Spinal Surgery and Happy Juice

I arrived on time at the hospital, both physically and mentally prepared to have my lower back operated on. It is a pretty daunting feeling to know you’re having spinal surgery, and to be honest, I have been playing it down as not a big deal. In fact it was my dear friend, and physiotherapist, who helped this plight truly settle in. I thought of it as a back operation, but it was only when she said ‘Grant! your having spinal surgery, its a big deal’. Despite this, those going to have spinal surgery still need to walk the full length of the bloody hospital to be admitted. The architect for that place has obviously never been injured.

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Sitting down in my designated bed area, I’m the only one in there. Yet all the nurses get on with their daily activities and duties. Like re-stocking the bucket with crutches, I might need them later. A few more people arrive and sit down, all with similar internal emotional content as myself. Its probably not that obvious to see in someone unless you know that you are also in the same frame of mind. Now, I noticed that I had the biggest bed in the ward so I was pretty smug with myself, but deep down I know its because of the operation I am due to have. That smugness quickly starts to turn to that ‘oh shit’ feeling.

Now that most of the patients have arrived, all the nurses begin to fill the room. First I get my blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate taken, and then another nurse asks me, at 31 years old, if I am wearing dentures. I found that a little bit offensive but I didn’t really want to make an awkward moment of it so I managed to let that one pass. Still, it was a bit embarrassing when she noticed I had put my hospital gown on the wrong way. I quickly sorted that out, but the next thing that someone having spinal surgery should be aware of is that you will be asked to wear stockings. I was the only in for spinal surgery. Everyone else around me were having injections or epidurals. The guy next to me was having his coccyx manipulated, he might find it hard going to the toilet for at least a few weeks.

One thing I did realize in this particular hospital is that people talk loud. Two nurses can be stood next to each other, and have no need to shout, but seem to continue telling everyone on the ward that they are having chips and egg for tea. I also had to listen to a nurse give a story for every item that was in her fridge. Don’t get me wrong these nurses’ are amazing people for what they do, but it’s safe to say that they are a little bit nutty. Except the anesthetist. She was a very straight talking indian woman, who, if she enjoyed her job, she certainly didn’t show it. And I’m not sure if this is irony or not, but she also a had a cold. But then everything stops for a moment, because the surgeons arrive. They are like rock start to the nurses. Three or four nurses around each one. Following and listening and writing. They maybe rock stars to the nurses, but all I can think about is ‘this guy  best not screw my back up’.

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I had said to people who I work with that I’m not too worried about the general anesthetic, but this surgeon guy is going to be playing with my spinal cord, and it’s that which had me worried deep down. What did strike me was the fact that surgeons wear white wellies. Well I think they should be white, because one guy clearly hadn’t cleaned the blood stains off of his. Hmmm comforting… They all eventually leave the ward to go and sign autographs for the nurses or something, which leaves all the people just waiting to be called to have their operations and injections. It was only men in that particular ward, and when men wear hospital gowns, especially the elderly men, they seem to be comfortable with letting  it all hang out. I immediately had a sudden urge to go and get my operation done. Luckily I only had to wait an hour, which I spent with Bradley Wiggins’ book. I get marched to what can only be described as a ‘holding room’ where they put you under general anesthetic, and I’m pretty sure the anesthetist shouldn’t be calling it ‘happy juice’.

It wasn’t bloody happy juice. When I woke after surgery I felt horrible. The physio had me up on my feet after an hour and within 20 seconds I was ready to be sick. So, I lead back down into the position I felt most comfortable. The nurse then tells me I could go home, which was great news considering I was expecting to be held in for a night. The second I got home, I was sick. My body does not agree with Morphine. That lady with the cold can keep her happy juice, I’l be fine without it, but I’m keeping my stockings.

Anyway, all done now, here’s to 12 weeks rest!

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10 things about Greek yogurt

Many athletes train a significant amount of time during the week. But I have a hunch that the last 20 minutes of a work out, or even the entire duration of a workout, is spent thinking about what to eat once your done training. The thought process for me starts healthy. A lovely piece of turkey and salad that you left in the fridge is quickly turned into a flavour exploding stir fry or curry. My brain tends to start this way also, but turkey and salad tends to be seen as protein and carbs. Then without knowing where the time has gone, I’m making fish and chips :-/

Ever since the moment my auntie gave me a chocolate button at 2 months old, I have had a sweet tooth. And I thank my auntie for that. Yet, when in training staying away from sugar at dessert time is a tough thing to do. Hello Greek Yogurt…

1. Greek yogurt was originally made in Greece, clearly…Made from milk, it goes through a process that reduces the excess fluid which gives Greek yogurt its stiff texture.

2. Due the processes used, Greek yogurt tends to be lower in lactose and carbohydrates, but manages to hold on to a good level of protein.

3. Greek yogurt is not only good to use as a dessert with berries and nuts, it is able to hold its texture in hot dishes without curdling and ruining your food.

