Running in the Big Outdoors

The rest of the country are, apparently, enjoying a sunny and warm Bank Holiday Monday. It’s dry here and not blowing a gale; I’m confident that our two weathers are the  same.

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I’m staying at my mother’s house near Stranraer in south west Scotland. We live about two hours away, still in the same region of Scotland, but further east. I’ve missed a couple of days of running through work and being here, so today I decided to head out for a run.

I’ve been re-following a Couch to 5k programme written by Jeff Galloway and mostly using the treadmill. I don’t really enjoy running on the treadmill and my poor old treadmill is starting to show its age. There is no treadmill at Mom’s house and as she lives right on the coast it was a no brainer to run on quiet roads. I don’t really know the little roads round here, so Mom suggested a circular route. It was quite short (I obviously run further than Mom thought I do!) and was part road and part trail, but it was lovely running outdoors!

 

I’m back to running intervals and I’d worked up to 3:1 run:walk intervals on the treadmill, but adjusted this to 2:1 for this first outdoor run for a while. I’m becoming quite sensible in my old age! It worked well and I covered 3km in about 20 minutes.

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I’ve thrown all of my pre-surgery shoes away, runners included, because my gait has changed and the wear patterns were making me unstable. All of my running shoes were fairly worn anyway, so I didn’t feel as if I was throwing a fortune away, but I’m now left with one pair of runners – a pair of Sketcher Go-Runs which I didn’t enjoy wearing much before. They have a drop heel, encouraging me to walk and run on my midfoot and toes, and they are definitely helping with the plantar fasciitis which I’ve had since November last year. I’m due to go to see a physio tomorrow so I’ll wait to see what they say. I will need to buy a new pair of road shoes and a pair of trail shoes too, so a bit of gait analysis is required!

 

 

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Back to It (again)

The latest road to fitness has proved to be a bit of a bumpy one. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that, nothing has been easy with running since I started again in 2011. Injury after injury should have put me off, but I guess that just shows what sort of a person I am. Stupid.

Persistent…determined, both far better words, but anyone who doesn’t learn from their ‘mistakes’, if I can call injuries that, must be a bit stupid. Or at least a touch mad. I settle for that. I’m a bit mad.

However, I’m back to it with a 2 mile treadmill run this morning. Plantar Fasciitis is a real enemy of mine and this time it actually lasted a good couple of months. At its worst point I even decided to go to the doctor, but events took over and my focus was no longer on a foot injury. That paled into insignificance. Sadly my wonderful father passed away following an all too short battle with cancer on Christmas Eve and his passing just brought me to a very abrupt halt in many, many ways.

Running has always been my time for mindfulness, long before it was trendy to call it that. I used to call it “Me Time” and on long runs especially I’d sort out a myriad of arguments and problems, chuntering away to myself as I ran along. These days, as my runs are far shorter, I have to pick my battles. Today I chose to run with no distractions and just let my mind wander. I’ve no idea where it went. I’ll go and look for it later. Where did I leave it, I wonder?

Today the weather is gorgeous here in Dumfries, with clear blue skies and bright, warming sunshine, and I’m away to have a quick shower before going back into the cabin where my treadmill lives and ignore it and start painting instead. The treadmill has seen me through almost 400 miles and its starting to show its age, squeaking like a demented rat at every footfall.

It does help to keep the other rats away though. That’s got to be a bonus!

 

 

Two Lovely Miles

Last week I managed to run Two Lovely Miles.

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It’s quite a thing for a starter-againer, like me, to be able to run further than the end of the street! I’m still running on the treadmill, but I’m slowly building up the distance and really enjoying the buzz of seeing more added each run.

Although I’m looking at the miles, I’m actually working in kilometres because my trusty treadmill, upon which I’m running exclusively at the moment, is all European and modern, like. Rather than try and convert things as I go, it’s easier to post in metric. Today I’ve just run 3km, which sounds much further than I actually ran!

