Saturday 31 January 2015

Sometimes deep and often crisp but rarely even

After a couple of days off I was eager to get out today but rather apprehensive about the snow as the local pavements were slick with ice when I came home last night. My initial route deviated from the norm and went along some intermediate size roads which were clear enough to be dry but not so major as to be dangerous to a runner in the carriageway.

As I ascended from Dore village to Blacka Moor the number of footprints declined and the snow became looser. From the moor to Hathersage road the snow was barely trodden and drifting had made it thigh-deep in places and hidden the path, and previous footprints entirely. It was a good job that visibility was good and I know where the path is. I'd used a lot of energy crossing the snow (although my heart rate wasn't high) and made slow progress, for a while my pace was 15 minutes per km. On the tarmac I was able to stretch my legs a little and warm up - how could I have got cold whilst stepping into and over deep snow?

A little drifting
I'd expected that the snow on Houndkirk Road would have been compressed by a combination of hikers and vehicles but it hadn't. I met a fair few runners, more than usual, and they commented on the knee-deep snow to come. They were right, but luckily the deep bits were short and easier than I'd experienced on Blacka Moor. In places there was no snow on the path as the wind had scoured the snow from the track, depositing it against walls.

The descent through Limb valley was a little icy but there was always plenty of grip at one side of the path or the other, nonetheless my pace was modest. Once on the road I traced that home to avoid paths I thought would have been heavily trodden. Of course, the pavements I was on had some coverage of ice but it was melting and cracking and thus not too treacherous.

This was my hardest half-marathon distance and feels to have taken a lot out of me. It has also been my slowest but that's to be expected with the snow. I suppose the final pace of 7:13 minutes per km isn't too bad in the end.

Thursday 29 January 2015


After Tuesday's run I felt terrible and decided I couldn't face circuits on Wednesday and committed to rest on Thursday and Friday. I think I was suffering from ongoing fatigue from the weekend's hiking linked to stress at work and probably too much sitting down in meetings. Whatever the cause I had to top-up on Omeprazole and avoid the running shoes. Of course the walking commute to work was ongoing and with snow on the ground I was still using my legs.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Ugh! Dore Moor not so nice

I was unsure of whether to do this evening's run as I felt tired from a combination of the weekend's walk and too much sitting at work today. Anyway I went out for my usual loop and found it very hard work with the end result of a slow time! It didn't help that I felt nauseous too - perhaps the pre-run cake caused that although I've had some good times after cake in the past.

On the bright side, the heart rate data shows fairly low bpm suggesting that I wasn't pushing quite as hard as it felt.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Walking weekend - home from New Mills

Now we've got the idea idea to walk El Camino on day some practice seemed like a good idea. It would also make the weekend more memorable. After work on friday we took the train to New Mills and walked up to the Pack Horse Inn. Our room was very comfortable and we had mixed vegetable risotto made for use. A decent sized portion too! The room was super snug and it was hard to commit to saturday's walk which took us over 'The Big Stones', on to Brown Knoll and down Jacob's ladder to Edale YHA.

Panorama assembled by camera looking towards Kinder
As might be expected at this time of year the approach to Brown Knoll was boggy and we were glad to reach the stone slabs on the National Trust land. In the past I've been rather disapproving of engineering the countryside but with a choice between bog and path I'd choose the path every time! The descent of Jacob's ladder was a bit scary as it was covered in packed ice and it was hard work weaving between areas that looked non-slippery. Two MTBers just went straight down.

Edale YHA greeted us with a vegan menu: tagine for main and either a soup or a dessert; we had to choose the chocolate cake with caramelised banana and walnut as it's so rare to be offered a proper cooked vegan dessert. The meal did not disappoint and was a credit to the chef.

I estimate that it's 30 years since I last stayed at this hostel and it has changed quite a lot: private rooms; alcohol permitted; food provided; plentiful showers; sheets provided. Actually it's now a lot closer to a budget hotel, perhaps the YHA have abandoned the pure approach but I was pleasantly surprised.

On Sunday we ascended via the 'Roman Road' to Win Hill. It's a great spot for panoramic photos and at this time the cloudbase hadn't lowered.

