Thursday 31 December 2015

End of week 9 swimming

In view of the dodgy ankle and a bank holiday tomorrow, today's exercise had to be a swim. From the outset I was clear that I'd be slow, my arms were still tired from yesterday. The sets of 66m fast/slow alternation went well and the data show that I did achieve my goal, but only by a few seconds per length. As usual, I got progressively slower after an early-on peak. My best result was a pair of lengths at 42s each although some of the 'slow' were over 50s. I'm trying not to be too idle on the slow phase to artificially introduce a step and I think that is shown by there being a relatively consistent 3s differential between the fast and slow lengths.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

October 2015 Week 9 Session 2

Overall I don't enjoy my swim sessions. I always get somewhat cold and I don't find much excitement in 60-plus lengths of the pool. However it is good non-impact upper body exercise and is ideal when I've an injury. It seems presently that I always have something not quite right in my lower limbs!

Session requires progressive increase in intensity and once again I found that difficult to achieve. In the first superset I managed well, the second tailed off and by the third I was too tired to keep up any decent pace at all. There are several things I've noted here:
  1. I don't think my endurance and power are increasing as fast as Julian might have though from the plan he's given
  2. I know when I am tired as I lose feel for the water and my arms just seem to pass through
  3. There's an optimum pace above which more effort yields little reward
My walk to the pool and then into town wasn't a problem for my ankle although I kept a slow pace and have been very careful when stepping down stairs. I've iced and applied gel twice. I'm hopeful that the sprain is mild and I can start strengthening soon - I've asked the physio for advice.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Stanage sprain

Today's weather forecast was superb and the reality didn't disappoint. I headed up Porter Clough and Long Causeway to the edge.

Although there was plenty of water running off the fells I chose this route as most is solid underfoot and it affords excellent views.

My pace was generally gentle with a goal to keep my HR below 140bpm as I've set previously for long runs. This naturally set me to walking some of the inclines and on my way to the edge I was interested in taking photographs.

Unfortunately early on whilst negotiating the uneven stones on the edge, not aided by having the sun in my eyes, I twisted my left ankle. Initially it was pretty painful and I was reduced to a stroll. After a few minutes I managed to pick up the pace into a fair walk but didn't want to risk upsetting it further. Naturally I was at the farthest point  from home and taxis etc when this occurred!

The sudden slowing shows the occurrence
Once I reached the road I tried a gentle jog and found that it wasn't painful so long as I kept a short, fast gait. So that set my plan to return directly home on the road, which is the shortest route anyway. I had planned to go a little further via various tracks but that didn't seem wise and nor did I feel in the mood to do more than I was committed to.

Judging from 'Dr Google' I have only a Grade 1 sprain since I can walk readily with only minimal stiffness. There's no clear swelling although there is localised tenderness.

As soon as I done my essential shoe cleaning and protein drink duties I applied an ice pack whilst drinking coffee. During the afternoon I've had ibuprofen gel on it and I'm icing it again as I write. I'd had high hopes for getting some mileage done during these holiday days but now it looks as though gentle walks will be my limit for the next few weeks. I'll have no excuse not to go swimming!

Sunday 27 December 2015

Damp but not flooded

Longnor is just beyond Derbyshire putting it off the winter tourist trail. It used to be a significant market town and has the remnants of 4 public houses to substantiate the claim. Now only one is open and the post office looks derelict.  Luckily there is a well-stocked convenience store.

It's a good base for hikes onto adjacent moors, which are low but lush and verdant. The grassy fields this year are saturated, with every footstep squeezing out a pool of water.  This isn't good terrain for keeping dry feet in running shoes even when wearing socks that were once waterproof.
I've run 10km and walked a little more. The wetness is actually rather unpleasant but nothing as compared to the flooding further north. It is noteworthy that the farms tend not to be in the base of valleys and a fair proportion of the roads are along the ridges.

I passed Chrome Hill which is looks so distinctive from Hollinsclough and must arrange to come back and climb it.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Recovering from sore neck

I've managed 2 swims since Monday when my neck started to settle down properly. I feel I've got back on form reasonably after my Spanish break. The warm-up 200m sets have been around the 3:00min/100m pace which is fine. Due to messing up the week 8 sequence I have done the Session 1 for weeks 8 and 9 after each other. In each one I've slowed markedly from first to last sets but stayed under 2:30min/100m average. My best length was 2:04min/100m pace, if only I could lose a second of so per length to achieve the magic (at the moment) 2:00min/100m!

Today I managed two lengths with fewer than 20 strokes and at good pace so I wasn't 'over-gliding'. They must have been good powerful strokes; I could do with knowing which lengths they were and aim to capitalise on whatever I did wit my arms.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Too little heel drop

There's been a fair bit of rain in the Peak District, although nothing like as much as in the Lake District. The paths are muddy so for this afternoon's run I thought the ASICS shoes would be best. I planned to run very steadily up to Oxstones for the sunset but after about 40 minutes (6km) of ascent it was clear that my left ankle was being irritated as I found last time I wore the shoes.

I had been unsure whether this problem was due to the reduced heel drop of these shoes or simple friction from the neoprene cuff. Well now I'm fairly confident it's to do with heel drop because as soon as I set off downhill the problem largely went away. The heel drop is not publicised by ASICS as far as I can tell but a few reviews put it at just under 6mm.

There's quite a good article here relating peroneus injuries to forefoot striking and minimal shoes. A low heel drop shoe is simply a mild version of that - basically encouraging the muscle and tendons to work at a longer length than they are used to.

So now I know that the shoes should currently only be used for 5km or so and that I need to transition into them for longer runs. It is perhaps noteworthy that the shoes are marketed for obstacle race use, not ultras although the manufacturer's blurb says "You can take on half-marathon distances...". Ultimately I think that I do want to be comfortable in lower shoes as many trail and fell shoes are going that way so I need to persevere.

Saturday 19 December 2015

It was hard work

I'm still finding my neck to be stiff even after a physiotherapy session and a massage a few days after that. It is improving but I'm waking up with it tight and noticing it by the end of the day. Tuesday's swim irritated it so I cut that short and have avoided going again as I really want it to settle own.

This morning I ran my Blacka Moor 20km route, missing out Oxstones. The run was hard going from the outset. Within the first km my right ankle was being rubbed under the lateral malleolus by the size 9.5 RocLite 315s. Throughout the run I felt lethargic, with stiff legs and a lack of energy. My left knee niggled when I walked so I restarted running. I aimed to keep my heart rate below 140 which I managed fairly well. I've realised that the first 15 minutes or so always have a high rate unless I'm walking. I had put it down to worn-out, cold batteries or dry contacts on the sensor, but really I think it is more to do with my body settling down. Usually I set off on long runs after an early breakfast and I imagine that it's hard to know where to direct blood flow or estimate physiological demands. So the heart goes a little mad to make sure all 'clients' are satisfied. After a while I have settled in ('warmed-up' I suppose) and the heart rate matches effort more sensibly.

