Sunday, 26 February 2012

Catch up!

It's been a while since I've blogged, apologies to those visitors that have tired of my old content.  A lot has happened these past couple of months, I won't be able to cover it all - but I'll try to give you the gist!

January started with a bang, a two and a half week altitude camp in South Africa.  Over Christmas I'd really strengthened my injured back and was pleased with the progress I'd made on the ergo.  This translated to a good start in SA and I hoped to jump straight back into where I had been pre-torn disc.  A couple of days in and I started to pick up a few niggles and struggled.  The rest of the camp became a survival strategy as I nursed my way through a gruelling training program.  Most of the camp was on the ergo, broken up with weights and some cycling every other day.  There was no real time to do anything "touristy" in SA, but I did enjoy staying within a small town - it meant I could experience a little bit more of what it's like for the locals day to day.

Off the back of the SA camp we had the annual GB Team Dinner.  The dinner was held at Twikenham Stadium - about 6 mins drive from my house (unless the lights are bad!).  Invited are the good, bad and ugly of British rowing and sponsors.  The night can be a bit of a stiff occasion for those that have ergo tests a couple of days after, but it is a good chance to hear about how all the GB rowing teams did the previous season (Junior, U23, European and Senior).  Medalists are presented with a framed photo from the World Champs, the World Champions also receive a certificate from the World governing body (FISA) telling them they are World Champions.  I'm not really one for momentoes, but the my 'Junior World Champion' certificate is something different and special.

Post the GB Dinner we had our 5km ergo test.  With no preparation I went into it a bit blind.  Previously I'd probably gone too hard too early and paid for it in the second half.  This time I took a risk, I waited and waited.  I wanted to go under 16 mins, that meant pulling an average split of under 1:36.  I only got down to this in the dying stages of the test.  I finished with a time of 15:58 - a PB of 6 seconds.  I was pleased with the way I did it and happy to be stepping forward after what had been a miserable camp.

A few days later we did some testing on the water.  This has generally been where I could show my abilities and prove my worth.  This time I wasn't that good.  I lacked technically and needed to get more shove on through the stroke.  These are things I thought I had been doing far better earlier in the season.  The testing showed the great strength in depth in the team, there are plenty of others ready to perform and shine if you don't.  I'm dissappointed with my performance and, if I'm honest, it puts my Olympic dream in jeopardy.

Towards the end of that week I started to develop funny heart rhythms.  They came and went, sometimes stronger sometimes weaker.  During racing your body can react in strange ways, it had been particularly cold and I had experienced a couple of these weird beats while away in SA.  CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) conducts regualrly screening and last October they had picked up that I had an eptopic beat - its not particularly serious but something to keep an eye on.  As I settled to tuck into the Six Nations on the Saturday afternoon, I noticed that my heart wasn't beating normally, I felt pretty rubbish, lips tingled a bit and noticed I was getting breathless.  I let it go, expecting it to settle like the previous days, but by the evening I thought it would be best to contact Dr Ann (our team doctor).  She sent me to A & E to get it looked at, I think the main purpose was to catch it on an ECG while it was happening.  Several blood tests were done to check other stuff wasn't going on (e.g. Thyroid issues etc).  Come Monday I was still getting these beats and I really struggled during my first session.  Dr Ann sent me to see a cardiologist [Prof Sharma] at St George's Hospital.  I was told this guy was THE guy to see, and I believe it.  They ran through quite a few tests, including an active ECG.  I was told they would put me on a treadmill - "get me moving and see how the heart reacted".  I thought this would be a light jog at worst - I was wrong.  I was rigged up with 12 or so sensors and then informed it would be a test to maximum heart rate.  I was sat in jeans and trainers (laces not done up).  I sweat pretty quickly on a cold day, in a warm hospital I thought this can only get messy.  Inside I didn't know what to do - ask to do it in my boxer shorts or just get on with it? I bottled it, jeans it was.  I don't think they'd had anyone sweat quite so much but thankfully they didnt make me go to max heart rate ("Yeah, this is going to take too long").  They gave me a 24hr ECG to wear and I finished my training for the day.  Over the next couple of days I felt pretty rubbish and feverish at times.  On the Wednesday Dr Ann said to take a break, I had more tests and was given time to let things settle.  My 24 hr ECG had been to try and gauge how many eptopic beats I was getting - if it was more than 2,000 then they might need to do something about it.  It turns out I had over 10,000 in that 24 hr period.  By Friday these beats had still not settled, I was put on a very low and short dose of beta blockers to bring things back into line.  By the end of the course they eptopics had settled significantly.  On the Monday I had an MRI (just to make sure) and trained in the afternoon.  I felt terrible; fever, shaking, no appetite, queasy etc - heart stuff all fine though.  I some how also picked up an infection in my elbow joint.  That week was up and down as I fought this virus off, eventually back training on the Friday and feeling like I had turned the corner.  Since then I've been tired, but feeling stronger and back into full training.  The medical team reckon the whole episode was down to some weird virus, it was annoying to get so many things as once.

Since then I enjoyed a visit to the World Cup racing at the velodrome with Atos UK - I'll write about this in the next couple of days.

A week on and I'm now in Portugal on the second training camp of the season, preparing for our national trails (at the start of March).  I'm in a pair with Tom Ransley, things have started pretty well and I'm looking forward to getting our boat motoring.

I must say thank you to everyone who has sent their good wishes, it is much appreciated.  A special thanks to family, friends, Atos UK/Threshold Sports and the medical staff at GB Rowing - world class.

Feel free to leave comments/ask questions below.  You can also find me on Twitter @nrod2012.

p.s. does anyone know anything about the flowers I received on Valentines day?! Denials from everyone I know!