MW: aftermath

Lindley drove me to Yeovil and helped me carry my bags into the hotel. The door was open but reception was closed. I called the contact number on the confirmation email and a phone rang behind a shutter. We wandered the corridors looking for a room with a key in the door. We then tried the pub it was attached to. Despite being 10.30pm on a bank holiday weekend it too was completely closed. I was gutted and struggled not to cry when I phoned the OH to update him. For hours I’d been dreaming of having a bath and then lying naked on clean, white sheets (I don’t know why I was particularly obsessed with white sheets. Black/navy bedding, is usually more my style). Lindley took me back to the CP, stopping on the way to get some pizza.

After a large quantity of pizza I crawled into a tent, had another wet-wipe wash and crawled (not naked...) into my sleeping bag. I had several nightmares. First a variation on the ‘flooding killing my pet rabbits’ dream I’d had a few days before. And then the first of what would be a recurring series. I was convinced I was still in the race, and crawling on all fours while the CP was moved along the route behind me. I woke up, looked out of the tent door and was disappointed to see that the CP was still in the field next to the pub car park and I hadn’t made any progress.

First thing in the morning Lindley told me and Peter he was heading to the next CP and would be back for us, and to pack up, in a few hours. I slept for a couple more hours and then got up and ate some more. When Lindley got back he had a passenger on board. John S, Thames Ring 250 course record holder, who’d led the race for a long way had had to drop as his feet had blistered down to the bone and he could barely walk. He was understandably gutted at his first ever DNF. Peter and I were both fairly perky after a good (by race standards) night’s sleep and poor John had to put up with us and Lindley talking bollocks while he waited for his dad to pick him up. He seemed particularly unimpressed by my claim that my legs were in better shape than at the start (which was true, my left foot on the other hand...).

Once John had been rescued, Peter and I helped Lindley pack up the CP (we got the toilet tent back in its bag but left the toilet itself well alone...). It was an informative lesson on just how much work went on behind the scenes moving the CPs. I really enjoyed the morning, and was actually glad that I hadn’t been able to get a hotel room the night before. After another trip through the backroads of Somerset I checked into the Premier Inn for an afternoon of baths and snoozing. My big job for the afternoon was sorting, and slimming down, my kit. The split tights went in the bin along with the comfy pants that had become a bit of a biohazard after being worn (and smeared in various lotions and potions) for multiple days. I considered keeping the trashed boots as some sort of twisted souvenir, but thought better of it. Throwing away food felt wasteful but even getting my remaining clothes and gear home on the train was going to be a challenge. That evening I made the mistake of eating in the attached restaurant rather than hobbling the ~100m to the nearby Wetherspoons. My main course took nearly an hour to arrive, and I was on the verge of eating the furniture.

The bad foot (that’s dry blood under the skin, not mud)

I had another restless night’s sleep, including a nightmare where I thought the curtains were a maize field and multiple trips to the bathroom to soak my feet to relieve the pain. After getting my money’s worth from the breakfast buffet, I headed to the train station. The taxi driver commented on the weight and size of my bags, and when I apologised told me that it was me, not him, he was worried about.

The first train to Bristol was, apart from the screaming kids who stopped me sleeping, OK. The fun and games started from Bristol. The train was shorter than it was supposed to be and I only managed to squeeze on thanks to a bloke grabbing me and my bags and pulling me on (which brought back memories of being hauled onto the TransMongolian express by a dodgy trader after being detained at the Russian-Mongolian border on my honeymoon...). After a few stops it quieted down sufficiently that there was room for me to sit on my bags in the vestibule (the conductor kindly found me an empty seat, but there was no space in that carriage for my bags). I was freezing cold and had to rummage through my bags for warm clothes and food. I felt very jealous of the other people who’d dropped close enough to home that they could be picked up by family (but reminded myself that Alan had had to travel all the way back to Scotland on his own).

At Birmingham the train emptied and, before the hordes on the platform got on, I made a hobble-dash for the nearest luggage rack. Just as I was about to cram my bags into the bottom of it a women jumped up, barged in front of me and (ignoring my sarcastic ‘thank you’) moved her small suitcase into the bottom rack, forcing me to heft my bags onto the top layer. Further down the line someone tried to turf me out of ‘their’ seat, despite the above seat indicators clearly saying that seat reservations weren’t in operation. And when we finally got to Chesterfield a bloke who was stood in front of the door opening buttons refused to move (“you need to be patient love, they’ll open on their own”, “no they won’t if someone doesn’t push the button”). I dragged myself and my bags into the waiting room (the OH had left work as early as he could but hadn’t yet made it to the station to pick me up) and cried. Not gentle tears, but great big snotty sobs. The unhelpful behaviour of so many different people on the train unleashed 10 days worth of suppressed emotions.

After another night of vivid dreams I spent Thursday snoozing and avidly watching the race trackers, in particular Ellen’s, with mixed emotions. I really wanted Ellen to finish, because I knew how determined she was to do it. Her continued progress made me question whether I’d thrown the towel in too soon, but I was also worried that she’d push to the point of collapse/serious harm. By Friday I felt OK and enjoyed a day relaxing in the garden with coach Steggy. That was a false dawn however. I spent the weekend alternating resting with getting on top of domestic crap while the OH marked exam scripts. I was a bit tetchy (OH: well at least you had good weather apart from the storms. Me (growls): no it wasn’t, it was stupidly hot) and the OH didn’t really get why I was so down about not finishing a race I hadn’t expected to finish. (“Yes I thought it was more likely that I wouldn’t finish than I would, but if I’d thought there was zero chance of me finishing I wouldn’t have entered it.”). I obsessed over whether I’ve DNF-ed too many events in the last few years and tried, with limited success, to cheer myself up by reading blogs I’ve written about my more successful races. Sunday evening brought another bout of crying.

chilling with coach Steggy (“lazy fucking mammal”)

I bounce back from 3-4 day events fairly quickly, a couple of good night’s sleep is all that’s needed. However my MW recovery was even worse than the Spine: 10 days of really poor sleep and mental fuggy-headedness. I felt guilty about not firing on all cylinders at work and questioned whether I should do week+ long races if they take so long to recover from (I work in a field where working evenings and weekends and not taking most of your annual leave is de rigour). I don’t know how much of this negativity was due to the DNF (this was the first time I’ve DNF-ed a really long race). The stressful journey home probably didn’t help either.

The blisters healed fairly quickly, but 3 months later my foot still isn’t completely recovered. A post-race X-ray showed no sign of a fracture (ruling out major damage), but fresh stress fractures don’t always show up on X-rays. A visit to a podiatrist a couple of weeks later ruled out a stress fracture, unfortunately, since a stress fracture would have healed by now. It’s not 100% clear what the issue is, but it’s focussed around one of the metatarsal heads. After 2 months it had stopped hurting, so I started running again. I was (uncharacteristically...) sensible and started with 3 miles of mixed running and walking and slowly built up to 5 miles of off-road running over 3 weeks. And then the foot ‘went’ again. Nowhere near as badly, but I’m limiting myself to power walking on a treadmill for a few more weeks.

I’d always intended to have a break from focussed run training over the Summer. I’d planned to spend the time it freed up on yoga. However, inevitably, I’m into one of the more dynamic forms of yoga which involves lots of jumping and can’t be done with a ‘broken’ foot. And not being able to do anything active is very bad for my head. Looking on the bright side, I’ve had plenty of time to work on my headstands though.