If I Could Offer You Only One Tip For The Future…

Fast approaching the seventh week of cross training, the novelty of run-free exercise has definitely passed its best before date. Maintaining a diet rich on elliptical trainer, the highlight of the past couple of weeks was an impromptu 105 mile bike ride this Sunday just gone. In looking for somewhere to ride early in the morning, I stumbled upon a load of cyclists following orange signs out of Grantham. It dawned slowly on me that were taking part in the cycle event I’d seen signs for in the past week or so apologising for any inconvenience that may be caused.

I thought I’d go along for the ride, making sure I didn’t interfere with anyone actually taking part in the event nor partaking in any of the refreshment stops. At around 20 miles I was given the option of continuing over a 100 or 160 km route. The furthest I’ve ridden in the past five years is just over 100 km; for reasons unknown I opted for the longer ride. Despite the hills and lack of nutrition and liquid (I’d only taken enough food for a 50-60 mile ride) it was a great ride over a hilly route in gorgeous weather – not warm, but sunny and still. Six hours or so after setting off I got back home – 106 miles in the legs. A day or three later I finally got over my efforts.

The cause of the reason for the cross training  – a second stress fracture of the sacrum – has been something of a mystery. I returned yesterday to the doctors to discuss the results of a blood test I had last week. It revealed that I had a Vitamin D deficiency – not urgently low, but low enough to merit the attention of the doctor to take action to correct the deficit.

Vitamin D is the one you can get in a few foods, but typically get your supply of from the UV radiation in sunlight. It is believed to have several roles, including the regulation of calcium and phosphate, necessary nutrients to keep bones healthy. Recent studies  have suggested that a Vitamin D deficiency could increase the risk of stress fractures in athletes. Kudos to my GP for being alert to this and testing me!

If this ‘D’eficiency is the principal cause of the stress fractures (It may be something else, this may just be a coincidence) I could accept my Vitamin D levels being low in February after months of weak winter sunshine (If we had any sunshine at all) but I didn’t think it explained the October fracture which came after a spell of being exposed to a very sunny summer.

… Sunscreen would be it….

As Baz Luhrmann eulogised (courtesy of profound words penned by Mary Schmich) sunscreen is a wonderful thing. It allows me to go out in the summer months and not be burned to a crisp in a worryingly short period of time. The benefits of preventing skin cancer and premature skin ageing have been proven. I tend to slap Factor 50 on first thing in the morning and in so doing not really have to be worried about getting burned for the rest of the day.

Unfortunately a side affect of wearing sun screen (or sun block, or sun cream or whatever it is called) is that in blocking out the UV radiation it prevents the body absorbing what it requires to have enough stores of Vitamin D. So, as I pointed out to my GP, I have a dilemma, get burned or get deficient, what is it to be? He couldn’t really answer that one. He’s not alone, most literature I’ve read on the matter can’t properly address how you avoid the damaging rays of the summer sun yet get enough exposure to top up Vitamin D supplies.

In the meantime I’m to take six months supply of Vitamin D with blood tests along the way to make sure my levels rise adequately. I hope they do and that this has been the cause of my woes. Answers which have a fairly simple resolution are nearly always preferable to unresolved mysteries.

In terms of running, it is six weeks ago today that the fracture occurred. In theory it could be healed, but the putting on my trousers easily whilst standing up test makes me believe I am a few days away from being able to test the waters and try a little trot. It does though continue to improve every day – so much that, apart from the aforementioned balance test, I now have full and normal use of my left leg.

And as for Luhrmann / Schmich: they may have been spot on with their advice on getting plenty of calcium, but to be so confident about the merits of using sun screen….

Can I sue?!

Keeping The Dream Alive

A  couple of weeks or more has past since I last posted. As expected there has been no miracle recovery from the left hip / glute pain I was suffering. I had the MRI scan the day after I last posted. The staff there recognised me from the last time I had my MRI scan and remembered the injury I’d suffered on the other leg. I was less fidgety than the last time I was scanned but it was distinctly uncomfortable – I’d hobbled the kilometre or so to the hospital and now the area around the problem was throbbing.

