Running and Cycling in Lesbury, Northumberland

I have been meaning to go to Northumberland for a very long time. It has castles, beaches, really good bouldering and quiet roads; so when the opportunity arose to go for a long weekend I jumped on it. Unfortunately this trip didn’t include bouldering, but it did include running and cycling around Lesbury – and it was such a good weekend!

We arrived on the Friday and got settled into the house. Unlike earlier trips with this group, we planned the run on the Saturday morning and then went to bed fairly early. Clearly we’re all getting older.

Saturday dawned bright and clear. I was in a dither of whether to go for a run with the rest of the group, or go for a ride with the OH. The weather was better for riding on the Saturday, but as I was still trying to rest ‘actively’, I figured I would be able to do that easier while running than by cycling. So, off I ran.

Once again my Garmin took ages to get going. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to be able to find satellite information for the first 10 minutes of the run. This meant that I ‘lost’ about 2 km of the run. I’m having a fair number of problems with Garmin at the moment – but that is another blog post.

The day was so beautiful. It was quite windy – and the wind was cold, but considering that I haven’t really run in the sun for a long time I wasn’t complaining. We ran from the rented cottage through the village of Lesbury and then out onto the flood meadows by a small river. It was quite muddy here, but that’s to be expected considering the amount of rain recently. The river was very pretty – with proper loops and a meandering course. After running along it for about ½ km, we then climbed up a hill and ran along the road through Alnmouth village to the beach.

Running along the river. And getting a bit lost. Photo: CanadianKate

The tide was out and the sands were glorious. It was one of those very bright days, and because of the wind, the sand was being blown into beautiful patterns over the top of the beach. We ran along it for a while before heading back inland to the cottage through Alnmouth golf course.

Alnmouth Beach. Photo: CanadianKate

I managed to keep my heart rate in Z2 and felt fine for much of the run. Luckily my friend was also happy to run at such a slow pace as well and we had a catch up while the boys scampered in front. By the time we got home, I had logged the longest distance since mid January and I felt fine. However, I’m not entirely sure how ‘restful’ it was!

Alnmouth Beach. Photo: Jerry Ibberson

Some stats:

  • Distance: 8.8 km
  • Time: 1:07:07
  • Elevation gain: 111 m
  • Pace: 7:36 km

Year to date:

 

  • Distance: 104.7 km
  • Time: 12:42:00
  • Elevation gain: 2008 m
  • Runs: 18

Back on the bike in the Peak District

I don’t think I have been on my road bike since October (10 October to be precise); however I climbed back in the saddle on Saturday to go for a post Christmas wobble around the Peak District. Now, I am not at peak fitness right now, and most of my friends go out and do amazing things like fell races, endurance races and are generally super fit. To say that I was slightly apprehensive of how crap I was going to be was an understatement.

It was also quite cold out. The roads still had a coating of frost on them, and because of the rains that we have had, there was a lot of detritus on some bends and at the bottom of hills. Did I say that it was cold? I think I had 2 base layers on, a gilet and a windproof on my top half and bibshorts plus windproof leggings and overshoes on my bottom half. Before I got to the top of the first hill I was cold.

I took it quite steady when we first set off. I hadn’t been on a bike for a long time, the roads were pretty greasy and slippy still and I was nervous. I have been on two wheels a lot recently, but there is a difference between motorised two wheels and the really skinny tires of a road bike! After the first descent, I felt much better, and like I could predict where the bike was going to go. It stopped feeling quite so wobbly and scary.

However, my legs were taking a while to warm up and they really didn’t appreciate the first couple of hills – especially the one up towards Abney. By that point we were out of the valley and going straight into a head wind. I honestly thought I was going to have to get off and push. My knee (which I had tweaked doing a stupid rockover in the Climbing Works on Friday), started to resent the force going through it and began to hurt. I knew how long the hill was, so I took it easy and tried to keep my heartrate low (to very little effect).

