Wednesday 9 October 2013

The Long Trail to Recovery

Joy, it's another post about his darned feet, you say?  Well, only in as much as they're in good enough shape to let me get back into some proper running.  I may soon even be able to do a bit of racing, albeit at a reduced pace.

After losing most of July, August, and September to a combination of foot issues (hurrah, mostly trauma-induced, rather than just too much running!), it looks like I am back on the trail to recovery.  Just in time, too - there's a rather tasty 100-miler in February that's got my name on it, and I need to get some training in.

When restarting training after a long layoff, it's easy to do too much and re-injure yourself.  So, I've been breaking in gently, until last week.  We had been planning some R&R after the Cotswold Way Century, and after weighing up all the options, learning some new trails in the Peaks and Northumberland sounded ideal.  We looked for some races, but there were none that suited, so it became a chance to explore and enjoy the great footpaths on our own.

Day 1 was a relaxing 10mi around Edale, taking in the boggy joys of Kinder Scout and the southern end of the Pennine Way.  Although a bit chilly and breezy at the start, we got a sunny day to take in some excellent ghyll scrambling and the occasional chance for a bit of actual running.  It was a great way to test out my foot and ankle strength, as we weren't on particularly forgiving trails.

A few rocks here and there denote the path up.

A sunny look over Kinder Downfall

The route included some spectacular views in all directions.  This was my first time to the peaks, and I can understand why the area is so well regarded.  I wouldn't say the climbs were longer than what we normally get to run on, but we were certainly spoiled for choice!

I'm used to running in an area heavily populated by waymarkers, so it was good to get some experience running in what's best described as a sparsely marked area..  I can't say there's much scope for following an actual footpath on Kinder Scout.  Had we not encountered a local out for a hike, I imagine we would have taken quite some time to get across the bogs attempting to follow the bearing shown on the OS map.  He kindly pointed us about 10 metres to the left where a streambed offered firm footing and a quick way through the bog.

A few nice rock formations added to the stoppage time.
Because the goal of the day was to get to know somewhere new, the pace was pretty relaxed, with quite a few picture stops.  The green, yet rugged landscape on a bright day caused repeated deep-breath-and-smile stops.  It was simply stunning.

I was curious about what we'd find when we finally joined the Pennine Way, at Kinder Downfall.  The National Trails that I'm familiar with are pretty well marked (SW Coast Path, Cotswold Way).  This section of the Pennine Way, not so much.  There weren't a large number of options, so as long as we headed in the right direction and were on something vaguely trampled, I was confident we would be fine.  Off the tops, the signs began to reappear, so we could be certain of the final few miles back to Edale.  As we approached the ankle-breaker of a staircase at Jacob's Ladder, we met with several of the runners racing the Edale Skyline (~20mi).  With 15mi under their soles, they were looking tired and ready for the pub at the end.  When we arrived ourselves, it was a veritable runners' haven.

Day 1 finished - at the southern end of the Pennine Way

Day 2 was scheduled as a slightly more "runnable" day out, with 10mi near Ladybower Resevoir.  Once again, the day was dry, if a bit cooler.  The run along above the resevoir was very pretty, and quite a joy to run. Once we got up to Derwent Edge, though, the vast expanse of heather and random rock formations made for a rather spectacular run.  On greyish days, pictures of rock and heather (and the occasional picture-hungry red grouse) don't really say much.  If you've not been in the area before, and you have a chance to go - get out there.  Our jogs from one cool set of rocks to the next was a real joy.

Look: Rocks & heather!

Salt Cellar, I believe.

The Wheel Stones, with a rather tiny Kurt in front.
The plan for Days 3&4 was to rest and do a bit of walking around Durham for a day and then get back on the trails.  Still time on feet, but a chance to recover a bit and let the shoes dry before taking on another 10 miler along Hadrian's Wall.  In weather terms, it might have been better to risk the feet and do the 3 days in a row.  We had rather fine weather for our walking tour, and then had a proper Northumbrian day of wind and rain on slippery rock for our trip along the wall that is meant to be keeping my in-laws at bay.

Hey look - there's actually a bit of wall!
It wasn't a great day for pictures, although there were some excellent views when the sun briefly pushed through the driving drizzle.  Originally, we were going to take a circular route including some of the local moorland, but with a combination of starting from the wrong point (navigation error) and tired legs, we decided not to go bog-slogging in the rain and enjoyed an out-and-back that included some very slippery steps.  It's great to use rock to keep the path from significantly eroding, but since they were almost like ice in the rain, it was a high-concentration effort.

We had planned for a bit of running in Scotland for the next day, but in the end, decided that the opportunity to undo all the good healing was a bit too strong, and cut the running part of our break.  Still, 30mi over 4 days without any significant aches and pains lead me to believe that I will actually be able to do some proper training in the next few months so I'm ultra-fit for 2014.

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