Overall the pace came in under 7mins/km which is OK but in terms of perceived effort the run was tough! I'm now wondering if this is a sign of overtraining or whether it was just a day when I didn't perform especially well.

Friday 11 December 2015

Benidorm nights

Although we talked miles around Benidorm and Alicante I wanted to keep up some sort of routine and ran to the northern end of the promenade before dinner on two evenings. The loop is around 5km but I didn't mange to make a record as the Holux GPS was misbehaving. Later I did persuade it to be more helpful by removing the batter and doing a cold restart. I think it had collected false data due to the plentiful tall building. The inner parts of the town are just concrete canyons!

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Altea municipal pool

With the power of Google I track down the municipal swimming pool in Altea and found an opening time that fitted in with the day's activities. It was a clean and tidy 25m pool arranged in lanes with few swimmers. The only drawback was that lockers were not available. Swimmers either left bags in the changing room or took them poolside.

I didn't have the Big Buoy with me and  found the supplied pull buoys to be worse than useless so most of my 1200m was done with  leg kicks. My legs really do act as anchors but with some effort I managed 100m sets in 2:40min and 2:35min which I was satisfied with. It's clear that I am finding the sizeable pull buoy to be a 'crutch', as is so often stated online, but equally my endurance and stroke style and power is improving through being able to maintain an effort for an hour without a rest. I'll have to discuss this further with Julian at my next session,

Monday 7 December 2015

Inland of Altea

After a day strolling from Altea to Albir on a pleasant day I needed to exert myself a bit more. I scanned OpenCycleMap and found some tracks inland of the A7 towards the Riu Algar. I did my best to memorise the route beyond the urban streets and set off at a gentle run.

The first route was obvious but after taking a few forks that path had gone from a a well-made dirt road to true 'single track'.

I was working from memory and could also tell that the paths on the ground were more plentiful than those mapped. Basically I didn't know which way was my chosen route. After reaching a gated dead end I turned back and completed the route clockwise instead of my hoped for anti-clockwise. There wasn't really anything wrong with this choice, just that I'd hoped to go the other way.

On my return I reviewed the route (just under 9km) and spotted my error and route options that I could have taken. That's fine as now I can plan runs for our next trip to Altea.

Saturday 5 December 2015

A quiet week

The pressures of work and general lethargy have made this a slack week. I've only managed 2 short runs and two runs. My resting heart rate has been raised 8% for weeks and I think this show a background of both physiological and emotional stress. In that regard a less intense week isn't a bad thing.

At the beginning of the week I made an effort to ice around my left ankle and I think I have recovered from that little irritation. Circuits was hard on my knees as usual and I persist in my hope that squats and lunges will eventually strengthen it.

Swimming early in the week was laborious and was a disappointment after the previous week's great pace. Today I worked to increase the effort within 400m sets and in the first few I mostly succeeded although by the 4th I was clearly tiring. My best consecutive lengths resulted in a sub-2:10min/100m for 100m including a single length at 2:02min/100m. Between weeks 5 and 8 I've taken over 20s off the 400m set time. That's not bad going for me. A sub-8minute 400m still seems a way off, although that is my goal for the next time trial with Julian.

Saturday 28 November 2015

26.2km, a metric marathon?

Today's goal was to do a long slow run of around 25km. I set off up the porter Valley as it has been a very long time since I went there. I set off too fast, recording several sub-6 minute kilometres in the early stages. I suspect that extra effort caused later tiredness. In so it was one of my slowest attempts along the valley and it felt a lot harder than it used to. I think I'll have to add it back into my training programme.

Across 'the quarry' and via Oxstones to Houndkirk Road was wet underfoot but the grip of the new Asics shoes was excellent. I detoured into Burbage valley and then looped back via Totley Moor in Blacka Moor and the plantation.

This route included two new paths which were good to explore. First was from Oxytones to the site of the former inn on Houndkirk Road and the second linked the Totley Moor Byway to the Bridleway from Dore village. The latter was hard work as it has a surprising ascent and my left ankle was beginning to be irritated.

I did take a third new path but I doubt I'll use that again. I've passed the finger signs many times previously but boringly stayed on the road. Today I was in the mood to take a diversion and risk getting (slightly) wet feet. I had difficulty deciding where to cross the brook as I didn't want to wade, nor balance on a tree trunk to cross over. Eventually I worked out the safe dry-ish route and ascended back to the road, even then I had to climb over a fence.
The indecision is clear!
The final few km home were hard work and the distance felt far further than it really was. The left ankle issue feels similar to how the right was  few months ago. I suspect it's  a combination of over stretching due to a reduced heel drop on the new shoes and maybe rubbing from the neoprene gaiter. Odd that I was fine on the last run. Of course these things are cumulative and today I did have 600m of ascent to give more tension in my lower leg. As i write this I'm wearing an ice pack in the hope it might help. Usually I feel these niggles are too trivial for 'RICE' but I'm getting fed up of being not-quite-fit.

Thursday 26 November 2015

October 2015 Week 7 Session 1

I wasn't sure how I'd get on with a swim after Wednesday's sore back but I'd  managed circuits fine and the back ache was certainly reducing. The physio always advises against rest on the argument that stillness encourages trigger points and subsequent spasms. On that basis I decided to risk it and did the programmed routine.

As usual across the five sets of 400m I progressively reduced pace and increased stroke number but did manage the first 4 sets in under 10 minutes each. Within each set I tried to work harder towards the end, especially after 300m, so as to maintain pace. This worked well as a loss of pace through the 400m isn't apparent in the data.

This week I really feel that I have made some progress and that effort is being rewarded.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Ouch! My back...

Whilst setting the table for breakfast I got a terrible cramp in my mid-back. Such spasms aren't new to me but they have tended to be higher up and in fairness haven't occurred in ages. I blame being cold almost all of yesterday and sitting in a twisted position in a long (boring) meeting through lunchtime. Maybe a hard effort swim didn't help?

I was lucky to be able to get an appointment with the physio who looks after my back and felt much better after some work on it.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

October 2015 Week 6 Session 3 - very good work

During today's swim I felt fast and the data shows that I was moderately fast (for me). That's good. I'll accept that occasional good performance doesn't always show the true trend but this afternoon I'm prepared to consider that it does. It's also possible that the absence of a run yesterday might mean that I'm better recovered than sometimes.

I started with the intention not to be feeble in the warm up 200m and so I just did the lengths with no gaps. I didn't make a great effort to be fast but tried to apply myself. That resulted in sub 3minute/100m for 200m (with the sinky-legs). I've manage that in the SwimSmooth time trial but not otherwise. That good start had a good effect on my whole swim average. Then on the usual-effort alternated with 90%-effort lengths I focussed on some effort even when resting and then being faster with good 'feel for the water' whilst working harder.

This approach worked as I managed a number of lengths at 2:05min/100m or better and good averages throughout. Of course I tired towards the end of the session until the final pairs of lengths showed little difference between normal and hard as they were all becoming hard! My first set showed around 22strokes/33m but by the end it had risen to 26strokes/33m. Clearly I was losing hold and merely swinging my arms.

