Although in possession of both MA and PhD degrees, I frequently exhibit the intelligence of a gnat.
I'd had a month off running. Actually if you dig deeper it was quite a lot more than a month. I'd had no activity since the UTMB at the end of August other than the one day I spent progressing fairly conservatively around the Ultimate Trails Lakeland 100k. Worse than that, the last time I actually ran, as opposed to walking up hills and shambling down them, was on August 11th. The theory was that a good rest should see my knees in better shape for the winter.
So this week was the week. Le grand retour. I was quite keen to get going again. Monday was a nice gentle outing along the canal bank, 4 miles at just under 9 minutes a mile. All very fine, I got home feeling pleased with myself.
Tuesday is the day of the week I'd allocated for a day in the hills, so I decided to crack on with that but start gently. I've more or less decided that I'll have a go at the Joss Naylor Challenge next year, a sort of easier version of the Bob Graham round aimed at at more "mature" mountain pedestrians. I went up to the Lakes to recce Leg 2 which is the shortest leg from Kirkstone Pass to Dunmail raise, over Red Screes, Hart Crag, Fairfield and Seat Sandal. Barely eight miles and with only around 3000ft of ascent. Mist and gloom the whole way but it was still good to be out again. As soon as I hit the rockier ground along the Fairfield horseshoe ridge it was clear that a month or so off had done nothing for my knees, they still felt as creaky as ever. Three figures emerged from the murk on Fairfield summit, the Man of Steele and friends, it's a small world. The descent off Fairfield wasn't too bad but the one off Seat Sandal is one of the longest and steepest on the round, and in my untrained state I arrived at the bus stop on Dunmail Raise with well-trashed quads.
These curtailed any running on the Wednesday, so I paid a visit to a new climbing wall near Chester to practise another activity I'd ignored for several weeks, which resulted in a bit of fun but severely stiff fingers and forearms.
By Thursday the quads had started to settle down (well, a bit anyway) so I headed out round a local loop determined to put a bit of work in. Alternating 8.30 miles with 6.50's seemed to be going well until the third set, when I felt a hamstring starting to hurt. I've been here before so I slowed and jogged gently home, by which time I had a slightly sore Achilles as well.
On Friday I did the sensible thing - I cut the grass and went to the pub for lunch.
The CMC (Chester MountaineeringClub) had an exchange meet with one of our sister clubs at the weekend, where they use our hut in Llanberis and we have access to theirs in the Newlands valley. I'm always up for a convivial evening at the Swinside Inn, so I decided to join in and combine the trip with a Recce of Leg 1 of the Joss Naylor on Saturday afternoon. This goes from Pooley Bridge to the Kirkstone Pass over pretty well every top in the High Street range, and while it's a bit longer than Leg 2, about 16 miles with just under 4000ft of ascent, most of it is easy grass under foot so I reasoned it would be kind enough to my now somewhat suspect lower limbs. Another trip with pretty well zero visibility - along the way I encountered several parties who were interested in an opinion on where they might be - but the running seemed to go well enough until somewhere around High Street summit, where I developed a rather disturbing pain in my right calf. I hobbled over Thornthwaite Beacon and Stoney Cove Pike and down to the Kirkstone pub.
After a warm shower, Saturday evening was pleasant enough but this morning I could only walk with some difficulty.
Ah well, two phone calls tomorrow morning I think. One to the physio so that I can go and pay to be hurt and ticked off for doing what I probably knew was a bit daft anyway. And one to the Knee Man, to see how much closer to the end of the road I've travelled since I last saw him nearly three years ago.
And then perhaps a slower and more sensible return to running.