Saturday, 30 July 2011

Black hill

Out for a walk today, nav practice, looking for a few plane wrecks and some distinctive navigational features on the hill.
First up was a shelter on the north side of the hill, then over to a downed Sabre, bearing off to a trig point.
On the way over to the trig point we came across a Swordfish wreck- and right next to it, a short eared owl. It was about 4ft away from me, staring with big orange eyes.
Then it flew away.

From the Swordfish we went directly to the trig point, then down to a couple of spot heights and onto a couple of wrecks of Meteors.
2 wrecks, and a lot of wreakage.
Found a good few trods around the areas, walked over to a rocky out crop, then down into a couple of cloughs and back to the car.
About 11km in all, and a good few hours out on the hill.
Time well spent.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Strength and Performance session 3

Started out with a long warm up, including all the lower trap activation exercises. I have noticed that my shoulder is hurting less now, (however, my neck is hurting a lot more- on the lev scap kind of area. Thats probably because its being used more than ever now, and taking up the slack that it should have been doing all along...)

The general gist of today was that is was the second of 2 sessions for the week. These sessions are going to be repeated for the next 4 weeks with various changes in weight and position in order to make them more challenging.
The first superset was repeated 4 times and included pull ups prone rows and lower trap activations.
Second superset was repeated 3 times and included KB swings and side planks, and, surprise surprise, more trap activations.

As a bit of a surprise at the end of the session (was fully expecting a prowler session) was the sled pull. 80kg on a sled, front pull, then a back pull.
I figured it couldn't be all that bad... but how wrong I could be.
Running forward with it was fine, not an issue really. After the turn around, pulling it back (running backward instead of fowards), was horrendous. Burning through the hamstrings and glutes, I could barely keep any speed going at all, but got through to the end.
5 sets, with a minute between each set. The final pull back was really really hard, but I managed to get through it. It felt like when I did the prowler the first time. However, I didn't collapse, I didn't sit down, I didn't lie down. Keep standing and keep breathing

It was a little difficult to walk down the steps back into the gym- jelly legs etc.
But. I'll be ready for the next session. Can't wait.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Strength and Performance Gym Session 2

Headed to S&P today for our second session- first full one after the "testing" session.
We warmed up in much the same way, foam rollering, static and active mobilisations. I had a few extra stretches and mobilisations to work on because of my pretty terrible range of movement around the shoulder and hips.

The warm ups were an excellent chance to get more blood circulating in areas where there isn't normally good circulation - That means more nutrients are getting to places that aren't used to being used. A very good thing. Muscles and tissues should not be stagnant, but should be flushed through with good stuff as much as possible to keep them healthy and in good working order.

Because of my shoulder issue my training consisted largely of rehabilitation movements, but in some cases with weight. Basically we are looking at getting a few muscles which aren't used to being worked, into the idea that they actually need to be recruited for more movements than they are being used for at the moment. The reason my shoulder hurts is because the main prime movers are doing ALL of the work, and the smaller stabilising muscles just aren't doing any of the work. Thus, a lot of the movements that I'm doing are aimed at getting the smaller muscles working again.

This generally means that for the next 5 weeks or so, I'm going to be going through a foundation workout. It's not something that is going to knacker me out like a "home workout" would. Nor will it look particularly good on paper. It's not meant to.
These foundation weeks will help attain a good all round fitness and a musculature that is functional and able to be built upon in a number of different ways. It will hopefully iron out any imbalances I have, and enable me to be more biomechanically efficent.

Having said that, Sean tried to wear me out with a few turns on the Prowler at the end. 3 laps was easy, the 4th was a little harder, but I think I got used to it since last session.
I suspect that next session its going to be a whole lot harder at the end. We'll just have to wait and see.

    8x Goblet squat (10kg)
    6x Pull up
    12x elastic band Lower Trap contraction

    12x Romanian Deadlift (with 2x12kg)
    10x Prone Lower trap row (7.5kg)
    Plank (1min)


   10x KB swing (12kg)
   10x scapula pushups

then 4 rounds on the Prowler with 1 min rest between each

Scrambling in Wales

Spent the weekend scrambling in Wales with a small and select group of people.
Despite rain threatening to ruin the weekend by falling on Friday night as we drove over, Saturday and Sunday were beautiful days, but with a bit of low cloud base at one point on Sat which saw the top of Tryfan and the Glyders swallowed by the grey stuff.

It was a scrambling weekend, and so we were helping others gain their "legs" on steep ground, increase confidence, and also give pointers in terms of route choice, and, perhaps more importantly, route finding. The guidebooks can be written in sometimes esoteric English, which has been known to cause a few issues in terms of knowing exactly where one is going.

Saturday saw us meet in a cafe for the obligatory pre-scramble coffee. Pinnacle Cafe in Capel was the place of choice, where we looked at the weather forecast, discussed the process for the day and generally got ready.
Routes of the day consisted of Nor Nor Gully on Tryfan, followed by Bristly ridge on the Glyders. Both Grade 1, and with the exception of a bit of a step on Bristly ridge, not too technical.
After driving to the side of the road at Tryfan, we got some helmets on and did a little bouldering, to see how everyone moved on rock, saw what kind of confidence each individual had, and pointed out a couple of learning issues, and satisfied that all was well, continued up to Heather terrace.
I think the biggest problem with the guys we were helping out was the route finding to the base of the scramble, decyphering what the book says into what is going on around you. Obviously word count is always an issue, and sub-editors are notorious for cutting out key words in descriptions, however, with a measure of practice, it becomes almost second nature.

After a few stoppages to work out just what the book was saying, we reached the base of the scramble, (the difference between a scree path and a scree slope was an interesting discussion for a few minutes). The actual scrambling was good, and, as ever, it was a case of follow the polish on the rock.
My knowledge of Safety on steep ground was renewed and practiced, ready for the ML assessment that I need to take at some point soon, and with in a couple of hours we were at the top having lunch.
The gulley itself was delightfully quiet and secluded, but all illusion of that was blown away on getting to the top where hordes of people were gathered around Adam and Eve, eating lunch etc. Not my ideal spot for stopping, I would rather have stopped in a more secluded spot, and bashed on through the more crowded areas as soon as I could, but there you go.

