Reflections in the pool…

Reflecting back on 2016 and my swimming achievements, I can’t help, but feel a sense of pride.

Despite my ongoing heatlh problems and injury, resulting in me having to take a break, from swimming, on no less than 7 occasions, in addition to havng my swimming bag stolen, I have been able to achieve so much. This, however is not just down to me, it’s also thanks to the wonderful staff at Swim NE and my swimming teachers/coaches. Thanks also need to be extended to the many people who have supported and encouraged me; friends, colleagues, family and even random strangers.

So, now reflecting back, here is list of what I feel have been my main achievements this year.

Passing ASA level 7, at the beginning of the year, and completing the competencies for level 10, at the end of the year.

Completing all my distance badges to 3000m and all my rainbow 100m distance awards (I bought these, myself).

Finally cracking butterfly, being able to swim 100m butterfly and being able swim a 400m IM.

Completing two “sport relief swimathons” 1.5km in 1h 8 seconds, just days after recovering from a chest infection and, a month later, just after recovering from a further chest infection, swimming 2.5km in 1h 50mins and 28 seconds. In doing so I raised over £200. I handed over, one of my medals and my swim hat, to my nana!

Featuring on a Arthritis Care DVD, showcasing people living arthritis, in a positive way. Arthritis Care, chose to focus on my swimming.

Swimming a 200m IM in less that 7m 30s and a mile in just 57 mins, hardly a recording breaking figure, but significant achievement all the same.

Featuring on an Arthritis Care promotional DVD, show casing people living with arthritis.

Cracking “tumble turns” they look easy, but believe me, they take months of practise to get right. It’s frustating progress.

This isn’t an achievement, as such, but still amusing. When I was in Lanzarote, a cocky bloke went round all the women and asked if they could swim, in an attempt to show them off, that he could and they couldn’t. Before he could get to me, I set off, butterfly first, then front crawl, with a few tumble turns. He sharp shut up and disappeared, which I was happy with as he was loud, obnoxious and drunk!

Having the opportunity to pass, some of what I’ve learnt, on to others. I was approached, at the pool by someone who asked me, how he could improve his front crawl. I’m definitely no expert nor am I swim teacher, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to pass some knowledge on. 

Featuring in the “This Girl can” campaign, appearing both on their FB site and their website. 

Finally, volunteering for the “swim safe project”, I was frequently cold, wet and covered in sand. As a volunteer I was a Gopher and a jack of all trades, volunteers were expected to muck in were needed, but it was great fun. 

I had the pleasure of working with an amazing team, who between them, helped to improve over 700 children and young people improve their knowledge of water safety, which may in turn help save a life one day.

So what of 2017…next year, I will be focusing far less on gaining certificates and so forth and more focused on improving my times and completing a number of swimming challenges, to raise money for a variety of charities, information of which, I will post about in early January. 

Knowing when to pause and rest….

The really challenging thing I find, with arthritis is knowing when to stop and rest. With my asthma, its obvious, peak flow dropping like a stone along with all the usual asthma symtoms. 

With my arthritis, it much harder to judge. After 15 years of living with these aching, creaking, stiff joints, I’ve developed a high pain threashold and a great deal of resiliance. Arthritis isn’t static, there are days where my joints are much better than others, there are days I throw all caution to the wind and “go for it” irrespective of the consequences and there are days where I just want to crawl under my duvet and stay there!

I have always believed in taking responsibilty for my health, eating a reasonably healthy diet, taking regular excercise, keeping up a reasonable level of fitness, taking good care of my chronic conditions, watching my weight and finding my way round challenges and curve balls that head my way-not focusing on the negative, the things that might go wrong, but rather always trying to seek out ways round difficulties. 

Despite all this, though I appreciate that there are times where I need to rest. Arthritis renders me at greater risk of injury and if I go too far, I really feel it. A good example of this, was when I was in Lanzarote. I walked for miles, but on the Tuesday I was in so much pain, I could barely walk. Sometimes, it’s worth it, as it was in Lanzarote (that night though, after resting all day and taking codiene, I still managed to knock out the Macarena and join in with the Conga!).