Hugin panorama looking back to Lose Hill
I'd planned to descend down the viciously steep Parkin Clough and we pushed on after a fell runner told us that it was ice-free. It was hard on my knees, especially the left and took quite a lot of energy, both physical and emotional out of us. We were very please to reach Yorkshire bridge for a spot of refreshment.

Simulated long exposure from 720p movie near Yorkshire Bridge
Although this was only the half-way point in a way it felt closer to home as I knew I could put the map away and guide us from memory. The ascent to Stanage has been made easier by the extensive smoothing of Long Causeway but I do miss the vehicular rights and am amazed that funds were found to do such extensive remodelling. Whilst we were on the edge the weather closed in a spot and with low cloud we were treated to light drizzle. Luckily it was on our backs and not so wet as to justify overtrousers.

At Burbage Bridge we were tired and decided to take the road all the way back home. In a way it was a little tedious but we'd done enough and as the routes are on home ground there was nothing to 'explore'. To speed us along we paused for refreshments in the Norfolk Arms; in my case a single malt to commemorate Burn's night.

After a bit of fiddling I managed to extract our track from the Holux and revealed that we'd walked 45km across the 2 days with a total of 1200m ascent. The distances are a little longer than those predicted, no doubt the roughness of our trek across bogs and between stones added to the length. I've decided to add half the distance to my run total and use that for my week summary, Even though I was carrying a small (7kg) pack there was a lot less impact than there would be on a similar run.

Thursday 22 January 2015

A few recovery days

My legs and ankles are in need of a rest yet again. On Monday the physio was of the opinion that my knees were improving, possibly due to the fact that I got confused with my various run allocations and gave her the most distance I'd done in any recent week for each day. That gave the impression that my regular distance is more than it really is, although I have done combinations of the distances outlined. Anyway, the advice was to keep it steady even, or especially if, I decide to enter an event.

Tuesday was road day and I felt in the mood to pick up the pace a little. As Strava now issue 2015 PBs I got a baker's dozen of gold stars which tends to over emphasise my progress. My observation was that the pace was fair, I sustained effort uphill and picked it up more than usual downhill whilst maintaining good form. Or so I hope! As some stretches were a little icy I was satisfied.

Last night was circuits and the run there and back was a little tricky as more snow had fallen, making slippery bits and ankle-pulling soft/hard spots. The circuit was a little more intense than usual due to a change in leader and I think that was hard on my knees. As last week, I did manage some squats and lunges but not especially deep. Still, that's more signs of progress.

Finally I was shocked how thin my legs are. Perhaps it's the running tights or perhaps I have lost thigh bulk. There's never been much muscle (or indeed fat) on me but is it reducing. As soon as I'm happy with two leg squats I'll have to get to work a bit harder build and strengthen my legs.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Quickly around the woods

Today was my third run of a rest week and so programmed to be well under 10km. I'd contemplated going to Langsett to do the easy run in Peak District Trail Running but the icy roads around the house made me reluctant to get the car out.

Something and nothing on the ground

It was far 'greener' to do a trip around the woods. The tarmac paths to the trails were slightly slippery and needed a little care but once 'off road' the grip was fine and not too muddy. A good combination. As it was short run I made a bit of effort to go faster and closer to what felt like 9/10 for a few sections and a good 8/10 for much of the trail. The overall pace was very modest, pulled down by caution on the pavement, but I did achieve a PB on a segment where I felt very comfortable. On this run this segment was about the 5km mark so I was well warmed up and perhaps ready for more; often I'm tired by this point with 20km under my belt!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

A popular day on two feet

This is a relative rest week for me with a goal of 15 to 18km. As I halved the distance I made a bit of an effort with pace but didn't come close to my 1km park PR. There were many runners out and about, some in groups, some alone, and when I got home, many that have recorded their efforts on Strava. I must be careful not to get sucked into a competitive frenzy of overtraining as I did notice that most of the recorded paces or gradients were tougher then mine!

I must run my own race.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Hard going round

The end of the week has been affected by string winds and blustery showers.

