Tuesday 30 December 2014


Last week I noted that the Plug-N-Play connector on my UltrAspire drinking bladder had broken. The part bought online arrived very promptly. But, and there always seems to be a but, it was subtly different to the broken one in that the ridged pipe part was slightly smaller diameter. I noted that the red pie is 'Big Bore' so presumably this part suits the normal piping?

Anyway this is the only part listed so I widened the push part using 2 layers of heat shrink tubing. Note that I'd already checked that the plastic wasn't damaged by hot air by testing it on the broken one.

By only placing a loop at the tip I hope to have made a firm hold and a seal for the Big Bore tubing. It was certainly a tight fit and it was only possible to fit the pipe after a fair soak in hot water.

Just needs testing now. When's the next 'long run'?

Sunday 28 December 2014

Christmas Week

I'd idly planned that this would be a 30km week, the third running week of the block. I don't know how this was ever going to work out as we'd also planned to walk on Christmas day.

Christmas Day near Oxstones
At the end of the week we'd booked to be away in Staffordshire. There was a plan to do lots of walking which I tend to count within my run distance as although it's low impact that's potentially offset by pack and boots. Anyway soon after arriving on Boxing Day it started to snow.

Lovely looking if you're a tourist
We'd not packed for snow and so only did a few shortish road-based walks. That was lovely nonetheless and show that the moorlands are neglected by visitors in comparison to the hot-spots of the Dark Peak.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Skipped Tuesday

On Monday, a hundred yards away from home my right knee/quad was irritated and only improved by my taking dainty little forefoot-landing steps. Big strides were at best uncomfortable. This was a nuisance as I was going swimming and then had a circuit of shopping to do; into town and then back via a few independent shops. Really I should have turned around straight away and worn my usual shoes but I wanted to rest my legs!

At the physio she found tight muscles in both legs but nothing of concern in the joints. A new finding was tightness into my left foot probably due to more forefoot running.

Tuesday morning was to have been a run but by the time I was dressed by right knee was twinging and so it din't seem wise. So I went swimming again. The legs seemed fine on the walking so perhaps I back out too easily?

That meant that today, Wednesday, I went for the run even though I wasn't convinced. I went into the local woods for the slightly softer trails and varied terrain rather than the road route I'd missed yesterday. I've a wide variety of options in the woods and as things were going OK I adjusted for a just-under-10km circuit. As time wen ton there were no problems and so put a little bit of effort in.

Much of the route was done at a pace that kept me between 135 and 155bpm for most of the time (higher on the first ascents) which certainly felt tougher than my long run rule of below 140bpm.

The good news is that both knees felt fine, clearly running gait is dissimilar to walking, although there were some knots in my calves but they went after some rolling at home. The goal is another couple of 10+km runs this week to complete around 33km.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Untimed drills

Monday and Tuesday have been leave days for me but rather than take a lie-in I was at the pool at 'work time'. I tried to track lengths but failed to count some of them and then took ages finding floats etc that made the record useless. That's probably no bad thing as at least half of the time I was doing drills and they aren't intended to be timed, technique is the key.

I'm quite clear now that my legs are a problem for me. When using a pull buoy I feel faster (not sure if I am) and less tired than using my legs. Lengths of with just leg kicking are glacially slow and barely achievable. Basically my legs are wasting energy and probably slowing me down.

Having scanned the swim-smooth site once again a contributory factor could be over lifting my head when breathing as they comment that this pushes the legs down. With a pull buoy this will be resisted and help efficiency. At the Goodwin I tend to rotate a lot for breathing as the pool is so choppy. 

Sunday 21 December 2014

Slow drilling

Before going to listen to a choir I had a spare 50 minutes to go for a swim. The pool was very quiet so I took the opportunity to try the freestyle drills we did over the last few weeks on the course. My leg kicks are still almost useless! Overall I felt a little more confident in my stroke but didn't record a clear development as I was doing too many things to give a tidy record. I messed up length recording too.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Slow, but not slowest

I wasn't sure what my knees would be capable of this morning. Both felt tired, presumably from swimming and standing around at work but neither especially uncomfortable. As they didn't feel great I wasn't confident enough to skip today's run and go with the group to Hathersage tomorrow.