I’ve discovered that I’m happier as a morning runner, rather than as an afternoon or evening runner, which is ok so long as I don’t pound the treadmill too much and disturb neighbours! A former neighbour actually once ran out into his back garden, wondering what the strange banging was coming from our cabin at the end of the garden and if I was OK! I must be heavy of foot when all the time I thought I was a fairy-footed! My Dad always used to call me Fairy Elephant for the way I went up and down stairs!

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By this coming weekend I should be up to 2.5 miles, so now I’m wondering about the possibility of a 5k race to give me something to aim for beyond managing to run 3 miles. I briefly considered the Edinburgh Winter Run in January, but the fact that you ascend and descend Arthur’s Seat during the race probably isn’t really what my neurosurgeon meant  when he said run on level and even ground!

the-festive-five-1024x1024.jpgWomen’s Running magazine is running a virtual 5k called Festive Five, but I found myself faltering when filling in the application form and wondering if I wanted the medal or just the chance to run a 5k race and, perhaps surprisingly considering that I have a page here dedicated to my race bling, I actually think it’s having a chance to just run with others which is more appealing. I might change my mind, but I think I’d rather run a race and get a T-shirt than run a virtual one and have to prove I’ve done it. It’s food for thought.

 

 

Catching Up

My updates have become sparse of late; I’m busy at work and tired when I get home and, honestly, posting updates here, when I’ve got little to say about running, is sometimes a step too far. And I apologise for that.

That makes it sound as if I’m being negative about everything and I’m not, not at all. I’m so annoyingly positive I think I’m starting to get to my husband, who is naturally not quite as positive. I look past the surgery to the days when I can walk without pain, really walk – up hills, over dales, along all the forest walks I so miss. I’m now waiting for the letter to tell me when my surgery is due. I need to know.

Hubbie says I’m to make sure my will is up to date. I’m sure that’s from a practical point of view and not that he’s envisaging death on the operating table. Pretty sure any way. It’s something we’ve talked about for a while because provisions we’d made for our children when we first made a will are no longer necessary. I’m sure my son, now 24, knows exactly who he wants to live with and it’s definitely not his dad! I’ll do my will, if only to give hubbie one less thing to worry about.

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We rarely think, when injured or ill, how that affects the people around us. I’ve gone from being a really fit 50 year old to a disabled 52 year old. And, as you know, it happened BANG, like that. Hubbie used to ferry me around from race to race, standing at the start and the finish to watch me go and, eventually, come back. He didn’t get the whole fitness thing; being able to lift a Scotch Pie from the fridge is exercise enough for a working man. I did get him running at one point – I think he was missing me when I was training as much and decided that if I was out, he’d come with me. He was good too. He did two races and, despite declaring his impending death as we slogged towards the finish line, he came close to running a sub 30 minute 5k.

When he was brave enough to admit that he wasn’t enjoying the training, I put away my whistle and clipboard and he accompanied me on his bike, becoming my Semi Silent Coach, who delighted in cycling behind me and “just watching”. It was like being chased in slow motion by Benny Hill on a bike.

Now he’s the guy who helps lift my mobility scooter in and out of the car, tries to park as close to the shop we need as possible, watches me grimace when the pain catches me out and worries about what could go wrong in a few weeks. I love him for all of those things. And I worry only about him and how he’ll cope.

This week I received my Blue Badge, the accolade of disability. I have been determined, under strict criteria, impaired enough to warrant an award. I carry my Blue Badge with me everywhere, waving it at imaginary wardens. It will help and I am determined not to abuse it, as I see others do. I shall not abandon my car anywhere and plonk the badge on display before I leave declaring “I’m allowed, I’m disabled!” I will not park all day in disabled spaces. In my world, that’s just taking the piss. I will use my badge with discretion and not so as to annoy the hell out of everyone around me.

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This weekend I’m setting up a new exhibition at the gallery. I’ve suddenly become all sensible and decided that, in order to set it up without hurting myself, I’ll close early and take my time. I’ve even turned down the offer of lunch so that I don’t put myself under additional pressure. I am learning to cope with this, just in time for it all to (hopefully) end! Typical, isn’t it?

We learn from the things that affect us, no matter how slowly. 

