I finished a book this week that I want to share with you as it has both supported and inspired me over most of this last year of my life.
Cold by Sir Ranulph Fiennes – I began to read it as I started chemotherapy. His adventures, difficulties and pure brutal determination to keep going to achieve his goals kept me going.
Due to the effects of chemo brain – horrendous loss of both my concentration and memory, I had to put the book down for a long time. My ability to read isn’t 100% back to full capability, I tend to fall asleep if I read too long and can’t concentrate if there’s even a little background noise, but I am beginning to at least remember what I’ve read. Over the last couple of months I’ve therefore gone back to Cold – I’ve had to re-read a lot of the book having lost what I’d covered to ‘the fog’, however I feel grateful for that instead of sad…it’s meant I can fully understand and appreciate this mans accomplishments.
Doing excursion after excursion, in temperatures that cold and dangerous they boggle the mind, then taking on the world of solo challenges, are to me, just super human – he was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. His unflinching description of the difficulty that cold brought to each challenge is quite horrific at times. But it made me appreciate my struggles, put my suffering into context and helped me get through the harder days.
I was saddened to read that following his last solo excursion he lost his wife to cancer. He was left with a void that I somewhat understand, his description of needing to feel again and do something meaningful…regardless of all he’d done before, reflects my current position – we’ve just suffered different losses.
His next big thing was something I’d never been aware of him achieving, but as a fellow runner I take my hat off to him for, especially given all he’d been through beforehand…he ran seven marathons, in seven days on seven continents. Then did the North Pole Marathon and finished 2nd before taking his first go at climbing Everest…it would take him another two attempts to get to the summit, climbing the Eiger North Face beforehand, but in 2009 he made it and became the oldest Briton and first OAP to reach the summit of Everest.
It truly goes to show that human ability is only limited by the limitations we place upon ourselves. We can do more than we ever think possible, and for some of us ‘no’ is not an option.
Sunday – My recovery day and I made sure I never left the house. I felt alright but was stiff in my joints as I got up and by mid-afternoon I knew a little yoga was needed. I followed Yoga For Flexibility and Yoga For Blood Flow…the difference afterwards was amazing – however I was really emotional and a little drained. I slept on and off to a film before dinner and feel the extra sleep helped ground me.
Monday – The first run of my last cut back week in my Ultra training. My recovery run was good but my body seemed convinced I was going further and it didn’t want me too. It felt hard work at times over the first 4K to find a good rhythm and I had achy legs, once 4K hit then all was fine and I could have kept going past the 6.5K mark if I’d needed to.
I spent the morning making arrangements to go and have my will signed the next day, readying my documents and sorting financial details into a better order.
During the afternoon I completed my art competition piece…feeling a deep sense of satisfaction but also loss at having finished it.
My body still felt a little tight and tense and so I did a short 12 minute yoga session…Yoga For Brain Power, to waken me up and ready me for catching up with a friend before coming home to cook dinner.
Tuesday – I awoke feeling yawny but fresh and did half an hours leg & core strength and conditioning with Pop Sugar, then followed Yoga With Adrienne for Yoga for Blood Flow and Yoga To Feel Your Best.
I had a lovely walk up the hill after my breakfast, there was a little tightness in my left adductor but otherwise I felt really good and strong.
It poured down as I cross the meadow like field and came down onto the public footpath off the hill. I took great pleasure in being able to stand and watch a swallow swooping and feeding over the field as the rain cleared, then set off home and got nettled badly before the main road!
Once home I made sure to have a restful day reading before my evening spin class. Given it being cut back week I tried to make sure I took the class easier and didn’t push myself too much…easier said then done and I noticed a lot of tightness in my muscles when foam rolling in the evening.
Wednesday – I had a good steady 8K run, paced well and stayed at zone 3 heart rate throughout…but again the first 4K felt harder, then I hit the sweet spot and all was fine afterwards.
I had my psychotherapy appointment at hospital, I wanted to go to the Support Centre and see everyone but by the time I got off the bus I’d talked myself out of going…I felt as if I didn’t quite belong there, that I shouldn’t go…also that I didn’t want to as I’m no longer quite one of them…but what am I. I felt lost!
