Hindsight: the Photoshop of history

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It provides colour and clarity to what at the time seemed colourful and clear, but was in fact sepia toned and fuzzy. Think of it as the Photoshop of history. Knowing all the facts allows you to edit out all the blemishes to deliver an accurate statement of fact.

In my last post I described my athlethic annus horribilis.  In it I described my “Strike Three”, which saw me suffering what I though were side effects of taking antihistamine tablets I’d been suffering from shortness of breath and a stiff calf muscle.

t turns out they were fine and I was suffering from another more serious illness. As the calf muscle got stiffer, I sought medical advice. Straight away my GP told me to go to hospital where I spent a whole week after being admitted.

The stiff calf and breathlessness had been caused by a blood clot in my leg, some of which had broken off and made its way to my lungs. Thankfully the clot hadn’t made it into one of my pulmonary arteries, or else I may not be typing this today! Instead it was a case of resting and taking anti-coagulation drugs for awhile.

As to what caused the clots, they can’t say. It was probably connected to the broken pelvis I described in “Strike One”, but they can’t be sure. So it goes down as as idiopathic deep vein thrombosis. Cue lots of idiotic gags!

My athletic “annus horribilis”

I’m a fit and healthy individual. I’m competitive, without having outstanding sporting talent. I love exercising, but have never quite made the grade from being an enthusiastic amateur.

This year has been a real test, both physically and mentally. You see I’ve experienced a series of setbacks, some fairly major.

Strike One

Last March I went for a run near my office. It had been raining slightly, and as I went around a sharp corner, my foot slipped on a metal drain cover. I fell heavily on my left hand side. Picking myself off the ground, I found I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg. I’d fractured my pelvis (ischium).

Deep joy. Three days in hospital whilst my consultant decided if I needed an operation. Thankfully I didn’t, but I received differing quotes of when I would be able to run again. This tended to vary between when I could run run again, to when it would be safe to do so. Anything up to six months of doing nothing, and during the time of year when it is great being outdoors running around your local park.

Strike Two

Two months into my recovery I decided to do a local Park Run. I’d done it the week before by walking around the course. This time I decided to see if I could jog slowly around part of the course. I joined the back of the 350+ runners. As I jogged around, it felt good. So much so, that at the half way point I continued running.

I finished in a little under 36 minutes. Not my fastest time by some margin, but I was more than happy with my fitness. I’d suppressed the urge to end quickly as people sprinted past me in the last few hundred meters.

Later that day I felt really tired. In fact I felt utterly drained. Weird as I hadn’t felt like I’d put in a lot of effort earlier in the day. The following day I developed a rash around my neck and left ear. Shingles! Deep joy. A week of antibiotics, followed by several weeks of letting the virus work though my system. Even now two months later, I’m still not 100%.

Strike Three

Throughout all these issues, I’ve changed my exercise routine to do what I can. I’ve used a cross trainer instead of running. I’ve adapted my gym sessions to include more weights and flexibility work. Trouble is life can still leap up to bite you when you least expect it.

I’ve always been very mildly asthmatic. It is something I don’t tend to notice except in the summer months. For a month or two each year I notice a drop in my breathing efficiency. It doesn’t amount to very much, but it is noticeable, especially during prolonged physical exercise.

This year the English summer has been very warm and dry. My part of London hasn’t experienced any rain, not one drop, since mid May. It’s lovely summer weather and I’m not complaining, but it has created an issue for me. As well as the seasonal shortness of breath, I’ve had a ticklely dry cough, runny nose, and dry mouth.

In an effort to overcome these annoying symptoms, I took some over the counter allergy tablets containing cetirizine hydrocloride. Big mistake. Why?

  • On day one of taking them, I was unable to walk more than a few hundred meters without having to sit down to catch my breath. It’s a common side effect, but if I’d have known it was going to be that bad I wouldn’t have started taking them.
  • On day two I started getting a stiff calf muscle. Even having stopped taking the tablets, my calf became so still and sore, I could be found hobbling around. Yes you’ve guessed it, oedema (swelling due to water retention) is a side effect that affects around one in a thousand people. How lucky I am!

Down but not out

Here I am four months into my six month recovery, and it’s been far from straightforward. I’m getting there, but it is frustrating. Some workouts have gone better than others, but that’s normal. Even when 100% fit, you sometimes have sessions when it’s an effort to put one foot in front of the other.

The worst part of the last few months, is that earlier this year I was approaching a level of fitness I hadn’t seen in many a year. My personal best running times may not have been at the levels they were in my mid 20s, but they were coming down. Sometimes by a far margin.

Before all these setbacks, I’d set myself an ambitious 10k target time, and was hoping to run my first half marathon in over 25 years. I was close to meeting the 10k time, and had earmarked a half marathon. I’m not giving up. Those targets still exist, and I can’t wait to get back on the road and smash them.

2018: A year of monthly challenges

As the last few chords of Auld Lang Syne disappear into the long and distant past, our minds turn to new year resolutions. Now I’ve never been one for making them, mainly because I don’t see the point. After all, if it was worth doing, why leave it until 1st January each year. Secondly, they’re mostly either unrealistic or not quantifiable.

This year I decided to do something a little different. Instead of doing something (or not doing something) forever, why not do it (or not do it) for a month. Then at the end of each month do something (or not do something) else. Oh and just to add a bit of spice to proceedings, every time I fail, I donate £5 to charity.

