Saturday 30 December 2017

2018 Is Shaping Up!

2017 was a difficult year for running.

At the start of the year, I ran Country to Capital for a 3rd time and it was an utter death march to get to the end of it. My slowest showing on that route, despite the pretty good conditions. I needed to grit through it despite having nothing to prove, I did need to use the experience to feel the discomfort of finishing in pain when I just wanted to stop. It wasn't going to cause lingering injury, so it was fine to push through it for 24 miles of unpleasant slog to learn how to do it for when there is actually something to prove. Then I was persuaded to run The Moyleman (which I'd failed to finish the year before - I'd had enough at half way and got a lift to the finish), which was actually quite fun despite the fact I'm not much of a fan of the South Downs. After that, it was a few longish weekend back to back runs before getting on with the job of running the length of the British mainland, from bottom to top (Land's End to John O'Groats - LEJoG).

Things didn't go 100% to plan with that, and I had to take a few weeks out in the middle which extended the impact of it further into the year than I'd intended. I did finish and I have a lot of writing about it that I need to find time for still as well as dealing with all of the photos, but it was now mid-August and I had nothing planned for the rest of the year. With no idea of how LEJoG would go, if I'd be injured, or need weeks or even months of recovery, I deliberately kept the calendar empty. 4 weeks after finishing, with no target or pressure to do anything in particular, I entered a half marathon on a whim while I was abroad for work. And pulled out a PB, got cocky and entered a local marathon which I promptly DNFd (did 3/4 laps - just didn't fancy finishing in the dark and the laps were getting tedious). The final race of the year was another half marathon, at which both my husband and I managed to fall over and scrape up our knees. And that was the last run of any note in 2017.

My Training Plan (red = not done, yellow = sort of done, green = done correctly)

And I lost my mojo. The following weeks I found it harder and harder to get out for a run. Despite having recovered physically just fine from LEJoG, I was getting tired a lot and making poor eating and drinking choices which didn't help. Though I'd already decided that I wanted to train for a faster marathon in the Spring, I just ran out of giving a crap about running enough to do much of it, or with any decent quality.


Strava featured me in a couple of their social media posts, which brought a few more folks to see my long run of the summer, then they featured me in their "2017 in Stats" blog post which was nice. And in the same breath as Sandra Vi who just beat the trans-America running speed record. (though they somehow decided I'd broken a world record with my run, which I haven't and never said I did anywhere, and that I'd run top to bottom, which is back to front! I'd also had to stitch together the individual days running into one GPX file and call it a "hike" instead of a run so it didn't mess with my annual running stats as I wanted to keep the individual day entries with the photos and messages from other people)

And RunUltra posted an article of my run (word limits are hard!)

And here we are, in the last days of 2017 and 2018's running calendar is shaping up pretty well actually! I've entered a few races and have a few targets to hit:

So the first few months of the year will be training to try to get me quicker again (it's a long time since I managed 22:36 for 5000m) but without losing endurance base for the longer stuff that comes afterwards. And I'll want to chuck in some fun stuff before, in between and afterwards - there are some work trips abroad which could present some fun race tourism opportunities.

Oh, and I've been nominated for a Run Ultra Blog award, so if you like what you've read here, please cast a vote for me (and you could win a shiny, new Suunto watch)!

Tuesday 14 November 2017

LEJoG 2017 - The Second "Half"

The Second "Half",  uncut, from Facebook posts as they were published...

Day twenty-two, part two.
The disused railway from Innerleithen to Peebles is great for most of its length. Flat, even surface, vegetation trimmed back and a couple of lovely new bridges across the Tweed. Annoyingly it runs out short of Peebles and dumps you onto the main road, or you can choose to take a grassy path beside the river (which I did). This was never supposed to be part of my overall route, but having cut short early and headed to Innerleithen to get medical attention, I needed to restart from where I left off to have a continuous route.

After a late breakfast in Peebles, I was back on the Cross Border Drove Road through forests, up and over Moors and enjoying some proper scenery for most of the rest of today's run. The forest sections were gorgeous; carpeted in dropped pine needles and vibrant green moss, with lots of new mushroom growth standing out bright red in the green carpet.

First day back and it's a shorter one, but my pack felt like I'd never put it down - no need to reacquaint myself with its weight and feel. I've an aching sole of my foot but that's normal for being on my feet all day carrying extra weight.
Feeling ready for a long day tomorrow!

Day twenty three!
An exciting start today. I wasn't confident that the paths on the early parts of today's route would actually exist, so I was super pleased to find that they did. They were a bit... exciting though. Especially with a 9-ish-kg pack on.
I started out with a packed brekkie at 6am and straight onto difficult trails that were narrow, slippery, rocky and with a good bit of scrambling involved. It soon got a bit easier onto the moors proper, around a pretty tarn and up a few hundred metres for a good view.
I did have to pay attention to navigation as it wasn't totally straightforward and obvious. It was boggy in places so my feet did get a bit wet but nothing awful and I dried them out when I got to Queensferry and stopped for a two hour brunch and tea break!
My packed breakfast got scoffed on the hoof as I was navigating through the delightful industrial estates on the way through Newbridge and Kirkliston as I'd decided there was no point stopping around there. Crossing the M8 and M9 and threading through the dead industrial estate wasn't all that inspiring and I just wanted to get to the bridge.
However, having forgotten I'm staying about 3 miles short of the original end point of today, and starting at 6am, I was going to be a lot earlier than I'd told my Air B&B host would be the earliest I'd get in. So I sat in a cafe in Queens ferry for two hours and had a smoked salmon bagel, two pots of tea and a cappuccino over the course of two hours.
Then it was time to go over the bridge. Oh boy was it windy! Which is to be expected over a long river crossing. And then more icky route through building sites (they're building a third Forth bridge) and depressing military land, ship yards and housing estates before a long road with no pavement to the end of the day. It was a 30mph road, but hey... why would drivers adhere to that on the middle of nowhere? (hint: there's no pavement!)

Day twenty-four.
And I'm quite weary. There was a lot of elevation today; 29 miles and 3200ft ascent.
There was far too much road before lunch, though it was all very friendly road. It all got a bit more lumpy, boggy and naturey after lunch. Moors, lochs, big and castles as well as freshly born cows.
I was clearly far too smug about prancing over the bogs so far as I ended up knee deep in one up by the huge and very noisy wind turbines. Hey ho.
Too tired to write much now and need to take a gentle one tomorrow. It's a bit shorter thankfully.

