Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Lance thing

Well... I am NOT going to post a long comment about the whole sorry saga.....

But I have just read an interesting article from The Independent.... to which at the end is the following table;

Tour de farce: Who takes Lance's titles?
1999 Who finished second? Alex Zülle (Swit) who admitted to doping as part of Festina Affair in 1998. Banned for year but returned for 1999.
2000 2nd: Jan Ullrich (Ger). Five-time runner-up was given a two-year ban in February this year after the Operation Puerto doping scandal in 2006, with his races from 2005-2007 banished.
2001 2nd: Ullrich
2002 2nd: Joseba Beloki (Sp). Clean.
2003 2nd: Ullrich
2004 2nd: Andreas Klöden (Ger) Connected to a 2006 doping programme, the rider eventually paid a €25,000 fine. German ADA announced an investigation into Klöden and others on doping suspicions.
2005 2nd: Ivan Basso (It). Acquitted in October 2006 in Operation Puerto, but reopened in 2007 and proved guilty. The Italian was banned for two years after he admitted to attempting doping.

I have nothing else to add other then... what a complete and utter debacle and mess for him, for the sport, UCI, USADA, WADA..... etc.... 

Next Steps....

Well I have got myself in to a nice daily routine of going for at least a 1k fast walk - doesn't sounds like much but I am now going at quite a pace and usually doing more like 1.5 - 2k.... small steps lead to big strides and all that.

The interesting thing I have noticed is that whilst I was off sick and when I have been walking at home I have largely been either barefoot (literally shoeless around the house) or wearing my vivo barefoot shoes whilst out for a walk. Since returning to work I've not yet put on proper shoes but resorted to trainers [the reason for this was (a) initially I was a little wary of wearing heeled shows as didn't want to trip or stumble (not that I do that in them but didn't want to even risk it slightly)  and (b) well let's face it trainers tend to be more comfortable then work shoes...].... anyway... the one thing I really noticed was the different "feel" underfoot of wearing trainers as opposed to barefoot/ almost barefoot.... Now I know this sounds REALLY obvious... but you know one of the things you read about moving to barefoot running (not that I am thinking that necessarily), is the sensory feedback you get from your feet... and you read about how much we no longer get this given modern footwear.... well I have to say - having never really given the whole transition to barefoot a proper go in the past .... it really is stunning the difference of underfoot feedback.... I mean it isn't often we get the opportunity to be unshod for 3 weeks + is it...  ... so much so that when I was at work the other day going for my lunch time stride in my trainers I was going along thinking first that something was different about how my feet were feeling until I realised that actually the difference was they weren't "feeling" anything at all... I was really missing the feedback I am now used to of different feeling an uneven, lumpy bumpy surface underfoot.

Now whilst I really do have little intention of becoming the next runner to try to move to barefoot running I do not, now I have discovered, want to lose my extra sensory feet! Kind of getting attached to my Vivo's (and actually the KSwiss recovery shoes also, although to a lesser extent)...... It will be interesting if I remember this once I get back to full on swim, bike run excitement... !!!!

In other news of the recovery/ training front.... well I marked a date in my diary for 6 weeks post op to say "you can start thinking about training if you like"... mainly so I didn't bother thinking about it before (although clearly I have been ignoring this and thinking and longing for a point to come when I can at least swim and get on my bike - no actually initially I was longing for a point just to walk alot)... anwyay... that 6 week date is fast approaching and comes next week....

.... but don't worry I am NOT going to go nuts and somehow think I can just go for an hour run or a 2 hour bike ride... 15mins of weeding last weekend showed me that will not be a good idea or even possible.... anyway.... once I feel that running can be contemplated on the agenda I have decided to follow a couch potato to 5k training programme.... Given I was 2 weeks away from competing in a half ironman race 2 months ago this may sound like to "easy" but I figured that actually it will keep me in check and I don't want to do anything to my belly which will complicate anything..... it is better to be fully recovered and continue to progress forward then it is to hurry and risk a set back IMHO.

As Dory Fish says "just keep swimming, just keep swimming"..... soon Doris soon.....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Walking on

Well I have been trying to go out for daily walks - minimum of 10mins, but today I hit my max so far.... a whopping 31mins for an amazing 3.19km !!!.... which in the current scheme of things was a new PB!!!

Anyway here's some pictures of my morning walk - it is a lovely morning out there!

The walk is basically around California Country Park and some of the surronding bridle paths....

Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to Work

Well Monday came, three and a bit weeks post op and it was all a bit of a shock if I'm honest!

Having had dodgey ears the week before along with the sore stomach and stuff I took myself to the Doc's for a quick pre-return to work check up..... anyway... he decided I may well have a ear/ sinus type of infection and duly prescribed some antibiotics... which i duly took and after a couple of days I felt so ill I decided to check the "side effect" list... clearly displaying most of these and feeling kind of rotten I did the thing I know I shouldn't necessarily do (as it makes bacteria more resistent to antibiotics)... and stopped forthwith!

So, from a combination of post op, ear/ sinus bug, anti-antibiotics etc I went to work on Monday and pretty much felt like a really giddy goat all morning - and I mean really really dizzy.... and somewhat spaced out.... however by the afternoon I felt a bit more with it and even managed to do a full day... albeit with a puffed up and a bit of a sore tummy by the end.

Monday night I slept for about 10-11 hours!! I guess you could say going back to work took it out of me a bit, even though it is just a sit at your desk type of job!

Still Tuesday I managed to do slightly less hours (mainly because I was so pooped!) and Wednesday I worked from home (as we had a BT engineer installing fibre optic broadband... this has just come to our area and has moved us from 0.4Mbps (yes you read that right 0.4 !!) to 40!!!... I can't even begin to tell you how amazing this is)... anyway... Wednesday I worked from home which meant I could move about a bit more and get comfortable. I also got a massage in on Wednesday afternoon/ evening just to help flush out some of the chemicals which are probably floating around my system from the operation (apparently all that crap takes a few months to be gone... )...

Anyway.... by the time Thursday came I found myself getting in to work before 9, having about 15mins break (to go for a walk around the lake at work) and then working to gone 7pm.... so normal mad work hours seem to have resumed... I must be feeling better ;o)

Luckily the Pope and I had planned to have a long weekend off this weekend; I was supposed to be racing up in the Lake District doing an Olympic distance race.... clearly I'm not doing the race and we decided to have a staycation, remaining at home for the 4 days so we can progress plans on the "Epic Adventure" front and save some money for the adventure!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympic Dreams

Unlike the athletes who have expended many hours of dedication to their dream - my dream was just to be able to go along to London 2012 ... so rather then having to pursue this dream with hours of effort, support from family and friends, dedication and sacrifice ... like most people who entered the ballot for tickets... I didn't bother with that but jumped at the chance of a weekend break package from Thomas Cook as seen advertised by The Pope.... and actually it was The Pope who booked the package up too.... so not much sacrifice at all from me.. but still my Olympic Dream was set an in place!

And then came Cyril....

One of the first questions I asked the nurse when they said I could be freed from hospital was did they think I'd be fit and able enough in two weeks time to go see the Olympics?... I think they just thought I was stupid... but you know.. I am an "Ironman" (*) ... so yeah I am stupid and can be somewhat determined when it comes to doing things!!

Once I got home I set about getting walking fit - starting with laps of the living/ dining room (about 14') and had my own "olympic test event" the few days before we were due to go; shuffling to the Cafe (about 300m from my house) and sitting down to eat a sandwich.... now all this did tire me out somewhat but I was feeling hopefull.

My biggest concerns were (a) ability to walk to venue and (b) ability to sit down for periods of time and (c) getting out and back to the hotel. We had tickets to see Volleyball (taking place in Earl's Court) and Hockey (taking place at the Riverbank Arena in the Olympic park) with our hotel luckily very well placed right near Bayswater (district line) and Queesway (central line), both about 200-300m away. Now as luck would have it, one of my good friends, Katharine, was "working" as a games maker at the Hockey... she did some scouting about and fact finding and said there were wheelchairs which we could use - this was a surprise to me... at no fee, no Dr's note required. But wheelchairs available on first come first serve basis, and failing that there was also an extended golfcart thing which transferred less able people around the Olympic park.

So having succesfully carried out my final test event on the Friday we decided to give it a go!! The Pope instructed me to pack light (as I couldn't carry anything and she would have to have it all)... so the bare essentials went into the baackpack; 3 pairs of pants, two clean t-shirts and a light rain jacket. That was it.

The journey up was pretty uneventful, and we realised when we were midway through that there was an easier route to go... I was kind of ok until we got to the underground in Paddington. Waiting for the tube to come I felt really rather faint and not at all good. Was slightly worried we had made the wrong decision for a moment... but told myself that really the end of the ironman (*) was surely worse then this...  it was the end of the journey and only one tube stop. Somehow managed it and was somewhat pleased to get to the hotel room for a few hours rest.