Sunday 22 November 2015

October 2015 Week 6 Session 2

Today I was focussing on effort with the goal of a progression across six 100m sets. As before I mostly failed to achieve this. The pattern seems to be a stupidly slow set, followed by 2 good ones and the a final few that have more strokes but very little better pace. As I tire the lack of gain for effort becomes clearer. Basically it seems that as I increase stroke rate, unless I'm really fresh, there is no net gain in pace.

I did manage a few 100m sets at around 2:21min/100m and no individual lengths at better than 2:15min/100m which isn't great. On the plus side I've looked back at old swimming data and noted that I used to struggle to manage 4min/100m. Now on the warm ups I'm not quite achieving 3min/100m but feel that I could do. I think I need to do a 1000m test with legs (i.e. without pull buoy) to make a fair comparison.

Recently I have suspected that the pool has a distinct flow and in the lane I was in today it was clear that I was working against the pump for the last 8m or so of the shallow end.

Saturday 21 November 2015

First snow of the winter

The forecast had predicted 'snow on high ground' but that's pretty vague as everyone has their own definition of high. I expected that there would be some flakes over Sheffield and the Peak District as there's a long history of this area tending to be more prone to snow than nearby Manchester or the East Midlands.

When I woke up there was a thin layer in the garden but by the time I'd eaten and got out of the house that had started to melt. The local pavements were a bit slippery in places where there had been patches of melting and re-freezing but once on countryside paths there were no problems. On Blacka Moor there was a good covering that hid the roughness in the path and the cold running water beneath.

Just beyond the wall the wind was ever so strong and I was forced to walk
Houndkirk Road was unusually busy, the last time I saw so much traffic was in the snow last winter. I don't have any sensible reasons why snow generates cyclists and runners. My pace was slow, as of corset should be on a long run, but my heart rate was reported to be high. I think (indeed hope) the monitor is getting a low battery. Even though I was aware of the usual left knee  / right ankle combination I included the detour to Oxstones as I was enjoying myself too much to go directly home.

From the summit it's basically 9km of gentle descent back home, although there are a few inclines along the way to tax weary legs. The GPS data showed that I was the slowest I've ever been on this loop. Party that's because I'm trying  to be slow as some of my older, faster runs were at what I now understand to be a race pace and thus not sustainable in a training programme.

Incidentally, the Fuji shoes  did well on their first long outing. They weren't too hard at a slow trot on tarmac and gripped beautifully in thin snow and mud.  The neoprene gaiter didn't rub on my ankle either, that's a real boost.

I am wondering if higher paced road runs are the irritant for my knee. I did one on Tuesday and have known about it ever since...

Thursday 19 November 2015

Is it getting better?

I'm loathe to consider that my right ankle is improving but it just might be. On Tuesday I ran on the road for an hour. On Wednesday I ran to and from circuits and of course there was the circuit itself. All of this was done wearing Roclite 315s; although 2 pairs of different sizes.
At one point on the way to the class I was aware of a rub but that was all. Perhaps my ankle is settling.
My left knee has reappeared as an issue and made its presence felt in squats and sometimes in lunges. There is an element of technique as by adapting my posture I could modulate the discomfort.  Perhaps I just need to be stronger?

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Slow, windy and wet

So now it's storm Barney and this time there really is something to notice! Even with foul weather I felt I had to go out as I didn't do any exercise yesterday and hadn't today, up until now. A road route seemed reasonable but as it's a while since I've done that I shortened my usual Dore loop a little and that also meant that I didn't need a head torch.

All along Abbeydale Road I was into the wind so there was no way I'd achieve a 4minute km, even if I tried. The ascent to Dore was relatively sheltered and on the  way home the wind was behind me so gave a little advantage. My pace was very steady and for some of the sections I was at the bottom end of my previous performances. I'd put that down to a combination of foul weather, lack of practice on road, not making too much effort and finally, running in trail shoes.

At least I returned home without an overt injury although my left patellar tendon groaned a little on the descent and I was conscious of my gait for most of the circuit.

Sunday 15 November 2015

October 2015 Week 5 Session 3

Storm Abigail has arrived in Sheffield but it's wet and windy rather than dangerous. After a brief breakfast I nipped down to the Goodwin and completed the week 5 programme by doing the fast/slow routine.

The change in pace is evident throughout the session which is better than some weeks where the distinction became lost as I tired. Part of this might be that I was going unusually gently for the slow lengths, giving me the opportunity to speed up! The quietness of the pool made such messing about possible without inconveniencing others.

Even with such a lovely 'comb' of data my fatigue is evident in the gradual decline of pace. I'd really hoped that I might have managed a 40s length in the first set but was limited to 44s putting me at 2:11m/100m, assuming I could sustain it.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Going Round a bit

In view of the horrible forecast (again) I chose to run some the Sheffield Round Walk. Even though much of the route is on well made paths I find it hard work, perhaps due to its relentless undulation. The path is never far away from suburbia but it still manages to be very scenic for most of its length.

Against the odds the weather was warm and dry so I'd over dressed. On the steep descending steps in Ladies Spring Woods , which I always walk for fear of injury, I felt my left knee a little. This was the spot where I was forced to walk over a year ago and I think that I'm very sensitive to niggles when I'm here. My right ankle was barely noticeable and I'm putting that down to wearing the size 9 Inov8 315 shoes that I've done so much distance in. My toes were tight and I wonder if the worn heel on tarmac irritated my knee,so they aren't perfect.

Actually, a km or so later I headed back for home, missing out the Limb Valley and Porter Clough sections. I thought that I'd gone far enough in terms of both time and distance and didn't want to take on too much and force an injury on myself.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

October 2015 Week 5 Session 1

Across the five sets of 400m I slowed from a 2:23min/100m pace to around 2:40m/100m. Although I was fatiguing across the session I was pleased to see that within a set I maintained pace fairly well. This was done by starting feeling very leisurely and then thinking about working progressively harder.

The pacing is similar to that of a few weeks back when I was doing 300m sets so I suppose that shows progress although it's not terribly convincing!

Saturday 7 November 2015

New shoe try-out

In a break in the clouds I nipped out and ran around the woods in the shoes I bought last week. The single reason for choosing the Asics FujiRunnegade (a horrible name) was the low heel around the lateral malleolus, supplemented by the neoprene gaiter.

Online reviews are a bit mixed, some suggesting that the heel area can cause blisters due to the multiple layers of fabric, but for my 7km trial they were fine. The sole is definitely not intended for road mileage and probably designed for short course obstacle races and fell runs. They felt secure on the leafy, muddy tracks in the woods. On tarmac they were squishy and I could feel the lugs moving underfoot although I never felt any slide.

The heel drop is reputed to be around 6mm so on the low end of my normal range and on that basis  it's probably sensible that I elected not to wear them on last week's event. They would have been great on the heather and peat but perhaps hard on my calfs on the frantic last few km.

