Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Zombies on the NHS...

Thursday afternoon I had to go into hospital in preparation for my ACL operation the following morning. Part of the preparation was to fit a cannula for use in administering drugs and fluids etc.

The cannula specialist came along to the ward at about 7 o'clock. I'd just finished my dinner and was reading my book Monster Island by Dave Wellington. He was going to fit it to my left hand on the basis that I am right handed. Now although diabetic and therefore used to needles I am not very good with the medical variety, that is anything bigger that 0.5cm in length! also if it hurts when I do it, I stop, the medical profession don't (and rightly so). I gave the guy my left hand and sat back in the chair with my head back and eyes closed.

He fitted the cannula and I was ok, then he tried to test it with a wash and that was where the fun started. When he attached the syringe with saline and started to inject it the vein on my hand bulged and then burst. I looked down and saw a lump on my hand about half the size of a golf ball. That was it, as the vein burst I felt a cold sensation spread through my arm. I said to the chap that I was going and he told me to sit back. That's the last I remember until I came too.

This is where it all got weird.

I opened my eyes and the cannula guy was looking into my face asking me if I was ok. I couldn't see anything but him and he did not look familiar. I couldn't really see around him and what little I was able to make out I could not recognise. Then the weird stuff started happening...I looked at his face and what I saw was like a twitter feed on fast forward faces and text scrolling upwards rapidly. I couldn't make out what they said or who they were. the faces then started to stick in my mind and where zombie faces.

All sorts of faces with grey/green skin, wispy hair, sunken and missing eyes and missing features (noses etc). So I am looking at this guy, I don't know where I am or what's going on and I can see zombies in front of my face. I'm not sure how long that went on for- in reality it was probably barely a minute but felt like a lot longer.

I started twitching. I then said "I can't stop twitching" to which I then heard him say to a nurse that had been summoned "he's not epileptic is he?". No I'm not but I couldn't get the words out. The nurse came over and brought me some oxygen and calmed me down a little.

I still needed a cannula that he then fitted to my arm inside my left elbow. I was then helped onto the bed so I could relax and get myself under some control again. It took about an hour for me to feel like me again.

The weirdest feeling was the disorientation I felt when I came to and the fact that all I could see was zombies. I guess the tricks your mind can play on you are pretty special! I'd been reading about zombies right before it happened and been playing on twitter too. Put those together and the results were quite trippy.
Weirdly I never felt scared or frightened, just confused.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

3:46am (A Short Story)

The fridge vibrated, shaking its contents as it spluttered to life, like an old man clearing his chest in the middle of the night. The silence shattered, it was the only indication that time was passing. Everything else was still and silent. Even the house had ceased its normal creaks and groans as if the normal effort in holding the weight of bricks and mortar was for once tolerable.

I stood barefoot, naked except for a pair of boxer shorts, in the kitchen looking through the window out into the garden. It was a beautiful clear night, the stars visible against the inky blue-black sky and not a cloud in sight as far as you could see. I could see the light from the full moon in the garden, painting a silver shimmer on everything it touched.

Something had woken me and forced me to come downstairs to investigate. A glance at the clock showed it was now 3:43am. I’d been stood here for three minutes in, the fridge aside, silence.

Nothing moved inside or out. I could hear my breathing, slowly in and out; my chest barely moving. My heart beating was now audible; slow and steady. My body was behaving as if it were asleep but I was stood in the kitchen with my eyes open and I was fully aware that I was.

Another glance at the clock showed it was 3:46am. I decided that there was nothing going on and started to turn when I saw a flash across the window. A streak of white light so fast that I could have easily missed it, or imagined it.

My heart rate quickened and my breathing rate increased. I remained still, rooted to the spot. There had been something.

I took two steps forward closer to the window. My feet a little sticky from a cold sweat that was forming on my body. I looked down towards the ground, there on the grass was a small metal object. It was so shiny it looked like it was made of mirrors, around it was a small impact trench, mud exposed from where the object hit the ground and then slid to a stop.

Everything else was still silent. The clocked was frozen at 3:46am.

I turned away from the window and back around towards the patio doors. I would need to go outside and take a closer look at what ever it was had just landed in my lawn. My adrenaline was spiked now and my heart and breathing were rapid. I was feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement, like riding a rollercoaster - you know you will be ok but that doesn’t stop you feeling scared.

I unlocked the door and stepped out. The night air was cool and my skin immediately turned to goose flesh. I walked across the patio on the balls of my feet in small steps, ready to spring away if necessary. All my senses were now online ready to react to anything that changed. This was real fight or flight.

I stood a metre or so from the object. It was spherical and about the size of a grapefruit but looked to be made of mirrors. There were no joins to the mirrors and the finish was so polished that it was almost too bright to look at, like a small sun.

I crouched down to look closer, shielding my eyes from its glare, there were no markings at all. Even the earth where it had just landed had not stuck to the object.

I edged closer, completely focussed on the object, and reached out to touch it. As I did so there was a sound, a small vibration. I stopped but left my hand where it was, hovering above the object. My fear seemingly gone I placed my hand gently on top of the object. The vibrations were louder now but I realised that I was feeling them rather than hearing them. As I had got closer I had picked up on them physically. Bringing my feet closer I reached out with my other hand and grasped the object in both hands.

It was warm, incredibly smooth and vibrated like it was humming a tune. Now I held it I could feel the changes in the vibrations pitch and frequency. Standing, I lifted the object from the earth. The dirt fell away leaving the object spotless. It was almost weightless.

I held it in my hands staring at it and seeing my own reflection. I turned to the house and steadily walked back across the patio, through the doors which I kicked closed and into the kitchen.

The clocked flashed 3:46am. Still.

I placed the object onto the kitchen counter, it rolled silently a half-turn then stopped, like I had put it down the wrong way up. I stared at it, now completely in tune with the vibrations that emanated.

I stood there for I don’t know how long just staring, mesmerised by the vibrations. I snapped myself out of it and opened a drawer looking for something with which to open it. I grabbed the can opener but put it back down as quickly as there was no edge for this to grip. Scissors, not wide enough. Knife? Maybe the bread knife, a serrated edge should be able to cut through.

