Before I completed the Wainwrights I had no idea how long it would take before I could run again. I had no races planned for the rest of the year so there was no pressure on me to get back to running before I was ready.
My previous toughest challenge was the 2012 Dragons Back Race. About three weeks after this race I started to race again. In hindsight I knew I was not right but there were some races I was desperate to do. The muscles above my knee were not working correctly and so my knee cap was tracking wrongly. This caused my knee to swell up really badly after the first day of the OMM. I had to give up, take a couple of months off and start to build up again gradually.
After the Wainwrights my weight actually went up. Apparently I looked a bit thinner in my face but I had loads of fluid retention in my lower legs and feet, i.e my legs and feet were really swollen. By the time the fluid had gone I had eaten enough to put the weight back on the rest of my body.
Also I again had 3 weeks of eating and sleeping, in that time the blisters on my feet recovered and the tendonitis in my lower right leg was also better. Interesting my weight had reverted back to its pre Wainwright amount of 12 stone (this is about 7lbs more than my lightest racing weight).
After 3 weeks I felt just about OK to start running again. My first couple of runs were short and very slow. They were very slow partly out of choice but also because I could not run any faster. I was really struggling to breathe even on the flat and even the slightest hill was a massive effort to run up. I was expecting this but not to quite this extent. The good thing was that my legs felt OK. The muscles seemed in really good condition, mainly thanks to the regular massages I received from Jim and Phil Davies during the Wainwrights.
In order to gauge how slowly I was running I tried my regular timed run. This consists of two intervals up a hill along a good path. My cumulative best time for these two is 6 mins 50s. This time I did it in 8 mins 5s. I was surprised how much slower I was. What I was not sure about was if this reduced speed was because I needed more recovery time or the opposite, in that it was 6 weeks since I had done my last really fast run (2 weeks before the Wainwrights, 1 week of running them and 3 weeks after) and my body was just not use to running fast. I thought it was probably a combination of the two. So I decided to carry on running and training but not to do really hard weeks.
A week later my timed run was down at 7 mins 35s. So I was making progress. I felt up to doing a fell race, so I run the Heart of the Lakes Rydal Round a 10mile route around the Fairfield Horseshoe. I set off steadily and felt OK. 5 minutes into the first climb I started to feel really bad – it was going to be a matter of surviving not racing. It was great to get the encouragement of my fellow runners and spectators who understood why I was struggling so much. I managed to finish and even felt a little better for the last mile. I have no idea what time I did or where I finished, I was just happy to have finished.
Afterwards my legs felt OK so 2 days later I decided to have a go at a much more serious challenge – the Borrowdale Fell Race. At 17miles with 2000m of ascent this takes in some of the Lake Districts roughest terrain. Again my plan was survival not racing. It was a wet day with the clag down and early on contouring round Glaramara I managed to go wrong and nearly ended up running back towards the start. The worst thing was I managed to lead about 20 other people following behind me the wrong way. After about 10 minutes we were back on the route. I felt OK and was moving steadily until Great Gable but then I started to suffer. The climb to Dale Head was painful but the descent was probably even worse I seemed to have lost all my coordination. I eventually finished in a time of 4 hours – my slowest by a long way. However, I was really happy to have finished and to be running in races again.
After the race I was quite sore in a few areas and most worryingly my lower back. But I am getting quite proficient at making the muscles relax by lying on balls and potatoes on the trigger points.
After Borrowdale I had a two week family holiday in North Wales. I managed to do almost daily runs and I have gone from running being an effort to running being enjoyable. On returning how my times run had reduced to 7 mins 13s – still a bit off my best but more improvement. I then ran the Barrow Fell Race at Keswick show. It was great to be racing again rather than just surviving.
Since then I have done the Grisedale Fell Race, the Lake District Mountain Trail and the Three Shires Fell race. Again I am still quite a bit off my best. The Lake District Mountain Trail was really hard work. I was exhausted on the last climb up to Great Dodd. I slowed right down and eventually had to stop for a minute or so as I got really dizzy. Eventually I finished in over 5 hours. I was happy with 4th place but over an hour behind Hector Haines who had a great run and won easily. The Three Shires was only just over 2 hours, but I was happy to be running strongly at the end.
So overall I am delighted to be running again. So far I seem to be OK but I am still nervous that something will go wrong.