Day twenty-five.
THIS is why we do this stuff! And I can't even share a photo of how glorious the views were as I just couldn't capture it. My heart exploded and I cried.
The morning was a bit too much road again and a weird castle with a dried up, stinking river by it. Then after a tea stop at Crieff, I headed up into the glens. Initially I cried in frustration when General Wade's Military Road was nowhere to be seen from the corner of the golf course it was supposed to pop out of. There was just impenetrable vegetation and fences. But when I'd problem-solved Aaron's that bit and picked it up later, oh boy was I rewarded.
Up and over Gualani na Feing, I was reminded of how much Kilian Journet talks about crying in his book "Run or Die" as I had tears rolling down my cheeks at the beauty of where I was. I didn't want this bit to end. THIS is why we do these things; why we put up with lacerations, bruises, blisters, sore feet and aching muscles. It did have to end though and I had to descend onto the road to pass through Sma' Glen - which was also brutally beautiful.
General Wade may be written about and stuck on information boards, but there's no love for his military road here and it again disappears into bog, farmland, behind fences with no gates etc so I was ignorant and followed it as best I could until the end point of the day.
Back in a taxi to a B&B as there was nowhere to stay for another 30 miles from there. Back at it at 6am tomorrow for a long day probably bawling my eyes out at the scenery. No towns or villages from start to finish. It'll be the most remote day so far.

Day twenty-six.
What a day! The morning was a basic trundle along Rob Roy's Way, alongside lochs and through farmland to the only guaranteed so for food of the day at Kenmore. I got there half an hour before breakfast was supposed to start (09:45! Brekkie from 10:15!) but managed to get tea and a small cold snack to get on with. Then, of course, I couldn't finish my salmon and eggs breakfast.
Then it was off out and around the perimeter of the Tay Forest Park as none of the paths went across it, only end to end. Lots of road again, which is sad and boring. But then I got to head up through an estate's land and up into the moors. And up. And up.
And up.
And along a shepherd's path untill it ran out. And I had to ford a fast moving river. Twice. And there was no path at all, just rivers, Heather, bog, hidden streams and rain. It was such tough going that it took half an hour per mile for a couple of miles of it. I had to keep heading up to stay away from the river and high enough to meet the bothy and the path back down on the other side of the moor.
It was hairy at times. The rivers were fast and the rocks slippery. The hidden streams under the bog and heather were traps for unsuspecting feet to swallow you up to the thigh and pitch you over. I got wet and stayed wet. My raw heels got more abraded, despite the good taping I did in the morning staying in place. But the views... I cried again. It was stunning and you just can't do it justice with a phone camera.
It took a long time to get down and to my place for the night; the road was too hard and my feet too sore to do more than shuffle after 28 miles and over a km of climbing and descent. But I found a great place to stay and, despite an hour of shivering towards the end of dinner, I'm tucked up and looking forward to a short day tomorrow and a lie in!

Day twenty-seven.
Warning: graphic descriptions of raw skin and wounds.
OK. So I rarely get blisters. And in the first 680 miles of this little run, I had maceration in the first few days but no blisters at all. No hot spots and no rubbed skin on my feet. Two days ago I got a hot spot on the inside of each heel. I stopped to tape one up as that was niggling me, but by the end of the day the tape had worked loose and I'd lost a bit of skin. The other foot was heading that way.
So the evening of that day I cleaned them up, applied tincture of benzine, put on blister plasters and then taped them on in the morning to hold them in place. In the soaking conditions of the day, the tape failed and the blister plasters ruptured. When I had a shower that night I had to bite down on a towel. The water touching the raw skin felt like fire.
I dried them off carefully and applied more tincture of benzine - which basically felt like acid - and let them dry while I went for dinner. When I got back from dinner, they had leaked fluid down my heel and onto my flip flops. So I dried them off again and gave them a dusting with Zeasorb powder to absorb the fluid while I was in bed.
In the morning this morning it was more mopping up of leaking fluid, followed by applying adhesive wound dressings to cover the raw skin, then better tape than previously to hold it in place inside my sock and shoe.
After a huge breakfast - I'd decided that as today was going to be very short, I'd have a lie in and breakfast before I left - I put on my socks and shoes and squealed. Yep. Open wounds hurt when you apply pressure, also the tissue around them is tender and feels bruised.
Then it was time for being off and out and down the side of the loch with loads of other walkers. I could only walk as it hurt quite a bit; not just my heels but my feet in general too, and my quads. It took two hours to even contemplate more than a slow amble.
Up onto the moors, pretty quickly and away from the eagles, following a good clear track through sheep country. Very pretty again but not a lot of climbing to be done as the route stayed mostly down in the valleys. I did run out of track just over a bridge and had to trudge across boggy ground for a couple of miles again until the path picked up for no apparent reason at all again.
There was a long stretch beside another loch, feeling like I wasn't making much progress as the scenery was huge and far away, then a slog alongside the A9 to the end point of the day.
My heels are still a mess, but the tape held beautifully this time. I had to take it all off to let the wounds dry out again. They seem a bit better but felt like fire again when I dried them off and coated them with tincture of benzine again.
Today was intended to be 21 miles with 21 tomorrow, two short days for a bit of recovery. But due to accommodation availability, today was only 17 miles and so tomorrow will be 25 miles. If I'm as slow tomorrow as today, due to the sore feet, it's going to take longer than I'd hoped.
I'm officially in The Highlands now though, so that's good!

Day twenty-eight.
Despite my feet being a bit better this morning, today was mainly eclipsed by me bawling my eyes out for the last couple of hours because they hurt.
Starting out 4 miles behind where I'd like to have started from today (though the B&B I was in was amazing!), it was less of an easy day than intended. Especially given how quickly my feet went downhill and started hurting pretty quickly.
With no lunch stop available today, I had a big packed breakfast from the B&B but that didn't stop me from popping into a handy open cafe after an hour of running on the footpath alongside the A9, listening to this week's Marathon Talk. Oh OK then, I'll have a bacon butty too! Two cups of coffee later I set off again. I had plenty of time until being picked up by tonight's B&B owner so I could easily afford a half hour stop and lots of coffee.
That said, I didn't know at the time that is slow to ambling pace after only a few hours on foot.
Today's scenery was mainly a loch in a valley, followed by lots of construction works for a new hydro-electric generator and a couple of 150 ton sub station thingies. I did have a heart-melting moment with yet another view that's impossible to capture with a phone camera. I had a go though.
I don't remember a lot of the rest of the route as I was sobbing into my iPhone. I decided to treat myself with last Friday's iTunes mix for me. It was a bit meh so I switched to something a bit heavier to get me buoyed up. It helped a bit but I was just miserable with the pain of my feet and how slow was my progress.
The B&B is great though.

Day twenty-nine.
Back to the Garva Bridge to set off again in the morning. Later than I'd've liked but relying on the drop of service fun the B&B I didn't want to push it with asking to leave at 6am. So I started at 8.
The Carryairick Trail goes from Laggan to Fort Augustus and it's not exactly easy. 25 miles and the first 10 are tarmac path then it's rocky and there are a lot of rivers to ford. Fairly deep (calf to knee kind of depth) and fast moving so I needed to get my trekking poles out for stability. Seven of the bloody things. My feet didn't stand a chance.
The break point for the day was Fort Augustus and what a total shithole that is. Tiny, with narrow or no pavement, it's a horror show of tourist coaches all resending on tiny cafes and pubs that just can't handle the peak traffic. The place I went into for lunch stopped serving at 2pm; I was lucky to get a table and food. Many who came after me were turned away.
After what could only be described as a working class child's "tea" from the 1970s (a small, square roll with an unidentified part of a chicken, breaded and deep fried, and some oven chips and half a tomato) I headed back out for the final 11 miles.
4 hours of pain. 2 of which were spent crying so hard my throat got sore and even late in the evening my eyes were bloodshot and puffy. It was a dark 4 hours. I don't want a repeat of it, but it really depends on the terrain and whether my feet heal a bit more.
Who knows what day thirty will be like but I know it's going to be hard if I have to go through hours of agony for another 8 days. It's not the pain of potentially permanent damage like with my ankle tendons, but it's raw and firey and there's no respite until the shoes come off.