Holding the bread knife in my hand I was struck by inertia. Unable to move my hand forward. I forced myself to, placing the blade onto the object. No change.

As I started to saw the object shimmered; its surface turning to liquid then flashing back to solid in an instant. As it did this the teeth on the knife splintered and fell onto the counter. The knife rendered useless. The vibrations were different now too, more intense and growing to aggressive.

I put the knife down, and continued to stare at the object. The vibrations were oscillating and held me in a trance. I knew what was happening but could not change my position or action. I knew what I was doing but what I was doing was not my own will. I wondered if this is what being hypnotised was like.

I felt totally relaxed, held captive by the object, under its spell. I started to move closer, my head lowering down until my forehead was almost resting on it. When I was barely half a centimetre away it happened. Blindingly quick the object changed again, flashing liquid on the surface and releasing a needle as thin as cotton, as hard as titanium and so hot the air condensed around it sending small clouds of steam into the room.

The needle pierced my head. My head did not move, there was no impact, my head did not offer any resistance. As it entered I was aware of heat, a sensation spreading from my head and filling my body. As it spread it cooled towards my extremities.

The needle was inside my brain; I could feel it but felt no pain. The heat replaced with an icy sensation. I had not moved.

The vibrations from the object were now being channelled through the needle and into my head. This was gentle at the start then grew to an almost audible crescendo as it started an upload of information. It was using my brain as a hard drive.

Fantastical images of plants, creatures, landscapes and technology from other worlds. Vibrant colours and sounds, plants that could walk; plants that changed colours and spat coloured venom into the air like fireworks. Creatures as big as dinosaurs, some with long necks and many heads, others short and fat, some were able to fly, horse like creatures covered in feathers in almost luminous colours. There were fish that could fly, being fired from the water like missiles and soaring into the sky. Huge numbers of bird-like creatures with many wings flying in huge swarms blocking the sun and creating a cacophony with their chatter.

Landscapes rich in colour and texture, shimmering light from multiple suns, mountain ranges as far as the eye could see blocking the horizon, gas released from the earth under such pressure the plumes shot miles into the air. Images of people infused with technology, metal limbs and mind implants, able to control the environment with their minds.

Thousands of slightly inhuman faces flashed in front of me. Moving so fast they blurred into one. Faces that were not human but not so different as to be alien.

Mathematical texts and equations thundered into my brain, star charts and language all fighting for space inside my head. My eyes were flickered and rolled back into my head – I could no longer see.

The upload continued at an incredible pace, I was being forced out of my own head. My thoughts, feelings and memories all thrust aside and deleted by pure, aggressive and consuming information. My childhood was the last thing to go, my last memory being of playing on a slide in the garden with my best friend at the time. I was wearing shorts, even though it was winter, I must have been 5. As quickly as it bubbled to the surface it was gone.

The pace did not abate for what seemed like hours, days and more. I started to shake, tremor after tremor rising within me. Wave after wave of physical jerks and ticks coursed from my feet to my head. Some were so strong I was forced off the ground, like the ground beneath me was so hot I could no longer stand on it. Landing then immediately taking off again as another wave punished me.

I turned to the clock, forcing my eyes forward I tried to focus. This was the very last thing I did as me. Everything I had done everything I was and everything I could have been had been deleted and replaced.


I don’t know what happened next…

Monday, September 13, 2010

Swimming 10km with Diabetes

Yesterday (12/09/2010) was the OSS River Dart 10km swim event from Totnes to Dittisham. It was a great event and i have blogged about it here

This was a challenge on a mental and physical level but also presented challenges to me regards my diabetes and how to control it in an event of this nature.

I had checked with the organisers up fron what the nutrition availability would be and was advised that there would be aid stations every 2/2.5km. Not able to really carry anything myself it was important to know that so i could make the necessary plans.

What i had planned was to start with a high blood sugar and then keep it topped up at each feed station. With around 30-40minutes between stations it would be vitally important not to miss one and to make sure i took fuel on board. I had also put a couple of gels and packet of glucose tablets on the support boat so that if things went wrong i could get what i needed quickly. To this end the organisers were well prepared with anyone with medical concerns being given a white hate to enable quick identification by the support crews.

When i got up at 5am my blood sugar was 11.7mmol. I ate breakfast of ready brek in the van on the way and gave myself 3 units of Lantus. I then ate a Trek flapjack about an hour later. When we arrived in Totnes i did a blood test and my blood was around 10mmol with around 1.5hrs to the start. 

With about 45mins to the start i ate a couple peices of cake to give me a boost. I then got changed and was ready to go to the start. The last thing i did was another blood test. My blood sugar was 17mmol. Higher than i was expecting or than i really wanted but i figured that the only way it was going was down and that if the worse came to the worse i could sort it out at the end.

At each aid station there was half mars/snickers bars available and powerade. At each of the three stations i ate a peice of chocolate and had a drink. Very aware that in an event such as this symptons of a hypo may be masked i made sure at each aid station to take a few seconds and make sure i felt ok. 

At each station i felt fine and was able to push on with confidence. Also the number of support people also gave me confidence that were i to get into difficulty i would be able to get assistance very quickly.

At the end of the event i picked up my kit and did a blood test. The reading was 6.5mmol. Perfect!

I ate some rice and ratatouille not bothering with an injection as previous training and competition experience has shown me that after an event there's no need for insulin as this often leads to a hypo. 

All in all the nutrition ended up being perfect although this  was a little by luck as i was not expecting to be so high at the start. Propbably a better approach could have been to be lower at the start and to then fuel more during the swim.

It's all experience though and next time i'll be better prepared!

The OSS Dart 10k Swim - 12/09/2010

A couple of months ago Martin sent around an email from the OSS to see if anyone was interested in doing a 10k swim down the River Dart from Totnes to Dittisham. He meant this as a joke but today we did it.

After deciding against camping and B&B options in and around Totnes for the Saturday night we settled on driving down on the Sunday morning. Meeting at Esporta in Gloucester with Mark taking us down in the mystery machine (VW Transporter). We set off at 5:30 with the Tom-Tom confirming a 2hr trip. There was lots of snacking and hydration taking place in the car with rice pasta salads, jam and peanut butter sandwiches and cold porridge all being eaten in preparation.

