It turns out that my iron levels are fine. Haemoglobin is 139 g/L and serum ferritin is 74 ng/mL. The haemoglobin reading is subject to ‘sports anaemia’ which is when your haemoglobin concentration reading is a bit lower because you really have more plasma, not because you actually have less haemoglobin. Or something. There is a lot of disagreement about what a low ferritin level is, some people say 10-15, some 20, some people say that under 50 is going to impact athletic performance. But 74 is good. That’s the highest it’s ever been on a blood test.
So really, I have no excuse for my rubbish running performance lately. Since I started running after work my average easy paces have improved though. Then last week on Parkrun I ran 21:15 and this week I ran 20:55, which is a post-lockdown PB and the first time post-lockdown I’ve gone sub 21. I pretty much just threw myself at it straight from the start. I usually try to run even or negative splits but sometimes I think you just need to go out faster than comfortable and then just try to hang on when it starts getting tough. Then next week you’ll probably be able to go a bit longer before you start questioning all your life choices that led you up to the point of wanting to die somewhere in the third kilometre of a 5km run. It also helps to have a running nemesis who is slightly faster than you. Next step: sub 20?
I have to be a little bit careful with this though because I spent all of Tuesday last week feeling slightly tired, slightly irritable and slightly hungry and I’m pretty sure it was just from running a bit further and a bit faster than usual last weekend and Monday.
So I think the reason I was feeling tired before was actually just because I have a crazy adolescent dog.
I started running after work this week and it actually does feel a lot better! I’m running faster and further with what feels like the same effort. And I don’t know if it’s because of not running in the morning or because I’ve been taking iron for about 3 weeks now, but I’ve been feeling a lot less tired this week, particularly in the afternoons. I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for work then I’d have been having frequent post lunch naps for a few months now.
So I’m pleased about this and I’m hoping that my Parkrun times start moving in the right direction… It was a bit underwhelming today, but it was quite hot this morning and I really, really wasn’t feeling it when I started my warm up before hand.
I’ve also been reading up more on iron. The problem with iron isn’t eating it, it’s absorbing it. I already knew that things like tea, coffee, dairy, etc lower absorption. I was also vaguely aware that running is bad for iron levels because the physical impact destroys red blood cells. But what I didn’t know was that workouts cause the release of something called hepcidin, which lowers iron absorption. The hepcidin levels are highest around 3-6 hours after a workout. So on top of dietary iron blockers, you also have to time iron intake around this.
Anyway I have my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday so hopefully I’ll get a blood test to see exactly what my iron levels are.
Despite my lacklustre half marathon performance on Sunday and my suspicion that I might need to take some time off for my hip, I ran down to the doctors yesterday to enquire about my blood test. It turns out that blood test forms expire after 3 months, so the one I had from last August was definitely out. So I have booked a GP appointment (again!) in a couple of weeks and I’ll see about getting another one, and actually having it done this time. Of course by the time it happens I’ll have been on iron tablets for four weeks, but I’ll just have to tell them that when they interpret the results.
So overall, going into the surgery worked a lot better than trying to phone them up. A few years ago I booked a lot of appointments over a period of about 12 months, and usually I would just do it at work by disappearing into the corridor for a couple of minutes. Or I could use the online booking… which is now disabled “because of COVID” (?????). Whereas now it’s at least 30 minutes on hold. I could understand if they had a GP shortage and couldn’t provide enough appointments, because a GP shortage is a hard problem to solve. But I am pretty sure that a shortage of people to answer the phones is not a hard problem to solve. This has been going on for a couple of years now, and every so often the local newspaper picks up on it and prints a scathing article… and nothing changes.
Anyway the running was OK. I was achy but that’s hardly surprising. Then today I went out again and did a 10km tempo, which was neither terrible nor great. My pace was a bit faster than the HM on Sunday, and it was really hot and I’m probably not recovered from Sunday yet, so overall it wasn’t bad, but my energy levels dipped quite a lot around the 8km mark.
I’ve been off work this week so I’ve been entertaining Monty. I took him to the town centre on Tuesday and sat in the square with a drink while he watched everyone walk past. Today we went into a dog friendly cafe and had a drink. He was quite stressed, or maybe just really excited. He was whimpering a bit to start with so I had him sat in my lap and I could feel him panting heavily almost the whole time. It’s funny how he’s so confident and boisterous in his comfort zone, but as soon as you put him in a new situation he’s quite timid. Before we got him, I had no idea dogs could be so expressive with the sounds they make.
It turned out that 1:40 wasn’t realistic, and I came in with 1:47. There were some tough hills and my hip started tightening up on the first one, so it wasn’t ideal. But I mostly enjoyed it and I’m not too bothered about the time.
…but the time is a bit of a wake up call that I’m a lot slower than I was a few years ago. 3 years ago I ran a very similar course in 1:32 on roughly the same weekly mileage in training. Plus I did 1:53 on an even harder course last year with virtually no training (which was horrible, but that’s beside the point). So what’s going on here?
I’ve been thinking about it and there is a big difference in now versus then. I used to run most of my miles straight after getting home from work, whereas now I do it first thing in the morning before breakfast. I find running first thing tough and I struggle to hit paces on workout runs that I can hold easily a few hours later in the day. I think this is why my muscles today feel wrecked. Even though I’m putting in the physical effort, my muscles just aren’t being made to work that fast in training runs and they’re not used to going through as wide a range of motion. So I’m going to go back to running later. Something tells me I won’t miss dragging myself round the park at 7AM.
There’s also the issue of iron levels but unfortunately my local GP practice is no longer set up to let people access healthcare 😕 I have a blood test form from last August but I don’t know if 1) it’s still valid, 2) I can still get it done walk-in at the hospital like I used to (I don’t think I still can because of COVID), and if not it means I need an appointment at my GP, which means spending 40+ minutes waiting in a queue on the phone… which I need to do anyway to ask. Actually I’ll probably spend that 40 minutes walking there and back to ask in person. At least that’s more enjoyable than sitting on hold.