Flossy likes the sunshine

How do you get your head in the right place? A place where you don’t over-analyse, obsess, fret, misinterpret…. It’s easy to get sucked into that way of thinking but I think someone once said something about not letting your heart be weary but to consider the flowers and birds in the fields, so I guess that is it. A course in ornithology? A good walk in the country? A run by the sea? Can’t do any harm, can it?

20140407-183603.jpg

Flossy does the Titanic Quarter 10K in not quite record breaking time.

In a week where I firstly had some sort of a throat infection, went to rheumatology and then discovered the ‘delights’ of Topamax, I was not sure how I would fare in this race. It is touted as the official warm up race for the Belfast City Marathon which happens on 5th May this year. It takes place around the Titanic Quarter and Belfast’s Harbour Estate, an area of Belfast I don’t normally visit but which has seen massive changes lately.

The start line was in the grounds of the Belfast Marina, within sight of the Titanic museum and Nomadic (the last surviving boat which ferried passengers to the Titanic on its one and only voyage). The atmosphere was lively and upbeat and the sun was shining. It was warm enough for me to get away with a short sleeved T-shirt and not bother with any gloves! Wonders will never cease!

My pace was slow by most people’s standards but I was happy enough with it: 1:07:23. The last official time I got for a 10K was 1:20 but it was on a hilly course whereas this was flat the whole way! I managed not to finish the race with my usual aura though my head is hurting now and I had a brief, ludicrous moment when I mistook a smear on my glasses for an aura… Doh! Not the sharpest tool in the box!

So, some images from the race. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop on the way to take better snaps! I did feel a bit like a tourist in my own city and I do think I would like to spend a bit of quality time in this area, preferably at a more leisurely pace so I can take in the sights!

20140406-204617.jpg

20140406-204627.jpg

20140406-204633.jpg

20140406-204642.jpg

20140406-204653.jpg

20140406-204701.jpg

Flossy goes to rheumatology.

Finally, I got to rheumatology. My appointment came as part of a waiting list initiative so I was seen in a private clinic by a very approachable, knowledgeable rheumatologist who is trying to get me into the local NHS rheumatology clinic because they basically have bette facilities and access to the same computer system as my GP and all the blood tests.

She diagnosed me with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease with strong leanings towards limited Scleroderma and certain aspects of Sjogren’s and Lupus. I was quite shocked. A lot of the things I just thought were normal actually turn out not to be so normal… Ulcers, hair thinning, dry eyes. What I don’t understand is why my immune system likes to beat me up so much.

In the meantime I will start medication for the Raynaud’s, stay on the tablets for my tummy and possibly start Plaquenil for the Lupus. I also intend to keep running and enjoying the lovely fresh air and great outdoors that does me so much good.

So, how do you tame an over active immune system? Why are these illnesses becoming so common and why, according to a relative, are they so common in Ireland in particular? Other than that, what is the best thing I can do for myself in this position?

Flossy is looking forward to a weekend with not a lot to do!

That sounds very negative and it really shouldn’t be. I’m very grateful for the first day of Summer Time. The clocks went forward during the night which means an hour’s less sleep but the benefits outweigh the loss of 60 minutes sleep! It was bright today until nearly 8:00 and it is not too dark in the mornings. A few days or a week and the mornings will have caught up. I am so glad to see the seasons turning!

This weekend has been quite pleasant. I took part in Bangor’s inaugural Park Run in the lovely Ward Park. Quite a funny, meandering route but it’s great to get people out exercising, enjoying local shared spaces and working together with a greater sense of community. It was not the nicest of mornings – soaking wet and quite cool, though once I got moving I soon warmed up. I managed to improve my times – 32 mins 03 seconds. Not quite sub 30 mins, but I will get there and I don’t think I was helped by having to stop twice to retie my shoe laces!

I greeted the first morning of Summer with a run along the coast with a friend. Bolstered from yesterday’s success, we have both entered a 10K in Belfast next weekend. The first thing I noticed was the number of runners out this morning! I think there is a slight sense of panic with the Belfast marathon only being a month away now! Everybody was in good form though, saying good morning where breath allowed and a friendly nod where it was not possible to get any words out!

It was lovely to see so many people out making good use of our local public paths and beautiful coastline. I have often thought this particular path is under utilised and unappreciated. I enjoyed seeing the cyclists, walkers, dog walkers, families, joggers and so on enjoying the dry weather and early morning sunshine. As for heat, I reckon we will have a bit of a wait before we feel any of that! Some day I will be able to leave the gloves behind and don a shortsleeved top! I might even get the legs out!

After my early morning run, migraine aura (another one), cup of tea and a chat and lunch, I made my way up to the Shankill Road in Belfast. Talk about brain freeze! My grandmother and great grandmother both lived up in that part of town, but could I figure out how to get there after so many years! I can’t figure out if it was just my memory failing me or the fact that there are new buildings and new roads and new one way systems in Belfast since I was a child that I could not figure it out!

