Splashdown…

Tonight, I was back in the pool for the first time in two weeks. 

I was a bit concerned, at first,  my peak flow suggested that there is still some airway obstruction. However, I did as I always do and took a few puffs of salbutamol and then, away I went. 

The first length was tough, I learnt tumble turns some months ago, for those who are familiar with tumble turns (or flip turns as they are sometimes known) they are far from easy to learn. For those who see them on the telly and think, they look easy take it from me, they’re not! You have to get your distance, positioning and breathing right, in a split second! Get it wrong and you either, kick out at water and look silly, breathe in under water, come up gasping with snot running down your face or worse, injure yourself. 

Tumble turns, take hours and hours of practice, the first few weeks proved tough, in fact I hated them, but now they are second nature and getting easier. Tonight, however I saw the wall and panicked. I was so annoyed with myself, my flip turn had flipped back, two months.
So tonight, I concerned myself with swimming widths, doing a tumble turn, swimming another width and so on. Pushing myself and working hard to regain confidence. 

I also took the oppurtunity to do some balance and strenghthening work, to help my creaking joints. Arthritis is crap, it hurts and you feel as stiff as an old carthorse, this has been my life for 15 years, but determined not to focus on the negative and spend my days bemoaning my lot,  fixated on the pain I’m in, though I hold my hands up, of being guilty of this, somedays, I try to translate this into something with a more positiv.

Finally, as still have a nagging fear of deep water, I decided to pencil jump, into to pool, the pool is 10 ft deep. What actually happened was that, force of the water, shot my goggles over my face and I got my eyes full stinging, chlorinated water. The result was that I came spluttering back to the surface looking very uncool indead! 

Things can only get better…

It’s time for a very long, over due update…

I haven’t blogged for months, there’s lots to update, on!

In August, I picked up a repetitive strain injury in my right elbow, which meant I was out of the pool for three weeks. It was an incredibly frustrating three weeks. Thanks to support and advice from other swimmers, Google is an amazing resource,  I have changed my arm pull, but I’m get to to really see if this will make a difference.

By this point, it was early September and after over 300 days of counting, I was eagerly awaiting my holiday to Lanzarote, a week of relaxation and swimming in outdoor pools. 

Then on Friday, six days before I was due to fly, I awoke with a sore throat and my peak flow, had taken a decidedly downward progession, bugger. I used my nebuliser and rang my nurse, her advice was no nonsense and to the point “if we’re to have any chance of getting you to Lanzarote, we need to get you on prednisolone, today”. Bugger! 

I then sat and disolved in to tears of frustration…you b@@@@@ds, how is it possible to hate something, so essential to life, so much? My lungs, actually, it’s not my lungs, it’s my asthma, my severe, difficult asthma that I hate!

(I need to add at this point, that I rarely get infections, so early, it’s usually late October/early November the infections hit).

I started prednisolone, slowly my lungs responded, my asthma improved and on Tuesday I was given my clearance to fly. I took my last dose, 36,000ft in the air, on a Thomas Cook Airbus A321! I also used my nebuliser, as advised and completely freaked out the woman next to me, who told me that she was a care worker and seemed to be convinced I’d drop dead on the spot, despite my protestations, that I was fine and just carrying out my usual treatments!

I arrived in Lanzarote and had a truly memorable and wonderful week, I laughed, danced, walked and of course, swam…I’m so grateful to the fact that swimming ha’s really improved my physical fitness, as to allow me to do these things, despite my health problems.

On the Monday, there was an option of a discovery walk, to a local “viewing spot” I was up for that, despite the temperature being in the high 20’s.  It was incredibly hard work and of course I had my rucksack, with my nebuliser etc with me. 

The viewing area was on top of a hill, a steep gravely hill, with no real identified path, I looked up and thought “there’s no way I’m getting up that” then I saw someone, at least 25 years older practically run up it! Not to be outdone, I decided to give it a go, despite being nearly on my hands and knees and puffing on my inhaler, I made it, I was so proud of myself and it was so worth it, for the breathtaking view.

Then there was the small matter of getting down, visions of having to be carried down, swam into my head, luckily, slowly, step by step, with the help of other participants, I got back down. By now I was sore, aching and really struggling, the walk out there was close to two miles and climbing the hill, had really taken it out of me. 

