2 Months Post Cheilectomy

So, a couple of months ago I wrote a post describing my Cheilectomy experience. I’ve been back to see the surgeon for my 6 week review and would like to document how I’m doing so far…

First up… The scar… The scar has actually healed up nicely. There were a couple of stitches that took a while to fall out but they did after about 7 weeks. It’s still a bit numb around the incision site, but that’s to be expected.

Next… The pain… I can walk in my Adidas Boosts, but if I attempt to wear ballet pumps or flat boots when out for dinner/pub it gets very sore. The movement when I manipulate my toe by hand, seems to have improved, however clenching or flexing the toe can be quite painful. It’s as if it’s gone stiff, it’s less joint pain and more tendon pain, I think.

Finally, exercise. This is the biggie for me. Especially at this time of year with the inevitable S.A.D caused by the dark nights. I can’t run, and won’t run until January under the advice of the surgeon. I can, however walk normally, ride my bike for hours and take up spin classes. I’ve also been trying out swimming, but I’m finding it really hard to get myself to the pool at the slightly less sociable hours of either 6am Friday or 8PM Monday…Of course I can go to normal sessions at better hours, however it’s not the same as swimming with a club and a coach.

In all, I’ve been in a bit of a funk these past few weeks. I’ve not been as active as I’d like so I’m agitated, I’m also jealous of all the races my friends are doing that I can’t get involved in. When I’m in this funk, and I think I’ll be in it for a while since it’s winter, it’s hard to see past it. It’s hard to keep reminding myself that it’s going to get better and that the surgery was for my long term health over short term.

If you’re also having to stop doing something you enjoy due to injury or anything else, what are you doing to keep your spirits up?

Also, anyone who swims; what are your tips to keep it interesting?

How to ‘Endure24’ hours of running…

Endure 24 is something else. It’s an actual festival for runners. There’s campsites, glamping and an events village. It’s also in Bramham Park in Leeds where many moons ago I’d be watching Dizzee Rascal and the Libertines perform … 5 or 7 pints in. These last two years, though, I’ve been with a group of mates and a load of other runners, preparing to run laps of a 5 mile course in 24 hours!

Arriving on Friday night, teams of people or solo runners will be sitting round chatting, eating pizza and setting up their tents. Some might be having a beer… *ahem* On Saturday Morning, more runners will be arriving, there’ll be a nice little buzz while they’re all getting team t-shirts and wrist bands organised. The race starts at 12.

There really isn’t any pressure to run a good time. You’ll be working together with your own team, to make sure the next runner is ready at the transition point. This includes swapping wristbands with the person running after you, and waking up the person due to run after them! I must admit, I found it hard to sleep. I was terrified of missing my turn and leaving my team mate at the finish line shouting my name!

The camping is great, the showers are warm (until around Sunday morning and then you’re better off waiting till you get home) and the company is lovely! I would 100% recommend doing this if you get the chance. Make sure you get there on the Friday night, it makes the weekend much more fun!

 

Lone Rider

Finding the confidence to cycle alone

I did it.

I took Florence Cannondale on a ride ON.MY.OWN.

I plotted a route on Strava to Gibside and just went for it… I can’t believe how scared I’ve been this whole time. Not going to lie, it was pretty scary on the roads where I wasn’t sure I was following the law or not, but I caused no accidents and no one beeped at me so that’s a win in my eyes.

Plan Ahead

I have fairly bad anxiety, most of which is down to my own, or other peoples perception of me. I feel like the whole world is watching me, and waiting for me to fail. It’s not true… No one actually cares what I do as long as I’m not hurting anyone. It took a long time for me to learn this. As a result, I generally put myself off doing things I want to do. It took me ages to convince myself to go out running on my own, so obviously I have been terrified of venturing any further than 3 – 5 miles on my bike unless I’m with someone (and I have to really trust that someone).

In order for me to get out on my own, I took the opportunity to cycle out to a place called Gibside near Durham at the weekend. There was a running race there, which a few of my friends were taking part in. Due to FOMO, I wanted to do something, so decided I’d cycle there to support them then cycle home. I took to strava and created my own route. Strava is pretty smart, it’ll try to plot a route using other peoples rides by popularity. I would 100% recommend this if you’re like me and terrible at getting anywhere! Once I had this down, I scoured google street view to check what the roads were like, what the turn offs looked like and for any other note worthy things to verify I was going the right way.