Things started predictably with “Dry January”, a relatively recent phenomenon where you detox by giving up alcohol. It’s a natural fit after the excesses of Christmas. I’m not a big drinker, so I started with an easy challenge. Only on one occasion did I slip up, and then because I forgot about the challenge. Unfortunately I’d already invited a work colleague for a drink before realizing, so I couldn’t exactly pull out. And I only had one beer.

February saw me give up using lifts. This was a major step up (sorry about the pun!) as I work on the 6th floor of our office building. Walking up and down those stairs at least three times a day was more of a physical challenge, but it helped my fitness levels. I only slipped up once.

March saw my hardest challenge yet. I gave up all sweets. That’s right. No cake, chocolate, or biscuits. I’ve had to pass on the cakes and sweet goodies folk have brought in to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Plus seeing folk go to the office candy machine near my desk was a constant reminder of the challenge. Not only that, but those occasional mid afternoon trips to buy an apple turnover or pastry were no more. As we draw near to the end of March, it is fair to say it’s been difficult, but not impossible.

In not sure what April’s challenge will be. I’d quite like it NOT to be health related, but the ones I have in mind are. Maybe it will be to take 15,000 steps a day. I have my Fitbit to help me, and I’m a keen runner so it shouldn’t be a big issue. What else should I try in the coming months. It needs to be challenging, without being impossible. As I’ve stated, I’ve occasionally transgressed. I don’t mind doing so, so long as I’m not bankrupted in the process!

Richmond Park 10km Run: Well that was fun!

Official TImeThose who know me  best know that I like to run. It’s a great way to keep fit and relax. Not relax physically, but mentally. All the stresses and strains of life are forgotten as you completely focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Even on a training run I set myself a goal. For example, to do all or part of a particular route at a specific pace. It doesn’t really matter if I achieve this or not, it just adds some motivation, and if I achieve it, some additional peace of mind.

So it was with some trepidation that I lined up last Saturday in Richmond Park, London for a 10 kilometer race. It was only my second 10 km race in 15+ years. Whilst I’ve always run, life had the habit of getting in the way. In my early 40’s a knee injury required surgery. On getting back to something approaching fitness, the other knee required surgery. Then came marriage and a whole new chapter in my life.

In my 20’s and 30’s I was a regular race participant. Whilst I have run marathons, my best distances were 10 km and half marathons. My personal bests were just over 40 minutes and 1 hour 36 minutes respectfully. It’s always irked me that I never quite managed a sub-40 minutes 10 km.

These days of course I have to accept I never will reach those times, but just what can I expect? Three years ago I ran a 10 km race in London. I hadn’t run the full distance in training, but was confident that wouldn’t be a problem. I set myself a target of sub one hour, but hoped for something nearer 55 minutes. In the event I achieved 56 minutes 02 seconds. I was tired, but happy with that performance.

Back in Richmond last Saturday I’d regularly run up to 18 km prior to the race, so distance was no problem. I also knew I was a lot fitter and stronger than three years ago. My training times seemed to suggest a sub-55 minute time was within my grasp. Yes I’d be disappointed if I didn’t knock off a minute from my previous official time.

The race was over a two lap 5 km course. It was a cold and windy day. I don’t mind the cold. I don’t particularly mind wind, unless it is gusting. I do mind hail though! That’s no fun running in. We headed out over the park for the first two kilometers, then we swung around for a two kilometer stretch into the wind. I felt good though as I plodded on occasionally checking my pace on my watch.

10km run split timesAt the half way stage I was bang on target for a sub-55 minute 10 km finish. I’d always planned to push on in the second half of the race. I just wasn’t entirely sure when that would start, thinking I’d see how I felt. It They say sporting results are more about the mind than the body. So it proved this day. On starting the second lap, I pushed on in confidence of the terrain that was to follow. my kilometer split times show that I got faster and faster as I went. Even the last two kilometers where the head wind got really strong and gusty didn’t seem to affect me. In fact it made me grit my teeth and go for it. Sub five minute kilometers. What was I thinking about?

In the end my official finish time was 52 minutes 32 seconds. I really should be happy with that. After all I finished in 113th position out of 500 runners, and second in my age category. But part of me wonders what I could have achieved if I’d have pushed myself harder. What if I’d started my push for home at the 4 km marker rather than the 5? What if I’d run those last two kilometers a little faster? Could I have knocked off another two and a half minutes and got near a sub 50 minutes 10k km?

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but it gives me another target to aspire to. I’ll let you know how I get on.

A dry(ish) January

In the UK we have “Dry January”. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon with the idea of putting right the excesses of the Christmas and New Year period. By abstaining from alcohol for a month, your body and mind will supposedly recover from the wholesale abuse you’ve put it through throughout December.

The pubs, clubs, and restaurants hate it. Naturally they want you to spend your money at their venue. Plus January is a fairly quiet month for dining or drinking out for a variety of reasons. Be it a lack of money, the realisation that you can no longer burn the candle at both ends without regretting it, or just general malaise, we just don’t seem to carry the Christmas party spirit into the New Year.

This year I thought I’d see if I could join in. I’m not a huge drinker, so it should be a walk in the park right?

The wise words of Norm and Cliff 🙂

I doubt abstinence has made me wiser, but has it made my healthier and more efficient? I haven’t noticed any difference to be honest, but as my weekly consumption averages around 8 units (God’s honest truth) it’s hardly a lot.

Confession: I didn’t abstain totally. In the first week, after a particularly stressful day I hit the whiskey bottle. It was Black Bush on the rocks. No water, and heaven forbid none of that blended scotch muck! Oh and I only had about three units worth, so it barely counts right 🙂

Now if you excuse me, I’ve had a beer chilling in the fridge for a month!