 

Light at the end of a very long tunnel

Some time in January 2017 I will be sporting a very long scar. On my last visit to Western General in Edinburgh Mr Khan, the neurosurgeon I’ve been seeing, asked how things had been. When I told him a little better for a short time, after the nerve block injection, and now worse than ever he said “Right, I’m booking you in for surgery”.

He then went through a large list of all the things that could go wrong. And gave me three sheets of double sided paper also listing them, in case I didn’t take him seriously.

For a start the scar will start somewhere at the base of my neck and go all the way down to the base of my spine, unless he’s also a fisherman – in which case it’ll be a small and inconspicuous scar. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. When it’s healed, I’m thinking of getting a zip tattooed along either side of it.

The operation, if successful, could reduce my nerve pain by up to 85%, maybe more. My back pain is another matter and that might only improve by 50%. As I’ve had back pain since the age of 16, when it first declared itself a potential problem, I think a 50% reduction in that pain is fantastic! In any case, I’m happy with those figures. It’s the nerve pain, caused by my spine damaging the spinal cord, that is the most severe.

And, honestly, if it wasn’t for the drugs I’m taking I wouldn’t be able to stand up, never mind walk at the moment. I’m now on 1800mg of Gabapentin a day as well as 200mg of Celebrix. It’s no longer enough anymore and this week I will be asking my doctor if I can increase it again. Judging by how often I’m needing to do this, the damage to the nerves supplying my left leg especially is pretty extensive; at times I can no longer feel my leg and most of the time I have pins and needles. I’m also now getting a ghosting sensation, making me think that something is touching me. It’s all very strange and very painful. By evening I’m exhausted.

I put up with more than I probably should, largely because, as I said before, I’ve had back problems since I passed out in my mother’s arms at the age of 16. I’d been making my brothers’ beds (other than to help Mom, I can’t think why!) and turned quickly. I didn’t notice the pain at first, but by night I was in real trouble and the next morning, after descending the stairs, I just collapsed. I can distinctly remember seeing everything go black and tell my Mom I was about to pass out, to which she replied “No you’re not!” Sorry Mom, I did – leaving you to catch me!

I’ve recently been back up to Edinburgh to have a ‘long back x-ray’. Apparently this can’t be done in all hospitals, they have to have a specific bit of kit, so I drove two hours up the road to a lovely swanky new hospital near Dalkeith to get it done. As ever the staff were amazing. The letter inviting me up actually arrived when I was on holiday and I should have guessed from its tone how laid back this particular hospital seems to be!

I was really concerned, on opening the letter, to see that I’d missed the appointment, so I rang the lady who had sent it. “Oh that’s fine Julie, don’t worry about it – when can you come in? This Friday? Next Monday? You choose!” I’m sorry? I get to choose my own appointment? “Friday’s are bad for me,” I said, warming to the vibe, “How about Tuesday?” “Sure, ” she said “That’s fine – just turn up. The receptionist will know nothing about you, but that’s no problem.” Okay. Hmmm.

She was right though. The receptionist just pointed me in the direction of the X-Ray department, where someone met me and took me through. Within ten minutes I was out and x-rayed! I even got to see my ‘long back x-ray’! I could clearly see the curve of my spine going from right to left – the undoubted cause of all this – and the two vertebrae at odd angles, with no disc in between. I stopped short of a selfie with my spine, but only just!

In a couple of weeks I’m going into Dumfries for my second MRI scan. And then I’m just waiting for my surgery date.

Mr Khan had been most apologetic when talking about the timescale. “It’s going to be a long wait, I’m afraid!” Expecting another six months of hanging about, I don’t think he was ready for our reaction when he said “Yes, the full twelve weeks!”

Is that all? I explained that, as a sole trader, I was needing have the gallery open up until Christmas anyway, but after that I was all his. So I’ll be booked in for major surgery anytime after Christmas Day. Boxing Day even.

