Saturday 28 March 2015

6 days recovery

Immediately after last Sunday's run it seemed that most runners seized up and found walking to the race HQ slow and painful. I was definitely in that position. I found driving home tiring as my legs didn't want to work the pedals and I had to leave additional distance for safety. On Monday I was slow walking into work although between home and work (2.5km) things eased and my gait loosened. At home, I tried rolling but found it quite painful. I had to spread the load across both legs and try to lift my weight off too. Midweek I could feel muscle loading quite clearly. Walking uphill pulled on my hamstrings and calves; walking downhill on my quads. The difference was dramatic. At this time there was even some 'DOMS' in my shoulders and arms. Presumably this reflects work to support my body, pack and balancing arm movements. The upper body discomfort was transient, only appearing around 36 hours or so after the run and faded by 4 days.

Through the week I could tell that the muscles were relaxing. My gait became more fluid, I didn't need to descend steps with a one leg and I could start putting pressure on just a single leg whilst rolling. By today my legs feel almost normal. That is I've a tight hamstring and a bit of left knee stiffness.

I've been monitoring my morning heart rate for a few weeks in the hope that this might show overtraining, or physiological stress at the very least. The research data behind this is weak and it seems that heart rate variability (HRV) is a better indicator but I can't record that.

The green line is the Canalathon Sunday
The results look pretty clear, I was stressed for a few days after the 50km run but things are back to normal now, that is close to the 41bpm average. Even if this type of data is crude it does help to show that training within those first few post-race days would not have been wise, even if my limbs had felt up to it.

Monday 23 March 2015

Shoes did well

The Inov-8 Ultra 290 shoes worked well. They had only been worn-in for a week of walking to work and a 3.5km slow run around the block before the race. During the event I gradually became aware of pressure on the inside of my foot - where in the shop they had pointed out that my foot tended to push over the side of the sole. This is the widest point of my wider foot. The discomfort was irritating and if there had been another 50km to go might have become a real issue. Apart from that I can't fault my shoe choice. I didn't get any black toenails or blisters. I'm hoping that the shoe will gradually stretch a little across the width and will be OK for the next long event.

Sunday 22 March 2015

50km Canalthon

Today I managed to turn up on the start line for an ultra-marathon after 3 years of thinking that I might manage to. I was very nervous of both the event and my knees. We'd stopped at the Piccadilly Premier Inn the night before so I had an easy stroll to the start. I didn't sleep as well as hoped, partly due to lots of noise both inside and outside the hotel and partly due to a good dose on nerves.

The start at Ancoats was a lower key than I'd expected but perfectly efficient and without long queues (except at the portals and I didn't need them). Actually the efficiency was so great that I wished I'd arrived a bit later as despite the sun it was ever so cold and I was chilled and stiff by the time we set off, a few minutes late.

The first 3 miles were urban and not very pretty and I was surprised that the group stayed bunched together for quite so long.

As we left the Rochdale area and the terrain become greener we started to split up too. Although the run is classed as 'level' there is a clear gradient all the way to Littleborough summit.

I was relieved to reach here as for the preceding few km I'd been feeling quite down and knew that I wasn't half way. I think the summit is just over 25km but importantly it was all downhill from here.

I'd set off a little too quickly after fully intending to do a run/walk cycle. As happens to som many people, I was caught up in the group and stuck with it. For the final 25km though I really had to walk at times. Te tiredness wasn't going away and at time I felt quite unsteady on my feet. I was especially cautious in the tunnels and cobbled overspills.

By 30km I was on something like a 10minute run 1 minute walk cycle but after the 33km checkpoint things started to fall apart. I was cramping in my calf and hamstrings and struggled to manage 3minutes of running. By 44km it was tough, I was nearly on one to one. Despite the physical discomfort I was satisfied though. By now I estimated that I could walk the remainder and still achieve my 6 hour goal. However I stuck with the short runs as best as I could and came in well under target.