Days thirty to thirty-three.
One highlight of a particularly tricky bit of road where I had to walk behind crash barrier along the edge of a step slope downwards; one of the barrier uprights ripped my shorts along one side. Field repair of 4 safety pins is holding the two sides together. They're not obscene and they're functional but I couldn't sleep in them as I'm pretty sure the pins would rip out.
There's a lot of bog in Scotland. And my route seems to go through a lot of it. In part I think it's because I'm staying to lower elevations, however gaining height didn't get you out of bog despite what you may think.
Additionally, there is a lot of investment in infrastructure; power and roads mostly. I've been past 3 new or upgraded hydroelectric dams and associated supporting stuff. And there are tracks and trails marked on the current Ordnance Survey maps that are now fully fledged A roads. So my proportion of trail to road running has shifted a bit the wrong way. That said, a bit of road can be a relief from the relentless bog at times.
I'm also in hunting and fishing country. There are deer everywhere and in the mornings as I head along estate tracks scaring herds of deer; I hear them making alarm calls before racing off away from me. The calls are immensely loud and high-pitched!
One of the nights of the last few, I had nowhere booked to stay (there's not a lot in the middle bit of the Highlands) and had planned to camp in a field behind the church at Croik. And what a lovely field it was too. However. The first problem was that it was getting midget, so I hastily put up my tent and managed to tear a hole in one of the outer bits of porch with my trekking pole. I think it would have been fine. But. I dived into the tent and threw my stuff in quickly. Not quickly enough. 200 midges had made it into the inner protective midge netting with me. No way could I sleep with those in there with me.
I had a bit of a melt down. Pulled down the tent and dived into the church. Having slept in a church porch in the South West, I was ok to sleep inside this one. However. The guide book inside the church said it was open only during daylight hours. So I had a complete melt down. What was I going to do? It was only 18:30 and I was falling asleep already. I made some hot food and ate it and rehearsed the pleading I would do when someone turned up to lock up the church.
As the sun got lower and lower, I kept falling asleep even though I was freezing, so I got my sleeping bag out as well as already having put on all of my clothes, and got inside that. As it got darker I decided I would chance getting my sleeping mat and foil mat out too. But nobody came and I slept through until time to get up again before dawn to get going this morning.
My shoes were still saturated from the bog the previous day, but my feet have healed a bit so they're less painful as long as I can actually run a lot rather than hike. Staying on the fore and mid of my feet keeps the pressure off my heels enough to stop this hurting. So when terrain or incline dictates that I have to hike, that's when my feet start to hurt and it gets worse the longer I have to hike or when the surface is very uneven - i.e. bog, scree etc.
Four days to go. One of which I still have nowhere to stay and with the midges, I'm not sure what I'll do. And two of which are the longest mileage days for a long time; 33 miles each and back to back.
I'm exhausted. Physically and mentally. Tomorrow is a super short and easy day, then it's super hard. I need to sleep and think about how I'll get through this last bit.

So there's this NC500 thing that's exploded the tourist industry in The Highlands. Demand for accommodation is far outstripping supply and it's a fight to get a room for the night anywhere. Good for Scotland! I hope it brings a great boost to the economy up here.
I've managed to find something for tomorrow night now. It's miles from where I'll be and necessitates a touch and go taxi pickup on an area of no mobile coverage in the evening after a day of 33 miles at unknown pace. That'll focus the mind somewhat, especially with at least 10 miles of bog which slows me down to 25-30 mins per mile! Then I have a pickup the next morning at 05:15 to get back to where I left off, for another 33 mile day, but at least I will have slept in a real bed without midges! If I make that taxi pickup. 

Day thirty-four.
The shortest day. And all on road as there's no other way to traverse this bit without adding tens of extra miles.
It was tedious and needed a lot of concentration. On a single track road, and with a stiff head-wind, I couldn't hear anything coming from behind until they were practically on top of me. At least the oncoming ones were mostly viewable from a decent distance so I could see when they were simply neither going to slow down or give me any passing room. 1 in 5 vehicles didn't slow down at all and expected me to leap into the verge to allow them to continue unhindered. Two camper vans who had a clear view from over half a mile of straight road beforehand, passed about 9 inches from me at around 50mph. Which was not in the slightest bit funny and I have to say that I yelled myself hoarse after them, using very creatively colorful language.
12.8 miles done and my accommodation for tonight peeped into view. I stopped to take a photo with the bridge in view and as I set off again I lost concentration, tripped on a loose bit of gravel, stumbled and pitched forward onto the gravel and into the road a bit, knee and hand first. The weight of my pack unbalanced me and pulled me onto one side so I had to pick myself up pretty quickly to get out of the road. A motorbike stopped to check I was ok, which was very kind of them. I thanked them and said I was ok and literally done for the day with my rest place right behind them.
I'm just very tired with all the concentration needed; whether through bog or along the roads. It's really tiring mentally as well as physically.

Day thirty-five.
Up at 04:30 to pack up, have a little while to prep my feet and a couple of cups of tea and head out as soon as it was light enough to see. Except, although I'd been left a flask of hot water to make tea with and dine fresh milk as well as a wrapped bacon sandwich for later, there were no tea bags. Luckily I still had a few sachets of coffee from a few B&Bs ago, so I had a couple of coffees instead.
Having had a good chat with a chap who'd hiked from the Inn to Badenloch Lodge yesterday, I had an idea of what the conditions would be like; boggy up to the ridge, then really good going after that with some gravel, bark litter and hard packed sand. And that was mostly how it went. My feet are doing better so the bog was less painful to get through than previously, though I did get completely saturated feet it was less of a problem. The dawn views across the three lochs were stunning, but I didn't want to be wasting too much time taking photos as I was worried about making my scheduled pick up from the station at the other end of 33 miles.
26 miles cross country was really nice, despite the initial bogginess and cold wet feet. I nearly scared the crap out of a guy doing some maintenance work at a boat house with his three black hounds who really wanted to lick my scraped knee. "Where have you come from!?" This at 08:10 and miles from anywhere  He was extremely surprised to hear me say "The Crask Inn"with a big grin on my face because I'd made such good progress from there.
I lolloped off again, still convinced that my 6pm pick up was a little spicy and I didn't want to miss it (hah! my watch was predicting I'd get there at an increasingly early time, peaking at 14:22!). The rest of the off road bit was quite flat and uninspiring really. Long views across smaller lochs to hills that were being rained on, and a few folks out fishing (people!). Then came the road section.
Again since the OS survey of the area was done, a track is now an A road. A thankfully quite quiet A road, but still tedious and needing concentration to jump out of the way of cars, vans, and the very occasional truck. I walked a lot as I knew that even if I had phone signal to cancel my pick up, the next (and last) train wasn't due until 17:15ish. 2 and 1/4 hours after I actually made it to the station pick up point. It turned out there was a little cafe (yay!) where now, because I didn't have to pay a huge sum for a taxi, I could afford tea and a scone while I waited for the train (well, at least until 4pm when the cafe shut).
Why could I not afford to eat? I lost my debit card. It was in my little plastic travel wallet with my cash and I used it to pay for coffee at a cafe yesterday but by the time I went to pay up last night at The Crask Inn it was gone. Luckily I'd got out cash to cover the taxi fares as now the cash is all I have to get me through the next two nights! I've just enough to cover the two B&Bs (one is prepaid online and the other one is super cheap) and the two taxi rides. Now it's only one taxi ride I can eat real food tonight instead of my spare freeze dried meal! (And yes, I've cancelled my debit card.)
One full day of 33 miles to go and then it's a short day to the end. I need to hold on all my emotions until after tomorrow!