After a spot of lunch, we headed on down the flank of the hill and then up to Bristly ridge. Helmets on was a very good idea, a lot of loose rock and a large amount of people on the hill, and in particular in the gulley, made it potentially a bit of a dangerous place to be. However, it all went off without a hitch, and we were on the top and ready to head down before long.
There were a couple of tricky moves in there, and again, the safety on steep ground training came in useful- not in terms of saving people, but more in terms of giving them the confidence to go ahead and do the moves.

The descent was long, but uneventful, as you tend to hope that they are. Most accidents occur on the way down.

Second day was led by the clients, and we were taken up a lovely little scramble Y Gribin. It was gratifying to see hordes of people heading up Snowden by various ways and means, and there we were, on our own, quiet and secluded, without the madness of the crowds churning around us.
Properly nice.
The Midges were out in force on top, and so we soon had to wander our way down.

Here is a link to photos of the weekend on facebook

Throughout the entirety of the course I wore my Dragon Jacket- although some would say it is too hot, I found that with only a long sleeved t-shirt under it, the vents and zip were enough to give me the flexibility to be warm or cool enough right the way through both days (except the final descent where it got up to about 28 degrees), without actually having to stop to put on or take off any layers.
For general mountain days, I have to say that I am very impressed, even though its meant for cold days only. I think by modifying the type of base layer underneath, it will continue to be a very versatile bit of kit.
My OMM Jischirinca stood up well, but I was a little concerned that the material wasn't all that tough so was worried about scraping it over rock all the time. Its a great light rucksack, but I think I need something a little more heavy duty for scrambling/ mountaineering. The only issue is, all the Alpine sacks have removable waist harnesses- I understand why, but I do like to have things like hats and gloves in accessible places like in hip belt pockets and other "useful" places- which seem few and far between on "robust" packs.
Again, I understand why, but will have to keep searching for a rucksack that meets all my requirements...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Strength and Performance Gym session 1

Over at S&P for a first session yesterday, it was going to be a short one, with a few exercises to workout various imbalances in the way I move and train in order to see what needs to be worked on, what doesn't, and how my movement patterns can be adjusted to make me more efficient. (in terms of movement, that is).

The warm up consisted of a lot of specific foam rollering on large and small muscle groups, stretches, holds, and movements, like reverse split squats etc. All good stuff for getting the body ready for action- going straight into a decent training session really isn't going to cut it in a gym like this.
Serious preparation for serious work done by motivated people.

We went through a number of movements, including Bear crawls, squats (unweighted and goblet), press-ups, pull ups, kettlebell swings, plank and a moving plank. Nothing too bad or strenuous, but it showed up a fair few chinks in my armour. Most of which I knew about anyway, but wasn't sure how to correct them.

My squatting isn't anywhere as near as it could be- collapsing on the way down- mainly caused by stiff hip flexors, press-ups cause impingement issues with my shoulder- that has been bugging me for a year. I think that we can sort this out in a couple of weeks, because it seems that my lower traps just aren't engaging- and my rhomboids also seem a bit lazy when put under strain.
The problem I've been having is the bigger muscles- like the deltoid- just take up the strain because my body knows they can, and this is impinging the joint and making the movement pattern sub-optimal for the rest of the body.
My general cross-core is not all that strong- rec abs, transverse abs, and serratus ant. and my glutes don't really fire under strain either. This is all probably down to tigh hip flexors again- as they are over firing, the reciprocal inhibition means that glutes and general abdominal muscles don't fire.

As a final FY, I did 3 lengths on the prowler- a steel sled which can be weighted. It really didn't need to be. After the third time I was so close to passing out from lack of blood to the head it really wasn't funny. Thinking back to how bad I felt at the end of 4 hill reps on Monday. This was worse, and in a fraction of the time. I suspect this may be a bit of a kickstart for attacking races, which will be excellent.
Interestingly, the tight hip flexor thing was what lost me a lot of places on the race yesterday (race report here) and so I think there will be a lot of work done on those in the coming few months.

Sean and Zoran were excellent at looking at my form, listening to what I was saying about what I felt, and then changing things so as to avoid excessive pain (not pain from tiredness, but bad pain- which stops you training). The screening was thorough, and everything they said resonated with what I have been feeling and how I believe I need to train.
I mentioned a little earlier about how I knew there were bits that I need to train to get rid of imbalances and niggles. I have been trying to do that on my own for a fair while, and not having much success. Within 40 mins, we knew what was wrong and how it needed to be worked on.

Sean pointed out that from my goals, none of them included flexibility... the reason for that is because as I train, and ans I become able to attain the goals, flexibility should be a byproduct of everything I do- its not something that I am aiming for specifically, but something that should happen through correct training.

This weekend is Scrambling in Wales, Monday is back to S&P
Can't wait.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Hill reps in the rain

Marking student papers this morning, looking out at the nasty weather... this is the stage when other people would be demotivated and not really wanting to get out there. Nope, I forced myself to finish the paper before eagerly getting my running gear on and heading out into the rain and wind- delightful!
Today is a hard day, and it was meant to be a hard weights day. However, I have that planned in for Thursday when we go over to Strength and Performance for a morning of tests. I can imagine that is going to be a pretty hard day. So the hill reps that were meant to be on Thursday were brought back to today.

I didn't want to do the same hill as last time (lightside) for a couple of reasons, although it would be good to compare times over the same distance, and get some idea of how much better (or worse) I am getting, it would be more beneficial to rep out on other hills with different gradients, different lengths, and different underfoot characteristics. Week to week changes are not all that telling, so running on Lightside this week will give very little data to analyse really, and will probably give false readings. Better to look at a wider section of hills over a much much longer period of time.

I took a bit of a longer run in today, averaging at a good speed, of low 5s and high 4s per km. It was an amusing run in with the paths looking like small mountain streams. great fun.
Got to the part of the hill which I had designated for running up, and started. I got to the point where I thought I was going to collapse, and carried on going. And then a bit more just for good measure. Then I saw a distictive mark on the hill and carried on going to there, and turned round to head back down the hill.
Normally I can run downhill quite happily- but after that effort, it was all I could do to walk back down.