As I was getting ready I discovered a leak in my water bladder (more of that later perhaps) and it was raining so I left the house in a less than perfect mood. I was aiming to run my Blacka moor half marathon circuit. The rain stopped and restarted but managed to reach a zenith at Fox House where it was pretty unpleasant. Over the next km or so the weather cleared and the view became quite dramatic.

Looking south. Lumix FT25 images merged in Hugin
The descent via Oxstones was slow as I focussed on form rather than speed. I really want my legs to feel comfortable again! I've noticed that on ascents and level ground I feel more comfortable if I lift my legs more and on descents I'm starting to get a feel for lifting my heel to facilitate fore-foot landing. Both are more effort than the 'ultra shuffle'!

The whole pace was slowish but I was walking ascents I've run previously in order to avoid over working on my long run.

Broken connector

Whilst organising my bag for today's run I noticed that it was dribbling. When I examined the bladder there was a slow trickle from the hose connection point. The hose seed a little looser than usual and didn't have an O-ring which I though should be present. I poked around with a screwdriver and recovered a piece of plastic and O-ring from the connector. Basically the end of the male portion of the connector had sheared off.

Should be one piece!
I've not been unreasonably hard on the connection although it was always a bit difficult to get to seat. Last time I'd even oiled it as per the instructions!

Notably the parts are available online and although the webshop suggested that they can be used for an 'upgrade' I'm sure there's wear and tear element in there too.

Image stolen from Ultramarathon Running Store
The part attached to the bladder feels to be pretty firmly inserted so I'm hoping that I can just repair the pipe and use the old connector. I must oil this more often!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

End of swimming block

This evening was the 5th and final session of the Goodwin block. As time has gone on I've found the sessions more enjoyable and actually worked harder in them. I'm still hopeless at breaststroke as my legs do not want to go in the right direction. At least that is now clear to me. I've gained a few tips on freestyle and I suspect that when I next try a general swimming session thing will be easier.

We did a 'sprint' length of freestyle and even though I was amongst the slow group I managed 33m in 38 seconds. Ok, I was out of breath, but how come I can't manage a regular 60s per length when I'm going gently. Perhaps, as in running, some fast sections can train for faster slow lengths (if that makes any sense!?). We've also been given a little training plan for freestyle detailing the various drills we've tried. As we're able to borrow the floats at the pool there's no reason not to include the programme, or elements of it, at a general session.

The wednesday circuit is my favourite session at Fairplay so I don't think I'll be doing the next swim block but perhaps I'll try to find a way of interleaving blocks. On my feedback form I mentioned my wish for 1-2-1 coaching so I might hear something about that.

Garmin error on Dore loop

Yesterday evening I ran the Dore moor road loop that's my traditional Tuesday circuit. Before and during my knees felt fine although today the left is a bit delicate around the patellar tendon (again!). I'm going to the physio next week so I wonder if she'll advise more recovery time?

For some unknown reason the first 1.5km didn't record on my GPS so the whole trip pace appears slower than it really was. It was fairly slow though as shown by individual segment times. Anyway, I shouldn't be bothering with that. It's training, not a race, and I've a bit of an injury!

Heart rate was pretty good- less than 140bpm averaged in each 1 km and even looking at the steep ascents it was below 150bpm.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Back to the park

The knees felt OK, but rather than hammer them I went to the park to meet the not-quite-a-club and ran Porter Clough and back - via a few extra hillocks. The ascent time was unremarkable and not as good as I was doing 18 months ago. As I'm 'injured' perhaps that's not surprising. The new segment history tool on Strava is great for showing progress, or lack of it.

The icy weather had made the grass into a forest of silver shards which cracked as you ran over them. There could have been some lovely photos but I was travelling light. (The local Parkrun had been cancelled due to hazardous conditions.)

