Friday, 26 February 2016

An impatient patient...

It's always interesting when the doctor becomes the patient.....but from a personal point of view, I think it's beneficial to see things from the other side.

I had been referred for an MRI scan by A+E, but thought there might be a waiting time of a few weeks, so was surprised to get a phone call from Glasgow within the week to ask if they could book a slot for me. It turns out that Dumfries and Galloway Health Board have something called a "Waiting Time Initiative", which enables them to send people out of the area for an earlier appointment. I wasn't complaining as I was keen to get my scan done, and so having discussed it with my colleagues, I took an afternoon off work and travelled up to the Nuffield the next Wednesday afternoon.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from an MRI scan, but when the radiographer told me that it would take about 45 minutes, I thought I'd have a nice relaxing lie-down. How wrong could I be? It is one of the noisiest experiences around.

Despite wearing earplugs, I could hear a constant background thump which sounded like a rather rapid heartbeat. To add to that, there was  something which would have sounded like birds tweeting away happily had it not been quite so regular (and had I been outside rather than enclosed in a tiny room). While each of the scans was actually being done, there was an extra noise which sounded rather like a jackhammer going at various rates ("intellectually", I knew that this would occur due to the expansion and contraction of the coils in the machine, but at the time, it still took me by surprise)! I'm astonished that I could actually hear the radiographer's voice over the intercom with all that going on in the background.

However, I figured it was definitely worth it to find out what was going on with my leg, and as they'd promised to report it that day and then email/ring the results through to the A+E consultant in Dumfries, there was really very little to complain about.

At least that was what I initially thought, and I was prepared to extol the virtues of accepting a 2 hour drive up to Glasgow to all my patients that had it offered to them.

Unfortunately, after the scan I was informed that they would not email or phone results through for NHS patients (hmmmm.......I wonder if they would for private patients?) so I said that I was happy to wait for the scan to be reported and take the results back myself.

The next bit of bad news was that the radiologist was having some "car trouble" and so wouldn't be coming in, hence the scan wouldn't be reported until the following week (I didn't date ask why a bit of cat trouble on Wednesday lunchtime precluded him from reporting a scan until the following week).

By this time, I was feeling rather frustrated that I'd just had a totally wasted trip (which actually turned into a 5hr drive plus an hour for the scan). Eventually they kindly agreed to copy the scan onto a disc for me, so that I could get an unofficial opinion from my local radiologist while awaiting the formal one.

Yippee......I was off down the road clutching my disc and dropped it off at Dumfries hospital later that night!

The next morning, I got further bad news.......the disc was actually blank and so there was nothing to be done but to wait a week (well, it's been a week so far and still no word....) for the formal report to be done and sent down. What an insight I got into how doctors really do "make the worst patients"!!!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...

Let's start off with "the good"....and for me, it was a good time as I ran my best 10K in over 2 years on Saturday!

I have enjoyed getting out for a couple of races so far this year, but it's hard to work out how well you're running when the races are XC ones, as results are totally dependent on the course, the weather and the rest of the field. I wanted to give myself a wee test over a measured distance and so entered the Lancaster "Valentine's 10K".

Rather chilly!!!
As usual, I was full of doubts on my way to the race. I hadn't slept well the night before, the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark, and I wasn't that sure exactly where I was going. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so found the sports centre, picked up my number, and did a warm up with Niall, my clubmate. Niall is quicker than me over shorter distance but I've still got the upper hand over the longer stuff.....and he's famous for going off rather quickly, so my goal was to keep him in sight for the first mile at least!

We stripped off down to club vests and shorts (though there was no way that I was being parted from my gloves), and lined up on the track. We had to run a lap and 3/4 of the track before being marshalled out along cycle paths. I've never been a fast starter but on this occasion it meant that I did have to run a lot of the first lap in lane 2/3 to try to get past people and into a rhythm.

Chasing Niall down after the 180 turn
By the time we got to a 180 degree turn at the first mile marker Niall was about 50m ahead of me, so I thought I'd never see him again. There was a short stretch alongside the river and then we turned sharp left to run along a cycle path. It seemed like it was going to be a rather lonely run for me as I could just see a couple of guys away ahead in the distance (they were easy to distinguish from the walkers on the path as only the runners had any bare limb flesh showing in the cold).

