I wish I had better news, I really do. I don’t want to jump on here every few weeks and recount another tale of woe, another previously uncharted depth I have somehow managed to dive to in this broiling ocean of frustration and injury that is ‘Fellmonkey 2016’. So consider this post the bottom of that ocean, we’re standing on the floor, and from here on in we are only looking upwards and swimming for the surface. From here on in there will, can, be nothing but progress and upwards momentum.
My knee had not really settled down. It was manageable, but ever-present. I couldn’t figure it out and I think I had the others stumped too. I had pain, but I shouldn’t have had pain. Things were locking up when they shouldn’t be locking up. Muscles and tendons in my leg that I had never even heard of before were doing all sorts of crazy things. The knee alternated between major discomfort and all out agony and no amount of stretching, strengthening, massage or physio was working.
Although, all that stretching strengthening massage and physio has yielded rock hard glutes as a by-product so, you know, silver linings and all that.
Of course, hindsight is bloody marvellous. This first flared up in April after the Kielder Ultra and has been in place ever since. Should I have rocked up half fit to a fell race at the end of June and run hard? Should I have gone across to the Alps in July and trained in the mountains for a few days? Should I have even attempted going to Chamonix in August to race at the OCC? No. Of course I shouldn’t, it was foolish to even try. I should have been at home, resting and focussing on improving my situation and not hurting myself even further.
The upshot of all this is that just over a fortnight ago, in the midst of a brilliant training session in Bradfield with the Team Accelerate crew, one fatal movement took me from permanently semi-injured to permanently on-the-shelf injured. A lightning flash across the top of the dodgy knee from right to left, a traceable path, a searing burn, a collapse, a resignation. It was finally done.
The knee came up like a balloon. A couple of days later at APC we resolved it was a quadricep tear, possibly the tendon, and I was sent for an ultrasound to confirm. Essentially, I cannot run a step for two months. Two months. In broad terms (and by no means a definitive or maximum estimate), that is at least fifty six days of not lacing up and heading out. Today is day eighteen of that process. 18/56.
Pete delivered the news as sympathetically as possible. Stu and Debs were very supportive and went to great lengths to pull some positives out of the situation. ‘Perhaps this is finally the point to reset everything and give your body the chance it needs to properly heal once and for all.’ ‘Strike off the race calendar. Rebuild stronger in 2017’. ‘By this time next year you will be back running the distances you want to be.’ They have kept in touch since, checking in every few days to monitor my progress. Good people gathering around to back me up. Much valued friendship.
Nonethless, no running until mid December at the earliest. So here we are, full circle, at the bottom of the ocean.
It is eighteen days since Bradfield. The swelling has reduced. I still have pain but it is less localised. There are no pictures on social media of blazing a trail across Peak District moorland, no fancy shots of topping out on a climb. No short videos of running local trails, no race reports, no training blogs, no 6am ‘Dawn Raid’ runs up the Porter Valley before work. I don’t remember the last time I got out for a long run. Instead everything is stripped back to quietly working out in the attic bedroom at home, strength and conditioning, three or four times a week. Today we bought a spin bike to try and maintain some aerobic fitness, although I am still a few days away from contemplating actually getting on it. This will become the new dawn raid, plonked stationery in front of an ipad pedalling up imaginary hills for an hour every morning. Indoors, in hiding, waiting for a sign that the knee is recovering. That I’m able to go for a run again. Waiting to start swimming upwards towards the surface.
I keep thinking of an old Pearl Jam song, ‘In Hiding’, appropriate for where I find myself but also where I’m looking to go. It goes, ‘I swallowed my breath, I went deep, I was diving… I surfaced and all of my being was enlightened.‘ Here’s to 2017 and hopefully, enlightenment. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted.