It’s hard to admit publicly to an expectant live audience, that the best made, adventurous plan has turned to dust. Being honest, open and truthful to a roomful of strangers, who have come to hear about ”your amazing journey” is very scary. Particularly when other people’s expectations are quite high and they may be prone to disappointment.
So almost six months later, after Finland, I’ve unpicked my decision yet again.
Is there really a difference between ‘giving up’ and ‘giving in’?
Those cycling explorations in Finland, brought me face to face with the infallibility of the human condition. It was a shock. How dare my body fail? Yes, I’m no longer in the bloom of youth, but I still have a good fitness level.
Of all the negative thoughts that crossed my mind before leaving for Finland, becoming injured wasn’t one of them. Bears, wolves and snow….yes! A dodgy knee…. definitely not.
It’s surprising how the mind turns unrealistically positive, when faced with the realistically negative. It was horrible to face the facts. A twist of knee, combined with a heavy bike load, high mileage, plus freezing weather, had done some painful damage. All of which at that point in time, had temporarily affected my ability to cycle any distance in Finland, with a loaded bike.
Everyone was watching my progress, or at least that’s how it felt in those days of crisis.
Putting other people out of my mind, turned out to be the best way to deal with the place, I now found myself in. Too many variables to consider, created confusion and indecisiveness. By trial and error, I eventually realised that making decisions in small increments, kept some hope alive and helped me adjust towards the inevitable outcome. Some thoughts though, gave me a sick feeling of disappointment and heaviness. Inside my head was a voice crying out in despair.What in heaven’s name was I going to do.
It was totally infuriating and frustrating that I needed to rest my knee, whilst gradually inching further and further south on public transport. As Oulu came closer, the last town with time/accessibility to rejoin the Iron Curtain Trail, my hopes were beginning to shrink. The Rovaneimi hospital diagnosis had been soft tissue damage, with a healing prognosis of up to several weeks or even months. I was still in pain, and stupidly hoping for a miracle cure from, tiger balm!
On that bus journey from Rovaneimi to Haukipudas on the outskirts of Oulu, I seriously considered ‘giving up’ and catching a flight home. Along with going back to work short-term, to the job I’d ecstatically resigned from, two weeks previously!Was there any point in going on, if I couldn’t complete my goal the way I’d planned? Would the Alpkit Foundation ask for their flight funding money back? Plus the unknown variable…. was my knee ruined for ever? What was I going to say to friends, family, sponsors, social media? Furthermore, was I actually capable of making an objective decision? Even worse, had I been foolish in thinking that I could ever cycle through Finland?Also excruciatingly, the very worst of this situation was the ‘not knowing’ and having to wait helplessly, whilst staring at my knee, silently wishing it would simply just get better overnight.
Fortunately or unfortunately during that final bus ride, I did get a brief period of distraction, from the never-ending circle of unanswerable questions.The Finnish driver was very keen on overtaking other vehicles. Not just one car, but two cars, at the same time….. I could barely breathe, never mind think! Especially when he decided to pull out into the empty oncoming lane, passing an articulated lorry and a fast car. Then he just managed to dodge back in, as horns blared, gravel flew up and an oncoming vehicle took to the grass verge. It was terrifying. To cap it all, the bus windscreen was previously cracked in three places. The few other passengers, either chatted merrily away or had headphones clamped to their ears, barely blinking an eyelid at the drivers crazy behaviour.
Relieved and sweating, I tumbled out of the bus onto Haukipudas soil. Almost on my knees in gratitude, for two wheels only! Haukipudas, as some of you who regularly read this blog know, was an absolute, destined turning point, for the positive. The ending of a nightmare and the beginning of another dream.
I’m now very happy to say that my final decision is that;
I didn’t ”give up” on my cycle journey.
The main goal, was to bike/wild camp to Helsinki, which was eventually reached via a different road. Perhaps, mentally the one less travelled. Reluctantly heading south on flatter, less remote, western coastal tracks and roads, rather than the hilly, isolated, eastern Iron Curtain trail, turned out to be far, far better than I could ever have imagined.
Do you know the old saying that goes like this?….. ”There’s more than one way to crack a nut”…..!
I did ‘give in’ though….to the knee injury.
Sensibly (for once in many years!), I chose to look after it, protect it, cycle slowly, and go carefully on the Eurovelo 10 route, so my knee would be and now still is, good for many, many more, long distance bike rides.
Hopefully until my dying day!
If you are interested in reading more about my Finland cycling adventures, please check out the blog archives for May and June 2018.
Thank you for reading this!