Eventually we got to the top of Abney and started to coast down the hill into Foolow and onwards to Eyam. The final hill of the day was Frogatt and as we started up the hill, I watched my friends disappear up around the corner. I kept my heart rate under 175 for most of it and felt my legs start to work.

In conclusion: I am not bike fit. Running and cycling use different muscles and I am not surprised that I was slow – or that my friends were so much faster. They have been out on bikes much more than me and have a much higher baseline of fitness. If I want to keep up with them I’d have to try and integrate more cardio into my training and I’m not sure that I have the time.

Some stats:

  • Total distance – 31.5 km
  • Average speed – 19.1 km/h
  • Max speed – 49.7 km/h
  • Average power – 99 w
  • Average HR – 158
  • Cadence – 78 RPM
  • Average temp – 5 C (yeah – it was cold!)

 

 

A re-acquaintance with the bike

Wow. Monday’s ride was hard! In fact, it was the first ride where I honestly wondered if I would make it all the way around. It didn’t really get any better and now I ache like crazy.

I decided to do a ‘short’ route, so took one bottle of water and a couple of snacks. I started slow and continued that way throughout the ride. This was not about Strava, not about beating any of my PBs or anyone else’s times. It was about me trying to get back on the bike and enjoy being out in the Peak District.

However, I have never felt time move so slowly as I climbed up the A57. I intentionally kept my heart rate below 165 for most of it, and this meant staying in granny gear and sticking to around 12 km/h. I got so bored, and then my knee started to hurt. My lungs and heart felt fine, but my legs were in a whole world of pain. Particularly my right leg and think that this is still the injury I got climbing before our trip to Italy. I tried to ignore it and keep going. The hill was going to have to end and then there was a lovely descent to look forward to.

On the next climb, my lungs decided to join the party and my heart rate hit 181 with very little effort on my part. Simply the gradient of the hill and my general condition made it terrible. I sat back and took my time (again) and tried to enjoy the scenery. The colours of the Peak District are beautiful right now, and the air has that autumnal tang to it (when not masked by diesel/fuel smoke). Eventually, that hill also ended and there was a short rest. My back was so painful by this point, I had to stop for a couple of minutes and get off the bike to stretch it out.

Refreshed, I started out again, and didn’t stop until I got home again. I was beyond tired and my legs were having a good grump on anything remotely hill-like. By the time I got home, I was destroyed.

Saying that, when I did upload my ride to Strava, I had actually set my 2nd best time on a lot of segments. Considering that I hadn’t intended to go out and smash segments, and that I intentionally kept my HR low, this suggests that I did put more effort in than intended. My legs and general brokenness attest to this!

However, as much as I unintentionally suffered my way around the ride, winter is closing in, and there won’t be that many more opportunities to go out in the dry. Instead of focusing on my poor fitness and general condition, I want to end this post with an image of the Peak District bathed in autumnal sunshine. The heather slowly turning colour and dying back. The occasional splashes of green against muted browns, purples, and greys of heather, grass and stone. The smell of the air – a mix of damp, rotting grass and nature combined with the crisp and cool scent of the wind. Finally, the occasional taste of wood and coal smoke in the air from people who have already got their fires on. Yeah, cycling today was actually pretty damn good!

Some stats:

  • Total distance: 40.6 km
  • Average speed: 21.3 km/h
  • Max speed: 56.5 km/h
  • Average power: 103 w
  • Average HR: 161
  • Cadence: 87 RPM

11/09/2013 ooh, shiny things: a blogtember challenge

Blogtember Challenge: Share links to your favorite online shops, preferably with a few photos of your favorite items in each shop.

I’m not particularly consumerist, so I don’t really have a ‘favourite’ online shop. That said, I do like looking at running, cycling and climbing gear. So here are some links to some online shops that cater for women who like the outdoors:

Gear for Girls

They sell running, climbing and general outdoors clothing and kit.