Another nice aspect is that the uppers are clearly broad and not tapering, that is more foot-shaped than many shoes. I'll have to see how things go over the next few runs but today they didn't dig in around my heel even though I made a fair pace and had to adjust my feet as I stepped through autumn leaves onto the uneven terrain underneath.

Swimming in a storm

This morning  the weather was a bit grim, not as poor as forecast but sufficient for me to question last night's decision to be up early for a run.

From The Express, always good for hyperbole
With the rain beating down I elected to go for a swim, the 3rd session in week 4 of the latest programme. That required alternate fast and slow lengths. I felt myself tire through the relatively short session (as usual for Saturday, I left as the pool shortened for classes) and this loss of pace was evident even in the first set.

I'm pretty satisfied with the change in pace although it would have been better if I'd managed to get the fast lengths below 44seconds. Really they weren't very fast. The gradual reduction shows fatigue quite clearly and by the end of the session there is no clear increase in the 'fast' lengths. I must have been flailing pointlessly.

Thursday 5 November 2015

October 2015 Week 4 Session 2

Pacing and effort are eluding me in swimming. Today I was supposed to get progressively faster every 100m through a 600m set and repeat that 3 times. In the first and second sets I managed to take a very few seconds off across them but the general picture looks as though I maintained the pace. Now that's maybe a step forwards as in previous time trials I've started too after and slowed. By the third set  I knew I was tired so cut that short. I couldn't get a single length below a 2:30min/100m pace.

My final few lengths without the pull buoy were horrendous and showed how much I'd tired as I needed 50% more strokes to do a length than I had in the warm-up.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Toe spring

Yesterday evening I stumbled across the concept of toe spring on the internet. I can't recall how I ended up there but it started with a search for wide fitting trail running shoes. The natural running scene is full of zealots, successful athletes, charlatans and sensible anatomists so it is hard to separate fact from ideology!

The concept appears to be intrinsic to all contemporary conventional shoes and is theorised to impose excessive load on the heads of the metatarsals and overstretch the plantar connective tissue; whilst inhibiting natural toe and arch flexion. Websites such as Somastruct give pretty clear overview of the issue.

Currently I'm trying to move on from my peroneus longus ligament pain and the associated 'oddness' around the metatarsals and articles such as the one mentioned struck a chord. I found my rather worn Brook Green Silence shoes to be clear of my ankle and pleasant in that regard but after a few days of wear the centre my right foot became more painful.

My left shoe after nearly 800km 
Stock photo of a new shoe
These images show that my much-loved Green Silence shoes had a considerable toe spring when new, and presently have massive curl. This will have occurred due to repeated flexure of the sole whilst running (which is a good thing) but now forces my feet into dorsi-flexion all the time; which is a bad thing. I suspect that these shoes now have to be retired.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Beginner's luck

It's official now; my good performance in the 1st Peak Raid 3 event was probably a fluke! This morning the event was to the east of Glossop and aided by lovely, unseasonal weather.

Hard to believe it's the 1st of November
I didn't have any specific problems but only managed to get 205 points, placing me in the bottom third of the results. With hindsight I spent far too long on paths, covering distance but not getting points. I was concerned about getting into very boggy ground but really should have just accepted that would be essential to more points. The good visibility would have made aiming for the general area of ridges fairly straightforward. Possibly I wasn't moving fast enough either; part of my reason for being on paths was for speed but due to their roughness they weren't even fast.

I had hoped to detour for a control or two in the last hour but found that I was moving too slowly and was in risk of occurring penalties. As the path improved near to the base I picked up my pace as much as possible.

This final burst of speed is evident on the Strava record. The last few km were on a slight descent, grass and gravel track that offered grip, comfort and visibility.

As a competition performance it was't great but it was a lovely morning of running. In terms of  learning:

  • it's clear that I need to be more prepared to get muddy
  • I must look at routes that are productive for points, I ran 6 km for one poorly scoring control
  • 2 electrolyte tablets in 750ml might be correct, I didn't get cramp
  • more hill training (up & down) wouldn't go amiss!
The pre-event planning was excellent, the map had great detail and the volunteers at the base helpful and friendly. There was a minor issue with the onsite timing but results are now out after a few hours which is fine. I'd very strongly recommend these events to a trail runner looking to test, or develop, navigation and off-path skills.

Saturday 31 October 2015

October 2015 Week 3 Session 3

After a resting Friday this morning I made sure that I was at the pool for 08:00 so that I could fit the routine in before the lanes were reorganised for classes. Today's plan was for 1/2 length fast and slow but the problem with that is that I can't see what I've done. In a week or the plan calls for alternate lengths so I started today with that rhythm.

As shown the beginning went pretty well. The warm up shows a nice graduation (after the initial rush) and the first 2 sets illustrate my effort fairly well. The next 2 sets weren't as good as I was tiring, and for the final set I had to change lanes as ropes were moved. I am please to see that, in the early sets at least, the stroke/length was pretty constant which means that I was covering same distance per stroke and had increased my stroke rate. Over the last few weeks it does look as though I've been able to gain a few strokes per minute

Although the pattern is good the pace itself isn't great although the last length of set one was at 2:10 min/100m pace; which is great. The average pace declined across the session, as is expected I suppose, from 2:27 to 3:01 per set. The last one shows that I really was flagging considering that this set was with the pull buoy. By then my 'fast' lengths were no faster than my earlier slow ones!

Thursday 29 October 2015

Beginning of week 3 swimming

I've now done the first 2 sessions on week 3 and these have revealed my ongoing problems with pacing. On Tuesday I did 7 sets of 300m (well that was the plan but some shorter and some longer) and despite trying to start gently my pace gradually declined. The first set was done in 6:56 the last in 7:44. By the end I felt really tired and found the waves and buffeting from adjacent swimmers hard work.

Today I was supposed to be increasing the effort within 500m sets so that the pace increased a by  few seconds every 100m. I started gently to give myself a chance and then ramped it up, or so I thought! The first 2 steps I tried to use more power and improve the feel and to a degree that worked. Then for the 4th and 5th blocks I tried to increase stroke rate too.That didn't work and I was simply tiring myself out. Notably, as on Tuesday my performance fell across the sets.

At least trying to increase pace meant that I did maintain it within a set showing that effort has to increase and an apparently slow start is essential. There were't any fast lengths at all today, the best being just under 44s.

Saturday 24 October 2015

A wet autumn morning

Autumn is here very clearly now, in the woods the paths are strewn with orange leaves and on the moors there is  a biting wind! After yesterday's introductory hill session I ran 20km this morning at a very leisurely pace. I felt the occasional twinge from my ankle, mostly as my foot landed awkwardly but overall it wasn't a problem. I think that it is happier in smaller shoes even though they squeeze my toes. Before the run I tried standing on a variety of footbeds from my shoes and on that basis  really none of them are wide enough.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Physio check up

Kim seems certain that there's no damage in my ankle now (after all it's done a couple of events) and that most of the pain is due to over sensitisation of nerves.  She recommended that I try to run as naturally as possible and keep on with the strengthening exercises. It was pretty sore after she'd massaged my feet and calf muscles.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

October 2015 Week 2 session 2

Yesterday I was demonstrably still struggling from the Edale event. I was aching and my resting pulse raised by 10% and so opted to take a rest day. I did heel raises and rollering at home but don't think that counts as much. Importantly by this morning my heart rate was close to normal.

