Sunday, 27 February 2011

Hanging out with some Olympians

Last week was a good week of training considering I was still suffering a bit from a sore ankle. I did most of my running in a pair of Inov-8 288 "walking" boots - they gave plenty of support. I did a couple of good hilly trail runs (a 6 miler and a 12 miler), a 13 mile run on tarmac (not much fun), a few easy intervals and some cross training (40 minutes on the rowing machine). Overall I ran about 50 miles in the week, but didn't feel my right leg was strong enough for a really long run.

The highlight of the week sports wise was being part of the team that won the Perth Business Challenge Curling Competition. The competition was set-up for people who had never curled before to try the sport for the first time, though each team was allowed a maximum of two experienced curlers. I was one of the three non-curlers on our team, and our ringer and team captain (skip) was Pete, who was part of the British mens' curling team at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 - his sister, Katie, who represented Britain at Nagano in 1998, is one of my workmates. It was good fun trying a new sport, and I could definitely see the attraction as I got quite a buzz when I played a half decent shot, so I'll add it to the list of things to take up when I'm an old man - until then getting out and about in the hills is more my bag.

Speaking of which, I was out for a 30 mile run today - a good route around and about Carron Valley. I felt pretty good at the end of it - much better than a did on my long run a month ago. I might do a post later in the week about the route and showing a few photos - so that is something for you to look forward to or avoid. Until then, here is a photo of Carleatheran and a snow covered Ben Lomond.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

An easy recovery week... well, easy-ish...

After twisting my ankle a week last Sunday, I figured I should take it easy last week and this week to let it recover. But, it felt a lot better after a few days so last Wednesday I tried it out for a few miles and it seemed okay, so did a few miles along a beach on Friday, then since the weekend normal running business has pretty much resumed. I still have a slight swelling on the front of my ankle, and a nice go-faster purple stripe along the outside of my foot - both perhaps suggesting that it's not quite better yet - so I'm keeping it well supported when I'm running and am not doing anything too long. Luckily, I got a pair of these for Christmas:

I got them as walking boots primarily, but liked the fact that I could run in them. They were £60 from Northern Runner. They are pretty much MudRocs with ankle support, and I've been wearing these to run in since doing my ankle. I get more funny looks than usual if I wear them with shorts, but that's okay. They are fine for running - they weigh less than a typical pair of trainers, have got excellent grips and are very flexible and responsive. I'm thinking that I might wear them for the WHW section between Kingshouse and Kinlochleven since I've heard it is quite rocky and hard work on tired legs and feet (if I get that far).

So I did about 30 miles last week (16 were on the run I hurt myself on, the rest were a few easy runs on soft ground). I've started doing some ankle strengthening exercises - brushing my teeth with my eyes closed standing on one leg (right leg in the morning, left leg in the evening), and feel likeI'm running quite well this week. I guess I'll need to be careful when I stop wearing the boots since I expect it will take a month or so for my ankle to get back to full strength.

Monday, 14 February 2011


Seems I've joined the Central Scotland injured ultra-runners club - I went out for a long slow run up Dumyat last night (since it was dry for a change) and sprained my ankle as I came back down off the hill into Bridge of Allan. Unless the R in RICE stands for "run 6 miles home along roads", I didn't really follow the sensible advice for how to treat such an injury. Today my ankle is bruised and swollen, though not as sore as it has been when I have done it in the past. I was quite pleased that I could keep going at 10 minute mile pace with a rapidly swelling ankle over the last few miles of a sixteen mile run. I'd been taking it really easy on the run, trying to move as efficiently as possible, and it was all going very well until I felt the nauseating wrench in my foot in the Minewoods. Oh well, looks like I have a couple of very easy weeks ahead of me.

It was perhaps a bit of karma catching up with me since my 18 month old son Jack dropped a saucepan lid on his toe earlier in the day on my watch, and now has as black a toe nail as I have ever seen. Hopefully social services aren't reading this.

