Category Archives: Opinion

Highs and lows of 2015 & my word for 2016

At the start of 2015, I wrote a post about my word for 2015; try. I was buzzing with anticipation for the year ahead, thinking about all the challenges I had pencilled in, some definite and some possibly coming up. It was to be a year of big change, sitting my final exams and starting work as a doctor, and a year of letting everything finally fall into place.

Looking back, 2015 was a pretty mixed year, with some great highs, but some fairly crashing lows too…

The highs

Passing my final exams and becoming a doctor

Degree Graduation

Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest things to happen in my life so far, let alone just in the past year. I’ve worked pretty hard since the age of 16 to hit my dream of being a doctor, and in May this year, I finished the exams, crossed my fingers and waited… Then got the news and the certificate to go with it- and got to swap Miss for Dr as a title! I never quite believed I’d achieve it or that I was capable, so this was probably one of the sweetest moments of 2016, and to celebrate it with my nearest and dearest around me meant so so much.

Moving in with James and setting up home together

JamesNew home

We started 2015 having only been dating for a month, but we took the leap in July out of convenience, and I moved into James’s flat as a trial of living together. 4 months later things had gone pretty well, so we took the plunge and rented a cottage together. Setting up home with someone supportive, kind and with a similar lifestyle to mine has been a really good idea, not to mention that he gives out excellent hugs and mixes a perfect G&T after a tough day at work. Chapeau to the boyfriend!

Getting to grips with cycling at last

Cycling

One of my main goals of 2015 was to get to grips with cycling as a sport, and I think I very much did that this year. From becoming a regular on cycling club rides, to riding my first chaingangs, sportive and TT racing, 2015 was definitely the year of becoming at home on a bike, dealing with the mansplaining and generally starting to enjoy cycling. There have been minor mishaps, like getting hit by a van in May, and needing a new bike, but I can’t wait for Bella and I to have more adventures in 2016!

Doing the things I wanted to do in my free time

Brecon

For most of 2015 before starting work, I was on a tight budget and activities had to be carefully planned, but with some lateral thinking I managed to enjoy some really nice getaways with James, including our excellent trip to the Brecon Beacons on a shoestring. Definitely something I want to do more of in 2016, for sure!

Finishing my first Olympic distance triathlon

Triathlon

After being hit by a van, sitting my finals and all of the busy times that happened in the run up to the Castle Howard triathlon, odds weren’t on for me to have a speedy race, and it certainly wasn’t a smooth ride on the day either, but I’m really proud to have finished my first Olympic distance triathlon, when I started 2014 unable to swim at all.

Joining the masses of #juniordoctors and staging a successful protest

Protests

Less relevant to this blog about sport, but I’m very proud to have been one of the masses of junior doctors involved in protesting against the changes to doctors’ contracts that Jeremy Hunt is trying to impose in his ill-informed quest for a ‘7 day NHS’, which FYI, already exists- I work in it! From the social media campaigns to the protests in cities up and down the UK, it was amazing to be part of such a huge campaign and successfully get 75% of the UK’s doctors to vote in the ballot to go on strike. Let’s see if it makes a difference now!

Doing my bit to help others at last; giving blood!

Giving blood

I’ve always been either anaemic or post-piercing/tattoo in the past and not donated before, but now I’m healthy enough (cheers, broccoli and red meat!) and haven’t been needled recently, I was really excited to start donating blood, and it’s something I’m going to try and do regularly. In my opinion, if you can, everyone should donate blood and be signed up to the Organ Donor Register. You never know when the worst might happen, and if you’d take an organ transplant or a blood transfusion, you should be willing to give them too!

The lows

Struggling hugely with work-life balance

Badge

My first 4 month rotation as a junior doctor was through a job widely regarded as a truly awful post. It featured masses of night shifts, 12 hour days, 7 day stretches without a day off, and on the ‘standard day’ shifts, regularly working up to 3 hours of unpaid overtime each day. The post I wrote here demonstrated just how hard it can be, but over 4 months it ground me down, left me exhausted and demotivated, and my training and racing took a huge hit. From waking up too ill to even attempt racing the Sundowner Middle Triathlon, to getting hypothermia and not finishing the Snowdonia Marathon, it was a pretty bad year for racing where I’m concerned. Never before have I appreciated so much that the rest of what goes on in your life really affects your training!

The downsides of cycling

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There are only two main negative things to come out of my year becoming a cyclist. The first was being knocked off my bike by a van in May, which really dented my confidence, as well as leaving me with a nasty, niggly shoulder and neck that still aren’t back to normal yet. The charming insurance company I’m dealing with have yet to pay me a single penny in damages, so all in all I didn’t come out of the accident in great shape! Here’s to hopefully getting it sorted out soon. The other main downside is the sexist and mansplaining element of being a woman in a cycling club; my club (AlbaRosa CC) has a large and strong female contingent, but it doesn’t always stop the male contingent treating us like idiots, behaving badly on social rides and making cycling a less fun place for women on the road!

Majorly slacking off with swim training and S&C

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The two parts of training for triathlon I am really bad at are swimming and strength and conditioning. I mainly just forget about S&C, and then swimming is so at the mercy of pool timetables and opening hours, and there’s so much faffing and hair washing, it’s easy to slack off it in favour of running or riding instead. Once I’ve run the London Marathon it’s time to get organised and actually do some swimming!

2016’s word

I’m fairly happy with my word for 2015; it was both an excellent and a really tough year, but I feel like I tried my best in most areas of it, and really made progress. As always, a crisp new year awaits, with some challenges lined up, some that will go well, some that I’ll probably fail, but I’m excited for all that 2016 has to offer; my lucky first-try entry to the London Marathon and training for it the Hansons way, hopefully some more triathlons including the WTS Leeds race, and finally finding that work-life balance.

