Cycling from Alnwick to Shilbottle, Northumberland

I am getting so far behind in my blog posts! I apologise – but my PhD is somewhat more important!

So, here’s a blog post about my trip to Northumberland (21-23 February). After running on the Saturday, I went for a ride on the Sunday. I definitely chose the wrong day to ride – it was stupidly windy, not very warm and a bit dreary. I felt shocking!

I lagged out far, far, far behind my OH and the other friends. It made me miserable because I was trying to keep my heart rate down to a sensible level (i.e. Zone 2) as I was ‘actively’ resting. At one point I was lagging behind by about 1/2 km. It felt like such a ridiculous effort to keep myself in that Zone.

That, in addition to the very difficult gusts of wind, made the whole thing not particularly fun. Perhaps the ‘best’ moment of the ride was when I was heading down hill to a dip and a kink in the road and the whole of the bike was picked up and set aside. I whimpered lots at that point and began to really hate the whole experience.

Luckily we were heading back to the cottage by that point. We started to get the wind behind us rather than to the side and that made the ride back much easier. I also discovered that my brake callipers had been adjusted by the wind which meant that I effectively had the brake on the whole time.

We got home about 10 minutes into the Olympic hockey final. I had a stretch, quick shower and settled down to watch Canada trounce the opponent to win the gold once again.

Some stats:

  • Distance: 15.12 km
  • Elevation gain: 261 m
  • Time: 54:21
  • Speed: 10:4 minutes/h

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

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 23: Recovery run in the rain

Thursday didn’t start very well. I was wide awake at 1:30 am. After moving upstairs so the OH would still get a good night’s sleep, I gave up for a while and read my book. Everytime I tried to close my eyes and settle down, my heart would start race and a cyclical series of thoughts would race through my head. Eventually I fell asleep, although I’m not sure what time it was.

When my alarm went off at 7:30 am, I really, really didn’t want to get up. So I didn’t. I had another 30 minutes in bed and then hauled myself upright. I knew that if I didn’t go for a run before breakfast, I probably wouldn’t have time later in the day (or energy).  One issue with working from home is that it is so easy to just stay indoors like a hermit for the whole day, especially if I’ve had trouble sleeping the night before. So I pulled on my running stuff, gathered up my various bits and bobs and stumbled out the door. Straight into a horrible, howling rainy morning. Fun.

Thursday’s training session was another recovery run. It was wet, and quite cold and I wasn’t in the best frame of mind. My Garmin started to play up as well, so I warmed up slowly as I had to reset the thing a couple of times. I probably lost 1/2 km off the length of my run. Luckily, I was warm enough that it didn’t matter I was stopping and starting towards the beginning.

That said, I ran fairly steadily. I seemed to keep my heart rate in Z2, apart from 2 glitches and my legs felt pretty good. I started to get a small ache (really small – almost not even there) in my right knee, so I backed off the pace a bit and concentrated on being both ‘floppy’ and quiet on my feet. That seemed to help, but in doing so, my HR shot up above L2. It’s really hard focusing on two different things at once, when it really shouldn’t be!

I was very strict with myself, and limited the run to 30 minutes. Because I’m keen to start to train for my Font trip in March, I don’t want to burn myself out. So, limiting the amount of time that I am out running and being strict with keeping to the sessions is a good way of doing that.

A rather rainy run. Photo: CanadianKate

I took this photo over the Rivelin Valley. It definitely was wet and windy out there!

Some stats:

  • Distance – 4.1 km
  • Time – 30:48
  • Pace – 7:34 min/km
  • Elevation gain – 80 m


  • Distance – 75.2 km
  • Time  – 08:52:00
  • Elevation gain 1353 m
  • Runs – 12

Janathon Day 20 – yet more intervals…but faster ones this time

As most of my friends know, I really hate early mornings and I really, really hate doing exercise first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, now that I’ve started back at work, the only time that I have to do exercise is in the morning. This meant that I dragged myself out of bed and straight into running tights and shoes on Monday morning. Luckily the weather cooperated and it was a glorious sunny and crisp day. My goal for the day was:

Warm up, 15 minutes. Run, Z4, 2 minutes. Run/Shuffle Z2, 2 minutes. Repeat 3 times. Cool down, 15 minutes.  Stretch

It was cold and crisp when I stumbled out the door. I was not psyched for running and I think I’m hitting one of the many stumbling blocks that will dot the 12 week training path. I digress. It was cold and crisp – well actually freezing when I left the house. I started the slow warm up with gloves and ear warmers on. The pavement was frosty and a week bit slippy. This worried me because I was supposed to be hitting Z4, which would involve me running more than a shuffle pace. I decided to stick to the sunny, relatively flat roads to try and limit the potential for landing on my ass.

