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! 🙂