Saturday, 12 August 2017

Back to back

This morning's Hatfield swim felt a bit harder than previously, I'd expected that since I swam yesterday afternoon too. Good to do a back to back swim though in view of my October commitment. I did manage 3 laps though, which I'd not thought I might. The second felt good, with a good rhythm and stroke length but the third was scrappy and hard work. Basically I was tired by then.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Derwent Valley Hike

Today had the best weather forecast of the week so it seemed a perfect opportunity to use up a day of annual leave. I didn't want to walk too far, especially as I'd found it a struggle to get out of bed. Using Viewranger it was quite easy to decide that the length of the Derwent Valley was far too much, but a loop to Fairholmes would be perfect.

The combination of sun, heather and verdant moors made for some spectacular views which are impossible to capture on camera. I've tried here though.

On the descent from Alport Castles I missed the path and was sent back by the less than happy farmer. It didn't help that there was no clear signage on the farm and the yard was less than welcoming due to the chorus of barking dogs. Of course, the correct path was evident eventually, although a little detour was needed.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

More 66m intervals

Saturday's 'long' swim at Hatfield was a success; further and faster than previously. I suspect that a goodly proportion of the improved pace was due to more controlled sighting and the rest was having more confidence to complete the third lap without taking (unnecessary) breaks at the buoys.

Today I returned to the Cofield pool after it's enforced weekend closure and completed a set of 66m intervals. The first few were within my 40s/length goal but I faded after half a dozen or so. In-between I tired doing breathing every fourth stroke, that seemed long time to keep breathing out for! Then, to break the rhythm I tried bilateral breathing again. Part of the reason for this was that at Hatfield I've suffered with the sun in my eyes a couple of weeks. This sounds rather feeble, but it has been very strong and even with tinted goggles it's been almost painful and certainly made me try to swim away from it! So, if I could look and breathe the other way it would be useful. Anyway, to make the breath last I worked comfortably but with focus. Then, to finish off I did 4 lengths.

I'm sure there must be a mistake somewhere as a pace of 1:44min/100m would be amazing for me. The lengths didn't record properly on my watch so I had to split them but it was certainly an even number and I know it was more than 2!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Fatigue or poor data?

Today's run explored a path between Burbage edge and Oxstones. I've seen people arrive at Oxstones from the east so assumed there was access. I've previously looked for the path but not had map with me, today I had my cheap phone with Viewranger with me so could relate my position to the map readily. The Strava heat map shows this new path nicely.

The path across the open moorland is indicated
With hindsight, today wasn't the best day to look for this route as there had been a lot of rain and so the path, and the moor was waterlogged. It was impossible to avoid wet feet and muddy legs.

The west peat, mud and stony ground forced me down to a walk as I was fearful of hurting a knee or ankle, pretty much my usual excuse to go slow. This slow but steady approach yielded the typical pace distribution on Strava.

As I do consider I'm still recovering from 'The Big Walk' and I had a good swim yesterday that was much as expected. The odd thing is that my heart rate data is to put it mildly, ridiculous.

Now I'm try got decided whether the data is rubbish, that is the wrist mounted heart rate monitor didn't take valid readings, or whether I was working that hard. I understand the 'threshold' section as on the road ascent I knew I was working hard-ish, but the majority of 'anaerobic' feels like rubbish. Clearly one can't be anaerobic for an hour!

As I type this my heart rate is 53 which is a little higher than I'd expect so maybe the data is indicative of underlying physiological stress?

Friday, 14 July 2017

A week away

We've been to Pembrokeshire for 5 days for a bit of rest and sunshine. After a long journey I went for a short, unsuccessful run from the hotel. One footpath was blocked by rather hostile calves, cows and bullocks and another was terribly overgrown. My third choice of route had ground churned by hooves concealed by long lush grass. Being a coward I slowed to a brisk walk but even so I managed to tweak my left ankle. I couldn't call it sprained as I knew at the time it wasn't that bad, and now I know for sure, but it hurt and promised to impede holiday walks and runs.

Looking across to Ramsey Island (certainly not a swimming spot!)
I don't think it did adversely affect the two walks we did although by the end of the second I was aware of it. The coastal path is well made and has some great views, it's probably easier terrain than the Cornish equivalent.

I'd hoped to manage a short swim (or even 'dip') in the sea at either one of the popular beaches or a tucked-away cove but didn't find a good opportunity. I need to get into a habit of having kit with me, either in my rucsac or the car.

The coastline certainly has lots of well known swimming spots although I was slightly put off by a colleague mentioning that one of their son's workmates had been swept away whilst swimming near Tenby. The popular places are quite spread out across Pembrokeshire and therefore not always very accessible as travelling around is fairly slow.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

One week on

I'm still thinking "what was I going this time last week?", such was the impact of The Big Walk 2017 on me. During this first week of recovery I've been conscious that I should careful but not exactly sure what that really means. Straight after the event I feel good, even elated, but I knew my body was tired. Even on Tuesday, I cut my swim short and found that my pace was clearly below normal.

On Wednesday I went to circuit training but found the jog there hard work. Throughout the session I avoided stressing my legs too much, but even so, felt not to be quite my normal self. By Thursday I was aware of niggle around my knees and ankles. Nothing distinctly painful, and nothing that stayed still. Just every so often a spot of soreness that moved to another area fairly within an hour so. Do a degree I attributed that to too much sitting at a workplace meting but I also believed that it indicated a low level of irritation around joints and muscle insertions. Not surprising really. Yesterday evening I did a slow, short run, just to loosen up my body after a day infant of the computer.