And that’s going to be my word for 2016: balance.

What’s your word for 2016 going to be? 

Christmas, balance and health

As ever, in the run up to Christmas as a fit bod on Twitter following a range of bloggers, fitness professionals and athletes, my timeline was filled with a bit of a battle. From some bloggers and fitness professionals came the constant tweets about how to ‘eat clean’ through Christmas. How to avoid eating all the indulgent Christmas food your family offered you. Even, weirdly, how to lose weight over Christmas. Then, from the pro athletes, excited tweets about heading home to eat ALL of the food!

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Now, I have fairly strong opinions (no surprise there, I’m sure) about all of this. I don’t think Christmas itself, and the indulgences along with it are the problem, and it would seem that a lot of the pro athletes I follow agree. I think the issue comes if your Christmas starts in mid-November and ends in mid-January. However, if it starts on Christmas Eve and ends on New Years’ Day, is it really such a problem?

As ever, I strongly believe it all comes down to balance. If you spend the rest of the year apart from that short period eating well, training consistently and taking care of yourself, you can probably afford to indulge. Rather than be the miserable spoilsport who refuses all the delicious food and insists on a tiny portion of steamed turkey and vegetables, I say go for it. Eat what you fancy. Spend time with your loved ones and let your hair down. Eat your veggies too, and try and move a little each day, but if one day, you eat most of your bodyweight in fancy cheese and only take a short walk with your family, relax. You have 350+ days a year to be healthy and strict with yourself. Maintaining an obsessive training regime and calorie-controlled diet over Christmas out of fear you might gain a couple of pounds is a bit sad, to me!

Don’t forget, whilst the fitness industry may tweet constant ‘healthy’ advice for you over Christmas, they actually make their money from you having that mid-November onwards Christmas I mentioned and gaining a lot of weight, until you arrive in January bloated, miserable and feeling guilty about your eating. Just remember that…

Me? I have no such feelings of guilt. I finished a run of nights on the morning of December 21st, and enjoyed the odd festive treat in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. on the 23rd, I headed home with James to my parents’ house in Lancashire, and have since enjoyed a lovely, quiet family Christmas. I’ve indulged in a smorgasbord of delicious cheeses, oodles of pigs in blankets, buttery mince pies and put Baileys on everything. BUT, I’ve also been out for the odd ride or run to enjoy some fresh air and movement, and it won’t go on for ever; I go back to work on the 29th, and whilst I’m sure there’ll be Christmas eats lurking around (hospital wards attract tins of Quality Street!), I’ll also be busy at work, and getting back into my usual routine of training and meal planning. I’ll probably arrive back at my house a little heavier, but not so much so I feel the need to start January miserable on a diet, and not so much I’ve damaged my health. I start marathon training properly on January 28th so I’ve got no issues with having had a laid back Christmas- my legs will be working hard enough soon!

Balance. Useful to all aspects of life.

Christmas Gift Guide: Sporty Types

Realised that it’s the middle of December and you’ve still not thought of Christmas gifts for your sporty loved ones? Oh good, glad it’s not just me… Still, fear no more, for my list is here with some cool suggestions to suit all budgets, whether they’re a swimmer, cyclist, runner or triathlete.

Cyclists

Budget: £50-100
If you’re looking in this price bracket for your loved one, whether they’re male or female, you could do a lot worse than some HOY Vulpine kit. Rather than dropping that money on a tiny square of some naff Team Sky kit that’s eye-wateringly overpriced, why not spend instead on some beautifully made, cosy winter kit?

I’ve written about Chris Hoy’s range for Vulpine here before, and it’s no secret I’m a fan, but their range has some gorgeously cosy winter pieces. My pick? This cosy Roubaix (thermal) long-sleeved winter jersey, available in both men’s and women’s cuts. Both James and I have them and ours are hardly ever off either our bodies or our laundry airer.

HOY Vulpine Long Sleeve Roubaix Jersey, £79.99

Budget: £20-50

Whether you have a hill-climbing King or Queen of the Mountains, a wannabe sprinter or maybe they fancy themselves as the yellow jersey wearer, these Look Mum No Hands! pants would make a great present for a cyclist. Recently launched in female as well as male sets, they’re comfy, nicely made and packaged pants, and props to LMNH for their female campaign using kickass real cyclists to model them!

Look Mum No Hands! Podium Pants, £25 for a 3-pack (available in men’s and women’s)

Budget: Under £20

For under £20 for a cyclist, you cannot go wrong with something to keep their extremities warm on winter rides- they will LOVE you if your gift means they can feel their hands or feet at the end of a ride, and don’t arrive at their cafe stop miserable! Neoprene overshoes are a great bet, because they work like a wetsuit, holding in warmth even when they’re wet. I suffer from Raynaud’s and with good socks and neoprene overshoes, I never suffer dead toes any more! DHB kit from Wiggle is dependable and great value for money, and with speedy delivery too 😉

DHB Neoprene Overshoes, £19, available from Wiggle (unisex)

Runners

Budget: £50-100

If your beloved is out logging miles through winter, maybe training for a spring marathon, chances are they’d value some warm, well-fitting kit, with plenty of pockets for gels, keys and a phone- I know they’re the criteria I look for! For women, look no further than Lululemon’s Speed Tight IV: they’re absolutely perfect. Truly thick and opaque, available in a boat load of colourways, and beautifully fitting, with an abundance of pockets. They’re a joy to run in!

