Sunday, 22 February 2009


It's all about progress this week. Apart from being a vital 'principle of training' progression is something we all desire throughout our life. Take a look at Evie, yep the sides of her cot are off and she has progressed to a proper bed. It didn't make a jot of difference to her sleep patterns though. Still up at 4.30am, then she went in to Ellie's bedroom at 7am.

I have progressed nicely this week. My ear is definitely on the mend and I would be very surprised if the infection hasn't gone (will find out on Tuesday when I visit the hospital for a check up). My hearing is still strange, but until the perforation mends this will be the case. Anyway it is giving me plenty of opportunity for some selective hearing around the house!!!!

I have ridden the bike every day for 1 hour on the turbo. Sessions have been nice and steady, keeping my heart rate between 135bpm and 155bpm (70 to 80% HR Max) It has been great to get back into exercising and training. In the last 4 weeks, courtesy of the sickness bug and my ear troubles I have trained on just 4 days! That is the most inactive I have been for a long, long, long time. Over the next few weeks I will be able to see how much fitness I have retained. I have been really pleased with my 7 sessions this week, feeling good on the bike and recovering fine from day to day. My riding has been on the race bike so I have been tweaking with the position. I think I am getting pretty close to being comfortable and being aero. A few photographs revealed I have an upper back shape that Quasimodo would die for, however my position is looking pretty good. I intend to keep the race bike on the turbo and add in a couple of additional bike sessions focusing on riding in the race position and riding some hard intervals. The interval sessions are going to be important if I am going to maximise the next 11 weeks before Lanzarote.

The past couple of seasons I have trained 'steady' from day 1 to race day, with the odd really long day, and odd high intensity race thrown in for good measure. Given my start to the year I really need to maximise my build up to Lanzarote, this brings me back to the idea of progression. What I feel I need to do is start to target specific weekly sessions that really aim to progress my performance. The current terminology is a 'break through session' (BT session) These sessions have been neglected in the past, but I think they are really important now. This is something I will be giving some thought to over the next couple of weeks once I feel my base conditioning is back.

The rest of the week has been really good. Holidays are a great perk to being a teacher and this 1/2 term (since I didn't make Tuscon) has enabled me to spend some quality time with Sarah, Ellie and Evie. We went up to Newcastle for the back end of the week to see Sarah's Mum and Dad. It's always very relaxing up there with Sarah's Mum taking over children duties. Thanks Elieen, the break is really appreciated. Me and Sarah made it out to dinner and then to the cinema. Slumdog Millionairre, the reviews have been cracking, and quite rightly so. It was one of the best films I have seen for a long time, a very entertaining and thought provoking 120 minutes. We also managed a couple of DVD's. Like Minds was an interesting film, something very different and worth a view. The Weatherman wasn't a master piece, but I like Nicholas Cage and he made it entertaining.

Today we had a picnic to the woods, where Ellie and Evie kept me busy doing 'Daddy assisted jumps' (who needs to lift weights) I then made everybody laugh, (I even managed a laugh once I'd got past my angry stage) when I knocked my soup all over my lap, of course it was tomato soup, it went everywhere!!!

It's back to normality for me this week. It's been a really disrupted 1/2 term at work, the weather causing cancellations to sports fixtures and my health issues. I am really looking forward to getting back in the swing of things. As a Brucey bonus it's now light at 7am until at least 5.30, so I can probably pack away the bike lights for my ride to and from work, yipee. Is Spring just around the corner? of course it is. One things certain, progression of the seasons happens every single year. Have a great week...

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Acute Otitis Media, Myringotomy and the Abscess...

Two photographs, a typical scene from Tuscon Arizona, and a IV fluid bag which one is more pertinent to todays post? Yep you guessed it the IV bag....If things had gone to plan I would be in Tuscon with my best buddy on his Triathlon training camp, probably spinning the legs out after a Trans Atlantic fight. So what did happen?