Happily finished!!!
I caught Niall up by the 2.5mile point and tried to get his to push on away from me, as his pace had definitely dropped off. He managed to move away slightly but then I passed him at the 3 mile marker....and that was it as far as social interactions in the race. I did try to smile, wave and thank any marshal I saw at the various corners (not that there were many) en route, but although I did close the gap to the man in front, it was never going to be close.

I had been hoping to run in the low 36s, but as I rounded the final corner of the track finish, I saw that I was going to duck under 36 and so I dredged up any slight element of sprint finish that I could (my pace probably didn't actually change at all).....and was rewarded with a lovely flower for crossing the line in my best time since September 2013!

I cheekily checked both the Scottish and GB V40 rankings that night but, as they say......pride goes before a fall.....and hence on to "the bad".

New sleeping attire?

Could these become my new "best friends"???
A shin niggle that evening became shin pain on the Sunday and by Monday I could hardly walk. I think it took me about 15 minutes to limp/hop/hobble from A&E round to X-ray on Monday afternoon. I initially thought I was imagining things, but my shin had actually become rather red and tender on Sunday despite icing and elevating it, so I was a good girl and took the advice to get it checked out again the hospital. What a lovely way to spend an afternoon off work.....hobbling around the hospital! Luckily no obvious stress fracture, but in all likelihood a tibialis anterior tendonitis.......which needs REST (boo hoo!)! To be fair, there was little else I could do, as I couldn't really walk at all and it was even painful to change gears in the car!

I shouldn't whinge though, as it's just a sore leg, and there are many people worse onto "the ugly"...

Riana winning the 2015 WFLWR in S Africa
I've written about the Wings For Life World Run before. I ran it at Silverstone in 2014 and then in Cape Town in 2015. Although I ran considerably further in 2015, I finished runner up to Riana Van Niekerk who outran the catcher car for 55K, and then became a friend. Unfortunately Riana was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only a few weeks after the run, so I'm honoured to have been able to be there for her last competitive race. She was already unwell at the time, but you would not have known it. From watching her run, all you would have seen was a strong, determined athlete.....and speaking to her afterwards, she only mentioned being a little tired, and so declined coming out for a meal. From the brief time that I knew Riana, this was typical - she was a fighter through and through, and would not let many people know what she was going through  how hard she was fighting, how exhausted she was, how ill she felt or how much pain she was in.

Whenever we were in touch, she always made light of her suffering, just mentioning how much she was missing her running and how much she was looking forward to returning to it.

Due to her illness Riana was unable to run Comrades in 2015, and so all of us Nedbank ladies ran wearing pink ribbons in her honour. Unfortunately, after many aggressive cycles of chemotherapy, she lost the fight on Friday night and so it seemed only fitting to wear a pink ribbon for her in my warmup on Saturday - she was an amazing lady, athlete and friend and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Geordie Shores

