Ramblers say the funniest things, but I have to admit they may have had a point. I had just completed my seventh rep of one of the steepest hills in Hexham, with one more to go. This probably looked more than a little odd to a non-runner (and even to some runners!)
After a summer of purposefully avoiding anything approaching a hill in order to work on consistent pacing and speedwork for road marathons, I was determined to get my climbing legs back. The legend that is Ben Mounsey (international mountain runner, blogger, and all round top bloke) has a notorious workout known as the 'Trooper Ten': ten reps of Trooper Lane, a half mile stretch of road where he lives that climbs something in the region of 120m. He puts a large amount of his success down to this workout; nothing near to him in Yorkshire compares to the fells of the Lake District, where he frequently competes, so he has to be creative in order to get the vert in. I find myself in a similar position, and when someone with the credentials of Mr Mounsey talks I believe it wise to listen. Nothing with the gradient of Trooper Lane exists in Hexham, but there was one stretch of road that stood out above all others: Causey Hill.
Conveniently, a Strava segment already existed for the bit I had my eye on, so I was able to see at a glance that it was 0.6km, 68m of ascent, and an average gradient of 10.2%. Still not Trooper Lane levels of insanity, but good enough.
So there I was, nearing the end of the second Causey Hill workout; the first being a few weeks ago where I did 6 reps (and cheekily stole the course record by a second! Unimportant really, but felt good all the same). The quads were very unhappy on the first rep - probably still a bit trashed from Wooler - but loosened up for subsequent reps. Much slower this time, which could be due to the onset of a cold, but these workouts are primarily for strength rather than speed. I laughed and smiled at the rambler in question - never show weakness to ramblers even if you're dying inside! - and trotted back down the hill on my recovery jog, letting my HR come back down before tackling the final effort and then heading home for cheese scones and a cinnamon swirl.
This is it, then. This is Sunday for me. Any weekend I'm not racing you'll find me repping Causey Hill (except the Sunday I have an 18 scheduled... I'd die of boredom!) in the hope of becoming some sort of climbing machine by the summer. This will be one of my two weekly 'quality sessions', with the other being Yasso 800s. All other runs will be easy aerobic pace, though still with a reasonable amount of vert. This is loosely an 80/20 approach to training, and will hopefully allow me to maintain a pretty high weekly mileage; ideally 100km+, work and family commitments allowing.