A round trip with wonky feet

The last few days have been hard work to say the least.

Thursday started with the physio finding new muscles in my back that could cause pain when pressed. I do wonder why I keep going back! But I’m sure the fact it hurts means it must be doing some good.

Either way, it was clear that racing tomorrow was not going to happen. Whilst I can now walk with some level of competence, anything more than that causes the left side to shout up and remind me that actually it would prefer if I didn’t do that.

It has been a useful exercise in that I think we’re gradually getting to the crux of what has been the issue as the physio noted that my right side, the non-injured option, doesn’t seem to pull its weight around me, leaving the left side to do it. But more on that later.

Friday was a difficult day as it involved a 310 mile round trip to Cambridgeshire for my Father-in-Law’s funeral. Partly due to my coping mechanism and ultimately partly due to a heavy cold which I’d picked up a few days earlier it made sense not to hang around for any longer than necessary.

The drive across was uneventful, save for getting glimpses of the partial solar eclipse as I waited at the numerous roadworks as I crossed the peak district and with all the hold-ups added on, it actually took nigh on 3.5 hours to make the journey. I’ve done it in significantly less time in the past, usually late at night when the motorway is quiet. And not being dug up.

We seem to have had more than our fair share of family get-togethers for auspicious circumstances in recent years. Whilst the crematorium service was family only, it would appear the whole village turned out for the church service afterwards. I don’t think they could have shoe-horned in another person had they tried; there were extra chairs brought in, the vestry and choir stalls was full of congregation. It was a very good, and personal service and a lovely send off for him.

I’d kept myself together for most of the proceedings save for a couple of monstrous sneezes in between services but after the church event I slipped off into the graveyard to visit Mark’s grave and have a talk to him. At this point emotion did get the better of me. But if I can’t grieve there, where can I grieve?

The wake was a well behaved affair and I left early evening to retrace the drive back home, sneezing for about half of it as the cold settled in for the evening. With bonus mouth ulcers just to make the point.

Three weeks ago, when I was in Anglesey, I got a complimentary ticket for RunEXPO at EventCity in Manchester and so I thought I’d visit that today and see what it was all about. Well actually RunEXPO seemed to take up the smallest part of the floor, probably because you don’t really need any equipment to do it. BikeEXPO had expensive bikes as far as they eye could see and some of them slotted nicely into cars…..

A bike rack which comes with a handy car attachment
A bike rack which comes with a handy car attachment

I spent most of my time in these two areas as the swimming side of things I’ve done very little in recent years which has the knock-on effect of not having done a tri-athlon (although I do keep talking about having a go at a sprint tri one of these days).

Other than collecting a variety of gels and other supplements, two of the stands were of particular interest, looking at the physical act of running from a physio point of view. One was set up with a camera to record one’s running style and this possibly has identified the underlying issue to my recent injury. Whilst my right arm and leg leg move roughly as they should, it would appear that I cast my right leg out to the side and don’t extend with my left arm. We did a few tests which actually mirrored my recent physio visit anyway which confirmed that my left side is carrying me when I’m running. Quite a surprise given that it’s the side with the injury yet I’m still relying on it to pull the right side through.

The physio centres use this as a taster so you go back and have a full analysis and build up a training plan to correct the style. It’s quite expensive, although compared to several sessions with a physio anyway, it’s probably cost-effective if it reduces the risk of further injury. In the meantime, I do need to think a little more about running style – which is difficult because when I’m running the last thing I’m actually thinking about is where my legs are – that’s all been working fine (or so I thought) from about the age of 3+ years (I was a late walker).

However, just because I’ve been doing something for the best part of 4 decades doesn’t mean to say I’m doing it right……..

A foot in the right direction

Well the leg does seem to be improving. It is hurting in different ways now, which I will take as a small positive.

Needless to say, I’m still doing my stair-shuffle, much to the amusement of colleagues as I slowly ascend stairs. It will be nice to have all legs back present and correct. In the meantime, I just have to savour each stair as I reach it with both feet!

Of course, Wilmslow is out for this weekend. Even though most of the pain seems to be out of the way now, I’m conscious that I was in a similar position before the last race, and we know how that ended. So instead I’m going to visit and event called runexpo over the weekend – it would appear to be some form of exhibition by a large variety of sports firms covering running, biking, swimming and a combination of the above. Unless Triexpo is something about ‘giving it a go’……

I wouldn’t normally attend such an event, but given I got a free ticket from entering the Anglesey race, it would be rude not to have a lot around and see what I can learn.