I really like the Patagonia bra that they’re selling at the moment. Underwear seems to be something that I resent having to buy, and as a result, I never seem to have any!

Patagonia Active Bra. Source: gearforgirls.co.uk

Minx-girl

I love looking at the clothing on Minx girl. Some of it is so cute! The polka dot jersey jumped out at me recently – it’s definitely one that would make me visible on the road!

Twin Six Queen of the Mountain Jersey. Source: Minx-girl.com

Ana Nichoola

Ana Nichoola’s stuff is amazing. I’ve got her sun cat jersey which is one of the best pieces of kit that I’ve owned. It’s super comfortable, looks great and really well designed. I would quite happily buy the whole of the shop, but will limit myself to three (maybe) four items. The dress looks super comfy and really pretty. I’m not sure how it would look on me, but the images of it on other people make it look really cute.

Blue Cafe Jersey Dress. Source: AnaNichoola.co.uk

I absolutely adore the sun cat shorts. I really would love another set of bib shorts, but I refuse to buy any that don’t acknowledge women’s anatomy and the fact that we also pee, and if on a ride, will pee by the side of the road. I hate having to strip in order to answer a call of nature. With that in mind, these shorts have a high enough waist that means I shouldn’t get any cold sports and they shouldn’t ride down.

White sun can shorts. Source: AnaNicholla.co.uk

I’m currently on my second pair of gloves this summer – and I’ve not really done any mileage at all. These gloves look really hard wearing and well designed. The arm warmers are mainly frivolous – like the dress – as I already own a pair, and you can’t really wear more than one pair at a time. However, they would match my jersey top, and the summer is drawing in…

White Kestral Gloves. Source: AnaNichoola.co.uk

Her Pleasure Arm Warmers (Grey). Source: AnaNichoola.co.uk

When I was redecorating the house, I used to spend hours looking at different paint colours. I really wanted to keep to the heritage of the house, even though it’s only a small terraced property. As a result, I scoured loads of different house related websites.

I loved the inspiration sets by Dulux heritage. The colours are fantastic on the walls and I don’t think I will ever try any other type of paint. We (well I) chose warm pearl for our bedroom and it’s such lovely colour. Yes, it’s pink, but it also changes depending on the light. We haven’t gone for the ‘romantic’ style but have used neutral colours to make a calm room. The bed, wardrobe and doors are all wood and the carpet is a neutral beige. However, shapes and wood used are all those that would have been used in the early 20th century. In sum, its pink, but not a girly pink.

Romantic bedroom with Warm Pearl

Bedroom with Warm Pearl. Source: Dulux Heritage

So there you have it. I love Ana Nichoola right now. Been though it’s nearly winter, I would quite like some shorts and I’m starting to like pink.

6/09/2013 Fighting fear: blogtember challenge

Friday, September 6: A story about a time you were very afraid.

The funny thing about fear is that once the event has happened, its really difficult to remember it – or at least that is what happened with me. I choose sports that are scary. Climbing, mountain-biking, road cycling (on British roads) are all scary in their own way. In this post, I’m going to talk about my experience of trying to climb again after decking out (meaning falling off, in climbing parlance).

I started lead climbing quite soon after beginning climbing. My university club often took trips away and taught newbies the basics of rope work. However, my parents flipped out at this and paid for me to go to the National Mountain Centre in Wales for a week-long lead climbing course as a birthday present. It was an amazing week. For one thing, it didn’t rain the whole time I was there (rare in Wales) and I learnt so much. However, I also learnt just enough to make stupid mistakes.

A friend I met on the course suggested that we go to the Peak District and put what we learnt into practice. After leading a couple of Severes and Diffs, I decided that I could *totally do a VS and chose to do Paradise Wall (now downgraded to HS 4b from VS 4c), just above Stanage Plantation. I got started and about 20ft up, I was seating a nut in a crack, and it came out in my hand after a good tug. I still remember falling looking at it and then hitting the ground.

