A Year in Yorkshire: Reflections & Photos

On 16th September 2019 I moved to North Yorkshire. For as long as I have been trail running, I’ve had a vague dream of moving to the hills and being surrounded by countryside. Whilst I was working in the NHS, my career was a bigger priority.

When I left the NHS at the end of 2016, there was no longer anything to keep me in a town or city. I lingered initially because my focus was on recovering from a severe depressive episode. Subsequently, I didn’t know where I wanted to move to and dreaded the process of selling my house, so I procrastinated.

Running Hardmoors 30 on New Year’s Day 2019 and spending a few days with Gus in North Yorkshire made the decision on location for me. I then moved very quickly to find a house and get mine on the market. All this was done by the end of January. It took until September to complete the sale of my Bedford house and during this limbo period I received my Hashimoto’s diagnosis.

By the time I moved, my symptoms were improving. My blood results weren’t quite where they needed to be, but they were getting there and I was back up to 20 miles in my running.

I first met Ned while I was preparing to move. He joined us two weeks after we arrived in North Yorkshire. The area is a great environment for dogs and they make my life so much richer.

The last year has been a mix of highs and lows, most of which are documented in my previous blog posts. Since I last wrote, I have seen an NHS rheumatologist. This appointment was initially scheduled for the end of March but was rearranged for August due to lockdown.

The rheumatologist came to pretty much the same conclusion as the one I saw privately earlier in the year. She was a little more definite in making a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia (with an autoimmune background). She would normally refer me to a ‘treatment’ group for information and ways of managing symptoms.

Groups can’t run in the current climate, but I’m confident that I understand the condition and am already managing it as well as I can. In a nutshell, I am supposed to pace things so I don’t fall into a cycle of doing too much on good days and then paying for it by being unable to do anything at all on bad days.

Additional tests carried out during this appointment confirmed that my eyes make a smaller than normal quantity of tears and that I produce almost no saliva at all. I already knew this, but it’s good to have the evidence. Dry eyes and mouth are common autoimmune symptoms. Eye drops help a bit. Artificial saliva products aren’t very effective and the advice I was given is that drinking sips of water regularly is a better option.

Around the same time as this appointment I had a disappointing blood test result. After tests in March and May suggested we had finally got my levothyroxine dose right, my latest result showed my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) had risen significantly and my dose was increased again. I don’t know why I need such a high dose of medication or why my TSH is so erratic. Hopefully this latest increase will do the trick.

Aside from all this, I think I’m managing my condition fairly well. I had a significant flare up of symptoms around May/June and was struggling to do much at all for a couple of weeks. I accept that this is going to happen from time to time. Most of the time I am succeeding in recognising when I need to cut my mileage a bit and take everything easy in order to prevent a full-blown flare up. I don’t expect to be able to prevent them completely, but hopefully I can minimise the bad days.

Running wise, both endurance and speed have been problematic since October. I finally got back up to half marathon distance this month. How much further I can push it, I’m not sure. Despite the irony in the fact that moving to the hills was followed by an inability to run long distances, I have no regrets about moving.

My miles are steeper now and my pace is slower, which means time on feet can be significant even over shorter distances. I have learned to embrace hiking on days when my run has to be brief. A mixture of slow running and hiking is much more appealing in a beautiful rural location than it is in an urban one.

Over time, I have found that distance matters less. I enjoy being outside with my dogs. It’s great when I can get a decent run in. If it has to be a short run and a longer dog walk, then that’s ok. I successfully passed day 1800 of my runstreak and have no intention of ending the streak.

I have found that my heart rate goes up into silly numbers whenever I feel particularly bad (don’t look for it on Strava, I hide the data in case anyone calls an ambulance!). I’m going to have a go at using heart rate more to help manage my fatigue and will also try to accept that there is no shame in being significantly slower than I have ever been before.

The pace of life is more relaxed here. That makes it much easier to keep running as I have plenty of flexibility around my work and the rest of my life. I have learned to embrace that during lockdown. For now, I am comfortable with taking things a day at a time and seeing where I end up. I try to achieve small amounts each day. I hope I can persist in that approach. Those demons that tell me I should be achieving more will only result in me being too tired to do much at all. As always, it is a learning curve.

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