Next stop Earl's Court. It was here we got our first glimpse of the mobility transfer offered at every venue. A minibus which could take less able people direct from the station to the entrance. As we just missed one I decided that standing waiting 10-15mins would be as uncomfortable as walking and so we left at a snails pace with the Pope protecting me and my shuffle from the less aware pavement walker (it is seriously amazing how little people are aware of their surrondings). We got to Earl's Court and were quickly spotted by a gamesmaker and asked if we needed assistance. It turned out they had wheelchairs for use here too! .. We later discovered that one of the factors which played a part in London's bid winning was the accessability and mobility offerings they made - this was the first Olympics where this type of assistance was being offered! Anyway - somewhat amazed - a wheelchair was produced for me, we got through security and a gamesmaker whizzed us over to ticketing where they annoted our tickets and basically swapped out seats for wheelchair access ones.... I hadn't thought about the effort required of actually getting up flights of steep steps to our seat until this point. So another reason to be grateful!
Just holding The Pope's beer... My taste buds were still out of action!
We (well I say we but I mean the Pope) signed for the wheelchair and it was ours to keep for the duration of our stay in Earls Court, and we had court side seats too! At some stage I became quite emotional if I'm honest - Since knowing the operation date I really wasn't sure I would make this - and the helpfullness, kidness and support I was shown was, to me, very touching and made me very humble and very grateful in many ways. There were about 3 groups of us "less able" peeps in the accessibility area - I think the other two had feet/ leg issues (like being in plaster!)

The Pope not quite believing how close to the action we were
Now then... ; I have never been to a volleyball game before (ok so I did play about 4 times when I was in sixth form), and the atmosphere was ELECTRIC. Just prior to our alloted games Team USA were playing and the noise coming from the court was simply amazing. It was just exciting listening to that! Soon enough though that game was over, we waited a short while for people to exit and a clear up before we were allowed in to the court side... we saw the evening games of Argentina vs Bulgaria (Argentina had the better outift) and Brazil vs Serbia (The brazilian supporters won it!) ....Both games were utterly brilliant. The speed of play, the amazing agility and the noise of the supporters was utterly immense. Did I mentioned the Brazilian supporters already? If this was an indication what Rio is going to be like well - start saving your money people as it will be brilliant!
The Brazil Serbia game was a complete thriller... and at 00:30 (yes a.m!)... with Brazil coming back looking like they were going to take the 4th set and moving the game towards a 5th set decider we decided that we were completely and utterly pooped and needed to head home... and actually doing this ahead of the max exodus was also wise given my condition. We left, saying goodbye to the awesome games makers - who had been stewarding for over 12 hours by this stage..... and quickly entered the rear entrance of Earl's Court tube, a quick ride home and back to the hotel for much needed sleep! Tomorrow was Olympic Park day after all!

Despite a lot of publicity asking people to go via one of the other tube stations/ entrances we headed to Stratford station direct down the Central Line. Someone kindly gave up their seat for me and away we went. We missed the sign for mobility transfer from the station to the park but actually it wasn't too far a walk (in the pouring rain!) ... You couldn't miss the way up to the park with cheery games makers every 10metres; pointing, shouting and encouraging you in the direction!... ....  Getting across the traffic of people we made it to the mobility centre..  Now this centre was really rather big and all sorts of offerings; from electric mobility scooter things, electric wheelchairs and push wheelchairs (like the one we had in Earls Court)... Now there wasn't just a dozen of each of these but 10's of each variety.  An incredible amount in fact. As we were quite early in the scheme of the day we were asked what we would like; I quickly dismissed that idea of a mobility scooter thing - firstly I don't think I would have comfortably reached the controls, secondly I would probably be a danger to other walkway users and thirdly The Pope was a good pusher and we figured there could be less abled people who didn't have someone who could push them. So having signed for the wheelchair off we scooted and into the queue for security. Once again the Army did a quick and efficient job and we were there - walking across the bridge and into the Olympic park. Talk about AMAZING!!! Lots of people were stopping to take a photo of themselves with the Olympic stadium in the background and I can't blame them - but we decided to do the walk in a oner and just soak in at atmosphere... it was BRILLIANT! I quickly realised why the tickets just to get into the park had sold out! With the beautiful landscaped gardens, an electric atmosphere, with big screens to watch events unfold whilst lazing on the banks of a river - why would you not want to come here!

