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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The 2009 Challenge: day off

The medical centre had told me to rest for at least 48 hours, and there was most certainly no way that I could continue the following day. But I did not have 48 hours to spare. I was due to finish on the Friday as it was. I did, however, have a rest day planned later in the crossing, at Glenmore Lodge. I could give myself 24 hours by bringing this rest day forward - but that was all.

So I agreed with Challenge Control that I should take 24 hours off in Fort Augustus, and then decide whether or not I was capable of continuing. If I was, then it would be two days to Dalwhinnie (unless the Corrieyairack Pass defeated me, when I would retreat back to Fort Augustus and retire). If I made it over the Corrieyairack but was not fit to keep up the necessary pace, I would make my way to Dalwhinnie at whatever speed I could - so if I didn't phone from Dalwhinnie according to my published schedule, they should not panic about me. I had all I needed to be safe - even if slow.

If I made it to Dalwhinnie on schedule then, again, I would review my ability to continue. Dalwhinnie is a good place from which to retire - direct trains back to London - and again, if I continued but couldn't make it over the hills, I would retreat back to Dalwhinnie and retire. Beyond Dalwhinnie ... well, I wasn't really looking that far ahead. We were into one-day-at-a-time territory. Challenge Control knew I was in trouble; but they knew also that I had a plan.

I then telephoned the Inn at Dalwhinnie to put my room booking back by one night; and Glenmore Lodge to cancel my room as I would no longer have a day off there. Then I booked an extra night at the Caledonian Hotel (where they were really wonderful, and shifted their other bookings around so that I could stay in the same room for the second night), had a really good meal followed by plenty of fine malt whisky in the bar, and then retired for the night.

From now on there was only one question that mattered: would I be doing more fresh damage to my feet by day than my body could repair by night? If so, then I would be unable to finish this Challenge. If not, then there was still a chance that I might make it.

The next day was my day off. I caught a bus to Inverness and visited some outdoor shops in search of the best, most well cushioned, purest wool sock I could find. I bought seven pairs of Bridgedales at £14 a pair (aren't credit cards a wonderful invention), as many painkillers as the pharmacy was prepared to sell my in a single hit and some comfort food; then I caught a bus back to Forth Augustus where I jettisoned all of the socks I had brought with me (why carry the weight if I'm not going to wear them??) and phoned Challenge Control to say that my feet certainly felt good enough after a day's rest that I was minded to TRY the Corrieyairack tomorrow.

That evening I had another wonderful meal, plenty more fine malt whisky, and turned in early to give my body a chance to repair as much of the damage as it could.

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