I repped that out another 3 times, all to the same place, slowing each time, but keeping myself running. It was the fact that I kept running and didn't stop to walk in the last race that really held me in good stead, so thats what I concentrated on, no matter how much it hurt.
Jens Voight is a bit of an inspiration in terms of suffering, so I guess I'm learning from him.
Haven't managed to apply this thinking to big hills yet, but start small with massive effort, and from there on, learn to just keep going at speed.
At some point I will need to look at keeping in aerobic threshold when going up hills, but for the time being, anaerobic training followed by a fast run back, and over another hill is the way to go.

Out for 54 mins, and have a tightness in my left soleus. Foam rollering it earlier, and will be doing so after the next paper that needs to be marked...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Evening on the hills

Lynne and I went out for a short walk around Bleaklow yesterday evening. It was more of a training kind of thing for navigation and to make sure that we are all up to speed on bog walking with packs on and are happy in the clag and dark.

The rest of the day boded well for having some pretty horrible weather for us to test ourselves in, and give Lynnes Diamir a bit of water to contend with, but as the evening progressed, it brightened up and the cloud base lifted. Ah well. We pack our bags, and added a bit of weight- just for kicks, and headed out into the darkening hills.

What followed was 4 hours of good solid navigation in twilight and a little bit of drizzle (ocassionally), and general hillcraft- including putting feet in big holes in the moor and falling flat on my face in the midst of a heather/bog patch. All good fun.
As expected, it was the downhill at the end that was the worst part of the whole thing. It wasn't so much the darkness, but was the eccentric contractions of the quads while being laden with rucksacks that really made it more difficult than normal.
Throughout the entire 4 hour session, my HR didnt peak above 130, so I can still call it a "recovery" session, which is good. To be honest, it felt slightly like a bit of an extended minor endurance effort, but not really,
Today is a day of rest, and I think I shall be getting on with a bit of anatomy and physiology marking, and drafting a couple of blogs for the Global Therapies site.
I'll have to see if I can sneak in a massage at some point as well... but that will probably have to be after the Moto GP and the tdf.
Hard day tomorrow, so a relaxing one today.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Burpees and a bruised heel

So you may or may not have read the blogpost on Global therapies about the Bamford Carnival race where I came 26th, all rather exciting- but I was getting pretty severe pain under my right heel on the final descent. Having looked at the state of the ground when we got there, I realised immediately that I had the wrong choice of shoe. Not that I had a choice, my 268s had died on my on the 15 trigs, so all I left was a pair of baregrips.

Running downhill in barefoot shoes on hard hard ground, especially ones with massive lugs on them meant that the grips were being forced into my heel. It felt like a big blister was forming, and by the end it was really hurting. It looked like a blister was forming, but it wasn't, it then looked like a blood blister, but it wasn't. In the end, it was quite an impressive bruise. Right on the base of the heel. Ouch.
The bruise
Had I had a pair of shoes with a little less aggresive grip on the bottom, that might not have happened, and if I had the 268s, I certainly would have been wearing them for the race. Oh well. I can still walk on it, but running is certainly out for the moment. I was meant to be taking part in the trigs to track 1 mile downhill time trial today, and maybe even Holme moss tomorrow- a 17 miler, which sounds really good fun, however, I still don't have any other shoes apart from the Baregrips, and either of those races, although they sound amusing, will hurt a lot- and not in a good way.
So running is not going ahead at the moment, looking at the long term. Having said that, I think it will have gone down sufficiently and the new shoes will have arrived in time for Shining moss on Wednesday... so I suppose that I should really say, its a brief hiatus to manage injury and make sure I don't turn it into a long term niggling overuse injury.

Having said all that I had quite a good hard session yesterday- Prison burpees. 20 through to 1 with a 20-30 second rest between each set. By 17 it was getting hard, and the final few were quite fun, but it was all done in 20mins and 10 seconds.
Considering that I have had adductor issues in the past, and I wasn't sure if it was from the burpees, I made sure that I warmed down suitably. Today I don't seem to be feeling any bad effects, so thats all a good thing.
So its a day of watching the Tour de France.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Nutrition for long days out

Having thought about this for a few days, and seen some interesting examples of nutrition over long day efforts in the past few years, I thought it might be time to write a little about my strategy for long drawn out efforts.

I should make it clear that this is only my opinion, and that it works for me in the UK, I haven't actually tested it in the Alps, or across subcontinental deserts, or on K2. Its not particularly scientific, and I'm not going to start going into calorific counts, but that is something that you should think about if you are going a step further into higher performance nutrition.

So. The laymans thoughts on long day out nutrition-
First, lets describe a long day out. More than 5 hours.
If you're running for less than an hour, you won't need water unless its ridiculously hot.
If you're running for more than an hour, you will need something to drink- ideally something with electrolytes in.
If you're running for more than 3 hours you might need some kind of sugary food.
If you're running for 4 hours and over, especially 6 hours and over, you probably should be thinking about planning your food and feeding times. Its this catagory that I'm going to talk about today.

The key to it all is just like that of being thirsty. If you wait until you're thirsty til you drink- its too late. Equally, if you wait until you're hungry- its getting a little too late as well. So, eat and drink little, but often.

Get as many decent slow burning calories into you at the beginning of the day. If you don't "do" breakfast. Learn to "do" it. It is the single most important meal of the day, even more so on a long drawn out day. Get a decent energetic base, and top it up throughout the day. If you don't have that, don't bother reading any further.
As Dan John said, if you want to know about nutrition but don't eat breakfast, don't talk to me.

I tend to eat muesli or porridge, or something of that ilk with dried fruit to keep my energy burning slowly for as long as possible. If its going to be a long day, I'll increase the portion size. Not so large that I feel uncomfortable eating it, but large enough that it is going to give me that extra endurance. (ie. one extra spoonful of the oats when dry)

Water- oh so important. Obviously you can't run for a long long time if you are dehydrated. Your muscles are approx 75% water. The fascia between them is also highly reliant on being hydrated to a decent degree. Once things start getting dry bad things happen. Keep drinking.
However. You may have heard of Hypotranemia. Basically it can happen when you drink too much water. You dilute your body so much that it can't cope and basically drown yourself. This can happen because the minerals in your body become too dilute and can no longer cope- the way to stop this from happening- (and incidentally also decrease the likihood of cramp) is to add electrolyte to the water.
I tend to use High 5 Zero or the Nuun tablets. They are excellent as they replace lost salts, potassium, calcium and other things that you're body needs in small doses to keep working properly- but loses on a big scale through sweat production.
For example- did you know that muscle contraction relies on calcium within the muscles. If the calcium is not there than the muscles cannot contract. It will need to be replaced as you sweat all the goodness out of you.
Use electrolyte. Its not Snake Oil.