Lululemon Speed Tight IV, £98

For the male runner in your life? If he’s a tights man looking for cosiness this winter, these Lululemon Surge Tights look great!

Lululemon Surge Tight, £88

Budget: £20-50

If they’ve been logging the miles, chances are, I bet your runner has been forgetting to stretch out their hard working muscles. If they’re not a seasoned yogi, Jasyoga videos could be just the key to get them into taking care of their stretching, and if they are, I bet they’ll love Erin’s quick and simple videos, that are easy to slot in around busy days with a minimum of equipment. Hit up this link, and you can pay for a subscription for your loved one for as many months as you fancy-  it’s just $4.99 a month, so for under a fiver, they can have unlimited yoga classes in the comfort of their own home. Score!

Jasyoga Subscription, $4.99/month

Budget: Under £20

For under £20, there’s no gift I love to give to runner friends more than a Believe Training Journal, and there’s even two new colourways out this year. They’re from the US, but available on Amazon with free UK shipping, and they’re a beautiful training journal; more than just a space to write down training, but a book that, with the help of pro Lauren Fleshman, guides you through the process of reflecting on your training, and is filled with gorgeous photos, tips and motivational quotes. I’m on my second! They’re also not dated, so they can be started at any time of year.

Believe Training Journal, £13.99 via Amazon

Triathletes

Budget: £50-100

In my role as an Amphibia Sports ambassador* this season, I’ve been lucky enough to test their gear, from their X2 transition bag, through to accessories like their ring protectors and waterproof phone cases, and they’ve all been SO useful. So, how good is it that for Christmas they’re doing a bundle of ALL these things, in the brilliant X2 bag (reviewed here), 30% off? A great gift!

Amphibia Sport Race Pack, £79.50

Budget: £20-50

In this price range, I think one of the best gifts you can buy a triathlete is a really good-quality foam roller like this Trigger Point one. I’ve had mine for 3 years now, and have used it religiously, with no signs of wear and tear, and it’s even easy to take with you because it’s hollow, so you can fill it with stuff inside a suitcase. Whether it’s sore legs from all that riding and running, or an achy back from too many swim sessions, a good foam roller is a great gift for any triathlete- even if they don’t thank you when they’re actually using it!

Trigger Point The Grid Foam Roller, £27.95 via Wiggle

Budget: Under £20

Again, I know I’m probably biased because I now test products for Science in Sport*, but I’ve used them for a long time and they taste great, are easy on the stomach and not too expensive. If your loved one has yet to try them out, why not give one of their Christmas gift boxes? Available in either running or cycling specific boxes for £14.99, they’re a great way to try out a selection!

Science in Sport Cycling/Running Nutrition Kits, £14.99 each

*Apart from where clearly stated, I have included products here that I have bought myself, tested rigorously and really really loved. I receive Amphibia and Science in Sport products to test in my role as an ambassador for them, but I was not paid to include them here, and my opinions come after a full season of testing their products. 

 

Mmmbop!

Just in case anyone isn’t a child of the ’90s and doesn’t get the reference, the title of this post isn’t a reference to my love of cheesy ’90s pop (although I’m fairly sure my other half has caught me singing along to the Spice Girls a few times now).

No, it’s a reference to my winter training plans this year, using the Hansons Marathon Method. Since a certain magazine with a lady dressed as a bumblebee on the front dropped onto my doormat, I’ve been trying (with varying degrees of success), to get my training back on the straight and narrow, ready for a bit more structure at the end of December.

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This year has been a varied one, but on the whole pretty far away from the race season I’d imagined, but that’s life; becoming a doctor has been my dream for far longer than being a triathlete or fast runner has, and it’s far more important to me. That said, now the first 4 months on that horrendous surgical rota are done, and I can step back a little and settle into a more well-supported, less stressful work life, I cannot WAIT to get some structure and goals back into my training.

Kalenji Elioprime shoes

 

So for the last fortnight before 18 weeks till the London Marathon arrives, it’s time to try and get over the bout of gastroenteritis (cheers for that one, job!) that’s laid me low for a few days, get my trainers back on and get my legs moving again. Four night shifts, three day shifts and one training day, and I’m free to chill with my family and James, enjoy Christmas and get some miles in before the official training period begins.

Why Hansons? Well, I’ve followed Cathy‘s adventures using Hansons for a few cycles now, and I’m honestly impressed with how well it’s worked for her. I’ve read the book cover to cover, and what grabbed me instantly is that their marathon training method is grounded in good, physiological common sense, rather than traditions borrowed from elite athletes and implemented unquestioningly into training programs for non elites. I also remember from my last marathon training cycle that I could happily run up to 50 miles a week when it was well spread out, and it was only when the weekend long run maxed out to over 18 miles that I started to struggle. I’d become so fatigued from the weekend’s exertions it would ruin the rest of the week’s training.

I won’t go into masses of details about the structure of the program, because Cathy wrote an excellent post about it here, but suffice to say, I think it fits how I respond to training best; a consistent, progressive training load, with a pattern to it, that spreads the mileage out through the week instead of piling 22 mile runs on the weekends. Hopefully now work is calming down, I should be able to fit the runs in, though I accept that it’ll take some lateral thinking- my commute to work is 15 miles, so I’m pondering a drive to 5-7 miles away for two of the easy run days during the week, then running in to work (then a bus back to collect my car in the evening). Whilst it’s still dark and wintery, speedwork might have to happen on a treadmill after work, but I enjoy a challenge, and I think having something to aim for will actually give my training a bit of purpose again. Bring it on!