Use a ‘Bike Computer’ or your phone for directions

When I took a pledge to get fit in 2015, one of my goals was to start cycling. I took advantage of a scheme at work which offered the use of a bike for £30 over one month. At the end of the month, you got the £30 back (absolutely crackin’ idea). On the first day, I tried peddling home. I was too embarrassed to wear the helmet and stuck to riding on the pavement… What should have taken me 20-25 minutes, took me 1 hour because I kept getting lost and having to stop and check my phone. (I have lived in the north east for 20 years… Newcastle for about 4 … ffs) I eventually sorted myself out, bought my own bike and absolutely loved it!

It’s my birthday soon so fortunately for me, I got a Wahoo ELEMENT off my boyfriend. They can be pricey, however I can’t express how thankful I am for it. Since I’m clearly useless at finding my way round unless I’ve walked the route a billion times, I am pretty worried I’ll get lost 15 miles away from home, the ELEMENT was the MOST helpful thing. It has a map screen with the route plotted out so you can see where you’re going and it can keep up with you too! Very much like a Sat Nav, but with a page for your average speed, pace and elevation.

The route was an out and back, 25 miles or so in total and fairly off road for the most part which I thought would be a good introduction. I am still very nervous, however the fact I had the Wahoo right in front of me, kept me right. The obsessive studying of Google street view also helped….

It’s good to know what your weaknesses are and try to work on them. I was nervous about getting lost or taking a road I should be on. So I made sure I plotted the route, loaded it onto my bike computer and checked streeview to make sure I knew what to look out for. I was beaming as soon as I got back to Newcastle and I knew where I was going without directions.

Stop holding yourself back

9 times out of 10, the only thing holding you back is yourself. Once you bite the bullet and just do the thing you’ve been dreaming of, you’ll find that you’ve overthought the entire task and it’s nowhere near as bad as you thought. You WILL be scared and you WILL make mistakes, but if you just give yourself a break you’ll get there in the end. Sounds simplified, but it’s the honest to jeezuz truth.

Running and Anxiety

Why is worry such a taboo feeling? It’s not BAD to worry, so why do we tell people to ‘stop worrying’…. Owning your worry might actually help! One thing I’ve learned whilst going through CBT is that worry is something that can be helpful. If you’re worried about a presentation at work, it means you can do something about it, speak to your manager and prep a bit more. On the other hand, worry can be something you can’t control, like whether someone likes you or not. The latter… I’m trying to let go of.

I worry a lot about peoples perception of me. I worry that I’m saying the wrong thing, or doing the wrong thing. I’ll the ruminate over a situation and immediately jump to the defensive when someone speaks to me out of turn. That’s where anxiety rears it’s ugly head. I’ll sit and twist, speculating over what this person has said, why they’ve said it and what to do about it. I’ll confront them (this is new, I used to be fairly sedate and would lash out completely out of context later down the line), I’ll confront, then I’ll settle down then I’ll look back and think…. ‘OMG they must think I’m an idiot… I am an idiot, I’m awful…. I was completely wrong, but I can’t say anything now…’

The thing is, I’ve struggled with this my whole life. I had nothing else in my life other than a job I hated and my friends. If I were to lose my friends, what did I have? Running and exercise have helped give me balance. I am proud of myself, people express praise towards me if I do well and I express praise to them. I’m happier and more productive as I have a small sense of worth, whereas before my worth was non-existent and I put it all on my friends and family. That makes you jealous, makes you compare yourself an ultimately makes you miserable. The fact I’ve now chosen to refer myself to counselling has helped heaps. Though it hasn’t made me better and never will. I’ll still have days where I feel as though everyone hates me, that they just put up with me because they have to and that I’ll not ever be happy. It’s something I’m working on and I now have a release where I can switch my brain off for 30-45 minutes.

