Saturday 28 November 2015

26.2km, a metric marathon?

Today's goal was to do a long slow run of around 25km. I set off up the porter Valley as it has been a very long time since I went there. I set off too fast, recording several sub-6 minute kilometres in the early stages. I suspect that extra effort caused later tiredness. In so it was one of my slowest attempts along the valley and it felt a lot harder than it used to. I think I'll have to add it back into my training programme.

Across 'the quarry' and via Oxstones to Houndkirk Road was wet underfoot but the grip of the new Asics shoes was excellent. I detoured into Burbage valley and then looped back via Totley Moor in Blacka Moor and the plantation.

This route included two new paths which were good to explore. First was from Oxytones to the site of the former inn on Houndkirk Road and the second linked the Totley Moor Byway to the Bridleway from Dore village. The latter was hard work as it has a surprising ascent and my left ankle was beginning to be irritated.

I did take a third new path but I doubt I'll use that again. I've passed the finger signs many times previously but boringly stayed on the road. Today I was in the mood to take a diversion and risk getting (slightly) wet feet. I had difficulty deciding where to cross the brook as I didn't want to wade, nor balance on a tree trunk to cross over. Eventually I worked out the safe dry-ish route and ascended back to the road, even then I had to climb over a fence.
The indecision is clear!
The final few km home were hard work and the distance felt far further than it really was. The left ankle issue feels similar to how the right was  few months ago. I suspect it's  a combination of over stretching due to a reduced heel drop on the new shoes and maybe rubbing from the neoprene gaiter. Odd that I was fine on the last run. Of course these things are cumulative and today I did have 600m of ascent to give more tension in my lower leg. As i write this I'm wearing an ice pack in the hope it might help. Usually I feel these niggles are too trivial for 'RICE' but I'm getting fed up of being not-quite-fit.

Thursday 26 November 2015

October 2015 Week 7 Session 1

I wasn't sure how I'd get on with a swim after Wednesday's sore back but I'd  managed circuits fine and the back ache was certainly reducing. The physio always advises against rest on the argument that stillness encourages trigger points and subsequent spasms. On that basis I decided to risk it and did the programmed routine.

As usual across the five sets of 400m I progressively reduced pace and increased stroke number but did manage the first 4 sets in under 10 minutes each. Within each set I tried to work harder towards the end, especially after 300m, so as to maintain pace. This worked well as a loss of pace through the 400m isn't apparent in the data.

This week I really feel that I have made some progress and that effort is being rewarded.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Ouch! My back...

Whilst setting the table for breakfast I got a terrible cramp in my mid-back. Such spasms aren't new to me but they have tended to be higher up and in fairness haven't occurred in ages. I blame being cold almost all of yesterday and sitting in a twisted position in a long (boring) meeting through lunchtime. Maybe a hard effort swim didn't help?

I was lucky to be able to get an appointment with the physio who looks after my back and felt much better after some work on it.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

October 2015 Week 6 Session 3 - very good work

During today's swim I felt fast and the data shows that I was moderately fast (for me). That's good. I'll accept that occasional good performance doesn't always show the true trend but this afternoon I'm prepared to consider that it does. It's also possible that the absence of a run yesterday might mean that I'm better recovered than sometimes.

I started with the intention not to be feeble in the warm up 200m and so I just did the lengths with no gaps. I didn't make a great effort to be fast but tried to apply myself. That resulted in sub 3minute/100m for 200m (with the sinky-legs). I've manage that in the SwimSmooth time trial but not otherwise. That good start had a good effect on my whole swim average. Then on the usual-effort alternated with 90%-effort lengths I focussed on some effort even when resting and then being faster with good 'feel for the water' whilst working harder.

This approach worked as I managed a number of lengths at 2:05min/100m or better and good averages throughout. Of course I tired towards the end of the session until the final pairs of lengths showed little difference between normal and hard as they were all becoming hard! My first set showed around 22strokes/33m but by the end it had risen to 26strokes/33m. Clearly I was losing hold and merely swinging my arms.

Sunday 22 November 2015

October 2015 Week 6 Session 2

Today I was focussing on effort with the goal of a progression across six 100m sets. As before I mostly failed to achieve this. The pattern seems to be a stupidly slow set, followed by 2 good ones and the a final few that have more strokes but very little better pace. As I tire the lack of gain for effort becomes clearer. Basically it seems that as I increase stroke rate, unless I'm really fresh, there is no net gain in pace.

I did manage a few 100m sets at around 2:21min/100m and no individual lengths at better than 2:15min/100m which isn't great. On the plus side I've looked back at old swimming data and noted that I used to struggle to manage 4min/100m. Now on the warm ups I'm not quite achieving 3min/100m but feel that I could do. I think I need to do a 1000m test with legs (i.e. without pull buoy) to make a fair comparison.

Recently I have suspected that the pool has a distinct flow and in the lane I was in today it was clear that I was working against the pump for the last 8m or so of the shallow end.

Saturday 21 November 2015

First snow of the winter

The forecast had predicted 'snow on high ground' but that's pretty vague as everyone has their own definition of high. I expected that there would be some flakes over Sheffield and the Peak District as there's a long history of this area tending to be more prone to snow than nearby Manchester or the East Midlands.

When I woke up there was a thin layer in the garden but by the time I'd eaten and got out of the house that had started to melt. The local pavements were a bit slippery in places where there had been patches of melting and re-freezing but once on countryside paths there were no problems. On Blacka Moor there was a good covering that hid the roughness in the path and the cold running water beneath.

Just beyond the wall the wind was ever so strong and I was forced to walk
Houndkirk Road was unusually busy, the last time I saw so much traffic was in the snow last winter. I don't have any sensible reasons why snow generates cyclists and runners. My pace was slow, as of corset should be on a long run, but my heart rate was reported to be high. I think (indeed hope) the monitor is getting a low battery. Even though I was aware of the usual left knee  / right ankle combination I included the detour to Oxstones as I was enjoying myself too much to go directly home.

From the summit it's basically 9km of gentle descent back home, although there are a few inclines along the way to tax weary legs. The GPS data showed that I was the slowest I've ever been on this loop. Party that's because I'm trying  to be slow as some of my older, faster runs were at what I now understand to be a race pace and thus not sustainable in a training programme.

Incidentally, the Fuji shoes  did well on their first long outing. They weren't too hard at a slow trot on tarmac and gripped beautifully in thin snow and mud.  The neoprene gaiter didn't rub on my ankle either, that's a real boost.

I am wondering if higher paced road runs are the irritant for my knee. I did one on Tuesday and have known about it ever since...

Thursday 19 November 2015

Is it getting better?

I'm loathe to consider that my right ankle is improving but it just might be. On Tuesday I ran on the road for an hour. On Wednesday I ran to and from circuits and of course there was the circuit itself. All of this was done wearing Roclite 315s; although 2 pairs of different sizes.
At one point on the way to the class I was aware of a rub but that was all. Perhaps my ankle is settling.
My left knee has reappeared as an issue and made its presence felt in squats and sometimes in lunges. There is an element of technique as by adapting my posture I could modulate the discomfort.  Perhaps I just need to be stronger?

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Slow, windy and wet

So now it's storm Barney and this time there really is something to notice! Even with foul weather I felt I had to go out as I didn't do any exercise yesterday and hadn't today, up until now. A road route seemed reasonable but as it's a while since I've done that I shortened my usual Dore loop a little and that also meant that I didn't need a head torch.

All along Abbeydale Road I was into the wind so there was no way I'd achieve a 4minute km, even if I tried. The ascent to Dore was relatively sheltered and on the  way home the wind was behind me so gave a little advantage. My pace was very steady and for some of the sections I was at the bottom end of my previous performances. I'd put that down to a combination of foul weather, lack of practice on road, not making too much effort and finally, running in trail shoes.

At least I returned home without an overt injury although my left patellar tendon groaned a little on the descent and I was conscious of my gait for most of the circuit.

Sunday 15 November 2015

October 2015 Week 5 Session 3

Storm Abigail has arrived in Sheffield but it's wet and windy rather than dangerous. After a brief breakfast I nipped down to the Goodwin and completed the week 5 programme by doing the fast/slow routine.

The change in pace is evident throughout the session which is better than some weeks where the distinction became lost as I tired. Part of this might be that I was going unusually gently for the slow lengths, giving me the opportunity to speed up! The quietness of the pool made such messing about possible without inconveniencing others.

Even with such a lovely 'comb' of data my fatigue is evident in the gradual decline of pace. I'd really hoped that I might have managed a 40s length in the first set but was limited to 44s putting me at 2:11m/100m, assuming I could sustain it.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Going Round a bit

In view of the horrible forecast (again) I chose to run some the Sheffield Round Walk. Even though much of the route is on well made paths I find it hard work, perhaps due to its relentless undulation. The path is never far away from suburbia but it still manages to be very scenic for most of its length.

Against the odds the weather was warm and dry so I'd over dressed. On the steep descending steps in Ladies Spring Woods , which I always walk for fear of injury, I felt my left knee a little. This was the spot where I was forced to walk over a year ago and I think that I'm very sensitive to niggles when I'm here. My right ankle was barely noticeable and I'm putting that down to wearing the size 9 Inov8 315 shoes that I've done so much distance in. My toes were tight and I wonder if the worn heel on tarmac irritated my knee,so they aren't perfect.

Actually, a km or so later I headed back for home, missing out the Limb Valley and Porter Clough sections. I thought that I'd gone far enough in terms of both time and distance and didn't want to take on too much and force an injury on myself.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

October 2015 Week 5 Session 1

Across the five sets of 400m I slowed from a 2:23min/100m pace to around 2:40m/100m. Although I was fatiguing across the session I was pleased to see that within a set I maintained pace fairly well. This was done by starting feeling very leisurely and then thinking about working progressively harder.

The pacing is similar to that of a few weeks back when I was doing 300m sets so I suppose that shows progress although it's not terribly convincing!