Have any of you used Hansons for a marathon build up before, or are you a big fan of the huge weekend miles? Let me know!

Blank pages and fresh starts

There’s something about a new notebook. The stiff spine with its slight creak as you crack it open. The crisp, unmarked pages ready to be filled; with hopes, dreams, lists, notes, doodles, stories yet to be told. I feel the same about a new training journal.

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After the recent disaster of the Snowdonia Marathon, I’ve taken some time to recover- time I definitely needed, as proven by the virus I came down with a day later, and the bike ride a week later where I felt as weak as a kitten on roads I’d normally be whizzing along. I’ve taken time to reflect and allow my body to recover as best as I can during a fortnight where I worked 115 hours- adding a load of training into that fortnight would not have been a sensible plan, it turns out.

But now the recovery time is done, the familiar itch is returning. To bookend the days at work with my familiar form of stress relief- the quiet sound of my feet on the road, and my breathing as I stretch my legs and run out the day. Or the smooth spin of my legs as I take my bike out to see the world. I’ve missed it. Nothing quite just works the same when I’m not training; my body feels unfamiliarly heavy, and slow. Like it’s been unloved. The familiar ache of muscles that have worked hard is missing, and in its absence, only a weariness that comes from too much time under strip lighting, hunched over computer screens and patients’ bedsides, organising and treating.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I’m excited to get some balance back. To take a step back from the ridiculous rota I’ve been on and have time for me again. To rebuild my running and my fitness from scratch with patience; to finally fix my running form like I’ve been meaning to with a trip to see Tom at Trimechanics. To build a stronger, healthier body from the ground upwards that’s ready come Christmas to start a more focused assault on training for the London Marathon. And what the hell, whilst I’m at it, to shed those extra ‘stress pounds’ that have taken up residence since I started work, visible probably only to me, but weighing heavy on every hill I climb by foot or bike.

Blank pages and fresh starts. The best thing about the off-season and winter training.

Surviving change: looking after number one

As I talked about in this post and this post, the past couple of months have been a time of big change for me. Sure, I was used to working hard as a medical student, but when you add in actual responsibility for peoples’ lives, it induces a special kind of down to the bones weariness, where a full week takes all weekend to recover from, and the emotions run high. I’ve survived, but I wanted to share a few of the little things that have made it bearable:

Fresh air

At some point every day this month, I’ve made a conscious effort to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. On the days where I’ve had time, it’s been runs or bike rides outside in Yorkshire’s playground, and on the days I haven’t, it’s been something as simple as a little walk to the shop for milk, or taking the outside route back from Costa to the ward I’m working on and feeling the sunshine on my skin. Either way, a little bit of green space, fresh air and sometimes sunshine has done a lot to help keep the happy topped up.

Relaxing a bit about training

Runners Need Leeds

Don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned above, I find fitting in some form of training most days fairly essential to my sanity and my body- everything just ‘works’ better when I’m exercising. However, when life gets hectic, getting hung up on the finer points of a training plan has never served me that well, so my training for the Snowdonia Marathon next month has been a reasonably relaxed affair, making sure I do enough to see me over the finish line but not getting hung up on the drama of missing a session. I’d originally planned to go PB hunting at Snowdonia, but I think reassessing that goal was sensible, and am now planning to just enjoy the experience, and perhaps try for a marathon PB when work has settled a little.

Jasyoga

With eclectic shift patterns now being the norm, it’d be hard for me to commit to a particular yoga class, and missing class after class that I’d paid for because work overran would be annoying, so Jasyoga videos have been a godsend- for £4 or so a month, I get access to all Erin’s videos which are perfect because they’re athlete-focused, easy to do at home with minimal equipment (mat, pillow, belt and you’re sorted), and easy to fit into the day- a 10 minute slot here and there has been keeping me nicely bendy, free of too many sore spots and quite grounded- ‘a deep breath in, and a sloooooow breath out’ ain’t just a useful mantra for yoga!

Sleep quality

Breakfast of champions

Now I’m a proper worker bee as well as training, sleep quality has become really important, particularly around night shifts. Going to sleep, a milky drink, eye mask and ear plugs (and sometimes a handful of Kalms) have been a massive help, especially if I’m trying to sleep during the daytime), and at the other end, my trusty Lumie clock has been brilliant for waking me up considerably less grumpy than I would otherwise be.

Meal planning

Chicken satay stir fry

I’ve always been a big fan of meal planning, especially as a student when money was tight, but now I’m working I find it helps me make healthier choices. I still end up in M&S occasionally eating Percy Pigs or cookies, but I figure if the majority of my meals are full of good stuff, the odd slip up matters a bit less. Every weekend, I plan the week’s meals for James and I, and put the list on the fridge, so we know what we’re eating all week, we waste A LOT less food, and whoever is home from work first can get dinner underway so we don’t end up eating at bedtime.

Making time for snacks

In the middle of a busy shift, especially nights, a few minutes to myself are a massive help. I was always told that when you get 10 minutes spare you should pee, drink some water and eat something, because you never know when your next break will be. It’s pretty sound advice really! The times when I’ve found my brain getting foggy, or started to feel generally crap, I’ve realised, usually correlate to when I’ve not eaten recently. Cereal bars kept inside the box part of my clipboard are a godsend!

Being selfish

And I think this is the hardest lesson I’ve learned at all. We’re all people who lead full, exciting lives, but sometimes the best (but hardest) thing to do is to be selfish and put ourselves first. Whether that’s ringing my registrar and saying that actually, I’ve got too much to do for now and could he help me, or come the weekend, leaving someone else to lead the beginners’ group ride so I can catch up on sleep, being selfish sometimes is pretty essential for sanity. Even if I feel like a mega bitch doing it- I can’t be Superwoman all the time.