 I love a trip back to the NE - whether it's to see family, catch up with friends, run, or drink coffee and eat cake. This weekend saw me do all of the above - a coffeeshop on the way over, dinner with my parents, a pub catchup afterwards with friends (which developed into a much larger night than planned), and then a run the next morning.
When I say "run", it was actually a race - the North East Masters' XC Championships. This is the first time I've been "old enough" for the Scottish Masters' XC, but as I hadn't fancied a 9-10hr drive up to Forres and back, I opted for the NE event instead. Little did I know that although the lower age limit in Scotland is 40, it is 35 in England, so I was back to racing younger ladies again!
My first "40" number...sob!!!
The race venue (Wallsend) wasn't hard to find (due to the wonders of satnav), and I even managed to have the right change for a smooth trip through the Tyne Tunnel, but the weather was less than ideal. I kept hoping that it would warm up (my car said 4 degrees) but unfortunately it didn't happen, and to add insult to injury, the rain just kept coming and going.
Still, it was the same for everyone so I picked up my number (and the "40" to attach to my back....sob....first time I've had to wear that!!), wrapped up well and went out to recce the course. The ladies (and men >65) had to run 2 laps, while the 35-64 yr old men had an extra one.
The "course map"
There was an initial lap of a small soggy sloping open area, and then a short undulating area through trees, with a combination of mud, grass, leaves, gravel, a bollard and a bit of tramac to keep you on your toes. Next a flat grassy expanse before a sharp hairpin back to descend on a narrow gravelly path to the bottom of the dene. Another muddy section took you to the tarmac path along the bottom of the dene - the course was flagged alongside the path so I presumed we were meant to keep off the tarmac all the way to the far end where you looped back around. As I turned away to ascend the first hill, I was joined by the routeplanner. It was very steep and muddy and he thought I'd have no chance of competing well unless I wore spikes, but my mudclaws seemed to be doing a good enough job, as it was impossible to travel at any speed. At the top, there was another narrow gravelly/tarred path which didn't look like it would be comfy in the aforementioned spikes, but he suggested just running more on your heels, and keeping to the sides as much as possible.
On reaching a road bridge over the Dene, the route took a 90 degree turn and you shot down a steep muddy bank back to the bottom, crossed under the bridge supports and then climbed back up the other side - I managed to keep "running" (of sorts) up here, but other people were using their hands to haul themselves up as the slope more resembled a mountain scramble than a running route. After that, it was just back along the grassy open area and through the trees to the starting area. 1 lap negotiated slowly and I was knackered!!!! Still, at least I'd made the decision to stick with my mudclaws even though I had my spikes with me.
Out of the woods...
I kept my jacket and waterproofs on as long as possible but duly lined up with the other ladies (and >65yr old men) just before 11am. You can tell it's a low key race when some people have their age groups written on bits of paper with a felt-tip pen, and the start line is just drawn across the grass. However, it was a friednly gourp that lined up as we whinged about being asked to stand around for a minute or two in the rain to await the starter (we couldn't see why he didn't just set us off as we were all there and there was no chip timing) and those at the front warned those of us behind to avoid all the dog poo lying just beyond the line.
Suddenly a whistle was blown and we were off - it was almost impossible to pass people in that inital loop as the course was marked with pink flags on posts, which I couldn't see until I was almost upon them due to runners ahead of me, and I didn't want to cut the course by running inside them. I tried to work my way up a little bit as we ran through the trees, but I almost came a cropper on both low lying branches and a bollard en route. Thankfully I could stretch out on the open grassy area, but the leaders had opened up a decent gap, and others weren't that impressed at being passed (well, the men mainly!).
Sneaking past on the open grassy area
By the time we got to the descent I was starting to reel in the leading lady and I caught her as we ran along the bottom of the Dene. Brief words of support were exchanged and then I tried to push on, keeping to the grassy verge rather than the path as much as possible. The turnaround at the far end enabled me to see that I'd opened up a gap of a few metres which I managed to extend by the time I hit the first hill. I had hoped to cacth my breath along the top path, but having successfully negotiated a dog + owner, I could hear steps behind me. I though I was about to be overtaken, but in hindsight, I realise now that it was the dog thinking we were playing a game.
Up hill....
There was lots of support from people standing on the roadbridge as I ran down to the bottom and up again the other side (I was thankful for the mudclaws as, unlike XC spikes, they actually have some grip on the heels when you descend in mud) and I heard the lovely words from Rachel, a fellow Durham runner who was there to support her father "Well Done" There's no-one in sight!"
And down dale....
Having finished the first lap, I found it so much easier to get round the top loop when I could take my own line, and I didn't see the second placed lady until I was heading back through the trees. I know you should run your own race and ignore those behind you, but it's hard not to sneak a peek when you have to run round hairpins (as was running along the Dene bottom, I confess that I did look back up to see when the next lady started her descent). Still, it's not over until you cross the line, so I tried to keep working for the whole of that final lap, and was rewarded by not having to sprint for the finish (as I'm sure I'd lose any sprint finish if it came down to it).
It was a great feeling to be running back in the NE as the support was brilliant - Geordie accents are great and they're even better when they're directed at you, shouting "Great running lass!" and "Gan' on there Durham!". I finished my cool down by running in with the final runner and we had a lovely chat - he was inspirational, telling me that he'd only started running at the age of 45....but that had been 33 years ago! I would love to still be competing and enjoying running at that age (yes, I know it'll be there sooner that I think!).
But worth it!!!
Full marks to the NE Masters and the local team/volunteers for organising the race, and for the other runners and supporters for making it such a fun and friendly event - definitely one to consider again next year!