By today, over a week later, I think I'm starting to get back to some where close to normal. This morning I went for a swim at Hatfield and managed a few hundred metres further than previously and at a slightly better pace. The effort was reduced  by the water being millpond-flat and nearly 20 degrees, but even so, it was an hour of swimming. This afternoon's run felt hard but it was warm and humid, I didn't try very hard, I did notice that my heart rate seemed to struggle to increase. A lower heart rate at a given perceived intensity of exercise is related to fatigue.

Friday, 30 June 2017

The Big Walk 2017

After weeks of training my wife and I set off on the 50mile hike / ultramarathon to support a project of the University's. My aim was to run/walk and complete within 14 hours whilst my wife's goal was to complete it under the cut-off of 24 hours.

This would therefore be my longest ultra marathon having completed a two 30 mile events in 2015. In 2016 I consolidated training and tried to get over a few niggly runner's injuries although I suspect that aches and pains don't go away readily. We'd done a reasonable amount of walking training but I feel underprepared with regard to my running endurance. A bit of work with Excel showed that I needed to average 3.9mph around breaks to meet my goal, which is 9.5 minutes/km pace.

The start occurred just a few minutes after 7am, with the runners, then the fast walkers and then the rest. I slipped into the fast walker group as I didn't want to get swept into a rush of trying to keep up with runners in a class above me.

From the @SheffieldUni Twitter feed
As the crowd moved through Broomhill and onto the A57 I made an effort to fall into a good walking pace and gradually passed the nearly all of walkers, revealing a group of runners ahead. I'd soon learn that the 'fast' runners were well ahead even then! I walked to Claremont hospital with a young man who hoped to complete in 16 hours, which seemed very feasible but as the road levelled off I had to commit to starting my short runs.

Above Rivelin valley I seem to have the path to myself although every so often I'd see a flash of white T-shirt or reflective garment. Two runners, who must have been late starters  caught up with me and passed quickly. They had a good solid pace. In this area I also met up with a couple I'd run with intermittently for the next 30 miles.

On the road to Redmires reservoir I caught up with a group of runners who train together in the University at lunchtimes. I passed them on the ascent to the Stanage Pole fully expecting them to pass me on the Edge as I progressed very careful along there having fallen an twisted my ankle previously trying to negotiate the stony outcrops at a pace.

I was tempted to stop at the mobile cafe at Curbar Gap but continued to make steady progress, walking any stretches with even a modest ascent and slowly running level parts and shallow descents. Some colleagues from the Medical Faculty had passed me on Froggatt Edge although I caught up between Baslow and Chatsworth.

We'd been warned that there could be a lot of mud before and after Rowsley as the weather had been wet. There was certainly a little mud but the river valley was not as wet as I feared although the wet grass added to the dampness of my feet.

The halfway point at Over Haddon was very welcome; I was very pleased to arrive within 6 hours. My right foot had become sore, not blistered, more that it was bruised over the ball, perhaps due to my developing mid foot strike and the ongoing stiffness of the ankle. Neither of my usual niggles were causing problem although I'd felt both with the first few miles! After the rich pasta and coffee I felt ready to complete the run and negotiated Bakewell without difficulty. On Monsal Trail I caught up with one of the faster group of walkers who'd found himself rapidly fatigued. He'd a mini support team with him and wished me well moving into Great Longstone.

The road up to High Rake was a long as I expected but in the lower section the verges added a little brightness to a very damp and overcast day. The mist is visible in the haze in the photograph! The dry socks I'd changed into at Over Haddon were saturated by the time I'd descended into Coombs Dale and I could feel the insoles of my shoes squelching with every step.

I was looking forward to the rest stop at The Limes and was thrilled by the hospitality. The candles and flares weren't lit as yet but they were going to be a lovely sight for walkers arriving in the night. The forecast rain reached me in Calver but fortunately settled back to a bit of drizzle whilst I sheltered at The Limes.

I knew I'd be walking the road from Grindleford to Fox House and managed a good pace. However, including the beginning of Houndkirk Road, which is also uphill, I'd been walking for an hour. This seemed to cause my legs to resist any effort to walk and even as the end became closer I found it increasingly hard to summon the energy to run.

Seeing the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in the distance was very welcome as I knew that the route through the Porter Valley was easy and leading directly to the end. Even though the path is good underfoot and generally downhill I was locked into a walk. A few mental calculations suggested that a 12 hour finish time was possible for me even if I walked the remaining 6km. I suspect that calculation was a factor in my legs shutting down. My lack of progress was nothing like that of Dorando Pietri as I was able to sustain a brisk walk up Borocco Bank, thinking how much better it was to be finishing a 50mile walk than be stuck in traffic.

Once the end was literally within sight I settled in for a few hundred metres of a steady jog arriving at the very quiet finish line 12 hours after starting.

I wasn't expecting a medal but in a way that made it all the more rewarding to achieve. I heard that the couple I'd been with until Froggatt had arrived at least half an hour, perhaps even an hour ahead of me, so they'd really put the effort in for the last 15 miles or so.

My pace was remarkably consistent throughout the walk except for the final 6km that I was aware of. My wife completed in 21 hours which she was very pleased with. I think being active for that length of time is probably harder than working at a greater rate for less time. Those of us near the front of the group didn't need to queue for anything either! I think I've learnt, or reinforced a few things:

  • Always run your own race. Ok, this wasn't a race, but I met a number of participants who'd partnered someone a bit stronger than themselves and paid for that extra effort later on.
  • Eat and drink as much as you can - I didn't suffer from calf cramp in this event and think this might have helped.
  • For distances over 50km walking training is helpful, after all, unless you're strong, you'll be walking a fair distance.
  • Route reconnaissance and knowledge is a great asset. Knowing what turns to take without using a route card saves time and worry about what lies ahead.

Thank you to Will Legon, David Meadows, Debbie Beaumont-Thomas and the rest of the organising and volunteer team; you put on a great event.