Yesterday we took the kids to Amazonia at Strathclyde Country Park. I was enormously proud of my 5-year old daughter as she was first in of the queue with her hands held out when the guide asked if anyone wanted to hold a tarantula. At the same time, a few Glaswegian hard cases cowared at the back of the room, not wanting to get too close to the hairy arachnid. Bunch of woosses.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Compression socks versus ski socks

My training has been going well over the past two weeks. After my 33 mile trig point loop, I took it pretty easy for the rest of the week. I did a couple of 6 mile lunchtime runs on Kinnoul Hill in Perth and some 30 secs quick, 30 secs slow type intervals (as much fun as intervals get - I think it used to be called "zapping"), to give a weekly total of about 50 miles. This week I've done some intervals (hilly fartlek), a couple of long runs on consecutive days, and a nice figure of eight route on Sauchie Craigs with lots of sharp little climbs. For my two long runs I ended up doing the same route twice, leaving the house at 5am (part of the fun of trying to fit in long runs without upsetting the other 4 members of the family) for a 12 mile route round North Third Reservoir and Sauchie Craigs. On Thursday morning I did the route and it was the first time I had run in the North Third woods with a headtorch on - a bit of an enlightening experience as I was much more focused on my immediate surroundings rather than jogging along gazing at the view. I'm a bit of a nature geek, and was more chuffed than I perhaps should have been to be following badger tracks in the snow for part of the route. I saw two owls (a barn owl and a tawny owl) really close up, and put up a flock of 50 geese as I rounded a bend on the lochside path. Everyone gets their kicks from running in different ways - I get mine by watching for wildlife and looking at trees.

North Third Reservoir and Sauchie Craigs

So I've run about 55 miles this week, and it's all felt quite comfortable and has been very enjoyable. And I now have a new favourite piece of running kit, which gets me on to the subject of this post. Just over two years I was working three days a week in London, and spent most evenings running about exploring the city. All the miles on tarmac played havoc with my lower legs, and I ended up with very sore calves. That Christmas I got some Skins compression stockings, which undoubtedly helped alleviate the tightness. Since then I've made more of an effort to run off road as much as possible, and in the last year I haven't worn the Skins very often. Over the last few weeks I've done more mileage than usual, and my calves started to hurt again. I bought a pair of ski socks in Decathlon recently for 1p (who wouldn't) and decided to try running in them and now I am a convert. So here is my not very objective comparison of compression socks and ski socks:

Performance benefits - studies seem to indicate that compression socks delay the onset of muscle soreness and reduce the amount of muscle damage done by running, although there are mixed findings on whether or not wearing compression socks at the time actually improves performance. I wouldn't be suprised if many of the claims made by brands such as Skins are not entirely supported by independent, robust, scientific studies, but there is undoubtedly some benefit to wearing compression socks when running long distances. The scientific community is largely silent on the benefits of wearing ski socks while running. Anecdotal evidence (i.e. me) suggests that wearing ski socks keeps your feet and calves nice and warm thereby improvin blood flow in the area and keeping things from getting to sore. Compression socks 6, ski socks 3.

Value for money - my Skins compression stockings cost just over 20 quid, and they don't even cover my toes. I've never spent more than £3 on a pair of ski socks and they do cover my toes. Compression socks 4, ski socks 9.

Ease of use - Skins compression socks have to be hand washed and they fall down a lot and give me blisters. Ski socks can be bunged in your mixed load and tend not to fall down. Compression socks 5, ski socks 7.

Other benefits - Skins compression socks look pretty much as cool as knee length socks can and make you look a bit serious, whereas ski socks pulled right up will always look nerdy. But, ski socks keep your feet nice and warm even when you are running through ankle deep, cold, wet mud. Compression socks 6, ski socks 4.

So in total compression socks score 21, and ski socks score 23. I think compression socks probably do have a physiological effect, but I'm not convinced that you can't get the same effect from wearing a pair of much cheaper ski socks - certainly when it comes to post-run recovery. If you get sore calves or achilles when running, I think it would be worth trying a pair of ski socks, if not for running in then for wearing after your run (you can get away with it provided you're not wearing shorts).

Next week, its Ibuprofen versus Emu Oil.