Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Present

Eric is a genius. I only have to mention that I bought myself a birthday present and within a minute he’s guessed it (ok, he got the number wrong. Who cares). After resisting for years, I have finally joined the weenie brigade and bought myself a geek watch. The price had gone down by half recently, and I gave in to temptation. I’ll try and resist cluttering the blog with too many charts – due to the scaling they always look the same anyway, but I guess once I’m allowed to run around Caragh Lake again, I might post something.

Unfortunately the weather has indeed turned nasty again, and so far I have only managed one run outside, yesterday, and that was already asking for trouble because I got caught out by rain with 10 minutes to go. Nevertheless, I managed to establish that my so-far imaginary one mile marker on the Ard-na-Sidhe road was spot on, but that my usual turn-around, according to the new toy, was about 20 meters too late. Actually, I felt quite smug at the accuracy of my distances. I haven’t managed to go out on the Caragh Lake road yet, and I’ll be interested to know how long a loop around the lake really is (within the accuracy of the toy, of course).

Today was a cold morning just above the freezing point (it still was raining rather than snowing, though), but the gale force wind made running outside an unwise choice for a pneumonia victim, so I brought my running gear into work, and went to the gym at lunchtime for 5 miles on the treadmill. This time I managed to bring my HRM, but forgot the mp3 player. I managed to stay on the damn thing for the entire distance, but with a little bit less than a mile to go I increased the pace from 9-minute miles to 8-minute miles, mainly to get it over and done with, boredom was taking over. The heart rate continues to go down, which was pleasing, but is still way above pre-sickness levels. When I switched to 8-minute pace, it went up by about 10 beats, and I used to run those at much lower levels. I don’t know how long it will take to build up my fitness again – a very long time probably as long as I can’t do more than 5 miles in a row, I guess.

The pain in my chest may be getting better, but then again, I used to think I was getting better the day before I get 40 degrees temperature, so that’s no reliable indicator. As long as that pain is still there I have a constant reminder of my sickness and the need to take it easy. I’ll better heed it.

30 Jan
5 miles, 44:30, 8:54 pace, HR 156
31 Jan
5 miles, 43:57, 8:47 pace, HR 149

Monthly mileage: 62.5 *sigh*

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


“Hello Thomas, nice to see you back” “Thanks, it’s good to be back” “How are you?” “I’ve been better, but I’ve been a lot worse” “What was wrong with you?” “I had pneumonia. In fact, I’ve still got it” “Oh my” “But the doctor said it’s ok to go back to work” “Running is out, then, of course” “No, the doctor said I’m allowed to run as long as I take it easy and as long as it’s not raining” (shocked look and lost for words).

That scene played itself out at least a dozen times on Monday and Tuesday in the office, and to be honest I was glad to be out of the house. Those walls had seemed to close in on me after three weeks of confinement. As for the running, we had beautiful weather over the weekend; the kids were out playing in the garden and on the climbing frame, and of course I managed to get a short and very easy run every day. On Monday I did not set the alarm but woke at 6:20, and when I was still wide awake at 6:40 and it wasn’t raining I decided to do 5 miles there and then. The most positive thing about that particular run was the fact that the heart rate was 10 beats lower than on Saturday for virtually the same pace. Of course it is still a lot higher than before I got sick, but at least it’s pointing into the right direction. Unfortunately that was it as far as the good weather was concerned, by Monday lunchtime we had that so familiar depressing rain again. As a result I could not run on Tuesday morning (which might explain why I was in a really foul mood), but Niamh had to go to Killarney in the evening, and I managed to go to the gym after work before she came to collect me. I had planned on 5 miles on the treadmill, but only managed 4.5 when I realised that I was out of time. Still, that was by far the longest I had ever been on one of those things. I had remembered to bring an mp3 player, which helped, but I had forgotten the heart rate monitor, so I can’t tell if that was any harder on me than road running, but I don’t think so, not even with the 1% incline that I put on to compensate for the lack of wind resistance, and the fact that I got the pace setting slightly wrong (should have been 9 minute miles).