I was very careful on the steep descents (that means slow) but tried to be speedy and precise on shallow gradient. I also noticed that I was being lazy on ascents and then worked to lift my feet a bit more. It felt better.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Easy 6km on the road

I was undecided whether to run tonight. My knees felt much improved so 'relative rest' made sense. But equally they weren't perfect so should I abstain for another 5 weeks? So many mixed messages. I went for the physio's usual approach of doing less, more slowly and set off to do 6km which is half of my normal Tuesday loop. Also I dressed warmly to encourage a slow speed.

The weather was pretty foul so it was good to be warm although perhaps not necessary when running into a strong headwind. On the final descent I was aware of both patellar tendon and quadriceps insertion discomfort (although very mild) from both knees. My solution was to focus on my gait, lifting my feet more, a good forward lean and feet up behind me. That felt to improve things and I reached home uneventfully.

After rollering and stretching everything felt fine so all's well. There's swimming tomorrow which is non-impact, late working on Thursday so little opportunity for a run, thus there'll be rest for the knees for a couple of days.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Saturday swim

I hadn't swum much in November as the running miles increased but as this was a run rest week it seemed wise to do  second swim. As usual it felt like hard work but I worked at a front quadrant approach and having a tiny glide element. I also used my legs a bit more, mainly to try to stop them from sinking and acting as a brake. During the session I had to move into a 25m section and that is always a lot easier than the full 33.3m as 'breathers' happen more frequently. Conversely at one end there's nothing to push off from so you have to build up speed from a 'splosh'.

The timing was good with a pace under 4min for 100m for the first time in ages. Is this due to the swimming class, a rest week or merely a chance outcome? It might, but hopefully not, be a timing error.

Wednesday 3 December 2014


Last week I was content with missing the swimming class as I understood it to be the breaststroke week. I was wrong. It was backstroke and today was breaststroke. I elected to run with the class and found it hard work. On some occasions I seemed to be moving backwards despite moving my legs. I've come to the conclusion that I will not be able to do the stroke well now as my legs are just too stiff. I cannot put my feet 'like a penguin' and when I make the effort my legs are locked and refuse to fold inwards. The idea of whipping my knees together doesn't sound great either! Compared to all of this freestyle/front crawl seems to need fewer contortions.

I've had reservations about this block of classes and if there's always a week of breaststroke I'd not want to do that again.

On the walk home my legs felt a bit delicate around the knees but it soon settled. My hip flexors were painful for two days!

Is 4 days enough?

So after 4 days of non-running my knee is feeling much better. There is some slight stiffness to it when I wake up, overall I think there's a slight patellar tendonitis. Naturally I've done over 6km of walking each day just to and from work but no other exercise. I'm going swimming soon and hopefully that won't upset it.

The big thing to consider now is when to try a run and how much can I risk? The 40km per week really seems to be a threshold for me. Over 2014 I've ramped up to it twice and each time had to back off. This time I have been more gradual and included a rest week after 2 weeks of effort. I'm disappointed that this scheme hasn't worked out. Maybe this is just a little set back as my knee is not as delicate as it was in spring - I really don't want to over do it and go back that far again.

Being self-critical I know that I have neglected the leg strengthening exercises at home. At the circuit class I have been doing more squats and lunges and managing to get them a little deeper without invoking pain.

Looking online there is a lot if excitement around declined single leg eccentric squats, some articles suggest they are great (note there was 6 week's rest in this study!), others warn off. The whole business of eccentric loading is very unclear from serious literature. One of the physiotherapists I saw last year was keen on eccentric single leg squats without the decline board but then again he encouraged too much loading!

Platelet-rich therapy is up and coming and some authors claim great success. Indeed they may genuinely be successful as many innovative techniques are incredibly sensitive to operator's skill and methodological 'tricks' (indeed I went to Scandinavia to do post-doctoral research specifically to see certain techniques in the hands of experts). Unfortunately it seems that PRT does not offer a reproducible gain.

I am thinking that long term slow loading is the way to go; slower but fewer risks?