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