Updates

One of my mum’s friends has just lost her job because the company has ceased to exist, because the owner is in hospital and unlikely to recover. It’s a risk of small companies with an aging owner. I work for a small company with an owner in his mid 70s. Hmm. I’m also bored with work and I don’t feel I’m growing, but on the other hand… I can’t really be bothered? I keep thinking about it, though. I keep getting recruitment messages. I’ve been here for coming up to three and a half years now. I am getting frustrated by the work though. Everything is always urgent, more urgent than the thing I’m currently working on, which was urgent yesterday but now is not. And it’s the classic software problem of trying to convert what could generously be described as a half baked idea into something subjected to logical consistency. The compiler doesn’t stand for nonsense!

Running updates: A few weeks ago I was aiming for a 22:30 Parkrun and ended up with 23:15 or something. The following week I had the same aim and ran 22:15 – yep, a whole minute faster, and it felt like only a moderate effort. I was super pleased with that. I was planning to just do a full effort run this last week and see where I am, but that was scuppered by the snow and ice. Parkrun went ahead but on a very revised course, which was about 50% grass. Or, more accurately, mud. In road shoes. In theory you could use the lack of friction to your advantage, but I haven’t quite mastered that. So we’ll see next week. I’m not too optimistic though – I did some hill repeats yesterday and felt like I was going to die.

I’m now approximately two months post-virus and this last week my resting heart rate finally came back down to pre-virus levels, but it’s still often elevated when running.

With Stratford cancelled, my next race is Birmingham half marathon in just under 8 weeks. Birmingham is usually a fairly flat course outside of maybe two or three nasty hills. I’ve been doing 75 minute runs for the last few weeks and this week bumped one up to 90 minutes. Ideally I want to be doing one 75 minute run and one 90-120 minute run per week (at tortoise pace). In theory I’ll be fully virus recovered by then, but as I still have lingering effects now I’m not sure how effective the training has been and will be… I have modest expectations.

Monty in the snow:

Setbacks

The Stratford half marathon has been cancelled due to low entry numbers. I’m a little bit irritated by this because I think it’s the organisers’ own fault. I hadn’t signed up yet, because I was signed up in 2020 when they cancelled it and didn’t offer refunds. Entry was instead deferred to 2021… which was also cancelled with no refunds. So I was waiting until nearer the date to sign up this time. Entry numbers are low with 8 weeks to go… Hmm well there’s a mystery 🙄

If things were different I’d be very disappointed, but I’m not really sure I’d have been up to it anyway. My post COVID or whatever fitness is nowhere near being able to run a half in a decent time and I think if I tried I’d have a very bad time. I’m quite glad I was injured for Warwick because I think I would have blown up very quickly if I’d tried to race it.

I aimed for a 22:30 Parkrun this week. It’s a nice round number of 4:30 per km. Pre-virus, I was regularly doing 10k tempo runs at that pace which felt like moderate effort, so it seemed very achievable to keep that pace over 5k running with other people. 23:11 is what I actually ran. Not even close! I tried to really push on the last km but my legs weren’t interested.

It’s weird. I can still do very short intervals at reasonably fast paces and I can still do 60 minute slow runs, but the middle ground of trying to maintain a moderate speed for any length of time just isn’t happening.

I’ve been reading articles on running after COVID and a few other people have made similar points. I think it’ll just take more time. In the meantime, the fact I can still do the long slow runs is encouraging. Hopefully that will actually translate to aerobic fitness at some point…

Better… Almost.

The virus turned quite fluey and I ended up spending a few days in bed. I was still working, for some reason that I’m not really sure of in retrospect, but a couple of days were working from bed.

I feel better now except that I’m still coughing a lot and sometimes bringing things up (how pleasant), but other than that I’m ok.