Let me fill you in on my week. I visited the Ear Specialist at York Hospital on Tuesday where they sucked the gunk from my ear and had a good look around with a microscope. The doctor was concerned with the level of infection behind the perforated ear drum and admitted me where I was prescribed a dose of IV antibiotics. Night 1 passed, I felt quite lucky given some of the Prostate and Kidney problems my 4 elderly ward friends seemed to have. It was back to the clinic for another suck out and inspection and then the doctor broke the news. The infection, which he was calling an abscess had not improved and he was suggesting an operation where the ear drum is cut and the abscess removed/ sucked away. Both doctors who had operated the microscope and suction equipment so far had nicked my ear drum causing me intense pain I really wasn't looking forward to the next 20 minutes. The operation was to be conducted under a local anesthetic and the doctor advised me the injection would hurt. That was a slight understatement. It was then back to the ward and another day and night of IV and ear drops antibiotics. On day 3 the nurse came to see me to tell me the results from the lab had confirmed the infection was highly infectious and I was going to be moved to a separate room on a different ward. Night 3 was quiet in my own room, in fact I thought on numerous occasions I had been forgotten about (but that's another story for later) On Friday morning the doctor was happy the infection was under control, and was happy for me to go home, 8 hours later after the prescription had been gathered and a final blood test analysed I left. I was very, very glad to be out.

The pain has all but gone which I hope means the infection is under control/ gone. I am just left with a dull/ fuzzy feeling, much like your ear is full of water, which I have been told will last until the perforation mends. That is something I need to get used to for the next few weeks, however after 18 days of ear related issues it is starting to feel quite normal.

My best mate Ben informed me of his training camps in Tuscon at the back end of the summer. We haven't seen each other for a couple of years so this presented an excellent opportunity to hook up and also get a quality block of training in before IM Lanzarote. Over Christmas I confirmed my plans and booked my flight, super excited on all accounts. But alas it was not to be. I know there will be other occasions, but that doesn't make me feel much better.

I couldn't write this post without commenting on my experience of the NHS. Being around a couple of wards for 4 days has left me quite worried, so much so that I intend to look for a private health care package for my family. I have mostly good things to say for the doctors and the nurses. They are professional people doing their job to the best of their abilities. The nurses in ward 15 were great. I was fairly low maintenance, but their compassion and care for the elderly gentlemen hooked up to catheters and enduring all sorts of kidney problems was very assuring. Where my concern lies is the chronic under staffing that I witnessed. There were 2 nurses on the night shift to look after 4 rooms of 5 people (I think the rooms were full) During the day there were a couple more nurses and a couple of Health Care Workers. I am not sure if these Health Care Workers are trainee nurses, but they are not much use. They seemed unable to do anything technical (change IV bag) and if they came to your assistance they then had to go and find a nurse if the request was in any shape medically related. For me I just wanted the reassurance from the nurses and the doctors that I was being treated correctly, that I was being monitored and that I was being given the correct medication at the correct time. It was very upsetting, and worrying when you know you are due an IV drip of penicillin (the whole reason I was in hospital and not at home) ear drops a nasal spray and pain relief and you have to ask for your medication. Even then on occasions I did not receive it for a good hour or so after I had anticipated getting it. The IV could be disconnected after the 30 minutes it took to drain, yet it seemed the nurses were either too busy or distracted doing other things to remember. On a few occasions I was still connected (unnecessarily) for at least a further hour, the process of disconnection takes all of 30 seconds. Now I know I can operate with an IV in my hand but it comes back to the point I was making earlier about feeling cared for. There were too many occasions during my short stay that I felt very alone and not receiving even a basic amount of care and attention. On my final morning I had to search out some breakfast, having been forgotten. Those of you that know me well will realise I am not a great person if I am hungry, the nurse soon realised this too. The nurses and doctors cannot operate to the best of their ability in the working conditions they find themselves. As a result the only conclusion that you can reach is they are not able to do their job properly.

I would hate to be in a position where I was in need of some serious medical attention for a serious illness. I felt the system was under so much stress that huge amounts of time were being wasted whilst your order gets to the front of the system. I think time is of the essence in many medical cases. Those of you that have read Lance Armstrongs first book will appreciate they didn't mess around with him. If I remember correctly within a few days he was getting some serious Cancer treatment, this I don't think can possibly happen in the current NHS. If I go back 18 days to my initial ear infection my time plan looks like this. The following day I returned to the doctors, then 4 days later I returned again to the doctors, clearly things were not right. Maybe that was when the level of care should have accelerated. As it was it was another/ different GP who sent me away saying I needed to give the antibiotics a chance. Instead it was a further 5 days before I went to another doctor and 2 more days before they could see me at the hospital. Maybe I should have been more insistent with the doctors, but given that they are the experts they do give reassurance. You leave the doctors not feeling physically any better, but feeling more comfortable with your situation. I have no experience of the private system but have to believe the level of care, speed of care and level of attention must be superior.

