I went along to support/watch/take photos at the Chariots of Fire beach race leg of the Tour of Fife up at St. Andrew's last night. There were rain clouds chasing across the sky and a few heavy downpours as we were driving up and I reckon the tourists were very lucky not to get a soaking during the race. It wasn't warm and at first the beach seemed a bit dreich and empty but then some big dramatic clouds moved over. It was very atmospheric and I enjoyed being there.
It would be no exaggeration to say that Corstorphine dominated the race. I don't know what they're eating over there in the west part of the city. Not much by the look of them! Very impressive though. Peter practically ran the race hand in hand with Craig Love. They were inseparable. Michael was maybe a little jaded from his 6 (small!) beers the night before but he didn't allow the 5 second gap between him and Peter to open by much. Julia led from the front as she has in every race in the tour and was a clear winner. Amanda was similarly quite secure in 2nd place with about 10 men running along taking shelter behind her. Shameful really. Ruth was looking strong and is clearly returning to form quickly after her injury.
I set off walking back as soon as the front of the race had gone past me because it takes so much longer to walk than to run. Then I thought I should have a look behind to see what the sky was doing and moments later the red arrows did a fly-over. I wish I'd done a better job of taking pictures of them but I had no warning.
It was good being out and about although I had to keep reminding myself that I can't just plan to enter loads of races as Michael G.'s wild enthusiasm for racing spread around the car.
Today I went a small, controlled run round a 5 mile circuit out past the lagoons at Musselburgh and back to the Quayside on the road. My heart-rate shot up far too high for the first mile. (Its been doing this for years, looking back on old runs, although not so much or for so long) but just after a mile it snapped down to about 130 and the rest of the run was there or a bit slower. I was definitely having to work harder than I usually would to sustain 130bpm but it was enjoyable. I also managed sub 9 min/mile pace and the bonus ball was that when I stopped running my heart-rate dropped down normally like it should and I felt okay driving home. That titchy little run has put me in a good mood. I think its time to try a run in the Pentlands soon and see just how bad the hills are.
More swimming again today. I've been out a couple of runs but they're a worry. My heart rate shoots up sky high and takes a couple of miles to come down. I feel I should keep them short, few and far between. I am still reaching for the metaphor which describes what Atrial Fibrillation is. I was wondering if I could class it as a sport's injury but figure I can't as its not necessarily connected to doing sport. (Although I think it is.) And its not so much loss of function as a failure of the command centre; as if you ask your legs to run but the left one decides to do the hokey-cokey instead. (Actually I already kind of had that.)
Anyway, swimming isn't too bad and I've had a further two visits to the Commonwealth Pool. I've had a bit more time to take it in and realise that my first sweeping impression that it was no different was wrong. There is, for instance, some kind of a moving bottom thing, so that the first time I went back what was formerly the shallow end was too deep for me to stand up in. However the next time I went it wasn't. Unless its me. They must have done something to the teaching pool too and a majority of parents and kids seem to use it now which makes the main pool a lot less hectic. They've got a divider thing they call a "boom" which they use to cut the pool in half sometimes so it was in 25m mode today and last time I was there. I can't be bothered to count that many lengths so I just decided to swim for 30 mins instead.
Swimming is definitely a Zen kind of thing. The harder you try the worse you swim and you end up knackered too. I got a whole lane pretty much to myself so I tried to keep the best form I could. I know this will look a lot different from the outside from what it feels like from the inside. I've had Peter's feedback before, a mixture of laughter and scorn. His skills as a teacher are not honed. I SHOULD REALLY find myself a stroke improvement class and go; something I've been meaning to do for ever and ever, but still I resist.
I've been avoiding the Tour of Fife this week, which I was signed up for pre-AF. Peter is getting beaten by another M45 which ruffled his feathers a bit until he got used to the idea. He and Ruth and Michael have introduced a new tour norm of having some beers on the way home at night. There was none of that in my day. I don't think it'll be improving their tour. Tonight is the iconic Chariots of Fire Beach Race at St Andrews and I'm going to spectate because I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I don't wish I was doing it. Looking forwards to seeing the people although the running chat is a bit painful.
I've had it in my head for a while that I would like to get better at swimming again. I used to go to the Commie pool straight after work every week day when I was in my 20s - before running took over. And I wasn't great but I was strong and I was comfortable in the water. Peter was off to cycle to the Pentlands today to meet Ben so they could do a Skyline together. I offered to give him a lift but he needs to punish himself for going over 37 minutes at the Musselburgh 10K yesterday. Fair dos. Running the Skyline with Peter and Ben wasn't something I would ever have joined in with - at best I would have done an expurgated Skyline, retaining the highlights but without all the sheer thrash.
Today I thought I would bite the bullet and see how the Commonwealth pool's looking since it re-opened. I was never a big fan of going to the pool at the weekend because of ch*ldr*n and f*mili*s. (Sssh! I'm trying not to offend them.) Of COURSE the human race wouldn't exist without children and families but what a noise they make and they get everywhere.