 

Do you have anxiety? What steps are you taking to tackle those thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running with Arthritis

Not many people at 27 can say they’ve arthritis. I wasn’t actually expecting a consultant to list a joint replacement as a way to sort out some pain in my foot. He did though, so that was great…

Thankfully, a joint fusion or replacement is the last resort for this kind of thing; do not fret! Over the last 2 years I’ve been running consistently (about 3 times a week) every week. The pain in my foot eventually became a bit too much, though… No one should deal have to deal with Chronic pain at any age, so I was eventually convinced to see my Doctor. Here’s my experience… It may be very similar to yours… or very different!

I have had arthritis in my big toe for around 4-5 years, unbeknownst to me. I assumed the pain was a tendon injury and would get better over time, but it didn’t… I just got used to it. Eventually, as I began running more, and getting better and faster at it, this pain began to interfere. I was injuring myself due to overcompensation. I was cutting long runs short and avoiding entering marathons for fear I’d not be able to do them. This is obviously not right, so I decided to see the doctor. The doctor gave me ibuprofen gel and sent me on my merry way. Great.

One evening, I went to a physiotherapist to look at my knee which had developed tendinitis (Though I was pretty concerned that it, too, was arthritis)…. It got better, though and turns out it was yet another injury caused by my foot pain. The physio urged me to get an x-ray on my foot as I should not have experienced pain and discomfort for as long as I had.

I went to my GP the following week (I know, my Dr Surgery is pretty good with appointments). My GP referred me for an x-ray which I had a month later and was kindly told that there was signs of osteoarthritis and she wanted me to get an MRI. WHAT THE FLIP?

Following the MRI I was referred to a specialist surgical consultant who offered me Cheilectomy. A procedure that essentially shaves off bone spurs that have developed and that are causing me pain and discomfort. Well that of course opened the door to many a question, such as:

Was this my fault?

– No, this is something that would have happened had you been a runner or not

Will it make me completely pain free?

-That’s the plan, though it’s not guaranteed. It might make it better but it won’t make it worse. Over time, the arthritis will come back and it may be that the joint is fused or replaced, but that’s for future Kate to worry about.

How long will I not be able to run for?

-Its different for different people. It could be 2-3 months, it could be 6 to a year. As long as you look after yourself, the quicker you’ll likely get better.

Most importantly, how long will I get off work?

– You’ll need at least 2 weeks, maybe 3?

 

Wait… Time off work?

SIGNMEUP

Just kidding…. Kind of

 

Anyway… I eventually got a date for surgery which gave me about 6 months before I’d have to hang up my running shoes for a while. I made the most of my summer, I took part in Endure24, a 24 hour relay race, completing 35 miles over that time (It was amazing… Blog post coming soon) We arranged a beer mile at our local track which was hilarious and I improved my 5k, 10k and Half Marathon times. What I’m most proud of, however, was my half marathon time PB is now 1:40… ONE HOUR AND FORTY!!!?? This was also a week before the op, which was insane. I never thought I’d see the day.

This pain in my foot was holding me back so much, mentally. Once I knew what was wrong, found a solution and was told the running wasn’t the cause, it was like a switch went off in my head!

Day of the op:

So, the big day arrived… First ever surgery, first time put under general anesthetic and I was kind of pooping my pants… I arrived at 6:50am after cycling to the hospital… There was a beautiful sunrise and not a car in sight. Super chill start to the day.

I was whisked into a day ward where I was assessed, given a gown and had the procedure explained to me. I was super nervous so it was like talking to a brick wall, but I remember the anesthetist explaining that he was going to numb my foot when I was under general anesthetic. FUN!

There were 4 of us on the ward, and I was the last to go in. This meant I was allowed a coffee and some toast … SCORE! Finally. after waiting all day and watching people get wheeled away one by one, it was my turn. I was wheeled down to theater.  I sat and watched other patients coming round from General Anesthetic which actually soothed my nerves.  I had to give my details, sign some forms and tell them my date of birth for the 10th time and then went to the operating room. I remember talking about cycling to the anesthetist and his assistant and then waking up back in the theater waiting room with a freezing cold foot and feeling a bit drowsy.

Once I’d discovered that my foot wasn’t in fact cold, it was just numb I realised I was DESPERATE for a wee(nice) and absolutely famished. Turns out I don’t have a bad reaction to the anesthetic and was fairly fresh once I was fully awake… Lucky me.

