One foot in front of the other

Since my knee surgery back in November, I’ve had one over-riding goal in mind: to get back running. Last week, I enjoyed two short runs out on the streets of London and finished pain-free. Slight stiffness the following day, but nothing awful.

It felt fantastic.

I’ve been slowly building up a plan to increase distance and pace every so slightly over the next few weeks. I’ve had a couple of great 5k runs along the river to begin with and did 6.2k yesterday afternoon.

My plan for completion of the Royal Parks half-marathon in October sees me increasing this over the weeks without any sudden changes. Recovery from last year’s surgery has left me wanting to avoid any more knee injuries. I don’t think I could handle the aftermath of more surgery like that.

Looks worse than it was. I think!
Looks worse than it was. I think!

Considering it was minor and the pain wasn’t too bad at all (in hindsight), it was the extended recovery that bothered me. My job made it hard to stick to the physio exercises properly and doing daft things like flying to Edinburgh and presenting at a conference just two weeks later explains some of the additional hobbling around.

Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.

But now, I’m being really careful to avoid any more similar knee hassle – taking it slowly and enjoying each run. Races aside, I really do like running. It shouldn’t feel like “work”, but should be challenging. For me, just getting back out there and getting past my injury worries has been the challenge.

I know I can run – I know I can run fast. I now need to work on running carefully. Mindfully, if you like. So I’m in excellent shape for the Royal Parks half and enjoy it. And in terms of targets, no I’m not out to beat my BP. I’d like to finish injury-free, having enjoyed a trot around London’s beautiful parks.

Baby steps

I went for my first post-knee surgery run last night. It was definitely a case of dipping my toe in the water and, as per my physio’s advice, I started on the treadmill.

One minute of gentle running, alternated with one minute of walking. I kept that up for 15 mins, but only after doing all of my leg strengthening exercises and some limbering up on the stationery bike.

On the one hand, it felt amazing to be running again. A real mood booster. On the other hand, I noticed that I was running so tentatively, it wasn’t natural. I suppose it’ll take some time before I’m confident again.

I’ve spent the last few months worrying about the recovery of my knee, but now that I can walk again without any problems and have pretty much full strength back in the surrounding muscles, it’s time to move things up a notch.

My legs (both of them!) are a little stiff this morning, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I haven’t used them to move faster than a walk in months! A nice brisk walk to and from work today will sort all that out.

Interestingly, flying in the face of all of my experience, I’ve come to fall in love with the exercise bike. So I’m going to alternate that with gentle runs on the treadmill for the moment, saving outdoor runs for the coming weeks when it all feels a bit more natural.

I threw my hat in the ring for this year’s Royal Parks Half-marathon – should find out tomorrow if I have a place. That would be a great goal to work towards. It’s my favourite ever half and the scene of my fastest run (1:42). I’m unlikely to break any records, but it’s good to have a race to work towards.

Onwards and upwards!

2013…My year in review

Like many, many other bloggers (and normal people) around the world, I’m using this strange between-holidays time to think about what the new year will bring. But also to reflect on 2013.

Any recollection can be incomplete and/or subject to misremembering. Or just blatant fiction-writing. So please excuse any of the former, while I try very hard to avoid the latter.

So, for me, 2013 was characterised by quite a few events of major personal importance. Yep, it was a pretty big year.

For a start, I got married.

11562203814_1a7a2f978f_oThat was pretty major. By anyone’s reckoning I’d say. After over a decade together, I finally made an honest man of @FrankDJS. And we had a fantastic honeymoon in New York. It was a long time coming (the marriage, not the trip to New York), but all the better for the waiting. We had it just how we wanted it – a very quick civil partnership ceremony, followed by an excellent dinner with our two closest friends at the Oxo Tower.

For a whole host of reasons, it was the best meal of my life.

Again, thanks to all friends and people who only know me through this blog or Twitter for all the nice messages of support. It made all the difference. That said, I’m still getting used to the words “married” and “husband”.

We bought our first home together.

Our New Home - 24Yep, another major milestone. After renting in the village-like atmosphere of Wapping for nearly 10 years, we upped sticks and moved “down the street” to Canary Wharf.

Compared to most people I know, the purchase and move appear to have gone very smoothly. It didn’t really feel like it at the time, but we got there in the end.

I can say with complete certainty that we haven’t looked back since. I smile daily waking up in this apartment (admittedly not immediately – I’m still not a morning person) and love the location, the amenities and the whole vibe of living here.

We went from arguing with the owner of the coffee shop underneath our old apartment, to being greeted by name by the concierges in our new building.

