I'm Still Standing. Days 21-23

 We didn't say much on the way to Potato Patch car park – next door to the docs. Me because I was scared and Nads probably because what do you say, really? I just had to get going. After the chat with Chris, my new regime for the morning run was a mile walk, followed by a 4 mile run, a mile walk and a final mile run. Not pushing it. The days of 10 mile booms from the gun are over. At least for now (says the devil who knows me all too well)… To be honest, my memories of today are a bit sketchy. I was concentrating so much: Lead off from toe...feather touch on and off floor...was that too heavy? Where is the kindest camber, run on the left, run on the right, run in the middle. Wave at cars...sorry...sorry… Was that pain? Stretch that calf. Creeeeak. Now Leigh (The voice of phyio reason), had told me to be guided by pain and that the creak was here to stay for a bit so not to worry. This was good, because I had been worrying. In between worrying I reminded myself that this is still meant to be fun and a great encounter with a wee lizard on the side of the road provided some. He was not bothered by me in the slightest, as I stopped to talk to him, cocking his head, as I spoke. I put a bit of my water on the floor (you never know)and when it touched his foot he was all “Hey man, what are you doing??” and stayed put. Now I'd spent enough time and money bemoaning the lack of an NHS in the last 24h for us both to be wiped out, so into the grass he was nudged and onwards I went.

I reached the town of Tomball after a mammoth (no pun intended, Interpol fans) Interpol listening session. Interpol are a real go-to band for me if times are tough and despite casual listeners labelling it as dour, it's a bit like ho people used to label the Smiths the same way, when there's actually a lot of beauty and almost euphoria hidden within. It worked anyway. I went past a sign in a music shop that said “Tomball Rocks” and it did. I wouldn't say no to living there. It's got a real quaint eastern side with lots of crafty type emporia and cafes and it also had a sports shop (Academy Sports) that gave me 10% of bit of retail therapy, including white long sleeved tops for the midday sun and earplugs (of course).

All this alongside the constant monitoring of my systems. It was still hot, new top or not and seeing the RV park come up at 24 miles (Happy with that) with minimal chatter from the tib-ant put this day down as a mini-win. Not getting ahead of myself, y'see.

Start: Westfield Urgent Care Unit. Finish: Tomball-Rose Hill RV Park. 24.7 miles

Soon after leaving the RV park (after all good intentions of my super early start for the expected 34oC heat evaporated with me setting the alarm for 0655 and not 0600), I happened across the Showboat Drive-In cinema that was showing a double bill of Deepwater Horizon (Renewables, people...renewables) and the new Tom Hanks film, Sully, about the pilot Chesley Sullenberger who landed his plane on the Hudson as successfully as you can. It's meant to be great and I heard it's possibly TH's best film yet. Pffffffftttt. We ALL know that that's Forrest Gump. Sheesh. Anyways. It wasn't something we could stick around for, but it would have been nice to be like the tall guy at the concert that no-one can see past for once, sitting in Jenny. The goal was a town called Chappell Hill, which the next day was to hold a Scarecrow festival with some live bands. I had aimed to be in Austin that evening getting ready to see Marlon Williams and Nathaniel Rateliff with his magical Night Sweats on Sunday and still had my devil saying I could, if I just went through the night, but even the Scarecrow festival was no longer on my agenda if we we were to keep to plan and seeing as The Cure weren't there anyway, I resigned myself to making my own fun.

I temporarily forgot myself passing through Waller when I picked up the pace to chat to a cyclist named Debra who was on a “little” ride herself – her words not mine (Just 3 hours before work), who instantly sized up the situation. “You're going cross-country, aren't you?”. “Was it the hat?”, referring to my kepi-like headgear. “Well the hydration pack, the hat...”, but then, a bit like Leia in Star Wars when talking to Luke in his Stormtrooper uniform: “Aren't you a little fast for that?”. Normally I might have allowed myself a little pleasure in this, but it made me scold myself internally as if I can't walk this tightrope between progress and self-preservation, I'm done for.

I was about 6 miles shy of Chappell Hill, just after Pope Road and by a non-existent gas station at Van Wie Rd (Cheers, Google maps!) that I decided to chuck it in for the day. We could drive back in the morning and that 6 miles wouldn't be the 6 miles that would make me get to Santa Monica, but it could have been the 6 that stopped me. We headed back to what would have been our end point and plugged in the phone that I'd found on the road, that whilst missing a battey (same one as Nads' spare phone fortunately) and a back, still worked. We tentatievely checked messages, wondering if we were going to get sucked into some sort of Bourne Identity scenario, but it turned out to be a young lad who'd left his phone on the roof of his mate's car as they drove off. What would the world do without these trans-continental runners to write such wrongs? After an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the frightened local priest to let us stay in his car park (I'm not sure he understood) we just decided to stay put in the gas station and I reached for my earplugs...

Start: Tomball-Rose Hill RV Park. Finish: Van Wie Road off Highway 290. 27.1 miles

...which worked! Great sleep and for the first time on this run I saw a sunrise! It's only taken three weeks and a run-threatening injury! The flurry of exclamation marks may give away that I was fairly excited by all of this. Whilst still sticking to “The Rules”, I'd started to generally have a good time again. My waves at cars were now more of a hello, than an apology, I started taking more pictures of my environment and to look for unusual objects to retrieve. A discarded purple “marital aid” was NOT brought back to the RV, though a beer bottle cooler was.

I had my eye on a fairly big one today, though promised that I'd have the resolve to throw in the towel if tib-ant was unhappy. Anything for a quiet, running life. We are starting to enter what is known as “Hill Country” and the road became pretty undulating, but it didn't seem to bother me much as most of my running apparatus is reasonably well rested and I could concentrate on my favourable camber hunt, as we passed a mini-ghost town and countless ranches, with vultures circling overhead. Not today, boys. I even beat Nads to a couple of rendez-vous points, without being silly. The last one of the day was at a small gas station in the small settlement of Burton, where I met Colleen, a student at the local Blinn College, in Brenham, which we'd passed earlier in the day. She's moved from Westfield in Massachussetts and was working to help with college. The gas station was real retro and as I heard her story, it was like I was in a Bruce Springsteen song. She was really nice and as I headed back in to get a photo of her and the gas station, she'd gotten us some molasses cookies for free and was heading out to meet us. We chatted about her wish to do a marathon one day and I told her I'm sure she would. Bruce is probably writing a song bout it right now.

I got to the Dixieland RV Park, a little shaky, but alright and in decent spirits/shape and tried to help Nads with Poogate, the crisis that has enveloped Jenny's innards at the moment and is making the living quarters little fragrant. I say help. I held a hose while Nads did the hard stuff. We at least temporarily cleared the smell so as not to upset our guests for the evening, a lovely couple from Canada...and croydon, Amanda and Brendan, who were in the final stages of a bike ride from Canada to New Orleans. Brendan and my conversation kept slipping to Crystal Palace and Liverpool. The Eagles' fans want Rafa as their manager. I don't blame them. They had to head off early for their next day's ride and I should probably do the same, seeing as we're up at 3am to try and get Glastonbury tickets. Fingers crossed. Tomorrow is gonna be sleeeeeeepy.

Start: Van Wie Road off Highway 290. Finish: Carmine. 35.5 miles