I was brought onto a ward where my bloods were taken, I was given my pain meds and was visited by my mam, gran and boyfriend who all brought me chocolate, crisps and grapes. The rest of my stay was uneventful. The little old lady in the corner snored all night and I couldn’t figure out how to use the bed. I watched netflix most of the time and ate my chocolate. Eventually, I got sick of being stuck in the upright position, and instead of buzzing for the nurse, I texted my nurse friend to ask how the electric beds work…. Come on, Kate.

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I was then assessed in the morning, given some crutches and shown how to use them and then sent home. I got a taxi with my mam and gran who came to chaperone me, and spent the next two weeks with my foot elevated and food made and presented to me every day…. Thank you, BIG TOE!!

2 weeks post op:

The first 2 weeks following the surgery, I was instructed to stay on the couch and not do anything other than make some tea and go to the loo. This was absolutely fine as the Codeine was knocking me out after every dose, so….

By the second week, I was walking on the most part without the crutches and the codeine wasn’t having as strong an effect on me. I went to my friends wedding which wasn’t a HUGE deal. I sat down mostly, elevated my foot as much as I could, and ALWAYS used the crutches. Still, I found I was putting weight on the outside of my foot which was causing some new discomfort there… Good one, Kate.

4 Weeks post op:

Back to work! I’m managing walking okay, though I’m still placing a lot of my weight on the outside of my foot. I had the dressing changed, and the sutures are healing okay. I’ve been changing my dressing myself now, and have found that the bottom end of the stitches is taking a bit longer to heal… Doubt it’s anything to worry about.

The pain is still there 😦 I’m stretching and flexing my foot as much as I can following the instruction of the Hospital Physio. Ibuprofen has been a huge help!

 

I have my follow up appointment with the consultant next week so I’ll update after that! Hopefully I’ll get a good idea of how long I have to wait before I can start running again!

 

I definitely do not regret getting the procedure and it’s very early days. I do have a LOT more mobility in my toe, and despite the stiffness and soreness, I can feel an improvement and can tell the bone spurs are gone! If you’re experiencing any pain, please make sure you rest and take your time. If it continues, you really need to visit your doctor for a referral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decathlons BTWIN Triban 500

In 2015, in my desperate attempt to change my life and lose weight, I came up with an amazing idea of cycling to work rather than take the bus. I saved up, bought a LOVELY hybrid and it was great! It was something I’d wanted to do for years, but I had anxiety about crashing, or making a fool of myself (classic Kate… Though I did crash and it cost me £175 and a seriously bruised hip… and ego) After I bought the hybrid, I signed up for a sportive due to take place in 2016 called the Tour o’ the Borders as my job were offering discounted entry and a bus to the start line. Despite trying to go on 20 mile rides on this bike, I was really struggling to keep up on the long training rides with the BOYF and we were starting to worry about how I would be at the sportive in a couple of months.

I agreed that I would rather have a road bike and that I could buy a second hand one, or a cheap one and sell it if I decided I didn’t want to pursue road biking as a hobby. The boyfriend suggested the Decathlon in house bike the BTwin triban 500 as it was super low cost and had raving reviews. It was around £280 and so again, I saved up and bought it. This was in time for one training ride… I’d never used clipped in pedals before and I was honest to God TERRIFIED. I would go on training rides and be more exhausted from the fear of riding on the road, clipped on to my bike rather than the actual effort of riding.

Btwin

Btwin this year in the Peak District! Great Ride!

I thought I’d include some specification, despite being super uneducated on the subject! It  has an 8-speed micro-shift chain-set and I believe many of the components are in house brands (Decathlon).  I came to learn that this group-set was not all that great. The chain-set was almost impossible to change without them grinding. That said, this could be down to my lack of experience and poor understanding of the gears and how they work together. The breaks were okay, but I struggled to reach them (Get a bike fit, kids!) It took me a good while before I was happy enough on the bike to go onto the drop bars, which made gripping the breaks 100% easier….