The tour leader stuck with me, other participants offered to carry my bag, slow but sure, I made it back to my hotel, using self-management techniques. Never did I think, the hotel is two miles away, it was always I need to get to that rock, then that plant, then the bridge and eventually, my hotel. I was so relieved to stumble back, to my room, but so exhilarated that I’d achieved it.
I had managed because, swimming has taught me, the importance relaxing my muscle’s.  It’s the same when I decide to have a bit of a dance, if I allow myself to relax and being in tune with what my joints and lungs are telling me, I can achieve so much more and I’m much less likely to take a tumble. Yes I will still ache and be sore, but self-management has taught me how to manage that, too. I’m in control. 

I also swam, a lot,  not big distances, but I practiced tumble-turns, over and over again. Getting my timing right, getting my breathing right, not kicking some poor, unsuspecting bloke, in the love spuds, wedding tackle, knackers, balls, goolies or whatever else you want to call them-believe me, I’ve so nearly done it!!

More than anything I chilled out, ate well and enjoyed the sunshine and yes, I also sank a fair few cocktails, being all inclusive and all that!!

Then, like every holiday, it came to an end and I flew back home to Britain! 

The first week back and the second, was great, I felt really well and I discovered, after a comment made about me having lost weight, that I’ve lost nearly a stone, since I started swimming.

Then, less than two weeks after my return, onmynous clouds began to gather, I woke up on the Wednesday with a sore throat and my asthma didn’t feel great. I questioned, as to whether I was developing what I refer to as a “back to back”. A second infection, in less than month. It’s only happened four times before, March this year, March 2014, September 2010 and way back in 1994 or 5. In September 2010, I was hospitalised for 4 days and started on what I commonly refer to my miracle drug, Tiotropium.

I went to bed on Wednesday and was rudely awoken, by an incredibly sore throat in the early hours of Thursday-after a lot of silent and inward swearing, I swallowed two paracetamol and went back to bed, only to awoken, again, in the early hours this time I shovelled codeine and some ibuprofen down.

By Saturday I was loaded with cold and my asthma, was in a word, crap, getting up the stairs in one go was out of the question. Everything pointed to me needing another course of prednisolone, but I was determined not to. My asthma nurse will have a fit, if she finds out!

I knew what I was doing was irresponsible and potentially dangerous, but I couldn’t face it! I battled on through Sat and Sunday, despite having very little sleep, and then on to Monday. By Tuesday, people where making noises that I should be on prednisolone, but my PF was on the way up and I was feeling better. I had managed it, I got away with not needing the “evil smarties” and I felt smug.

Until the next morning that is..

The next morning, I awoke and my first thought was “you evil b@@@@@ds” my lungs, clearly determined  to have have their own way, had thrown a massive spanner in my plan, in the form of a chest infection. I felt dreadful, shivery and more frustratingly my PF was 310, I was out of options, leave it any longer and I was going to be in serious trouble. I’d gone to bed, on the crest of a wave, and woke up in deep water, water I was not going to be able to swim out of alone. I needed a life belt, I needed both prednisolone and anti-biotic’s. 

So this is where I’m up to right now, swimming cancelled for at least another week, asthma is improving, but it’s going  to be a long winter-I’m currently where I usually am, in January,  I’ve already  had two courses of pred, meaning that my immunity is pretty much wiped out for when the really nasty bugs come sailing in.

I need to swim and I need to train, as I have a massive swimming challenge coming up, in six months time, but more of that on my next post, I promise you, it will be a lot more positive!

This Girl did…

There is a campaign in the UK called “This Girl Can”, which aims to encourage women to take up sport.

However, instead of rolling in famous sports women, as a means of encouraging people to take up sport they have, invited “everyday women” to share their stories.

I  really proud to now be, “one of those women”, whose story features as part the “This Girl Can campaign”

Swim fit…

I am now, very much back in the pool, though obviously not right this minute as it’s 1.20am and I’m in bed. I was also asleep, that was, until Jeremy the guinea pig woke me up. I have no idea what he was up to, but it sounded, from the thumps and crashes coming from his cage, like he was weight training. Or trying to dig his way his way out, with a pick and shovel.