4. In terms of vitamins Greek yogurt offers a good level of vitamin D. For those of us like to train, vitamin D has a positive effect on the structure and function of skeletal muscle, especially in older athletes as they are more susceptible to muscle degeneration. (Hamilton, 2011: Asian Journal of Sports Medicine)

5. The most common use of this think yogurt is in the making or tzatziki, which is a greek dip or sauce used in many Greek dishes. It is easy to make yourself.

6. Unfortunately the supermarkets will store a range of Greek yogurt varieties. Steer clear of the not as healthy Greek ‘style’ yogurts. These may not use the same processes or milk types that produce the high vitamin D and protein, and the low lactose carbohydrate, yogurt we love so much.

7. You can get yourself 10.3g of protein and only 4g of carbs in a 100g serving of Greek yogurt

8. Greek yogurt is highly recommended for those who are pregnant, simply because of the nutrition one can get from it.

9. Many curry’s or moroccan dishes require the use of natural yogurt, even a number of Italian dishes like to add a bit of ricotta or creamed cheese. STOP! There is nothing wrong with a bit of experimenting in the kitchen using Greek yogurt.

10. Dessert recipe…get yourself your desired dollop of Greek yogurt in a bowl (don’t be too greedy), and add a teaspoon of Nutella. Miss this in well and then add some chopped nuts and sliced banana. Nutella is nutritionally sound and is packed with the good fats that we require. Plus with its powerful hazelnutty flavour, you don’t need too much of it in this dessert dish. Which means the jar of Nutella can last a bit longer. Everyones a winner!!!

There are a few different types of good greek yogurt brands out there. Supermarkets may well do their own version. For me however, I prefer the ‘Fage Total 0%’ Greek yogurt.

If you try one thing in the off-season, it should be Greek yogurt


Winning a race to needing spinal surgery

A few months ago I was struggling with a bit of back pain. The only activities I could comfortably do were cycling and swimming. Running became difficult. So I rested a few weeks, headed out, and gave running a shot. It was safe to say, stick to riding and swimming for a while and see what happens.

Being the ‘competitive type’ that some people are labelled these days, I searched for an open water race close to where I live. A cute little organisation called SleekerSwim were holding a race in Lake Windermere. A small entry found its way across cyber space and then up popped my name on the ‘confirmed entrants’ list. They held two distances, a 2.3km and a 1.65km. Having only really raced and trained for 400m swims predominately associated with sprint triathlons, I favoured the 1.65km race.

A good solid 3 weeks of following a training program was on the cards which I followed religiously. The diet however, started to take a hit as I found my appetite and hunger increased massively. The offers on Nutella at Waitrose never really help either, especially with a recovering chocoholic. My 3 days sober from chocolate did not last long and the 750g tub was polished off in 4 days. Despite this, and a few boozy evenings, one being my Wedding day, I cracked on with the pool training.

Through all this, I had a few visits to the doctor, which turned into a visit or two to the hospital and eventually a spine specialist.  I receive some contradicting pieces of advice, but continue to train as best I can anyway.

Race day arrives and I didn’t really have any nerves because I knew it would be the last race of the season for me. I go through the typical signing on and getting a new swim cap and getting my number drawn on my hand. Back at the car I get my wetsuit on in record time, then walk down for race brief, then get in the surprising warmer than expected water in Windermere Lake. I say warmer than expected, it was still cold enough to take your breath away. One guy even opted out of wearing a wetsuit, nutter!


We get about 2 minutes to acclimatise before the race kicks off, and oh my days, it kicked off. The pace was faster than what I had trained for, so i had to bare in mind that some of these guys were out and out swimmers. It felt like a lifetime untill we reached the first boy and I could feel myself backing off a bit and tried to pace myself through the commotion of everyone. I eventually reached the second boy, which i was told was the midway point for those on the 1.65km race. So I take a tun back an had to double check with the canoeist marshal who reinforced me that I was at the right turning point. The reason I had to ask was because I happened to be at the front (something I’m not that used to).


So naturally I continue, but I began thinking ‘maybe I’m the only one doing the 1.65km’. Now that would be embarrassing, yet to my surprise people were turning at the boy and chasing me down. For whatever reason, I was unable to relax throughout the race. I normally swim bilaterally which means taking a breath after every three strokes. In this race I was breathing every two strokes, but I didn’t want to stop to relax as I had people behind me, so I swam on and put some distance into the 2nd place swimmer. I finished the 1.65km in 20 minutes which some people may think is ok, but I felt I had so much more to give if I was able to relax and find a rhythm. I would like to think, with that time, that I may be able to get 2km in under 30 minutes in order to put me in a good position for some of the olympic distance triathlons I’m planning for next year.

However, with all this swimming, and being unable to run, and having a bad back, I found out that I need spinal surgery. I go under a week Thursday and really unsure what to think or feel 😦

So, I may have to have a longer than expected off-season and a longer and harder than desired pre-season. Nevertheless, people have had worse and gone on to do more, so why not look to do a 70.3 ironman 🙂Image