Anyway, running feels good and easy, and I really really really hope that I will be allowed to continue. I’m lost without my daily fix, as I could not fail to notice while I was confined to home. I know that the pneumonia has not gone away because I have a constant pain in my left chest, but running does not aggravate it. In fact nothing I do or not do seems to have any effect on it, it’s just always there.

Oh, and I had my 38th birthday on Sunday, which was rather low key with me still being sick and the kids not exactly behaving like angels. We did go out for a Thai meal in Killarney for the evening, which was nice. I bought myself a birthday present. I’ll show you in my next entry.

27 Jan
5 miles, 44:51, 8:58 pace, HR 157
28 Jan
5 miles, 46:47, 9:21 pace, HR 146
29 Jan
4.5 miles, 40:15, 8:56 pace

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Baby Steps

I met my doctor again on Friday (we’re on first name terms by now), and she gave me the results from the chest x-ray. Most of the pneumonia is gone, but I’ve still got a 2x3 cm area of residue in my left lung. Nevertheless, she gave me the go-ahead to go running, but I had to promise to take it easy. She said something along the lines, “run a distance that would be ridiculously long for me, but is awfully short for you”. I think I like that doctor, she understands. She actually offered to write me a certificate for yet another week off work, but I asked to be allowed to get back to work. I am bored stiff at home, and she didn’t object. But cycling to work is out of the question, Niamh will have to drive me in her car.

Coinciding with me finally being let off the leash is an improvement in the weather, and after lunch, when I knew Niamh had 40 free minutes before she had to collect the twins from school, I asked for permission to go running right there and then. After some negotiations (“Can’t you just run 1 mile?” “NO!”) I went out for three miles. I felt weird at first, almost light headed, but that went away. However, the heart rate was sky high and I decided to cut it short and turned around after just one mile, to make it a very short 2-mile run. I thought I ran so slowly it felt like standing still, but it was 8:21 pace, which was probably a good bit faster than what the doctor had in mind.

I got another chance Saturday morning, and even though a dark cloud was lurking in the background it never rained, so I got away with that. Somehow I managed to run a whole minute per mile slower than the day before, even though it pretty much felt the same. Again I felt a bit strange over the first mile, but I felt better with each and every step and decided to add a bit to my run. I was tempted to run all the way to Ard-na-Sidhe, which would have made it 5 miles, but decided to err on the side of caution and turned around after 2 miles. I was so happy to be back on the road, I can’t describe that feeling. Something was strange though. You would expect that someone who’s still recovering from pneumonia to feel it in the lungs first, wouldn’t you? Instead my heart rate was again sky high, both calves started to stiffen up towards the end, yet my breathing was so slow, calm and relaxed that you would have thought I was walking along at snails pace.

I have no idea how easy I’m supposed to take it, but taking it easy is what’s on the cards. I didn’t feel any ill effects from either run, and if the weather is fine tomorrow (apparently it will be), I’ll be out on the road towards Ard-na-Sidhe again, and I’ll see how I feel. In a few days I’ll have a much better idea how it’s going. I expect the heart rate to drop quickly, and if it doesn’t then I have to rethink things again. I’m still signed up for the Connemara ultra in April, but if I will be able to do it is rather questionable at this moment in time.

25 Jan
2 miles, 16:42, 8:21 pace, HR 162
26 Jan
4 miles, 37:18, 9:19 pace, HR 156

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Maia's First Video

Since I'm still not running and I haven't got anything better to do, I might as well post the video Niamh made the other night when Maia simply refused to fall asleep. I know, I know, it's just a baby doing what a baby does, but she's my baby, and I've got the right to be as besotted as I want to be.

The weather out there is simply appalling. I really don't know how I will be able to do some training when I'm not allowed to run in the rain. This could become a real problem.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I went to the doctor again on Friday, and the results were quite promising. Both of my lungs seem to be clear now, but I’ll have another chest x-ray on Monday to confirm that. I’ve stopped coughing, but I still have a pain in my left chest, especially early in the morning. The doc doesn’t know what it is, but she said we must not ignore it.