As for drinks with carbohydrate in, thats an interesting one. I did a few races drinking a carb mix drink and eating food throughout- about 12 hours or so. By 8 hours in both me and my team mate were getting horrendous gut cramp and feeling pretty damn awful. In hindsight, it was because we were ingesting far too much carbohydrate for the body to cope with.
Apparently the gut processes about 60 mg of Carbohydrate per hour. Any more than that and it gets backed up in the digestive system. If you're loading it with 100 per hour for 8 hours, thats an awful lot of carbs that are waiting to be digested by the end of 8 hours, and although they may be there in the system, you are probably still feeling hungry and need to eat more. Wierd.

So, if you are insistent that you want a carb energy drink as well as eating food, be careful of just how many carbs you are loading in on yourself hour after hour. You don't want cramps 3/4 of the way through the day.
The alternative is to just drink, or just eat- and drink electrolyte. The problem with just drinking is much the same as "eating", or should I say, consuming, energy gels.

Energy Gels are sold as the be all and end all of sports nutrition. Yes, they have their place, and yes, they work to a point, but you need to get used to them if you are using them for a long period of time. The TdF guys use them, but their efforts are for a max of about 5 hours a day, certainly not up in the 10-17 hour bracket. I know that some alpinists use them, and all power to their arm, but I have a couple of issues with them.
The massive sugar spike and crash is not fun to deal with, unless you are on the last burst of the day. 1 gel gives a boost that lasts maybe 20 mins, then you need to take another one, and another etc, to keep the "rush" going. Should you try to do this over 15 hours, just eating gels, the stomach has no actual food to digest, it feels hungry. Ok, you are loading a lot of sugar and craziness into it, but it doesn't FEEL like food. Unless you are very used to this, its not going to be good, and you're going to bonk massively. Not through lack of energy, but through hunger. You need real food as well as energy gels.
I carry gels, but only a couple, for dire emergencies, or for a kick to get me through to the end of a race. The pick-me-up is massive, and as long as you can finish - or eat real food before you crash, happy days.

So, what to eat?
On a long day I tend to go with the principle of eating something every 30 mins. The perennial favourite is Geobars- I tend to calculate for half a geobar every half an hour, though in the recent 15 trigs, I planned for that and ended up with 6 bars left over. By the second half of the day I had eaten my sarnies, and the energy from those was keeping me going and I didn't need the bars so much. Had we been going at a faster pace, I suspect I would have been eating more.
Find a bar- preferably not chocolate covered- they melt and cause a helluva mess- that you can eat pretty much forever without getting sick of it. Use that- and try not to make it a favourite bar, because you will start to see it as race food, and won't eat it at any other time. Added bonus- 1 gel costs between £1-£2, and will last you 20 mins. A box of Geobars costs less than £1.50 and theretically lasts you 5 hours. (yes, there used to be 6 in a box, now there are only 5- scandalous I know, but such is the way of the world).

So thats your core food for the day sorted.
However, you can't just survive on that, lunch, snacks, if you have a box drop or a transition box somewhere, you can stash food in that. But what should you have?
Food that you like to eat- and that will make a decent change from high energy bars. One staple that we always use in a transition box is a loaf of cheap white bread, pre-buttered and put back in its bag. Hit the transition and the first thing you do is rip a hunk off and eat it while getting on with everything else. Sheer genius. Texture and taste is a world away from what you have just been eating, its wonderful and highly recommended.
A lot of people do the same thing with Soreen- pre-buttered etc. Great- but I had a bad experience with it on a race and seriously can no longer even smell the stuff without gagging. If it works, eat it.
A box of salted peanuts is a good idea, even if you have been drinking electrolyte, the extra salt is brilliant, as is the energy from the nuts.
Fruit is an interesting one as it always tends to get squashed. If you can organise it so that it doesn't, at a transition 14 hours into a race, you will be craving something different, and fruit may well be the answer.

If you are carrying sarnies with you, they will probably not end up quite as you put them in your bag. Soggy, squashed and in component parts is the general rule of thumb. I get over this by using pitta bread. I cut them in half and have a different filling in each half, that way you can eat it individually or as a massive energy ball of craziness. Most recently I had one with Jam, one with Nutella and one with just Butter. The one with just butter cannot be overstated in importance. Sometimes, all you want it bread and butter, and it tastes amazing.
However, jam, nutella and butter as a combo was pretty good on top of Winhill last weekend as well.

Other bits and bobs-
I tend to carry an alternative energy bar as well as the geobars as well- something to eat every 5-6 hours or so as a change in taste and texture, yet still keeping the energy up. Current in the pantheon of favourites is the chocolate elevenses bar. I'll carry maybe 2-3 over the course of the day, and they are for ocassions when I just can't face another half of a geobar- and is a bit of a psycological lift for a while as well.

Nuts and dried fruit have their place, as long as they are in something that is easily accessible and doesn't take up room. it must be easily closable as well- so that the contents don't go all over your bag when you've half eaten them.

Thats about it really- but just keep eating. An endurance effort is basically just one long feed.
If you find it difficult to eat and then run, Practice.
If you find it difficult to eat and run at the same time, Practice.
If you are un sure of how much to take, Practice.

If your long endurance effort means anything whatsoever, you won't just practice running/cycling/walking or whatever, you will need to work out your nutrition. That will be the key to success or failure. You can keep going through blisters, pain and lack of preparation if your nutrition is good- but fail to fuel up correctly and you can look forward to failing altogether.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Hill reps- testing the adductors

Went out for a brief run today, checking out how my adductors were feeling. And also to check just how bad I am at hills.
As it turns out, I'm pretty rubbish at them. The idea was to go up Lightside 4 or 5 times, see how it goes and then work my way home nice and gently. Lightside is a longer hill than I anticipated. I didn't want to do long hill reps, but rather short, sharp lungbursting ascents, no more than 2 mins in length, just to really get my anaerobic system working and see how I cope with it.

