Thursday, 15 September 2016

I think it is time to vlog

I have been meaning to write  here every day and, as you have noticed, hopelessly failing. Partly I think because the topic is such a difficult and emotive one and I really do want to open up and be honest about what happened and how it has impacted my life so I guess I am putting off writing here, although there is so much to say.

I have been thinking about doing a vlog (video blog) on YouTube to go along side this one. I guess it would be easier to talk each day and then write in here a few times a week. I communicate differently when I write and talk so a vlog would be more informal and personal, a chat really sharing training tips and ideas, recipes and my thoughts as I run , including about what happened this summer. I would probably do these as I come back from, prepare for or evaluate a run  and then come here a few times a week to write my deeper thoughts and feelings about what came up in the vlog. Does it sound a good idea? I think I will start this at the weekend so watch this space....

Thursday, 8 September 2016

That was the summer that for a new start

Oh dear, I'm not doing very well with my intention to write here every day am I! Just as well it is the beginning of the Autumn Term, a time when I always feel inspired, productive and geared up for new beginnings and projects. I still have huge hangovers from years in academia, as a pupil, then a degree and PhD student and a university lecturer and researcher. There is nothing more motivating than clean paper and fresh pens in September. One of our family highlights at the end of the school holiday is our annual stationary shop, complete with cafe coffee and cake. 

The last few weeks have been manic getting Wills ready for secondary school and school ready to receive him and all his medical complications. Now he is happily getting ready in the morning, enthusiastically doing his homework and, most importantly, making friends, I have had some space to think back over the summer and start making my own plans to make the most of the rest of the year.

It certainly wasn't the summer we had planned and hoped for. The assault happened right at the end of the school term and dominated the summer holidays completely really with the police interviews, sessions with victim support, not to mention the stress and anxieties that went with it all.   It was all pretty energy zapping and I do feel I was  zapped of energy that I should have been spending on having fun with the children. Plus, when you are a single parent family you don't have another adult to bounce the stresses off each other, and at times of course take it out on each other.  This means, unfortunately, big stresses are often shared and taken out between yourself and the children and there was a bit of that too. But amongst all that friendships have been strengthened and I have learned a great deal about myself.

Any big life event is a catalyst for change. This is the time of year to put new plans into action and I have always found running to be a time when I mull over ideas, develop plans and solve problems so, all in all, this is a fertile time in my life. Lots is happening. Lots to write about and share here and one of my major plans is to get back to my plans of writing daily here!! 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Keeping it pink and sweet: running with asthma and diabetes

I've neglected this little bit of blog space over the last few days. I am sorry. I do intend to share here every day but it has been busy juggling the training with end of school holiday fun and new term preparations together with catching up with my business after the hug dent everything that has happened has made on it. I'll come back to that tomorrow. Today was a petty tough run though because I just couldn't get my body and pace in sync with my breathing and heart rate.

Just to add even more of a challenge to all of this, I run with asthma and diabetes. Many family, friend and even doctor would just say it can't be done and I shouldn't try but did you know Paula Radcliffe is a fellow asthmatic? She's not just an inhaler in the bottom drawer asthmatic either.  You can hear it in her voice sometimes. I am always told I talk to fast and I noticed during her recent Rio commentaries that she did the same. Trying to get everything she wanted to to say out in the limited breath then taking s big breath in mid sentence. It can be hard to juggle breathing with other things sometimes, especially running! I would love to sit down with a doctor who is open to people like me taking on such challenges and talk about what I have learned about my own condition from it.

Apart from the two yellow bottles which I have stopped using recently, this is my days medication. The little vials are nebulisers that go into the contraption underneath, plugged into an air compressor, and inhaled as mist over about 15 minutes each. There is ventolin and atrove to medicine as well as hypertonic saline which is strong salt solution to break up the mucous and help me to cough it up. Lovely! Not a morning routine you'd let many people witness. The green thing in the bottom picture is an acapella that sets resistance as you breathe out and gently vibrates the lungs to further help tease the stubborn gunk out. All of this is necessary for me to function, let alone run, and I take 5 insulin injections a day. This is also tricky to balance. To get enough insulin so you can use your blood sugars while running and also enough sugar in to avoid a hypo. This is something else I'd love advice on.

On Saturday I was fine running but had my recovery drink but nothing to eat after before dashing out to see a friend in a music festival. I was close to the point of passing out with a hypo by the time we got there and have never been more grateful for sugary plantain and sustaining rice and peas festival food. That was the first time the hypo came delayed after exercise and taught me an important lesson in refuelling. While running I have to keep sugar snacking but if I haven't taken enough insulin that won't be much use anyway. Training for me is a lot more than just building up and conditioning muscles and cardio fitness.