In the meantime I’ve reverted to type and created another list. This time it’s the race results from all the races I’ve competed in. Which isn’t actually that many although it does stretch back to 2006 (admittedly there’s about a 4 year gap in there somewhere). I’m pleased to have found most of the races I remember as well with only two exceptions; one where the results seem to be nowhere on the internet (Accrington 10k 2006) and one where I ended up running in another person’s place (Manchester 10k 2008), but I’m not 100% sure what they were called so had to go with a name that sounded vaguely familiar.

Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things.

Like a Dalek. But without the power to exterminate!

It’s been almost a week since Wrexham. And a week without any meaningful exercise. Which is boggling for me at the moment.

To be fair, I tried to start the week as normal being out and about as I would be usually. But it began to get embarrassing when every person I met started the conversation with a tilted head and a quizzical expression and the same words “what’s wrong with your leg?

I had realised it was being dragged from building to car, and car to building and it wasn’t a pretty sight. But I’m a creature of habit. However by Wednesday the leg was trying to find opportunities not to follow. Which for a bipedal mammal can only really lead to falling over and further embarrassment.

And stairs are a true nemesis.

Whilst one can go up stairs in a seated position in the comfort of one’s own home, it’s seen as a bit weird in a busy office. And might just cause anyone in the health and safety department to cry a little bit.

Having had a few days resting the leg, plus another round with physio Andy, I’m getting to be more competent at flat surfaces. Which would be great if I lived in a world without stairs.

I feel a bit like a 1980s generation Dalek, but without a long pointy nose thing that can fire lasers.

The physio opinion is that the glute muscle has taken a battering and may be sprained. Other muscles may be damaged or torn but nothing too massive. The bruising which seemed to be coming up never seemed to get too much worse. He was talking weeks rather than months before I’m running again. So I’m cautiously optimistic, even if it still takes me about five times as long to climb a set of stairs.

Despite this and the rest of the horror of the previous week I seem to be in reasonable spirits at the moment. If I’m honest, I think that week was so bad that my mind shut down from it – I don’t think any of the reality has hit me. Except for the sore leg.

The forthcoming funeral means a trip to Cambridge, the first visit since last summer, and certainly for a far less pleasant event. Whether the reality of that will be the point when my brain reconnects with my emotions remains to be seen. I think it’s going to be tough but we will get through it together.

To live in a soap opera……

Although not a fan of any soap operas personally, it’s hard to ignore them as they fill the tv airwaves as long and wide as they broadcast. And whilst they go seeking for evermore realistic and current subject matters one generally questions whether so much could go on to so few people in such a short space of time.

In the world of Midsomer Murders, where the body count on a weekly basis can sound like a  modern-day conflict, reality and fantasy seem to be far divided.

At least so I thought, until this last week, where my own life seemed to take on far too much drama for the time provided.

The first weekend of March I was in Anglesey, North Wales. One of my favourite places in the world for probably my favourite road-race, which is now called the Anglesey Half Marathon (previously it was the Island Race). I ran this route in 2013 as part of the 13 Challenge and had wanted to revisit it since then.

Unfortunately in 2014 I was working. And in 2015 it was blowing a gale from the West. Which meant that the outward bound section was way too fast and the return was into a strong headwind. By 10.5 miles I was exhausted and struggled through the final 2 miles although my time was quite good at 1.34.40, roughly a minute faster than in 2013.

Anglesey Half Marathon 2015
Anglesey Half Marathon 2015

It was only after I got home that I realised my left side was a bit sore. I’ve had some physio on it this year already and following on from the Stockport Trail Half Marathon a week earlier and my concerns about my trail shoes not feeling quite right I thought I’d better get that checked out. But with working during the day for the next 6 days, this was always going to be a challenge shoe-horning an appointment in.

So far, the week was not too bad. But things took a downturn when I discovered that one of my tenants had committed suicide during the week. I think it was more the shock than anything, but it totally threw me out. I’ve written recently on here that my mind hasn’t been entirely where it should be for a while now, and I guess this was the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. So Wednesday itself was spent in a haze, I really cannot remember much about the day at all except that I finished work slightly early so I could get to the physio appointment.

