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


Resting, over-training and climbing: sometimes you just need a break

My training plan has included quite a few rest days. this is in part because I’m terrible at listening to my body and having a rest to let it recover. I didn’t feel great on Sunday after having my climbing session at the Climbing Works. Even though I did a quite easy circuit that didn’t really tax me, I was pretty shaky and very fatigued by the end. So, I decided to not climb on Monday (and missed the final Foundry Winter Bouldering League comp). Instead, I started to watch the Good Wife.

I made this sound more appealing by planning to climb on Tuesday evening, therefore still getting in 3 sessions this week. On Tuesday, I still felt pretty crappy. I didn’t climb. I haven’t run since last Thursday.

Stopping and actually listening to my body is really difficult. I get worried that I’m going to get weak, fat and unfit for Font. Clearly this is all nonsense, but it’s very easy to fall into that trap. In fact, there are loads of websites on how/when to take a rest week and the key signs that perhaps it needed quite badly! I think I’ve got some of my own signs as well:

  • I really crave refined carbohydrates (in the last two weeks, I’ve eaten more cake, bread, batter and pasta than I have done in the last 4 months. And felt guilt about it.)
  • I am so very tired
  • I don’t feel strong
  • My old injuries are starting to niggle

Surfing the web, these line up with what Runners World label as the 10 markers for when rest is necessary. Clearly, running is more endurance than climbing, but I think some of the markers are just as relevant:

1. Body Mass

2. Resting heart rate

3. Sleep

4. Hydration

5. Energy level

6. Mood state

7. Wellness

8. Pain

9. Performance

10. Oxygen saturation

Clearly, I can’t really test some of these (oxygen saturation/body mass), but I certainly have had trouble keeping my resting heart rate down, my hydration is shocking at the moment, I’m not particularly bouncing with energy and I have definitely been cranky! Furthermore, my last 2 runs (last week) have been pretty poor, and I didn’t have that great a climbing session on Sunday. In sum, I think I need a rest! I also probably need to eat more healthier too.

So, why does resting help? After scouring the internets, and from conversations that I’ve had with a number of different sources, here’s what I’ve found out:

  • Most dedicated athletes are compulsive – they hate taking a rest day.
  • It gives time for muscles to recover, rebuild and strengthen. By resting, the body can adapt to the stresses that bouldering or climbing makes on the body – which are very specific and often quite alien from the muscles original purpose.
  • It allows the body to replenish energy stores
  • repairs damaged tissue
  • replenishes fluid loss

Some ways to avoid over-training is by including ‘active’ recovery into training plans. I have tried to do this by piggybacking intensive sessions with lighter ones, or a different form of exercise. The benefit of active recovery is that it can reduce muscle lactate levels faster, it improves relaxation and assists in blood circulation which in turn speeds up muscle recovery. However, the body still needs longer periods of rest. These are just as important for strength and energy than actual training.

So, how should you take a rest/week off? Some suggestions include:

  • Take a week off – don’t go near a climbing gym. Try yoga or something else
  • Reduce training load
  • Aim to include a rest week every 6 weeks

I am less than half way through my rest week and I’m starting to worry that I’m getting fat, feeling ‘flubbly’ and generally a bit miserable. But these are all signs that I really quite need a rest week. If I kept running and training, as I have been I’d simply extend the length of recovery I’d need in order for my body to regain it’s energy. I have decided to try and be kinder to my body.

I am going to Northumberland on the weekend, and will start more active rest by limiting the length of time I’m out on the bike. As much as I love logging distance on Strava that would be the worst thing to do right now. Instead, I’ll listen to my body and cut the distance short. That way I’ll be able to jump back into training next week and continue to improve for Font!

Exploring the footpaths and bridleways around Crosspool

In between the horrendous weather that the UK is having, I managed to go for a run in sunny and not so windy weather. Once again, my Garmin decided obtain signal about a km into my run, but I suppose that was my warm up anyway.

I decided to explore some of the footpaths between Crookes and Crosspool, so I ran towards the Bole Hills and then looped back through some allotments. Because I was not feeling particularly great still, I aimed to run around Z1/Z2 and really level out on the inclines. I think I kept to that for the most part. I didn’t feel like I expended that much energy and my pace certainly suggests that I was taking it easy! My average heart rate was right in the middle of Z2 and I often was in Z1.

