Walking Wounded indeed!!!

Well, *that* turned out to be quite a prophetic name in the end! I guess the lessons of the last event two years ago were wasted on me… HUGE blisters and knackered feet, ankles and knees, along with shredded shins from brambles and nettles – and a lovely rash around the top of my sock line, which may or may not have been poison ivy. Wonderful!

We did train, we really trained hard – but no matter what training we did in the run-up to the event, I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the amount that the 26-miler on Saturday hurt. Between heatstroke, blisters, knackered limbs and repeated steep hills (the air was *blue*!), we were a sorry bunch.

Friday was a truly horrible start to the walk. I woke up at 6 in the morning at John & Gwyn’s place, to hear the delightful sound of thunder outside, and rain pattering against the window. Bugger! So we got ourselves sorted, loaded up the car and headed to Southwater for the start of the walk, and the rain never stopped – merely teasing us by occasionally lightening up. The day went on like that, walking through soaking wet grass, trudging along muddy forest paths, clambering over slimy stiles, and generally getting more wet and more miserable.

Arriving back at camp after 14 miles of this, I discovered that every item of clothing was soaked through, but my boots were *full* of water – so much so that it was foaming out of the top of the toes with every step… But there was the consolation of being among the first to cross the line that day. And of course the massage therapists were there, working their magic – I had myself a masseuse with fingers of steel work on my calves, which was gratifyingly painful!

Saturday, despite a horrifically early start at 5:45, had at least the compensation of decent weather. I donned two pairs of socks and struggled into my still-wet boots, and we embarked on our marathon-length trek across the South Downs. Halfway through the day there was the steepest climb I can remember doing without steps, and I reflected that it would have been well-nigh impossible with the previous day’s weather.

As the day wore on, the line stretched out and I began to feel twinges all over the place. And I don’t think the wet boots helped, either – my feet were developing some nasty hot patches. By the second-last rest stop, John & I had to take an extended rest, and I was presented with the sorely tempting offer of a lift to the next rest stop 2.7 miles further on. After that stop it was a mere 3 miles to the finish, but I’m a stubborn bugger. So I declined. With great difficulty. Fool that I am!

And this was where it all started to break down. Halfway to the next stop, Peter strode on ahead (Phil had disappeared into the distance ages beforehand), leaving John & me limping along through the fields. Coming to a village, we were greeted by two of the supervising team, who indicated Pete lying on the grass and said “look after him, will you?” – the man had taken a little too much sun and wasn’t very well as a result. We toiled along to the next rest stop, where we sat in the grass and took the decision to give up and take a lift the rest of the way to camp. I was all in, and couldn’t face the thought of doing another mile – let alone three!

But after a while, the back-markers turned up – a wonderfully ebullient lot who formed the team of “Michelle’s MS Marchers”. They pressed me to come along with them, and I declined for a while, but eventually was persuaded – and John too (I told Pete to stay where he was and take a lift back to camp). So we walked the last three miles, despite howling protests from our feet, legs, hips, backs – the lot. And we arrived into camp at about seven in the evening, 11 hours after setting out. As I checked in, I muttered “I’m never doing that again!” – after dinner, though, I was feeling a little more human. Until I went to have my feet massaged and the masseuse discovered something like seven blisters on my feet! Ouch.

Sunday morning was a lie-in (till 6!), then we had to break camp before warming up and hitting the road. I went to the medic tent to have my blisters taped up, and ended up having four toes taped, a compeed plaster on the ball of my left foot, and tape around the balls of both feet. John & I elected to go to the front of the pack, as we’d started there for the previous two days – and somehow ended up finishing the day at the front! Most gratifying, considering the state we’d been in the previous day – at the closing barbeque, I joked about doing the same again next week, but nobody laughed very much… 🙂

And so to arriving home, peeling off the socks welded to my feet, and unwrapping the tape that had been holding them together all day. On hindsight, I could have lived with the tape permanently attached – especially as it removed a large amount of skin from my right little toe and the ball of my left foot. To get a picture (unless I post one online for your horror!), imagine removing a postage stamp-sized area of skin from the ball of the foot just behind the big toe. Take into account that there was quite a build-up of skin there, due to all the walking practice, and you get an idea of how horrible the damage is! Right now, I’m bandaged up and going nowhere – it hurts too much…

So it goes. It wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy, and I’ll have the scars to show off to anyone who cares. My shins look as though I was tackled by a sword-wielding leprechaun, and my feet are a righteous mess. Will I do it again next year? I think I’ll volunteer, unless I can find some magic solution that stops blisters from forming. For the moment, though, I’m staying indoors till the sole of my left foot is whole again!