So any good news. Well given that I wasn't on a Trans Atlantic fight I got to spend Valentines Day with my wife. We cooked up some nice fillet steak, creamy wine and mushroom sauce, rice and vegetables and started watching 'Collateral' until I fell asleep! I also now have a week at home (Half Term) with my family. I am going to fire up the bike on the turbo and see how I feel at a low intensity. I will also get out and run and see how that feels. I need to get a bit of confidence that I can start to train again.

Sarah has been a superstar this week, juggling her own work, Ellie and Evie, visiting and worrying about me, I know she has had a very tiring week both mentally and physically, thanks darling. So I think top of the agenda this week is to try and have some fun.....

Monday, 9 February 2009

'life'...... hard, or just a challenge?

'Sometime's life is hard', this is probably one of the most stupidest sentences around. Of course life is hard, if it was easy where would we be? If it was easy to achieve your ambitions, where would the challenge come from? if it was easy to own a Ferrari where would be the challenge to earn one? if it was easy to raise a family where would be the challenging moments that often bring us closer together, or the most joy. However, is it really 'that life is hard'? or is it more the case of how we deal with situations that we perceive to be 'hard'? What one person perceives to be a hard moment in their life might be an everyday challenge faced by another. Do we sometimes make life harder by our own actions? then complain that 'life is hard'. Do we really mean 'hard', or do we mean a 'challenge'? Change the word in the first sentence to challenge, 'Sometime's life is a challenge'. How does that sound to you? does the word 'challenge' set your fight mechanism in motion as you search for a way to overcome the obstacle, or do you say the word challenge and feel fear or apprehension?

I am not going to use the word 'hard' because I am fully aware that my situation is for some people just a minor inconvienience, but I would be lying if I didn't say the past week or so has been a challenge. Now I have faced many physical challenges, most of course are set by ourselves. Now there's another thought, if you set yourself a physically challenging situation can you then come back to it with negative feelings or complaints or unhappiness? surely if you challenge yourself you must face the consequences or I would conclude you should cease to challenge yourself in the future. It's not like you've been locked away in a WWII concentration camp, you have set yourself a challenge. I digress.... So I left you last week with an ear infection and a perforated ear drum.

The week unfolded and I revisited my GP becasue I was concerned how long it was taking to improve, she advised me that it could be up to a week or so, I left feeling reassured, but non the wiser of when it would be back to action stations. I was still consumming painkillers at an alarming rate, until the back end of the week when I seemed to be taking less and feeling more lively. I still had discharge from my ear, although even this was starting to dry up. I felt I was on the mend and had penciled in a return to work on Monday, and recommence my training mid week.

I had a horrible sleep on Saturday night and found myself at 4.30am sitting in front of the computer reading all sorts of triathlon related blogs and Epic Camp accounts, popping painkillers and trying to ease my ear and head which felt like it was going to explode. I returned to bed at 8am and dosed the morning away whilst my ear discharged what can only be described as greeny/ brown gunk the consistency of a quality home grown runny honey. Sarah insisted she take me to the hospital where another doctor (that's 5 now) confirmed I had a secondary infection. He took a swab and as I write this I am waiting for a call from the Ear Specialists at York Hospital where they want to check me out. They are concerned with the level of pain I am experiencing around the bony part deep in my ear. I have been prescribed stronger painkillers and have ear drops which I hope will do the trick, if they can penetrate the gunk that has taken residence in my ear canal.

I have tried to answer all sorts of questions this week, mostly concerned with my imminent departure (Saturday 14th Feb) to Tuscon, USA where I will be joining my best mate Ben on one of his triathlon training camps. I started the week asking, would I be able to swim? maybe an ear plug and a swim hat would work, would I be able to run? would the bouncing make the ear too uncomfortable? would I be able to fly? The first doctor said yes, "given that you have a perforated ear drum you aren't going to suffer from a pressure build up". I have tried to stop asking questions now because it is messing me up too much. Will I be on the flight to Tuscon on Saturday? I really don't know, will I be training next week or convalescing in the Arizona dessert? I just don't know? It's only Monday, only time will tell. But whatever the outcome this challenge has been thrown my way and it is up to me to deal with it. Having said that my amazing wife has been just that..amazing. Yesterday my whole family were superstars, Ellie and Evie were the best little girls in the world, and Sarah in her comforting manner made things so much better, also from a far but over the telephone from Stewkley and Newcastle my 2 Mum's and Dad's, thanks guys it means a lot.