Luckily I didn’t do that much damage. I badly sprained my ankle and cracked a metatarsal in my foot. I had crutches for a while and hobbled for the summer. The worst part was sleeping in a tent the night after I fell. My ankle throbbed, I was bruised and generally not in a good way. And it’s very dull watching others go off to climb and being stuck in a campsite miles from anywhere. Telling my parents wasn’t fun either.

 However, in my head was a different story. I was always fighting the fear when leading, but up until my fall it was manageable. Afterwards, I started leading almost as soon as I could. It was not fun, but I thought I should push through the fear and get used to falling. I could lead indoors and after moving to Sheffield, I began to lead outside again. I started on Little Tremadog in Wales, and did some stuff on Burbage and Bamford. The fear was still there, and I’ve never really enjoyed trad again. I just did it because that’s what being a climber was. As being a climber was something that I had tied very much to my identity in my final year of university, not climbing trad was unthinkable.

Lead climbing became a fight between my fear of falling and my frustration that I was scared. I had a number of indoor sessions hanging at the end of a rope and being shouted to man up and just do it. I went to Orpierre and got up loads of different  sport route. I felt pleased, and scared.

In the end, I focused on bouldering and stopped leading. Occasionally I’ll try again to push myself but I don’t enjoy it. At the moment I have the urge to try again, but I think lead climbing is a bit like fish & chips for me. I see everyone loving them, I want to love them, but I take a couple of bites and remember that I find it greasy and unpleasant.

05/09/2013 Top tip for MTB’ing: Flow like water A blogtember challenge

*I accidentally posted this a day early as I got carried away by blogtember. Sorry guys*

Blogtember Challenge: Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered

I think the most useful advice that has stayed in my mind is to do with cycling. This may be because I’m often in a state of total fear, so anything that anyone ever says to me is either immediately forgotten or retained for ever more.

Look where you want to go, not what you want to hit

This is really obvious. If you lead with your head, your body (and bike) will follow. However, it often seems totally counterintuitive – you want to see what you’re about to hit! Mike at Gone Mountain-biking drilled this one into me when I had some lessons with him. He was so patient and understanding of my fear and general ineptitude!

Flow like water

This one I really struggle with. If going down something steep, technical, or scary, relax and flow like water. My OH often shouts it at me when behind me. It really works – but again – is often very hard to do!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m definitely looking where I want to go. Photo: AC

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Trying to ‘flow like water’. Photo: AC

04/09/2013 An imaginary three months break: a blogtember challenge

Today’s Blogtember  post: If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do? (bonus points for fun photos from Pinterest, but don’t forget to cite the source!)

Wow. I’m so not sure what I’d do if I could take three months off. Me, and the OH had an idea of cycling the West coast of the USA to Vancouver Island when I finished the PhD. However, I’d really like to explore Europe a bit more. It’s closer; we wouldn’t have to fly and as much as I like BC, I’m not such a big fan of california. Of course, the OH would also have to take the time off! As this is completely, make-believe, I have decided that we can cover all of these places and have magical powers that will transport bikes and gear from place to place.

So, the plan would be to start in the south and meander north. That way, we would stay with the good weather. I’ve always been curious about Armenia and the States between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Right now, they may not be the safest of places, but as this is imaginary, I’m going to say they are.

Azerbaijan

Taken by Sevda Safarova on 6 September 2006.

Armenia - Chocolate Albanian church ruians by Orta Zyzit village. Source: Wikitravel

We would start in Baku, Azerbaijan and cycle across the country to Armenia. From Baku, we would travel to Shamakhi, which is an ancient city that started in the 5th Century BC. There seems loads to do around there, including exploring the Gulistan Fortress. From Shamkhi, we would travel westwards to Qäbälä. Turning north, we would go to Şäki, and then hopefully find a boat that would take us across to Ganja. From there, we would travel through to Armenia. Hopefully by then our legs would have started to work properly as Armenia is a very hilly/mountainous country!