Day thirty-six.
Another super early start, to get back to Forsinard from Helmsdale. It was the only place I could get accommodation and it was "interesting" at that. The owners were super helpful with my issue with the missing debit card and I had a surprisingly good steak for dinner. 04:30 wake up and I actually made porridge for breakfast - there was only cereal available in the morning and there would be nowhere to do during the 33.5 mile route to get food.
05:30 pick up and a trundle back to Forsinard to set off again. The drive passed by a huge number of herds of deer at that time in the morning, it was lovely to see them up close as they usually run away when you're near and on foot.
The majority of the first 20 miles on foot was bird reserves and conservation areas. Compared with the rest of Scotland, pretty flat and dull to look at though. And fairly flat to run too.
Highlights of the day were seeing a couple of pine martens (too quick to get a photo) and a couple of wind turbine blades being transported on trucks. Lowlights were being pretty constantly bothered by flies. Normal ones just buzzing around me in twos and threes pretty much all day. Super irritating.
The final few miles on road were reminiscent of my final few miles of Thames Path a few years ago. The area being rather functional, uninspiring and the people (in this case, drivers) surly, mean and lacking in humanity.
33.5 miles done and my accommodation just about open enough for me to get into my room and inhale any food I had left in my bag.

A hot shower, hot meal and a lie in tomorrow morning are up next. I have 18 miles to cover and can't get to the finish point before 14:00 so I don't need to be getting up at 04:30 this time đŸ˜€
Just the glory leg left!

Day thirty-seven; the final day.
And it was a short one at only 18 miles. With a deadline of not reaching the John o'Groats sign before 2pm as that's when Norm would be there to meet me. This meant I got a lie in until 7.30am before a super leisurely getting ready and having breakfast to set off at 9.30am.
The route was almost entirely on roads as there really aren't any footpaths that get you anywhere in this part of the country. And worse than that, a large section was one long straight road for 5.5 miles that stretched ahead interminably. Roads like that just make you feel like you're not getting anywhere so it can be quite demoralising.
I made super quick progress even hiking as the surface was good and my feet are healed enough now that hiking didn't hurt much at all. This meant I had to consciously show it down and hike most of the way rather than run as I'd be way too early at John o'Groats otherwise. That way tantrums lie!
Not much happened of note; the usual homicidal car drivers, for whom I have nothing but hatred and foul language, interspersing the decent human beings who appear to have common sense if not actually having read the Highway Code. Cows. Sheep. And a couple of pine martens. At one point, in the distance, a herd of sheep being driven from one field to a new one down the road. And then I saw the sea.
The sea heralded 4.5 miles to go. I thought I'd feel something at that point, but I didn't. I got angry for a short while as I thought I'd beat Norm to the sign despite me having deliberately slowed down for miles. Apple's Find Friends app was showing him as very far away and even with appalling mobile coverage and limited location updates it really looked like he wouldn't make it before me. The feeling passed. Yesterday I'd put on headphones and listened to carefully chosen music to provoke emotions - Alpine Symphony for a start - and it worked to an extent; forcing short periods of loud tears. That was the feeling I was looking for but it didn't happen today. I couldn't force it either as it simply wasn't safe to wear headphones on the road.
As I got to the final turning about 1/3 mile from the end, I saw the Seaview Hotel with it's LEJoG sign. So I popped in to get my stamp on my log book. I had time to waste so had a bit of a chat with the chap at reception. Then I ambled off very gently towards the final point of the route. Very slowly. Cursing a little.
At first I couldn't see the sign but once I'd figured out where it was, I broke into a run again. After all, this was supposed to be a run so I'd better finish off as I started. I couldn't see Norm so I just gave in and headed for the sign.
Done. I put my arm around the sign and stood still just too long such that other tourists asked me to take a picture of them under the sign. At which point Norm appeared. Now I was finished. Now I could relax a bit. But it felt functional and there was no emotion.
It's weird. And I don't want to over-analyse, but I don't feel closure. I wanted to feel a flood of something but it never came. I've run over 1,000 miles, from one end of the country to the other, by myself, mostly cross-country, and with no crew. I should feel something.

Friday 20 October 2017

LEJoG 2017 - the first 22 days

The first 22 days, uncut, from Facebook posts as they were published...

Day one done! 
More adventure than expected for "the easy introduction" day. Three detours, two electric fences, a million bunnies, a slow worm, lots of furry caterpillars, two barbed wire fences, five locked gates on footpaths/byways, one herd of over-affectionate cows, five miles of stunning South West Coast path, a peregrine falcon less than 2m from my head, one unavoidable quagmire of mud and cowshit, one quick coffee on the hoof, 20m of chest height brambles and gorse that took half an hour to get through, a little sunburn and a pub with no food at the end.

Day two done.
Far less epic, thankfully! 29 miles and only a few detours; 8 foot bushes blocking a footpath nobody has used for years, one stupid mis-route by me, and one where there was no way to get to a cycle way that was 20 feet higher than the junction looked like.

With the less exciting situations came less epic scenery but still very pretty. Tons of wild flowers. A little more road than I would have liked, but I'm now 5% through the distance so that's pretty good.

Tomorrow is a little shorter and ends in a B&B again but no local food so I need to eat before I get there somehow.

