Thursday 30 July 2015

Record swim

Yesterday's circuit was uneventful and felt considerably less onerous having not done a long Tuesday run nor a Wednesday swim. My morning resting heart rate is reflecting this by being below 45bpm.

This afternoon I took a few hours off work and did a swim  routine with warmup, fin sets and then 4x 400m sets before a few cool down lengths. This came to a total of 2100m which is a record. I was in the water or more than an hour so it wasn't rapid. In the first three sets I easily achieved under a minute per length but by the fourth I wasn't able to. I knew I was tiring and my form was failing so I did consciously focus on going a little more steadily whilst trying to keep a leading arm and front quadrant technique. Notably as the pace dropped the strokes per length increased which to me suggests a clear lack of power and 'catch'.

I think one of the most important aspects is that I was moving for just over an hour and coped with waves breaking over me from faster swimmers. Basically over the last few months I've become stronger and more reliable if not especially faster per 100m.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Tuesday swim

It was a fair bit later than I'd expected when I went for today's swim. Really it had been a long day. Once again I didn't bother taking any special kit as I didn't want to be carrying it home. The core of my swim was 6x 200m sets and I was pleased that 5 of these came in under 2:45 min/100m. The rests were a bit longer than 5 seconds! Nonetheless I suppose this pace does count as progress.

Looking back at my data, a year ago it was taking 59 minutes to do 1530m (total elapsed time) whereas today it took 47 minutes. That is progress.

I felt the leading arm was dropping a bit as I tired and on one set I stopped at 100m to refocus and make a fresh start. I'm also finding that trying for a vertical forearm is tending to shorten the stroke and I'm rarely extending my arm past my hips before recovery.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Home work

Four runs this week have given me a total of 46km which has been my goal for a few months, although I'd got reached it. With various housework today I didn't get around to a swim so this evening I've done a set of exercises recommended by the physio. Really I should do them more frequently but there's never enough time. I am doing my ankle exercises daily.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Win Hill recce again

During the week the routes for the UTDP were emailed to us and I found that this year's track used a different set of lanes to descend from Win Hill to Hope. Today I practiced the ascent and intended to do the updated descent. Unfortunately I misread the map for a path just beside the caravan site north of Hope and so did a little detour. The key thing is that I now know that and shouldn't be confused on the event.

I ran in some just-purchased Roclite 315 in size 9.5 to see if they didn't rub around the right lateral malleolus. I think they are an improvement although I did detect an irritation every so often.

Thursday 23 July 2015

6mm footbeds

I've fitted some 6mm Inov8 footbeds into the Ultra290s. Unfortunately they only sell them in full UK sizes despite selling the shoes in half sizes so I had to trim them with scissors. What's going on there? As might be expected the thick footbeds had the effect of lowering the heel cup by at least 3mm and making the shoes a little tighter which might be an issue in view of my high arches. At the weekend I'll see if this has been a good move.


After an all day training session I went for an unstructured swim with no extra kit. I'd intended to do 300m sets but due to forgotten counts, changes of pace in the lane and possibly weak push-offs the watch mis-recorded in 5 of 6 sets. I also aimed for a 400m set but that suffered the same fate.

The best outcome was 400m in 11:08 which is still slower than Julian's time trial.

Altogether the swim felt like hard work. Perhaps not so surprising as I woke with a resting heart rate of 48bpm indicating that there is some background of fatigue.  At least I've done it and got just over a mile in the bag. I knew it was time to stop as my rather negligible style was disappearing.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Do shoes cause pain around lateral malleolus?

For some months I've been struggling with pain below my right later malleolus which might be related to peroneus longus trigger points. However I had also related it to worn shoes and then to ankle eversion but only in certain shoes.

A new pair of TNF hiking shoes bought to avoid shoes with worn heels seemed to be particularly irritating. Last night, after finding my Ultra 290 shoes annoying towards the end of the run I hit on an idea. Maybe shoes are simply rubbing on my ankle?

So now I've done some simple measurements looking at the 'height' of the lateral aspect of a range of shoes. It's rough and ready and one could argue about exactly where I measured, how compressible the footbeds are etc etc but the results surprised me anyway.

