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?!