Day three!
The first 5 miles were great - easy navigation, quick progress and I had one job to do today... keep my feet dry. Yesterday they were soaked for a few hours towards the end for a second day in a row and got a bit macerated. What I didn't notice this morning was that I had a damaged bit between my big toe and the next one on my left foot. By just past mile 5 I decided to stop at a holiday park Costa for a coffee and a look at my foot. Half an hour later I'd cleaned off the grit, powdered with Zeasorb and put some tape on the area to protect it. All I had to do was keep my feet dry and they'd have a chance to recover some more.
Cue mile six and "the farmer who plants right to the edge of the field", a need to take a route along the edge of said field and a butt load of heavy dew on knee high crop. Soaked feet in seconds and I had a meltdown. For the next 10 miles my feet got repeatedly re-saturated by my route traversing pretty much every hay meadow in the district.
There are still very many farmers who apparently hate walkers as they string wire and/or electric fences across footpaths and secure gates with barbed wire. I have to say that until I got to the B&B at the end of today I haven't felt very welcome here today.
And don't even get me started on the weird pub I got food in that had Nazi memorabilia on the wall...
There were some very pretty bits too though, and more British Bulldog cows.

Day four
...and I chose to stay on roads all day in order to pretty much guarantee dry feet. It did that and I got to see some pretty scenery, lots of wildlife and some crosses and standing stones.
The afternoon heated up and the sun beat down. Yet again I was glad of my white cycling bolero to stop my arms and shoulders from bursting into flames.
A fortuitous meeting in the pub at the end got me booked into a palace of a B&B and I was really glad to finally get to meet up with a couple of friends I'd not seen in ages/were meeting in real life for the first time. Hopefully I'll get to spend more than a brief got with them again soonish!
I've cleared my first county! Hello Devon!

Day five
...and oh boy was it a doozey! There moors are simply stunning and the Tarka trail just perfect in my opinion. Miles of rushing river in the woods, my absolute favourite. This is the first day over 30 miles and it was always going to be a long one, but my foot is still not right and it got really sore about 20 miles in (having been just niggly until then).
I stopped at a station café for "meal" as there was going to be nothing else available all day, and met Percy the station cat who clearly didn't give a damn about anything other than snoozing on a chair (I wish!).
I'm currently curled up in a church porch, next to a farm which is doing its best to get all the baled up hay in tonight before dew in the morning so it's pretty noisy and some of the noises keep making me jumpy. Hoping I can sleep and get off early tomorrow for another 33 mile day with even more elevation gain!

So day six was as almost the end of it. 
My feet were in constant pain and that, on top of the constant re-routing, ducking under electric fences/over barbed wire, running away from homicidal cows, shedding by brambles and nettles, saturated feet within the first three miles again, beating down sun etc., took me beyond my limit.
I had a six hour meltdown. But made it to the planned end point for the day.
My left foot really needed attention and I'd just had enough. So after a chat with Norm, agreed to take a rest day rather than call myself a failure and give in right away.
So I'm spending today with my feet up, shoes off, drinking tea and booking places to stay for the next few days to take the pressure off needing to do that each day - after the trouble I've had for the last 3 days I just don't want that to be an additional thing to worry about while I'm trying to just keep moving forward.
I'll see where I am in another six days and take it from there.

Day seven
...and I've downgraded the status of my left foot from red to amber. It's still not great but it's been dry all day. That on top of a day of being up yesterday seems to have done a great job of stopping it from getting really disgusting.
Today has been quite kind to me. No soaking of my feet at all, despite a good amount of off road, and the sun has been mostly behind clouds. The trails were in good shape for the first 19 or so miles too.
I targeted a National Trust café for a mid point stop and it came a little late and had not the greatest selection of food (cake, pasties, sandwiches, soup and ice cream) but I stopped for an hour and a quarter there to have soup, a sandwich, a pot of tea and a bottle of fizzy water. The break really revived me as I wasn't feeling great to that point despite the good conditions. My mood was very low and I was yet again questioning everything. Lots of things already hurt only 3 hours into a 10 hour day on my feet.
The rest of the route was less great after that stop, more cranky farmers with low enthusiasm for footpaths but at least no electric fences or barbed wire. That said, my legs got a good scourging with nettles, repeatedly.
Final stop for the day was a lucky B&B that I bagged earlier in the day on the off chance that had room. I just beat the rain in to the farm house and was mobbed by the very affectionate cat, fed tea and cake and then got showered and dry.

Day eight!
And it was a day of humidity, bogs, river crossings, lakes, rain and flies.
A couple of reroutes needed and for the first time a farmer actually opened an electric fence to let me through as he saw I was headed onto the footpath! I got chased again a bit by summer cows and just about out ran them before they got bored. My feet did get soaked within the first hour but they did fine after recovering well there last couple of days. They were also not sore until the last hour rather than from the three hour mark onwards. An improvement!
No idea how far I actually went today - a mess up in my route planning meant I glued two days together so had no countdown to the end of today and given that my Garmin did that thing where it thinks I'm moving about while indoors, it added over a mile while I was eating brunch and drinking pints of tea. Oh well!
Another day done and I'm now 22% through overall AND I'll hit a new county tomorrow too.

Day nine
...and a day of crossings; the Clifton suspension bridge, the M5, the M4 and The Severn bridge. It started with eight miles of almost non stop running at the start! They then got soaked in some long grass and spent the rest of the day slowly drying out. Today saw zero: electric fences, barbed wire, locked/chained gates, lakes of cow/horse shit, pools of piss, brambles, hawthorn, thistles and carnivorous cows. There was one, single nettle sting.
A huge milestone came in getting out of the South West and into Wales (and straight back out again). 25% of the total distance done!
The trails were stunning today; it was glorious to be on well maintained, well loved trails and Offa's Dyke is one to go back to for sure. The day ended in a castle. With a banquet. Including soup. And no cutlery. No. Really!

Day ten
...and though I'm in civilisation and have plenty of data capability I'm not live video posting. I'm too down.
Today was chalk to yesterday's cheese. Though I got up to the stunning view point at Symonds Yat, I could l couldn't stay and enjoy it. Every day is about just getting to the next point without face-planting, getting too wet, stung, scraped or eaten by cows.
On paper, today was the hardest day of the whole route; 32 miles and 1300m of ascent. It also involved a large circuit into Ross-on-Wye, which seemed unnecessary to me so I re-routed to cut off a good chunk after Symonds Yat which also dropped the climbing appreciably. However, it meant a lot of road. And road where the drivers are less than kindly and either refuse to make room at all, or give you an extra 50cm or so without slowing down at all (hello national speed limit minor roads!).
After a stop for some really really good salmon and tea for lunch, I finally managed to let some of the frustration out and did some top notch bawling almost all the way to the end. A little pause in the snot-fest to get through the streets to a park near where I'm staying and I found a bench to sit on and rest my feet a while while I bawled some more.
I finally hauled ass to my accommodation for the night and on discovering there was a bath, I sat in it, in my kit to give it its first proper rinse out in ten days.
I'm sore. My legs are made out of porridge and my feet really ache. I'm not sure I can be bothered to go and get any food; I've had a ham and tomato sandwich and that fabulous salmon at lunch time...

