Hello Realbuzzers 😀
Last week I was in a state of great nervousness about starting the new drug therapy for the AS. Thank you so much for all your reassurances and positivity, it really did help a lot. More about how it went later as the day before that first shot we went out walking.
Last Thursday was soooooo cold! The icy wind was just horrible and when we parked up in Marlow to start the walk, it was snowing. Thankfully, it was only a bit of light snow but in that wind, it was enough to make me put my Buff over my head, put a hat on top and put my hood up as well (what a wimp eh 😂😂😂). I didn't want to overdress - something I'm always guilty of - so it was a very chilly first fifteen minutes of brisk walking until we warmed up. The plan was to walk another section of the Thames Path between Marlow and Henley (or as far as we could get in the time we had available). It was the final part that R didn't see during last year's challenge because of the dark and the thick fog. It was another later start than planned - not easy to get going in the mornings 😕
Snow in Marlow at the start of our walk
We parked up in Riverpark Drive where Richard's parents used to live so it was a bit of trip down Memory Lane seeing their old house again, although it looks totally different now. The first thing we saw was a pair of Red Kites starting to build a nest in a large oak tree in someone's garden. Were they completely bonkers thinking about mating in those temperatures?? As we walked through the town, everyone we passed smiled and commented on the cold and most were so wrapped up it's a wonder they could still move. It didn't take long to reach the river, but just before we got there, we spied a little Costa.....well, it would have been rude not to start out holding a lovely hot cup of tea. I actually spent most of the first couple of miles spilling it all over my gloves but it was very welcome nonetheless 😂😂
It wasn't long before the nice even riverside path became a mess of frozen ruts and clods. It was impossible to maintain any semblance of a regular pace and there was also a high risk of turning ankles on the frozen ground. Not far out of Marlow is the bridge I remember being the thing of nightmares last year - a huge structure called Temple Footbridge, the longest hardwood footbridge in the U.K., which has a pretty steep ascent and descent. It's 80m long and 6.5m tall in the middle. I have to say, it wasn't as bad as I remembered (at least not on the outward leg 😂😂)
Temple Bridge (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
There was so much birdlife around which surprised me given the temperature (it maxed out at 0C but was nearer -7C with added windchill) and we spotted over 30 different species in total (no kingfishers this week though). There were many interesting things to see en route including Medmenham Abbey and Hambledon Mill on the opposite bank. I have to admit, although I looked and appreciated, I was pretty much lost in just putting one foot in front of the other. The first 5km were fine but let's just say that the last 22km were a bit of a mind strengthener! There were a few things that shook me out of my reverie though.
One was the massive deer herd at Culham Court (an ugly block of a country mansion set in a vast estate not too far from Henley) - over 400 of them! We had a chat with an estate employee and most are white fallow deer from Scandinavia. There are also some standard fallow deer as well as 7 Sika deer and some Axis deer as well. Until a couple of weeks ago there were just over 550 but they'd had a recent cull to reduce numbers.
Part of the Culham Deer herd
Sika Deer Stag
The other was just half a mile further on - thirty-odd Red Kites perched in trees/flying around where a farmer had put something probably quite unsavoury (that looked like offal) out in a field. It's a pity we didn't get there thirty minutes earlier when it was first put out, it must have been quite a spectacle. As it was, the remnants were being picked over by the crows with just the occasional kite swooping down to join them.
Four Red Kites in a single tree - there were over thirty in the surrounding trees!
On we went, aware that soon we'd have to turn around and head back. We almost made it to Henley. Well, we could see it at least.
Henley in the distancel
On the way back through the deer park, several of the younger white bucks were having mock fights which was also entertaining to see.
Young white Fallow Deer having a bit of a tussle
After that it was all a bit of a blur, just one long continual push to get back, concentrating on walking as evenly as possible. I reckon that was the most painful walk overall I've ever done. with back,ribs, hips, right foot and neck all going off on one plus the knee and shoulder still making their presence felt. Maybe a timely reminder about why I was trying the new meds the next day! We made it back to Costa five minutes before closing time and another large hot cup of tea was carefully carried the rest of the way back to the car. The short stop to pick up drinks was enough to have chilled right down and it was a real relief to get back to the car and take shelter from the biting wind and munch down on some ginger cookies 😊
I felt surprisingly calm on Friday - no last minute doubts any more and I was busy right up to the last minute 😊 I was also still really sore from the long walk - the muscles were fine, but the joints were still giving me hell. A nice steady walk down through the woods to the GP surgery helped a bit though. I met the nurse who was going to give me my training session and supervise the injection and she was absolutely lovely. 45 minutes of training then I finally injected myself in the thigh. Very easy to master as it's just a pen - you press the button and that's that. Never felt a thing either so that was a bonus. Any immediate histamine reactions are fast for me - anywhere between 8 and 30 seconds and by the time the nurse asked how long it would usually take me to react, the risk had passed. That was huge relief. Another 45 minutes of information and form filling etc then I was free to walk home. R had walked down to walk home with me bless him 😊 I felt absolutely fine and was very happy with how things had gone. I'd asked the nurse if it would be OK to do Parkrun the next day and she said as long as I felt OK, it would be fine, but maybe just take it a bit more slowly. I felt fine all evening. All the horrible side effects that some had told me were common just didn't happen and I couldn't believe my luck. Hopefully they wouldn't start the next day!