This evening I couldn't postpone a swim for any longer and completed the progressive sets where I should increase pace across 500m. The first set wasn't too bad as I increased from 2:26 to 2:15. In the second set I went out too fast at 2:19 and managed a 2:03 length in the middle before finishing at 2:23. I think the fast length wore me out! The third set was very poor with all 5 100m sets hovering around 2:30. I recall that these felt hard work and I knew I wasn't moving quickly. The pool had developed quite swell and I don't know if that was slowing me down or if it was perceived due to tiredness.

On the positive side there was more progression than I managed a week ago. Looking back at my training programme I seem to have been too eager to restart sets and should be taking longer rests between sets. I'll have to try following instructions next week!

Sunday 18 October 2015

Peak Raid 3 Round 1 Edale 2015

This morning I competed in a mini-mountain marathon out of Edale. It was Round 1 of the Peak Raid 3 series and had been suggested to me by Kim, the runners' physio. The format was a straightforward treasure hunt for points with a maximum time of 3 hours.

My route of 18km
The map was only revealed at starting and so there was little opportunity to weigh up options. The west of the map seemed to involve a lot of points on fells and the east had a high scoring point on a path. That made the decision clear for starting as I'm faster on paths and navigation is easier. I'd achieved 100 points in an under an hour and so had two hours to loop back past as many controls as possible.

As I went along the route became clear in my mind and the key goals were  to find the spots without too much circling and to keep up a solid pace. There was light fog on the edge of the Kinder plateau which made navigation a little harder, although the route I'd chosen was pretty fool proof. The mist did make spotting features a bit tougher than it might have been on a clear day but these damp conditions would favour the precise navigators. a small pond...
I was very pleased at finding the controls as planned and set off to contour from a crag back on to the the path for the final descent. This is where things became very hard. The bracken was chest high, dripping wet and the only respite was boggy streams. I became very wet and my calves started to cramp. After twice the expected time I reached the path with legs that just didn't want to perform. Within few hundred metres both calves cramped solid and I fell to the ground. Luckily I wasn't going very fast and after catching my breath and a quick stretch I was back on my way. Amazingly the legs behaved nearly all the way back to Edale although I had to keep my heels down more than I like to and I think I had a very mincing gait.

With only just over 8 minutes to spare I checked in with a very respectable 230 points. I certainly needed the coffee and ginger biscuits before changing into dry clothes and shoes to head home. Once cleaned up, the wounds from the fall were trivial although the tight muscles haven't relaxed even after roller work and stretching. I'll have to do more as soon as I've finished typing.

The results were released a little while ago and I was very pleased to place in the top third overall. The winner of this Round with over 400 points must have really gone for it! There was a punitive penalty system in place whereby 50 points were deducted for every minute over the 3 hours and a number of runners clearly misjudged their progress and paid dearly, in a few cases losing all of their points.

Explorer Events and the Edale marshals did a great job. This was my first try at something like this and I've now got my eye on the other rounds. The event had simple administration and the volunteers and other competitors were friendly and helpful. The entry fee was pretty reasonable too.

Saturday 17 October 2015

October Week 2 Session 1

I've managed to complete the first week of the October routine and have found that I can go a little faster if I try. For some reason today's 300m sets didn't record at all well but the general pace was good and I even achieved a 40second length which equates to 2:00min/100m although I didn't sustain it for the requisite 3 lengths. I think I have been a bit lazy in terms of effort while I have been focussing on technique. As the technique detail isn't working out I think Julian is trying to get my effort greater.

The lesson at the moment seems to be that a bit more effort can result in more speed over a few weeks. This makes sense, tempo and tartlet sessions work for running so why not in the water?

Friday 9 October 2015

October 2015 Week 1 Session 1

For a change I entered the pool with just the pull buoy and no other aids. Notably there was someone else with fins so there is a bit of a trend developing.

Today's session was 7x300m juts trying to keep a regular relaxed pace. As time went on they became harder and I found I was struggling with waves. Whether the pool really was getting rougher or I was just finding it harder to cope is unclear. It was evident however that my pace slackened across the sets from around 2:30min/100m to over 2:40min/100m. That's perhaps not too surprising as it is over 2km and that's quite a bit for me still.

I've found that the watch has missed a few lengths in the last couple of sessions and assume this must be where I turn very promptly, without a pause but don't manage a decent push off. That tends to happen when there's congestion at the end of the pool. It is good though that I'm not pausing; although in general I'm not finding the arms-only approach aerobically intense.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

October 2015 SwimSmooth

This morning I had my third session with Julian in Acton and received mixed feedback. My pacing and rhythm were reported to be good although perhaps the cadence could increase for more speed. The major disappointment was that I thought that I had made good progress on my high elbow & bent arm pull but I hadn't. I wonder if Julian was a little annoyed?

Arm bent but elbow is low, also sinking even with pull buoy
The video showed quite clearly that I was leading with my elbow rather than my hand. Yes, a bend did occur but not in the right direction! We tried a few drills but somehow they all made it worse. In the end it seems as though I might have to accept a straighter arm than is currently fashionable but basically should go with what works. The good thing from the video is that my front quadrant action seems much improved and I am managing to keep my lead arm fairly high.

When I aimed for a straight-ish reach and catch actually it looked better. I did a few lengths after the formal session and thought that I could even feel the bend better if I largely ignored it; we'll see.

The time trial went fairly well. I have taken 20 seconds off my October time which isn't bad going and achieved 400m in 8:40mins. My pacing was poor as each 100m was progressively slower even though I thought I was working harder. Julian was a little disappointed with my inability to get even or negative splits but overall I am satisfied with the total outcome and that my first 100m was 2:03mins/100m. Sub-two minutes is beckoning.

I've now got a 12week plan focussing on a relaxed rhythmic stroke and aiming to get the pacing better under control. No training aids are needed so I've a bit more flexibility on the pool I go to should the need arise.

Incidentally, Julian thought I had lost weight. I was a bit surprised as I've been eating at least as much as usual, and not running much. A quick jump on the bathroom scales shows that he's right! Not good for power gain.

Friday 2 October 2015

August 2015 Week 7 Session 3

After a busy week of work today's swim was hard work. It was record, being over 2500m, but not fast. I was doing sets of increasing intensity which together with the distance is tiring. I've not completed the 5 supersets previously. On the first 'hard' set I did manage a length below 45s but the subsequent ones were far slower. I'm looking forwards to when I can mange that for 3 lengths and record 100m at 2:15min. On the plus side I am improving my 'feel for the water' and am far more aware of pushing against resistance rather than just wafting my arms around.

Saturday 26 September 2015

First run of autumn?