The scanner wished me all the best as I left, informing me the results would take 7-10 days for the GP to have them. That she wished me all the best made me think straight away she may had seen something amiss. I hobbled home, began work on the final F1 test, putting in two hours on the elliptical trainer when time allowed.

That weekend saw two hours on the Saturday and another three hour effort on the Sunday, broken up into segments as I kept an eye on incoming work from the Barcelona test. Monday saw an hour on the trainer in the morning before another attempt at swimming in the evening. I was a little quicker than the week before, but still not exactly swift.

The past two weeks have been more or less more of the same since. Regular sessions of two hours on the home elliptical trainer, a couple of attempts at rowing at the gym (Really hard work, but still able to get to around or just below 2:00 per 500m) – a couple of intense marathon HR style sessions on the gym elliptical trainer – the first of which saw the sad demise of my much loved Sansa Clip MP3 player, which died mid song, and despite numerous attempts to resuscitate it proved fruitless. A Sansa Clip Sport was swiftly purchased, which is a little larger but has better battery life and, with a 32GB micro SD card inserted, has enough capacity to keep me listening for weeks on end.

I went to the GP on Friday 6th March to discuss the results of my MRI. To no-one’s surprise the results showed ‘a near mirror image’ of the sacrum stress fracture that had occurred on the right side in October. What the doctor couldn’t determine was why they were happening – so he has ordered some blood tests for certain things to rule more things in or out.

That Sunday I joined Witham Wheelers for my last Reliability Ride with them this year. The 18-19 mpg group went out at nearly 21 mph for the first 15 miles, a pace I’d maybe be able to just about keep up with when fully fit, but had little chance with one leg that was a struggle to put full power through and a heavy cold that has left me distinctly fatigued. I was lucky to have two other riders to work with into the headwind down to Rutland Water. Oddly I was able to ride pain free on the steeper hills so I broke clear on one climb, then lost them, meaning I had to ride the last 25 miles solo. I had a bit of a tailwind to help but was pleased to raise my average from 17.4 mph to 18.2 mph by end of the ride.

This last week has seen my ability to walk improve again dramatically over the course of the week. I’ve not actually been out to test it properly, but walking around the house is now limp and pain free. I’ve been covering the Australian Grand Prix since Tuesday so I’ve been in a bit of a strange sleeping spell – 2-3 hours in the evening before waking around 1 am, then working  to around 11 am before trying to grab a couple of hours sleep in the afternoon. As I write this on Monday morning, I still feel as if I am totally jet-lagged without having actually left my house.

It has had a bit of an affect on my training – Monday saw a good session at the gym, the cold meant that I avoided swimming, but put in a good hour twenty on the elliptical trainer at marathon HR and perceived effort. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I put in two hours on the home elliptical trainer. Friday I was really tired so I had a day off. Saturday afternoon I managed two hours on the elliptical trainer, but it was a struggle and my HR was around 10 bpm higher than it should be – presumably through tiredness.

Sleep deprivation took its toll on Australian GP Sunday, the afternoon saw me barely able to leave the sofa after a twelve hour stint at the computer which began at 2 am. This morning I managed an hour on the home elliptical trainer, but the active HR was 15-20 bpm higher than it was a week ago. Hopefully a couple of good nights sleep will see me right again.

Four weeks from the fracture occurring and I felt strong enough to begin my strength and conditioning routine, which began with the glutes and hips. Most were fairly easy except for one particular leg raise that worked abductors, which was way too painful to perform. Whether this is because the fracture is still not totally healed (I have another 2-4 weeks to wait yet) or it’s a clue as to what may have caused the fracture, I’m not sure. but it’s worth noting for future reference.

Whether I run London is now going to depend on how well I get back into running – which I’m hoping to do two weeks from today. I have no expectations now, I’m hoping I can just get to the start line and enjoy the experience. If I don’t make it then it is a case of looking forward to hopefully a good Summer.