I just went up to the first wall on Lightside, the first time was ok- though I felt pretty horrible going up. It was hot, humid and nasty. After the jog down, I went up again, this time, it hurt, but I still managed to keep going to the top,
3rd time really really hurt. As in, I thought I wasn't going to make it to the top.
Last rep it was all I could do to keep going and I was nigh on coughing up my insides by the time I hit the top. I couldn't even jog down the hill even if I wanted to, the eccentric loading on my quads was just too much. Walking was pretty hard too- which was astonishing, normally I'm fine just rocking down hills no matter what state I'm in. It seems that going deep into the red in anaerobiclly up a hill is perhaps the hardest thing I can do in terms of running- and something I should probably stay away from during in a race.
Training is another matter altogether.

Train Hard.
Race Easy.
adductors were fine, looks like I might be able to race on Wed.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

To run, or not to run? That is the question.

So I have been monitoring my legs and how they feel for the past week after the 15 trigs. As I was going around I noticed that the only real soreness in them was coming from the adductors. This was from the repetitive leg action that I had to make going over heather and ankle sucking bogs.
Over the week, the pain has become more of a background discomfort, but rising to pain after significant exercise- like the Burpees, the run or, more recently just a walk.
As such I decided that rest was going to be the way forward and blew off the Hard day that was meant to be yesterday- a hill rep session- in preference for a walk. Today is much the same in terms of not going too hard at it. I have Recovery marked in- and also the fact there is a local race- Charlesworth- going on.
As much as this little 3 miler tempts me, I recall a footballer I treated a while ago. He started off with adductor discomfort and pain and continued playing. After a few weeks it turned into acute pain, and he ended up with tendinitis of Adductor Longus- in laymans terms- acute pain in the groin area every time he tried to run.

Thats something that I really don't want. Conservative treatment now, and easy recovery are going to pay dividends in the future. I really do not want to be sitting around in 7-10 months time bemoaning my fate that I can't run because of a minor issue that can be sorted out now.
I cannot say if I am being over cautious, but when it comes to long term health, and long term ability to get out in the hills as opposed to  a quick race that might be quite fun- long term wins out every time.

I would suggest that other runners with niggling injuries pay heed to the idea that resting and recovering in the short term is a far more cunning thing to do than "run through" an injury and regret it at leisure later on.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Dark Peak Roving Calendar box- July

Delightful morning out on the hills looking for the Roving Calendar box. I'm not going to reveal the exact location of the box with photos or a GPS track, because that would spoil the fun.
Also, its pretty easy to find this month, if a little more out of the way than in June, it is a truely spectacular area.

After a walk in, with Lynne testing out her new Mountain Equipment Diamir Jacket (I'm sure that I can sit down and write a review of it at some point soon), as the rain came in. The forecast had predicted 70-80% chance of rain, heavy rain, all the way through the day. This turned out to be pretty much untrue and we only had 2 squally showers as we went out onto the hill.
The midges were everywhere near the car, so a fast escape had to be made, but once away from the woods, and as the rain came down, thankfully they died away.

I was testing out an oft held theory that if you have a jacket which is losing its water repellancy, or at least, is losing the beading effect as the rain hits it, don't spend money on re-proofing it right away- heat it. The classic thing is to put the jacket in a tumble drier on low to get heat going right the way through, redistributing the DWR. I had 2 minor problems with this. The first being I don't own a tumble drier, the second being I was doing this to a Mountain Hardwear Dragon Jacket. Not all of the seams on this jacket are stitched, the hood is heat sealed, for example. Put one of those garments in a tumble drier and all of a sudden you have component parts of the jacket instead of a single item...
Always check if you can tumble dry your stuff BEFORE you put it in there.

If, like me, you are restricted one way or the other, the second avenue of re-DWR-ing your garment is to use your trusty hairdrier. (or your girlfriends). Turn it on, and use it as if you were using it to dry the fabric- like you were drying your hair.
I was once asked what setting you should use on the hairdrier- and to be honest, I had no idea they HAD settings, so, not too hot, and not too cold.

During the process, make sure you do not heat the item up so much that you melt it, burn it or otherwise damage it. If you do, its your own stupid fault. Take care. Chances are its an expensive bit of kit (the garment, not the hairdrier) so take care and be mindful when you are doing it.

Anyhow, where was I.
Yes, I was testing this out. I heated up the jacket yesterday, and I have to say that the process seems to have restored the DWR quite effectively. The Dragon Jacket isn't meant to be Water proof- its got Windstopper in it and has a couple of bits of point taping in it, but after the treatment, the rain was beading off the skin of the jacket rather admirably. I'm very happy with the result and will have to suggest it to other people even more emphatically than before!

So we went on up over the moor, a bit of heather bashing, bouncing over the peat, and looking at some rather intriguing rock formations. When we got to the Calendar box location it was pretty easy to find. There were a couple of Custard Cremes in there, so we swapped 2 of them for a geobar, wrote in the book and left it in the same condition as we had found it. I think we were about the 3rd or 4th people to find it this month.
We then took a little detour on the way back to the car, heading up the high point behind the location, and although the cloud base was low, there was a fantastic view right the way across Dark Peak, so far that I don't actually know what I was seeing- probably right down over White Peak as well.

On the way down we also saw a raptor of some sort- low over the bog- it certainly wasn't a Buzzard, it wasn't a Kestrel- and it wasn't a Sparrowhawk.  It was Brown-ish with wings shorter than a Buzzard.
My immediate thought was Marsh Harrier, but on closer inspection, they tend to nest down South nearer Norfolk way. I wonder if it was a Hen Harrier, but I thought they were much more Grey/white.
If you're about over Bleaklow, keep a look out, as they may well be around.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

out with the harriers

Quick burn with the Harriers last night as a try out and see if my legs were recovering as well as I thought. Only a few hours after the Burpee Breathing ladder, which began the frying of my legs, the charge up to Kinder Downfall certain killed them off.