I decided, to sign up to “swim fit”, a swimming initiative that aims to set the swimmer a programme of 30 swims.

I thought that this would be a great idea,  as it would provide me with structure for my training sessions and a goal to work towards.

Thirty minutes later, I have identified only the fact that the “swim fit” website is rather unuser friendly. It appears fixated only on outdoor swims…swimming in the River Tyne, really isn’t my thing. It’s deep, cold and has strong,  scary currents and the North Sea is a tad too chilly too.

There are other challenges too, challenges that can be accomplished in the swimming pool. I have, however, made repeated attempts to sign up to these, but it won’t allow me to add them to my dash board and the links appear not to be working. 

It’s all rather frustrating, I shall attempt to return to sleep now, as Jezza, himself, appears to have gone back to bed.

Final training, swim

Tonight, I headed back to the pool. This time to Washington Pool, where I will undertaking,  my Swimathon.

I wanted to be confident, that I knew where to go, what the parking was like, what facilities were available what the pool was like.

It soon proved to be a good move, as it took me ages to locate it, round the back of Asda. Parking, I discovered, was horrendous, with little room to manouver round the car park, no disabled bays were available, filled with, as so often happens, several people not displaying blue badges. If you want my parking space, you can have my disability! It infuriates me!

Once I’d  parked  up, I spent a few minutes outside,  just thinking and centemplating. It’s over-whelming, to think that in a couple of days time, I’ll be back here for swimathon. Where has the last 10 weeks gone?

I headed indoors and first, had a perusal at the range of swimming goodies on sale, but didn’t purchase anything. I then wandered up to the reception desk, offering my “Sunderland Council Active Card”

I was informed, the card was no longer valid, as the pool is now ran by “Everyone Active”, would I like a replacement, without thinking, I replied “yes”. I nearly had heart failure when I was charged over £17, for a card and a swim. Talk about taking your eyes out and coming back for the sockets! My Sunderland Active Card was only 10 months old!

I really don’t mind paying £16.00 for a lesson, because it’s worth every penny, but I thought that, that was a tad excessive. It’s all relative, I guess.

The “changing village” proved to be, an experience in itself. The cubicles, each, have two doors, come out the wrong one and your faced with a metal fence, it was a bit of a nightmare, to negotiate, to be honest. However, the changing rooms had one advantage; a shelf. A shelf for bunging all your essentials on, as you get ready, no scrabbling around, trying to locate everything you need, in limited space, dropping stuff on the floor, into puddles, as you go

image

Eventually, once changed, I located a locker, stowed my gear in it and headed to the pool.

On entering the pool, two things caught my eye. The pool was rammed and secondly, the two amazing and fun looking slides. Can adults have a go, I thought? On Friday, I may bomb down them both, in celebration of completing my swim. They looked ace!

I leapt into the pool, to a bit of a suprise, the deep end, is at the opposite end to what I’m used to.

Thankfully, there was a lane avaliable and I bagged it, it was good to see people observing lane etiquette and not using the lane for their personal space, for a natter with their mates, as happened a few weeks ago.

As soon as I started to swim, I was able to recognise that tonight’s swim, felt much better than what it had the previous night, maybe because I felt better, more confident and assured.  A few lengths to warm up and then I then I set off, on a longer swim. I set myself the target of swimming for forty-five minutes continuous.

It was, at times, hard going. I am learning now, if breathless becomes an issue, to always switch to a “slow breast stroke” that way I can focus on  getting my breathing, back under control. At the same time, I’m thinking, in my head, relax, relax, relax! as advised by J. I am beginning to recognise,  that trying to speed up, to reach the end of the lane, when I am feeling puffed, actually makes it worse. It’s a continual learning process and not one that’s easy. It’s about being aware of me, my body, my stroke, everything.

The time, crept round, I kept going, up and down the pool.  At the same time, identifying the landmarks, telling me where I am in the pool, how far up the lane I am. Washington pool, I found is great for this, it has a number of posters along the side if the pool advising parents and participants of different ASA levels, where to meet. I just need to remember, which way round they go, That’s not to say, I don’t know how to count!