She’s told me to stay off work for another week; to be honest, I’m not particularly pleased about that. I’m bored stiff being stuck at home, there is only so much reading you can do before you get cabin fever (at least I do). On the other hand, she told me I could maybe run 2 or 3 miles at the end of the week as long as I’m pain free and as long as it’s not raining. That’s much earlier than I thought I would be allowed to run; on the other hand, it has been raining here almost non-stop for the last two weeks, so at the moment saying that I can only run if it’s not raining is almost the same as being told to stay at home, full stop. Then again, the atrocious weather made staying at home easier. It’s not overly tempting to go out for a run when your driveway is completely flooded and you can see the trees being bent over in the gale.

Niamh has already announced she will kill me if I have a relapse, and I don’t think she’s joking. I still don’t know if I will be able to train again anytime soon (I really don’t regard 2 or 3 miles as training). On the other hand I think I’ve learned my lesson, painful as it was.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sickbay Update

It feels good the be able to breathe again without pain, but I'm definitely still sick. My course of antibiotics is running out today, but the doctor has already prescribed another dose. I'm still coughing, and that's when it hurts most, but not nearly as often as a few days ago. The medicine is definitely working, but it will be yet some time until I can call myself recovered.

I read Dick Beardsley's autobiography a few days ago, and it was weird to read about someone's addiction to pain killers, while at the same time counting down the minutes until I could pop the next little pill myself for an hour or two of relief. It certainly made me understand the book a lot better. Since then I've weaned myself off the pain killers. Apart from when I'm coughing the feeling is down to mere discomfort, and I can take that without aid.

Of the resolutions I had for 2008, reaching 4000 miles is of course already out of question, but the other one, about dropping my weight down to 63.5 kg/140 pounds, well, I'm already there. I've lost 7 pounds in the last 10 days, even though I ate as much as I felt I could swallow. My appetite is slowly returning, but my weight is still going downwards. When I wrote that weight goal I envisaged reaching it towards the end of a year, not within a fortnight, and certainly not the way it happened. Be careful what you wish for. Of course, the pounds may yet return as I get closer to recovery.

I was quite worried about passing my germs on the the kids, especially Maia, but the doctors have reassured us. They have never come across two cases of pneumonia at the same time in the same family. While the bacteria are indeed able to cause sickness in others, it wouldn't be pneumonia, just a normal cold. Just as to prove that theory, Cian got a temperature on Monday, recovered within a day, and is back to pre-school today, Wednesday.

I'm going to see the doctor again on Friday, and I'll have another chest x-ray next week, and then we can say with more certainty how the recovery is going. She's already written another medical certificate for next week, and I guess I might be back at work on the 28th, the day after my birthday. As for when I can go running again, that's still written in the stars.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Definitely not what I wanted to hear, but that’s the final diagnosis. I took a turn for the worse on Wednesday. I rang my doctor for the fourth time in five days, and once again she fobbed me off, assuring me that I was getting better, and that she really didn’t need to see me. By that time I had totally lost what little confidence I had in her and on Thursday morning I rang another doctor’s surgery. Within 90 minutes I was in the doctor’s office, what a difference! I spent 25 minutes in there with two major results, firstly she prescribed me another dose of antibiotics because my left lung was definitely not clear, and then she told me to have a chest x-ray as soon as possible. We drove to Tralee on Friday morning, and by the evening I had the results. Pneumonia. Not very severe, but pneumonia all the same.

I am an adult, and there is no doubt that the main responsibility lies with me alone. Each run that I have undertaken since the middle of December I did in the full knowledge that I was not entirely healthy. I also ignored the advice I frequently give out to others, namely to run if the symptoms are above the neck and to stay at home if they are below. My initial cough was so mild that I dismissed it. Of course, in hindsight, a few days of rest back then might have sorted out the problem there and then. However, my old doctor must definitely shoulder some part of the fault. With her constant refusal to see me my treatment got delayed by 6 days, and since I had originally asked for an appointment 4 days before my first turn for the worse, I think that full-blown pneumonia could have been prevented. Her diagnosis over the telephone of a viral infection, finally, must go down as the least professional behaviour by a doctor that I have personally have come across.

