Not anaemic

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.

Energy

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.

Progress

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.

HM

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.

Life updates

I haven’t written here for too long. It’s the usual update – dog takes up all my time and energy, when he’s asleep I go to sleep too. Well, sometimes.

I’ve had the week off this week and have been spending a lot of time with him. He is amazing and I love him. He’s also a total pain who wants to run around and jump at me all the time, and my hands are covered in little scratches and tooth marks, but that’s OK and we’re working on it. He’s such a lovely little dog when he’s just padding around the house. He looks like a little bear.

He hasn’t enjoyed the fireworks. He’s OK with them when he’s inside, but getting him outside is difficult, which interferes with his toileting (as he’s very reluctant to go inside the house now – shouldn’t complain, but it’s not ideal for him to hold it). We’ve had fireworks every night for four nights in a row now, which I think is quite ridiculous and I really wish we could ban firework sales to individuals.

In other news… I have a stomach upset 🤔 Again! I think it might be spaghetti carbonara. I stopped eating spaghetti bolognese because the sauce is too much for my stomach (all the acid from the tomatoes, probably) and switched to carbonara thinking it would be better, but this is the second time I’ve had an upset stomach after eating it, so maybe not. It’s not as bad as last time, but I saw the signs and switched to an extremely boring chicken + rice diet (like my dog!) so that may have softened the blow.

So I’m back at work next week. Work annoyed me last week. My manager asked me to create some fake data in the system to display some charts for a demo. So I did. Then on Thursday morning the managing director called me into a meeting to complain that it wasn’t what he’d asked for. The problem was that he had created this data with no thought to how it would actually look when plugged into our charting system. What he actually wanted were completely different charts, but that is not what I was asked to do, nor was it realistic for the timeframe. He didn’t even tell my manager that he’d called me. I don’t deal with the managing director much, but when I do I always come away with a bad impression of him. So in some ways I’m not looking forward to work again tomorrow, but in other ways I feel like I have more important things (dog) in my life to worry about instead. It’s just a job.

Anaemia?

I’ve been feeling a bit off lately, and at some point it suddenly occurred to me that I am probably getting anaemic again. I used to have problems with anaemia a few years ago. I started feeling very tired and a bit spaced out sometimes. Early anaemia symptoms are a bit vague. But I’ve sometimes been feeling a bit woozy after running, which is what really made me think “hmm”.

So I phoned up my doctor… I had to phone because they’ve disabled online booking “due to COVID”. Which makes no sense. And then I had to phone four times. The first three I was told that the queue was full, and on the fourth I apparently got put into the queue. It took 35 minutes in total to speak to someone. The earliest appointment they could give me was a telephone appointment, in four weeks time. What has gone wrong with my GP surgery?!

So anyway… That’s ridiculous and I’ve started self medicating iron tablets. Fortunately you can buy them over the counter. Iron overdose is a thing but from seeing my iron levels in the past I think I’m more likely to develop diabetes from the sugar coating on the tablet than convince my body to absorb enough iron for it to be a problem.

I watched episode four of The Man In The High Castle this evening. I am really enjoying it so far. I really like the intro and theme too. The style reminds me of The Expanse’s intro sequence. In this case it’s very arty and surreal against the grim reality of the story.

Vaccinated

I had my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday morning. I didn’t really know what to expect from it, because my mum (who had AstraZenica) spent about 3-4 days feeling like she had flu, whereas my dad had absolutely no reaction whatsoever. I had a bit of a headache and an achy arm in the afternoon but nothing much. I went for a run on Thursday morning and found I didn’t have any energy and ended up cutting it short, then Thursday afternoon and evening my left leg was aching a lot all over, like I’d really overdone the running (I hadn’t). I ran again this morning and it was much better. And my leg doesn’t ache.

I was worried a bit that I’d react to it like my mum did. I had an upset stomach last week and I really wasn’t looking forward to another few days of feeling horrible.