From looking out onto the strange sexual exploits of neighbours in buildings across the street to watching the sun reflect off the towers of Canary Wharf. Plus the whole pool, gym and sauna thing. Yes, I’m still addicted to the sauna.

Plus, I feel very grown up – it was bound to happen at some point!

310978_10151643583879187_968400615_nThe running

After running a load of half-marathons over the past few years, I ran my first marathon in 2013. Happily, it was the London Marathon, so I was running on home turf. I had trained like a mother-lover, but despite all my efforts I was still tripped up by a scumbag who pushed past me and left me with a badly injured knee.

I managed to finish, but a lot slower than the first half would have you believe – I crossed the line in 4:51, when I was aiming for 4 hours. But still – I completed it, and for the most part, had a ball. I also raised  about £1800 for Epilepsy Action – the main motivation to keep going after the injury.

It hasn’t put me off marathons, though I know it’ll be a while before I’m marathon-ready again. First there are some 10km runs to get under the belt, along with a few half-marathons. Maybe I’ll be ready by the end of 2014. We’ll see…

The surgery

11150292173_75939cfbf6_bAs a direct result of the afore-mentioned marathon, I ended up in surgery in late November – something I’m still recovering from. I suppose I’m lucky to have reached 37 without a running/sports injury, but the fact that I won’t be running again until at least mid-February 2014 still annoys me. Can’t complain about the medical care though – even though my career as a knee model is in complete tatters. Nah… just two very small scars.

Sadly, when they “opened me up”, they found quite a lot of scar tissue, damage to my femur and arthritis. All the same, I’m going to be 38 in a few weeks – should I really be surprised that my joints aren’t virginal?

Le Japonisme

10629335304_6776625975_hIn October, we enjoyed our first ever trip to Japan – 8 days in Tokyo. It was the first holiday in a while when I was seriously bummed to be leaving for home. Normally I’ve had enough of any city after a week. I can report with certainty that Tokyo has shot to the top of my list of favourite cities. I’m smitten! I know we’ll be back – though it can’t come soon enough.

I can’t narrow down my reasons for loving Japan so much, but would point to the unfailing friendliness of every single person I met, along with the cleanliness and efficiency of Tokyo. I know we’ve only scratched the surface of Japan – it’s a bit like visiting London and saying you’ve “done” the UK.

I couldn’t escape Japan this year. We visited an amazing exhibit of Japanese calligraphy while in Madrid in November and then stumbled across an exhibition of Spanish-Japanese relations illustrating how the two countries have influenced each other in trade and art. Back in London, we went to see an exhibition of Japanese prints at the Old Truman Brewery.

Actually, there was quite a bit of travel in 2013, with excellent trips to Madrid, Mallorca, Amsterdam, Dublin and Edinburgh. Not including the business trips that were sprinkled across my calendar in 2013. I got much better at packing, in terms of both speed and economy. Multiple two-days trips for business have turned me into a ruthless packer and an expert shirt-folder.

Looking Ahead

Looking to 2014, I wonder if it can top the roller coaster that was 2013. A few friends have commented on what a busy (and exciting!) year it was. I’m hoping 2014 is as much fun, but contains fewer injuries, illnesses and undesirable business trips. I’m looking for more fun travel, more music (watch this space) and bigger and better things on the work front.

But who knows? The best laid plans and all that…

If I – and those closest to me – can have a healthy and happy 2014, well…who could ask for anything more? And to you – you random hordes who seem to visit this blog in ever-increasing numbers – to you I say this: thanks for sharing 2013 with me. I hope you’ll hang around for 2014. And I hope it’s been as much fun for you as it has me.

Onwards and upwards…or as the great Stan Lee would say: Excelsior!

Easy does it…

11479991986_ac6cb5d005_bThe recovery from knee surgery continues. Like something from a biblical story, I cast aside my crutches for the first time today and ventured out into the Canary Wharf shops.

It feels strange, but liberating, to be walking without the crutches. The strangest thing is how everyone walking around me pays no attention to me, where previously most had been careful to give me a wide berth. I have to walk mindfully and make sure I’m not leaning to one side. I’m definitely walking slower than usual, but there’s no limp.

So I can cancel the order for the parrot and eye-patch for the moment…

Walking in front of mirrors at the physio was quite an eye-opener…weeks on two crutches left me leaning towards the left like an old fella!

So I made it out and back in one piece and feel no pain as a result. In my knee, that is. But the workout I gave my right quads, which have withered away in the last few weeks, left me feeling like I’ve just hiked a very, very tall mountain.