I'm sure that poor nutrition played a part in the loss of performance. From the half way point I had occasional cramps in my feet but they were transient and minor. I really regretted not picking some nuts at the first check point. I was struggling to eat and drink much at all. Though the whole event I drank 1 litre of the water I was carrying and a few cups of cola and water. I think the Serious Supplements drink at the 44km check point was a help. but by then the damage was done.

The greenness and industrial heritage was well presented by the moderately strong sun that was with us all day. At times I was a little too hot but in general pretty close to correct. If I'd worn shorts I don't think I'd have left the starting car park on my feet.

I was watching the milestones very carefully and the last 5 passed very slowly. Luckily the finish was a little earlier than expected - the official point of 'Sowerby Bridge' for the canal must have been further into town.

Everyone was rewarded with a T-short for their efforts and I feel this was really deserved. A bit like ones first 10km or first park run result. Even if the outcome isn't great, the first is an achievement.

Finally a few words of praise for Cannonball Events. The race was very well organised, even down to the weather, and the marshals were very supportive and caring. The runners were a friendly bunch too, at the start people were happy to chat and in the latter half a small group circulated past eachoter and mad encouraging noises.

Would I do it again? Perhaps. It was a straightforward event, well organised and resourced. The near-straightness of the canal was tough, I heard one runner so it was 'messing with my mind'. I also found the near-level paths a bit wearing but I suspect that the knee would not have tolerated a hilly course anything like as well. In the end the knee wasn't the limiting factor. I was restricted by stiff, cramping muscles and  a progressively building lack of energy. As mentioned above, food was probably to blame these. I know I hd to get more in but my stomach didn't want it.

The final question is whether I'll be able to walk into work tomorrow.

Thursday 19 March 2015

Recovery 4.7

I took it fairly easy at circuits this evening but still managed squats and lunges. Although I walked there briskly from walk I didn't do any running. I'm saving my legs!

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Recovery 4.6

Yesterday the physio was very upbeat about the knee's recovery and thought it was doing fine. Yes, it's not causing much trouble but then again I've not really loaded it. We'll soon see how tough it is.

This afternoon I managed to leave work a little early and went to the pool. Oddly there were a number of swimmers slower than me so I moved from my habitual slow lane into the medium one. That meant I had to get a move on so as not to inconvenience others. Amazingly it was OK. I tried to stretch forward on breathing and even felt a bit more grab on the stroke. At each end I set off as soon as I could, usually with 5 seconds so that the swimmer behind stayed behind. A couple of times I checked the lap counter or adjusted my goggles which slowed the average pace down. Even so I achieved a very impressive (for me anyway) 3:07 min/100m for just over the 1000m. Significantly I was fairly consistent in my pace too. Working a little harder seemed to fit in with the breathing better as well.

Looking at the timing I should be able to achieve 3 minutes/100m if I can maintain my best lengths for a spell. Perhaps mid-afternoon is a good time for me too?

Sunday 15 March 2015

Recovery 4.4 testing, testing....

To his evening I took the knees and new shoes for a quick trip around the block. 3.5km later and things feel OK. Certainly I was aware of my knee but it did't grumble with mild asset or descent. Equally the shoes feel OK, not too loose. I did note that my left foot is hitting the ground more heavily than the right, with a bit more heel strike. I've known it does that for a while but it was obvious this evening.

Saturday 14 March 2015

Recovery 4.3

This morning's swim was OK, I worked on "stroke-stroke-stretch" to try to reduce my leading arm dropping during breathing. This is when I tend to lose the front-quadrant style the most. I also did some arm and leg drills including trying to use my arms at a slightly higher rate.

After coffee we drove to Attercliffe and I tried on Ultra 290s in both size 9 and 9.5. After much to-and-fro I settled on the larger 9.5 pair and hope it won't be too loose. The chap in the shop recommended butterfly lacing to improve the heel fit which seemed to work. It was a new idea to me but appears to be well known online.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Recovery 4.1 Correlation, causation and coincidence

This isn't about #LCHF or vitamin D but it is about my stomach. I've now been off the omeprazole for two weeks and not running for four weeks. Although I relate my epigastric pain to work-related stress there also seems to be some link with running; especially downhill.