We got to Totnes after an uneventful journey around 7:45. There was a small throng of people gathered and hanging around the registration. The sun was not fully up and so temperatures were on the low side, I regretted wearing shorts! The toilets were a little walk away and with all that hydration is an inevitable consequence! Not only for the three of us but seemingly for everyone else involved too!

Registration was simple enough although we all had to complete the form that we had already completed online previously. The volunteers on the registration desk were all very nice, helpful and friendly despite the early start and that it was cold!

The event, it wasn't a race, was to start from 9am in four waves. Wetsuit compulsory with exceptions by prior agreement only. Waves determined by how fast you could swim a mile were set. Martin was in Wave 1, Mark in Wave 2 with me in Wave 4. 
Martin got himself kitted up, sucking in the gut as much as possible in the unforgiving wetsuit, something i think all the men did at one point if not every point where they were out of water! He was to go off first. Nerves were kicking in and the usual banter started up. In reality that he completed this swim is pretty incredible when you consider that last year he could not swim. In less then 12months he's gone from that to having completed the UK Ironman triathlon and now a 10km swim. Inspiration for anyone who think that they "cannot"...

There was safety briefing (i learned that hypothermia can still set in up to 6hrs post immersion which is pretty scary really) and then they were underway, a little late, getting into the water around 9:20. 

Mark was in the second wave and got away around 20minutes after Martin. Running late the organisers were running around the car park to get wave 4 away as close to on time as possible.

Wave 4 started at 10:08 - very precise and i can only remember as i was asked the time by a couple of people around me. I was nervous getting in to the water as everything had been about the temperature of the water and how to keep warm. 

The Wave 4 start:

(i'm there somewhere!!)
  • keep a steady rhythm on the swim to keep your core warm, 
  • wear a wetsuit as minimum and maybe gloves and swim boots too
  • at the finish get changed into warm clothes as soon as possible, inc. hat etc...
Getting into the water i was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't that cold. I was wearing swim boots, wetsuit and two swim caps (with my Zoggs Predator goggles too). I dived in and set off. Then there was the shock, my forehead was freezing. Right above my eyes where my head was pushing through the water it was really painful. This did calm down and really for the rest of the swim i was pretty comfortable. Occasionally i felt cold in my quads which was remedied by remembering to kick while i swim!

The first half of the swim was awesome.....there were aid stations every 2.5km. I was at the second aid station, 5km in, in 01:01:00! I was stunned and thought fleetingly that maybe 2hrs was possible! How naive.
The first 5km was fast as there was some good tidal assistance with the tide going out. As the river widened the tide at the edges of the river dropped off and so it was more about your own steam. Negative splits for me were not going to happen! 

The swim itself was uneventful really and for me that was the difficultt part of the whole event. The last 2.5/3km from the final aid station to the finish was really hard. It was tough physically with my stroke getting more and more ragged and my arms going out wider and wider but there was nothing mentally to get a lift from. No crowd, no-one to cheer and spur you on. It really was about digging in and making it happen yourself. It is this that sets swimming apart from every other event that i have taken part in, whether it be 10km, triathlon or marathon. There's always someone to give you a boost. In that respect swimming is perhaps a truer reflection of your determination and sheer guts...

The finish was visible from just over a km out and on this stretch i made ground on a number of swimmers. Coming into the finish at Dittisham was a surreal experience. Disorientated, exhausted, emotional and unable to stand! My legs were gone from under me and in the thick mud it was quite difficult to stay upright. The organiser was there to offer congratulations and help me and everyone else out of the mud. My legs started feeling like they were mine and so it was time to get my bag and get changed. 

I scanned the other bodies as i made my way to the baggage reclaim looking for Mark and Martin. While i had hoped that i would catch them on the swim i didn't really expect to. I checked my time, i'd completed it in 02:32:55. I was expecting to do around 3hrs-3:30 so was really pleased with the performance.

As i got changed i phoned home to let them know i was still alive - i then spotted Mark looking well and getting changed. Some 20mins or so later Martin emerged from the water looking like a drunk after a fight...clearly in difficulty after more than 4hrs of swimming he got himself together and recovered well. 

A plate of hot food and a couple of cups of laterand we were on the bus back to Totnes. 

The drive home was full of tales of the swim and banter abounding as you'd expect. 

It was an absolutely brilliant day out and an event i will remember for a long time.

The organisation for the event was excellent - all the comms leading up to the day were excellent and straight forward and on the day the number of volunteers and safety staff was excellent. The environment felt very safe and made for a very relaxing experience.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dart 10k swim - 12th September 2010

An interesting email arrived from Martin today with details of a 10km swim in the River Dart in Devon on 12th September. The Dart 10k being an open water down stream swim. Now hot on the heels of the ironman distance swim we did on Tuesday this is quite appealing. Also as a frustrated competitor (ACL) an opportunity for me to do something that doesn't require leg power so much...
This evening i have been looking online to find swim training programs for that distance and i cannot find anything? I've tweeted Bruckner Chase who i follow on twitter to see if he can help point me in the direction of a resource that i can use. If he can't help me then no-one can! Well i say no-one but if you have any suggestions of where i can find some tips and training plans for this please contact me via twitter.

I'm keen on the event but need to know it's feasible. I've contacted the organisers to see what the plans are regards fuel stops as being diabetic i will need to refuel or this will really not be possible, presumably that would be the same for any participants? Can you really swim for that long without fuelling??

Anyway if i can find a training plan and the fuel situation is sorted i may give it a go....

Cotswold Ironman Swim 13th July 2010

Tuesday 13th July was the Ironman distance swim (3.8km/2.4miles) at Lake 32 in South Cerney just past Cirencester. Organised by ClearWorth with all proceeds going to charity it was a nice opportunity for some open water swimming, something i don't get to do that often.

There were to be three of us to do this, Martin, Mark and myself. Mark had to cancel due to work so three became two. Martin was there ahead of me and by the time i found it and had got changed into my wetsuit it was 6:30pm before we started. Registration was a tenner and we were given a number so they could confirm a finish time. 

Water temperature was 21C at 1 metre deep. Lovely!