Physio exercises, as well as time on an exercise bike this morning, are all contributing to muscle growth. But that of course implies a certain level of… ouch. This week’s sessions using the physio’s EMS machine was quite the experience. As Sean Connery might say, it was “shocking”.

(I’ll get my coat)

11370036526_0b02e839c6_bSeriously, it’s hard to stifle a giggle (or a yelp!) in response to an electric shock in your thigh, while simultaneously trying to tense the very muscle that doesn’t work. In front  of a stranger. While lying down.

And you can just make out – if you’re minded to look closely enough – the bald patches on my leg where previously-applied tape was removed after antagonising my skin last week.

I am never – ever – applying anything like that again without first shaving my leg(s). I’m just too hairy for all this nonsense. It’s like my sleep study all over again! Too many electrodes attached to too may hairy body parts.

But I’m taking all this muscle ache as a good side that recovery continues.

I went for a swim this evening in our pool and was very glad I had the place to myself. No stroke was easy and breast-stroke in particular left me looking like a drowning frog. Far from graceful, even for me.

So no running for another two months, but plenty of opportunity to cycle and swim my way back to a reasonable level of fitness.

And we won’t dwell on the 5kg I’ve put on in the last two months.

Not for a moment.

(Damn you, mince pies…)

Coaching with Nike+

kb_20971_1An update to Nike+ apparently adds a virtual coach to the app – it looks interesting and, for some people at least, will provide a manageable and sensible schedule to prepare for that next race. While running *looks* easy – one foot in front of the other – knowing how to get ready for any race can be difficult, especially if you compare yourself to more advanced runner.

That way lies madness, tears and injury.

If this provides realistic plans for distance, scheduling and speeds, then I’m all for it.

Especially as I’ll essentially be starting from scratch once I begin to run again in a couple of months. I’ll have had at least 4 months off due to my knee injury and subsequent surgery. I’m itching to get back into it, but have another two months to wait until it’s safe. So it’s just swimming and cycling for me until then.

I’ll definitely try Nike+ out on my first runs and, if the coaching functionality is any good, use it to prepare for my first half-marathon of 2014.

Whenever that is…

On the mend

I’m finally feeling like I’m on the other side of this knee surgery. I’ve had two sessions of physio and can feel the benefit of both. The evening after each session, my knee – actually my entire right leg – felt like it’d been mauled by a bear. But the following morning, I had more freedom of movement in the joint, less stiffness and far less pain.

I can feel improvements daily, along with reduced pain. As important is my increased confidence that I can use the leg and not fall over! I’ve moved from needing the crutches to get around, to only using them when outside of the apartment. Yesterday, I found myself walking around Canary Wharf (not my best idea – it was one of the special kids-focused afternoons!) using the crutches more as a security blanket than providing me with actual support.

Continue reading “On the mend”

Knee Surgery: Day Six

Part six in my self-absorbed diary of recovery from relatively minor knee surgery…

This morning’s chore was to remove the dressings on my knee and replace with cleaner, smaller ones. I have to say I wasn’t looking forward to this one bit. I even reached into the stash of painkillers a little early, to steel myself.

I am, essentially, a wuss.

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Taking off the outer bandage was easy, if awkward. Basically, my right leg still isn’t cooperating and bending where it should, leaving me moving a lot like a mannequin. If one came to life…

Once that was off, the true horror of what lay beneath was laid bare. Two small dressings and a lot of dried blood. Oh. Disappointing. And the knee looked okay, if swollen. When I think of the pain on the inside, the outside really doesn’t do it justice.

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I then took a long, glorious shower, my first since surgery last Tuesday morning. Oh god, it was beautiful. Indescribably delicious. I scrubbed and soaped myself back to my pre-op state. I could have stayed in there for hours. Except I was wobbly due to my knee and the recently ingested painkillers. On reflection, they probably contributed to the shower euphoria.

I also had to remove the two large plasters covering my wounds and replace them. Due to the hairiness of my legs, I opted to do this while in the shower – hoping the water would loosen them up a bit. In short, it was horrifically painful, but just for a minute. You can also see that the left hand wound was unhelpfully covered by adhesive plaster, not dressing. This made it really, really painful to take off.

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After everything was nice and clean, I took a break before putting on fresh dressings to let the wounds dry. The above photo shows just how small the wounds are. Obviously, what it doesn’t show is what went on underneath and I’m glad I didn’t witness that. I imagine it involved large steel implements and a hammer. Orthopaedic surgeons aren’t known for their hesitant nature.