This morning it was my asthma that was tricky. I was Ok, it wasn't an attack but I couldn't get my breathing rhythmic and comfortable. Something I noticed when I ran before was that my asthma responds most to change. The same goes for change in weather, atmospheric pressure, new infections and viruses etc... With running, the first few miles are the hardest by far because my body has not yet got into a new status quo so to speak. I used to find that by about mile eight I would have a nice constant pace and rhythms and my asthma would settle. If I had to stop to cross a road or because of the fitness in my legs, it would take time to get it back into the balance again. As long as I could keep my body in that balance it would be a lot easier for me. I often felt for all those people who never kept going log enough to find this for themselves as it really is a lot more uncomfortable and suffocating until you hit this sweet spot, or at least it is for me. It makes me a lot more suited to distance and endurance running than shorter distance races which goes against what most people would think for an asthmatic. In one of the marathons I ran all those years ago it was stopping that made me get an asthma attack. I had a pb great race but almost collapsed getting my bags back and needed a quick visit to St Johns where I had to argue against being carted off the the hospital. This knocked my confidence and I never really got back into running again. You see, I would try but not for long enough to hit that equilibrium and then give up. I haven't hit it yet now but I have seen glimpsed of it and I know in a week or two I will be able to run far enough to find it again and then I can call myself a runner again.

Another interesting thing for me is the adrenaline. I started running now because I needed to find a way to grid of a build up. It is more than that though. Without that adrenaline I can't start running. I just can't. I'll cough and wheeze and it is impossible for me. When I ran before my son was waiting for a transplant, when I did my last marathon and stopped for the recovery, he was well and I couldn't start again. I really tried but I couldn't even do a mile! Asthma used to be treated with adrenaline and I really think mine responds well to it. I have to use a window of stress and adrenaline overload to get started and then, if I can reach that equilibrium at 8 miles and keep doing it almost daily, I can keep going once that period of acute stress is over. If I stop I may not be able to start again.... Interesting huh! I'd love to know the science at work here...

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Sunday Summary

So today is the end of my first week officially training for the London Marathon to raise money for  Child Rescue Nepal and four other charities close to my heart. Today is also five weeks from the assault which triggered the adrenaline that led to me need to run like Foreat Gump! I thought it would be cool to spend time here on Sunday's looking back on the week, how I felt and what worked and what didn't work.

This week it was HOT HOT HOT!!

 It has been lovely but tough training in the heat and humidity, especially with asthma (something I will be coming back to later).  I have been trying to run early or in the evening but even then had to abandon after two miles and walk home on Friday and didn't run too far or fast yesterday either. I had my best run yet today though which was good for my confidence and belief that I can do this! It has been 9 years since I last ran and before my surge in adrenaline felt it tough just to run 10 metres for a tram! I ran six days this week with a rest day on Wednesday.  It is early days so my runs are around half an hour. In total, I ran 15 miles. My average speed was around 11 minutes per mile at the start of the week but was a fab 8.55 minute per mile today.

Next week I hope to increase to 40 minute runs six days a week and keep my speed to below 10 minutes per mile throughout. When I can do this consistently I will be able to rejoin the running club I used to train and race with all those years ago. I intend to join next week with the hope I will be able to run out with them the following week

When I ran before I was just minutes outside 'good for age' for marathon and I would really like to achieve this now. Being ten years older makes it a lot harder but also means I have a few more minutes in which to achieve it. My target pace is 8.5 minutes per mile, something I achieved thought a big proportion of today's run and it felt comfortable so I hope this goal is realistic for me with work.

I am beginning to think of the nutrition needed to maximise training and the all important recovery that gets harder with age. My daughter and I have replaced breakfast with a shake and I find that a good glass of almond milk, fruits and oats is a fab start to the day and also seems to have stopped me snacking though the morning. I have discovered a truly yummy recovery shake that totally motivates me to run too.  I'll share the recipes in posts over the coming weeks.

Emotionally, I feel better thank have since it all happened. I still have my ups and downs and expect I will for a long time to come and will talk about a lot here I am sure. For the first time, this week I haven't had that horrid feeling of butterflies and nausea all day. Choosing to fly through that fight or flight reaction is working!

I hope you are enjoying reading my blog and maybe getting something from it in some way. If so, please help me to pay it forward  by supporting  my marathon fundraising

Friday, 26 August 2016

Too trusting...

There have been two times in my life when I have just had to run. And when j say hace to run I mean full on Forest Gump style keep on going... I was an overweight kid, teased and bullied hugely in PE, always the last to be picked for the team in PE and even faced sighs from those who ended up with me at the end. I then discovered I was pretty good on the ice and did figure skating and ice hockey, but I never made my peace running... until I was faced with watching my son die slowly before my eyes whilst waiting for a life saving small bowel transplant. Wills for his wonderful gift of life and I got medals, personal bests, good for age times and even one cash prize. I was pretty good at running after all but with asthma, It can be impossible at times. Only when my adrenaline is high and I am in fight or flight can I start to run if my body isn't already trained in a routine. I had Swine Flu when it was first around and mo one had any immunity and was one of those who ended up in intensive care with if, That did for my lungs big time and my running routine fell by the wayside.

