Day 75 - Nettles and Hogweed saying hi
Westonzoyland - Axminster 47.1 km (2502.7 km done)
Start Time - 8.44 am
Finish Time - 4.42 pm
Moving time - 5 hours 56 mins
Vertical Gain - 577 m
Average - 22 C
Min - 19 C
Max - 28 C
Ash Spurrell (@ashspurrell)
Another day of getting some more bramble scratches and nettle stings on my legs from overgrown rights of way. There was one path which was only about 100 meters but that distance was full on hip height nettles and so I chickened out and found another way round since my legs were already on fire from some friendly nettles earlier on. I also have a couple of small blisters on my left ankle, which after asking Kevin we think may have been caused by battling through some hogweed. Apparently the sap can under certain circumstances (unless Giant Hogweed and then it is toxic all the time) causes the skin to become super UV sensitive and burn easily. I'll pop along to the pharmacy tomorrow to see what they think, since the treatment seems to be steroid cream and sun avoidance for a few days. I am pretty sure that all this leg damage happened in the space of about 2 km out of the 47 km run. There was also a really interesting footbridge bridge across a small stream, which in hindsight I wish I photographed, that had fallen down off the bank and many of the board had rotted away. Once across I noticed a sign on the bridge saying the footpath was closed due to risk of harm to the public and the county council are working to resolve the issue. There was nothing from the other direction.
Once I'd got through this little section of rubbish paths they day really took a turn for the better. The Chard Runners came out to support. It started with Liam coming to say hi and have chat in Horton, after this Mike on his bike on found me on my way into Chard, Ash in joined in Chard and Simon in Chardstock. It was great running with people that know the area and could guide me through their patch easily and safely. Having this help really did make the last half of the run today pass so much easier.
Whilst I was battling through the nettles, brambles and apparently Hogweed I was thinking about my mindset and how each day since Friday there have been blocked paths. I was reflecting on how each day these have caused different reactions and emotions, which range from anger and frustration to a kind of resigned annoyance. Each time it has happened, whatever I am feeling, I remind myself it is what it is. There is little to be gained from dwelling on it. I think what helps with this matter of fact stance is that I have committed to reach a goal that day and I am going to get there under my own power, even if that meant running a lot further than planned. I mean don't get me wrong I do on the odd occasion let myself indulge in a swear word or two or moan to my crew, but then I continue the relentless forward progress. I am also in a good position after this long, that I am confident that I will be able to continue for as long as needed to get the day done and then continue tomorrow if needed. So even if I needed to detour a long way, I am confident that this will be no real issue and I'll be able to cope. I am also aware that Friday's closure was the most frustrating and challenged my resilience the most, where as today was easy to cope with than either Friday's or Saturday's. I think this is probably due to being aware that this may be an issue at points during the day now. Whereas, after following the Wales Coast Path for so long I hadn't got back into that way of thinking on Friday and so it was a big surprise.
It is clear that coping with a challenge you are expecting is easier than a surprise. I have been thinking about the Urban Legend about military training that I'm sure is to well known now to actually happen. When they tell you once you have supposedly completed a run that the vehicle has broken down and you need to run back to camp, only to find the vehicle parked around the corner. I expect the hope is to test the resilience of people and to get them ready for the unexpected. I am sure that if you were told the day was going to be the day would finish with a run to the camp, you'd be prepared and just get on with it. It is the surprise nature that is the challenge, not the actual distance. It has always interested me that people and I have probably said as well, after a race, I could not go any further. I am curious how true that is. It the finish line was 100 meters further down the road I am sure everyone would still finish. How far would this apply for? At what point is really as far as you can go? This is what makes races like the Backyard Ultra so ingenious, you can stop at any time... but could you do another 4.168 miles? If you set your heart on getting to 100 miles, do you just keep going after that? It's only 4 miles... until you are timed out why not just continue? I am not saying I could just continue, I am just curious about this and how you train that kind of mental resilience. How do you become good at coping with the unexpected and keeping on going?