21 June 2014

So it goes

Much better than last week, though still a long way off my personal best let alone my target. But Abingdon Parkrun is getting bigger (249 people today, which is a lot when there's a substantial section that is single-file, and it comes up only about half a mile into the run) and the participants less familiar running etiquette. Too many earphoneys, for one thing, and although it's a traffic-free course there are other runners you need to hear. Too many running side-by-side, and too many unaccompanied children. But all that only means that I wouldn't be going for a PB even if were a stone lighter, a great deal fitter, and perhaps 20 or 30 years younger. It's still a nice social occasion. When I'm ready to run fast, I'll get to the front at the start.

13 June 2014


Yesterday afternoon, I found myself providing some innocent entertainment for a small audience - though that had not been the stated purpose of my visit to the hospital. The idea was to supplement the ECG test which had been done on my at my doctor's surgery recently, with a further one, this time on a dreadmill. My doctor is satisfied that there's nothing wrong with me, but as she helpfully observed I am approaching 58 years old and she felt a further test would be prudent: so, after a phone call the previous day to tell me that a last-minute cancellation had opened up a slot, I presented myself at the John Radcliffe Hospital - after a drive which included typical Oxford traffic (one motorist, stuck in the queue on the other side of the road, volunteered the information that he was from Swindon and knew of no worse place than Oxford for traffic) such as to induce an attack of the coolant anxiety which is the lot of every MGF driver, especially as I passed the very spot where the most recent hose had given up. But at least the car got me there and back this time, without the assistance of the RAC.

My name was called right on time by a nurse, who led me to the dreadmill room, a windowless cell as seems to be traditional for such machines but mercifully without a television screen (a documentary about the sinking of the Bismarck, in the Aquamarine Hotel in Moscow, is a memory that will remain with me for the rest of my life), where it transpired she had two female colleagues. The youngest was in charge of technical matters, including creating suitable spaces on my chest for electrodes; the middle one, who had fetched me from reception, took my blood pressure (which at 110/60 met with general approval), and the senior one took it again, explaining that her colleague was learning how to use a stethoscope.I hoped she wasn't also looking for practice for her skills with a hypodermic.

I had to answer a load of questions, beginning, to my delight, with what they should call me. They were friendly, so 'Doctor' didn't seem the appropriate response. Then questions about symptoms, which were slight and now distant in time, so there was little to satisfy them there: but the slight pains I had felt certainly sounded like symptoms of stress rather than anything more sinister. Then, 'how far can you walk comfortably?'. What? In retrospect the correct answer is 'until my feet get sore', or perhaps 'until my shoes wear out', but I chose instead to refer to the fact that I can run 20 miles. I felt a certain amount of licence was permissible, because I could have run the Compton Downland Challenge if I'd set off at a more conservative pace, and it's not so very long since I ran a Marathon. Someone in the room said something like 'I told you so!', and from then on we all seemed to be having fun.

They have a protocol (called Bruce, after its creator not just a pet name) for the dreadmill, increasing speed and incline in five or six increments intended to get the subject up to 90 per cent of maximum heart rate. Some subjects, they told me, get there walking slowly (office-to-Paddington-in-the-evening-with-a-headwind pace) at stage 1. I got there only with the machine going at a comfortable 10K-type pace, but  added to the incline that was enough to get me to 98 per cent, which they said was the hardest they had worked anyone for a long time. It was also the most exercise I'd had for a few days, even if the run only lasted for a minute.

The most important thing, though, is that there was nothing to worry about. But it's nice to have fun learning that information.