A Chink In My Armour

18 Weeks To Go

It’s 18 weeks until the New York Marathon, and a chink in my armour has appeared. I’ve done very little training since the last update two weeks ago, with one primary and one smaller blocker to progress. Not so #runmoonyrun, I’m afraid.

The biggest issue I’m facing is recovering from the head injury I had on the 19 April. I’m getting dizzy spells, and they are not diminishing. I turn over in bed and suddenly feel I’m falling into an abyss; I sit up from a lying position, and the room is swimming. If I look sharply to the left, the same occurs. The worst effect happens when trying a short run – quite often, the road or track in front of me feels like it’s dipping away sharply to the left, falling off my ASICS trainers over the edge of a downward sweeping curve.

I had the CAT scan and two thorough discussions with a top-flight neurologist, and I’m happy there is no serious brain or arterial damage. Yet I’m also told that the human brain can “Take three to twelve months to reset.” I’m unsure what reset means, whether it’s the human brain version of doing a full restart on my MacBook or banging the side of the television when the signal isn’t great. But all in all, it’s affecting my training volume and confidence. Post-concussion syndrome is documented widely, and I guess that’s what I’m dealing with.

Sticking The Pieces Back Together

A Chink In My Armour. My plated collarbone adds to one of the chinks

This chink in the armour has made me more conscious of my physio’s advice not to run at the moment. My shoulder blade, collarbone (pictured post-plate insertion) and ribs are healing well. But the ribs don’t half take a beating from any running. Cue me dialling back the running. Very quickly – and in ten days – my fitness has gone from ahead of last year to below last year. This has led to a spiral of physical decline. Reduced muscle mass, which leads to slower recovery from injuries.

I need a reset right now. I came back to training in my usual determined mood, but the issues of dizziness and my damned ribs have taken the steam out of me. I’m not getting a lot of love from my support network, who are all signalling to me to wind it down a notch. I have bleated far and wide and even gone to friends who I thought would tell me to tough it out, and I’m not getting the supportive noises I need. Not even from the tough hombres.

One Or Two Chinks In The Armour?

One chink in my armour is enough. I must be what is referred to as a form player, because as soon as I saw my fitness start to dip, and realised my support network were not going to egg me on, then mental doubts crept in.

Is this where the world finds out I’m the failure I have always known deep down that I am? Am I just another of those social media gobshites who talks a good game but quits when the going gets tough? Wimping out when other people deal with more critical health and wellbeing challenges.

This self-flagellation so quickly unravels into anxiety and rumination. In one bleak night, I managed to destroy myself in every phase of my life from childhood through to today. Mental health is such a delicate construct. I’ve said in this blog that you’re never quite out of the woods. Somewhere, the black dog lurks behind a tree, snout on front paws, patiently waiting in the full knowledge that I’ll walk down that path through the woods.

I accept where I am and know I have the tools to bounce back. Rationally, one can’t go from some of the best days of my life to despair and self-loathing so quickly.

Let’s Be Rational

A quick review of the last twelve months shows a hell of a ride. I’m surprised I only have a chink in my armour; it would be reasonable had I lost my armour entirely. A serious accident. Finishing full-time work, an activity which has held my attention for 50 years. Starting to build a fulfilling and exciting new portfolio career. Coming to terms with the metronome of a regular monthly salary ceasing. Trying not to say the word ‘retirement’ to myself. Realising that whatever money I have now only goes down; the tank drains from this point.

Then bugger me, another serious accident, and with it, the thoughts, “Am I less sharp and capable?” Giving up my love, cycling, and then starting to worry, is this the slow slide into a narrower life, as age inevitably wins its arm wrestle? Death is undefeated at arm wrestling; take that to the bookies.

So What’s The Plan? Is There One?

It’s a hell of a lot when I write it all down. I don’t have a plan for the next twenty years. Part of me has kept my head down and found new work rather than sit in front of the mirror with myself and ask, “What do you really want to do?” That’s one for another day – he says, quickly kicking the can down the road.

I’ve even started asking other people about how to plan for the coming years. I asked famed sushi master Nobu Matsushita in an elevator last week. True story.

I do generally have a positive attitude and am determined to be intellectually and physically active for as long as possible. By doing this, I extend my chances of what Peter Attia calls a healthy marginal decade, that final ten years when I want to push, push, push, and quickly die. Don’t give me this slow decline of dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all that bring low quality of life. Live, fast, die quickly and old is where I’m going.

Therefore I need a rational look at my plans, I need to repair the chink in the armour.

A Chink In My Armour. Plan for many good days.

The Long Haul

I’m all pissed off and beside myself because an unseen piece of bad luck has knocked me off the goal of running the New York Marathon this year. Yet, if I take a step back, I should be planning for 20 years, not the next four months. Taking stupid risks with my health to creep around a marathon in four months is next-level dumb. It has ignited my ‘don’t be a soft quitter’ script too. Which is a dumb script, as I can’t think of a single person who would consider me a quitter.

The question should be, “Do I want to be running ten years from now?” The answer is a resounding yes. That being the case, I need to calm the fuck down here. My logical thought stream says I should build a little muscle mass back – I’m only 13 weeks on from a 12-fracture crash, after all. Then, slowly get out running again and building for the longer term. My life expectancy is 85 years; I look after myself despite my cycling exploits, so I should be able to achieve that. I have officially entered the final quarter.

Blessed from an economic point of view. I don’t smoke and never have, I don’t drink, and my diet isn’t filled with the stuff I really, really want to eat. I’m also entirely into physical fitness. Therefore, cancer and other random acts of the Grim Reaper permitting, I plan to live the fourth quarter well.

I will close the chink in my armour by extending my time horizon and building and enacting a plan to live 20 years in good health. Then bury me in my trainers. Or if I’m in a Nick Cave phase, bury me in my yellow patent leather shoes.

Have You Just Put The White Flag Up?

Is this a sneaky cop-out? Have I just torn up my New York Marathon entry under your nose while distracting you and saying, “Look over there!” No, not at all. It’s not my style. But I am sure that blindly pushing on now and saying I’m running this year’s marathon is a recipe for physical and then mental breakdown. Goals are there to help us do more and achieve more. The facts have changed, and I would be stupid if I ignored them.

I have secured entries for the London Half Marathon in late August and the New York Marathon on 3 November. If I am at the start, that’s great. But the priority is to rebuild from the ground up: get my muscle mass back, slowly build up my cardio, and ensure that mobility and flexibility alleviate my various rib and shoulder pains. If I can do all that and run, then that would be great. But if I don’t run, it’s not the end of my 20-year plan. I will roll my NY Marathon entry over to 2025 and run it in total health.

For now, I have to slam shut the chink in my armour by taking the longer-term view of this. Failure, wimp, bullshitter? If you know me, you know me.

2 thoughts on “A Chink In My Armour”

  1. “Taking stupid risks with my health to creep around a marathon in four months is next-level dumb”… a lot of truth in that sentence my friend. Health is wealth, be smart & be cautious. Deferring isn’t quitting!


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