...but there is no such thing as coincidence...

Incidentally, after yesterday's circuit my knees are tired once again (causation). At least I did manage to do some squats and lunges without pain at the time. There is some left patellar tendon pain too but I suspect that is another issue (correlation).

Returning to the work aspect, I had hoped to go for a swim this afternoon but I wasn't able to leave early and couldn't stay on as I had a massage booked. That has helped my shoulders considerably.

Monday 9 March 2015

Recovery 3.5 swings and roundabouts

A post-work swim segued neatly into a post-work date for pizza at the Student Union. They've vegan pizza on the menu and there's always some sort of special offer so it's excellent value.

The swim felt like hard work and I feared that I was falling behind on pace. I didn't do any drills but tried to minimise end of length pauses. In terms technique I thought about front quadrant arms, finishing the stroke and head position although these things probably disappeared as I tired. At least I was pleasantly surprised by a pace of 3:33 minutes/100m which is my best since June 2014.  I think I'll have to try a few back-to-back no pause lengths very soon in attempt to shake off the demon of pauses. My cardiovascular / aerobic system is not feeble, even if my upper body strength is!

Incidentally, my left knee is reporting that it did a run yesterday but not much. Any niggle is rather worrying though after a mere 2km. Will I ever overcome this issue too?

Sunday 8 March 2015

Recovery 3.4

Today there was quite a bit of sitting around due to visiting a family member in hospital and driving there in the rain. As we returned home the sun came out and we did manage a pleasant walk in the woods. This evening I summoned up the courage to try a short run and was pleased to do just over 1.5km with no problems at 6 min/km.

Although there were no problems or pain from the run itself my knees (yes, both of them) do feel stiff and slightly achy. occasionally I've even  noted the right as being the worst. This happened a year ago when the problem last occurred and I changed shoes for walking. It seems the angle of foot strike is critical when my legs are tired. Maybe that's a driver for minimalism?

Saturday 7 March 2015

Recovery 3.3

Swimming again today but including some drills. Legs-only is still very slow but I did manage to do one of the lengths without a stop. I really struggle with "lactic acid" style fatigue in my hips doing this. Is this hip weakness part of my running problem? Who knows. As before, arms-only feels quite easy and I tried a length of trying a slightly faster stroke as I am now locked into a very slow, steady rhythm.

Overall my pace was bang on the 4 minute/100m and at 3:35 minutes/100m with the legs-only lengths removed. I'm very happy with both of these. As for a few days ago, I'm shortening the pauses rather than going faster. I'm also becoming convinced that when I exhale throughout the head down phase I'm over breathing. Presently I'm only doing it in bouts - just as I was a year ago - and it feels fine. It would be better if I can get a longer more gentle approach. Overall, I think I'm regressing to last year, that is making better progress, breathing less and perhaps loosing precision in my stroke. I'm not sorry though, indeed it's deliberate as the last summer's effort at care and precision gave woeful outcomes.

My knees, yes, both of them, are slightly tired today and I'm blaming shoes worn yesterday. I wore smarter shoes to go to a meeting but they aren't dead level despite my best efforts at having them resoled. Are my legs so fussy now?

Thursday 5 March 2015

Recovery 3.1 'Metric mile' swim again

The knee is definitely improving. I don't feel it at work and rarely whilst walking around. Also at circuits last night I managed squats, lunges and a few single leg squats with no ill effects. I even ran for a few minutes, very slowly, only way there. I didn't feel any patellar or quadriceps insertion pain. Testing it for 500m is not quite the same as undertaking a 50km event but it is a start.

The swimming is improving in outcomes even if not in style. This evening I had time to do 1500m session and didn't do any drills. I focussed on restarting lengths with as little pauses as I felt I could cope with and kept my pace very comfortable whilst moving. As I tired it became quite clear that my breathing slowed and things fitted together as I relaxed. Probably my technique became shoddy but I was very pleased to find that I averaged 3:35min/100m for the whole activity.