Thursday 30 April 2015


The combination circuits, an extra few km and the ankle issue has given me noticeably tired legs today. This includes quadriceps tiredness and a very slight tenderness close to their insertion and reappearance of the ankle niggle. I've spotted that I'm favouring stepping onto the ball of my right foot, making the overlying skin a bit tender, and wonder if this shows that the foot is being everted by excessive contraction of the peroneus?

Making an effort to step 'normally' has, of course, the opposite effect and makes an uneven gait.  I have been thinking of a even placement in an attempt to stop chain of discomfort developing.

Circuits and a bit

I missed yesterday's programmed run as we went out for the evening but I did do a few single leg calf raises before breakfast today to compensate! On the walk into work I was aware of the ankle and would have blamed that on a run if I'd been for one. Anyway it was no problem during the day including numerous trips up and down stairs so this evening I did a small additional loop before going to circuits.

At circuits my legs felt generally tired and I'd had enough of squats and lunges by the end. On the slow run home the ankle felt quite delicate at first but gradually settled and faded away. There isn't any tenderness around the 'painful' lateral malleolus which further supports the idea of distant trigger point related pain.

Monday 27 April 2015

Nothing to worry about

This evening I've been assured by Kim that my ankle niggles are probably down to a bit of fatigue/damage in the peroneus muscles. These run from the lateral border of the fibula to the outer border and sole of the foot - this probably explains the slightly 'odd' feeling of my middle toes. The two major peroneus muscles have ligaments that run around the lateral malleolus and this is a common site of referred 'trigger point' pain even though there is little muscle at that area. These diffuse areas of referred pain help explain why I have found it hard to say exactly where the pain is.

Trigger point around ankle from website
The physio checked for nerve tightness & trapping and muscle weakness and felt that there was no clear underlying damage. It is likely, as I suspected, that I have slightly overloaded the peroneus longus on Tuesday's faster run by inversion whilst running on the uneven roots and stones found in the woods. The observation that there is no tenderness around the malleolus helps to confirm that the connective tissue isn't unduly inflamed. By the common classification of sprains my niggle is a lot milder than a Grade 1 on the 1 to 3 scale.

So, I need to keep it mobilised to prevent scarring and increase the strengthening exercises. I already do wobble board single leg balance exercises which I find quite easy but I've been encouraged to add single leg calf raises to the programme to help reduce the risk of future injury.

Saturday 25 April 2015

No run today

During Thursday the right ankle was a little troublesome when walking around outside although I didn't notice it during daily movement so it wasn't 'bad'. On Friday it was clearly better, but still detectable and on waking today the ankle was stiff. On this basis it was clear that it was recovering but  still not right. I'd been dithering whether this would be a 'rest week' or the third week of progression. The ankle irritation made it clear that a rest would be helpful in the long term.

So after a break of three weeks I went for a swim during which my short break was evident as my pace had dropped off a little. The 5km walk there and back was a bit of 'time on my legs' I suppose but not much!

In the afternoon I felt the need to do a little more and so completed the set of hamstring exercises given to me by the physio.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Ankle strain

Whilst walking to and from work today I was disturbed by a slight pain from my right ankle. At a very specific foot strike there was a soreness around the lateral malleolus, usually in front of it, but hard to place. With care on the walk I didn't go too slowly or suffer from it.

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to run to circuits, or if it would be wise. I set off with the intention of walking if need be, and avoiding any painful exercises. There were no problems and the run there and back felt easy and I worked well on squats and lunges.

I suspect that I pulled an ankle ligament a little, probably on a descent, during yesterday's slightly faster loop of the woods. That run was slightly disappointing as I set out to put some effort in and stay in a 'tempo run' heart rate zone, both of which I did, but the final pace wasn't as high as hoped.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Back to back with a hike

Today's back-to-back was a 22km hike using favourite paths. The weather was far better than forecast and after a few dry days the paths were firm. There was a slight breeze on Houndkirk Road but as it was behind us it wasn't unpleasant.