Here I've shown the 'lowest' shoes and the increasing height of my other shoes is quite apparent. The TNF shoes, presumably with the goal of being supportive are almost 15mm taller. No wonder they rub! Note how my old favourites, the RocLite 315 are the lowest of the Inov8 shoes and the Ultra290 the highest.

I've ordered some 6mm footbeds to swap into the 290s and found some leftover 315s online. A few more experiments, and avoidance of the TNF and unadjusted 290s will follow.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Stanage and Hathersage Recce

This evening's run took in a section I know moderately well from Burbage along Stanage and then a largely unknown route from Hathersage to Carl Wark. OF course I know the area around Higger Tor and Carl Wark but I've never approached it along the route of the Intro Ultra.

As expected the stones on Stanage were tricky and I'll have to be careful on those although I shouldn't be too tired at that stage. I descended to Hathersage but the route to Yorkshire Bridge will be tough on the quads.

From Hathersge I joined a riverside path and quickly showed me the ascent I'd need to make to get back onto the ridge.

I walked a good portion of this. The first part unto the road via the railway was very steep and I can't see me running it even in an event. The latter part from the road to Carl Wark varied and should be runnable if I have some energy. It will be the last third of the event so that can't be taken for granted.

I often dither about the best approach to Carl Wark and having backtracked it's quite clear that the best route is almost along the northern wall of the walled enclosure. For the descent into Burbage valley keeping right was the best policy.

For a sub-17km run it was pretty hard going. I managed a real-world pace of around 7:30min/km including brief stops so that's OK. This 30 mile 'intro ultra' is going to be much harder than the Canalathon.

Monday 20 July 2015


Today's swim was focussed on 'feel for the water'. After a warm-up I did some sets with the paddles including 2x 200m. That is getting easier as I used to have to take a break between lengths when using the paddles. I was breathing pretty heavily though! Then I had 4x 200m trying to keep the high leading arm and have a bent elbow for forearm catch on the water.

For parts of some lengths I could tell a difference, other times I knew I'd become lazy. It does need constant attention to keep tidy. This session was more consistent than last time with respect to strokes/length and pace so I think the emphasis I wanted had sunk in a bit. I was also 'cheating' slightly by trying to optimise my push-off; but that's all part of length swimming I suppose.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Intro Ultra western recce run

This morning I looked at the western part of the route for the Peak District into ultra knowing that it included  few hills. I took the car to Bamford Station and set off soon after 8am. After a little road running at a gentle pace I reached the foot of Win Hill where the real work would begin.

This approach to Win Hill is probably the steepest ascent in the area and I knew that I was going to walk. Even with a brisk walk my heart rate was above 140bpm but at least it's not a long track. In around 20 minutes I was at the top with lovely weather.

It's a fantastic view point revealing Ladybower, Kinder Scout, the Hope Valley and Hope cement works. The descent to Hope is fairly steep in places and that made it relatively slow. I'm very concerned about my knees and quads!

Th route then passed from Pin Dale behind the cement works to Bradwell where another shard but short ascent via Bradwell Edge brought me to the Byway onto Shatton Moor.

Then it was a simple descent along quiet roads and tracks back to the car park. The whole run was under 17km and undertaken quite gently to avoid injury and too much stress. I didn't mind that it took over 2hours as it was time on my legs. The trip did highlight to me though that I've not really been doing enough runs the last few weeks as I've ben in the pool.

Friday 17 July 2015

Quick swim after work

I didn't have time to do a full programmed session after work today as I was due home but it seemed helpful to at least do a third swim so I've managed that. Also by making it a basic swim I could see how I got on. After a 4 length warm up I did 10x 100m intervals, although one was 200m! The rest interval varied but averaged around 20s.

Importantly all intervals were at 3min/100m pace or better. My best lengths were at 53seconds (i.e. 2:40min/100m) which is only what I achieved on my 400m test with Julian. So I've not improved? Hopefully when I visit he'll see an improvement in style even if no faster. Also past data suggests to me that I'm faster in shorter pools, I'd really like to beat my 10:40min/400m but that was unreasonably fast for me when I achieved it!
From Garmin Connect showing paste overlying strokes/length
I'm well aware that there is a movement, especially within Swimsmooth, not to lengthen the reach and glide phase to obtain a minimum number of strokes per length. However here, for me, the relationship between fewer strokes per length (grey) and a faster pace (blue) is incredibly strong. So it really is worth taking it steady and forcing the reach and then achieving a good feel. The warm-up lengths where I did bilateral breathing needed more strokes per length.