Made it to the Olympic Park!
 We slowly took in the Park and headed North walking the length from Statfford towards Manor Gate - we saw the sites of all the venues which up until now we had only seen on TV; the stadium, the aquatic centre, the BBC TV studio (!), the RiverBank arean and the Pringle shape of the Velodrome .... have I used the word amazing yet? I can't describe the atmosphere - if you have been you know that buzz, that feeling that something amazing was happenening all around you.... it was fully charged - and I don't think that was just because of the clap of thunder we had!

The Olympic rings - the things of dreams!
 We wend our way towards the Riverbank and then over to the "street market" which had all sorts of food on offer... we grabbed ourselves a couple of delightful boxed up sushi's lunchs and headed back to the Riverbank Arena. Once again the GamesMakers and organisation was incredible - they whizzed us through the entrance and pointed us in the direction of the ticket swap - where they once more changed our seated tickets for mobility access tickets so I didn't have to worry about trying to get up a bank of steps .... we got the swap done (this time we had numbered "seats" in that I had a slot for the wheelchair and The Pope had a slot for a foldup chair to sit on which they had in the area)... and we were pitch side... the only people closer to the action were the photographers, officials and players! Katharine popped by to say hello and give us a low down on what she was doing on her GameMakers duties - she was working pretty much the whole two weeks at the Arena as a player liaison type role. It was great to meet up with her... Soon the match was on... Despite the heavens opening in true British Summer style (complete downpour with thunder) we thoroughly enjoyed the first game of South Korea vs Pakistan. By the time the second game was on we had such clear blue skies and heat that actually we almost got burnt... the second game was Holland vs Germany - which as it turned out was to be the fixture for the final too... however the result was different with Holland the more superior (by far) and winning the group encounter.

If I am honest though, and given I used to be a hockey player I do find this surprising to say - I did find the atmosphere and excitement of the volleyball encounters a ratchet or several up from the hockey. Not sure why - possible as a result of an intense and enclosed stadium for the Volleyball. Or maybe those that got tickets for the hockey was less partisan to one team over another (the Volleyball most certainly had a lot of Country specific supporters!!!).... Stilll I am not complaining - just observing really.

We originally planned then to try and meet up Kirsty (another friend who had been watching handball that day) and Katharine again... but the park was heaving and being in a wheelchair made manoevring me about a little bit more challenging - mainly because people were walking around in awe (or using their mobile phone) and not paying any attention at all as to where they were going (or whom they were about to walk in front off).... being at the height of a small child and not being able to maneourve myself certainly gave me a different perspective.

We dropped the wheelchair back off and got the mobility transport back to Stratfford station (literally through the back door and security to pretty much on to the train line).... the Station was not as busy as we feared it may be and a tube quickly pullled up for the journey back to Hyder Park and where our hotel was.

An utterly fantastic, amazing, and awesome day. What a weekend. What a spectacle.

I felt and still feel so blessed that we were able to go, and to be able to get around (with heaps of thanks to the Pope for pushing and the 2012 Bid team to have had the vision of access for all).


The Pope happy to stop pushing and enjoy pitch side seats!

Germany vs Holland

Action Photo - spot the ball!

Germans coming out of defence

Holland on the ball...
 (*) Strictly speaking I haven't done an Ironman but I have done a Challenge... full distance... so I have done an "iron" distance... whatever... I shall continue to claim "Ironman" with it in speechmarks... and yes Jules ... this comment was especially for you!! Mwahhhh! ha ha ha ... oh how we laughed!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

3 weeks later....

What a difference each day makes ... Let alone 3 weeks....

First off... What do a large mango, a small cantaloupe and Cyril have in common?... Umm yes all about the same size. Turned out, in case I didn't mention, that the cyst was quite large by the time the doc got to it...

I have to say that as soon as I woke up I could feel the difference, which may sound a little gross and a bit weird. I mean I was in pain but vacant pain if you will....


Finally finally finally I am feeling like I'm beginning to return to normal. I'm even able to walk a couple of kilometres now although I do find that rather tiring! Recovery has gone something like this.....