The group we were in was given the order to start, the route was a straight out from the shore to the first bouy then a left turn and follow the bouys around to the right. Each lap was 750m and so 5 laps was the ironman diatance.

I got a decent start, felt the flow of the water and remembered how great swimming in a wetsuit is. about half way on my first lap a school boy error. My goggles fogged. i pulled out from the main bunch and sorted them out, that probably cost me a minute or so. Thinking that Martin was now ahead i started to plan on how to make up the time. I couldn't let him beat me as he only learned to swim last year!

Concentrating on my stroke, trying to sight my route (i'm rubbish at that!!) i kept going and gradually started to catch some back markers. As i passed people i checked their wet-suits but didn't recognise Martin. I finished my 5th lap and was resolved ot the fact that Martin had come in ahead of me, and truth be told i was already coming up with excuses.

Imagine my face when as i stood on the beach and shouted my number to the timing team i saw Martin stood on the bank, not in a wetsuit as i was expecting, but changed and drinking lucozade. My face must have been a picture as he started laughing and made some quip about me needing to speed up. 

I was trying to compute how he could have done that. Swim faster than me sure (i know i'm not fast!) but swim that much faster that he could be changed and ready to go? The reality is not that exciting! He'd done 3 laps, not the 5 as he pulled his shoulder - a likely story!!

My time for the swim was 01:07:04. I was pleased with it on the night but then i saw all the other times and was dissappointed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

it was like not having diabetes

I have blogged before about the impact that training has on diabetes but last night I experienced a perfect example of the impact and felt, for a brief period, that I no longer had diabetes.
Yesterday evening I went for a road ride with a buddy, we had planned a couple of hours on the bikes starting at 6pm. As preparation for the ride I had some snacks so that my blood sugar was around 9mmol at the start. On the ride I keep myself going using a mix of carbo gels and energy bars, always carrying more than I should need just in case.  
It was a gorgeous evening and the ride was great, a nice flat course in the Cotswold countryside taking in Tewkesbury, Bredon, Kemerton, Stoke Orchard and then back home.
When i got in after the ride i did a blood test and was at 5.8mmol. It was approaching 8:30pm, which is time for my Lantus insulin (the background slow acting one) and I needed to eat. I made myself some food: quinoa cooked in soya milk with chopped banana, goji berries and topped with honey. I then had half a wrap and a slice of bread. Around 50-60g of carbs, possibly even more.
After eating I administered my slow acting insulin but completely dispensed with the novorapid that I usually use with meals and food.
On waking I took a blood sugar reading and my blood was 6mmol! Perfect! It was then I thought wow that's almost what it's like to not have diabetes - I vaguely remember those days!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Product Review - Speedo Aquabeat

I recently ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) meaning that for the foreseeable future I won't be doing any running of any sort! This is massively frustrating to me as I was intending this year to concentrate on running events rather than triathlon, which I have been doing for the last couple of years. Unable to run I have found myself swimming more. Whilst I've always enjoyed swimming it's not something I have ever done enough of as part of my triathlon training. My thinking was always that I can swim a mile pretty comfortably and that the effort required to get speed into that swim was probably better spent on the bike or out pounding the pavement. 
Take away the ability to run and suddenly the pool has a greater lure. It's convenient, more or less, as there are a couple in Cheltenham that I use, Brockworth 25m pool which is a couple miles or so down the road and the Lido which is just the most beautiful swimming pool; particularly on a sunny school day afternoon when there's hardly anyone else in there! Guaranteed to make you feel like a millionaire with your own private pool! I also swim at St. Nicks pool in Warwick where I work during the week.
As I was swimming more frequently I began to increase the laps and time in the water, swimming currently between 45-60mins a session. This is boring! Particularly in an indoor 25m pool. Whilst I am comfortable in my own head there is a definite need for a diversion. It's a bit like running on a treadmill. When I run outdoors I never use music or anything. Even on my long runs, which 90% I do solo, I never use music. I have always preferred the meditational aspects of running and the clarity of mind you get when out on the road. When on a treadmill that is different and the lack of scenery etc makes it almost essential to have music. so it was with this rationale I decided to buy a Speedo Aquabeat MP3. I opted for the 1GB version in black and bought it from Amazon for £49.90 with free delivery.
When it arrived I was pretty excited! Out of the box you get the Aquabeat, headphones, headphone extender lead, ear plugs (that connect to the headphones) and spares, net carry bag, instruction manual, USB charger/transfer lead  and a mini CD-rom. The device charges through USB via the headphone port. Loading tunes was easy, the software installed in a couple of minutes and recognised the Aquabeat immediately it was connected. It's then a case of browse, drag and drop. You then set the play order which is pretty cool as you can select an increasing tempo in songs to cover the workout time, warm-up, main sets and cool down.
A couple of things surprised me one was the size of the device, it's not small. My kids have Zen-stone mp3's and they are about a third of the size of the Aquabeat. I can only imagine that the Aquabeat needed to be larger so the buttons can be worked without looking at it and also that maybe to make it waterproof it needs to be larger. Secondly the software was on a CD as opposed to a download from the internet.
The headphones have a clever design. So that there is minimal wire to deal with the headphone lead is very short and has a coil like a spring so that any flex is catered for without the need for a longer, looser lead. the extension turns this into a standard length headphone wire making the Aquabeat easily useable as a normal MP3 player. The headphones are the in the ear type with the hooks that go over the back of the ear. They need to be secure. They have connectors, they come with spares too, that are like ear plugs and channel the music further down into the ear than normal headphones do. they are surprisingly comfortable.
First swim and I needed to connect them to my headphones. this was a little tricky as the clip on the Aquabeat is understandably tight so it does not release easily, that makes it tight to actually connect. I tried to connect it to the back of my goggles, which are also Speedo, and it would not fit. After a couple of minutes experimenting I secured in to the right had side strap, the loose bit that goes through the securing loop (does that make sense). It didn't look ideal but actually works fine. I then had to disconnect it as needed to turn it around so that the headphone jack points backwards and so doesn't take the force of water. I was pretty frustrated by this time as the securing mechanism is incredibly tight and so taking it off and connecting it is not easy. My advice would be to actually sort this out at home and not just as you are about to get into the pool!
At the water side I plugged the headphones into the Aquabeat and into my head! hit play and the sound came through loud and clear. Volume is easily controlled with simple and large enough buttons on top of the player. Plugged in and playing I got into the water and went under. It is a weird sensation being underwater with an MP3 player! I swam a length front crawl and as I moved my head to breathe I could feel water in my ear and then I'd lose the music in that ear. I stopped after a length and wiggled them about a bit (very technical) got the fit better and set off again. Now it was fine and I finished my set.
I have used it subsequently on every swim session and have had no problems, the sound does fade a little at times depending on the water in the ear but is more than adequate. It works well at steady pace with good consistent sound quality. If you up the pace and get a little more wash the sound can get drowned (see what I did there) a little by the water noise. I now cannot imagine swimming without it - frankly it's brilliant and you should get one.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Zen and the Art of Coffee