As I swam, I felt myself, fall back into my regular rythym and pattern, it started to feel really comfortable again. The time slipped by, suddenly fourty  minutes had elapsed.  I determined to swim another six lengths. And then I stopped.

Fifty two minutes had elapsed, since I had started, I had swam 1250m. I was happy with that, pleasantly suprised in fact, yet disappointed at the same time. I had another 10 lengths to complete, to reach 1500m,  meaning that I would not of completed my challenge sub-one hour, my goal.

However, there is little point, in me being unhappy, with where I am. It’s not a race, it’s a challenge, 10 months ago I could barely swim, three months ago I could manage 800m,  I’ve come a long way. I need to be proud, happy, not disappointed. Last week, I was unwell, too unwell to swim, this week I’m better, but asthma is still not great.

I finished with a cool down, of a few more lengths, meaning that I totalled 1650 metres. I decided, that this was it, enough was enough, it’s time to call it a day on my training.

I’ve trained for 10 weeks, I’ve worked with my tutors, I’m continuing to make progress. My technique, is better every week. This week, I’ve swam three days, another day will make no real difference, I know I can do it, rest would be better.

So, my decision was made, rest on Thursday, there’s no point taking a tired, aching body into the pool, on Friday. A rested one, will be far more productive, so my aim for Thursday: eat well, drink plenty, rest lots.

Tough training swim

Well, it’s less than 72 hours to “Sport Relief” and the nerves are really starting to kick in, but I’m excited at the same time.

Yesterday, I had a swimming lesson, it was a great lesson and there’s a post in progress, about it, but first I want to blog about tonight’s training swim.

My throat is still sore, my voice still squeaky, five people at work are now down with it. It’s almost like a role-call each day, as we identify each “new victim”.  It’s actually, becoming highly amusing, laughing at each others attempts at communicating, through squeaky, tortured, whispered voices.

I prepared for tonight’s training swim, taking my blue inhaler before I got in the pool. I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated, by the fact I quickly found myself really struggling. A minute, to swim 20 metres…what’s all that about? Five lengths in, had to stop. I started to worry, a 100 metres and I’m struggling. I’ve got to do 15 times that in three days time.

Ten minutes in, my chest was tight and sore. I thought “that’s it, I have to give up”. I conceded, that Sports Relief, was out of my grasp and decided to get out the pool.

Then I thought, “don’t be such a stupid idiot”. I stopped myself, mid-track to the steps, had a think and gave myself a good talking too.

I have been unwell, I am still not great, I’ve had to take time out and I’m still recovering. I had only taken my inhaler, just as I got into the pool, it takes 20 minutes to properly kick in, I’d been in only 10.

I decided, that I needed to stop being a “over-dramatic idiot” and get on with it. There are a lot of people out there, supporting me, sponsoring for me and my friend M is determined to be there for me, despite being barely able to walk herself, she’s planning on getting the Metro over to where I work 10 miles away. Hoe amazing is that?

I re-focused my thinking and set back off, up the pool, short sets, let myself warm up, keeping positive. I know I can do it. Focus on what my tutors have taught me.

After each set, I felt better, stronger, more positive. I can do this, I can smash it! Don’t let the negative thoughts creep in. Times were coming down, 45 seconds for breast stroke, thirty for front crawl.

Feeling happier and more confident, I decided to try a longer swim. I comfortably managed 400m, without stopping. I could of gone further, but I my decision is, to focus on sets of 400m, not to push myself too hard, not to exhaust myself ahead of the “big night”.

I am so glad, I worked my way through the massive brick wall I hit. That I didn’t just look at it and react like “Rex” in Toy Story 2, when faced with the busy road, turn round, give up, declaring “Oh well I tried”. Deep down, I know that if I’d taken that view point, I wouldn’t really of tried, I would of actually given up before I tried. I’m learning more and more, that learning to swim, like I guess many sports, is as much about psychological ability to cope with difficulties as well as physical. My mantra,  is becoming g more and more, “I’m nothing if not determined”

By the time I came out the pool, I’d managed a total of 900 metres, I’m really proud of that, really proud.