But enough of the whining. By trial and error I have developed some survival techniques for the violent cough attacks that come with pneumonia. Lie on your side, with the elbow underneath your chest (the last bit is important, as I found out in one of the error stages of practical research). Coughing is also the second most painful thing you do with pneumonia. Having hiccups is the most painful one (“huckouuuuwwwww!!!”). The third most painful thing is laughing, as I found out when I followed this link from Ewen’s site. Follow it if you want to see it, but don’t if you’ve got pneumonia. Plus, I’ve always fancied Natalie Imbruglia.

You probably think I should be in bed rather than on the computer, and you’re probably right, but my back is so painful from all those hours in bed that I needed to get out of there for a few minutes. Anyway, don’t expect to see me back on the roads for a while. At the moment I’m so miserable that I don’t even care about that.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I tell you what happened. I was being sensible and didn’t run in Mallow. Instead I did 10 miles along Caragh Lake, and only two of them at tempo pace, rather than 3 as originally planned. Then I took the Niamh and the kids to Killarney to go ice-skating. They loved it, and I felt good about not driving to Mallow. It's good to be sensible.

I got up at 5:30 Monday morning, feeling pretty good. I had planned another 10 miler, but at slower pace than the day before. I want to build up my mileage, so I didn’t back off, and 10 miles was basically the shortest I used to run when doing high mileage. The weather was quite bad, strong winds rather than the predicted gale force, and no rain originally. High wind always means a trip to Ard-na-Sidhe for a number of 5-mile loops, 2 in that case. I felt good after the first, but then the heavens opened. I hate the combination of wind and rain, and high winds with strong are the bane of my life. I decided to only do 8 miles, because someone who’s still recovering from a chest infection is probably ill advised running in the freezing rain. I was marvelling how sensible I have become recently, though there was that little voice in my head ”if you really want to get top 10 in Connemara you have to stop being sensible at some stage and work you butt off”. Anyway, the rain stopped well before I reached the turnaround point, and I ended up doing 10 miles after all.
6 Jan
10 miles, 1:16:00, 7:36 pace, HR 162
two miles in 6:57. 7:00
7 Jan
10 miles, 1:19:54, 7:59 pace, HR 147
ever since
I felt perfectly fine as I came back home. I had my shower and some breakfast, which I had to force down, very unusual. Then I started shivering. Well, it was a cold day, and I turned up the heating. I felt colder. Niamh and the kids got up, had their breakfast and got ready, and by now I was dreading cycling into work, so I asked Niamh for a lift (besides, the weather was turning nasty). At work I immediately knew that I had made a mistake, and after an hour I phoned Niamh to get me back home. By now I was shivering uncontrollably, and when Niamh checked my temperature it was 40C/104F!!! Add to that a splitting headache, pain all over the body, shoulders, chest, legs, they all hurt. During the next few hours the fever sank but I had alternating episodes of being incredibly cold and incredibly hot. During the cold spells I was shivering uncontrollably, during the hot spells I was literally soaking the entire bed with sweat (Niamh slept in the guest room at night, understandably). Taking painkillers gave 2 or 3 hours of relief before the whole thing started again, and I had one of the worst nights of my life. The pattern repeated itself the next day, and only today, Wednesday, I feel some improvement, but I still feel totally crap. Added to all the fun is a cough, and coughing is so painful it makes me want to cry out loud. I surely hope I haven’t cracked a rib or something similar.

The doctor didn’t even want to see me, she immediately recognised the symptoms, apparently there’s a particularly nasty virus doing the rounds presently, and she told us to keep doing what we were doing already, i.e. take some painkillers as often as they allow you on the package, and toughen it out in-between. Our neighbour is a nurse, and when Niamh bumped into her she confirmed that something nasty was indeed doing the rounds, her husband had gotten it over Christmas.