Thanks for the donations, people – I wouldn’t have walked 50 miles without them! 🙂

Here it comes, ready or not!

As I write, the BIGFoot event is a mere 36 hours away, and I’m mildly optimistic about finishing it – no more, and no less. This is a week of rest as we build up to the event proper, and rest is one thing that I’m really *really* good at! So as you can imagine, it’s quite an effort to type this up…

Last weekend Pete & I went for our final practice walk before the event – it was meant to be a repeat of the North Downs Way, but given that the rain had been coming down in buckets the day before, we decided to take the safe option and do the Thames Path instead. Box Hill would have been a mudbath!

So here I am, bag packed, sleeping bag akimbo and trail mix in my pocket. But it’s a weird feeling; somewhat akin to packing for your summer holiday two weeks in advance and then not knowing what to do with yourself! Still, it’ll be upon me before I know it. Of course, the weather forecast is looking fairly pony, with rain for Friday, the odd sunny spell on Saturday, and overcast on Sunday. What – I say, WHAT – is the matter with this country?! If we can’t get decent weather in AUGUST, for feck’s sake…

Can I just say a huge and heartfelt thanks to all the fantastic people who sponsored our team for this walk – we’re still a smidge off our target, but between the four of us we’ve made over £1600 so far – and there’s more to come. Good work, people!

On another note, a big shout has to go out to my youngest sibling Claire, who has just had the results of her school leaving exams – and done quite respectably too. Although some are muttering about a foregone conclusion, I’d have to argue that it doesn’t detract from her achievement – well done, sis! Now it’s just college, parties, fun and games for the next three years. Oh – and study, of course. Just a little bit…

And with that, I’ll leave it with you. I’m actually looking forward to being out of it and away from my PC for the weekend…

Walking Wounded in training

Ouch. I say again for emphasis – ouch. Pete & I went on a bit of a hiking practice binge over the weekend, trying to get ourselves in any sort of shape for the BIGFoot, and I’m a little tender today! We decided that two days’ effort in a row was more realistic preparation for the event proper, y’see…

Saturday’s practice was the Thames Path, starting in Mortlake, wandering through Kew, Teddington and Richmond, then back through Richmond Park to Mortlake – all in all nearly 9 miles of pretty easy strolling. Sunday was a different matter, as we decided to yomp from Box Hill in Surrey to Reigate, along the North Downs Way.

Starting at the National Trust’s Stepping Stones site, just by the A24 outside Dorking, there’s a ridiculous climb up to Box Hill over what seemed like hundreds of steps built into the path. At the top, a mere 10 minutes into the hike, we had to stop at the visitor centre and grab a cuppa – and our breath! Then onward along the (occasionally obscure) North Downs Way – which is a terrific hike, with some beautiful views over Surrey.

A 15-minute break at the top of Reigate Hill for refreshments, and then we had to retrace our steps – by this time, we’d done almost the equivalent of the Thames Path walk, and we had to do it all again to get back to where we’d parked our transport! Oddly enough, it was quicker on the way back, but my knee injury from Nepal reared its ugly head about halfway back, making downward stuff quite difficult. Walking poles are the order of the day next time, methinks!

We got back to the car park at the Stepping Stones at about 6:40 PM, having set out at something like 11:20 AM – so a long day was certainly had. Riding the motorbike home with shaky legs wasn’t too comfortable either! But at least we did it – and that’s a good feeling, if tempered a little with some trepidation. When you add it up, we did something like 25 miles – only half of what we need to do on the BIGFoot…

At the moment, my time is pretty much taken up with work and walking, so I’m a boring git when it comes to gossip. Although I had a fine old time at Stu’s barbeque on Saturday – damn fine sausages, mate! Having been up at 6:30 in the morning to go trekking in Richmond, and then walked 9 miles before coming home, getting cleaned up and then going to the barbie, I wasn’t able to party so hard – in fact, I think I got quite tipsy on what seemed like a ludicrously small amount of alcohol. An early night was in order – sorry for disappearing when the party was getting into full swing, folks!

And with all that said, I’ve got a bunch of work to do – so I’ll love you and leave you.