Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Day 3 - Abingdon to Pangbourne (25 miles, 11.5 hours)

I knew day three was a really important one. After the training walk in the Lea Valley I hadn’t been able to walk properly for several days, and that was only 57 miles. I’d done ten more now and it was time to start on the proper pain killers if I was going to get through the day.

The Pavilion at Abingdon Vale Cricket Club
During day two my groin strain had still been managed pretty well with stretches, but my left knee has started to swell up and I’d developed what felt like a shin splint on the bottom of my right leg. This meant that in the morning I could not put proper weight on either leg, so moving around the clubhouse was very tricky and it took me a full 90 minutes to dress and pack my bag. As such I began taking one co-codamol with the two nurofen I had already been taking every four hours since the day before.

Didcot power station
I set off at 06:45 and the first mile took me 25 minutes, a full seven minutes slower than Gareth and I had averaged on day one, and this was also the first time I was alone. However, once I got my rhythm going I actually discovered, to my surprise, that I was fine. Quite early on I could see the Didcot power station in the distance, which made for quite a strange sight among such a nice area.

The walk was beautiful, my favourite so far as the river ran through some really picturesque areas where people quite clearly weren’t short of a few quid. There were loads of spider webs and the sky was perfectly clear once again. I’d loved having Gareth and Laura with me on the first two days, but it seemed right to have at least one day walking alone and have time to put the world to rights.

I had to be careful not to get stuck in a web
I made it to my lunch spot in Benson by 11:30am, which was about 13 miles and left me just 12 to do in the afternoon. My friends Kiwi and Sugar (real names hidden to protect their identity…you’d think) were in the country for just a few days and made a big effort to come and join me for lunch, which was really good of them so my break turned into two hours before I set off again just after 1pm.

Kiwi, Sugar and baby Annabel
Lunch spot at the Waterfront Cafe in Benson
I called the Weir View Bed and Breakfast to see if they had any rooms available, and after explaining what they were doing they dropped their rate from £90 per night to £40 before I even asked for a discount, which was amazing of them. Later they would upgrade my room and offer me a free breakfast as well. This was the second episode of random kindness that really stuck out to me.

Arriving at Wallingford I took a wrong turn and crossed the river by mistake. This led me to a farmhouse that I had to skirt around, and then a golf course which I also had to go around. I was surprised at how quickly I got irritated by being away from the river. The water was my constant companion, not least my guide, and I was sure I was heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly I was passing through towns like North & South Stoke, which although beautiful were some way off the Thames Path, but then the river turned and joined me again, and all was right with the world once more. 

I arrived into Goring and Streatley a little after 4pm and was blown away by it, there were a number of dream houses there, as there had been the previous day in truth, but this place is seriously nice, and definitely somewhere I need to come back to. My GPS was about to die but I knew I could follow the A329 into town which, while not quite the Thames Path, would at least mean I could be in by 6pm and keep the distance to the 25 miles it should have been after my earlier detour.

Dream House...

...Dream House Dream View
Gareth had met me at lunch and saw I was doing OK, he admitted he’d been genuinely worried the night before but seemed pleased at my recovery, but still insisted on coming along that night and forcing me to have an ice bath…so a a little after 7pm, I tipped four bags of ice into the bath, and lowered myself in for a full ten minutes. I can only apologise for this video (parental advisory - contains bad language and body hair):

Gareth was amazing that night, going out to get dinner and leaving me with loads of spare food for the next day (real food like sandwiches and pasta rather than the high calorie bars which just rot your stomach). He had also hung out my sleeping bag and tent to dry and even plugged in my phone and GPS before embarking on his two-hour drive home. It really was an amazing display of friendship, and made me more gutted that he and Laura are moving to Australia in just a few weeks. As it turns out it was the last time I would see him before he left - as he said: "we left it as it should be left; walking, chatting, laughing and eating pizza." Damn right mate - I'm going to miss you.

I climbed into bed and hit the lights shortly after 9pm. Sleep was pretty fitful again, one minute I felt 90 degrees and the next I was freezing. I can’t have slept more than two hours at a time, but it had been a good day and now I was infinitely more confident of making it through.

Facebook Status: “After a shaky start today turned into a good one. Met good friends for a 2hr lunch and still reached Pangbourne by 6pm. That's 92 miles down now, so halfway. A genuine thank you for all the messages, especially from folks I've not seen or spoken to for ages. I read every one but don't have much energy for replies, but keep them coming! Sponsorship is of course still open: https://www.justgiving.com/AlanCurr. 94 miles to go.”

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