This sort of data is helpful to me by showing what is giving the best performance and indicates how the watch is better than the lap counter.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Almost too much to handle

The combination of a swim on Tuesday and this afternoon which was then followed by the circuit class has felt rather too much. I felt generally tired at the class and only managed a slow jog there and back. By the end I was very aware of upper body muscles. It is fair to say that swimming is a good upper body exercise.

Swim session 13

Today was my second swimming session with my new Garmin Swim that I bought to replace the counter I lost in Kirkcaldy. Yesterday the date stamp on the file transferred from Garmin Connect to Strava was incorrect and this is a known error which I could have avoided had I known about it but it's now synchronised correctly. I also struggled with 'pause' initially but on rereading the manual I used the feature effectively today. Importantly 'pause' also breaks the swim into recognisable intervals.

It seems to work pretty well although today I might have lost 1 length in a total of 62. Of course the watch doesn't record leg drills as its controlled by an accelerometer on your wrist. More significantly the rest data aren't transferred to Strava so the pace average is only on moving time which isn't my convention.

The collection of length by length data is a little better than I achieved with the lap counter and definitely needs less typing in. Importantly the watch will keep data for around 30 swims so doesn't need to be copied off after every swim - unlike the counter. I've set the custom display to show the interval distance so that helps me keep track of each set.

Technique-wise I struggled with a sinking lead arm which is probably due to tiredness from consecutive swim days.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Back from Fife

So, we walked 69km of the Fife Coastal Path which I've recorded in my running chart as 34.5km as is my habit. This has been a 'rest day' in terms of leg work, although 320miles of driving isn't all that restful!

Saturday 11 July 2015


On our third day of walking parts of the Fife Coastal Path we drove to Largo and then took the bus to Anstruther. That gave us a 13mile length to walk, most of which was beach. The weather forecast wasn't great but we were lucky and it hasn't rained yet.

On this we passed the Elie Chainwalk but decided against doing it. I'd like to return with plenty of time and some gloves. From the ridge, looking down, we could see 2 chained sections and the general terrain. It certainly is a scramble but it was hard to see how exposed it is. In one place, steps cut into the rock were very clear, making that section look quite straightforward. Not far away though, we saw a couple scrambling up a short ridge that didn't look prepared at all. Nonetheless they cleared it quickly.

Actually we now have a short list of things that we still want to do in Fife, perhaps including completion of the Coastal Path, so there are ideas for a future holiday.

Friday 10 July 2015

Second trip to the pool

I've managed two swims and a run in addition to 3 walking days so have kept pretty much to  schedule. Today's swim seemed to go well, I did 200m sets with 30 rest interval and believed that I'd done 1500m in a little around 45 minutes. That would have been great as 3min/100m over a kilometre is a key goal.

Unfortunately I don't have the data as it seems that I left my goggle/locker change/lap counter packet in the changing rooms. I went back within 40 minutes and have telephoned twice and they haven't appeared in the lost property box. It is very odd as the pool was almost deserted and I don't recall there being anyone in the changing area when I left.

The loss is irritating as the goggles were nearly new (although I wasn't all that impressed by them) and I've lost some data! Now, do I replace the lap counter or commit to a swim watch? Ambit 3 are on special offer, presumably to clear stocks for an imagined Ambit 4, but the swim mode has been suggested to be dodgy.

Thursday 9 July 2015


Today cormorants were added to the list of wildlife spotted on the Fife Coastal Path. We started at the Alexander Selkirk Memorial in the pretty village of Lower Largo and headed westwards.

I'm sorry to say that the section from Levin to Buckhaven was a bit grim; it has a long industrial heritage but is now reeling from loss of mining and maritime engineering. The mines might have brought money but judging from the information boards they were less than ideal custodians of the land!

West Wemyss was very pretty but we really wished the community cafe were open. This was compensated for by the excellent cafe in the Harbourmaster's House at Dysart.