I finally reached my destination: the Spectrum Centre in Tennant Street, a former cinema, then recreation centre and now a community arts centre. The occasion was an orchestral rehearsal with the a Ulster Orchestra and Belfast Philharmonic Choir for a concert tomorrow evening featuring the music of Patrick Doyle as used in the films of Kenneth Brannagh – one of my favourite actors and someone we all want to claim as Belfast’s own!

Flossy has an exciting weekend of choral singing and a half marathon

The weekend kicked off last night with a thrilling performance of Haydn’s Creation with the Ulster Orchestra, Belfast Philharmonic, Roberta Mameli (soprano soloist), Stuart Jackson (Tenor Soloist) and Umberto Chiummo (bass soloist) under the baton of the lovely Jean-Luc Thingaud. It was a real pleasure as well as privilege to be in the chorus for this amazing piece of music, to work with Jean-Luc as he put his spin on things and to listen to the three wonderful soloists who made everything sound effortless and beautiful. One can only dream!

Unfortunately there was no time for milling around for the usual post concert socialising as I had an early start this morning for the Larne Half-Marathon. Larne is a small port town on the East Coast of Northern Ireland. It’s the gate way to the famous Antrim Coastline. For such asmall town there was a very respectable turn out with walkers, wheel chair athletes, relay runners, athletics club runners and people like me, the leisure runner whose only real objective is to enjoy and complete the event.

I was slightly dubious at the start about the weather. The weather report on my trusted weather app was really not encouraging. A ‘high’ of 7 degrees centigrade that would actually feel like 2 degrees centigrade, 40% chance of rain and blustery winds, I was prepared for a cold, miserable run! I could not have been further from the truth.

It was cold, but the sky was blue and clear and once I got moving I soon warmed up. I just wish I could have stopped to take pictures. It was truly inspiring and made me realise what a scenic and unspoilt part of the world I live in. Just past the half way mark I spied Ailsa Craig which spurred me on as I thought about reaching the finishing line.

I started the race with a friend but we both agreed at the start to run at our own paces. I’m glad we did. My friend finished 20 minutes in front of me and I would hate to think I had held her back! She was delighted and I was delighted for her! I finished in about 2 hours 33 so I was bringing up the rear! That said, it beats my 3 hours 17 at the Belfast half marathon and I still wasn’t last!

So I have spent the rest of the day crashed out on another friend’s settee, drinking water and indulging in a large post run chicken Goujon supper. I think I can afford it, if my app is anything to go by, I have burnt up a huge 2000 calories… Now as long as I don’t eat every single one of them back, I’ll be happy!

Goals for the week:
Let my knees recover from the hammering they got today!
Go for at least one hill run session.
Eat sensibly.
Find a fun run I can do in fancy dress…

Flossy would rather know ‘jack all’ about Jak2

Depending on which website you go to, I am either 1 in 100,000 or 2.5 in 100,000. These are the odds I could live without but apparently the odds sought me out and gifted me with this bizarre mutation. I’m really not ready to join the X-men. I know, we all have them, mutations… Freckles, blue eyes, brown hair, a dimple here but this is one of those mutations I would rather not have to live with.

Essential Thrombocythaemia is the name, or ET if you can’t manage the mouthful, and Jak2 is found in about 50% of patients with the comdition (I’ll not call it an illness because I don’t feel ill and I know too many precious people who are ill). I’ve been practising saying it: throm-Bo-sigh-theme-ee-a. It still comes out in a jumble, linguist that I would aspire to be!

My bone marrow – the bit of the bone the dog loves, that we were told to stop eating at the height of the Mad Cow Disease scare and blood cell factory – makes too many platelets. For no particular reason. It just does it because what else would you do of a day?

I’m fortunate. My count is not that high. In fact it is borderline normal and ignored a long time until a very eager GP sent me off on my rounds of the hospital, my tour of the ‘ologies’, not quite the European finishing tour of the well shod but interesting and informative nonetheless.

It’s not the end of the world and it could explain a few things, such as where have all the migraines, headaches, vertigo attacks etc been coming from but it’s still a shock to discover that everything is not working as perfectly as you would like it in your body and you can’t do anything to change it. ‘Pre-diabetic, go on a diet and do some exercise’ springs to mind as a recent experience.

This is different. Diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight are still vital but will not take away this diagnosis. I feel healthy – if a little tired from to time and I didn’t enjoy the migraine yesterday followed by the migraine hangover today – I look healthy and I still think I am healthier than your average non-exercising person but this is going to be a steep learning curve.

At the minute the state of play is: repeat blood tests to confirm diagnosis, keep exercising, lose a bit more weight and bring cholesterol down. Lay off the baby aspirin until we find out whether it is responsible for your hacking cough. Treatments are good, sit tight and try not to google too much! (Try telling the tide not to come in…)