Just a few minutes later, I had a couple of fresh dressings on and was back on my feet, hobbling around again. Having shared the pics with my sister – an ex-nurse – I was given the seal of approval for a job well done.

An additional major milestone today may be going down five floors in the lift to get a breath of fresh air at the entrance to our apartment block. That aside, I’m guessing there’ll be more sleep. And not much else.

I’m pooped.

But I’m also going a little stir-crazy and can’t remember the last time I was stuck at home for such an extended period. Physio begins on Tuesday, so I need to start  planning how I’ll get from here to there. It’s a 10-minute walk across the Canary Wharf estate….for normal people.

I’m estimating a 45-minute shuffle with crutches. And breaks along the way.

Knee Surgery: Day Five

Prescription-Painkillers

I wasn’t going to even write two posts with updates on my post-surgery experience, but I’ve noticed they’ve actually been quite popular. Either lots of you are having or have had knee surgery and are empathising with me or scaring yourselves silly…or I’ve tapped into a whole new fetish scene.

Either way…brace yourselves.

Today was not a good day on a knee front. I’ve been in a fair amount of pain – effectively chasing the pain with the painkillers. Which is never a good plan. My knee actually feels like it’s changing shape inside – which I know it’s not – but no single sitting/lying position is comfortable for more than about 15 minutes.

If I’m feeling positive, that’s just a sign of healing taking place. A less positive (and therefore more familiar) perspective would be that the surgery has gone horribly wrong and I’ll never walk normally again.

I’ve also been feeling very grumpy. A real joy to be around. After being woken up by roadworks at 4am this morning (don’t ask!), I was a tad tired. This culminated in an unplanned nap/falling unconscious on the couch this afternoon for two hours. Immediately after taking some pills.

I’m left stiff, sore and counting down the hours until I can take my next painkiller. It’s hard to concentrate on anything – reading, listening to podcasts, TV.

My dressings are coming off tomorrow and I’ll be able to take my first proper shower (too much information?) which I hope will give me a boost. Half-hearted attempts with a wash-cloth just aren’t the same. The dressing covers a third of my leg and is a bit like a mini-cast, so without it, I’m hoping that I’ll have more freedom of motion in the joint as well – making my physio exercises a little easier.

We can summarise today as “harrumph” and quickly move on.

Accentuating the positive, I got a lovely “Get Well Soon” gift from @MadTante all the way over in the US, had a nice call from a friend, another from my mum and @FrankDJS is cooking us a cracking dinner.

Onwards and upwards.

(With a lot of help of Tremadol).

Knee Surgery: Day Four

I’m sub-titling this post “Planning for Recovery”.

Even though it sounds like something a politician in a failing state would name a bland economic document.

Anyway.

The post-op stiffness has decreased quite a lot overnight – I’m walking a little less like John Wayne and more like Nathan Lane pretending to be John Wayne (The Birdcage….anyone?). The pain is there, even with the painkillers, but I’ve been bravely pushing though on the post-op exercises the surgeon and physio recommended. I’m brave, me. (Not really).

I’ll be honest, it’s tiresome rather than agony. Like having a migraine in my leg. I keep forgetting (somehow) I’m all strapped up and get my foot caught in the duvet, or bang it off a table leg as I’m sitting down.

Then I’m reminded that I had a (probably not very gentle) orthopaedic surgeon rooting around in there less than a week ago.

Sleeping aside – and seriously, I cannot get over how tired this has left me – I’ve been planning for the future. I’ve arranged my post-op check up with the surgeon and my first physio session. By chance, the recommended local physio is a sports specialist too. So I can get some sensible advice about a return to sporting activity while I’m there.

That aside, I’ve been reading some interesting stories of how people have get back on the saddle (metaphorically speaking and sometimes quite literally) after this kind of setback and continued running seriously.

I’ve also mentally spent a small fortune on new gear for when I’m able to exercise again: new trainers (the old ones have next to no cushioning on them), new bike (to break up the impact on my knees) and all the various bits and bobs that go with a bike.

No money has yet changed hands – even I wouldn’t by a bike off the internet, sight unseen. I’ll have to do some more research and visit some stores. But I think it’s a relatively easy way to return to activity without thumping the bejaysus out of my knees.

Putting all that aside, I’m back to work on Monday. Even working from home, it’s not going to be easy. What with my tendency to fall asleep at a moment’s notice. My plan is to sleep as much as possible this weekend and hopefully get that recovery phase out of the way.

Very minor walking next week, physio on Tuesday and more of a plan after that.

One, slightly camp, step at a time.