And I even drove up to the pool. I am taking the lazy-ass life-style to new heights. The pool was much, much better. Yes I am kidding. It was the same, except that now instead of just going to the changing rooms you have to go to the family changing village, or you don't have to but that's where I went because there was no sign saying where the ordinary changing was. I was bewildered and roamed around for a while trying to get my bearings. At last I found somewhere that I could just change. Another thing that's changed is that instead of 50p for the lockers you now need a pound coin, which worked in my favour, as the person who used my locker before me was obviously so bewildered by everything that they forgot to take their locker money with them when they left. So I was a pound up. (I don't care if it was your pound coin, I'm keeping it.)
The British Swim Team are having an Olympic Training Camp at the Commie pool at the moment so there were 6 lanes set aside for them to use later on. They obviously didn't want the fusty skin particles of ordinary swimmers floating about in their water. That meant there were just the two lanes open and an open area for kids to swim about in random directions as they do. The fast lane and the slow lane were moving at about the same rates with a similar amount of traffic in each. I joined the slow lane. My hunch that swimming might be alright for me just now seems to be about right. To my surprise, despite never having swum a length in quite some while (probably since we did the NYD triathlon in 2007), I was not the slowest in the slow lane, not by a long shot. Most of the time I could swim at the pace I wanted to but on the last 2 lengths I got stuck behind some guy who was swimming so slowly he was more upright in the water than horizontal. This made my legs drop and its nearly impossible to swim like that. Still I am trying to practise the virtue of patience so I did my best to enjoy just dangling in the water like a sea-horse. I was pleased to complete a full 20 lengths of the Commie pool in a time only 9 minutes slower than it used to take me. I felt a lot better afterwards. I feel a bit light-headed much of the time at the moment and somehow being in the water sorts it out.
So I don't know if I can make a regular thing of pool swimming but I might. We'll see.
I'm feeling much better. Saw the cardiologist guy yesterday and his words to me were "I think we can fix you". It looks like the next thing is cardiac ablation - burning out the freaky random electrics that are stopping my heart from beating properly, in the meantime more and meaner drugs. Its probably too soon for the new drugs to have taken effect but I felt a lot better today than I have all week. The Musselburgh 10K was on and I cycled along, a bit shy of seeing my fellow runners, but I'm glad I did. So many people I really like. It seems like the more people know what's going on with me the easier it is to accept somehow. I'm getting used to it. I wondered what I'd be like after cycling back to the flat in Edinburgh - and I was a bit tired but alright, so we went to Gullane for a swim, since who knows how many other days of summer we'll get this year?
I don't think we were that impressive swimming at Gullane, more splash than dash, but it was good to get in the sea, good to get out again and good to get hot chocolate from the Gullane Superfry afterwards. Plus I got a tax rebate today. Tremendous.
After Friday's run I felt like hell and could feel my heart beating double-quick in the middle of the night. Saturday I'd promised Peter I'd run him and some paint around and that was the end of my usefulness for the day. Amanda and Scott and Alison turned up with some cake in the evening which was really nice of them. But they caught me out sloping around the house in a state of disorder.
The cardiac event monitor thingy started bleeping at me half way through Saturday and I could find no way to get it to stop so in the end took the damn thing off. There was plenty on it anyway, or I think so anyway. I handed it in today and whoever it was that I handed it into had a look on a computer to see what we'd got and asked me if a. I was feeling okay and b. told me not to push it and probably not to run. I knew that anyway but its scarey being told it.
Anyway, yesterday Peter coaxed me out for a walk. I didn't really want to go. I wanted to go outside so my day wouldn't be too long but I didn't really want to see anyone or to speak. I really haven't got my head around all this shit and I don't know what I think about it myself. The monitor thing stopping working made me feel terrible because I thought its going to be even longer til I get this thing sorted out...but then I think do I need to rely so heavily on what the medical people say? They have not much in the way of answers for me about why this has happened or what I can do to help myself. Not that I don't appreciate what they can offer but its limited.
I won't say it was good going out for a walk but we saw some nice things. The sun even came out for a while. On the drive on the way home I didn't feel awful, which cheered me up. If you ever get ill and you're worried about it don't for god's sake Google it too much or for too long. There are forums full of people and their angry story of how everything went wrong for them and everybody let them down.
Down at Aberlady which we like so much there were tiny frogs - or toads? And these amazing black and red moths - which apparently are "common" but we hadn't seen them before. We took a back path over into Gullane past the huge houses. I like pretending their mine. Childish I know.
I went to the Western General this afternoon to pick up a monitor thing that I've to wear for a week to pick up "events". The ECG physio said it was unobtrusive but it kind of sticks out under a jersey. And I better not set up any deals with criminals this week cause it looks like I'm wearing a wire.
I had a run on Wednesday and it was diabolical. I went my routine tour of Arthur's Seat. Half way up the road an older gent joined the path, having come up from the steps at the side and sped off into the distance. Not that there aren't many older gents who can beat me, there are, but I was going really slowly and still I was blowing like billy-o and the sweat was lashing off me in sheets. It was absolutely rubbish. I had to stop and walk twice and when I got home I was depressed. I had to reason that I'd missed a couple of night's sleep and I was still just adjusting.