Wood sorrel on a rotting log
By the end of the walk my legs were tired but nothing painful and only the vaguest hint of calf cramp.

Recovery indication with HRV begins

After a few failed opportunities I've managed to do a comparison of pre- and post-run HRV using Lepo as outlined a few posts ago. Of course snapshots aren't enough but from yesterday to today there's been a slight increase in the RMSSD value. This suggests that I'm not systemically stressed after my slow 18km. That's good as a long slow run shouldn't do much harm. As I gather more data hopefully some norms and trends will appear.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Just in the National Park

Although I'm still 'recovering' I felt that I had to make something of today's lovely weather and committed myself to an 18km loop that just reaches into the Peak District. As this was my 'long run' I tried to keep my heart rate below 140bpm and mostly succeeded. I was also a little concerned about the potential of a calf cramp but that didn't trouble me until after 12km. It was fairly mild and settled with occasional stretching. That wasn't ideal but I did want to get out of the city and see the hills.

The pace was sub-7minute/km which is fine but I did note that my heart rate seemed to be have been a spot higher than one a previous run that I also did 'slowly' but actually a little faster! I think that is evidence that I am not in great shape. To a degree I was undertrained when I did the Canalathon as I was avoiding upsetting my knee and since it I feel I've been not 100%. This does fit the physio's idea that there's a day of recovery for every mile raced. I've still a few days of repairs left on that basis (I have been on the hemp powder after every run).

Friday 17 April 2015

Clearly tired

The sequence of Saturday (7km), Sunday (7km), Tuesday (9km) and Wednesday (5km and circuits) was tiring. I noted a 5bpm in my morning heart rate by Thursday and a distinct feeling of tired legs. Whilst I am aware of very minor knee niggles my right abductors are the most affected - that's after saying that the elastic used for abductor exercises wasn't as stiff as the old one! Really this is all OK, the calf cramps haven't reappeared (although I have been rolling and stretching fairly conscientiously) and as a rolling 5 days that's 28km. I accept that 28km isn't a great distance but after an undertrained 50km and a recovery week I'm still getting back into the swing of things.

At the weekend I'd really like do between 15km and 18km but I'm not sure if I should. If I do go aim for that it will certainly be at a low heart rate with regular walking intervals. Let's see how the abductors improve today.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Very 'steady' 9km

OK, so last week's 13km with some effort gave me cramps. Two of 7km at various efforts on consecutive days were problem free. So today, after a rest day I went for a very easy 9km run. I made a big effort to have a fairly easy time and the heart rate data suggest that I achieved that goal.

This required walking up most inclines and a lot of glances at my watch if I felt the workload increase. It was a pity to return home with just 9km under my belt as it was a lovely spring evening and it was perfect to head further towards the Peak District.

I was aware of the quads of both legs above my knee and the left knee had its usual diffuse niggles, sometimes medially, sometimes laterally and occasionally in the patellar tendon. Presently that's juts being put down to 'hypersensitivity' as any joint that can cope with nearly 6 hours and 50km can't be that delicate.

Sunday 12 April 2015

"So you want to run an ultra" Book Review

I saw "So you want to run an ultra" in the latest issue of Trail Running and it sounded worth a read. I ordered a copy from the publisher online and received it within a few days. I'd recommend either buying this way or via a local bookshop to ensure the author and publisher get the maximum income.

Image from the publisher's website
I'm at the stage where any advice about ultra marathons is worth seeking out and this book gives a slightly different perspective. In contrast to the other ultra books I've accumulated so far, which are written by 'star' professional runners, the author, Andy Mouncey is an experienced runner and coach. His biography shows him to be competent and to have 'been there, done that' but he aims to make the point quite early in the book that physiologically, and perhaps psychologically he is 'ordinary'. On several occasions he returns to his DNFs as evidence for what can go wrong even with experience and then writes how we can learn from his, and our, own shortcomings.