Last Wednesday, my left hip and knee was particularly painful. I knew what the culprit was, butterfly! It was painful, to the point I complained about to my workmates. I choose to rarely complain about my pain, firstly if I did I’d always be moaning and secondly, it drags me down and also, those around me. 

I really wanted to try out for a mile, that night. I was really determined, but same time I didn’t want to make situation worse. I need to train, but I’ve still got nearly six months ahead of me. I knew if I pushed it too far, I could be out the pool for upto three to four weeks, which is risky as I could be the out, even longer if my asthma chooses to pitch in. 

In the end, I decided to go for a swim and judge by how I felt, as I swam, though is difficult as the pain is far less noticable, in the water. 

I arrived, this time at Jarrow Pool, I asked when the pool closed. I was informed, that there was an aquafit session at 6, but that pool closed at 8. It was 5.35pm.

In the changing rooms, I stuffed a bag of crisps in my face in anticipation of swimming a mile, which can burn 5-600 calories. The lifegaurd asked me, as I entred the pool, if I was there for the aquafit session. “No”, was my responce, “well you’ll have to get out at six” WHAT? He went on to explain the pool closes to the general public during Aquafit, I went on to explain, that it had been explained to me that the pool shut at 8pm. 

It quckly became apparent, that I’d been offered the wrong information. I’d have to get out, at six, I could if I wanted, grt back in at 7, but not wanting to spend an hour sat wet, bored snd cold I opted to exit the pool at 6, but I took it right to the wire, swimming, in total 400m, far short of the 1600m I’d planned and anticipated.

I am taking a few days off now, but I should be back in the pool on Sunday, if all goes as planned.

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!

Poorly again…out of the pool again!

I came back from my holiday (I must post those photo’s, my friend Peter took, soon) The Wednesday, following, I experienced a period of “sudden onset breathlessness”, a clear indication that something is wrong, with my asthma.

Initially, I had blamed the warmer weather and possible increased pollen levels, but it was evident, by Saturday night, that I had a cold. My peak flow dipped considerably.

I really didn’t want to resort to prednisolone, aka “the evil smarties”, but by Tuesday, it was obvious, I had no other choice. This is now my sixth course in a year and my second in less than three weeks. It’s certainly giving my asthma nurse the collywobbles!

I’ll spare you the details of my cold and it’s symptoms, I am sure you know, as readers, how unpleasant they are. Now over, a week has passed and the worse of the symptoms have subsided,  but my chest remains rattly and congested. Therefore, I still can’t swim!

It’s so frustrating, I love swimming, it’s vital not just for my physical fitness, but also my mental well-being.

I have always, tried to keep active, despite my asthma. Exercise is a trigger for me, fortunately I’ve learnt to manage the resulting symptoms and use my “blue inhaler”, appropriately.

That said, however I know there are, times where my asthma is too unstable, I am still finding that balance. Over this past year I’ve lost a total of 14 weeks in the pool, due to my lungs and it’s so annoying.

My asthma, is as I’ve referred “severe and difficult”, I’m on max meds, the next step is regular pred. Not a prospect I welcome. I know that some people question, the genuineness of my asthma, due to how physically active, I try to keep. If that’s the case, I let them. It’s far from easy and it would be so easy to give in to my asthma, stop when I become breathless or become fearful of an attack, but carry on I will.

I will be back in the pool this week!

Holidays..

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last week, I’ve been on holiday.

To Clacton…

Clacton, UK in March is not a particularly warm place to be, so no outdoor swimming, but the the holiday village had an indoor pool, so swimming  was an activity option, that was taken.

What the holiday village didn’t have, was a reliable mobile internet. The mobile connection was at best, variable, slight movements of my phone, saw me go from a half decent connection, to absolutely no connection so I gave up on any plans of updating my blog.

I had a great holiday, throughly enjoyed myself. It was a much needed break.

I went on holiday with my friends Lucy and Peter Barrett, Peter very kindly agreed, with the permission of the lifeguards, to take some underwater photos of me, as I swam, which I will share on this blog on a future post.

I am heading home tonight, so I will update my blog, properly, over the Easter Weekend.