My ankle was far happier today walking in the Ultra 290 shoes although every so often I got the hint that it'll take a while to settle down again. I suppose this shows that the boots are clearly a problem in their current condition.

Wednesday 8 July 2015


This week we're aiming to walk a proportion of the Fife Coastal Path from our base in Kirkcaldy. Today, we took the train southbound to Inverkeighing and walked the 16 miles or so back.

The path was mostly cyclepath and so perhaps a little dull on foot. The guide map was plenty good enough whilst on the route but didn't seem to match the signage exactly, especially in urban areas. A few miles was alongside roads and although progress is good in such situations it felt tiresome and today, aggravated my ankle. I suspect that some of this discomfort derived from heel wear on the boots and perhaps being slightly tight across the toes.

The plainness of the path was compensated by the panoramic views across the Firth of Forth and the wildlife. We spotted Roe deer, Heron, Curlew, Oyster catcher, Seal, Eider duck in addition to numerous grass species and a plethora of hedgerow flowers.

We also stumbled upon the Woodside Hotel which has a lantern roof from the Orontes, a passenger steamer built in 1902 for trips to Australia, installed above their dining room. There were also remains of industry and military installations to give cause for short breaks. The area is certainly rich in history!

Monday 6 July 2015


After a day being a tourist in Dundee I needed to stretch my legs and do a run. The weather was fine to hot and so I roughly planned a 'lollipop loop' across the Tay and just into Tentsmuir.

The initial section of the Fife Coastal Path was a tarmac cycle way and so progress was only limited by my energy. Beyond the mobile home park the path became gravel and then a soft forestry trail. It was lovely to run in except that every time I stopped I was mobbed by flies. There was some signage so I found my way to the ponds of Morton Lochs with few difficulties.

After Kirkton Barns I took an indicated footpath across a kilometre of fields. This maybe wasn't a great idea as the field margins were waist high grass and nettles. Then the path cut through tall grain. I could almost feel the insects biting in the hot summer sun.

As a futile gesture I brushed seeds, dust and corn flies off and ran on tarmac back to the bridge and the hotel. By the time I reached the hotel the urticaria had taken hold from ankles to thighs. I swallowed a second 'one-a-day' hayfever tablet before a cool shower. On inspection I found one tick that hadn't managed to take hold as yet and was easily picked off with a knife. That was lucky as I hadn't packed the tick tool.

The 22km was hard on my legs perhaps due to the high proportion of tarmac or simply lack of practice.

Friday 3 July 2015

500m broken

A few months ago I was complaining thatI couldn't swim more than a few lengths without a break. Well today I did 500m three times. Really it's quite simple; Julian identified that my bilateral breathing is inadequate to sustain endurance.

I know that technique slipped at at the end of each set but sometimes I think it was coming together.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Swim Session 10

This morning I was able to take an hour and a bit annual leave and pop out of work to do the #10 session in my programme. I must admit that I didn't use the snorkel, I've not worked up the courage to use that affectation in the Cofield pool as yet.

After the warm-up the kick drills went fairly well. The fins certainly encourage a small tight kick whilst adding a lot of propulsion. If I could maintain that speed without fins I'd be thrilled. Anyway, back to reality I then had 15x 100m sets to do with only 5 second rest intervals. Over the programme the rest intervals have reduced and I've tried to follow the shortening of the recovery pause. Looking at my data it appears that my rests are more like 15s but overall the pace was improved even though I exceeded 2000m in the session.

The timings show a slight decline across the 15 sets which isn't all that surprising. The last set was at almost a 4min/100m pace unlike the bulk of them at just a spot over 3min/100m.

So how is the stroke? Clearly I am building up aerobic endurance even though the speed is only changing in very small increments. The front quadrant style on a breathing stroke is improving although as I tire the arm drops more. In early sets I am improving my kick as I can feel my heels breaking the surface so they aren't drooping. Again they become deadweights late on. The early vertical forearm is perhaps the greatest challenge. Today, every so often I really felt the catch and backward press on the water but I think my arm was only slightly bent. When I get a greater elbow flex I think I do a short stroke and don't extend my arm prior to recovery.