Originally I thought I had been at fault for returning to running too quickly after my chest infection, but hearing all those virus stories makes me think that I would have gotten it regardless, and the timing (coinciding with me running again) might be just coincidence. Nevertheless, I am definitely out of the game for the moment. Yesterday I could hardly turn around in bed because that used up too much energy, and even thinking about running is too strenuous. By now I can feel Connemara slipping away from me. The race is still three months away, but I was supposed to do high mileage around now, not lie in bed moaning in pain. After the “recovery time” over Christmas I have lost two weeks, and I guess there might be two more weeks of that to come. I’m thinking about starting a long build-up to Dublin in October and treat any race in the meantime, including Connemara, as a training run, but we’ll see. At the moment, typing a sorry blog is just about at the edge of what I can do, anything more physically demanding is out of question. And I can feel the next cough coming along. That’s gonna hurt again. Ow! And the painkillers are wearing off again. I hate this.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

You Knew This Was Coming

Let’s get the less important things out of the way first, I’ve returned to the world of running, albeit tentatively. I snuck out yesterday morning for an easy 5 mile run, and it would have been slower than 9:00 pace had it not started raining with about three quarters of a mile to go, and I put in an extra gear to avoid to worst of the weather. Today, Saturday, I went out for a bit more, 7 miles, and a bit faster, but again the weather turned, and it started raining just as I was passing the same point as yesterday – spooky. It even started hail stoning, but luckily the beans were small and didn’t hurt, and once again it made me accelerate over the last stretch. Mother Nature seems to want to make sure that I’ll end my runs strongly.

The heart rate was elevated for both runs. In fact, today it was so high that I doubt the accuracy of my HRM. Nevertheless I have decided to forego tomorrow’s race in Mallow. I’m not 100% healthy yet, and I doubt I would be at my best, therefore I don’t see the point in driving 90 minutes each way for a 10-mile run. We’ve got a few things to do with the kids anyway, and Niamh would definitely not be happy if I took the car to go to a race that I’m not really prepared for. I didn’t even argue, I informed her that I wasn’t going, and from her reaction I gather that she wouldn’t have let me go anyway.

4 Jan
5 miles, 44:45, 8:57 pace, HR 147
5 Jan
7 miles, 53:58, 7:42 pace, HR 162(?)

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Maia Bubendorfer in all her gorgeousness. The 4 pictures are: Maia and her Aunty Cliona, Maia proves once and for all that she's better looking than her daddy, Maia (in white) and her cousin Lilly (who is four weeks older), Maia having a grand old chat with big brother Shea.

Maia and her Aunty ClionaMaia proves once and for all that she's better looking than her daddyMaia (in white) and her cousin Lilly (who is four weeks older)Maia having a grant old chat with big brother Shea

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Dreaming of a Comeback

I rang my doctor this morning to set up an appointment. The Dublin doctor had told me to do so after a week if I’m not totally clear, and I dutifully flowed her instructions. However, during our short phone conversation today, she told me that she thinks another appointment would be unnecessary. Of course I see that as permission to take up running again. I didn’t actually ask if I could go running again; she might have said no (I’ve learned from past mistakes). The current idea is to run 5 easy miles tomorrow morning, and judge how that goes. It means there’s still an outside chance of me making it to Mallow on Sunday. I guess persuading Niamh will be the biggest obstacle along the way.

The best thing about the enforced rest was definitely catching up on sleep. I managed to sleep between 8 and 9 hours each night, and I feel like I’ve finally caught up on my sleep deficit. The worst thing was reading Running with the Buffaloes, itching on nearly every page to go out running myself and not being able to do so.

Last night Niamh and me had a chat about what times I should run in the morning once I get the green light. We agreed that I should be aiming to come back home around 7 o’clock in the morning, which is when Shea has tended to arise in the last few weeks. It means an extra half an hour of sleep compared to what I used to get in the weeks before Christmas, apart from those 20 milers, which would still require me to rise at 4 o’clock.

I missed a few rainy mornings this week, which is why I wasn’t too downhearted about being grounded, and today is what they call a cold snap in Ireland. The temperature at 9 o’clock was 3C/37F, which probably sounds like a heat wave to some guys out there. Of course, the winds chill makes conditions a lot worse than it sounds, and those very same temperatures are responsible for the fact that I come home drenched to the bones after the majority of my winter workouts, and rain paired with strong wind isn’t the most pleasant of combinations, either. I guess we’ve all got our own justified moans about the weather.

Niamh has got some incredibly cute photos of Maia in her camera, but since it’s a stone-age design (i.e. non-digital) I’ll have to fire up my scanner before I can show them off. I’ll do so for the next post. This should be enough incentive for my readers to return, I guess.