The Plot Twist

Following my glorious, albeit brief, return to work, I found myself free of commitments for a few days.  So I took a (much delayed) train up to the tiny Yorkshire village of Horton-in-Ribbledale.  This may be familiar to hikers as it’s on the Yorkshire Three Peaks route.  And it was familiar to me too as I’d passed close by a few years before on the Pennine Way.  I’d been meaning to take on the three peaks for ages.  It’s a nice little 40k loop that (as the name suggests) includes three significant climbs.

I arrived on a cloud strewn but pleasant Monday evening and thought I’d take in a quick mountain, which came in the form of the imposing rock face of Penn-Y-Ghent.  I’m not particularly fast on technical terrain but muddled my way up and down fairly efficiently and safely.  Then came a lovely chat with another wandering soul and a nice easy downhill gravel path back to base.  This was a glorious home stretch – the kind one can just effortlessly glide down whilst imagining what might be on the local pub’s menu for dinner.

You can probably guess what happened next.  I don’t know exactly what caused me to fall down this most innocuous of hillside trails.  Perhaps it was the camera I had attached to myself that I was idly chatting to, giving voice to some tedious internal monologue or another.  Maybe I caught my trailing leg on one of those little water channels that cross the path at right angles.  It’s hard to tell, but whatever the cause, the effect wasn’t in any doubt.  Ok – I’d clearly landed heavily on my left knee and the palms of my hands as I could definitely feel them.  I rose to my feet and looked down to assess the damage.  A trickle of blood worked its way down my shin and both hands immediately stung.  It looked like there was a fairly deep cut to my knee and I could see some kind of soft tissue underneath.

My knee didn’t hurt too much initially and in retrospect, this could have been a clue that the injury would be serious.  But the lack of pain enabled me to run-hobble about a mile to the pub where I was staying and I was handed the contents of the first aid kit, which consisted of a bandage, but no scissors or tape.  Given this, I thought I made a passable attempt at the field dressing job with a bandage rip and a steadfast knot.  I also found out that stoma tissues are good at mopping up blood as i cleaned the wounds as best as i could.  Drama hopefully over, I settled to enjoy a hearty pub dinner – relieved that it seemed I’d gotten away with this one.  But as the hours progressed, so did the blood from my knee.  Now I’m no doctor, but I know that if a wound keeps bleeding for more than three hours, it might need attention sooner or later so I called 111 to see if I might need stitches or something.

Anyone who’s called this number will be aware that the initial triage conversation is held with a non-medic.  You will also know that, even if put through to a doctor, they don’t have the ability to video call so all I could do was describe the nature of my latest body modification and hope I’d be told it could wait until the morning.  But due to an abundance of caution, I was sent an ambulance as there was no way I could present myself to hospital so late at night.  About three hours later, flashing blue lights heralded the arrival of an ambulance that given the docile nature of this little village, was probably the most exciting event to happen there in about for decades.  But as it was around midnight, everyone else was in bed so they could go hiking or milk cows or something. Bizarrely, the paramedic who saw to my gaping wounds was from East London.  He saw to to my ‘ouchy knee’ with good humour and after a more professional cleaning and bandaging job, told me to present myself to hospital the next day for a stitch or glue or something.

Given the amount of time I’ve spent in hospitals recently – I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of spending part of my running holiday in one – and barely able to walk, let alone run.  But after a 3 hour journey, I hobbled into an empty A&E.  They even had a bell to press like in hotel receptions.  It was now abundantly clear – if it hadn’t been already – that I certainly wasn’t in London any more!  So after an X-ray and some glue strips, I was out of hospital to hobble back to an inn that would be locked for another few hours.  Now – most people with debilitating knee injuries would probably stay put at this point.  But I’ve always found this hard, so I went for a walk.  Steadying myself on my sturdy tracking poles-come-crutches, I hobbled my way through about five miles up hill and down dale.  It hurt a looooot but I figured I should keep the knee moving.  It was only a bit swollen after all and it was only excruciating when the path was uneven or I was going downhill.  And it started raining.  But other than that, I had a grand day out.

I thought I owed it to the publican, who’d been roused in the middle of the last night, to order the fish (this being Yorkshire, I’m pretty sure it was some kind of whale) and chips.  I possibly owed it to myself to allow the comfort food too.  By this point, the swelling had become worse and I couldn’t bend my knee at all without pain.

That big ole’ mountain race didn’t look too promising.  Would I even be able to walk by September?

I didn’t have as many 6 weeks to let this injury heal to the point that I could run on it, plus regain enough fitness to even attempt UTMB.  That’s if the cancer didn’t get to me first.  I’m quite the optimist when I want to be, but wow this wasn’t looking good.

Pride dented, hopes dashed and body in very bad shape, I retired that night to lick my wounds. It took me a while to find sleep as I considered the irony that it wasn’t cancer that had halted the run plan, but my own stupidity.

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