Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A Long Cold Summer

I’ve been trying to keep up with my running since completing the Great South Run – if I don’t keep the momentum going now as the days start to get darker and colder, I’ll fail completely when winter really sets in! This is my second winter with diabetes. Last year was horrible, not least because I didn’t really have a summer before it and autumn was particularly bad in this country. My summer was ruined by my diagnosis, of course, but in particular it was the huge number of drugs I was put on. Worst of all were the beta-blockers. I’d had a problem with my heart (myocarditis) when diagnosed and had been restricted to only very light exercise for about two months. This meant I lost much of my fitness from my training for the Stockholm Marathon.

When they finally allowed me to do some gentle running I suffered even more. I didn’t feel I had a problem with my heart, but found that a short run at a very gentle pace would soon have me feeling as though I’d rowed the Atlantic or something. After reading up, I discovered that beta-blockers work by restricting your heart rate to below 100 beats per minute (bpm). As I needed to push my heart up to at least 140 bpm to run comfortably, it meant that my heart was not able to pump the oxygen-carrying blood to my muscles quickly enough, so they became fatigued. The beta blockers also had the effect of making me feel cold ALL the time – even in bright summer sunshine I felt chilled to the bone. I developed chilblains on my toes for the first time in my life.

So, the drugs that were supposed to be saving my life (potentially, by not letting my heart work too hard) were ruining my quality of life. Thankfully, I persuaded the doctors that my heart was fine and could finally get on with my life. If I never have to take those pills again it won’t be soon enough! I found it interesting that, despite all the recommendations I’d had that running – good, sustained, aerobic exercise – was the ideal sport to pursue to gain a healthy heart, I was being stopped from doing it by the very same people who recommended it!

I managed the Great South Run last year, but on very little training so I did feel somewhat dissatisfied. But it was also an achievement to run with diabetes for the first time, so not a wholly unrewarding experience. This year my training was badly disrupted by injury – just little muscle tears, but enough to stop me from training for a while. I didn’t want to miss the event because I had a lot of sponsors. But I was still a little disappointed not to be at my best in the race. It was an improvement on last year, but I’m hoping that next year will be much better. I won’t achieve that without putting in the effort now!

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