So on to the picture of a sleek looking sexy bicycle. I wanted to change my race bike a little this season. I wanted to go to 10 speed and change to the SRAM Red gear mechanics. This mean't I would also have to change the front end. Over Christmas I delivered a polished frame, clean wheels and a box of sparkling bits to my Dad for him to assemble. He's 'the man' when it comes to assembling or fixing bikes. Yesterday it arrived and this morning I unboxed it (I must have been feeling bad yesterday I couldn't even open the box) and stood back admiring it. I am super pleased with it. It is set up for IM Lanzarote (without my disc wheel) with the 50mm rims given the predicted winds. For anybody that is interested here is the bike.

Frame: Swiss Full Carbon frame and fork.

Wheels: Corima 50mm, TUFO Tubs.

Bars: Profile Carbon Areo Base Bar, Carbon Extensions.

Brakes: Campagnolo Record Skeleton.

Components: SRAM Red, (including super sexy carbon brake levers and gear shifters)

Crankset: FSA Carbon with 54 tooth Chain ring.

Cables: NOKON Red anodised.

Pedals: Look Keo.

It's weighing in at 17.5lbs which is pretty light for a triathlon bike. I cannot wait to get out and put some power through those cranks. I know for a fact that when I am back to normal I am really going to spend some time getting really strong on the bike.

I am sure you will all have a challenge this week in some shape or another, how we shape up to the challenge is what makes us who we are. I am winning my challenge, and real soon will be throwing down some more enjoyable ones, have a good week.

Monday, 2 February 2009

I thought having the trots was bad enough.....

My week started well and having taken Monday off of work to recover from the stomach upset I got right back into things. On Tuesday I got out on the bike for 4 hours, followed by a leisurely re-fuel and a 90 minute run. Wednesday started with a solid upper body weights session and then out on the bike for 3 hours with some longer hill intervals. Thursday the weather was nice enough to ride in shorts so I got in a nice 5 hours............ Oh how I lie, if only I could write down such accounts without them being totally made up.

I ventured back into work on Tuesday and felt pretty strange. Having had 4 days of illness and low food levels I was a bit low on energy levels. Unfortunately a full day at work, a staff meeting and then a Year 11 parents evening made for a very long first day back. I rode in on Wednesday and felt fine on the bike, I refereed a Football match in the afternoon and felt ok, just a little light headed. Then the fun started.........

On Thursday I got in to work with a sore ear. My self diagnosis was an ear infection, (genius I know, should have been a GP), so I booked a doctors appointment for later that afternoon. By lunch time my head was very painful, and my hearing fuzzy. The doctors confirmed an external ear infection and gave me some antibiotic drops. By tea time my head had exploded, and my ear was discharging a mixture of blood and fluid.....nice. I got through the night on a combination of ibuprofen, paracetamol and cocodamol, waking to find the insides of my head soaking into my pillow. I went back to see my doctor who now diagnosed a perforated ear drum as a result of the infection, I got a course of 7 days lovely yellow and red antibiotics, a huge box of tissues to mop up my ear as it continued to discharge the contents of my head.

So it's Monday morning, I've had 3 days of antibiotics and do I feel fighting fit and on the road to recovery? No I do not. My left hand side of my head is thick, humming and seriously painful, my ear resembles a dripping tap, and I'm consumming painkillers at an alarming rate, I'm back to the docs tomorrow if things don't get much better.

I have not opened my training diary for what seems like an age now. I haven't done a serious run since the Brass Monkey (15 days ago) and I haven't ridden the bike properly for a similar period of time. I was intending to train hard through January and a week into February before easing off for a week before flying to Tuscon to join my best mate Ben on his Training Camp for a really big week of overload. Now it looks like Tuscon could be my first proper training week for a while.

It's hard to be positive at times like this. Consistency is such a big part of training and with IM Lanzarote just 16 weeks away, it is starting to seem awfully close. However one saving grace is even if my head wasn't exploding and I could train, with close to 6" of snow on the ground riding the bike, and running is not going to be easy. I am trying to be positive, I keep telling myself that I'm getting a good recovery, that I won't lose that much fitness and that when I return to training I will be super motivated to hit it hard. It's also important to remember that it's only a triathlon. I think the first thing to do is shift this infection and get my health back, I hope this time next week with only 5 days to go to my Tuscon Training Camp I will be back..............