Well, I went flying again yesterday, in my own aeroplane. Yes, after nearly 3 months of work and waiting she is back in the air and boy does it feel good.
My flying was terrible and the test yielded a couple of very minor issues, but I don't think I've felt such a huge relief and sheer joy in a very, very long time. There's definitely something comforting to the soul about seeing the vast expanse of blue sky rolled out below you!
Now I can look forward to really getting back in the saddle and preparing to start competing again (the first competition of the season is at the end of March and I need some serious practice). I've managed to build up a pretty reasonable base level of fitness and strength again over the past few months, and I will continue working hard on improving it further, but at least I'm in a very good position to gain as much as I possibly can from my flying and training.
Essentially I think that physical fitness, whilst on the face of it, not obviously all that essential for a competition flyer, makes a huge difference to performance. There are some huge forces involved when flying competition aeros - my body experiences forces that can vary very rapidly between +6g and -4g and this is hugely tiring. That coupled with the extreme levels of concentration and focus required for the entire flight duration really does make for a sport that takes a huge amount out of you. Last year I was climbing out of the aeroplane after a 10minute sortie feeling like I'd just run a marathon - no exaggeration. There may not be all that many calories burned, but the mental exertion is greater than anything else I've ever experienced.
Thus, the fitter I am, the better I can cope with the demands I place on myself during a flight, and the more quickly I recover afterwards - which in turn means I can manage to undertake more meaningful training in a day (of course at the moment the real show-stopper here is actually finance, but fingers crossed that's going to change soon). My gym obsession may well come into its own!
From this point on you'll most likely find me somewhere between praying for good weather, beasting myself in the gym, at the climbing wall or out on the trails, or back up in the sky with the biggest grin on my face :-)