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.

Swimming lesson

Today I had a swimming lesson at Nuffield Health with Emma. It was only half an hour but felt even shorter. The key issues at this stage seem to be rather weak leg action and problems with breathing. So those things are obvious from what I've written before. During the class I had to swim a few lengths with just leg action and breathing. Although movement was slow and the length hard work the key problem was that I wasn't breathing well and needed to pause a few times. Why? I could lift my head at any time and take as big a breath as I wanted but it wasn't enough. Or was I hyperventilating? Emma wanted to know if I got breathless when I run - that's a good question as it might imply an underlying disorder - but no I don't excessively - of course I can run fast enough to become breathless.

As an aside I was timed over 50m and that was just over 1 minute, resulting in a 2 and a bit minute 100m. That's twice as fast as my regular pace.

Over the next week I need to practice a faster, more flexible leg action; ideally try the legs-only breathing exercise and finally just accept the breathing sensation and try to do more continuous lengths.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Tired swim

Considering that this is supposed to be a 'rest' week I felt very tired for today's swim. For the first few lengths I wondered if I'd manage to do thirty at all but with a bit of determination I reached 38 lengths. I was even slower than usual.

In terms of technique I made quite an effort to exhale for much of the stroke although I find this difficult, especially as I tire.

From general niggles and DOMS sensations I think that I'm suffering from Thursday's rather intense circuits class. Today really must be a rest from now on.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Summer circuit

Today's circuit wan't a circuit, more of a group exercise class. That's fine as the exercises and objectives were basically the same. The first half was rather heavy on squats, lunges and bunny jumps so I had an easy time. I did do some small squats, to an extent that felt plenty, but that still gave me a less intense start. then we moved onto core work and were told "you'll feel this later". It was hard work and I oculd feel that I'd done it as I ran home very slowly.

Tuesday 12 August 2014


After an afternoon strolling along the promenade I didn't have an excuse not to do a Tuesday run. I planned an 8km loop along the coastal path and back along some country roads. My route was barred at a railway crossing so I had to retrace my steps and ended up doing a slightly greater distance than planned. I don't see this as too much as the route was flat and I can reduce my third run of the week to compensate. I didn't have my heart rate monitor but chose to travel gently and in the absence of ascent I'm pretty sure that I stayed in an aerobic zone.

Monday 11 August 2014

Rest week then a new block

So I've brought another block to an end with an appointment at the physio and things are looking OK. A few tight spots on the right leg which is a novelty but range of movement in both is good and no signs of ITB issues. I'd feared that my right ITB was playing up as it did some years ago but I'm assured, if not entirely reassured, that the tight muscles are forcing a bit of rotation that's making a bit of stress. As the physio couldn't elicit pain on either plantar or dorsi flexion of my ankle there's unlikely to be much wrong in the superior tibiofibular joint.

We also discussed gait cues to reduce overstriding whilst running downhill and the key advice was to focus on lifting my heel as I fall forwards. Much like the right hand figure here:

So the next few weeks plan is thus:

Tues: 6km
Thur: 5km - gym trip
Sun: 9km

Tue: 8km
Wed: 5km - gym trip
Sun: 12km

Tue: 8km
Wed: 5km gym trip
Sun: 14km to 15km

Then another active week followed by a rest week. If all is well at this point I'll look at bringing in some more intense aerobic work into the shorter run.

I did go for a swim today and focussed on exhalation and the exit part of the stroke. Despite trying to exhale for a greater portion of the stroke I do have a tendency to hold for a full stroke before exhaling. Some of that is probably due to arm movement and engagement of accessory muscles.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Slightly short week

I'm 2 km down this week on the plan I put together 3 weeks ago but I feel that I've spent sufficient time and effort to believe that the 3 week block has been completed. I didn't want to 'catch-up' on mileage today and over do it just for the sake of 12 minutes.

Next week can be a rest week with a drop back to around 20km with nothing more than 10km. I'm seeing the physio tomorrow too so she can help reduce a few knotty muscles and test out the knees which are a bit delicate again. The coached session and circuits were hard on them.

The deadline

As today is my 50th birthday I have not achieved the strapline of my blog. I suspect that if I'd set out to walk the 100km 18 months ago I would have managed fine but my wish to run a fair proportion of it with a good body of training behind me led to the typical runners' injuries and thus not being fit to attempt an ultramarathon when I wished. I'm still holding onto the idea that I might do a 100km in my 50th year.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Generally tired

This morning's swim was hard going and my legs felt tired during the walk there too. Although it's been quite a short mileage week I think the combination of coaching session and Alice's gym class was tough.

I'm continuing to make little progress on the swimming. Today I worked at exhaling for more of the stroke and keeping a long exit. I have tried to face my palm backwards as per Swimsmooth although the Monday tutor isn't keen on it. Early and late in the session I tried to keep my leading arm extended for a brief reach or stretch before the pull stroke. At the beginning I don't think I was succeeding but on the last length I think I did better. I was almost tempted to try more but I had done enough really.

On leaving I enquired about classes at the Goodwin and there is a block in late September. I'll have to book onto that an see if a fresh tutor can do some some good.

Thursday 7 August 2014


On the run to and from circuits I tried to stand tall and look straight ahead. Notably my bum bag didn't twist around, perhaps because I wasn't tilted? The circuit class was fairly intense but I did start to feel my patellar tendons and quadriceps insertions on both legs towards the end. On the slight descents I tried to keep my cadence up and my legs under my body. Don't know if I succeeded.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

First coaching

On my runs I've become increasingly aware of, and to a degree concerned about, how I'm putting my feet down. I can tell the left is less well controlled and that I tend to develop 'slapping' feet as I tire and also if going downhill.

After seeing a Tweet about a Daily Telegraph article on fell running that featured Dave Taylor, a local coach I contacted him and arranged to meet up within a week. He thought it best to look at basics first. He took a brief video of me running up and down a slope and that showed a rather bent posture and some overstriding with a straight leg strike.

After establishing that my base cadence is reasonable he demonstrated variations on a high knees exercicse. This can be done as a static balance through to high intensity jumps and reminded me of the 100-up of the 19th century. The arguments for this exercise vary from balance, activation of gluteal muscles and principally by an exaggerated movement one learns to recruit a more varied range of muscle fibres. Throughout I was encouraged to stand a little taller and whilst keeping my chin tucked in, not to let it drop to my chest. I'm now aware that I do slouch! The final area for development was arm movement. Although I can be fairly relaxed with arms I was shown how to drive them backwards when running more forcefully. The rearwards action is to counterbalance the advancing leg and the forward action should almost occur by elastic recoil.

Dave made some recordings of me at the beginning of the session and I'm sure that they will reveal all sorts of shortcomings. Hopefully I'll see improvements. I'm intending to meet up every few weeks and maybe I will be able to move on to new areas of development.

I'd not done a run last night to save my legs for today but in the end it wasn't too much work for them. Now I need to practise these drills a couple of times each week and catch up on my distance.

Monday 4 August 2014

Tired swim

After my first length the instructor asked how I was. "Tired", "I can tell". I suspect yesterday's 'long' run had worn me rather. Anyway I took the advice to take longer rests between lengths and then tried to do them with a little more power than is usual. It seemed to work well and mostly enabled me to keep form.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Slow with concentration

Today's run was the 'long run' in middle week of a block of three. I took a fairly easy 13km loop but had to modulate my ascents by keeping my heart rate below 135 (at which I failed very briefly) and the descents by being light footed. All in all that mad me rather slow, indeed I recorded my slowest times on some Strava segments. I shouldn't worry about that though as that wasn't the idea of today!

Both knees felt a bit tired, and my left shin slightly sore at the end but I've just completed a walk of over 5km and things feel generally OK.

If that feeling continues that will be a good outcome as this is the longest run I've done since April 8th.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Two minutes slower

This morning's metric mile swim was a spot slower than last week's but I was making an effort to keep to form. That necessitated slightly longer pauses between lengths. If I'd cut out 4s per length I'd have been back on pace! During the walk home I felt tired and I think next week will have to be a little shorter to allow more recovery. In that regard I can't see that swimming should be any different to running.