Winter vanished as quickly as its initial onset was ferocious. It is now Spring, the evenings are beginning to draw out once more and soon enough the bracken will been emerging to choke the fellsides once more.
I have also just started running again. Its been more than 3 months since I last pounded the fells, all the optimism and hope that built up during the dark and cold days of Christmas and New Year were wiped out as it the effects of injury took hold of my body and mind once more.
But a sustained period of rest has given me the opportunity to take stock and go back to the drawing board; a change of strategy was needed and thats exactly what i’ve done. And so gradually over the past 8 weeks, once my body was up for re-starting I put my running shoes to one side (temporarily), dug out the swimming shorts, allowed the road-bike to see daylight once more and headed off to find a proper Physio.
I’ll be honest, none of these new found sports were much fun, certainly not to begin with. Getting into a pool with what seemed like a bunch of gossiping middle aged women, all of whom were considerably better at ploughing lengths than I took some doing. Spluttering and stalling my weak body through that thick and gloopy water is harder than it looks, for me at least. And then I decided to ditch my weary arms entirely, grabbed a kick board and for the past four weeks have not looked back as I have relentlessly forced my legs into overdrive to power myself to the far-end. How slow can one go? The answer is very, if there was a current i would have gone backwards. I stopped worrying about everyone who i thought might be looking, but actually werent, and focussed on reaching the end of that 25 metre pool. It seemed like miles the first few times, even now, it feels like a journey, but the first few times it felt like torture.
And the roadbike has been dusted down. I’ll admit to still being a fair weather cyclist, I admire the continuous stream of people who cycle past my house every morning in all weathers and at all times of year, its not for me. But everytime I have been out, I have felt my legs get that little bit stronger, the cycling become that little bit easier and more enjoyable. I have deliberately gone out on my own; no-one to compare myself against, no-one to push me to go faster than I can sustain easily, just me my bike and my thoughts. Every hill, every revolution that hurts a little bit more than the last, my mind turns to running on the fells, running on the fells fast, running hard. I remind myself of the psychological mind games you play, the strength that comes from telling yourself you trained harder, you trained in worse weather, you have the edge if you can push yourself that little bit harder.
At the same time I have started a proper programme of rehab. Its been a huge effort and the folks at Body Rehab have been fantastic, not just in identifying whats wrong but in giving me back the motivation to do all that is necessary, not just to get back running, but hopefully get back running stronger and faster than before. Alot of work to strengthen quads and rebalance the muscles in my legs; how hard can shuffling sideways be? Very when you’ve a giant elastic band strapped to your legs and just how come does the girl on the video link I was sent make raising your leg up sideways look so damn easy? Rehab isnt glamourous, hours spent stretching and lunging, battling muscle fatigue and boredom in equal measure.
And I’m back, back on the fells. Not very much, not very often but back. Last week it was Lingmoor Fell, my first proper fell-run in 3 months. Switching back and forth along faint sheep tracks, hopping though boggy ground, feeling the summit chill, the ever-increasing welling up as the legs began to burn, knowing the ascent was this time, a little more commiting. Yet before we knew it, 300 metres or so had gone, we were riding along the crest of the fell, looking across to the cirque of Lakeland peaks that protect Langdale.