A night in the life: an NHS junior doctor

I always find ‘day in the life’ blog posts really interesting, so I thought I’d write one about a night shift I did recently in a run of 5, looking after 7 wards of a busy teaching hospital as an FY1 (a first year junior doctor straight out of medical school). It might shock you, it might horrify you, and you might well feel like some coffee or a nap afterwards 😉

6pm
I wake up after sleeping all day after the last night shift. It takes 3 alarm clocks to get me out of bed, and I don’t feel in the least bit refreshed. I’ve barely slept, because even with a black out eye mask and ear plugs, sleeping in the daytime is deeply unnatural. To the kettle!

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7pm
I text James and let him know what I’ve made for dinner and left in the fridge for him, and after bolting down mine as ‘breakfast’, it’s time to leave to commute to work. I feel groggy even starting the drive to work; God knows how I’ll feel on the way home. I try to ignore thoughts of tiredness causing car crashes and enjoy the views on the way to work, whilst I glug down coffee number two since waking up.

8pm
After changing into scrubs and trainers for comfort overnight (and in case of the very likely spills of bodily fluids), I meet up with the junior doctors finishing the daytime shift and collect my bleeps for the night from them: one general bleep so any wards on the wing can get hold of me, and the crash bleep for that wing of the hospital, reserved for emergencies like cardiac arrests and seizures. Neither can be turned off; when they go off, I must go where I’m needed.

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We exchange a few jokes about how terrible the daytime has been, they hand over any jobs that need doing overnight for their patients and any particularly sick patients I should be aware of, and they trudge out of the door, exhausted after another 12 hours with little in the way of breaks, food or water.

I attend the acute handover meeting, where I find out we only have half the number of senior doctors on overnight that we need; the shifts are increasingly difficult to cover, and locums aren’t always available. I leave, worried that if I need senior support overnight, the registrar will be in theatre, and only phone advice will be available.

9pm
I finish doing my ‘jobs round’ of the first two out of seven wards I’m covering. I try to get round all of the wards early on the shift, to do the routine jobs like prescribing IV fluids and analgesia to last the night for patients who need them. I meet the other FY1 doctor who is on the twilight shift, and we divide up a few jobs between us, to make the most of his time before he leaves at midnight.

9:30pm
The first bleep of the night about a sick patient comes in. Her observations have worsened over the past hour, so the routine jobs stop and I go to review her. She is in hospital with a serious kidney infection, and it seems her condition has worsened. Fortunately, she has had all of the relevant tests done, so after speaking to the on-call microbiologist and changing her antibiotics, giving her some more fluids and some IV paracetamol, she starts to stabilise. I leave her to carry on with the jobs, as my bleep has gone off 5 times whilst I dealt with her.

11pm
Two new patients are admitted for planned surgery tomorrow, so I try to clerk them in quickly so I don’t have to wake them up later. I take a quick history from them, examine them, organise the relevant blood tests for the anaesthetists, prescribe their regular medications and injections to stop them getting a DVT, and I’m done. Fortunately they’re two straightforward young patients, here for reasonably minor surgery, and are quite well at the moment, so it doesn’t take too long.

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Midnight
I catch up with the FY1 finishing the twilight shift, and take a few jobs and patients to be aware of from him, before he goes. This is my least favourite time, because suddenly the workload doubles and the bleep goes crazy.

First bleep: the parents of a young girl want to know why she is still waiting for her operation to remove her appendix, when the surgeons said she was going on the acute theatre list. I speak to my registrar, who confirms my suspicions that somebody sicker needed operating on first, so the young girl has been bumped down the list. I steel myself, and go and talk to them. Fortunately, they’re intelligent, caring parents who are reasonable and listen to my explanation for what has happened and why. I apologise for this being the way it is, explain she unfortunately needs to continue to be nil by mouth, and briefly examine her, more to provide reassurance than anything- her observations are fine, but these brief interactions make a big difference. I review her charts, and make sure she has enough IV fluids to keep her hydrated, the right antibiotics to stop her condition worsening, and plenty of painkillers so she’s not overly uncomfortable- small touches that don’t take long, but make all the difference. She gives me a hug and says I’m the nicest doctor ever. Moments like that make it all worth it.

1am
For about 10 minutes, the bleep goes quiet, so I grab the chance to make a coffee and sit down in the doctors’ office to drink it, gather my thoughts and chase some test results. No chance! The bleep goes off again: a patient who has not long come back from theatre is short of breath and her oxygen saturations are dropping. Fortunately it’s a quick visit from me: I review her charts, listen to her chest, sit her up and put her some oxygen on, as well as ordering her a portable chest x-ray to be done. It’s quite normal for this to happen, so nobody is too worried. Her numbers improve, and I leave her, making a note of her details on my list so I can check her X-ray results soon. I return to the office, and aside from a few bleeps about paperwork and admin to do, I have an uneventful 30 minutes to myself, and can finish my cuppa and catch up.

2am
The nurses start to get a little antsy again, with several different wards bleeping me because patients need fluids and painkillers. These jobs aren’t urgent clinically, but they are to the patients and the nurses looking after them, so I try to dash around and get them all sorted out.

3am
The bleep finally goes quiet again, so I retreat to the doctors’ office for ‘lunch’. I munch my way through my sandwich, checking patients’ blood results again, and am chilled and happy until I spot a big drop in the red blood cell numbers for one patient. I pop to the ward he is on and grab his notes and start to read. I find out he’s on blood thinning drugs, and had a CT scan earlier in the day showing possible bleeding.

