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?

Thursday 13 August 2015

August 2015 Week 2 Session 1

I've had to adopt a complex date system to make sense of these swim sessions. My previous numbering was not clear enough. I managed to do 3 swims in week one and so here goes week two.

The pool was busy so I had a few stop-start lengths that registered as additional lengths on the watch but even so I thought it went very well. I really did think I could 'feel' the 'catch'. Looking at the data I think this was a valid observation. The routine was basically 9x 167m with the Big Buoy, first ones being done with snorkel. In those set I managed a best 100m in 2:10 minutes and without the snorkel 2:23 minutes. That's hardly world class but it is progress. The whole session came in at 2:43/100m over 2000m including rests; which I barely felt to be necessary!

Tuesday 11 August 2015

August 2015 Week 1 Session 3

Today's swim was about technique and learning to pace from gentle through to harder. There were 4 sets of 200m for technique, with the snorkel so that I could focus on arm position and the easy, medium and hard two length each intervals. In general I did manage to increase the effort a little and this was reflected in the pace. The third set was the best as I was able to change pace progressively from 2:42min/100m to 2:19min/100m.

On occasion I did catch up with someone's in the lane so that would have affected my pace. Additionally the sets had quite a bit of rest built in, which I used for fitting and removing nose clip and snorkel. Altogether about 6 minutes was rest interval which is a little less than that programmed.

Monday 10 August 2015

Hilbre Island summer walk

This morning we walked from West Kirby to Hilbre Island. I'd seen the route in a guidebook of coastal walks and thought that although the round trip is only around 7km that it would be quite exciting. Sheffield is a long way from the sea so coastal walks always have something extra to offer.

It's quite an expanse of sand to the first staging post of Little Eye but we started with confidence as the tidetable and guidelines for timing are all displayed at the slipway at West Kirby. We were very fortunate that the timings were optimum for a day trip. Even though the walk felt quite adventurous to us there was a steady stream of people making their way to the rocky outcrops.

It's essential to depart from West Kirby to avoid channels and potential quicksand between Hilbre Islands and Hoylake. The rocks are a very red sandstone and have only sparse vegetation. Historically there was an active telegraph station but now there are some bungalows that look like holiday homes and a nature reserve.

The weather was mixed, some sunshine but also some have squalls that we could see blowing in across the Dee estuary. There were lots of seabirds that we weren't able to identify and we were sure that we spotted a seal. As that was the extent of our naturalist skills we returned to the shore for lunch before walking to Hoylake along the coast and returning on a route that included part of the Wirral Way.

Friday 7 August 2015

August 2015 Week 1 Session 1

The HUUB pull buoy arrived in today's post and so I took a few hours off work to start on the next 8 week swimming block. This block is centred on arm work, especially the vertical forearm and so the kit list is reduced to snorkel and the pull buoy (PB). A  bit easier to transport than the training fins.

A stock image from HUUB
After the warm up I had a few sets of acclimatisation and then 14x 100m with the first half with snorkel and the second half without. My times were much faster than without the PB but more importantly I was able to focus on a  reach and find time to think about my forearm positioning. I was able to stay within the rest interval and oddly I even started to get a bit cool - I suppose because I wasn't using my legs.

My final cool-down set was done without the PB and that was awful - it felt as if my legs were hauled into the depths of the pool! I can see why PB training is controversial as although I've had great arm workout and been able to focus on stroke technique I've been misled into my speed. I think I'll do a few floating drills next session to focus on keeping my legs up without the need to kick. The PB has really highlighted the importance of streamlining to me.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Easy does it

This is a clear tapering rest week. Yesterday I ran to circuits in a fair time and today went around the runs at a pretty average pace. Today I'd really hoped to go for a swim but it didn't work out around appointments.

The main thing about today's run was that I added the very thin footbeds from my Ultra 290 shoes into the size 9.5 RocLite 315s. I was hoping that the slight extra height would prevent pressure around the right lateral malleolus. It might have worked a little but at the cost of reduced height in the toe box, so not a clear improvement. I've now got myself in the 'too many choices' footwear wise for the Intro Ultra. I'm also full of aches and sore spots, not just the usual left knee and right ankle. I really wish that I knew what's going in with the ankle! Looking back through the blog the ankle/peroneus has been an issue for best part of 4 months now. That's not good especially as, if anything, it's become worse over the last few weeks.

Hopefully these are just pre-event niggles. I must try to be positive.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

August 8 week review

This morning I was in East Acton for my 8 week review. I had to admit that I'd not kept up with the previous plan and that I was acutely aware of lack of progress. That sounds very negative but I could report some gains too. Julian noted that my legs were still dropping and acting as an anchor. After some discussion about my training goals, which had to include an agreement that my technique would never be 'textbook', we agreed that it was reasonable to use a pull buoy for training. This would replicate the buoyancy of a wetsuit which is fine since I stated that I'd like to be strong enough to try an open water swim.

For most of the session that followed I used a large pull buoy  that provided enough lift to streamline me. This week's 400m time trial was just over 9 minutes so 10% faster than 2 months ago. That doesn't sound all that much especially since I was aided by a float.

Fair catch on left arm, but aren't they weedy arms?
The second major issue is my weak catch where I'm still struggling to get a vertical forearm. A little practice, especially with a snorkel so that I didn't need to think about breathing, gave some progress. I do have a problem of over thinking but if I don't concentrate what little technique I have fades away.

My new programme is based around the pull buoy and forearm positioning with some speed and endurance sets thrown in. 

Saturday 1 August 2015

Final route check

At 07:55 I rushed out of the house to run to Dore Station for the 08:21 stopping train and made it with a minute to spare. Luckily I was able to buy a ticket onboard. After only 15 minutes I alighted at Bamford and set off to test the final third of the Intro UTPD route. I've been on sections of it previously and know some of it very well and I wanted to do it as a contiguous stretch.

Looking back at Hope Valley from below Winyards Nick
Quite deliberately I went for a slow pace even on the level and did my best to power walk the ascents. I found the route hard work although in part this might have been due to a late night and some drinks after work. On checking my timing I was very close to my 7 hour target pace which isn't great since on the event I'll have done over 30km before starting this section! Hopefully the drive of an event will help keep me going.

I wore my size 9.5 RocLite 315 shoes which aren't especially high at the ankle but still found that they were rubbing after 12km or so. This isn't a good sign. The lateral malleolus/peroneus longus tendon area isn't especially tender to touch so I'm finding the whole thing little mysterious. I don't know if this is going to be a limiting factor or not. Hopefully over the next 2 weeks I can rest the area and determine which shoes I'm going to use for the event.