Last weeks' run didn't seem to upset my ankle much, perhaps it even helped? On that basis I've decided to start to increase my 'long runs' again as there's no clear reason to hold back. I looped up to the Norfolk Arms at a very steady pace, aiming for a heart rate of less than 140bpm.

I only felt one or two twinges as my right foot fell in slightly. The low drop shoes were probably responsible for the slight calf tightness at the end. Despite aiming to go slowly on 3 segments I have been slower and it even looks as though my heart rate was sometimes higher at equivalent pacing. That might show I'm improving aerobically or could just be random variation.

Many deciduous trees were starting to have golden patches of leaves showing that autumn is on the way.

Thursday 24 September 2015

August 2015 Week 6 Session 3

I seem to have reached a sticking point as today's performance was much the same as last week. Before the 4th superset I was tired and really couldn't sustain my pace or form and the easy/medium/hard goal didn't result in a stepwise improvement in pace. Basically harder just compensated for tiredness.

Anyway, it was another record, 2400m in a single swim, so my endurance is improving.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

August 2015 Week 6 Session 2

I'm getting close to the end of the August 8 week swimming block now, well three quarters done! Today's swim was paced pretty much the same as the week 5 session which was identical; in itself that is a little disappointing but on the flipped I have swum much more over the last week than previously. Likewise today's swim was 2200m which is a fair step up from 6 months ago. I'm slightly concerned that I'm reliant upon the pull buoy as my warm up lengths without it are grim.

I've been doing some sneaky reading about leg positioning and trying land exercises and I'm beginning to see that I'm letting, or maybe even making my legs fall. There seems to be lot of lower back and glue tone needed to lift the feet rather than kicking downwards which I think is my natural tendency.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Microadventure #1

This isn't really my first microadventure as over a year ago we walked a circle around the house. I can also recall, when in the cadet force, spending a night under a basha in a German forest. Despite this inaccuracy I'm going to call last night number 1 as it's the first time I've walked from home to stop on a hill, without a tent.

The weather forecast was very favourable so I packed very lightly, too lightly as it turned out, and timed myself to arrive around sunset. Even though it was the weekend I was limiting myself to a basic overnight session so as not to bite off too much. The earlier I had arrived, the more time there would be to spend on the hill.

My timing was perhaps a little too tight as I topped the ridge after the sun had sunk, but I still saw lovely skies. I knew the spot I was heading for well and knew that there were rocks that offered a safe cooking area. I merely warmed some tinned curry followed by tea and chocolate. During this I heard voices and was surprised to see a couple walking a dog. I shouldn't have been so surprised as although I'd walked for over 90minutes I was under 1km from a road.

When I first went to bed I was plenty warm enough and had a spare layer, which was my plan. I woke up after a couple of times turning around and was a little cold. The sky was generally clear with many, many stars, where there was cloud it was only a thin translucent layer. Each time I looked up the view was very slightly different. The wind was ever so light, just a cooling waft on my face. On the negative side I was shocked to find it was only 22:45. So much time to go before morning.

I added my final layer of clothing and went back to sleep. I awoke again, a little cold and needing the toilet. The time was 01:15. I argued with myself about stopping out all night and getting very cold and perhaps vowing 'never again' or should I pack up and walk home, having learnt a lesson? I shouldn't have needed the lesson as I'm cold most of the time when camping and without a tent of course I'd be colder. I took the lesson option, knowing that it would get colder in the early hours of morning, and easily packed my bed away and walked home on a mostly tarmac route.

Somehow I was too scared to enter the woods for the walk home even though I was happy lying on a rock to sleep. I think that settling down at dusk made me aware of my surroundings, the rattle of the cattle grid, the distant lowing of cattle, the occasional car; so that during the night I wasn't nervous at all.

The walk home was fun anyway, listening for cars and wondering which way they'd appear. I managed to get another 4 hours of warm sleep before starting Sunday.

Incidentally one reason I didn't pack my sleeping bag (late 1990's Ajungilak Kompact) was its size in my rucsac. At just under 1.6kg it would have spoilt my sub-6kg packing and with a pack size of 21cm x 42cm it is quite large. I've looked online and those measurements are pretty typical for a synthetic 3 season bag so there's no excuse for shopping.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Just beyond the woods

After the Intro UTPD I've been keeping running at a low level to try to get some recovery in my ankle. Earlier this week after the orienteering (which itself came a day after ankle exercises) it was sore and I felt I was heading backwards. Surprisingly though after running to circuits and doing a fair few bare foot exercises the ankle was loads better. That was clear whilst walking gin and out of work too. So perhaps it improves with 'low drop' effort?

This morning I trialled that possibility by doing a slow loop, though the woods and just beyond, in the Roclite 295s that have only 6mm drop. A month ago I suspected that a recce run in these shows around Win Hill had upset the ankle, but this run was on a different scale. Shorter and nothing steep!

The good news is that the ankle felt fine during the run, my toes didn't seem so disturbed and now, a few hours later it is still OK. I have done some rolling and writing this has just reminded me thatI should roll the plantar fascia with a tennis ball.

Friday 18 September 2015

August 2015 Week 5 swimming

Over the last 5 days I've swum 3 times to do the week 5 tasks. That's been quite hard work especially with 2 short running days and some late nights on the computer doing work. By today's swim I was physically tired and it showed.

Today's plan session was easy/medium/hard blocks but these have lengthened to 100m. All in all I swam 2300m (2nd record this week) which might also explain why my pace was slower then 2 weeks ago for each interval. I also notes quite a drop off in pace between the 4 sets, another indicator of fatigue.

I really am in a position now where I can use my arms aerobically as this week's sessions have all been around 1 hour with a set of up to 13 minutes.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Runner's circuit

For the second week in a row I've done some of the stations without shoes. This has allowed me to do calf raises, both single and both legs and squats though a good range of movement and without the support of shoes. Considering that my ankle was almost painful after the orienteering I was very pleased that the circuit work actually seemed to be beneficial. It almost seems that too much support is as bad as too much loading on my ankle as both are irritating. Some flexion seems to be most comfortable. There must be a lesson in there.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Orienteering introductory event

The physio had suggested that I could try a local orienteering evening so that I'd run an event but it wouldn't be too hard on my legs and ankles. I went along to Bingham park after work and ran the orange adult circuit. That was fairly straightforward, the navigation was obvious and the terrain reasonable. My time was nothing special as I wasn't rushing. With that moderate success I tired a 'Sprint' route. That was much harder, the controls were difficult to find, the navigational features subtle and the terrain underfoot uneven and often steep. The Sprint was nominally half the distance of the Orange and took me 10 minutes longer!

For an hours run it was very varied in pace, gradient, terrain which is a good training environment. I thought that might make it leg-friendly but my ankle is a bit delicate now. Hopefully some lower leg rolling, Ibuprofen gel and sleep will improve it.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Runner's circuit

After Tenerife I needed to restart routine and this was the strength session. The run there and back was hard work, it felt slow and it was! Like wise the stations weren't easy, perhaps I'm still a little fatigued from the walks?