I found the book an easy read and went cover to cover across a few days. The 'Real Runners' boxes are a useful component that increases the ordinariness of the endeavour. This is the theme throughout, that long distance running is tough but is done by normal folk and so the reader can do it too. Don't think though that Andy underplays the effort and sacrifices required. This is one area where the book compliments those of the stars where things tend to turn out well and I'm left feeling that I lack being special. In "So you want to run an ultra" it's made clear that the physical process of running is maybe the least of our concerns.

As a relatively new, but 'academic' runner I've read the key texts and so has Andy. He refers to them in several places but I suspect that if I'd not read "The Lore of Running" and "Born to Run" I might not have got his full meaning sometimes. Indeed Andy also touches on paleo and LCHF diets but the metabolic issues are not explored in depth. This isn't a serious criticism, Andy stresses that his book is not a training manual nor scientific resource, just a distillation of his experience. If you are thinking of running an ultra I'd be amazed if you haven't read a lot of this material already and I'd recommend that you do if not.

Often books like this give several training plans which even though they claim to be for 'beginners' require a high percentage of ones life and potentially superhuman resilience to complete. I was pleased to see that here we are encouraged to use training time wisely, acknowledging that for many runners other commitments and risk of injury stop us achieving 120km training weeks.

Andy's short book is a useful UK-centric guide, that does help to fulfil the subtitle's goal of "How to prepare for ultimate endurance". I know I'll return to it when I've a query just as I've checked back in my other running books when I can't decide what action to take in training or to find an explanation for how I feel.

ISBN: 978-1-84797-830-1
Published and sold by Crowood at £12-99

Saturday 11 April 2015

HRV experiments on Android

One day I might  buy an Ambit3 or Fenix3 which include HRV assessment and algorithms to suggest recovery time. Currently I can't commit to such devices as they are costly and yet not really good enough. Suunto are very reliant upon the Moveslink software and there's no Android app available currently and its release date has always slipped away. Garmin have a terrible reputation for unreliability presently and although some online reviews of the Fenix3 are great there still seem to be issues around its logging accuracy. For £400 I'd expect better of both.

However I've entered the heart rate recovery bandwagon for a small outlay using:
  • Lepo android app
  • A cheap ANT dongle from eBay
  • an OTG microUSB B to female USB A converter
which got me started (system is Nexus 7 2012 edition on KitKat) for under £10.

I also had to install 3 pieces of Android software:
  • ANT+ Plugins Service
  • ANT Radio Service
  • ANT USB service
These appear to be activated when the dongle is plugged in and this should be done a few moments before starting the Lepo app. I've run this a few times now and now need to try to understand what the RMSSD figures mean. It is worth noting that the actual RMS value is reportedly transformed 20*ln(RMSSD) to make it more user-friendly.

The concept of HRV is reviewed here and my take on it is that both physiological and psychological stress tend to make the heart beat more regular due to activation of the driving sympathetic nervous system and reduction in the background parasympathetic nerves. Short term (i.e. minutes) recording of R-R intervals can be summarised in RMSSD values although it is clear that this is a gross oversimplification of how heart beats fluctuate.

I don't have a clear plan of how to interpret my own RMSSD values except that I now know they vary between 70 and 100.

Easy does it?

After Tuesday's run I had a bloodied knee and knots/cramp in my left calf that were marked. Rolling helped and so did the controlled exercise of the circuits class on Wednesday but the greatest improvement came from a massage on Thursday. Time seemed to be a healer too. I had a quick email consultation with the physio and she recommended a gradual return to training with runs below the 9km at which the calf cramps developed. Also to make sure that I kept my heels down. Perhaps in my efforts to avoid heel strikes I've become too fore-foot orientated but not yet strong enough for that?

This morning I ran my common loop around the woods which is very nearly 7km and has a couple of ascents and descents. Nothing too long. Although I recorded pace and heart rate I decided to just run at a comfortable pace. After all, it wouldn't be a long run so I'd be unlikely to go too fast and nor would I make any effort to be powerful. The goal would be to be out and about and thinking about good technique.