The appointment went ok, nothing really to report and I was given the green light to run the following weekend as I had planned. That was the real reason for making the appointment, more to make sure that there was nothing actually wrong. Sure it ached, although it was a lot better than it had been 2 days earlier.

From a work point of view, thankfully I was on a course for the latter part of the week which at least gave me a little more space to comprehend the news about my tenant without impacting the work I would otherwise have been doing.

It was only as I drove home that I missed a call from a family member. Having got home and realising they had called again, I picked up the message which was for me to call back ASAP. This is not a usual situation from a family point of view, so I already knew something was the matter. I wasn’t prepared for the news – that a family member had committed suicide that day.

I think by this point in the week I had reached emotional saturation point. Even to this point I haven’t manged to particularly react to this second death; I think the supply of emotions has run dry and needs replenishing before I can even start to grasp what has happened. It certainly hasn’t hit me yet, which something of this enormity would be expected to.

With working all day on the Saturday at least it kept me occupied. In fact I intentionally left my phone at home so that I could not be contacted with any more bad news.

With only having the Sunday off, I was quite looking forward to the race as I’d not had the chance to go out during the week for a run. Unfortunately whilst I was cooped up all day on the Saturday whilst the weather was glorious, the Sunday was a soggy and wet affair in Wrexham, with the only plus point was that the race didn’t start until 10.30am so it wasn’t a crack of dawn start.

Actually I didn’t get into the race for a good few miles. The route itself wasn’t particular scenic, with it winding through various residential and council estates for rather a lot of the time. But I was keeping a decent pace and the terrain was considerably lumpier than I’d anticipated which did make it more interesting.

Unfortunately (a word used a lot in this post) at mile 11 a searing pain went through my left side. As a result all running ceased and I was reduced to a limp. With no marshalls to hand I figured a steady walk/limp back towards the start/finish in the town centre was probably the only option – after all it was only 2 miles away.

As it happened as I got into the final 400m, with crowds of supporters cheering on the race and a couple of high-5s with the children watching, I managed to jog the last bit to get over the line. And amazingly the race photo of me at the end looks like there was nothing the matter at all. Perhaps relief at seeing the end masked the sharp pain that screamed at me whenever my left foot was in contact with the ground.

Wrexham Half Marathon 2015
Wrexham Half Marathon 2015

Normally I look at my race time at the end, but this was not a normal situation. It didn’t help that the clock at the end was measuring the time for the full-marathon also taking place. It was only when TDL sent me my time via text that I saw I managed 1.39.55 which given I wasn’t running the last 2 miles is astounding.

I always hold off writing for a few days if something significant has happened, just to try and get perspective on it. I don’t want to read back raw emotion I’ve experienced, and I’m sure nobody else would wish to do so either. So 3 days after the ‘terribilis sabbati’  I’m sat with my leg elevated, trying to get an appointment with a doctor ahead of seeing the physio tomorrow. My suspicion is that I’ve torn a muscle in my hip area, judging by the bruising that has started to come up but I’ll let an expert eye tell me what’s really going on and let me know how long I’m likely to be out of action for (I’m sure my Wilmslow entry is going to be unused anyway). I’ve not heard about any funeral arrangements as yet although suspect they will follow later next week.

So, would I like to exist in a soap opera world in reality? I think that’s a resounding no.

Calm within the storm

I’ve been unable to post for a couple of weeks. Call it a ‘dark cloud’ or just plain ‘depression’ it’s all the same thing and it is debilitating and thoroughly exhausting.

The blog was always designed as an outlet for me to express the stuff that is plaguing my head, just to liberate it from my sub-conscience  but as time has gone on it has become less practical to say all that I would like to say. I’m always very particular about what I write, tending to allow the really bad episodes to pass so that when I try to piece together what is going on, it’s with a clear head. Even with that said, I undertake a healthy dose of self-censorship as I’m aware that what is being said is very public. I neither want to come across as moaning about every facet of my life, nor do I want to distress anyone as to the meaning of the words that appear here.

But the initial purpose of the blog, at least once it got going, was a kind of therapy for me, to act as a sounding board. I did try to write down a post last week to do this; it was a post that was never intended to be published, and it never will. Not that it made particularly interesting reading, but it really was an exercise in off-loading, or at least trying to offload.

I guess the main question is ‘why is all of this happening’ or at least, ‘what has triggered such an intensely negative episode this time’?