I thought I'd get out and try again tonight - but this time go somewhere flat. I settled on driving to Musselburgh and running round the race-course and the lagoons etc. My heart rate went nuts at first but settled down after a mile and then although I wasn't going fast I was 9 and a bit minute miling and just enjoying being out there. It was pretty much exactly a 5 mile route. For the last half mile I tried to bring my heart-rate down but it wasn't coming down and afterwards I felt pretty strange for a good while - which is how I've been feeling - these past few weeks. I had a coffee before I went out and I think I've managed to burst somewhat out of the straight-jacket that the beta-blocker puts on your heart, but I'd also lost the calming effect.
So next time there will be no coffee and I'm going to take my cool down really seriously.
I'm starting to get my head round some of the possible/likely things I might need to do. "Cardioversion" is getting a heart shock to try and jog your heart back into sinus rhythm. Apparently it works 70-90% of the time although the atrial fibrillation tends to come back after a while. Sounds okay really but you have to take warfarin for a good while before and afterwards in case you get any clots. The next thing would be catheter ablation which is burning out the dodgy electrical circuits which cause the irregular beat. That can cure you completely...but its surgery and that's scarey...Enough reality already. Its the weekend. Quite fancy another swim in the sea if the weather's half decent.
Well that was quite a 24 hours. I went to my GP's, having googled enough to know really that I'd need to get checked out. I had two options. One was to go to a series of appointments throughout the week ( thus further inconveniencing my already inconvenienced work) with the warning that if I felt any worse I should contact NHS 24 or go to hospital. My other option was just to go to hospital and get all the checks done in a relatively short space of time. So I went off to the WGH with a letter in my hand and presented myself there.
I have had a right old MOT. Bloods, ECG, chest x-ray, heart tracing over night, more bloods and an echocardiogram today. The good news was that nothing truly evil emerged from all this scrutiny. Normal bloods, no infections, normal structures of the heart....but I have an Atrial Fibrillation...no real reason for why, or why now...1-2% of the population has it, pedigree dogs and race horses get it, extra ectopic beats making my heart sound like it is free-styling rather than beating. I have a jazz heart. So I'm to take a beta-blocker, "Its lucky you're not a sprinter" to keep the rate down because its flipping up too high; and wear some kind of tape thing for 7 days come Friday, to try and get a better handle on when and why and how much my little heart is beating. If it goes on and on they might have a shot at shocking it into behaving. (Cardioversion.)
"They" (the docs) were very sympathetic to me being a runner. I think there were a number of runners among their ranks, and they took that into account every step of the way. I wondered if all this could have come as a result of over-training (not that I have been) or too long events - I was thinking about my recent forays into the world of ultra-running. They say...not really. There's a weak association between endurance sports people and AF. No proof of causality.
"People still run with a beta-blocker" was the news, "but they can feel it slows them up a bit". Do you know what? That's a bummer. I was just trying to get faster again. But then the news wasn't "Don'r run again" or "You better get your house in order" and for that I'm grateful. We've been too close to proper tragedy to take that lightly.
It was a horrible night in a ward full of truly ill people setting off monitors and snoring and being sick and shitting themselves. I found myself comparing it to a long haul flight quite a bit, all the waiting and waiting, but I was much, much more comfortable, and the in-flight entertainment was a bit better. The air hostesses (you're going to have to use your imagination here) were less false and more approachable. All in all I feel I was treated very well. As an aside I think the growing size and weight of the nation might be meaning hospital beds are a lot more spacious and comfortable these days. They were definitely American sized as compared to what we had on offer when I worked in the Royal Ed.
We'll just have to see how this running thing goes from here...after a good night's sleep.
I thought we might as well apply that old chestnut about lemons and making lemonade today as the rain pissed down from the sky yet again. So we decided to take the wet suits and go swimming. I had a Google to see if people had been using the lagoons in Musselburgh for outdoor swimming, but while I was surfing around I came across a thing from the Kayak Club about Seacliff beach, just beyond North Berwick. It looked nice and Peter had mentioned it recently so we set off there.
When we got there the surf was up, complete with real life surfers on it. They were just leaving though, as it was after 5. As with so many of our adventures it had taken us a while to put our plans into action.
First of all we took a walk along the beach and looked at the harbour cut into the rock at the end of it. Then, coming back we had to make up our minds about whether we were going in or not. Its always quite a thought. However, the air temperature was really warm and we talked ourselves into going in.
The sea was big and the breakers were hitting us hard. There wasn't much swimming involved, more just getting knocked over and getting back up again. Still both of us thought it was tremendous. Quite scary at first but once we were in the thick of it it was clear that the sea would be taking us nowhere but inland. We stayed in as long as we could until our hands and feet were numbing out and then had a jog around the beach to warm up.
Lovely relaxing day. The sea seems to wipe your brain clean. Both in much better moods now than we were when we set out.