Oh. Shit.

I look at all the rest of his results, and try not to panic. His observations are stable for now, but for how long, I don’t know. I get him an IV injection of Vitamin K, to slowly reverse the blood thinners, but I suspect this isn’t enough. I speak to my senior, who confirms my suspicions, so I set about ringing the consultant haematologist to get some Octaplex authorised; an infusion of blood clotting factors that costs over £2000, and almost instantly reverses blood thinners. She agrees it’s suitable, so I sort out the paperwork and have it urgently portered over from the blood bank and administered. I also organise an emergency CT scan, which I have to accompany him to as he might crash, and two blood transfusions. It’s a hectic few hours, and it’s the most tiring part of the night shift when the urge to sleep is ridiculously strong. I breathe a sigh of relief as the radiologist compares his new scan to his old one and confirms that he’s not actively bleeding. Aaaaaaaand relax.

And the best eye bags award goes to...

And the best eye bags award goes to…

5.30am
Another bleep, this time that a 92-year-old lady with a potential bowel obstruction has started vomiting what very much looks like faeces.

IMG_3002

I rush to see her, and in my haste to examine her abdomen, don’t realise she has advanced dementia- until she gives me a right hook Rocky would be proud of. Assessing my jaw to make sure it’s not broken, I have to revise the plan; she’s unlikely to tolerate a naso-gastric tube, passed down the nose and into the stomach, allowing us to empty the stomach and stop the vomiting, which is what we’d normally do. The registrar tells me to use a bit of sedation if I need to, but if I do, she’ll aspirate some of that nasty vomit into her lungs if I use enough to allow me to put the tube in. The nurse looking after her and I put our heads together and hatch a plan to help her- she has no IV access, so we give her anti-vomiting drugs via another type of injection, and try to calm her down. She gradually stops vomiting and settles down, thank god- it was pretty distressing all round!

6am
As sure as nights make you sleepy, for some reason ill patients spike temperatures at around 6am, so I rush from ward to ward checking it’s nothing more serious than IV paracetamol and antibiotic doses being due. Sure enough, the temperatures slowly start to come down, and the patients start to look a little brighter. It’s nice when solutions are simple!

7am
7am is a glorious hour on a night shift for two reasons: firstly, it’s only an hour until you finish, and secondly, nurses change shift at 7am, so they’re all in handover and the bleep goes quiet. Bliss! I start to sort out an organised list of important things to hand over, organised by which team each patient ‘belongs’ to, so I can find the right people to hand them back to. It’s a satisfying part of the shift, because if all goes well, it’s quiet and it means I can gather my thoughts, sort things out and hopefully leave on time. At about 7:45am the daytime FY1 doctors arrive, so bit by bit, I hand the patients over. The ones who have done their night shifts congratulate me on surviving; the ones who haven’t yet look terrified at how exhausted I am. I pop and get changed back into my normal clothes before formal handover to the day team.

8am
Handover meeting- at last! I sit through the acute team handover, fairly zoned out, as the night FY1 doesn’t have much to contribute to this, until one of the registrars nudges me to tell me if I’ve handed over my bleeps and my jobs, I can leave- result! I shuffle back to my car, VERY carefully drive home, and after some toast, a hot chocolate and some Kalms, head straight to bed to sleep for my next shift, eye mask on and ear plugs in.

Breakfast of champions

So, now you’ve read that, what do you think about the extensive contract changes Jeremy Hunt is trying to impose on junior doctors, where working hours like that (I did 84 hours of night shifts in 9 days) become the norm, and all for a £6000 or so pay cut? A little off topic, I appreciate, but blogs are all about what’s going on with someone at that point in their life!

Learning from a tough race: swim sorting

After my race at Castle Howard, it was abundantly clear that one of the areas that needed a lot of work was my swim. That 1500m was one of the most difficult ones I’ve swum in my life, so I thought ahead of the half ironman I’m doing in a couple of weeks’ time, it was important to sit down and think about why.

Reasons I found the swim tough:

  • Lack of wetsuit time in the months leading up to it. I got a new wetsuit for Christmas, and haven’t clocked up many hours swimming in it to be used to how it feels and how tight it is!
  • Lack of focused swim training. I’d been swimming most weeks, but really skived off doing drills, form work and speed work and it showed- my swim was slow and laborious.
  • Lack of open water specific skills- including sighting and staying relaxed swimming around others when there are no lane ropes.

All isn’t lost though!

Okay, so I didn’t have masses of time (about 6 weeks once I’d recovered from Castle Howard), but marathon training and revising for exams have both taught me that there’s a lot you can do in 6 weeks, so I tried to stay focused and do what I could to turn my swim around.

Putting in the hard yards…

Hard graft. It’s unpleasant at times, but it reliably gives results. I got myself a kickboard and a pullbuoy so I couldn’t use a lack of those as an excuse not to do drills, picked up a new cossie as well for motivation, and made sure I hit the pool at least twice each week for a swim set of at least 2km, including technique drills, speed intervals and some steady distance in the warm up and cool down.

It’s not fun or glamorous plodding up and down the pool doing kick drills and stroke drills, but it’s starting to work (I think). Focusing on smaller elements of a good stroke, and then putting them together with short speedy reps of 50m and 100m feels like it’s starting to embed better technique, and I feel more streamlined and powerful in the water.

