Monday, 28 October 2013

Weight Loss and a Different Future

Like most well in to middle age I'd put a bit of weight on over the years. To be a bit more precise in the last 25 years I'd put on nearly 20Kg (3 stone). In my early to mid twenties I was both very active doing lots of climbing, walking and running as well as having a physical job - scaffolding. There wasn't much chance to get fat as there simply wasn't time.

Following a road accident in which I was run over I was advised to retrain and avoid physical work, or as it was put at the time: "you should seek work of a more sheltered nature". So I went to university and studied Computing Science. Since then my work has been sat at a desk typing, writing and debugging code. It's also fair to say that I've a healthy appetite and I was taught not to leave an empty plate.

Hence the increased weight. Unfortunately this has had an impact (literally) on my health. Around two years ago I began to have trouble running. At first I thought it was a groin strain that I'd picked up slipping on ice but even after a few weeks' rest the symptoms would return. My wife persuaded me to visit a physio. The physio said that my hip was as stiff and immobile as any she'd seen and suggested that I have an x-ray to check if I'd got any underlying skeletal problems.

The result, to put it bluntly, wasn't what I was expecting or wanted to hear: severe arthritis.

A year on and the pain was getting worse, at times it would reduce me to tears, ripples of tension shaking my body. Something had to be done. First off was visiting my GP. In the meantime a bit of research (AKA Google) suggested that weight loss would help alleviate the symptoms. Each kilo lost equates to around 3 kg of stress on the joint when moving. I don't know where I read about it but I settled on the 5:2 diet which consists of five days of normal eating and two days of severely restricted calorie intake, just 600KCals per day. It is equivalent to a weekly 25% calorie deficit.

In the four months from early April I lost 16-17Kg (roughly 2 1/2 stone). To see what that's like, head to a supermarket and pile up 16 bags of sugar. Even better, try carrying it. I haven't been this weight since I was in my late twenties. I'm significantly lighter than I was when I did my Bob Graham Round! Clothes now just hang off me - it's like being a child trying on my dad's jackets. I've gone from nearly being on the last, largest, hole on my trouser belt to making two extra holes at the opposite end. What's ironic is that early in the year I went through my wardrobe trying on all my clothes and sending those that were too small to charity shops. I'd fit them all now! For friends who hadn't seen me in the interim it was a bit of a shock.

The GP visit led to a referral to the local hip consultant in mid July. "You are a bit young for a hip replacement" was the first comment. The next were: "It's bad and will never get better" and "We can replace it whenever you want".  As it happened I'd lost about 10Kg by this time and wasn't have much problem with the hip. Whether this was just the weight loss or the fine weather we had this summer I'm not sure. I decided to wait a while and see him again in October.

As October approached I began to get different pains, not as short and intense as before - I think the weight loss has reduced the likelihood of these, but niggling pains that would wake me up several times most nights. My right buttock also continually felt as if I'd been kicked by a horse. So at the next consultation I took the decision to get the hip replaced. "We'll put you on the queue and it will be twelve to sixteen weeks before your operation".

So it was a bit of a shock on Wednesday evening to get a letter saying that my operation had been scheduled for late November! To say my jaw dropped when I read the letter is a bit of an understatement. The whole timescale was suddenly compressed: there are blood samples to give; pre-op assessment; another physio session; a session at a Joint Replacement Education Group; a visit by an Occupational Therapist checking furniture height at home (chairs have to be high enough so that my hip doesn't bend past 90degrees) then it's the operation.

After that it's a couple of weeks of inactivity then many weeks of recovery. The hard part for me will be not pushing too hard and trying to do too much too soon. I've got to let the joint stability build up, push it and I could pop the joint apart and need a revision. It will be a balancing act between boredom and improving.

Whatever happens, my future will be different.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Hidden Lakes

Either side of last weekend's BG dinner Cath and I got some mountain biking done. Even though both routes were within twenty miles of where I grew up a large part of both routes was completely new to me. It just goes to show that different sports can coexist with hardly any contact with each other.

Hmm, Are you sure this is the right way?

Descending from Claife Heights towards Hawkshead

Saturday saw us on a route to the south and west of Ambleside taking in Claife Heights, High Tilberthwaite and Loughrigg. I'd been on Claife Heights before but this was a new route for me - I'd done about five metres of it before - never really technical though there was a great descent down towards Hawkshead that needed a dismount at one point as I got the wrong line. It's often the case in mountain biking that knowing the line helps. Then it was on towards Little Langdale via old lanes.
Mostly these were easy but there was one section that I walked, my bike handling skills aren't good enough to deal with drop offs in to loose blocky ground.

Heading towards High Tilberthwaite

From Little Langdale we took a bridleway that I never knew existed round to Elterwater. It even had a warning sign! I thought this was a bit over the top until we dropped in to the woods and began a long loose rocky descent that had you on your toes all the time. The way to do these is to keep your speed up so that your front wheel pushes rocks out of the way but the last thing you want to do is go fast!

Leaving Little Langdale for Elterwater

A bit of a damp end to the ride!

The last bit of the ride was round Loughrigg Terrace which is mostly straightforward apart from one step and a submerged section through Rydal Water.

Sunday's ride was based on the "other Borrowdale", that is the valley that runs between Tebay Gorge and the A6 main road over Shap. Our intial route finding saw us miss the bridleway on the north side of the valley so we turned round and followed the easy track on the south side of the river. Given that it lies between the A6 and the M6 it is surprisingly secluded and quiet, a real forgotten corner of the area as it lies in the no-man's land between the Lakes and Dales national parks.

A bit of road work towards Tebay then back west saw us in to Bretherdale which I'd never even heard of! The last challenge was to get back over the hill to the head of Borrowdale via a track. Unfortunately most of this was a push as it was steep (10 - 25%) and both loose and rocky, it was hard work simply trying to walk and push the bikes up it. There was some riding at the top as the gradient eased and then we were soon on the descent. A lot of this was just as loose as the ascent and we were forced to walk large sections until we got to the lower reaches. A final crossing of the river then back to the car.

Afterwards I checked Strava to see what the best time for this descent was: just under three minutes, our time was over eleven! I really am rubbish at descending :-)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bob Graham Dinner

Last night was the biennial BG Club dinner. It's mainly a night for new members from the previous two years to receive their certificates. Of course it's also a reason for the rest of us to have a drink or two and catch up with things. This year was the first dinner since I've become club membership secretary so it was interesting to put faces to names I'd only previously had email correspondence with. We had the pleasure of Leo Pollard, member #44, handing out the certificates - all 130 or so from 2012 & 2013.

All was going well until we got in to the early 2013 successes: Stef French was receiving her certificate when unknown to her, Andy her boyfriend had also approached the table and then promptly proposed to her! He even got down on his knee :-) Pleased to say she said yes, closely followed by a rousing cheer and round of applause. There were of course one or two mischievous comments along the lines of "I'm available!" from later acceptees though I don't think the club dinner will be turning in to a dating agency any time soon.

By midnight I was bushed so headed to bed, not too much of a hangover this morning. Registrations for next year have already arrived so the work continues. Hopefully by the next dinner we'll have our 2000th member.