Taken by MartinTheExplorer in 2011

Gulistan Fortress. Source: Wikitravel

File:Sheki street.jpg

Sheki street view. Source: Wikitravel

Armenia

Armenia sounds amazing. I’m not particularly religious, nor do I really like sight-seeing, but I get the impression that simply being in Armenia is a totally historical and cultural adventure. Armenia was the first ‘officially’ Christian country and there are many monastries to attest to this fact. However, its architencure and scenery that I find interesting – and Armenia has that in buckets. Apparently, it also has climbing. Although, it appears to be with ropes and I’m not so fond of that.

http://www.tourist-destinations.com/2013/03/armenia-travel-guide-and-travel-info.html

Armenia. Source: Tourist-destinations.com

Archivo:Armenia Karmravor .jpg

Armenian Church. Source: Wikimedia; Konrad Kuhn

Symphony of Stones-Khosrov Reserve

Symphony of Stones-Khosrov Reserve. Source: Noahs Travel

Cycling in Armenia. Source: Natoura

Turkey

I think I’d treat Turkey as a rest. We’d travel through and explore it, but either hire a car, or take some other form of transport to get to the Mediterranean side and get a ferry up to Greece. On the way, I’d like to explore the eastern Anatolian regions, as we would be coming from Armenia. I think we’d stop in Van, and go to Ani and Nemrut Dagi mountain to look at the statues on the top before heading into central Anatolia. Here, I’d like to see Cappadocia, which looks really cool! I would also expect there to be some climbing too. Urfa is an old/ancient city in the southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey. It looks beautiful and Middle Eastern in architecture. We’d then travel to Pamukkale which has amazing thermal spas, stay there for a couple of days and then make a move to Greece and back into Europe.

Cappadocia Houses. Source: Wikitravel

File:Pamukkale.jpg

Pamukkale thermal baths. Source: Wikitravel

Urfa. Source: gmdergi.com

Greece

I’ve never been to Greece. Everyone says that I should go. I would love to explore the islands and hop between them on a boat. I’ve been so interested in the history of the place that exploring would be one long learning experience. The food is some of the best that I’ve ever had too. I would leave the itenerary completely open and just see where the wind takes us. We would be back on the bikes again, and would probably try to keep to the south of the country so that we could then take the ferry across to Brindisi. So, these are some pictures of things that I would like to explore.

Pinned Image

Navagio Bay, Zakynthos, Greece. Source: Classic Adventures via Mike Gerrard

Matala, Crete Greece

Matala, Crete Greece. Source: Classic Adventures via Carrie & Mike Groff

Italy

I’ve been to Italy many times. My brother lives there, and I’ve gone at least once a year for the last couple of years. I think that exploring it by bike would give a totally different perspective. As Italy is pretty cycling mad, I hope I would survive the experience. Also, the food is pretty damn awesome. My sister-in-law comes from Italy, and I love her region of Puglia. The food, the people, the wine are all fantastic. Not so much the roads, but I recall seeing many cyclists so hopefully I wouldn’t die! I’d like to explore more to the south, as I’ve never been. The scenery is beautiful and I would love to go back. The coastal roads are so beautiful, and I’ve explored some of them but I’d like to explore more. I’d like to finish a day in Santa Cesarea Terme.

Piedmont, Italy.  Source: A Luxury Travel Blog

Cycling in Puglia

Cycling in Puglia. Source: A Luxury Travel Blog

Santa Cesarea Terme by Fabrizio Arati, via 500px

Santa Cesarea Terme. Source: Fabrizio Arati

I think by the time that we arrived in Italy and explored the southern part of it, there would be no time to do anything else! We’d probably have to find our way to Rome and make our way back home. It would be an amazing trip though. And of course, we’d somehow manage to bring climbing stuff with us as well.