Last week the physio suggested some exercises for my ankle, mostly basic things such as calf raises - but to be done without shoes so that I have to support the load though my foot and not shoes. The exercises today didn't feel too different, nor difficult, but might have been tiring to smaller muscles. I suppose that is the idea!

Monday 7 September 2015

August 2015 Week 4 Session 2

This swim felt a bit rusty after a week off. Certainly I was faster with the snorkel, as I should be, but I tired noticeably in the sets from 100m to 500m. Nonetheless the pace for the 500m was better than 2:40min/100m which was OK for a fair length set.

I did have two pauses early in the session as I dropped my nose clip whilst removing the snorkel. I could have left it at the bottom of the deep end but that felt wasteful. On the first dive I couldn't see my goal and merely found a bit of debris. I swim 2 lengths and came back and had a successful attempt. sinking below 4m felt hard work and very much a pressure on my ears and sinuses!

Saturday 5 September 2015

Vulcan de Garachico

The volcano inland of Garachico erupted in 1706 and destroyed much of the town, although it was rapidly redeveloped. Now it is a tourist spot with a historic village centre. Whilst it is possible to walk from the sea shore up to the mountains we decided to start at La Montanata to save our energy!

The lower slopes are heavily forested but as the path rises the trees become more sparse and lumps of lava are commonplace. Gradually the space between the trees widens until the ground is simply volcanic dust. Although this is a mere foothill of Mout Teide it is incredibly dramatic.

The summit is not open to the public possibly because the ground is very loose and delicate at this level. The rocks and dust were hot, it seemed rather inhospitable.

Thursday 3 September 2015


Today's walk was in the guide book but was simply part of TF53. The footpath network in Tenerife is well developed with clear signage at the ends of routes and some painted indicators along the way. Of course, sometimes it is unclear if you've strayed onto a different numbered path so it is wise to have ascent map and 'feel' for the hills.

The path from Los Silos gained 950m to Erjos through  a striking volcanic barranco. Underfoot the path was well-made, initially cobbled and later from soil and leaves. I could imagine that it might be slippery in the wet but that wasn't an issue for us. If the sun hadn't been so hot there were other options to make a slightly longer circular route but we chose to trace our steps. Actually that wasn't a bad idea as we experienced quite different vistas in the two directions.

Midway during the ascent we passed an elderly man carrying a canvas sack of unknown objects on his back. We didn't know if he lived at Cuevas Negras or at a near-derelict finca beside the track. It was certainly a tough way to go about his business.

Los Silos was preparing for a fiesta and was picturesque. We were made very welcome at Mimo's cafe both before and after our walk.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Los lavaderos

After a tourist day in Puerto de la Cruz, once I again I wanted to stride uphill! I set up circular trail through very minor roads above Icod which gave 300m of ascent in just a few kilometres. On these I discovered the local washing area, now disused, which we've since found are present in many villages in Tenerife.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Cumbre de Bolico

Today's walk was circular, route #26 in Walk Tenerife, from Santiago de Teide around  Cumbre de Bolico. The ascent along a barranco was warm but we rewarded with a cool breeze once we reached a clear col with great views northwards.

Contouring around and the descent through a farming valley were much easier than the book implied. This was fortunate as the sun was strong and we'd found that be early afternoon walking was an effort.

Monday 31 August 2015

El Amparo walk

Yesterday we arrived in Icod De Los Vinos on the northern side of Tenerife. After the travelling we walked down to the beach at San Marcos and then struggled back up the hill. That was enough exercise. However  today, after looking around the town I needed a bit of pointless effort.

I planned a route from Icod to El Amparo along a farm track but noted found that it was locked from the the road. I continued the march uphill and just outside El Amparo found a downhill road. Quite soon I met a man moving fruit and asked him if I could walk to Icod. He said that it was possible. Before I moved on he gave me some plums from his basket which was a generous gesture.

A little below the small holdings the path petered out into a stripe of dust but below that some very well made paths were visible above the terraces and so I pushed on.

I started to become concerned that I was approaching the 'wrong side' of the locked gate I'd seen on the ascent as I mapped sought the route on the ground below and it headed directly to it! A few minutes later I knew that to be true and I was stopped in my tracks by a seriously high gate. I contemplated climbing it for only a second and approached a building to beg to belt out. Unfortunately there was no one answering the door, even though a pickup was parked outside.

The route bak uphill, past some snarling dogs and back down the road was not at all appealing and so I chose to take a track past some rather rough looking farm  buildings. I was thrilled to find the path continued towards another road in Icod. I though that at least I'd have a simpler chance at climbing out or asking for help. Even better, there was a steel gate, just afar, leading onto a cul-de-sac.

A bit of Googling once safely back at the hotel revealed that the closed land is part of a state-funded educational centre with a bit of record for under-performing. Perhaps the open gate is a nod to public access?

Saturday 29 August 2015

August 2015 Week 4 Session 1

This swim was hard work. First, it's my third swim in five days and my arms were distinctly tired. Second the pool was moderately busy so I had trouble maintaining my pace. Sometimes I had to slow up, occasionally I made an effort to go past.

The body of the swim was 6x 233m with snorkel for the first half to reinforce technique. The pace for the blocks was reasonable considering that I covered 1400m.

After the sets I did two cooldown lengths. A length of legs only was awful, I barely moved forwards and had to abandon it. It was notable though that my legs were high as I could feel my feet breaking the surface. Then finishing off with arms and legs was even worse. Using the pull buoy is great until you stop; at that point it's as if you're being pulled to the bottom of the pool.

Thursday 27 August 2015

August 2015 Week 3 Session 3

I'm making fair progress through my August swimming programme and this morning I managed to make a reasonable job of increasing the intensity in steps between sets.

Pace is grey and strokes in yellow
For the 4 supersets I managed small, but clear, increases in pace between the supposed slow, medium and fast sets. The slow sets were swum rather too leisurely, I suppose to help make the increase in effort, and that might explain whey the stroke count is higher; really I was being inefficient.

It's interesting that the longer set, completed with a snorkel, is at the fast range of pace. I'm finding that I can focus on catch fairly well when there's no issue with breathing. I suppose the whole idea of the superset is to reinforce good arm positioning and effort and then try to maintain it when breathing is introduced.

For the first 3 supersets I maintained my pace well but for the 4th I was clearly tiring. Very importantly I've recorded a clear increase in pace for these sets over the first 3 weeks of the programme. I hope I'm able to carry on doing that.

Wednesday 26 August 2015


This evening's circuit session was a refreshing change. Many of the stations were as usual but the inclusion of some single leg deadlifts and descending lunges worked the upper legs very well. Concentric contraction of the hamstrings and gluten and eccentric contraction in the quads should be far more frequent parts of my strength training.

The run there and back went pretty well too showing that I usually have a background of tired legs. Actually, for the first few hundred metres by legs felt very tired, they must have just been asleep and not expecting to run!