I was surprised by the sub-six minute pace as I expected to be a little slower than that. More importantly I was shocked by the heart rate distribution data.

Today's heart rate distribution
Accepting that the maximum heart rate and zones are based on 'average' figures this suggests that I was working quite hard. The are two thoughts for this. First, I was pushing more that I thought. Second, my body is still tired and so I've a higher heart rate for a given activity. Looking back at old data it's hard to separate these two hypotheses as I've done the loop either faster or slower.

Heart rate distribution for a slower run in January 2015
When going more slowly (a mere 7s/km) the load was far less. So does this tell me that a spot slower is much easier or that I'm slightly tired still? I'll have to monitor this a little more closely.

Importantly, my legs feel OK. There's some extra tension in my left calf which is especially noticeable when stretching but not evident normally.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Back to it!

I'd decided whilst on the train for 4 hours today that I'd go for a run as soon as I was home. Amazingly the weather had been improving all morning and by mid-afternoon it was positively warm. As it has been quite a while since I ran up Porter Clough that was my goal although I'd forgotten how busy Endcliffe Park would be on a sunny holiday afternoon! The number of strollers became an cute problem as whilst trying to pass two gents having an animated scission with lots of pointing I detoured onto an uneven slope of the path and tumbled onto my hands and knees. I felt it coming and tried to recover and slow down but I still ended up with a bloodied knee and hands. Always the left knee!

There was nothing for it, "injured" within 3km, so onwards to a tap at Forge Dam. I rinsed off gravel as best as I could and pushed on. The run felt very hard and on returning home I was disappointed to see a fairly long time. I suppose I had fallen, stopped to chat and stopped for wash, so each of those would have added some delay. Even the final ascent, where I had no delays was in the slow zone.

I was trialling a Zero electrolyte tablet in my water, hence my reluctance to use it for washing, and found the taste acceptable but not great. I'd made up the basic ratio of 1 tablet to 750ml and estimate that I'd drunk under 200ml despite making quite an effort to sip frequently. I finished it off from a glass once home, so it didn't go to waste.

I'm probably still recovering from the 50km run (the physio suggested a day per mile recovery time) so I mustn't focus on the time. There are two things to look at anyway:

  • Drinking more and getting use to the electrolyte taste - perhaps finding a favourite
  • Doing some hill intervals to increase my speed and power.

Monday 6 April 2015


This has been an annual leave week both from work and running. As we were train travelling I wanted to have a light pack and decided that running kit would be excluded. I have been swimming twice and we've walked miles between various sights, shops and vegetarian restaurants.  On day one I bought a pair of TNF fell walking shoes mostly for commuting. I know I'll wear the soles relatively quickly but I'm lacking shoes that have a degree of weather protection and no sole/heel damage. These are far more 'technical' than I like with too many features. However I can't manage with leaning shoes now as they tend to hurt some place in one or the other leg after a few days use.

Friday 3 April 2015

Victorian swim

Today I had the choice of a rather long walk to a 50m pool or 15 minutes to a restored Victorian 25 yard pool. I took the easy option and tested the Dalry Swim Centre. It's clearly been worked on extensively but retains the iron supports and layout.

Image stolen from Edinburgh Leisure
In view of the sub-23m lengths I had hoped for a good pace, hopefully better than that in a 25m pool earlier in the week. It was better but only by 1 second! Anyway, at 3:09 per 100m there is a gradual improvement and the 3 minutes might not be too far away.

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Train & swim

After 5 hours on a train I needed to do something. I'd committed to packing light and not packed running gear. I did have trunks and goggles so went to Olympia for 40 minutes. It was a pity that the pool was configured for 25m lengths rather than 50m but that made a new pool comfortable for me. Nonetheless I had quite fancied the challenge of long lengths!

The pace was adequate but reduced a little by a few slow lengths where I'd adjusted my leaking goggles. I don't know why there was so much more leakage today!