I just listened to a podcast where the podder spent 20minutes (more or less) talking about a specific addiction, it affects his energy, his moods, how he feels dependant on it and hates that he feels that way. he cannot start an athletic endeavour without some. when he gives it up he feels great but still the lure remains, how he has given it up "thousands of times" and that last time never even had a headache.
Sounds pretty serious and interesting until you realise the addiction was to caffeine. 
Seriously, caffeine!
That stuff in coffee, tea and soft drinks. The stuff you drink more or less every day and that even your kids drink. Sure you may be mindful of how much you drink, and maybe you don't drink coffee before you go to bed but its there constantly... everyone drinks it! If you follow any pro-tour cyclist on twitter you'd think those guys cannot get out of bed without it. Lance Armstrong even takes a personal pot with him if last years tour tweets are anything to go by.
To hear the discussion on the podcast you'd think it was going to be something juicy and revelationary like a class a substance or something....not humble coffee. A substance that every shop sells and that even your 10year old kid could go and buy without the need for id!
A really ridiculous podcast effort if ever there was one! If anyone listens and nods in agreement please get over yourself.
(I don't really want to name names/podcasts but if you listen to triathlon podcasts you'll probably find it anyway!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cyclists using insulin to dope?

I have just been listening to the Real Peloton podcast take on the Floyd Landis accusations this week. 

The nugget of information that caught my attention was that one of the products Landis confirmed he used to dope was insulin. I had never heard of insulin doping before and as a diabetic was curious to see what possible benefit could be gained...

An article from 2007 on the Royal Society of Chemistry website explains...

"...Insulin, when used as a performance enhancer, works to slow down the degradation of muscle tissue, which is attractive to such athletes as bodybuilders especially when they are also doping with a growth hormone. For endurance athletes, cyclists and runners, for example, insulin provides fuel for muscle cells and improves stamina. Although the prevalence of insulin doping is not known, luggage seizures at airports and testimonials from formerly doped athletes suggest that the abuse of this hormone is a real problem..."
On checking further there is this explanation on the Peak Performance website

"...Although it’s more usually associated with the regulation of blood glucose, the hormone insulin can also act as a powerful anabolic agent, helping to drive glucose and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into muscle cells, thereby helping to increase glycogen synthesis and lean muscle mass. And when combined with anabolic steroids, insulin also helps prevent muscle tissue breakdown. Given the widespread availability of artificial insulin, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that growing numbers of athletes are reportedly using it in an effort to boost performance illegally..."

The next question that comes to mind is how a non-diabetic body will react to having insulin administered externally. The answers i have been able to find seem to indicate that normal insulin production via the pancreas will be suppressed and that if the practice continues the pancreas may stop functioning altogether, in short the administration of insulin to a non-diabetic patient may in fact render them diabetic.

Note: this is anecdotal information rather than something i have been able to locate on a scientific website.
Read the RSC full article here.
Read the full Peak Performance article here.

Friday, May 21, 2010


For those of you that have been following my twitter feed i have been experimenting with vegetarianism over this last nine days and have to report a quite dramatic effect to my physical well being..

The inspiration for this has been reading and listening to @zentriathlon and @richroll on both twitter, blogs and podcasts. Essentially these guys talk about the vegan lifestyle they follow and the fact that they can perform and recover for amazing endurance events while following this diet.

Rich Roll proving this beyond any shadow of a doubt in the recent Epic5 undertaking where he, along with @jasonlester completed 5ironman triathlons in 5 days on each of the 5 Hawian islands. Truly Epic!

My motivation for trying this was experimental, my ACL injury has meant that i am not able to train as much as i want to or would like to and so i had noticed my weight creeping up. I have been swimming a lot, relatively speaking, but it doesn't have the same calorific impact as running. 

I have always eaten a lot of fruit but decided to eat more vegetables than i currently do, this is easier than you think with plenty that you can eat raw. Lunches took on a different complexion with wraps/pitta breads being replaced with a single wrap and a box of raw veggies. Fruit still plays a large part in my diet but is now balanced with veggies. This has meant that my carbohydrate intake has also been reduced.

As a diabetic this is probably the most interesting aspect of this as my insulin levels have been dramatically reduced while keeping blood in tolerance levels. As an example my Novorapid doses today have been 3units with breakfast, 3units with lunch and 2units with dinner. Very small doses and a direct result of the change in diet. 

This is reason alone to continue with the diet then i consider the other benefits, I have lost 5lbs in weight, i feel great physically and mentally know i am doing the right thing.

I'm going to continue with this over the coming weeks and see how things progress. If my energy levels remain unaffected, my diabetes and weight under control then this is something that will stick...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Green smoothie!

Over the last couple of weeks i've started listening to the Zen and the Art of Triathlon podcasts again. One of the things that has been discussed is the whole plant strong thing and the green smoothie

The whole vegetarian thing is sounding quite appealling and so today i thought i'd have a go at aking my own. I went to the Natural Grocery store on Bath Road in Cheltenham and bought some ingredients.
  • Coconut milk
  • Greens
  • Avocado
  • Apple
  • Carrot
  • Beetroot

I prepared the vegetables and put them into the blender. Started the blend and it looked good. I'm a little colour blind so i have no idea what colour it was but i don't think it was green!