Pace was set rather fast on the first part, I wasn't sure if it was my legs still being knackered, or if it was just a really fast pace. I'd like to think it was the former, but am a bit worried that it might be the latter! An overall pace of 8mins per km, which includes all the stops for catch ups etc, means that a decent pace was kept up for pretty much the entire circuit, which was good- although my legs felt heavy, I could still generally keep the pace up, which was encouraging. As I've had to consign my Roclites to the bin, the Baregrips came out with a vengeance. They were perfect for the long peaty descent, and were a dream even scrambling up the river to Kinder Downfall. I'm still getting used to the remarkable thinness of the soles on sharp rocky ground though...

Today is a day of rest- though I'm going over to Rockover for work (and a bit of climbing) later on, so thats my recovery for the day- Tomorrow is another recovery day, but focussing on unweighted movements, which should be fun.
In the meantime, the Garmin track for yesterday can be found here

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Osprey Talon 5.5

So for the 15 trigs, I decided not to take my tried and trusted berghaus bladdered- which is now, somewhat disappointingly discontinued, and managed to blag the Talon 5.5 from Lynne to run with. It was a slight gamble having only walked with it once before, and never having actually run with it for a short while, let alone a long run.

Looking at the bits and bobs that I was going to need for the run, it normally all fits quite well into the 8+2 of the bladdered, but would it fit in the Osprey-when it only allegedly takes 5.5 litres.
All packed up and ready to go

3litre bladder, food, spare hat and gloves, a map, waterproof and a minimalist first aid kit (with spare socks). The osprey swallowed it all very well indeed, though with the 3 litre bladder full, it was a little uncomfortable- at least until some of it was consumed, and then it sat very well on the back indeed.

For food on the go, the Talon boasts 2 elasticated pockets on the shoulder straps- just like all other Talons, and that is the only place you can really store stuff- there are no pockets on the hip belts- which is a real shame- I know that it is meant to be pretty minimalist, but even an elasticated one like on the Raptor series would have been a really good touch- nevermind. I could fit 3 geobars in each of the shoulderstraps, so that was potentially about 6 hours food there without stopping anyway.

Geobars stuffed in the front pockets and you can see the full bladder in the pocket- bulging out the back panel
I was wearing the Small/medium back length sack, which was just about perfect for me, Medium/large would have pretty much swamped me, though being pretty much a Medium fit means that I can get away with either.
It was a comfortable fit as soon as I put it on- except for the minor issue with the overfull waterbladder- and I have to say that as time went on and I refilled a couple of times, it was always a bit of an issue getting the bladder in and out of the section made for it.
(I should point out here that I was using an Osprey 3 litre Hydraulics bladder with the slightly re-enforced back to help it retain a specific shape as you fill it up - as opposed to being a sack of water- but I think that it detracts from the concept especially as it just felt like it was causing a pressure point against the middle section of my spine which a camelback would not have)
Maybe I would have been better off with a 2 litre bladder which wouldn't have filled out so much space in the pack- however, it worked, if with a bit of pain for a short while every time I filled it up to the brim.

The harness fit snugly around me, and I was astonished to find that as we ran, my top did not creep up my back. No matter which rucksac I have used for running with in the past, I have always had that annoying issue of my top slowly riding up my back so that I end up with flesh pressed against the rucksac. The way to prevent this was always to crank the harness down as much as I could- which actually ended up melting a couple of my t-shirts because of the friction. (I still use them, its just that they aren't quite as photogenic anymore)!

It was comfortable, held all the bits and bobs I needed it to, it didn't melt my top, or let it ride up, however, it would be perfect if it had a few more little pockets around the bag which you could get to as you are wearing it, instead of having to take it off everytime you want to get hold of something else other than chocolate bars and water. (like a camera or such like).

A good running bag, but not perfect- and if you use it with a bladder, use a 2 litre one, or a 3 litre that isnt quite full.

Quick workout

I sat down yesterday and worked out the next months worth of workouts. I'm trying to keep things sane so that i still have enough left in my legs for the racing. I'm not specifically going for Power, Strength, Power Endurance or Endurance, I'm mixing it up a little, perhaps not actually putting enough Strength work in, but at this time, I think that PE is a little more important, and once the racing season has passed us by, I will start looking at that in a little more detail.

So after a couple of days rest from the epic 15 trigs, I feel pretty much fine. I need to keep foam rollering my legs to keep them ok, I fear the ITB might end up tightening up something chronic, should I neglect it, but as long as I keep it real and remember to keep doing recovery practices, it will all be fine.

So today was a Burpee Breathing ladder. Last time I did this I managed to get to 12 before blowing up and having to go back down, so 15 was the target today - being timed as well, not so that I can try it again some time and beat it- but for reference.
The problem with going faster and faster is that you start losing form- the issue is 2 fold- not doing complete reps and timing it gives a false time that you can beat by slacking on form- which is most definitely not the point- also, bad form is the easiest way to pick up a niggle which can turn into an injury. Not a great idea. Training is there to supplement your sport, not to replace it, nor to overshadow it, and getting injured while training is stupid and careless.
In the midst of a race... now thats a different matter altogether.

So I did a 1-15-1 burpee breathing ladder in 23:15. 225 burpees, and really started feeling it at about 11 on the way back down. All good fun though.
Finished off with 15 reps of DL and 2x10 front squats with the Slosh Pipe.

Short run with the Harriers this evening, should be amusing, and I'll certainly be taking it easy.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Dark Peak 15 Trigs

For those of you who can't be bothered to read this epic, there is a summary at the end of the blog. So just skip there instead.

A bit of background first. I was shadowing for my SPA a couple of weeks back when I received an email from a Dan saying that he was thinking of doing the Dark Peak 15 trigs and did anyone want to join him. I’d heard of it, but couldn’t quite remember how far it was- I knew it was about 30 miles or more, or thereabouts and thought, yeah, it’s a bit of a challenge, I’ll have a go.
Got home, looked at the website- oh, 55 miles. Ah well. That’s a nice day out. Never run that far before, in fact the furthest I’ve run was the London marathon a few years ago, and that was hell. I’m sure this one will be ok though. Nigh on twice as far, over hills, with a rucksack. Yeah, it’ll be fine.

