Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pain-barriers, minor injury and a new challenge

Running gives way to hill-walking again, for a while.

A few months ago I made a decision. There was a change that I wanted to make.

Realistically since 2010 I have had a very good level of hill-fitness. But I wanted to boost it to that next level where I could start taking on challenges a bit less ordinary.  I wanted to be able to do things in a couple of hours that would have been a day on the hill for me 3 years ago.

I have stayed true to that goal, and through a lot of sweat and sore muscles I have managed to raise my base fitness to the kind of level I was aiming for.

But do I just stop there? When I know I can do better, possibly much better?

A few weeks back I ran and climbed up North Buttress on the Buachaille, 56 minutes from car to summit. I felt to be going at close to my fastest pace….but I still hadn't even reached the lactic barrier when I touched the summit cairn.

The run down Coire na Tualaich hadn't felt sore, I didn't get jelly legs or the urge to sit down and sleep. 1 hour 27 minutes car to car, a time I couldn't have dreamt of 3 years ago. But…how much quicker I could have been if I'd made myself dig a little deeper.

When I was making my first attempts at hill-running, pain-barriers were a constant factor. There seemed to be a lot of them, major walls that you had to smash through in order to make those first lung-busting jogs up slopes the majority can only walk up.

So I would confront those pain barriers time and time again, and at some point without me really realising, they no longer appeared when they used to whilst I was running up-hill. About three weeks ago then I was getting in the frame of mind to start confronting the next set of pain-barriers, to take it up another level again. But as bad luck would have it I've developed a minor niggle in my left foot which has dissuaded me from running until it has gone.

It's only been about 10 days since I stopped running. But already my mind is a jumble, my mood has lowered and I'm feeling generally un-fit. It always amazes me just how good running makes you feel, and how empty you can feel when deprived of it.

But despite my slight feeling of despondency I have given myself a good-talking to, and I have set myself a new challenge - to try and maintain my new fitness level while I am not running. It's going to be hard, and I doubt I'll entirely succeed. But to this end in the last two weeks I've already done dozens of miles of hill-walking, lots of big 15 and 16 mile routes on rough and rugged terrain.

And there really is a positive to all this…I've got back my enthusiasm for hill-walking for its own sake, something I was beginning to fear had been totally replaced by climbing and running. The Munros have been getting a lot of attention from me again in the last few weeks, and if my re-gained enthusiasm lasts, then very soon I'll be on the home-straight to completing them.


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