I continued blending - adding water to make the consistency drinkable rather than soup. As i took the jug off the base to decant it into smaller jugs to add water the bottom fell off as it had become unscrewed.

Disaster in the kitchen!!

I was covered and the kitchen was covered! Not salvageable but tasteable. Actually it tasted pretty good. Will try again later in the week but be much more in control of the blender, that or i will dress the room in cling film (Dexter style) to make cleaning up easier!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I have spent a lot of time in the pool lately, not being able to run and cycling needing a bit more planning and time swimming is the easier option. Staring at the black line as you do lap after lap gives you time to think and the mind wanders...

Song lyrics are a favourite keep me going, often random and with no real clue as to where it has come from they just get in my head and loop. At the Windsor triathlon last year i remember on the bike course singing in my head (thankfully not out loud) the chorus to "it's not fair" by Lilly Allen. Good song sure but not that good!! 

Other daydreams are around conversations that i have had and what i could or should have said had i been a bit sharper or more interested. Then there are answers to solutions at work and home that come with the clarity you acheive when the mind is empty. In that way swimming and running are, for me, very meditational. Repetitive actions with little thought really required, unlike cycling where you need to stay mentally focussed and sharp, and i just zone out.

The daydream that has been recurring most of late is the ambition to be a writer. The thought of writing a novel is just amazing. I find myself playing with plot lines and searching for the story that i could write that has enough substance to be a novel rather than just a short story. I have written short stories before and even went to the step of sending them to a publisher for review and consideration. I had a really good critique letter back suggesting that if i had 40-50 such peices of work they could be considered. That was about 10 years ago and in the intervening period i have started maybe 50 but only completed to my satisfaction maybe 2 further short stories. I also started a novel (ha!) a few years back, i have around 29,000 words written, and i guess that to complete that should be a first target. 

Now that i am injured maybe it's time to remind myself of where it was heading and perhaps look to work on it some more.

The funny thing is i have never daydreamed about winning races or anything like that. I have daydreamed about being a pro-athlete but that is such pie-in-the-sky that it is ridiculous and more a case of not wanting to get old than anything in reality. I still have sporting targets i want to hit e.g. sub 3hr marathon and and ultramarathon but they are targets to be trained for.

Writing a book is a very different target, now i have time maybe it's time to do something about it....

Not again....

Another day, another injury...

Friday evening i was over in the field across the road from us playing football with Luca. Nothing heavy or demanding just some long passing to each other. Next thing there are about 10kids around us with average age of about 8... An impromptu match kicked off with me as the only adult hanging back and letting the kids do the work and play the game. 

The opposition came forward and the ball broke. As i ran out to collect it i stopped, planted my left foot and went to bring it under with my right foot. Next thing a pop in the knee and i am on the ground in agony. At this point it was unfortunate that some expletives escaped my mouth....the initial pain eased and i got to my feet and hobbled home.

This was a carbon copy of an injury i did about 4years ago where playing 5-a-side, unmarked i went for the exact same manouvre and the same thing happened. That ended up with me in casualty and cost me a year while i waited for a meniscus operation. 

This injury feels very similar but not as bad. I am in more pain around the back of the knee from the Baker Cyst that has emerged. That woke me up this morning and has been very uncomfortable today. I'm struggling to straighten my leg and have not been able to walk flat footed as yet today.

Tomorrow i'll get an appointment with the GP and hopefully get this looked at and sorted quickly. The thought of losing a year again is just too depressing for words. That's the worse case scenario but also very real given queue's etc...

This is all the more frustrating as since January i have hardly done anything because of injury to my left ankle and now this.... 

Monday, April 5, 2010

1 MUG BRAN LOAF (low fat!!)

This months UK adventure Sports magazine arrived on Friday, on page 37 there's a recipe even I could follow!
This morning I started it then baked it when we got back from being out for the day.

The ingredients are simple!
  • 1 mug of mixed fruit
  • 1 mug of semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 mug of sugar
  • 1 mug all-bran (the sticks)
  • 1 mug self raising flour
  1. Place all ingredients except the flour into a mixing bowl, mix then leave to stand for at least 4hrs. This allows the bran and fruit to soak up all the milk.
  2. When ready to cook preheat the oven to 140/gas mark 5
  3. Mix in the self raising flour.
  4. Place in a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin
  5. bake in the oven for approx 1hr or when a knife comes out clean from the middle.

It looks like this and the verdict from this household was delicious!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Arch to a gym?

Sunday we all went up to the Sue Ryder Home on Leckhampton Lane to meet with the fundraising contact - Lucy. We had a tour of the grounds and discussed some fund raising ideas....

Being men the thoughts turned to something a bit extreme and the word endurance was started as why don't we swim the channel as a relay team in a pool? 23.89miles between the 4 of us. Spreadsheet constructed and claculation done it didn't seem far enough or extreme enough.

That's when it evolved to doing the Arch to Arc triathlon as a relay in the gym.

The Arch to Arc is an extreme triathlon where you start at Marble Arch in London, run the 89miles to Dover where you then swim the 23.89miles of the English Channel before cycling the 179miles to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

With three of the team being Esporta members that is the venue of choice assuming that they will allow this to take place..

Watch this space - we'll do something extreme just a case of what? If you've got any ideas post them on here in the comments! 

Taken from 

10yr olds do know right from wrong

"...England's children's commissioner Maggie Atkinson had told the Times (Newspaper) that most criminals under 12 did not fully understand their actions..."

This statement and lots of other comment has been prevalent in the media in recent weeks following the arrest of John Venables for a new crime.

John Venables served eight years in custody from the age of ten for murder of James Bulger. A crime so horrific and disturbing that it will forever be burned onto the psyche of the UK population. The argument that, at ten years old, they did not know what they were doing I find frankly disturbing.

I have a 10 year old son that asked recently what the news story regarding Venables and Bulger was about - we explained it to him and he got very upset and was moved to tears. He is ten years old and very much knows right and wrong.