It’s safe to say there are a number of triggers which are likely however as per the above comments, will remain in the unpublished realm. However perhaps the most significant is that I have spent a lot of time in Mark’s bedroom in recent weeks and I’m going to share that journey with the blog.

It all started out with the project to replace the ageing boiler and as part of that the radiator in Mark’s room came off the wall so I could improve the insulation. The room itself has never worked that well, with a huge bed filling most of the space but not in a good way. Due to the storage in the room, the bed could only fit in one way and pretty well became an obstacle to navigate, rather than being a place of general tranquillity. Having a plasterer fighting his way around the room to try to get to the area needing skimming was probably the catalyst.

The reality is that room hasn’t changed in any way since Mark was last in it. And the risk was that it would remain that way, a physical and a psychological barrier.

During the boiler sorting out, I’d decided that the room would be patched back up and left as it was. But the dawning feeling of groundhog day in that room was becoming a reality.

In many ways, I acted on impulse. I dismantled the bed. And sold it days later. Physical obstacle gone. Link with the past gone. It felt strange to see it being collected and taken away but it was also a good feeling. The object which had become a stumbling block (both words literal) was starting a new life with a new person without the history. Both people and the object in question are in a better place. A Win.

I was bordering on obsessive whilst cleaning the room. I had barely been touched in the last 2.5 years so was very dusty, something that the building work in there had only exacerbated. It was the only room with the original carpet remaining from when I bought the house, and it had never been changed because, well, change in that room had become too difficult. Slicing the carpet into strips with a blade so I could take that away felt good.

But despite all this good feeling going on, it was constantly and completely offset by a deep sadness. I was getting rid of furniture that knew Mark. The grim reality that within the carpet would be molecules of him, in the dust and I was removing this from the house. It’s a totally pointless and irrational thought, but actually hurt like hell.

The room had always felt dark to me, I think because when Mark was here he tended not to open the curtains. So with the re-birth of the room light was a big part to me. Actually the curtains were a casualty in the changes to help further the transformation. The walls are white now, there is new furniture in there, a new light fitting. The whole room has moved on. Even the awkward corner at the end of the wardrobes has been turned into a shelving unit for bedding. And a few hats.

I still need to put the pictures back up, but to be honest, that’s the story in much of the house. Since I had all the alterations done in late 2012, few of the rooms have anything on the walls as I’ve not managed to do this yet. It all takes time, and I want it to be right.

The newly decorated front room
The newly decorated front room

I’m hoping that now Mark’s room is all but re-done, that things will settle. I have had some of the worst nightmares I’ve had in years in the last week, all graphically violent and unspeakably unpleasant. But I’m dealing with it, it’s territory I’ve come through before and intend to come through again.

So that’s it, that’s where my life has been these past few weeks. I’m getting there, I have the support I need and I see it still as part of a very long healing process.

I have a few races booked over the next few weeks, so you can be sure that they will feature in the forthcoming updates. Running is my escape when I can leave the complicated stuff behind me and live in the moment, even if it is only for 13.1 miles. I guess it’s always going to be a challenge whilst the weather isn’t great and I can’t get out and do the same amount of running that I can in the summer and coupled with the darker days and generally grimmer weather (accepting that Manchester does grim weather with gusto at any time of the year!) there are a lot of reasons to not be a fan of the winter.

I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m feeling that I’m going in the right direction.

A bit more campanology

I’ve not had much of a chance to put a blog post together for the past few days. Hopefully that will be rectified over the weekend if I can catch up with myself. And have something to say of course!

One minor project I have taken on is to add a number of pages relating to bell ringing performances – it’s as dry a subject matter as it sounds. You see I had all the information up to date on a past website, yet following a conversation with my brother about a performance we were both in, I discovered it was nowhere to be found. Worse still, many of the records I’d assembled seem to have joined it in the abyss.

And whilst much of the recent recording can be found in various corners of the interweb, head before 2005 and it seems the world was monochrome and only in paper format. So researching what I need to find really will be old-school magazine scouring, rather than than modern day wikipedia scan for all of your needs.

I know which I’d prefer…….

Still the page header for this project, should you wish to have a look at data which is even more arbitrary and incomprehensible than the running data I regularly post, you can find it at the top-right of the site, or by clicking this forthcoming link…….

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