Day eleven!
Oh boy! So this was supposed to be my second longest mileage day of the whole trip. Elevation not too bad overall.
I started out, of course, through a wet field of hip-height grass within the first half hour *sigh* After a birthday call to the husband which made me quite teary, I got going for the the day feeling like it'd be OK given the lack of height I'd need to climb and the large percentage of the route off road.
I still managed to get very sore feet.
Still, I planned a lunch stop that was in theory bang on my route and I didn't need to detour into Leominster to eat. I found it on Google maps and the pictures got me quite excited. As I approached, I was a bit worried it might not be open but when I headed to the counter I was greeted by the wonderful Dom, of Doms Bike Stop, who proceeded to be wonderfully welcoming and made me some heavenly tea as I figured out what I needed to eat.
To be honest, this was the best lunch stop I've had since I started. Dom's is a haven of good, locally sourced, tasty food with some quirky decor in 12 acres of land with space for camping and yoga retreats! Not what you'd expect for a biker café but it's brilliant!
Well fueled and after a great chat with Dom and his little boy, I headed back out for the second half of the day, where all the elevation was.
I had a mile along the A49 first though, which was less than fun. Then up into some woods and through stupidly pretty villages before deciding to bail a couple of miles early to take advantage of a B&B opportunity with a clean dry bed and a shower rather than kipping in a random field or church porch for the night.
My feet are so so sore. I just needed to be comfortable and clean and able to be nice to my feet while the opportunity was there.
Another county done and 30% through. Need to replan tomorrow given I've got an extra couple of miles to deal with from today. And I get to see Norm tomorrow too.

Day twelve
...and having stopped short yesterday I had to get creative to make the end point today. From where I was supposed to stop yesterday it was 32 miles and 1300m ascent, plus an extra 2 miles. The thought of that was not a happy one at all.
So I looked at the map until I fell asleep and picked out a path that was more direct, avoided much climbing, and the A49 (which is a death wish path; I wouldn't cycle on it either).
I did get to go through some ridiculously pretty villages and valleys, but also across fields that had no sign of the footpath at all, though pretty useable and marked gates/stiles at either side. My feet got soaked again; no surprise there. My legs got whipped, scratched, stung, and coated in wet, itchy seeds. Hey ho.
A planned brunch stop in Church Stretton made me choke up a little. The café was lovely, the menu made up of everything I might have liked right then and I felt quite overwhelmed. Two pots of tea and some soup and a slice of game pie and I was stuffed. Having made really good time, I luxuriated in a 90 min stop before pressing on.
More silly-pretty villages and then a quite unpleasant yomp through a very difficult farm section and I stumped into the final stretch. With a twingey knee, though this bit was runnable I didn't. No hurry, well ahead of planned scheduling and still very early I was happy to stroll to the finish.
My shoes reek. I'm not too bad, but stingy and itchy legs and sore feet.
Taking a strategic rest day tomorrow at the end of the long run of long days. I have some accommodation to plan for the upcoming week or so and wouldn't say no to a bit of recovery and time to get the admin done. Including figuring out the key point of replacing my shoes, which are pretty battered already at 355 miles or so, mainly from being permanently wet and gouged by thorns etc.

Day fourteen
...and it was quite a damp one. I woke up at about 04:30 as the sky was getting bright and put on radio 4 while I dozed until 05:15, then started to pack up my stuff.
My tent was full of condensation on the inside because I forgot to un-velcro the vents at the ends, so I did my best to shake off as much as possible before packing it away. This was after putting my stove on to make a coffee and pack up all the insides of the tent while that cooled down. It turns out a spider had crawled into the pot overnight, that I'd prepped with water and just turned on the gas. So when I came to tip in the coffee granules, there was a thick little web. No time to boil another so I just swiped out the web as best I could and drank the coffee anyway.
The rain started pretty much straight away. Storms were forecast and I was pretty apprehensive of a day out in that. But the drizzle let up almost straight away and as I made up the two miles from yesterday, the going was good.
I'd had a good tip on decent trails in the locale and it lined up with the direction I needed to be going in and made things pretty efficient. The Sandstone Trail is really really good. Well and clearly marked and very well maintained. This made for swift going - almost 4mph! (Don't laugh, I can only dream of that speed on this route with my heavy pack on!).
There was really only one problem solving section, but it was pretty advanced. A footpath that not only wasn't used recently but I'm pretty sure it was never that great. It was, in theory, along the side of a river, but was actually in a bog that was thick with various trees and bushes and waist height rushes, brambles, nettles and other greenery. I gave up after about 1/4 mile of being permanently worried about disappearing into the bog. I ended up climbing up a mud bank, hauling myself up using tree roots and some random disused farm equipment, over a barbed wire fence and into a meadow of waist height grass, heavy with rain.
There was some fairly pretty woods after that, then a road of death where I pretty quickly decided that I'd rather be angry and alive than right about the highway code and squished. Cue lots of jumping into the hedge.
Being a couple of hours ahead of schedule, I headed to what looked like a nice pub about 15 mins from where I'm staying. And a very nice pub it is indeed!
Tomorrow will be a bit of a slog as I'm a bit off route with tonight's accommodation as well as it being impossible to optimise or use roads as they're all pretty major into Bolton.
Head down and get on with it after a good night's sleep I guess.

Day fifteen.
I'm quite tired so this will be short. I woke at 05:30 to head out between 06:00 and 06:30 and was pretty much really not up for it today. The weather meant I wanted to avoid much trail as I was worried about flooding, so I did some rerouting to involve more road. I also had a couple of miles to catch up from yesterday.
Diversion within the first couple of miles and I didn't even bat an eyelid, just got on with it.
Not the prettiest section ever; there's a lot of urban sprawl between Liverpool and Manchester. A few nice bits though. I crossed the M6, M56, M62 and M61 today. Pretty motorway-tastic!
The wind and rain battered me for most of the day and it was over 22 miles before I could take a break. My hands suffered most due to being wet and wind beaten for hours and they were so cold I couldn't operate my phone or push buttons on my watch.
Then something weird happened. I was doing some map checking as I came around a corner and past a stopped white van; head down and focused. Two blokes started yelling from the van as I drew level with it "come on! Keep going! Keep going! Keep going!". I thought the usual "thanks random people who are being leary at me" and then a bicycle and runner came past me. And I saw the runner had not only some white headphones in, but a T-shirt on with a map of the UK on the back with a line from bottom to top! I called out "oh God! Wow! I'm doing that too!" and tried to keep up for a bit. The parked up van driver off ahead and it was the support van! "How long have you been going for?" I shouted after them, but with my hood up and the blasting wind I couldn't hear the reply. They carried on into the distance after the cyclist managed to fall off a bit in front of me, apologise and then carry on, saying "good luck!" to me.
I crossed over the Warburton toll bridge over the Manchester ship canal, which is pretty narrow and has no pavements and on the other side a little further on was the support van pulled over with its hazard lights on and the bike stopped in front. The runner was to the side of the van and I thought he was stopping for food from the van - really not a great place to do that given the road situation. I thought I'd grab a photo of the van as I drew level with it so I could look him up later. But as I got about 10m from the back, the runner got into the van, and the cyclist and van headed off!
No idea what happened there, but it seemed rather odd. Weird place to stop. And it'd be quite disruptive to drop someone back off there again later. Anyway. Maybe he was done for the day (11:30am?) or injured, or going to get food, or needed a poo (no easy opportunities on that road, I have to say). I guess I'll never know.
For lunch, I found a gorgeous pub with slightly jobsworth staff and great food. Odd mix, but there you go. After procrastinating for well over an hour over the brilliant beef and Stilton pie with gravy (I was freezing and needed heating up), I had to get on with it.
More miles of trudging along roads - at least with pavements around here - and more wind and rain and I eventually finished for the day. Tired, wet and sore feet and really in need of a hot shower and tea. Thankfully I have now had both.

