Spine: the aftermath

Or how the Spine broke my head.

Having experienced post race mood swings before, I was expecting the week after the race to be tough. But I had no idea quite how tough. In some ways it was harder than the race itself.

On Saturday I was high as a kite. I spent the train journey home answering e-mails & tweets and posting on various forums I usually just lurk on. The OH picked me up from the station, before heading off to a goth metal gig, leaving me to hog the sofa and bask in a ‘I finished the Spine race’ glow.

The fun and games started when I tried to sleep. I was too high to even try sleeping until the early hours of the morning. My usual post-100 ‘feet being hit with hammers’ pains had started a few days before the end of the race, so I had to take some hefty painkillers to damp that down. Eventually I got to sleep. And a couple of hours later woke up soaking wet and shivering, convinced I’d fallen asleep in a frozen bog and was about to die. I thought the bedroom furniture was dry stone walls and only realised I was in bed at home once I spotted the glowing lights of the alarm clock (you don’t get those in a bog).

On Sunday I was a bit more melancholy. I spent a lot of the day answering work e-mails and watching 80s brat pack films. And wondering if I could find a branch of physics which would allow me to go off on epic expeditions on my own as well as playing with equations. (A couple of years ago I met some geologists whose research involved extended trips to isolated bits of Mongolia to collect rocks). That night I slept in the spare room to avoid disturbing the OH’s sleep. And again woke up, drenched in sweat convinced I’d fallen asleep in a bog. This time I ended up kneeling on the bed, looking out the window trying to work out where I was “there’s some fences, and a river, and some street lights... I’m in the spare bedroom”.

By Monday morning superficially I was recovering well. My toes were healing, my knee/ITB was no worse than it’d been pre-race and I was walking normally. Feeling smug I headed  into the office. And about an hour into the day realised I was in fact completely broken. A constant stream of people dropped by to ask about the race or to update me on things I’d missed in the week I was away. And I struggled to say anything which made any sense (“Germans!”, “toilet floors!”). It felt like trying to pretend to be sober after drinking 10 pints. My body temperature was also all over the place. I had to constantly add and remove items of clothing mid-conversation. At one point I was wearing a down-jacket but no socks or shoes...

Things didn’t get much better as the week went on. The nightmares continued and I was adding to, rather than reducing, my sleep deficit. One night I woke up convinced I had frostbite as I’d lost all sensation in one of my arms. I got up and halfway across the room before I realised it’d just ‘gone to sleep’ as I’d been laid on it. Another night I dreamt that I’d taken the OH on an expedition and his feet had got frozen and he’d had to have them amputated and it was all my fault. And then there was a repeating dream where I was on a very specific descent (I’ve haven’t worked out where on the route) and still to finish.

I’m wondering if my slightly obsessive focus on the route is the underlying cause of the dreams. Or maybe it’s just my head being my head? I’m prone to vivid dreams in times of stress. Or maybe it’s a normal way of processing the experience? Some of the discussion on the Spine facebook page suggests that this might be the case.

On the weight front, the scales said I’d only lost 2kg, but the mirror told a different story. Bones I hadn’t seen for 20 years were visible. I spent the week post race eating constantly. On top of huge meals I got through a tub of Pringles and a packet of doughnuts most days, and only regained a single kg in the process.