Tuesday 25 August 2015

August 2015 Week 3 Session 2

Today's swim set was base on increments from 100m to 500m, the same as last week but with shorter rest intervals. Being in a rush, I managed to forget the 'technique focus' element which might explain why I was done in under 50 minutes. The watch mis-recorded 2 lengths across the session but I consider that the errors cancel each other out in the end! The rests were a little shorter than programmed which is fine especially as I was largely able to maintain pace from the beginning to end of the session. The pace was clearly better than last week, although that was after the long run! There is an improvement from Week 1 too.

At the end I did try some kicking whilst lying and noted that with my face down my feet were breaking the water. When I add arm action or move my head it seems that the feet become an anchor. Whilst it's great to zoom along with the pull buoy one day I'll have to try to get the dangling legs organised.

Friday 21 August 2015

August 2015 Week 2 Session 3 and Week 3 Session 1

At the end of the week I've squeezed in 2 swims so managed a full three! I've accomplished the programme now that the kit list is shorter and consistent between sessions.

In Session 3 I achieved the progression of effort although the first set had the best pace altogether. In today's routine the 200m sets seemed very achievable and I think I'm managing the high elbow fairly well. With the snorkel I think it's now fairly easy and can get a good (for me) pace. Including rightside breathing drops the pace by 10s/100m and I fear that my stroke is a little asymmetric; which I suppose is inevitable.

At the end of the sessions I've done a few lengths without the pull buoy and then my legs feel even heavier than ever before!

I think I'm a little slower than last week but I have done 3 swims in quite close succession within 6 days of a 30 mile run...

Tuesday 18 August 2015

August 2015 Week 2 Session 2

Today's set was a sequence of 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m and 500m wrapped in a few technique lengths. I thought I was going along fine but the final figures show that I was going almost 20% slower than last week. This set is supposed to be relaxed and aiming for rhythm rather than  speed but the underlying concept must be to find a nice efficient way of making progress.

My morning resting heart rate has been dropping since Sunday but it is still elevated so clearly still a background of fatigue. At least I've been and done it.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Timing confirmed

EightPointTwo have released the preliminary results for the weekend's events and I was very pleased to see that I did come in under 7 hours according to the official timing. I was pretty much mid-field which is probably about right for my fitness and effort. It's clear that the 6 to 8 hour area is where most runner's ended up.

Histogram where x label shows upper margin of bucket
Looking at the results for the full 60 mile route it's quite amazing that some runners stayed out for over 20 hours. I think the cutoff was 22 hours so not sure what happened wit the 32 hour result!

Unfinished business

If you've followed this blog from the start in January 2013 you'll know that an advert piqued my interest in running a 100km event. I'd hoped to do that before my 50th birthday as I had what seemed like a reasonable length of time to train. I signed up to run the 2013 Intro 50km Ultra and achieved a 42km run in my training sessions. Unfortunately I didn't allow enough recovery from the training run and managed to consider myself unfit to do the event. With hindsight I think that I might have coped, but who knows.

I refocused my training, eventually realising that it was unwise to push the pace in long training runs, but even as summer of 2014 arrived I knew that I wasn't ready for the 50km run, never mind the 100km! The key problem for me seems to be that as I increase either training load or intensity something breaks! Over the winter of 2014 I cut back and rebuilt only to have a painful knee as spring approached. After many weeks of rest I ran my first Ultramarathon and was pretty satisfied with my 5:30 time for 50km.

Of course I needed recovery time and it felt as though I needed 'a day per kilometre' which is more than many runners seem to think. With this success under my belt I eventually paid for entry to the 30 mile Intro Ultra in the Peak District. Naturally I didn't start the event feeling strong as along the way I managed to develop problems in the right foot and ankle which I still don't feel I've got to the bottom of.

Nonetheless I was advised by the physio, Kim, to give the run a try and had rules for when I should probably pull out. I felt slightly positive as I started the Canalathon suspecting that my left knee would fail me but it didn't; hopefully the right ankle wouldn't bother me this time.

Waiting to start
At 08:00 we set off, with a very small level of cheering, with me staying in the rear third of the pack as I suspected that would be my pace. There was a little bit of passing in each direction but it appeared that most of us had settled into a place in the event pretty quickly. Within a few kilometres the competitors were stringing out but it wouldn't be until around 30km or so that clear gaps between myself and other groups of runners would become apparent.

The procession just above Porter Clough
I made an effort to look after my pacing with a determination to walks hills and walk every 10 minutes or so if I'd not had to take a walk break already. During the first third of the run I was aware of my ankle and wondered whether I'd cope. Luckily it didn't become especially troublesome until after Carl Wark around the 40km point although the sole of my right foot had started grumbling a little earlier. Local knowledge was a great advantage as I followed the route entirely from memory although I couldn't find the best route onto Carl Wark.

Around the half way point I'd met up with Cheryl and we  had similar paces although I walked hills faster, she descended quicker. I dithered around the Pretzels at Bradwell but our paths crossed again during the ascent of Bradwell Edge. A little group collected together along the river to Hathersage when I was very pleased to accept extra electrolyte tablets to add to my water in an attempt to limit my cramp. The lesson here is to add to a stronger level than suggested on the packet and make sure you carry plenty. I'd put a few in the drop bags and been very (too) sparing with them!

On Houndkirk Road it looked as though my 7 hour goal would be hard to achieve as I thought I was losing pace. The stony road was irritating my already sore feet, especially the right, and I'd adopted a stronger heel strike gait to avoid pressure on my forefoot. Probably this was the sort of buid-up of pain that indicates enough is enough. The muscles and sole of my foot were becoming a final point for my attention and I was adapting my gait. I wasn't going to stop though with a mere 5k or so left! Half way down Limb Vally I knew I could achieve my goal even with walking the final very mild hill to Whirlow Farm.

Our little group had split up during the final few kilometres as each tried to maximise their outcomes. Cherry wanted to beat her 2014 time, I was content with 7 hours, the other 2 with us just wanted to do as much as possible. We regrouped with cheers and handshakes at the finish line.

I really enjoyed the spicy vegetable stew and sampled the real ale although I suspect that it wouldn't be labelled 'suitable for vegans'. This morning my wife and I walked back to the farm to collect the drop bags and the abandoned car.

Smoothed, Grade Adjusted Pace, note the stops!

The Strava data show that I did a fair job of maintaining pace across the whole event, far better than I managed on the Canalathon. In general my legs don't feel as stiff and damaged as in March either, some of that might be due to better training, some to a slower pace forced on me by the slightly more technical terrain. The right ankle/peroneus muscle group is noticeable and I think a few weeks break will be wise.

So there is still unfinished business. In both my 50th and 51st years I have completed 'easy' ultramarathons but 100km feels to be unattainable. I suppose it is all a matter of perspective, on my 40th birthday I wouldn't have believed anyone who had suggested that I'd run (and walk) 50km in one session whereas now I know it needs a fair bit of effort, but is within my ability. Maybe the 100km can be in my 52nd year?