Day sixteen
...and the apprehension I had about getting up into the moors in the high winds was blown away by the beauty up there. It was a blustery climb up to Winter Hill to the TV transmitter, phone masts and weather station, but the views were incredible.
I bumped into a running couple where they'd parked up at the bottom of one of the hills and he'd watched me come down from the top. We had a bit of a chat and his wife got out of the car to join us. They were a little skeptical at first but very supportive and keen to hear about me in the news. That's not gonna happen I'm afraid! The run on to the next hill was great; actually runnable and glorious views.
My food stop at The Millstone at Mellor was all too brief. The place was really nice, relaxing and the food was very good - mushroom soup and a cheese sandwich of the best flavours and textures. I wished I could stay but I had to move on. 18.5 miles done on honest trails with stunning scenery done and I thought I had another 16 to go.
The next 5-6 miles were horrible. Disused footpaths, badly maintained farms/farmland and a total disregard for other people. I spent a couple of hours crying in anger and frustration to the point I felt sick. There was literally nothing I could do to change the situation - no rerouting possible as there just wasn't an alternative without getting back a few miles and onto major roads for even more miles adding hours and danger to my day. I just had to get on with it.
Finally I ended up back in good footpaths with good gates etc and I figured out I had less far too go than I thought. Almost 12 hours including 40ish mins at the food stop and that was a long day.
It started and ended with beautiful and honest trails on moors, but there was a truly horrible bit to get through in between. I'm exhausted. But I've had a bath (unexpected luxury!) And a really good steak and I'm feeling a bit better, though still whacked out.
Tomorrow will get an extra couple of miles tacked on from today's slightly early finish so it will be another long day to get through and with no rerouting possibility again if things get iffy.
I'm just so tired!

Day seventeen.
Wow! The Forest of Bowland is gorgeous. But also very very boggy. In between drooling over the scenery in the rain, I was mostly wading ankle deep in marshy grass and bog for very many hours. And then I hit the fells and the glory that is The Hornby Road which is several miles of gravel trail and really very runnable. It rained from the moment I got up until I stopped for food. I'd been so long wading in bog that I couldn't be bothered with finding shallow waters through fords any more and just waded through.
Out I popped into a village where I intended to divert a little off the route to a pub for brunch but as I hit the village I found a farm café which was perfect.
A large vat of powerful tea and a cheese toastie and scone later I was ready for the rest of the day. At this point my phone battery case died through being saturated for hours. Not great as I was using my phone a lot for navigation up on the fells and there was some fine detail navigation I needed it for later on too. Thankfully the rain stopped and I tied the case onto my rucksack straps to air out for a few hours and that did the trick.
Running across mostly fells and forest today meant zero crap with lack of footpath accessibility, though I did get chased by sheep! No nettles. No barbed wire. No electric fences. Zero stress! The obstacles of nature are just there and that's OK. It's the fake natural obstacles of thorns, nettles and thistles where the footpath should be, plus careless or bitter land owners that frustrate and anger me. None of that today. Only one missing footbridge over a raging torrent which wasn't the end of the world as there was a path on the other side which got me there anyway.
I also managed to dip into North Yorkshire today, which just blows my mind completely. That's really in The North.
An honest and beautiful day today. If a little wet. Theme of the day... water.

Day eighteen already fading a bit from my memory with today's day of rest, but...
The morning was very much a businesslike case of making progress as efficiently as possible. Having finished two miles out again yesterday, had I followed my original planned route it would have been 36.5 miles and 1400m of ascent. And despite really enjoying the moors and fells, I really needed to have a less stressful day. Also my phone battery case had totally died overnight due to being soaked all day yesterday and I needed to have very simple navigation. So I took a track road which was unused by vehicles; I think I saw 2 cars in about 20 miles and 6 hours on the move.
I stopped at a brilliant little cafe for brunch and had the biggest pot of tea known to mankind as well as a pile of food and some time off my feet. My shoes are definitely tired, more of being ripped by spiky things and pounding with the combined weight of me plus my pack for over 500 miles. They're ripped inside and out and ready to be replaced. The good thing is I had ordered new ones for delivery to this weekend's stop.
The afternoon brightened up, the sun came out and as I crested Orton Scar, I finally took off my long sleeved top for the first time in the days. And the view opened up in front of me... another one of those that a photo does no justice to and words fail me.
Then the military aircraft kicked in and I got the most amazing display from jets and helicopters; fat, heavy helicopters that made me think there was a steam train over the hill. I just managed to capture a video of one, but missed the time one appeared overhead so low I could almost tickle its belly!
With the sun warming me and the brilliant air display, simple navigation and almost complete lack of aches and pains, the afternoon pretty much flew by and the day was over pretty early despite the distance.
Today I've been planning ahead, booking lots of places to stay and had a little rejig of the final few days to make things simpler and so that Norm can be with me on my last day.
It's weird. I'm poverty half way through but it really feels like the end is in sight, having taken a closer look at the next 20 days. Having split one longer day it's added a day but I'll take no more rest days now and I'll have three short days instead of only the last one.
535 miles down, 500 to go!

Day nineteen
...and the last day wholly in England. A short day at only 27.5 miles or so and very little elevation at only 700m-ish. Lots of very pretty scenery and an early brunch stop caught me by surprise at around 10:30 having started pretty late at just after 7am!
I stopped in a gorgeous bakery cafe which did perfect breakfast rolls and I had bacon, egg and black pudding in a soft roll with a pot of tea for two, with one cup. Bliss! It almost made up for being zapped by a stupid electric fence strung across the footpath earlier in the day that made me yell obscenities at the farmhouse nearby.
The afternoon was still going to be pretty short and easy so I lingered a while over brunch and had a cappuccino after I'd finished the other bits, while my morning photos uploaded. Having the next lots of days already booked and the days mileage being mainly shorter than they have been previously really takes the mental stress down a notch and I was pretty carefree. I picked up a cyclist shortly after lunch who came up behind me and asked where I was headed; "up to the top" I said. He said "oh, Watch Fell?" and I said "John o'Groats" as he headed out of earshot. 5 seconds later, he turned around and headed back for a chat as I jogged along beside him. Turns out he'd cycled it a few years ago in 7 days, he said. And he was surprised but also very understanding of me doing it alone (and with pretty decent average daily mileage!). After a few minutes chat he headed off into the distance, leaving me to it.
The rest of the afternoon was uneventful until I was getting out of the way of a large vehicle on one of the little roads I ended up on and something odd happened to my ankle. About 8.5 miles from my end point, it was fine at first but got increasingly painful to the point where I couldn't work out whether being on road and on level surface was better than off road and uneven but softer surface. It was pretty bad for a while and brought tears to my eyes. It then eased off a bit until I had to cross a field of deep grass and then it was almost excruciating before easing off again.
Having death marched the last 8.5 miles rather than running, I finally got to my accommodation for the night. Where they had great fun with their booking system being pretty much broken and they had no idea about my booking. But. I am now in the quiet room in the back rather than above the bar so I'll get a good night's sleep at least.
Having put my foot up for a while, my ankle is even more painful now so I can only hope that a night and lots of sleep will fix it up for the morning.

