Oct 2 Wednesday
‘What the hell’s the matter with you - you look as though you’re about to burst into tears?’
Clearly I’m not wearing the face Charlotte is looking for as we sit with the boys in the chip shop in Hawes at the 105 mile point on The Spine Race route. This was meant to be a last supper of sorts before Daddy headed off for an overnight 40 mile jaunt up The Pennine Way to Middleton-in-Teesdale. Instead it feels like the last cigarette before the firing squad.
I’ve had this in the diary for yonks and spent half the afternoon on the phone yesterday trying to figure out how to get home – no, there are no buses, no there are no trains except from there which means you’ll have to…and that means five changes…and if you don’t make that it means…
Finally we realized that it would either take me 8 hours to get home by public transport or blow £30 on a taxi to get me 20 miles troublesome miles towards civilization which would then have me home by late morning. Driving half an hour now to give the boys a treat fish and chip supper seemed a great way to send Daddy off with a smile on his face and loaded with calories – except it would appear that Daddy hasn’t read the script.
In truth I’d been steadily tying myself in knots as departure time got closer and now I’m right back to where I was the night before The Spine Race in January this year: Fanning my fears and absolutely having kittens at the prospect. (Later I’ll reflect that I’m just not ready: Three days after a huge effort at Three Peaks Cyclocross I’m still abit frayed round the edges and making the transition from bikes to feet. Infront of me is at least 12 hours of solo time with cloud down to 250m and heavy rain and high winds forecast. And while I’ve done this leg in daylight at the start of the summer, conditions tonight make it a very different proposition. It’s a long time since I’ve done extended solo in poor weather, and this is not exactly easing my way back into it. Once I start over this remote section I will be committed. And clearly I’m just not).
Time to talk about feelings, then.
Pause as bits of courage are scraped back together. Eye contact:
‘I really don’t want to do this.’
She looks at me as the boys continue to demolish their fishy bites.
‘Look at my smiley face, Daddy!’ Our youngest points proudly at the work of art he has arranged on his plate with strategic use of ketchup and chips. Any chance you could re-arrange mine for me, son?
‘Well, I’m not going to force you…’ Charlotte pauses before delivering the knockout punch ‘…but I think you’ll regret it if you don’t at least do something.’
‘What’s the matter, Dad?’ Tom (our eldest) has clearly had his antennae up so we do our best to explain.
He considers our explanation. Then with all the wisdom of his six and a half years pronounces around a mouthful of chip: ‘Sometimes, Dad, it’s best just to get on with it.’
We go into salvage mode: If the Whole Thing is freaking me out, what about Some Thing? With cloud right down and only a Pennine Way map we finally figure a route home that I reckon will be about 5 hours – and I can get my head around that. Get out, tune into the solo, dark, limited viz environment and salvage something. Walking’s fine, you clearly just need to start with something less big and scary…
So I do – and it all goes fine even in the awful visability until the 3 hour mark when my left ankle very quickly starts to complain. It’s the same place and symptoms from a few weeks ago and it quickly has me slowing. I abort taking in the 650m summit of Whernside and opt for the low level option as my internal language deteriorates horribly. Six hours after setting off as midnight approaches I limp through our front door and make a beeline for the ice to ease the swollen ankle. A salvage job indeed – but at what cost?
Oct 3 Thursday
Back on the treatment couch and Mr Ward looks up from a preliminary examination.
‘Well the good news is that it’s a new injury.’
‘If it was the same as last time we’d have a problem – but it’s different and in a different place: This is definitely new.’
But definitive cause eludes us and the best we can come up with is that I did some low-level damage in the ‘cross race – really? Ya think?! - that I didn’t notice until six hours on my feet under load exacerbated it. I’ve got bruising, broken skin, discoloration, inflammation and sore tendons and ligaments. The only certainty is that I’ll be off weight-bearing stuff for a while and back on two wheels. Oh well – it’s not like anyone’s watching this now, is it..?