It is quite frustrating running so slowly, and feeling like my cardio fitness and running pace is slipping backwards, but I made the conscious decision to focus on climbing and try to maintain my running. I’m still completing 2 runs per week, and my distance has not decreased that much during a 1/2 hour run. I also think that I’m fighting a cold or virus because I’m feeling a bit drained.

On the plus side, I’m slowly putting together some shorter routes that are off-road almost straight from my house, which is great. As much as I enjoy street-running, I do miss off road. Now that I’ve found some footpaths and bridleways very close to me, I’ll actually be able to get off-road more easily and quickly!

Some stats:

  • Distance: 4 km
  • Time: 36:57
  • Pace 9:23/km
  • Elevation gain: 187 m


  • Distance: 97.9 km
  • Time 11:50:00
  • Elevation gain: 1876 m
  • Runs: 17

Zone 2/1 Run around Crosspool

I didn’t feel too great on Monday. I think I was starting to fight a bug or a virus, but still fancied going for a run. In hindsight, it probably was not the best idea in the world. I decided to take it very, very easy and stayed in Z1/Z2. It still felt pretty hard so instead of keeping to one of my circuits where I’d want to put in a good time, I decided to go for a bit of an explore.

After running through Crosspool, I turned off onto a footpath which I’d run past a number of times. I probably hadn’t got the best shoes on for running down muddy footpaths. It was a bit more of a slip and slide rather than a run and it certainly lowered my pace! After getting to the end of the footpath, I turned back up hill and started to head home. I didn’t feel that great by this point, so I lowered my heart rate down to Z1 for the remainder in the run.

Some stats:

  • Distance: 4.2 km
  • Time: 36:00
  • Elevation gain: 101 m
  • Pace: 8:56 min/km


  • Distance: 94 km
  • Time 11:13:00
  • Elevation gain: 1689 m
  • Runs: 16

Covering Steep Terrain at the Foundry

On Thursday I had a double training session. I went for a 30 min run and then had a short but sweet session on the training board at the Foundry because the Wave was being reset for F-BO 2014 and was off-limits.

My training aims were:

Zone 3/4 on Steep Terrain

Warm up: ‘wrong handed’ climbing and no hands climbing
Main session: Steep terrain (Z3/4) keep feet on wherever possible, explore foot position, hip position, and body rotation to keep feet on (over and above trying to top a problem)
Warm down: Easy problems, dynamic, missing holds.

 What I actually did was:

  • Warm up: traversing, and using the bottom of the lead climbs in the Furnace. Did cross through and used holds the ‘wrong way’.
  • Main session: Played on the 45⁰ board. Mainly focused on linking moves rather than getting to the top of the board.
  • Cool down: Did big moves and swung around on big holds in the traversing corridor.

I warmed up traversing around the Furnace and in the traversing corridor – there wasn’t really an opportunity to climb wrong handed as there weren’t the problems and holds. That said, having to warm up on the bottom of routes in the Furnace did mean that I was using holds the ‘wrong’ way.

A warm up problem on the training board.  Photo: CanadianKate

I was aware that I only had an hour to train, so I finished warming up on the steep board. There are some pretty big holds on either side of the board. These were the only problems that I actually topped! But that isn’t the real point of the session, so it didn’t bother me that much. As Diane keeps telling me (and I keep telling myself):

Remember that trying really hard on moves that I ultimately fail at/fall off on will make me stronger!

I tried 3 different problems, using features for feet rather than holds. This meant that I could only link 4 moves max before getting tired, or forgetting where I was going. I tried to use the centre of the board, but mainly played on the sides.

One of my problems on the training board. Photo: CanadianKate

I definitely felt that my core got a work out and better at thinking where to put my feet. Although, knowing the features of the board would really help! I also had to remind myself to keep resting between tries. This really helped and after 3-4 goes, I could link the holds that I had chosen. Next session, I might even make it to the top of the board!

I also went for a maintenance run during the day which meant staying in Zone 2 heart rate for the whole run. Unfortunately, my Garmin decided not to join the party and spent most of the run trying to find signal. I think the really crap weather probably didn’t help. Anyway, I felt really good and quite light on my legs other than the fact that I really needed to pee for most of the run. That is such an uncomfortable feeling and really put a dampener on the run. I ended up having to split my run into two separate recordings because Garmin finally got some signal after 20 minutes. I did 4.01 km in 29:46 min (give or take). For the last 10 minutes which Garmin actually tracked, I had a pace of 6:44 min/km. Pretty pleased with that!