I went for a run today for the first time since being ill. It wasn’t great. I have a half marathon in three weeks and I’m quite a way behind where I wanted to be. I did a 95 minute run two weeks ago and 90 minutes the week before, but I’ve missed two long runs with being unwell. I really wanted to have done a couple of two hour runs before the day but I can’t see that happening really. But it’s not really a ‘target’ half because it’s far too hilly to go for a good time and I was really intending just using it as a tune up for an actual target half in April. So it’s not the end of the world but I think it’ll be tougher than I wanted it to be. At least I have a good base to build up for April.

🤧

I picked up my sister’s cold after all. I started with a sore throat and slight headache last Wednesday and a cough that’s been getting gradually worse, but I wasn’t really very affected until Monday when I started feeling pretty rough. Tuesday brings a new symptom of diarrhea, oh joy! And my cough is really hurting my throat as of today. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s COVID but I don’t have any tests and it doesn’t really make any difference either way.

I think mum has also contracted it (she’s being cagey which means she knows she’s ill but doesn’t want to admit it) but she’s a couple of days behind me. The good news is my sister seems to be feeling better now.

Hopefully today is the worst day… But I keep saying that…

Christmas!

It used to be that having a Christmas break meant staying in bed and chilling a lot, but since we got Monty holidays are busier and more tiring than work days. My general feeling is that dogs don’t live long lives (compared to humans) and I want him to enjoy the time he has as much as possible, and if that means having no free time then it means having no free time.

So Christmas has been busy. But also fun. I bought my mum a custom mug that says “Monty’s Grandma” with a picture of him printed on the side. That made her laugh. I bought my sister an aurora light projector, which was kind of a “I have no idea what to give you” present but she seems to love it. Mum gave me a pair of Shokz bone conduction headphones for running, which are nice and useful.

Anyway, my sister thinks she has a cold today so I get to play the exciting lottery of am I going to catch it? I haven’t had a respiratory infection for almost three years now (the last one was probably COVID, the week before the UK went into lockdown) and I feel nonplussed by the prospect of breaking that streak. Working from home is a blessing in that regard; I remember in my previous job I once had a six week period where I caught three colds.

A few weeks back I had three or four days in a row when my heart rate was elevated and my stress levels high for no obvious reason, so I’m hoping that was my body fighting off whatever my sister has caught and now I’m immune… But we’ll see.

Stomachs 🤔

I ended up with yet another stomach upset last week and spent a little while feeling sorry for myself. I struggled with Parkrun last Saturday and was surprised to see my heart rate went up to 193 bpm, which is at least 6 bpm higher than I knew it could go. I should have suspected something then, but in the evening I went to bed blissfully unaware that a few hours later I’d wake up feeling very uncomfortable and spend the next 30 minutes sat on the toilet sweating and feeling sick. Then it seems to take a good week to properly settle down again and feel normal.

I seem to get a lot of stomach upsets and I don’t know why. I don’t think there’s anything seriously wrong because I’ve had all the cameras pushed inside me (not fun!) and they didn’t find anything.

I’ve tried super bland diets and I’m not sure it helps. I have a strengthening suspicion that it’s a muscular problem. For years on and off I’ve had problems with the lower left side of my abdomen. I never really worked out exactly what it is; maybe hip flexors, maybe adductors. I think the answer might actually be that it’s both. It gets worse with fast running. But lately it does seem to coincide with these stomach upsets. And it makes sense that the deep hip flexor muscles could compress the intestines. So I decided I’d really try to sort it out or make a physio appointment if I can’t.

I’ve been doing a hip flexor stretch for a few minutes a day. The best one for me is to lie on my back with a foam roller under my bottom and to pull the other knee towards my chest (like this: https://www.postureandcorepilates.com.au/2018/11/20/supine-hip-flexor-stretch/), which does seem to stretch out the front of the hip better than lunge variations (at least for me). And I’ve also been doing reverse crunches to build some more strength in my very lower abdominal muscles, which should resist the hip flexors a bit better.

After doing this for a week or so, I feel a lot less discomfort overall, and my legs feel a lot springier when I’m running. So that’s promising. Whether it’ll stop these episodes of digestive problems remains to be seen.

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.