The second time I had to run happens just two weeks ago after an event in the previous month. One of my big personality traits it to be trusting to the point of gullibility at times. The trust my brain has been massively over trained as I have time and time again put the life of my child into the arms of doctors and surgeons and spending long months in hospital forces you to live in very close contact through the most emotional of times with strangers who become friends much quicker in that vacuous bubble than out in the real world. So, when a friendly, charismatic chap knocked on my door one sunny Sunday to ask for gardening work, on a day when I really needed gardening work and a new fence for a puppy, I let him into my house. I may go into more details about what happened later when I open up a bit more in this blog. It's also an open police case at the moment too, during which I have had very mixed experience and will certainly be writing about here. So, to cut a long story very short, over a period of three days my new 'friend' turned out to be a very experienced and talented con man who aggressively took our money, I mean I knew he was conning me but his mix of aggression and emotional manipulation took invaded my mind so much that I just handed it over! I can understand now why vulnerable old people hand over thousands to these con artists! For me though, this mix of aggression and emotional manipulation resulted in a sexual assault.

I struggled though a few weeks of anxiety, almost panic attacks... What if he came back? What if he is arrested, surely he will be mad at me and come back...?  Home didn't feel safe, being outside didn't feel safe... The experience had also burst open all those little boxes where we hide away past experiences and emotional vulnerabilities. All in all I was struggling to cope with myself until one day I ran in the park with the puppy and felt it again, that freedom, the physical relief you get when your body is using the pent up adrenaline for flight. So here I am, running again because I have to.

That is all a very sketchy outline I know. One of my motivations to writing this blog is to share my experiences in the hope they can help people who have been through similar so I will be unpacking if all, just give me time and stay with me in that... For now though,  I have a run to do...

If my blog has touched you then please pay it forward like I am doing and help me to help others who need help to feel safe by supporting my London Marathon fundraising.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Every journey starts from home. A safe place right?

Home is where we feel secure. cosy and safe. When we close the from door we feel safe from any dangers on the outside and relaxed that we are together on the inside with our family. But what if you were unable to keep your family safe. What if home was no longer a place where to relax in.  Suppose home was a place where a child can suddenly become very, life threateningly sick and where help seemed a long way away when they did. What if you opened your door to someone who seemed friendly at first but then put you and your family in danger, coerced you into parting with possessions,  money, even your children!

I have lived for 12 years with the fear of sudden life threatening illness, ever since my son was  born with a  rare set of severe conditions. Last month it was me who opened our door to a charismatic con man who stole our money and sexually assaulted me. Our home has felt like the least safe place in the world at times which can be incredibly stressful. 

Sometimes in life you just have to fight or flight and when Wills has been ill and in recent weeks when life is particularly challenging, I have chosen flight - running off that adrenaline.  

This blog will be all about my motivation, musings and methods of running.  I will write how you piece life back together after such a stressful event and all the emotions and thoughts it stirs up. Running gives you time go think and the hypnotic repetition of  step after step has always  opened up my mind so I will share my musings. I will also share my training methods from scratch now as I haven't run in nearly 10 years, my gear reviews, nutrition ideas and reviews and balancing asthma (Paula Radcliffe has it too did you know?!) and diabetes with training and racing. 

Some lovely people have come to my rescue over the summer and I want to pay it forward to those who can't just run their stresses away, as well as saying thank you to some of those who have helped us when we couldn't either.  So I will be running for four charities during my training and races towards the first big goal, the London Marathon in April.  I will be sharing stories about these charities here too. 

Child Rescue Nepal  have kindly given me a place in the  Virgin London Marathon 2017  and are the main charity I am running for, They are an amazing charity who help children in Nepal who  need additional  support to reach adulthood safely. Some of these children  need rescuing and supporting having been trafficked into India, others do not have a safe home and need support in children's homes. I want to raise £2 400 pounds to enable two child to be raised safely in a children's home for a year. 

Being in hospital for weeks and weeks, feeling poorly, in pain and having lots of frightening procedures is incredibly scary for a child. Ronald McDonald House   provide a home from home environment with comfortable bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen and lots of homely.  extras for families whose children are in hospital away from home.  This has been a life saver for me many times and has meant our family has been able to be together through my son's multi organ transplants and many long admissions with complications, including rejection and a second transplant. While stores may fundraise, the charity do not get any money direct from Ronald McDonald and  rely 100% on donations and fundraising. I want to raise £1000, enabling a family  stay 40 nights with a sick child. 

Without our amazing transplant team on Ward 8 at Birmingham Children's Hospital we wouldn't still be a complete family at all so I also want to raise £1000 to fund research and staff development so they can keep on doing the magic they do.  To round it up to a nice 5K I would like to raise £600 for  Gutsy Gastros to help support families and children going though intestinal failure, the condition that led to William's transplant.

So, in all lots of work to do training, fundraising and recovering from the stress of recent events and an ongoing police case.  I hope you will follow my story and if you get anything from it please donate to my fundraising  here or, if you add a UK tax payer and your donation can be gift aided, please donate here My first target is £2000  by Christmas so the charities can ft to work using the money. I have some exciting ideas for fundraising so watch this space and if  you can help in anyway with raffle and auction prizes please do get in touch.