Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Easter 2013 A wonderful Birthday Weekend & a sore foot

Last weekend did more damage than I imagined.

The ski-ing crushed my toes in my boot causing a scary crushing sensation between my middle toes on my left foot.

On Sunday my mountain bike saddle kept slipping into my frame and my hamstrings strained to keep pace. I had to hop off once or twice and re-set it but the damage might have been done.

I took it easy the rest of the week, only managing one run on Thursday. I kept that short at 45 minutes and swam a lot, thinking that would help - or at least not be so bad.

It helped that I was on site on Monday and then back on Tuesday - no time to train. Only sitting in the car on a long journey, changing clutch. Not good for the mind or the soul or, for that matter, the clutch foot.

Once back in the house I decided that Wednesday would be a work from home day leading into our Thursday off (finally). i loved the tweet that "a lot of us are limping into this bank holiday weekend so please be gentle with us". It certainly applied to our house.

I got a run in on Thursday morning to make sure it happened. Whilst the foot wasn't aggravated too much, I knew it was there.

We got loaded into the van by 2pm along with other stuff which set us in Edinburgh for dinner with a friend at 7. Thank god for her breaking up the journey. The foot was aggravated a bit more with a deffinite tendon strain feel through the foot but a nice cold stone floor in the house seemed to make it OK.

On Friday we continued to Aberdeen. We went shopping in the daytime and I strained the ligament good and proper by crouching down on the floor of Edinburgh Bike Co-op to look at a part. In the evening, I went swimming with Bex and the Aberdeen lifeguard team. I was careful of the foot and Very much appreciative of their patience. We got back to the house and as I demonstrated my toe-pointing technique on the living room carpet, the injured ligament suddenly failed all over again.

Saturday was a fun drive up the valley of the Dee to Ballater and onto the luxurious accommodation that was Gairnshiel Lodge. Complete with games room (pool, darts, space-invader machine and bar), industrial sized kitchen, 20-seater dining room and 10 bedrooms not to mention the river and surrounding mountains. It was lots of fun.

All we did Saturday was catering and I got my running training on the long trek between the kitchen and the dining room. Sadly I did this in flat "fashion" pumps which really screwed up my feet and made my toe hurt.

On Sunday it was excercise day. The foot felt OK. I knew the injury was still there but I didn't sustain it running and so far, running was not what made it bad. So I couldn't resist the warm mountain sunshine, gleaming off the snow and Becky and I set off for a run together with me turning back after 30 minutes and her continuing on to do a whopping 20 miler.

I was so impressed with Bex's running. I didn't have to slow down anymore to run with her and in fact in places I couldn't chat quite as fluenetly as I would have liked.

The run back was beautiful still but a little lonely so I looked forwards to going out with TSK after lunch.

First though, it was time for a paddle as I concluded the cold water might do my foot some good and the momentary exhilleration of icy water on flesh would do my soul a lot of good. Even Chris looked on in horror as I headed down the garden with my towel.

I found a secluded spot where I could stand on the bank on a patch of grass and lower myself onto a rock right next to the river to sit and dangle my feet in the water. Once I'd kicked most of the snow off the rock into the iced water, I put my towel on the rock to give my feel something comfortable to stand on and my ass osmething comfortable to sit on. Appart from the towel freezing to the rock, it kind of worked.

I put my feet in the water and held them there as long as possible. My blood gushed and I talked calmly to myself to persuade me to keep going. I stepped out as soon as it started to hurt. I dried off my feet as if to leave put it felt so good that I had another try at it and this time held on longer. It was a relief to be back in the water and this time I managed to stand on the river bed or a moment going in right up to my ancles! I stood as long as I could before it started to feel like the skin was actually burning. As a cryogenics specialist - I know this is the time to stop so I stepped out again and this time dried and dressed my feet once and for all.

After lunch, TSK and I hopped on the mountain bikes and set off to do the same cirular route that Becky was running but in the opposite direction. Actually we went to check out a trail which was on the other side of the river but it was too slushy to ride on competently with any efficiency so we gave up and resorted to the main road... the wrong one.

It was no-one's fault. I, for some reason mistook North for East, as did TSK. We worried about Becky a lot. It never once ocurred to us that she had gone a different way to the route we were on.

We climbed up and up then dropped down to the river Don before climbing up and up and up and reaching the Letcht ski hill. Neither of us had looked at that bit of the road map so we didn't realise where the Lecht was. We continued past and dropped down and down to Tomintouil. It was only when the computer clocked 25km that I thought something was wrong and only when we got to Tomintoul and recognised none of the turnings that we gradually deduced the error of our ways.

It was time to practice that great skill of mine. The one that's going to be really useful in Ironman... the ability to switch something from, "the worst possible eventuality and last thing on god's earth that I want to do" to, "that lovely ride home, back the way we came, that I am *so* looking forwards to!".

As a preference to getting a taxi or ringing friends in desperation, I plumped for getting the fuck on with it. It was a snap decision and one which started with me angrily doing pacemaking then enjoying a spot of bit-n-bit with TSK into the headwind. The fun ran out a bit as we climbed up the steep hill we'd just descended but it was good to watch the skiers for a while. Then it got really hard and I just concentrated on making it to the shed roof that I could see on the top of the slope. That was too far away so I reverted to counting pedal-strokes in 10s because each one of those was something I could get my head around achieving.

For a while I did it out loud so that TSK would know how much I was hurting. Then I carried on doing it out loud because forming the words in my mouth seemed to engage the pain, put its arm out and lend a hand. It didn't help to watch the thermometer on the garmin gradually drop from 1.2 degrees to 0.6 degrees.

Finally we topped out and began the long, flat roll out followed by the 20% descent down the other side. The snow drifts where the plough had been towered above TSK's head and we could've reached out and carved a pattern in the snow walls. Like the mountain-biker's perfect wave, in places we passed right underneath where the surface of snow had slightly melted and refrozen into a molten arc.

Back at the bottom we had some respite from the wind in the form of some forests. The temperature tentatively rose to 1.9 degrees where the sun shone. Then the wind came back.

This climb was less steep, so slightly more enjoyable. We looked out to try and figure out where the military road went and I occupied my mind with guessing the final elevation of the climb. I came within 2 m of the actual figure until I reached that point and realised that the road went up again.

At the top of that climb we knew that it was mostly downhill to the Lodge. We tried to freewheel the last slight kick-up on the route. Easy to do since we had full view of the "racing line" which I cut 12" tighter than TSK - then realised there was a pothole to avoid!

Our memory of the final straights to the Lodge were marred - we remembered the downhill coming straight out onto the hump-back bridge over the river and were disapointed to discover there were clearly 400m to go meaning we didn't get to freewheel all the way home. Still, we had made it alive and the time had come to persuade my frozed feet out of their shoes. I walked around for 20 minutes with my foot at a jaunty angle as the tendons seemed to refuse to hold it in a straightforwards position. Perhaps a few hours out on the MTB in the cold wasn't the best solution.

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