Monday 9 September 2013

Day 2 - Tadpole Bridge to Abingdon (32 miles, 14 hours)

The alarm went off at 05:30am on Monday morning and I lay in my tent not wanting to move. I could hear Laura moving around outside and getting breakfast ready and I also realised that the inside of the tent was full of condensation and that the sleeping bag was wet because of it, which was a pain in the arse as I would have to carry it all day and it wouldn’t be dry by the evening.

Ignoring that issue I packed up and stuffed my face with porridge. Gareth eventually showed his face but he had to be at work by midday so needed to head off. Laura and I got on the trail at 07:30am and were aiming for lunch at Wolvercote which was a good 20 miles away so we had to crack on.
If in doubt...LUNGE!
The day was another great one of walking which was very similar to day one with lots of fields and pretty constant access to the river. We passed through plenty of locks as we went and avoided main roads completely. The chat was also particularly good, my favourite bit going as follows:

Laura: "Where is the US Open this year?"
Me: "It's always in New York."
Laura: "Are you sure it's not in Melbourne in January?"
Me: "That'd be the Australian Open."

"US Open, in the US? That can't be right?!"
As lunch approached my favourite episode of the day took place. We were asking for directions to the pub and a passing driver got out of his car and walked with us for a couple of minutes to ask what we were up to. At the end of the pathway he handed over £20 as sponsorship. This wasn’t a £20 note because that’s all he had in his wallet, but a £10 and two £5s, so he really wanted to give that much, which struck me as an incredible act of generosity and gave me an enormous boost that what I am doing is really worthwhile.

We didn’t get underway after lunch until about 3:15pm and the day began to drag a little as Abingdon seemed to not come any closer. We passed through Oxford while the sun was still out, and saw a few pubs which I remembered visiting back when Gareth and Laura were living in the area, and chatted to a few more people at Sandford.

The sun was setting and we still had a distance to go
By the time we reached Radley it was really quite dark and my legs were beginning to hurt. Gareth and I had talked about a great quote from Jens Voigt, a cyclist who just shouts "Shut Up Legs" when the going gets tough, and I started going down that road.

The GPS had long since died so we were not sure how much further it was to Abingdon, where I was due to camp in the grounds of Abingdon Vale Cricket Club, and we spoke to some more kindly passing people (who were staring at a Kingfisher) and told it was about four miles. It was 7:30pm by now and the sun had almost set but without any choice we pushed on.

The path got darker and darker, as well as very narrow. Even Laura, the chattiest person in the world, was beginning to go quiet. Earlier we had passed several hours playing firstly the name game and then Mallets Mallet, but now our conversation didn’t get much beyond: “how much further do you think it is?”

By 8:45pm it was fully dark and Laura had to get her head torch out. I tried to gee myself up by blasting out ‘Jump’ by Van Halen on my phone, but once we hit a small bridge and couldn’t tell if we’d actually gone over the river or just an estuary off it, and started heading back the way we had come, my sense of humour began to fail badly.

Looking at the map later that night I realised that this was the right way to go, but at the time I had a bit of a meltdown. There was another path off to the right and I could see street lights so decided to take that route. It was too dark now to keep going in the same direction, we were often stumbling; our legs and feet were in considerable pain (SHUT UP LEGS!) and I figured at least in some proper light we would find our way.

We bumped into some kids on bikes who gave us directions and I called the groundsman at the Cricket Club and asked if he could come and let us in. He did more than that, he came down and opened the club and had tea waiting for us when we arrived at 9:30pm and found towels and extra blankets for me. A huge thank you to Dave for that.

Feeling pretty good upon arrival at Abingdon Vale Cricket Club
Laura had gone white as a sheet, but she recovered a little after some food. G-Man came to collect her at around 11:30pm and looked pretty worried about me and said as much – admitting that while he’d been able to manage at work he would never have been able to spend another 14 hours on his feet after what we’d done on day one. My feet were a mess and, unpleasant as this is to tell, the chafe had kicked in badly and the pants I’d worn looked like they had taken a shotgun blast. 

This hole was not created by flatulence. I wish it was.
I was supposed to be camping wild in Pangbourne the following night but honestly did not think I could face that. Day three was always a concern as I’d not gone beyond two days in training and had now done 67 miles in that time. I looked up a few B&Bs and swore to come back to that in the morning. My sleeping bag was still damp and I spent the night with my temperature going up and down uncontrollably. I hoped that this was just my body showing the effects of exertion and not that I was getting ill.

Facebook Status: “14 hours to do 32ish miles. Getting slower and more painful. 9:30 finish in the dark was pretty tough. Laura Bridges a true Trojan today. Equally happy about the random chap who gave me £20 sponsorship after a 2min chat. Genuinely heart warming.”

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