Originally I didn’t intend to stick to the 15 minute warm-up, but 10 minutes hit and I still didn’t feel ready to go for a lung busting sprint. I also learnt that coffee really does mess my heart rate around. I could easily keep in Z2 warming up and in recovery during this run. Clearly, I need to train before coffee. That means doing exercise early. Hmmm

After my 15 minutes warm-up, I still wasn’t keen on the idea of pushing my heart rate but went for it. It was so nice to run faster than snails pace – at least for the first 50 seconds. I managed to get my heart rate into Z4 relatively easily and it did hurt a bit to keep it there. I was happy to slow back down to Z2 for the 2 minute shuffle. After 2 reps of this, I started to run out of road. I had to take a diversion and ended up running down a hill and doubling back on myself.

I got some fairly odd looks by sprinting/shuffling, but I felt so good by the time I finished. I did cheat on the warm-down though. I only did 10 minutes.

Some stats:

  • Distance – 5.01 km
  • Time – 30:18
  • Elevation gain – 157 m
  • Pace – 6:03 min/km


  • Distance – 71.1 km
  • Time – 8:21:00
  • Elevation gain – 1272 m
  • Runs – 11

Janathon Day 18 – ‘Recovery’ Run

Saturday was meant to be a recovery run. My training plan told me to:

• Run easy, Z2, 25 minutes. • Cool down, 5-10 minutes. • Stretch. [source]

What I actually ended up doing was:

• Run not-so-easy, Z1-5 and back again, 15 minutes. Get annoyed. Take HR monitor off and readjust. Get cold. Run Z2 45 minutes, mainly up a big ass hill. Cool down, 5-10 minutes. • Stretch.

I’m not sure how much ‘recovery’ I did in my run! I really wanted to compare my current times (albeit in recovery mode) on a 5k course that I have set up on Garmin. However, because my HR monitor decided to stop working properly, I had to stop and fix it. It was very irritating because I felt really good and light on my feet. On the other hand, I have found a fantastic hill near me. It’s long, of a sufficient gradient and seems fairly quiet. It also has lovely houses to look at and decide which ones I would, or wouldn’t buy while running. Anything to keep my mind of how slow I have to run up hills in z2!

In the end, I ran a fairly hard 6.4 km in 55 minutes. I’d like to point out that 2 km of that gained about 70 m of altitude!

Some stats:

  • Distance – 6.37 km
  • Time – 56:00
  • Pace – 8:47 min/km
  • Elevation gain – 231 m


Janathon Day 16: hitting the wall and intervals (again)

It’s day 16 of Janathon and week 2, day 7 of my 10 km training plan. I’m feeling it a bit now. I had trouble keeping my heart rate stable on Tuesday (Janathon day 14) and today I had the same thing happen. As soon as I set off, my heart rate soared to 164 and I had to slow down to a complete crawl to get it back into zone 2. I kept to the training plan, and ran intervals; however, I didn’t check what type of intervals for the training session. I thought it would be the usual 5 min at the top end of z2 followed by 5 min at the bottom end of z2. What I was actually supposed to do is 7 min at top end of z2 followed by 3 min at bottom end of z2. Oh well, considering how rubbish I was feeling, it was probably for the best that I stuck to the easier option. I did 4 reps rather than 3 though.

I also experimented with my form when running down hill. I think that I prefer and feel most comfortable sitting deeper and leaning into the hill rather than leaning forward. It seems to keep my weight over my feet a bit more, especially if I take smaller steps. Over time, I’m sure I’ll become more comfortable, but it will probably take a while. For the moment, I’ll just be slower.

I think I’m quite tired at the moment. It’s a fine balance between pushing forward and making sure that I don’t burn out. I’m getting happier with not being super fast all the time and I think I’m starting to see gains. It’ll be interesting when I take my resting heart rate in February to see if it has come down at all. As I’m writing this, I’m just looking forward to my rest day on Friday and letting my legs recover. Of course, I’ll still be going to the Climbing Works – it’s a Friday after all!

Some stats:

  • Distance – 5.9 km
  • Time – 46:44
  • Pace – 7:52 min/km
  • Elevation gain – 113 m


  • Distance – 58.8 km
  • Time – 6:56:00
  • Elevation gain – 885m
  • Runs – 9