Day twenty.
My ankle felt not too bad as I made tea in the morning but when I got outside and started to stride off down the road, I got sharp, hot stabs of pain. I hobbled back to the inn to get wi-fi to try to talk to Norm to get some perspective, but the wi-fi was totally dead. I tried to call but the mobile signal was too weak.
I then thought what I'd do is get to my brunch stop and see what happens.
I'd planned ahead for being on road for the majority of the first post of the day and that helped. Staying on an even surface and mostly going uphill meant that the pain was manageable and I made reasonable progress. As the day wore on, I decided to check when the lunch stop opened for lunch. Oh dear. 4pm. No use! A quick reroute to a different one on a slightly longer route overall and I tried to call them to ask when they opened but the mobile signal was again too weak. I managed to find their website, which said they opened at 11:30 every day. Brilliant!
As I was making determined progress I was sure I'd get to the place before 11, but then some downhill came up and I couldn't do more than shuffle in excruciating pain as my ankle was very unhappy with it. I got to the pub just around 11:15 to find the sign outside saying "open every day from 4pm".
I had planned to get food and some tea and strap up my ankle to see if that helped, but I ended up just having to sit on the grass verge of the road and strap up my ankle with no food or tea.
The next section I had a short bit of off road to help cut a chunk of distance out. Oh boy was that a bad idea. I had to take the tiniest steps and bawled my eyes out with the pain each time my foot landed off horizontal and flat. 1/2 mile took 20 minutes to cover.
Back on road again I re-routed to the end to be completely on road and sucked up the first stabs as I had to negotiate a 1/4 mile switchback down at 15% to the location of the Scottish border.
I was glad that even on a tiny road there was a sign indicating that I'd left England.
3.5 miles more and I got to my accommodation for the night and asked for help getting a doctor. Happy to wait for a 6pm emergency appointment, I sat in the lounge with an ice pack and a packet of pork scratchings for my breakfast (15:30...).
The hotel owner ran me to the surgery where I had to register as a temporary resident so they could get me on the system.
And the verdict is a sprain and needing a couple of days off. Lots of painkillers and a walking stick from the doc and I now need to cancel and rebook a lot of B&Bs.

Day twenty-one.
And after a two day break to try to kick start recovery with my sprained ankle, I was well into "one day at a time" territory.
I started out in the rain a few minutes before 6 and things felt pretty OK. I still couldn't flex my ankle without quite some pain, but there was more range of motion than the days before. (I'd kept it elevated, compressed and did flexing exercises every hour to try to get things moving better - that hurts quite a lot, but is pretty effective.) There wasn't a lot of scenery to be looked at, given the rain and being pretty much inside a cloud for a good while, and I'd had the luxury of being able to route on road until at least my brunch stop. So I made pretty good progress for a few hours. I did get a couple of folks pause to check I was OK and offer me a lift, which was lovely but obviously I had to decline.
Not long after the four hour mark, things suddenly got excruciatingly painful and I was reduced to a hobble, even with my walking stick. With a six and a half hour time estimate to my food stop, I had something of a swearing session. I was convinced that I'd have to drop at Hawick (pronounced "hoik", it turns out) and I bawled my eyes out yet again with the frustration and impending sense of loss. The tears come when I think I might have to stop before I'm finished. Yes, things hurt but that's almost never where the tears come from. I cry when I'm furious or frustrated.
I promised myself I'd have some tea and some food and see how things looked after that. And I stumped off down the road some more.
My chosen brunch café was closed. Permanently. But given that Hawick is a reasonable size, I had options and found a weird little place called "Damascus Drum" where I got a beef-filled bagel and a pot of tea. My ankle had been behaving a bit better in the final mile or so into Hawick and after eating, I got a takeout coffee and headed out to try it out.
It behaved! But I was about to have to go off road which really worried me. Thankfully the trail was pretty entry-level and with the brace on and my stick, I managed to make reasonable progress. They know how to do stiles in this country too!
The rain lifted a few times and I did get to see some of the pretty before the final climb to my accommodation for the night... where the host gave me the biggest bedroom with the best view and a huge bathroom, as well as not charging me for dinner as a donation to PHCuk. 36 miles and 1075m elevation. Done.
My ankle really needed me to have been continuing to do the flexing exercises; it's seized up quite a lot, but I'm doing my best to squeeze a few in without irritating it too much before sleep time.
Another 5am wake up tomorrow as it's another longer day and almost all of it off road, so slow going.
Yeah, not much running going on right now, but I'd rather keep making progress than not. I'm not giving up unless things get a lot worse.

Day twenty-two.
Up at 5 this morning and off up the Cross Borders Drove Road. Up being the operative word. Lots of height gained and some glorious views (yes, again). In and out of trees and heather (a bit scratchy on the ankles). Then, after over 6 miles of mostly up, came the down.
And the pain.
And the grinding to an impossibly slow hobble as I used my walking stick as my right leg and howled in pain for two very long miles.
And that was that.
This was clearly bad and wrong. So I headed to a nearby village just off route and by chance came across a local health centre well pointed me to the Borders General hospital A&E department and called me a taxi to get me there.
Half an hour later and I hobbled into the waiting area. I was lucky that it was empty and quiet and got seen by a triage nurse pretty quickly who sent me off to x-ray in a wheelchair. I couldn't even put my foot down on the ground at this stage as that made me almost dizzy with pain. I ate half of my packed bacon sandwich breakfast as I was exhausted and ravenous through emotional energy expenditure. Whatever the result of the x-ray, there was no way I could keep covering these distances for another 15 and a half days with my ankle like this.
Two hours after coming through the door and I was packed off with a diagnosis of tendinitis, a pair of crutches, instructions to take anti-inflammatories for at least a week and a letter to my GP.
It's pretty clear that it's not going to even start getting better unless I give it a chance. And even drugged to the eyeballs with painkillers I can't cope with downhills at all, which is pretty unavoidable on this sort of route.
I'm resting up in Scotland for the weekend, popping in to Dunfermline parkrun to cheer tomorrow. Then I'll head home and think about what to do about this unfinished business. I've done 630 miles, there's 405 to go. I'd really like to finish the job, but doing it across two separate trips... does that "count"? Have I still run Lands End to John o'Groats?