Week 1:

Spent most of this in a bloated (think pot bellied pig.... I kid you not I was surprised by skin could stretch that far), drugged up state. They say that moving (ie walking or in this case shuffling) is a good thing. So I set myself the task of progressing from shuffle reps of the living room (tiring!) and by the end of the week a shuffle around the block (about 400m). I also managed to get myself off the cocodomal relatively quickly and just in the NSAIDs and Paracetomol. The other major achievement of week 1 was progressing through levels 3 to 5 of Star Wars Lego on the Wii... I could pretty much do this from being horizontal on the sofa and my brain was not really up to thinking, in fact I could barely remember what had happened the hour before, let alone previous day. Oh and I caught a cold.... Sneezing was interesting, blowing my nose somewhat impossible.... Nice!

Week 2:
My tummy was still huge... Despite what they say! But I seem to have some sort of break through one night... Had a nightmare which woke me up gasping and it was like my whole diaphragm moved and my tum rather then being a taught pot bellied mass seemed to be slightly less puffed up.... Indeed I got a couple of bouts of the sharp chest pain I had in week one, which should only be around in week 1 (so you are told) as the gasses move about front where they inflate you! Anyway, a more comfy tum, still large but not feeling to tight and stretched. Successes of week 2 was increasing my walk from just the little loop and moved it up to the little corner shop and back, a staggering 1.2k journey! Took me a while and did have a couple of days of two steps forward one step back..Getting both tired and sore.....had one day where I felt really sick and was kind of worried (ok paranoid) that something was not going right... But think I just had a tummy bug as it didn't last more then a day.... Another success was completing the Wii Lego Star Wars.... Well I say complete.... I blew up the death star and everything and got told I had complete 40%... As as yet I am not a "true Jedi" on every level and haven't collected all the bricks and stuff.... By the end of week 2 was off the NSAIDs ad lowering my Paracetomol dose.

Week 3:

The big challenge for week 3 was to be "fit" enough to see if I could get up to London as we had tickets for some Olympic events (Volleyball and Hockey).... I will go into how that went in another blog..... Was still concerned over the sheer size of my tummy and the puffiness of it at the start of this week but can finally say that 3 weeks later that whilst it is still on tubby side it is not really painfully bloated so much. Which is a relief... i think the remaining tub is more likely down to lack of exercise and excess calorific intake the last 6+ weeks!!!! Had another day of being off my food and yucky (the 2 steps forward one back thing) but still think that is unrelated to the operation as the cold I caught seems to be lingering in my ears and sinus' so am thinking that is the culprit. Last night I went out for a walk in the forest behind our house and happened upon the noise of grazing cattle.....

they were having a nice little munch on the lush looking grass... So inspired by the feeling of being out on a sunny evening I decided this morning, 3 weeks post surgery. as I woke up early and as it was a beautiful morning to head out for a slightly longer walk! I managed 2.5k and almost a normal easy pace. It was lovely to be out and smelling freshly cut grass... I came across squirrels, the same cows, ducks on the lake and the smallest frog I have ever seen!!

The local lake in the morning mist

The smallest frog I have ever seen - about the size of my thumb nail!

Cows in the morning!
In terms of drugs I'm now on the occasional paracetamol (mainly in the evening and at night).  I'm just about able to lay on my side for a period of time and think sometime this weekend I ought to be able to sleep only on one pillow (usually I sleep on one or none but have had to be propped up on 3 then 2.... Initially because it was too "stretchy" laying flat and also because of the damn cold bug thing!

It is going to be some weeks before I can lift anything properly (at least that is my excuse for not putting on the kettle or hoovering at all!) .... I tried driving today as I head back to work next week and that was a little awkward - both the seat belt and the stretching of my left leg for the clutch (the cyst was on my left side and I am getting the feeling of pulling in the abdomen - but that could be as much pyschosymmatic). In terms of any sort of training well I am being sensible. I put a date in my diary to "think" about it 6 weeks post surgery to give the internal wounds time to heal properly. At this point I can't see it being any sooner (other then I will continue the walking).... I think I will most likely start back with some swimming and cycling, it will be a bit longer I think before my tummy muscles can support running. I willl start some gentle stretching and lower ab work (just tensing them up mind - definitely no sit ups!) in the coming weeks as I think that sort of prehab/ rehab will also help.

As for returning to work next week....
I am fairly nervous about how sitting at a desk all day is going to make my tummy feel but my boss is quite understanding so I am hoping for next week at least I can work at some of the time - just so I can have a lie down or stand and stretch should I need to. My brain is still somewhat scrambled although given I can be a bit of an air head I'm not sure my work collegues are going to notice!!

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