I’m still getting emails about running stuff, which I usually delete straightaway but haven’t yet had the heart to unsubscribe from. I should really. I can’t see me getting back into running the way I was before all this suddenly happened. I certainly can’t see me running half marathons, never mind the full ones I intended to run once I’d retired and had more time for training. I think I’ll be exceptionally lucky to build myself back up to the standard I was running at. I’m not discounting being a runner again, but I’m also not willing it so. I have to prepare that I may have to content myself with something less damaging to my back, perhaps cycling. It’s sad, but at least I know I was once a pretty reasonable runner, capable of a sub 30 minute 5k, a sub 60 minute 10k and a 2.22 Great North Run. Some runners half of my age won’t be able to claim that! I really should stop those emails…

I’m keeping positive; I have to stay positive – I can’t afford to let the mask slip. When asked, I always reply “I’m OK” or “I’m fine”. I’m going out less, I know that. I can’t really do nights out on the mobility scooter, and pub crawls are tough going when you can’t walk far! I have to plan every invitation to the nth degree, so a lot of the time I just don’t go. I hate asking Grant to push me about in the wheelchair and, after a few pints, he forgets the need to use kerb drops and races me across the road in front of oncoming traffic. I really didn’t think I was annoying him that much!

My Drug Alarm has just gone off. It’s time for my next dose. I make light of it when the alarm goes off in public; “Ooo, time for my narcotics, pass me the spliff!” It’s not a case of taking when I need them, because when I need them is usually too late. These pills have to be taken as directed – to maintain my haze, man.

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Today’s the Day

Today’s the day I finally get an MRI scan after months of waiting. I thought I would be getting one at my last appointment with the orthopaedic consultant but, instead, he asked for another x-ray.

In some ways the x-ray helped show that besides a hip condition there are also some spinal issues. That explains my permanently sore back then! The MRI will hopefully show the extent of tissue and nerve damage and give the consultant something to move forward with.

I’m tired of waiting and getting my hopes up, only for them to be dashed. The amount of times I’ve thought I was getting better and then slumped back further than before doesn’t bear thinking about. It just makes me more depressed and, in normal circumstances, that just isn’t me. I’m the get-on-with-it girl, the throw anything at me and I’ll survive it and carry on, stronger than before woman!

I have coped with being in constant pain of varying degrees. I’ve got my mobility scooter so that I can get out and about and the fact that I have that has helped with how much I can endure; when I’m not trying to walk, I can last longer standing, for example.

I’m not taking any painkillers at the moment because everything the doctor has prescribed has made me ill. The last prescription was for Tramadol and only taking half the dosage gave me side effects. I slept for two hours after taking just two pills and woke up with a raging thirst and feeling sick. It was horrible and I haven’t dared to take any since. My friends are becoming drug pushers, offering me their own pills in an effort to help. Getting a GP’s appointment is very difficult and seeing the same doctor is impossible; every time I do get an appointment I feel that I have to start again and re-explain the problem. It’s wearing.

I’ve found that if I have a couple of gins in the evening I can sleep through until about 3 or 4 o’clock before the pain wakes me up. Then I toss and turn as every position eventually makes me sore. Last night I made it to 1 am, which makes me very tired the next day. Today I am tired. It’s costing me a fortune in gin, but at least I’m not suffering any side effects! It also doesn’t help that I have entered the menopause and I’m spending half the night too hot for covers and half the night shivering! It never rains…

I’ve been reading up on the benefits of turmeric. I’ve tried everything else and I might as well try this too! I’ve bought a big bag of it and I have a recipe for making my own pills. It won’t correct anything from a bone point of view, but it might help with the inflammation. It can’t hurt.

One day I’ll come on here and tell you all that I went for a run, at last.

Listening to Your Body Ain’t Always Easy

bigstock-Listen-Vs-Ignore-Toggle-Swi-10964204-277x300I’ll be glad when I’m race fit again – I missed the X-Border Challenge on Sunday and the Dumfries Gallovidian 10k last night.

Instead, on Sunday, I tackled the challenge of extreme ironing and yesterday I managed a laboured trail run in which I struggled to maintain my usual off-road pace and ended up jogging back. There is no way I could have managed 6 miles at race pace.

I am listening to my body, but it ain’t easy. I’m impatient and I hate missing races I like.

 

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