Leaving the house earlier today was a difficult decision as it was still dark and there was reasonably heavy rain. Within a few minutes though I was in a more sheltered area and the rain was stopping, over the next hour as the sun rose there were even spells of blue sky.

I'd decided to do some of the Round Walk to stay within an urban environment and keep off the fells in view of the foul weather. Even though I cut the route short my legs were tired after the half way point and I was fatigued when I got home. This week's cumulative distance is similar to last week and that of a few weeks ago but this week I have included circuits. As mentioned previously, the circuit class went week but I didn't comment that I had been able to do a high proportion of the squats and lunges. Thus there is a hidden extra workload for my legs.

Next week will have to be a relative rest week to provide an opportunity for recovery.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Back to the circuit

I've not done the Runner's circuit at Fairplay Sport since the beginning of January due to the combination of the leader being in Australia, the swimming class and Christmas break. I didn't push too hard as it felt hard and rather unfamiliar; sentiments I believe echoed by the other participants. Even though I'd done a few blocks of exercises at home over the holiday I don't think I'd done an intense 30 minute session. Of course, that's the key benefit of an organised programme, you tend to go along with it rather than think 'that'll do'.

Of course, being a Wednesday, it was raining.

Sunday 4 January 2015

The Way

About 6 months ago I bought a guidebook to the Camino Frances to Santiago. I knew little of the route and I even wondered if it could be a (very) long distance run one day. Since then I've learnt that the path is really rather popular and that everyone has done it (including Michael Portillo 15 years ago). A few weeks ago I met an acquaintance of my wife who had walked it with her sister and written a book and a blog. Then I was bought a DVD of The Way for Christmas. I've read in many places that the movie is nothing like the real pilgrimage but, accepting cinematic licence, it's hard for me to see how it isn't a fair representation as many of the events and circumstances in the film occur in some form in the blogs and books I've read.

A moment of contented discussion
All of this background is starting to become a sign that I might actually go in the future... Initially I'd envisaged walking this by myself as I didn't think my wife would want to face repeated long walks after nights in skanky hostels. I'm not sure that I'm keen for that experience but felt I could accept it for the rest of the adventure. It now seems that she is thinking that an extended time focussing on the simple task of going forward could be attractive to her too; again poor accommodation would be something to learn to accept as part of a simple life.

I'm slightly put off by what I now know of the popularity and near commercialisation of this route as I suppose that my goal was to do an adventure somewhere not far off the beaten track. Rural Spain will pose enough challenges to me, I don't need the Amazon! My thoughts thus turned towards the Spanish GR routes or indeed the less popular trails to Santiago. However the underlying support systems of hostals and route markings give my wife confidence that the task of the Camino Frances would be manageable and not too fearsome. Perhaps this shows differences in what we'd like from such a trip. It would certainly be a great shared experience and something to look back on for years to come, hopefully in a positive way.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Off to a delicate start

On tuesday I went for a slow run in the remains of the snow. I didn't have any problems as the route was either clear or crunch enough to provide grip. In one spot though the snow was still a few inches thick and I placed my foot on a hidden stone, pulling the lateral ligaments as my foot rolled over. It wasn't a sprain, just a little strained.

On Thursday's walk I was aware of the issue but little more, good going considering we were jumping between tussocks across a bog. By today I thought it was safe to give the ankle a bit more work so set off on the Blacka moor half-marathon route. This gave me options to cut the run short if I had trouble.

I felt a little overdressed when I set off but was glad of my choice when it was hailing on Houndkirk Road.

Even though today was a long run and I might have a dodgy ankle I put a bit of effort in as I was tiring of ever slower runs. This didn't seem to upset the knee or ankle and I arrived home feeling fairly reasonable. The pace was 6:01 minutes per km so pretty middling and really too fast for a long day.

The rest of the day has been physically easy but now I am once again aware of the ankle so it's not back to normal as yet. Doesn't seem to have been irritated much either. It's all a little disappointing as I'm going into 2015 with dodgy knees and now an ankle reading care. I'm kept going by the thought that 6 months ago I couldn't run downhill at all so there is progress.