Do the parents need to take more responsibility for how they bring children up? I know nothing of Venables home life, or indeed of Thompson his partner in the Bulger killing but at that age don't the parents need to take some responsibility? Whilst there will always be some people that are fundamentally bad a lot of it has to be about environment. A child from a violent (this could be being allowed to watch adult tv, films and games and not necessarily actual physical abuse) or disrespectful home life has to be affected by that? Don't children basically copy their parents?
I do think that at 10years old a child having comitted a crime should be punished, reeducated and rehabilitated but that the whole picture should be considered and by that i mean the parents have to take some of the responsibility. Children of ten years old do know right from wrong where there is a potential disparity is in their definition of it that will be handed to them from their parents.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Night hypo

As a diabetic hypo's are to be avoided at all costs!

This is where the blood sugar drops below the healthy zone and can result in coma and worse. The healthy zone is 4-7mmol so there are not huge margins to be worked with here. Once below 4mmol it is a quick slide down. Like a lot of diabetics I have experienced a number of hypo's and during the normal day they are manageable. A couple of glucose tablets to spike the blood sugar and then a decent snack to level things off. Symptoms are easy to spot initially with sweats, shaky sensations and blurred vision.

I have been lucky in that I have not had many hypo's overnight. Last night was an exception and a strange experience. I woke up with sensations that I knew were hypo yet could not respond to them. I laid there knowing what was happening and not able to do anything. I was half asleep, aware, but it felt like a dream.

It was only when Sue stirred that I woke up enough to do something and I grabbed some glucose tabs that were on my bedside cabinet, I ate a couple and stayed in bed.

Sue then asked me if i was ok and did i need food, she was clearly awake and thinking for me. This prompted me to get out of bed and go and get some cereal, something I should have done maybe an hour earlier. I went back to bed and slept just fine!

This morning was then incredibly difficult, I could not get myself out of bed and felt battered. Breakfast kind of helped but I struggled with tiredness and a sense that my body was not right. Nothing specifically wrong just not right. Even now as I type I feel I could go back to bed and sleep easily! The hypo took more out of me than I realised.

This is a very real problem for people with diabetes and one I know that some diabetics struggle with. For me it was a rarity and something to learn from. When in that state I need to snap out of it quicker and deal with the situation. What could happen if I do not does not bear thinking about,,,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Still injured

My last race was on 26th January 2010 and was the Gloucester Marathon. I PB'd in 03:15:00. The euphoria that I experienced on completing that race in a better than anticipated time has been replaced by something much darker. The injury sustained has not been resolved and although showing signs of improving it is not doing so nearly as quickly as I want and need it to. I have missed the Mayhill Massacre and now the Cleevewold cross country at the end of March is in doubt.
I feel as though my condition is slipping away and the alternatives (cycling and swimming) are not as accessible or satisfying as going for a run.
The beauty of running is the simplicity, you get changed and head out the door. With cycling there are more variables, more clothing and planning. Swimming normally involves a drive to the local pool, parking and then you finally get in the water.
The injury I have is manifested in my left ankle and calf as a stiffness and soreness. On examination my left leg is very inflexible and mechanically does not work as it should. Movement bypasses the glute with everything driven from the hamstring. Biomechanically it is rubbish! the physio I am having is to redress this and get the leg working correctly engaging the correct muscles. This will reduce the load on my ankle and calf and get me running again. In short it will fix my biomechanics.
The frustration here (and there are many!!) is that this stems, in all probability, from an injury that I sustained playing football a good few years ago in the summer of 2004. Playing 5-a-side with colleagues I was late for the match and just ran onto the pitch to play. No warm up and I strained my hamstring on my left leg. That was a bad one and I had physio at the time to help the recovery. Subsequent to that I have had problems with my right knee (arthroscopy) and right hip (treated by a chiropractor and some expensive orthotics). Then latterly it has been my left achilles and now this. All stem from that hamstring injury and the body compensating movement by bypassing the damaged or weak areas.
What I am working on putting right is essentially 6years of incorrect use of my left leg!!
When I look back over the last few months it does show what the body is capable of and what it can work with. I have run hundreds of miles without issue (other than a sore achilles) with my left leg as a passenger. I can feel this when I cycle - the power goes through the right leg and the left just coasts. Trying to correct this consciously is impossible even though I can feel it not doing anything!
I have my exercises as prescribed by the physio, I have a balance board a leg roller and now a Wii Fit too - I am using them all to try and get my legs working properly.

I cannot wait to run again, it's not just something that I do it is something that I need to do.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nooooo - Injury

I'm pretty gutted at the moment. Very gutted actually.

After being on a high last weekend i rested this week only venturing out for a run last night. A nice and easy 4miles or so. Or so i thought, about 3miles in my left ankle started to hurt the way it was hurting after the Gloucester Marathon. 

I got home and it was forcing me to limp again.

Saturday morning and it felt better but not right. The best way i can describe it is that it felt like i had concrete in my ankle. It was painful and had no flexibility. I wanted to get a quick diagnosis and so found a physio open on a Saturday with a free appointment - Nicola Ellis Physiotherapy.

An evaluation confirmed a couple of things;
1. my ankle/calf is inflexible
2. i have no stability through my left side
3. my right leg does all the work
4. i wouldn't be running for a while, and certainly not at the Mayhill Massacre.

There followed some treatment using some interesting techniques including a balance board, step, swiss ball and the Wii Fit! 

The work i need to do is around core strength and using both sides of my body. I need to work both sides equally. This will include calf raises, hamstring stretches, one leg squats and ankle rotation. The issue is manifesting in my ankle but is likely linked to more problems with the leg and pelvis. Interestingly this is probably also a symptom of the tendonitis i get in my left achilles.

All in all quite depressing which in itself is depressing! That i feel so low because my running has been curtailed is as much down to the enjoyment i get from running as the benefits too. Clarity of mind, complete downtime, meditational and medical benefits in that it helps me control my diabetes much better.

All is not lost though i have trunks and a bike so hopefully will be able to use both. If i am a good pupil for my physio then hopefully recovery will be swift and i will be fit to run again very soon. 

For now i feel pretty frustrated by it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What did we do before compression socks? Gloucester Marathon 2010

The first event of the fundraising year did not start well. Actually that's not true it started fine with a nice bowl of ready brek with banana and some strong coffee. The kids then got up and we watched the highlights of the previous days Tour Down Under.

Great stuff. 