So. A couple of weeks gone, and we’re standing outside the Royal Oak in Glossop, packed up ready to go, its 530am, and theres a bit of distance between us and the pub, even though its about 5 yards behind us. Lynne is there taking pictures, we look around, it’s a beautiful morning, the sun just on the cusp of rising, might as well not wait any longer, lets be off.
Andy saying "the pub is that way!
In hindsight it’s a good thing we didn’t have a massive x-number of months lead in to the run- it would have meant obsessing over training schedules, long runs, can I/ can’t I do it… as it was, we had 2 weeks to do a couple of runs- I just did a normal training run with the Harriers in the first week, and a race on the Wednesday just gone. Perfect.
And off we trotted.
The leg up to Harry Hut was short and enjoyable as we got used to each others pace. The ground was solid, and we were in the shade for the most part. A short stop at the top for the obligatory photo, and we were off to the next one. Pounding over to the path and then up the flags over to Kinder.
As we went up to Kinder, the sun started coming through and the scenery was just beautiful. In short order we had got to Sandy Heys after a bit of peat bashing, where Andy managed to find a pitchfork- at least there was a slight variation in the trig pictures…
We were now following the Kinder Trog route over and down toward Kinder Low, a route on which I must have fallen over on about 5 times in the recent Kinder Trog. Not something that I wanted to do today. Underfoot was still very much home turf and we made good time going around Kinder. The fact I had food and water meant that my concentration levels were much higher, and I wasn’t stumbling around like a drunk for half the time.

Me sorting out Pitta bread nutrition on top of Win Hill
My running nutrition was based on what has been relatively successful in past long adventure races. Geobars- half every half hour for as long as you can- basically until the end. Supplementary food was also packed in the form of pitta bread, 2 lots of 3 halves filled with butter, nutella and gooseberry jam. (delicious when knackered), a couple of chocolate elevenses for a bit of variety and 3 emergency powergels.
To start with I used High 5 4:1 but planned on changing that half way round to just electrolyte- because eating that much AND drinking carbohydrate replacement for longer than 6 hours is a good way to feel really ill after a while- your body can only process so many carbs per hour, exceed that and you get really good gut-rot.

Before we knew it- and I really mean that- it was a pleasant surprise- we came upon Kinder Low trig. Wow- making excellent time. We were definitely up quite a bit on the 14 hour schedule that we were looking at. Not bad running at all.

There were a few times that we discussed amongst ourselves that we didn’t want to be going off too fast, because that would make things very very hard toward the end. However, the ground was good, we knew where we were going, so it made sense to make some hay while the sun shined.
Looking East there was a beautiful cloud inversion down into the Edale Valley. 630am is a great time to be up there, and I’ll have to get up there early doors in the next few weeks with a decent camera to get some shots. Truly magical. The views continued as we shot down to Brown Knoll and back up onto the plateau- with Julien showing us some “interesting” route finding on the way back up onto the path. Going over the South edge of Kinder we came across some lovely stone and rocks- apparently a lot of which don’t have specific names, despite being very prominent and distinctive.
We were now apparently on the Edale Skyline route- funny how when you’re with other fellrunners, as you run they pretty much navigate by which race route is closest to where they are running at the time! We pounded across the top, with the sun ever getting higher, it was barely even 8am by this point and it was already getting pretty damn hot. Over the top and the Trig on Edale moor- (is that 1934? Julien told me, but its been a fair few hours and a couple of miles since then, and I really can’t remember)

On the way up to Winhill, Dan slowing up for food behind
A quick stop to slap on some sunscreen and then off the Eastern side of Kinder, where Julien was happy to find a small Spring to fill up waterbottles, then, over to Edale cross and up Winhill. The morning was still glorious, if getting a little warm and we were glad of the track up the side of the forest in which we could keep some shade. Then out, onto the moorside and up to the Winhill trig to find Lynne and her camera snapping away as we climbed up to the top. It was great to see her up there, and good to know that we were getting more than just the photos at each trig to remember the route by.
We were about an hour up on the 14 hour schedule by now, and were beginning to have delusions of grandeur. My heel was rubbing a little on the right, so I took the time to stick a compeed patch on it. We had covered half a marathon distance by now, and I was feeling pretty good. The constant eating on the half hour (whether or not I wanted to) was going well, and my energy levels were fine. My heel patched up, we set off down Winhill, not going down the path, but rather following another of Juliens “shortcuts” direct down the hill under a load of trees and down some quite steep ground. Still, better than having to trudge down hundreds of steep slippery steps, I suppose.
Now the road section up to the cross into High Neb, up the road, apparently a part of the High Peak Marathon route- Julien recalling past exploits of overhauling a number of teams on this stretch- up to the place where we were to go into the field. I thought we were going to head up to the carpark and along the track. No- far to simple and just out of the way. Lets bash through this unending field of heather and bracken.
Bracken Bashing

This was our first taste of the heather, which was a massive issue in slowing us down. Bashing through hundreds of yards of the stuff, to be rewarded by a gentle, and then not so gentle incline through chest deep bracken to High Neb edge. At a different time of year there wouldn’t have been so much vegetation, but then, the ground would have been in a totally different state as well and our problems would have been very different. I fell over once in the bracken, cutting a shin and smacking the other one good and proper, but hey, you can’t complain, not when you’re not even half way round yet.
Up on the edge, Lynne had just about got there before us, and was snapping away. The obligatory trig point photo, and I noticed that my inov8s had a lace holder snapped… damnit- tested, and kind of destroyed, but still attached to my feet. I’ll write about it more in the near future. Right, might as well ignore it and get going - and off we went, along the edge and over to Stanedge pole- a point which has been used for trigonometry, but not actually a trig point- and so, not a target for the day. It was about 10 or so now and there were a fair few climbers out, and people walking their dogs, the first signs of civilisation.
On we trotted over and through some pathways, on what seemed like an indeterminable path, and eventually pretty much hit 26 miles bang on the nose as we ran across the playing fields into the Sportsman pub- a legitimate stop- on this challenge. We arrived just as it had opened, and took the opportunity to sit down for a moment, refill water bottles, eat sarnies, and, in Juliens case, have a beer.
Its worth saying at this point that we spent about 20 mins in the Sportsman, eating into our 1hour lead on the 14 hour schedule, before setting out.
Wierdly enough, the main muscles in my legs- quads and hamstrings felt fine, but it was the adductors that were really feeling it… fatigue spreading across them like a warm glow- promising to be a fire at some point soon.
We got to the next, low trig point in short order, with nothing to really jog the memory about it apart from 2 loud and vicious dogs, and my legs hurting a bit- and looking across from that trig point to Emlin and Back tor and thinking… damn. That’s quite a long way.
This was the bit that none of us really knew very well, so relying on mapwork and a bit of GPS-ness we found our way through the least exciting part of the day.
The line took us down to Cramshaw Farm, and north west up the road to the curve, over the fence and out to Gibraltar rocks, down the hill through the open access area, through the woods in a direct line (with a load of brambles and some interesting descents) across the dam, up onto Dale road and up the bridle path.
For the ascent onto Emlin We followed a beautiful line of Grouse Butts that were very well appointed- doors, tie on points for dogs, seats etc. all that was missing was a drinks cabinet.