I went to Smorgas cafe instead, read while sipping a cappuccino and felt so calm.
Then I had to go into the hospital for my appointment. I felt immediately anxious, sick and emotional at having to sit in the waiting room where I first sat in July last year to be diagnosed. My visit a few weeks before had made me feel uneasy but this was awful and I wanted to run away…in the end I left and went to the toilet, stood and cried a while and only went back into the waiting room a couple of minutes before my appointment time. It will sound strange but the only comfort I had was that someone has rearranged the chairs since last July! I really believe what I felt was fear.
Seeing my psychotherapist was hard and emotionally draining, there are now signs of PTSD and I need to work with her going forwards. There will be a delay in her being able to see me and so I’ve been advised to seek support from the Cavendish Centre in the interim. She has agreed that going back to work on a slow phased return would be good given my personality, however I have to take it slowly to avoid burn out as my body will not have recovered until nearly the end of this year.
I left exhausted and can’t really remember the bit between leaving and sitting down in John Lewis to have lunch. I felt as if in a void. Seeing my Solicitors and having my will signed and witnessed was also surprisingly draining…I really felt I’d had to pop a pair of big girl pants on for that. At least however, I now have peace of mind in a strange way…I know this isn’t the right thing to think, but I feel as if now I’ve it in place then maybe I can jinx the cancer into never returning – it can’t come back because now I’m ready for it.
Thursday – I’d slept like a log and awoke to the sound of the birds and the realisation that it was chillier than I’d expected. My run was good, a little tightness in my calves but otherwise it definitely flowed better than the previous two. Again I paced well, took it slowly and stuck to a zone 3 heart rate throughout.
Once back I felt like I was rushing myself to get ready and set off to the flower show…of which in typical fashion I arrived early for anyway! Logistics were spot on so I parked with ease, wasn’t kept long waiting for a coffee and due to the number of entrances and high level of security I was in the show fluidly.
The breeze was blustery but the air hung with the smell of flowers…it was a divine sensory experience to walk around the show gardens, displays and stands – the floral marquee was like a different world, incredible and beautiful. I listened to talks, saw demos and in the Power Of Trees I felt like I’d been transported to a magical forest…the brain knew I was on the flatter barer parkland but the eye was filled with towering greenery and the smell of wood being turned and worked. The whole show gave me a deep sense of calm and I’m so pleased I attended.
Friday – I felt really tired toward the end of Thursday and so Friday morning I dialled things down a little further still. I did 10minutes of yoga to help me wake up then did some strength work. My strength training on a Friday is all upper body but I did just half an hour instead of 50minutes and then 35 minutes of Yoga To Respect and Replenish.
I went to Buxton and submitted my art piece, if felt odd handing it over…also slight relief at the brief look at prices on other work in the Gallery and realising what I’m asking for mine is perfectly reasonable.
By the time I got home, having driven through an awful rain storm I was exhausted. A good hours sleep helped and I felt so much better afterwards.
Saturday – The rain was like a light fog when I got up at 5am. It got a little heavier as I set off just after 7am.
My run went well and felt really good and fresh…no issues of leaden legs or aches over the first 4K like I’d had in the week, but I did know when I’d got to 5K. It felt like I’d flicked a switch and I soon got into a good comfortable stride.
All was fine until I got back to the main road and it was head wind and rain all the way back…1.5K of feeling a bit like I was pushing someone else infront of me. It was a fine rain as I’d left, then dried up and the sun came out so I started to sweat in my waterproof. I did think about taking it off but knew it was due to lash down and figured it’d give me chance to get used to varying heats. By the time it started to rain heavily I was thankfully enroute back as my sweat was cooling me off a lot and the rain made me chilly. A hot shower and two coffees and I started warming nicely but my brain still felt a bit fudgey and I felt tired on and off all day.
Sunday – I’ve had a peaceful nights sleep and have a day free to just be me. I’ll potter in the garden if dry enough and may do a little yoga later. For now it’s just coffee, listening to birdsong and resting.