My gear was largely ready the night before and so all that remained was to get changed, carry out a last minute kit check. all done and all good. I left home just after 0945 to drive the 20minutes to the start and registration. This is where it went wrong, with at one point me sat in the car losing my temper and shouting abuse at myself - pretty funny looking back now but at the time i just kept thinking i was going to miss registration and lose my place.

A phone call home and some map reading later i registered 10minutes late (thank you organisers) then hurried to get myself ready. My heart rate and adrenaline, needless to say were through the roof. I got changed at my car and there were a couple of marshalls that were happy to chat and that helped me relax (another thankyou!)

One of the things i was not sure of was what to wear for the race. The weather was fine and dry but the temperature was barely 5C. I had every combination of clothing you could imagine in my bag from running fleeces to t-shirts, hats, gloves and tights. In the end i went for a shorts, compressions t-shirt and normal t-shirt combination with my gloves. This proved to be ideal and looking around the course was a pretty frequent combination. I also had on my 2XU calf guards and looking around the field it struck me that at least 50% of the runners were kitted out similarly, how did we survive before the advent of compression clothing!! I also had KTTaped my left Achilles to help with some tendinitis that i get a little and that really did the trick although today (a day later) my left ankle is very sore.

The runners were grouped at the staging area and then followed the pace car to the start line. On the way to the start i struck up a conversation with a fellow runner that ended up irritating me! I asked him the usual questions around his marathon experience and expected time - he waxed lyrical about his endeavours and did not ask me a single question. As soon as the hooter sounded i left him - some people do not know how to have a conversation!!

The route was an unknown to me as my preparation did not include a recce of the course! It started easy enough with a small figure of eight before we hit the course proper, it was then 3 laps with a turn to the finishing straight. The laps were marshalled at the turn point with runners wearing hair ands on their wrists to keep tally of laps.

The three laps were surprisingly interesting although the hills were unwelcome. There were plenty of spectators and the Marshalls and helpers at the water stations all genuinely great.

I made a decent start following a group of 3 club runners that were keeping a pace where they were talking to each other and that i was comfortable with. I followed them for about 5miles with the group growing to about 8 runners. Between miles 4 and 5 i wanted to push a bit harder and so moved out of the group and increased my pace. It was then that nature called! I needed a pee!! I spotted a discrete gate and well you i was doing this the pack went past me with heckles of "'ll need that later..." when i had finished a rejoined the road they had gone some way in front of me and in fact another pack had also gone past me. I resolved to keep my pace steady and catch them over the course of the next 10 or so miles rather than pushing hard for a mile and blowing up.

The decision was correct - i kept a steady pace, checking my Garmin frequently to make sure my pace stayed in the 14km an hour zone. By mile 8 (56minutes) i had started catching some of those that had fallen off the back of the pack. I continued the pace eating a gel on the hour. I was comfortable although was pushing it - my time at mile 13 was 01:33:00 which is only 6minutes off my PB for that distance. Lap 1 was completed without any excitement or problems, it was a little disconcerting to think that there were two to go but i just kept focused on the time.

In this respect it was unusual for me because i was very aware of the time the whole way round, at one point i actually thought i might be close to a magical three hours but that thought evaporated when my maths were found to be rubbish! At 16miles i was just under 2hrs and in my head thought great another 8miles in an hour and i've done it. It then dawned on me at the mile 18marker that actually there were 10more miles to go and so 3:15 was looking likely.

On my second lap i encountered my first back marker who was still on her first lap. She was running up one of the hills as i passed her - i offered some words of encouragement and continued. Second lap done and now it got hard. On the third lap the first hill was about 2miles in and had the first twinges of cramp in my quads. I made it to the top of the hill without having to break stride but was concerned that the cramp could do me in with a long way still to go. As i cleared the hill there were a lot of runners in front of me - those on their second laps. This was quite motivating as it was a case of aiming for the next runner regardless of what lap they were on - this kept me entertained for a couple of miles until on the next hill cramp. This time in my hamstrings that forced me to walk. I walked up the hill, started jogging again and then back to a run. My kph was dropping and at one point was a lowly 10kph. It was on the hill i saw Mick and Phil the Marathon Lads - truly amazing.

Mick and Phil (not sure who is who) looks like a father and son team where the father pushes the adult son in his wheelchair. That in itself is amazing but the father had a word of motivation or some quip for every runner in his vicinity, those that he was passing or that were passing him. People like this never cease to amaze me, the bond that they must have from being together like this is incredible. So inspirational.

In a different sort of way the runners that run at a gentle pace and finish in 5hrs+ are also motivational. It proves that everyone can do this sport and that everyone has their own motivation and reasons for being there. For some it's about winning, other about breaking 3hrs then there's those who just want to complete it with the time almost being irrelevant. The achievement is the same - they all ran a marathon on Sunday 24th January!

The final miles of the final lap seemed to go on for ever. At mile 24 i was ready to stop, the finish line loomed. Past the lap counters for the final time and a mile to the finish. I was overtaken with less than 200m to go and had nothing left counter. Essentially i was racing the clock at this time anyway. I crossed the finish in 03:15:00 exactly (official time has me at 03:15:01).

Elated that i had hit my stretch target. When i set out to do this i thought i could do sub 03:30:00 with 03:15:00 being my stretch target. To acheive that on a hilly course was awesome!

I picked up my memento (a paperweight) and then to the bus to head back to the starting zone. Thank god i took the bus rather than walking it as it was further than i thought and i would have also got lost! Back at the car a quick change then a blood test. My blood sugar was 3.1mmol which was essentially a bonk (the threshold being between 4-7mmol). No wonder i had nothing left on the run in.

I had a sandwich that i had taken with me and then set about texting and emailing the result to people!!

Driving home i was glad my car was an automatic as my calves were very stiff/sore and i had a blister on the outside of my left foot. A roast dinner was waiting for me but unusually i could not finish it! Needless to say the rest of the day was quiet.

The official results are in an i was 22nd out of 282 which i am really pleased with!! Awesome!! Looking back to my first marathon this is an improvement of 1hr 5minutes!

On checking the forums today though i saw some terribly sad news. One of the runners, who had travelled down from Oldham, had a heart attack and died on the course.... thought are with his family and running buddies.....