Open water skills

It can be hard to fit in open water training around work, and having a lack of swim buddies available at all times, but I’ve tried to fit in open water skills in my pool training where I can. So, much to the amusement of the lifeguards, during my drills I’ve been practicing my sighting so I stop swimming quite so wonkily in open water, as well as swimming closer to other people so I get less flustered by it. Time to stop bemoaning lack of open water time and adapt my training to still practice the skills!

Wetsuit comfort

There were a lot of things I was struggling with wetsuit-wise, and I think they’re things every newbie has struggled with too, so I thought I’d share a bit of what’s helped me feel more at home!

  • I cut the legs and arms of my suit. I know, I know! I took a pair of scissors to an RRP £475 Huub wetsuit. I’m not the only one though- do it at your own risk, but cutting the wetsuit back at the ankle and wrist inside the double seams (Google how to do it without trashing your suit) made it MILES easier to get on and off.
  • Lube, lube and more lube. Make sure whatever you want to use, like Bodyglide, is safe for your suit, and then make sure you lube up the back of your neck and your extremities, both to help you in and out of the suit, and to reduce the dreaded chafing on the back of your neck- it hurts!
  • Take your time putting it on. This video from Swim Smooth is ace and has some really helpful tips, including a genius plastic bag trick, that really help get you comfy in your suit. Half of my problem was that I wasn’t working the suit over my shoulders enough, so it all felt uncomfortably tight around my neck and was restricting my stroke.

Putting it all together

I hit the open water with lovely swim coach Rach this morning for a confidence boosting splash. We found a stretch of the River Wharfe near Ilkley that’s both deep, wide and not too strong a current for swimming, and after squealing as we lowered our kidneys in (never gets easier, whether in a wetsuit like me, or without like Rach), we enjoyed a really lovely swim.

I wasn’t too fussed about swimming the distance, because I’ve been doing that in the pool, but I was keen to experience colder water than I will on race day, and swim confidently in it, breathing bilaterally and sighting properly, comfy in my suit.

Coach Rach, once she’d finished shouting at me to just put my bloody face in, was pleased with the notable improvements to my body position and head position in the water, as well as being more comfortable sighting, and I left the water contented, happy, and a little bit more confident about race day. Also may or may not have been wearing a bear wooly hat despite now being 23…

10 things most road cyclists wish drivers knew

There’s no doubt about it, road cycling is becoming ever more popular, and rightfully so- it’s a great sport. You get to see amazing new places by bike, challenge yourself, enjoy spending time with like-minded people and that’s before we even mention the coffee and cake stops.

photo 4 (13)However, sharing the road with drivers presents no end of conflict from both sides; both drivers and cyclists behave badly at times, but as a cyclist you are ultimately the more vulnerable one. Here’s 10 things that I think most road cyclists would like drivers to realise:

  1. Cyclists are not, as I’ve heard suggested, permanently angry people.
    I’m going to be controversial here and suggest that as a driver, if you think every cyclist you come across is angry, the common factor is your driving. Just sayin’. But aside from that, I think what comes across as anger from cyclists is mostly fear. A near miss with a car delivers a huge surge of adrenaline, that makes us weedy, mild-mannered cyclists very shouty. We’re not normally like that, I promise- just look at us… We’d hardly win in a bar fight, unless we could use our mighty quads to squeeze an assailant to death…
  2. We’re very vulnerable on the road, so please give us space.
    You have bumpers in a car. Our ‘bumper’ is our head, encased in a thin shell of polystyrene. In an impact between a car and a cyclist, no matter whose fault it is, even if we’re just ‘clipped’, we come off far worse, often leaving us with serious injuries and ruined bikes. Please, respect bike lanes (don’t park in them or pull across them without indicating or checking your mirrors), and don’t overtake us only to slam your brakes on. We’ll try and ride similarly, behaving predictably and considerably, riding tidily and signalling our intentions clearly.
  3. We know you have places to be. So do we.
    Believe it or not, as cyclists, we don’t only go out onto the roads to hold drivers up and be a menace to society. We have places to go too, whether that’s our workplace that we’re commuting to, or the destination for our day out. We aren’t deliberately holding you up, we’re just trying to safely get to where we’re going too, and driving considerately around us really won’t add much time to your journey. I promise.
  4. Sometimes the bike lane isn’t the best place for us to be on the road. Deal with it.
    You wouldn’t deliberately drive your car through debris and potholes that would puncture your tyres or bend your wheels, and we’re no different. The edges of the road are where crap and debris gather, and since that’s usually in the bike lane, we sometimes have to ride elsewhere. That doesn’t mean we deserve abuse, or as I got recently, yells of ‘get back in the fucking bike lane, stupid bitch!’. Ditto if we’re turning right- then we absolutely shouldn’t be in the bike lane on the left of the road! photo 1 (16)
  5. Every ‘fucking cyclist’ you might not want to be on the road or not value the safety of, is somebody’s loved one. 
    Most drivers are wonderful, and considerate, but the abusive minority, who’ve maybe had a bad experience with a cyclist in the past, seem to forget that the ‘fucking cyclists’ they so violently object to and spend their time carving up on the roads, are somebody’s loved one. I am not merely a stupid bitch on a bike, as has been suggested, but a daughter, sister, girlfriend, granddaughter, friend and doctor, and I value my life just as much as you value yours. Remember that.
  6. Not all drivers are the same, and neither are all cyclists.
    A small minority of cyclists ride like absolute tossers, with no regard for other road users, jumping red lights, hopping up onto pavements and treating their commute like it’s the final stretch of the Tour de France. The majority of us, however, are patient, considerate, law-abiding cyclists, so please don’t tar us with the same brush as that small number of idiots on bikes.
  7. Contrary to some opinions, riding two abreast is perfectly legal and makes a bunch of cyclists quicker to overtake.
    There’s a great post explaining this concept here, but in short, riding two abreast shortens a group of cyclists, meaning they are quicker to pass in a car, and also safer. Two abreast, riding neatly, is great. Four abreast, sprawling all over the road, is not- and that IS something we do chastise our cycling pals for doing, trust me!