By the end of the day I was pretty damn tired, but really pleased with my training. I felt like I had balanced the strength/steep session to keep some in the tank for Friday’s training session, but still had something to go for a run as well. I’m so excited for Font!

Some stats:

  • Distance: 4.01 km
  • Time: 00:29:56
  • Elevation gain: ?
  • Pace: 6:44 (roughly)

Year to date:

  • Distance: 89.8 km
  • Time: 10:37:00
  • Elevation gain: 1588 m
  • Runs: 16

Janathon Day 31 – my 5km race, which wasn’t that racy

I’ve been feeling very tired in the last week or so. It’s partly been insomnia related and partly because I may have been doing too much – trying to follow both a 10 km training program and also pulling hard, quite often on the same day is exhausting. So, I’ve pulled back and had a proper rest in the final week of January. This meant that I felt fairly fresh when I got out of bed on Friday to go for the last ‘real’ run until after I get back from Font.

I decided to follow a run that I did right back at the beginning of January and compare my timings. It’s not a direct comparison, because I didn’t use a heart rate monitor when I first started running after my physio said that I could start back again.

Here’s my stats for the first time I tried the same(ish) route back at the end of 2013.

  • Distance: 5.01
  • Time: 32:01
  • Pace: 6:23 min/km
  • Heart rate: mainly Z3, high-end

I had some errands to do as well, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and started with the same route as my original 5.1 km but then added a little bit more so I could do my errands. This involved a horribly steep hill (Conduit Road for anyone who reads this from Sheffield) and that really didn’t help maintain my heart rate in Zone 3. Also, I broke my phone by dropping it in coffee and I couldn’t rely on my Spotify playlist and had to use my iPod which has good music, but not necessarily at the correct tempo.

I’m not entirely sure that I can see a difference or improvement in my running or cardio fitness. I ran my 5.7 km ‘race’ in 35:25 minutes, with an average pace of 6:13 min/km. This is faster than back in December, but I would have liked to see more improvement. However, my HR was much lower in general – in the lower end of Z3. I think my average would have been much lower if I didn’t have the usual issue of running in the cold – my HR monitor kept giving anomalous readings because I was cold so there was a poor contact. According to it, I jumped from 131 bpm to 178 bpm in less than a minute. Both when I was running at an easy pace. I also ran a hillier course, too.

So, here are the stats of my final Janathon run:

My 5km ‘race’

  • Distance: 5.7 km
  • Time: 35:25
  • Pace: 6:13 min/km
  • Elevation gain 97 m

My running errands/warm down run:

  • Distance: 0.8 km
  • Time: 7:48
  • Pace: 9:56 min/km
  • Elevation gain: 51 m

I have really enjoyed Janathon. It’s made me get out and actually do something everyday and establish a routine rather than the more ad hoc training that I usually do. While there wasn’t that much improvement between my final 5 km run in 2013 and the 5 km run at the end of January, I have improved my pace in Z3, and can maintain a lower heart rate as well. However, what this month has really taught me is that doing less is more. Running in Z2 and occasional Z2/Z4 intervals and hill reps are more effective than going out for ‘long’ runs at max heart rate. I didn’t feel as fatigued after each run and could happily run 2 days in a row. In terms of training for a race, I could definitely maintain this approach. I also managed to log a significant distance (for me):

My running stats for January:

  • Distance 85.7 km
  • Time 10h 7m
  • Elev Gain 1,588 m
  • Runs 15

This means that I have run on at least 1/2 of the days in January and could have run to Hathersage via Buxton and Bakewell (86.7 km) caught the train home:

In terms of trying to combine climbing and running training, it didn’t work so well. I found I was still quite fatigued when I was climbing – probably because I was trying to do two very different types of activities – often on the same day. Towards the end of January, my energy levels really dipped and I had to take the hard decision of pausing my 10 km race training in order to focus on bouldering. I’d accidentally timed my race 3 days before going to Font, and I wouldn’t be able to give my full effort to both at the same time. That said, I am going to continue to run, and try to fit at least 1 ‘maintenance’ run in per week, but climbing is my main focus between now and March. 

So, my aim for the next 2 months is to get fit for Font. I’ve written a training plan which I’ve uploaded under ‘Training Plans’ and thus far, I’ve stuck to it. Although, it is only the 2nd day!

Janathon Day 28 – Rest Day

And you know what that means?


Photo via @emergencypuppy

(or in this case: kitten)

…and maybe some puppies too:

Photo via @emergencypuppy