Saturday 7 November 2015

New shoe try-out

In a break in the clouds I nipped out and ran around the woods in the shoes I bought last week. The single reason for choosing the Asics FujiRunnegade (a horrible name) was the low heel around the lateral malleolus, supplemented by the neoprene gaiter.

Online reviews are a bit mixed, some suggesting that the heel area can cause blisters due to the multiple layers of fabric, but for my 7km trial they were fine. The sole is definitely not intended for road mileage and probably designed for short course obstacle races and fell runs. They felt secure on the leafy, muddy tracks in the woods. On tarmac they were squishy and I could feel the lugs moving underfoot although I never felt any slide.

The heel drop is reputed to be around 6mm so on the low end of my normal range and on that basis  it's probably sensible that I elected not to wear them on last week's event. They would have been great on the heather and peat but perhaps hard on my calfs on the frantic last few km.

Another nice aspect is that the uppers are clearly broad and not tapering, that is more foot-shaped than many shoes. I'll have to see how things go over the next few runs but today they didn't dig in around my heel even though I made a fair pace and had to adjust my feet as I stepped through autumn leaves onto the uneven terrain underneath.

Swimming in a storm

This morning  the weather was a bit grim, not as poor as forecast but sufficient for me to question last night's decision to be up early for a run.

From The Express, always good for hyperbole
With the rain beating down I elected to go for a swim, the 3rd session in week 4 of the latest programme. That required alternate fast and slow lengths. I felt myself tire through the relatively short session (as usual for Saturday, I left as the pool shortened for classes) and this loss of pace was evident even in the first set.

I'm pretty satisfied with the change in pace although it would have been better if I'd managed to get the fast lengths below 44seconds. Really they weren't very fast. The gradual reduction shows fatigue quite clearly and by the end of the session there is no clear increase in the 'fast' lengths. I must have been flailing pointlessly.

Thursday 5 November 2015

October 2015 Week 4 Session 2

Pacing and effort are eluding me in swimming. Today I was supposed to get progressively faster every 100m through a 600m set and repeat that 3 times. In the first and second sets I managed to take a very few seconds off across them but the general picture looks as though I maintained the pace. Now that's maybe a step forwards as in previous time trials I've started too after and slowed. By the third set  I knew I was tired so cut that short. I couldn't get a single length below a 2:30min/100m pace.

My final few lengths without the pull buoy were horrendous and showed how much I'd tired as I needed 50% more strokes to do a length than I had in the warm-up.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Toe spring

Yesterday evening I stumbled across the concept of toe spring on the internet. I can't recall how I ended up there but it started with a search for wide fitting trail running shoes. The natural running scene is full of zealots, successful athletes, charlatans and sensible anatomists so it is hard to separate fact from ideology!

The concept appears to be intrinsic to all contemporary conventional shoes and is theorised to impose excessive load on the heads of the metatarsals and overstretch the plantar connective tissue; whilst inhibiting natural toe and arch flexion. Websites such as Somastruct give pretty clear overview of the issue.

Currently I'm trying to move on from my peroneus longus ligament pain and the associated 'oddness' around the metatarsals and articles such as the one mentioned struck a chord. I found my rather worn Brook Green Silence shoes to be clear of my ankle and pleasant in that regard but after a few days of wear the centre my right foot became more painful.

My left shoe after nearly 800km 
Stock photo of a new shoe
These images show that my much-loved Green Silence shoes had a considerable toe spring when new, and presently have massive curl. This will have occurred due to repeated flexure of the sole whilst running (which is a good thing) but now forces my feet into dorsi-flexion all the time; which is a bad thing. I suspect that these shoes now have to be retired.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Beginner's luck

It's official now; my good performance in the 1st Peak Raid 3 event was probably a fluke! This morning the event was to the east of Glossop and aided by lovely, unseasonal weather.

Hard to believe it's the 1st of November
I didn't have any specific problems but only managed to get 205 points, placing me in the bottom third of the results. With hindsight I spent far too long on paths, covering distance but not getting points. I was concerned about getting into very boggy ground but really should have just accepted that would be essential to more points. The good visibility would have made aiming for the general area of ridges fairly straightforward. Possibly I wasn't moving fast enough either; part of my reason for being on paths was for speed but due to their roughness they weren't even fast.

I had hoped to detour for a control or two in the last hour but found that I was moving too slowly and was in risk of occurring penalties. As the path improved near to the base I picked up my pace as much as possible.

This final burst of speed is evident on the Strava record. The last few km were on a slight descent, grass and gravel track that offered grip, comfort and visibility.

As a competition performance it was't great but it was a lovely morning of running. In terms of  learning:

  • it's clear that I need to be more prepared to get muddy
  • I must look at routes that are productive for points, I ran 6 km for one poorly scoring control
  • 2 electrolyte tablets in 750ml might be correct, I didn't get cramp
  • more hill training (up & down) wouldn't go amiss!
The pre-event planning was excellent, the map had great detail and the volunteers at the base helpful and friendly. There was a minor issue with the onsite timing but results are now out after a few hours which is fine. I'd very strongly recommend these events to a trail runner looking to test, or develop, navigation and off-path skills.