Also, on the medical theme, the NHS is going to start sharing medical records with commercial third parties starting in July. If you haven’t heard anything about this, it’s probably because they’ve kept it very quiet. The data is ‘pseudonymous’ rather than anonymous, meaning that while it won’t have your name in it, it certainly can be used to identify people. Personally I think as a whole, this is appalling. This is an NHS Digital initiative, but hasn’t been adequately publicised by NHS Digital, who are acting as if it’s the individual GPs responsibility to inform patients even though it’s a national issue. The fact it’s happening as an opt-out system under a short timescale without any effort to inform patients is bad, and the opt-out is complicated and confusing (as there are two different opt-outs) and inconvenient as you need to locate, print, and submit a paper form to your GP specifying your preference. Making the opt-out paper based is a little ironic given that we’re talking about massive digital data collection.

It’s hard to look at this and assume good faith.

There are some details on how to opt-out here. The overall story is covered by the Financial Times.

Feelings

I feel weird lately and I don’t know why. According to my watch my resting heart rate has been higher than normal for the past week and a half and my stress levels too. I keep doing some breathing exercises to try to calm things, but I don’t think that’s it.

There are other things too. I’ve had some nausea. I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago feeling hot and nauseous. Maybe it actually was hot, but I doubt it. My stomach has been really unhappy as well. The noises it’s making today… And I think it was Monday afternoon my head felt weird and cloudy when I was working. It’s all a bit vague but it mostly fits with anxiety symptoms I’ve had before.

But I don’t feel like I have a lot of stress right now. Work is plodding along and I haven’t made any more moves towards finding another job. I feel quite content at the moment, so it’s a bit confusing.

Weight

A week or so ago I had trouble sleeping one night. After going to bed about 10PM, I was still awake at about midnight feeling REALLY uncomfortably hungry. Like, extremely. I’ve felt like this before when I was anaemic. I don’t think I’m anaemic again. I shouldn’t be. Anyway, it turns out I’ve lost a couple of kilograms over the past few months, so I’m probably just not eating enough.

I started tracking my weight closely in June 2019 when I got my Garmin watch. I was very underweight back then and even got referred to a nutritionist who advised me to eat more (lol). It stayed pretty much flat from June until October when suddenly it started going up, probably because that’s when I left my previous job.

So a little while ago I noticed it was still creeping up and I thought to myself that maybe I don’t really need to eat chocolate buttons every day.

Over the Christmas break I am doing better at not being hungry. I get up, eat a small amount of breakfast, then I go for a run and when I get back I have a bowl of microwaved porridge and a banana. Second breakfast.

Iron

I’m back on the iron tablets because I haven’t been on them for a while. What happens with my iron levels is that I’m on iron tablets for a few months and my iron levels go up. Then I stop taking them and my iron levels go down. I’m self medicating this time around because I haven’t been tested since December so I don’t actually know what my iron levels are. I feel a bit guilty about that, because they’re not the weedy little vitamin tablets you find on the shelf at Boots, they’re proper 200mg turn-your-poo-black ferrous sulfate iron tablets. But you don’t actually need a prescription for them (and it’s cheaper to buy them over the counter than pay for the prescription!) and the leaflet says you can take one per day for prevention of iron deficiency anaemia, so it’s fine really.

I had forgotten how unpleasant the first few days of iron are. I took it at about 6PM yesterday and woke up with painful indigestion at 3 AM.

3AM is a strange time. I received a rather immature and maybe sightly spiteful message on LinkedIn a few days ago from someone from the past I didn’t want to hear from. (Actually it was a few weeks ago, but I didn’t see it until a few days ago). It didn’t upset me. I just deleted my LinkedIn account because it’s not like it’s useful. I don’t generally ‘do’ social media under my own name so it was a bit of an odd thing for me to have anyway. I didn’t find it at all useful when looking for jobs, and now I’m not looking, it makes no real sense to have an account. So, I got a message which I won’t dignify with further details, I shrugged and closed the account. Problem solved. Fine.

Not fine at 3AM. Very upsetting at 3AM. I felt very upset and anxious about the whole thing.

Also upsetting was that I need to cancel my Amazon Prime trial before they charge me. It was urgently important at 3 AM, so I got my phone out and saw to it.

Anyway. I took the iron tablet with lunch today, so hopefully I’ll sleep better. I’ve had a somewhat uncomfortable gastrointestinal tract since then. Urrrrgh.

From memory this only lasts a few days, so hopefully it’ll be settling tomorrow.