The Downright Marvellous
When the alarm went off on Saturday morning, I realised that I'd managed to stay in bed for five hours without getting up - the first time in over three years! I also realised that I felt really quite different. It was like someone had turned the volume down on the pain. I was stiffer than normal because of the extra time in bed but a load of stretching helped. The nurse had told me the day before that in cases like mine where the inflammation was really bad, the medication could work really quickly but I didn't really believe it. Usually in the morning I feel so utterly knackered and even after stretching out it takes me ages to get going. On Saturday I trotted downstairs with a spring in my step, looking forward to my third Parkrun. R wasn't quite so happy. He'd pulled something in his back a few days before while pulling up brambles, plus it was raining. No idea what he's done but it doesn't seem too bad as the discomfort eases when he's moving. I'd been trying to persuade him all week to buy some Ibuprofen to ease the back pain.
115 turned out this week, including my friend Ally from my local AS group (I've been trying to persuade a few of them to give Parkrun a go). When Ally joined the group two years ago she could barely shuffle. One thing we do well at the group is give advice on how to get the best from the local rheumatology service, which to be honest, is pretty poor here if you have AS. They're great at Rheumatoid Arthritis, just not at AS. Over the course of a year, we helped her to ask for different treatments and on the third try, she found an anti-inflammatory that really helped and combined with exercise, it's really turned her life around. Now she's back running and riding her horse again. That's one of the things I love most about running the local group, our ability to make a real difference, but I digress (as usual!). It was certainly different from last week's Parkrun - mild and very muddy. When we parked up, R decided he wasn't going to run after all as he just felt too rough so I headed out on my own. As the safety briefing was being given, the rain stopped 😊 With about 2 minutes to the off, I saw R walking across towards us. He said that sitting in the car was hurting so he'd decided to run after all.
I decided to walk more than run this week. For once I intended to try to heed the advice of taking it easy. The volume may have been turned down on the pain but the neck, back and hips were still issuing reminders 😂😂 No one started out walking this week, so I ran a bit with Ally until we'd overtaken five or 6 people, then I dropped to a fast walk while Ally ran on, looking strong 😊 I remember thinking as we entered the woods 'three climbs of that pesky hill!' But in reality it seemed to go pretty quickly. It wasn't quite as muddy as I expected and still no slips or trips - I love those new trail shoes 😀 When I reached the top of the downhill bit I just couldn't help myself - relax and jog down and I enjoyed every single second of that feeling 😀 By lap 2 my left hamstring, knee and hip were starting to complain and the usual headache was starting. I might have had the magic medicine but I had to remember it wasn't going to fix the long standing damage. I was really surprised that I finished only a minute slower than last week so I was very happy with that. Despite not really wanting to run, R got a new PB of 36.15, but still maintains he doesn't care about PB's and still doesn't like this course 😂😂 Ally brought it home in 35.15 and was over the moon and loves the course too 😀 In previous weeks, I've had half an hour afterwards of feeling great, then deflated like a balloon. This week, despite the niggles, I felt great all day. I got the roller out when we got home and gave the hamstrings and calves a bit of a seeing to and they've been fine since.
We spent yesterday walking around in London. We went to an event called 'The France Show'. We went a few years ago and enjoyed it so booked tickets again but this time it just seemed like a load of English salesmen trying to sell French things that were made in England. We didn't stay long! Instead we paid a visit to the Natural History Museum and spent a happy few hours wandering around. Yes I still had back, hip and neck pain, but not like it would usually be after a day like that. One thing I've learned very quickly in the past couple of days is the difference between inflammatory and mechanical pain. The inflammatory pain is an endless nagging intense deep ache that doesn't change whether you're resting or not. The mechanical pain stops when you rest. The absolute joy of having pain that stops when you lay down is a complete novelty and one I'm more than happy with. As long as I can push on through that pain when I need to, that's all that really matters to me. As treatment goes on (I have to inject every two weeks), things have the potential to improve further. For the first time as long as I can remember, I've had three consecutive days that haven't been dominated by pain and it's been an incredible feeling. I'm itching to find out what difference it will make during a long walk.....something I hope to find out later in the week, but for now, the future seems brighter than I could have ever imagined 😊😊😊
Happy training everyone 😀