TGOC-2018: An Unfortunate Ending

I shouldn’t be writing this post tonight. I should have been on my last wild camp of the 2018 TGO Challenge in Drumtochty forest, finishing tomorrow in Johnshaven. Instead, I’m sitting at home sorting out my photos from the Challenge and wondering if I did the right thing in withdrawing yesterday.

For us baby boomers, morning twinges and muscle stiffness and pains are pretty normal. I’m regularly told to stop the ‘old person noises’ as I stretch and groan to relieve aching joints. So, I thought nothing of it when my left leg felt a bit sore when I left Ballater camp site last Sunday. After all, I’d already walked 3/4 of the way across Scotland. I assumed this was simply normal wear and tear.

I am a believer in the curative power of walking and I reckoned that the problem would sort itself after a couple of miles. My route started on the Deeside Way, which is an old railway so there’s no hills and I set off at a reasonable pace. My leg was uncomfortable but didn’t really slow me down.

After about an hour or so, my leg was no better so I thought a couple of ibuprofen would sort things out. I stopped for a few minutes, took the tablets and had something to eat. I restarted after 10 minutes and my leg felt worse not better; I waited for the ibuprofen to kick in; it didn’t. Instead over the next 20 minutes, my leg went from being 75% efficient and a bit uncomfortable to 25% efficient and moderately painful. When I found that I had to stop every 10 steps for a rest, it was clear that I couldn’t go on.

I limped into Dinnet walking about 1k/hour and went for a coffee in the hotel. It didn’t get better. Luckily, we live close to the Deeside bus route so I jumped on a 201 and went home. I hoped a couple of days rest would sort things out and I could get back onto the Challenge.

My leg improved a lot but it was still a bit painful going up and down stairs; I decided not to risk knackering it with a couple of 30km days to get to the coast. I made the difficult call to withdraw from this year’s Challenge yesterday evening.

I was very disappointed not to finish and I do wonder if I did the right thing? Was I a bit wimpish - maybe I should have walked through the pain? Should I have risked it and tried to finish when my leg improved? I’ll never know.

But, on a more cheerful note, the Challenge up till then was fantastic. Here’s a picture that epitomises the weather and the scenery.

Falls of Avon

First: My route: Shiel Bridge to Johnshaven