I can’t deny we’ve had it pretty good of late. Living in the UK, it’s not often you get a solid few weeks of good waves, sunshine and offshore winds. The water’s still just about warm enough to brave it without boots and the air is unseasonably temperate.
Yep, when everything is on form, autumn here is great. More waves, less crowds, mind blowing sunsets – and of course less chance of ending up hobbling out of the sea on your heels after being stung by some critter with a vendetta for human soles. Or so I thought. Last week, the day before I was due to travel up to Winchester to run 10k of the hilliest stretch of Longleat Country Park for Cancer Research, I shuffled my schedule and, feeling mighty pleased with my freelance lifestyle, hopped in the car to the North Coast. There was no-one about. The sets were rolling in head high and the sun was out.
I hurried into my damp wetsuit and rushed down to the water’s edge, zipping myself in as I skipped across the stones. With what I now recognise as a reckless abandon, I thudded through the shallows to pick up speed for my paddle out when a searing pain rocketed through the sole of my left foot.
Now I’m pretty unlucky when it comes to surfing. I’ve broken my nose, cracked my ribs, been attacked by jelly fish three times and been somewhat sliced up by reef, but there is no immediate pain as intense and shooting as the skin-piercing sting you get when you stamp down on a weever fish lurking in the sand. It momentarily feels like you’ve rammed a knife in between your toes, then subsides a little to lull you into a false sense of security, before it kicks in with the full force of its agonising venom for the grand finale, which unless you get to a bucket of scolding hot water within 20 minutes, stays with you all day, no matter how many parecetemol you pop.
So I’d been got. In autumn. With the surf firing. I didn’t even think the bastards haunted our shores outside of the summer months – although since the incident I have been reliably informed that they are here all year round, it’s just in winter the majority of us have neoprene protection. However I knew the drill, I knew about the half hour gap before the real pain kicked in. I knew that while submerged in the salt water, if you were hardy enough, you could ward off the agony for at least a few waves worth of water time. And it looked so nice. And there was hardly anyone out. What would you have done?
So I stuck it out. I pushed on through. I sucked it up. I paddled like crazy for every wave because I was against the clock, I had a ticking time bomb in my foot just waiting to explode so I took every chance I got. It was half an hour of frantic, full-on, fantastic surf. For which I paid the price.
When I started to feel the dull ache creep up my calf I knew it was time to get out. This was it. Soon, ignoring it would not be an option. Soon, I would be writhing in a bowl of boiling water, my foot turning pinker and pinker. Soon, I would be cursing myself for being so careless. If only I had trodden more gently, stopped to think, had stayed at home. But I didn’t and I hadn’t so I deserved what I got.
I deserved what I got, I kept reminding myself, the next day as I winced my way up vertical inclines in a pack of 1000 other runners who hadn’t had spiny stings rammed into their feet the day before. I deserved what I got. I deserved what I got. Because really, what I got for my pain, was half an hour of headhigh glass on a quiet, autumn Friday afternoon.
But then I always was a glass half full kind of girl.
Images courtesy of www.sun.co.uk and www.venncreative.co.uk