By the time we got to Emlin we were only about 20 mins up on the 14 hour schedule. A short debate followed about route choice, and we set out in a direct line up Small dale and across Cartledge flat to gain the Paved path to Back Tor. That was 3km of heather and bilberry plant hell. The sun was beating down on us, we were just over halfway, legs really beginning to feel it, and now time to bash through some of the worst terrain we had come across all day. Nasty. Words can’t quite attest to how long and horrible that leg actually was, and it contributed quite a lot to us falling behind time.
On the way up to Back tor
Go away, make a cup of tea and drink it, all the while thinking about the horribleness of the crossing to here, and you might just get an idea of how damn long it took.
Eventually we came across the path, and jogged our way South to Back Tor. Lynne was there, showing extreme patience as we came in late to schedule, smiling and taking pictures as we took sat in front of the trig point. Fatigue was beginning to show, I changed my socks- always a good idea to carry a spare pair… mmm good feeling! The heather bashing was taking its toll and my adductors were in a fair old bit of pain from having to lift my legs up, over and through so many plants.
Pic on Back tor
However, now was not the time to dwell on pain.
It was time, and off we went up the paved path. After a while we peeled off West to begin the traverse across Round Hill and what could best be described as Middle Moss kind of way- just at that point a Dark Peak runner just about caught up with us- presumably on a training run (but who goes on a training run in their team colours?!) and we exchanged a few brief pleasantries as we set out across the moor, up Cartledge brook until we dropped down on to Howden Edge, to happen upon the trig point. At this stage, one of the team was getting a bit heat struck and the pace was slowing quite a bit, but we were still capable of some decent times. We went out across to Outer edge, and then came the bash down Broadhead Clough. That was a bash and a half. Very steep, through crazy ground with heather and bracken all the way down. There was a spring halfway down to fill up waterbottles with- a very welcome relief- both just for getting some liquids and simple to rest the legs from the relentless pounding they were getting.
Onto the path and down the West side of Howden reservoir, which should have been a quick leg, Julien was advocating a direct route across the moors, which meant 2k shorter, but a LOT more ascent and descent. In the state we were in, flat was best, descents were slow and ascents were slower. Also, for one member it was getting worse and the pace was dropping. A 15 hour round was looking increasingly in doubt as we got to the end of the road and climbed up the path to Birchen Hat and a beautiful view over to the Tower – something I have never seen before- nor even knew about!
Up to Alport trig was slow and painful, 15 hours was looking too close for us to be able to be a reality. We trudged along up to the end of Alport valley- now THAT is a long valley to go along, I didn’t really appreciate how long it would take us to clear that monster… and up into the swamp. Our flagging member was beginning to run again and we started to gain some time- not much, but some… we could taste the beer at the end now.
We were flagging, but perking up as Hern clough came into view. This might be tight, but we could make it. Heading up the clough Andy was over the bonk, the top, and the Pennine way appeared very quickly indeed, then a short run up, and there was Overexposed, and on the skyline a group of Glossopdale runners who had got out to support us in on the final couple of trigs. Dan forged on ahead to the summit to be welcomed with whoops and shrieks, and Andy, Julien and I brought up the rear, exchanging pleasantries with all and sundry, with a couple of dogs running around the place, it all felt very different to the rest of the run- still there was a time pressure, and as soon as the photo was taken, it was down the Shelf Benches race route and a bash across the trod on Harrod moss to gain the final Trig at Cock hill. Just on the way down, another runner hove into view coming up the hill- another Glossopdalean- Charlie- what a welcome this was- smiling and laughing we took the photos, and turned into the sun and down the hill, now in very familiar territory indeed for a final run down the hillside. Legs aching, feet blistered, not actually all that sunburnt, but feeling the heat.
Down into Old Glossop, up the bridleway and over Shirehill- which felt like it might be the straw that broke the camels back- the climb there is bad enough at the end of an 8 miler, let alone a 55miler- down the otherside through the woods into the estate, hang a left, and there, 14 hours and 40 mins later, was the pub.
Finally getting to the pub
 A well deserved pint was waiting for each of us- and a pint of water, and despite apparently looking quite good and in control as we descended- by the time we’d been sitting down for about 5 mins we were in bits- well… I was. Thanks for the observation Charlie!

Yes, we did it, we picked up enough pace toward the end to make it in time. 15 trigs in less than 15 hours, on a ridiculously hot day.

Summary for those of you who couldn’t be bothered to read the whole thing.
Set out at 530. It got warm. Ahead of Schedule. Got hotter. Behind Schedule. Bonk. Really behind schedule. Pick up. Home in 14:40. Beer.
My ITBs now feel like violin bows. My knees hurt, my back hurts and my shoulders are tight. I get the feeling the next Sports Massage is going to hurt, don’t know if I can face up to the foam roller today, the contrast shower last night was amazing and the sooner I get on the recovery practices the better!

The Garmin only lasts for about 12 hours, so I was very happy to get 13 and a bit out of it... the track runs out just over in Alport, but it gives a pretty good impression of what went on.
Have a quick butchers at it here
and here is the flickr photostream from Dan