I’m exhausted now and my balance is shot, I’m really wobbly on my feet. Time to rest, tomorrow I’m heading, back in again. I am not and can not give up.

Following on from tonight’s swim, I received and E mail from swimathon, and news of another sponsor. It was just what I needed, both reminded me of why I am doing this. Why I am doing this.

I will swim myself proud!

Sewing badges

I’ve decided,  to sew my badges on my towel, realising that it may be a bit of an arduous task as there are 13 in total, I decided to cheat a bit. As a girl guide leader, training I know that such a thing as “badge glue” exhists. Perfect, or so I thought, bit of glue, clag (stick) them on, jobs a good ‘Un!

Boyed up, with my initiative, I got in my car and headed down to local retail park which predictably, for Saturday, was heaving.

I headed in to the large craft store outlet and purchased, the afformentioned glue. After a quick diversion in to the newly opened, sports store a few doors I headed home, excited at the thought of trying out my new purchase.

After reading the instructions carefully, feeling almost like a Blue Peter presenter, I set to work on my new project.

I decided to go for a tester, my 25m badge. I did as instructed, applied glue to both badge and towel, then after waiting for it to go tacky, applied the badge to towel. The glue immediately soaked through, both towel and badge, leaving a dark sticky residue on the badge. Not a good start.

After ensuring the badge was, joined to the towel, I left it to dry. An hour later, I returned, picked the towel up, only to witness the badge, part company with the towel, fall to the floor, picking up bits of fluff, on the residual glue, from the carpet on landing.

Somewhat disappointed, with the lack of success, it’s back to the drawing board. A needle and cotton. Or else, take it with me, when I next visit my grandma and do as I did as a Guide, ask her to sew them on!

Swimming with emotion…

It’s Monday, it’s 2am and I’m wide awake, I am due at work in 7 hours. I can’t sleep.

I’m laid here, thinking about the week ahead, the challenges of the week ahead. Finally this is it,  after weeks of anticipation, hard work, practice, training and brilliant support from my swim tutors at Swim NE, this is the week I take part in Sport Relief, a chance to “swim myself proud”.

I am already incredibly happy with my progress so far, people tell me I’m an inspiration. I am only an inspiration if I inspire others to give it a go, to get in the pool, or to take up some form of exercise or sport.

If someone, had told me, 10 months ago I would where I am now, I would of laughed at them, yet here I am. Here I am, preparing for Sport Relief, having progressed to ASA stage 8 and swam a mile.

The excitement is beginning to build, I want to do this, no I want to smash this. My sponsorship total stands at £135, my aim was a £100, I thought it would be difficult to reach that. I have been left, humbled, at the overwhelming support and kindness from family, friends friends and collegues.

I want to stand on the side of the pool afterwards, smiling, proud and wearing the “Sport relief medal”, knowing that this is something I’ve worked for, something I’ve achieved. Knowing in doing so, I will have helped raised money for those in need, those in poorer countries, those in our country. It  may be only a tiny amount of the final total, but as a famous supermarket states “every little helps”.

The person, who helped inspire me, who shared his love of swimming with me, who took me swimming as a child, my grandad, won’t be there. He left us, many years ago.

Sadly, he had given up swimming many years prior to my birth, being announced to him in the White Swan pub, where he gone for a rare pint. Though he expressed a wish to teach us to swim, he never was able to. I remember, though, how he described with pride, the fact he’d swim the width of the River Humber as in his youth and I hope, that some of my ability to swim, was inherited from this wonderful gentleman.

This week, and the swim itself, isn’t going to be easy, but as my friend described me “I’m a stubborn, crazy red head” if I can find a way I will. It’s so frustrating, that I’ve worked so hard for this, yet I have no real control over when my asthma decides to “kick off”. I’m already maxed out on meds, there’s nothing else they can prescribe me, currently, to reduce the incidence and severity of exacerbations.

What I do have control over, is how I manage the exacerbation. I’m not going to roll over and give up. I’m determined, if it safe to do so, if my lungs are able to cope with the demands swimming places on them, to swim the 1.5km. Not just for me, but those who have sponsored me, supported me, taught me and for those who will gain benefit from the money raised.

I want smash this!!