Archive for November, 2010

About writing, dining and limping!

November 27, 2010

Time I refreshed this blog.

Reaction to last time’s instalment was big. Good ol’ Ken Stone (actually, he’s younger than me by a few months) posted a link and a short piece on, and this was picked up by many others, and read in placed I’d not have expected. I had great messages of support and encouragement from friends in the sports community all around the world, and from several people not connected with any sort of sport.

Actually, my motivation for that piece wasn’t a burning desire to “come out” about my depression, but because it had just become a nuisance to keep writing around the subject, or merely alluding to it. Anyhow, it’s out in the open now, and I’ll discuss it openly when/if the need arises (which it won’t always).

These last few weeks have seen me bounce back from a bad month of medication changes. I recently had the full whack of treatments from my good friends at the Southcote Chiropractic Clinic – the skilled hands of Mike Fossett for sports massage, the all round expertise of Jesper Dahl, surely one of the world’s best chiros, and the perceptive wisdom of Rob Goldup in the sports advisory centre.

My trips to see Rob (usually about three of four times a year) are a highlight for me. He never ceases to be able to see through some of the things I am doing in training, and suggest better ways, variations, and different focus. He’s introduced me to the “ithlete” app for iPhone and iPad. It is a piece of software linked to a dongle (bought separately) which fits the headphone socket of the device and picks signals up from a heart rate monitor belt. The app looks at heart rate variability (HRV) – the different intervals between beats, rather than simply assessing the number of time the heart beats in a given interval. Plug in, switch on, and use for one minute a day, just after getting up. The aim is to assess overall readiness to train, degree of recovery, and things like that.

Simon Wegerif, the guy behind “ithlete” speedily answered my e-mailed questions about the use of the app by an older athlete. I was concerned it might have been normed for an “average” sportsperson, and not be sensitive to the age-related factors a Masters athlete lives with. Fortunately, age doesn’t come into it, and the software works with everyone. I’ve been seeking to establish a “baseline” week this week for measurement purposes. Unfortunately, one bad day in the week (whoops, forgot my medication one evening) screwed that, and it may take a bit longer to chart what is “normal” for me. That the software so graphically represented my bad 36 hours on its summary chart suggests this is one clever and sensitive piece of software. And user support seems to be first rate. Grateful to you, Rob, and Simon.

My track Club had its annual dinner last week. Age range in the 85 who sat down for dinner ranged from 15 to 85, all current or past athletes. Guest speaker was the indubitable Ken Livingstone, former MP, once and future Mayor of London, and one of the architects of the awarding of the 2012 Olympics to London. Fabulous speaker, great humourist, and a passionate voice on so many issues. My photos of the evening are at the end of this lot. There’s one shot of me (bright blue bow tie, glass of red wine) in one of the earlier set by my friend and web-host Mike Peel.

What next? I’m back training three times a week, but it’s all gym work at present. I have a strange and persistent pain in my left heel, which has been resisting diagnosis and treatment. Doesn’t affect foot mechanics, but delivers increasing and excruciating burning pain around the lower Achilles and the edge of my heel. I run, and in a few minutes, can’t do the pain any more. Good job my events are usually over in far shorter times than that, but I’ve not wanted to press things to a flat-out sprint yet. Wisdom seems to be that the large joint between the big heelbone and the rest of the foot is at the cause, and that the plantar tendons need work. That’s a blow, because treatment of these can be very painful (I had instep problems about six years back). Remediation at present is regular wearing of my Vibram Fivefingers shoes at every opportunity, and an hour or so every evening massaging the instep with a golf ball.

We’ll see what happens, eh?


Time I levelled with you.

November 5, 2010

I’ve not blogged for a while, but I’m back in the mood again. I’ve also decided it’s time I “came out”, as it were. The topic isn’t something I’ve actually been hiding very much, and most friends who know me in real life will already know. The issue? In April this year I was diagnosed with severe depression.

However, I’ve not written about it, despite it being the underlying cause of a crap summer season in many respects. That season seemed bad enough to write about when I just described the effects, not the cause! It was blood pressure fluctuations caused by antidepressants that led to me fainting after that 100m in early June. I broke my thumb in that fall. It was depression that robbed me of the get up and go that I needed in the European Masters 100m heats, too.

I’ve been on a strong dose of antidepressants for more than six months now. They work, most of the time. This was underlined by the recent experiment on reduced dosage that my GP has put me through. Bit of a disaster that. Sorry to those who’ve realised I’ve been “off the map” for most of the last month. That really wasn’t fun!

I’ve also had huge help from many friends. From the outset, Ken Stone and his wife Chris, in the USA understood, and gave great guidance. My anonymous post on Ken’s Masterstrack web site, about training and racing while on my medication, attracted fabulous advice from other Masters, going well beyond my initial question. It all made me realise that (sad to say) my condition was nothing special. Figures vary, but generally it seems accepted that about one in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness in their lives. I have had the most uplifting, touching and practical help from those who have been through it, and those who are still there. My decision to write about my depression was built on a decision recently , that it was time I started providing some optimistic comment, personal experience, and comfort, even, to others.

So, fellow athletes, readers of this blog: Depression is ghastly. It will change your life, maybe for a short while, maybe for a long time, but you can live with it. It need not define you as a person. Indeed, you must not let it define you. I am still an athlete. I do not see myself as a depressed athlete, just an athlete coping with depression. It affects my motivation to train. The medication affects my energy, and the quality of my training. But as a very good, and very well qualified friend and track colleague said to me “What choice do you really have? (about taking the meds) What’s your quality of life going to be like if you don’t take them?” But you can survive, and at times you’ll thrive like you always used to. I blogged my pride at winning a bronze at the British Masters this year, and I was really proud just to be able to attend the European Masters, even if not running anywhere near my best.

I’ve had a rubbish month, but I’m still around. I’m training. It’s hard, but it’s supposed to be hard. There are side effects to the meds, but training hurts anyway. I’ll leave it there for now. It’s preparation time for the indoor season, and I’ll keep you posted on that.