we walked somewhere and on Sunday I also went for a swim in the local 25m pool; so I've kept fairly active. I'm not sure how much my knees have recovered. I'm sure that there has been a reduction in the background mild ache in both knees and the right knee isn't 'noticeable', although I've noted some tenderness in the left quadriceps insertion.

I've eaten well and will probably have put on some weight but that's probably not a bad thing as I think I've been rather catabolic of late, which will have been complicating my tendonitis. At a recent hospital appointment I was only 65kg dressed which is rather lower than I've been for a while...

Monday 14 April 2014

Still the right knee

I've seen the physio this evening about the ongoing knee pain, especially the irritating switch from left to right. In fairness, it has improved over the last few days but it is still not right. I feel either or both knees could worsen with the slightest trauma.

After a goodly amount of poking she still considers that I have a tendonitis rather than PFPS (I'm not going to hyperlink these as there are a nearly infinite number of online resources and nearly all have been criticised by someone for containing incorrect information) mainly due to the absence of pain when the patella is pressed into the leg. What is apparent though, and it applies whatever the diagnosis is that I've been returning to action too much and too hastily. Whilst an relative-rest recovery programme was the plan I've probably not focussed enough on the rest and have jumped forward with every sign of progress only to be beaten back.

The plan now is to do no running over the Easter holiday period although walking is allowed. hopefully that will leave me symptom free in a week at which point some slow, short, level runs can be attempted.

Whilst some evidence suggests that activity and strengthening can aid or prevent connective tissue problems around the knee, others suggest that there is little good evidence and that sustained, structured rest programmes are essential. I'm certainly of the opinion that I haven't rested enough!

But what about recovery, do vegans eat enough protein to ensure rapid rebuilding of damaged tendons? Or is a vegan diet protective? A quick Google search gives both arguments. I've not been much of a believer in the 'vegans don't get enough protein' story, and many share this view, although as I'm training harder the issue seems more topical. I've often worked around the 1g/kg body weight per day idea and this fits in pretty well with mainstream advice but I do wonder if my intake is that much. Certainly Scott Jurek's sample diet is a lot more protein-rich  than mine tends to be and I can't even fall back on the argument of eating 'lots of everything' as I'm not training so heavily.

However, I think I'll try a supplement as there are a few available including one grown in the UK.

Saturday 12 April 2014


Around lunchtime I decided that I was fit enough to swim today. I found that the Goodwin Centre pool was open and with a low entry fee. The pool is 10% longer than my usual KES and a few degrees cooler. It took me a couple of lengths to settle into the pool, as I found at Pond's Forge at Christmas.

What now!?!

Yesterday's walk home from work was marred by pain from my right knee. I'd had a hint of it just as I reached work in the morning but hadn't really thought much of it. On Thursday I had been quite upbeat as I'd managed a few squats at the Wednesday circuit and felt fine walking my usual 5km. In this context Friday's pain was a surprise and very irritating. I'd walked a couple of days in flat plimsolls and this seemed to have been beneficial but perhaps Friday was a near-barefoot day too far?

Today I decided that it was best not to do my saturday run in the hope that a sudden onset might be helped by a rest. I'm getting the impression that wearing the same walking shoes for too many days consecutively is too wearing at present.

I'm contemplating a swim but we'll have to see how, or if, that turns out...

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Go slow

Today's run had to be at least 20 seconds/km slower than usual to follow the advice I'd received. As it was pleasantly dry and not too late I decided to do a trail run rather than a variation of my Dore road route. By keeping a close eye on the GPS pace I managed to do a slow average of 6:37min/km which was close to my goal.

Quite a view in the 'golden hour'
Going a bit slower did feel a little easier but it made the run take a lot longer which in turn gave an impression of a longer run! Nonetheless now I don't feel quite as tired as I often do after a run but I was aware of my knees whilst running. We'll have to see how it works out across the week.

Not long until sunset

Monday 7 April 2014

Cut out the middle

In the ongoing recovery-injury cycle the physio has presented an important adversary. She's raised the problem before but not so clearly or starkly. Basically she feels I'm racing too much of my training.

She illustrated this with a traditional 5 zone training model and suggessted that much of my training is in zone 3. As a beginner this is maybe ok but as the training time increases it can be unsuitable. In zone 3 you will be working hard,  travelling fast and subjecting the musculoskeltal system to high loads for a long time once you've a good background fitness. However you're not gaining the benefits of high intensity training of zones 4 & 5. So, far better to spend time in zone 2 on long runs interleaved with tempo runs and intervals for improved handling of lactate.

That means that training runs will rarely result in a Strava segment award unless these have been 'cherry-picked'. There shouldn't be longish runs that just get faster. So now I'll have to make a conscious effort to SLOW DOWN to allow me to cover distance with hopefully less damage.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Halfway there

For the last few weeks I've been increasing my short and long runs by around 2km a week during recovery from my rather vague knee injury. This week I hoped to build on last week's run up past Devil's Elbow to make a halfmarathon loop. This would be a little shorter than my Blackamoor circuit as that is well over the 21.3km.

The bridleway ascent from Dore was tough but I managed it a little faster than last time as I knew where the top was.

Not too far now
For the first time in quite a few weeks I reached Oxstones where the trig point has recently been repainted. Some years ago there were rumours that they would be dismantled, but I suspect that no-one can usually be bothered to do it.

By the time I got home I was aware of both knees, but not too much, and I've not used the ibuprofen gel for some days now so I feel this is progress in the right direction. During this run I made an effort to keep a mid to fore foot strike and keep of  my heels so I'm expecting sore calf muscles in the near future!

Thursday 3 April 2014


Well behind the curve I've joined Twitter but as yet haven't got anything to say that can fit into so few characters. I'm aiming to use that for snippets that don't warrant a full blog entry.

Perhaps I'll pop a timeline widget on the right once there's stuff to catch up with.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

A fair start

I've made a reasonable start on April with a 15km road run in my old flat shoes; the red ones are sidelined for a while and might appear on eBay soon (there are a couple of slightly used pairs of similar shoes). I made a point of running at a fairly comfortable pace and adapting my gait / foot position if I felt any niggles. I also did not look at the GPS to check pace although I did peek at it twice to see how much more i had to go!

The result was a credible 15km at a 5:01min/km pace which is as good as it'll get at present. At the end my legs felt pretty tired, and not just my knees.

Today, things felt OK as I walked in and pottering around work hasn't been painful but I am aware of the legs more than I should be. I'll find out a bit more at the circuits later, but I will avoid deep squats and lunges. I will try a few shallow ones but will stop if there is are any 'Ouch' moments.