Overall, the bike is really nice to look at. The Blue details on the handlebars and the carbon grey finish on the frame makes it look super professional and I honestly did not feel out of place on the road or at the Tour o’ the Borders. I’ve covered miles and miles on this bike with little to no issues, and I would honestly recommend it for any beginner. At 10.8g it’s super light, which means you can fly down big stretches of country road (not necessarily over many of Northumberlands’ roads… no shade) and you can really power up impressive climbs. I rode it over Wrynoes Pass this summer in the lakes, and Ryals here in Northumberland.

I think, if you’re really looking to start out, Decathlon are absolute stars with their in-house bikes and I doubt anyone would turn their nose up at them. You’ll get complements for days ESPECIALLY when you tell the lads at the cafe stop that you paid around a grand less for your bike and are covering the same ground hehe.

How to start running

Yes! You want to start running! Great, good, excellent! As someone who tried and gave up multiple times before running finally clicked, I’ve typed up 5 things I’ve learned that contributed to my improvements and motivation over time.

 

  1. Find a running buddy

I think this is a pretty tough one for most people. I fortunately have a boyfriend who runs a lot, runs well and has done for years. He was my encouragement, and I often refer to him as my coach as he helps me come up with plans and goals to help me get where I want to be. These goals are based on my own ambitions and its amazing to have someone to hash them out with. If, like me, your friends don’t particularly want to run, it may be worth joining a group. Joining a group means you’ll be surrounded by like minded people, you’ll feed off each others enthusiasm and there’ll always be someone going to a race on the weekend that you might want to tag along to.

I’m a massive introvert and occasionally socially anxious, so when I’m with a group, I always feel like I have to fill a silence. When you’re running, you don’t have to; people are understanding if you’re out of breath or working hard and it’s just… in general, less awkward!

2. New Kit!

Honestly, new running clothes make me feel class! New kit day means I want to go out and wear them…. Sooooo shallow, but tell me I’m not right. Have a look at Sportsshoes, Wiggle and Start Fitness; they often have some really good deals and you don’t need to spend too much for some quality kit.

3. Trainers

I am an over-pronator, though I’ve never had an official gait analysis. Over time I’ve noticed patterns with any injuries I get, and have found that extra support trainers work for me. My favorite are the Sauconey Guide series, preferably the 7s or 9’s though I’m fairly sure they’ve discontinued the 7’s… which is sad 😦 .

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Guide 7

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Guide 9’s

You’ll learn what works for you as you go, but I would still recommend putting down a bit more money for trainers as they’re a pretty important investment if you want to enjoy your training! Still, checkout the websites I mentioned earlier, you might get a really good deal!

4. Sign up for races

I made a resolution in December 2015 to sign up and run at least 5 races in the new year. That helped motivate me to keep training because the more I ran, the easier racing got! I got away with running about once a week at my local Parkrun for a couple of months, but as the desire to improve increased, my boyfriend and I agreed I should probably run more. That’s the point I decided to join a club. Clubs often run twice a week and one of those sessions might include a workout; hill repetitions or speed repetitions. I couldn’t see the point in these sessions, but as time went on, I started to notice big improvements. My race times were getting quicker and I was starting to enjoy my longer runs. I would have never done these kinds of sessions on my own, so it’s really worth considering a club if you’re looking to improve or even enjoy running a bit more.

5. Be easy on yourself

In reality, you’re only going to get out there if you WANT to run. You’ll have to force yourself a lot in the beginning (and sometimes long after you first start out), and running for a club can be daunting. I know I get exhausted in social situations, so pairing that with running was pretty tough. I also used to be right at the back of club runs, having the faster runners come back for me, or wait for me to catch up. I persevered, I had this WANT to be better and I’m now one of the faster runners in my group and I can’t tell you how proud of myself I am. I also now see how much I do not mind doubling back for the slower runners… I also really don’t mind stopping and waiting…. Turns out, no-one minds! *mind . blown*

It took me 2 years to get to where I wanted to be, and I’m not prepared to stop. I love running, I took my time and listened to the support and encouragement from my faster friends. Look after yourself, take it easy and if you get injured don’t get disheartened. Look up ways to strengthen weaker areas, tell yourself you’ll pick up where you left off before hand and you’ll do great!

 

The hardest part is convincing yourself that you’re good enough… And you are, so just go for it!