    Image from http://ukcyclelaws.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-laws-according-to-highway-code.html

  8. That red box painted at junctions with a bike painted on it? That’s a safe space for cyclists at the front of queued traffic. Please stay out of it if you’re in a car.
    I’ve lost count of the number of times impatient drivers have sat in the ASZ, blocking my way, or stopping so close to me that their bumper touches my back wheel, only for me to get abused if I point it out. That is a small space that cyclists have a right to be in. Please let us safely stay in it!
  9. Stop whining about us not paying road tax and thus having no rights on the road. ‘Road tax’ is actually emissions tax, and since bikes don’t make any, we don’t have to pay it.
    Doesn’t mean we’re second class citizens, doesn’t mean we don’t belong on the road. Deal with it! Money for maintaining roads comes from taxation, which sadly we all have to pay, so us cyclists have just as much right to travel peacefully on the roads as drivers.
  10. We need to ride a safe distance from parked cars. Like, a metre.
    know it means we’re ‘riding in the middle of the road’ and ‘in your way’, but until people getting out of parked cars stop opening doors into our paths as a cyclist, leading to pretty bad accidents, we need to ride a door’s width from parked cars. We’re not doing it to annoy you, I promise! This doesn’t excuse some of the terrible cycling that happens in busy areas where cyclists do end up holding drivers up though…

Confessions of a fitness blogger

Inspired by this excellent post from my pal Fiona, I thought I’d share a few things about my experience of being a fitness blogger and triathlete, that you don’t see on Instagram or social media.

  1. Triathlon and running are rarely attractive sports.
    For every vaguely attractive Instagram shot of some nice new kit in action on the bike, there are a hundred where I look fat, my muscly thighs look more like Chris Hoy’s or you can see the nasty scar on my left knee from my crash in November. That’s before we even start on the goggle marks, sports bra chafe, chub rub on the inner thigh or having to lube most of your body to get into a wetsuit. General ratio: 20 unattractive moments to every 1 decent Instagrammable moment.photo 2 (14)
  2. Kale, almond milk and chia seeds? Lolz. My diet is mostly carbs, carbs, peanut butter and more carbs.
    When I do a ‘treat’ after a long run or ride, it is not a green juice that looks like pond water. It’s something nutritionally filthy and very much good for the soul- think a burger with bacon and oozing cheese, a gooey chocolate brownie or a perfect fry-up. That’s not to say I don’t try and base my meals around good stuff, but I see no problem with occasional junk food, and carbs are most certainly welcome in all of my meals.Chicken satay stir fry
  3. A quick blast with a hair dryer and some dry shampoo is as good as a hair wash, right?
    Like a lot of triathletes I know, I train too much to wash my hair after every session, so I tend to wash it only after swimming, and the rest of the time, a quick hairdryer blast to get rid of sweat + a dry shampoo does the job. Grim? Yes. Effective? Very.
  4. I have days where I hate sport and spend my evening in bed watching Game of Thrones and eating things.
    Anyone who claims they always want to get out of the door is lying, in my opinion. I like to cut myself a little slack, as I’m not a pro athlete, and whilst life continues to be messy and unpredictable, missing the odd session won’t kill  me, but it does help to keep me sane!
  5. I try and be confident and happy with my body, but I still let the number on the scales or how my body look affect my day.
    Rationally, I know that I’m heavier these days partly because I’m a little curvier than at the peak of marathon training, and partly because I’ve gained muscle, particularly around my shoulders and quads, but that doesn’t stop me sometimes hating my body. I’m learning to be kind to my body and value it for what it can do not how it looks, but it takes time!photo (11)
  6. I sabotage all my attempts at healthy eating with snacking.
    I’m working on it by eating properly proportioned, filling meals, but I am a terrible snacker. I can eat three perfectly healthy meals a day, but late afternoon to early evening is the spot where my diet really falls short- and I ain’t talking health blogger ‘oops I ate 5 almonds instead of 3 ‘ type snacking fails. Ooops.
  7. I have oodles of lycra but will obsess over one piece of kit at a time and wear it so often it’s never off either my body or the laundry rack.
    I don’t know why either. Makes no logical sense.
  8. I am a fitness blogger who hates smoothies.
    Sacrilege, I know. I don’t know why, but I just hate smoothies. Something to do with the texture, the fact they always seem to contain banana and the odd mix of stuff that goes into them. I wish I liked them, but I genuinely can’t stand them.
  9. I am truly terrible at remembering to drink enough water.
    If there was a target coffee intake each day, I’d nail it. I kinda forget about water though, and often only start nailing pints of water or squash once I get a headache. BAD fitness blogger!
    photo 1
  10. One of my favourite 3 sports is cycling and it still bloody terrifies me.
    Even before I got hit by a van last week, cycling has always scared me. Cycling quickly downhill terrifies me, cycling in a group makes me very jittery and I’ll genuinely do anything to avoid certain roads when they’re busy, because lots of cars scare me when I’m out on my bike. I was doing well at getting over this before my crash, so let’s hope I get a bike back soon, so that it doesn’t become a big barrier in my mind!

What are your most un-health blogger-ish habits?