Guy's Going For It!
Heart Operation to Half Marathon in 51 Days

Training for Bevoir Half It is surprising what goes through your mind when you are lying on the slab, with a heart surgeon demonstrating the techniques of a cryoablation* to an eager student whilst various other highly trained members of NHS staff are busy ignoring you and, you trust, focusing on the job at hand.

I am not complaining. I am glad that the NHS is still alive and kicking enough, despite the rumoured efforts of some who would have it otherwise, to keep me alive and kicking by sorting out my heart problem. I was also rather glad that they could do it using key hole surgery, though I was a little less glad about the whole thing being done under a local anaesthetic.

Now a word about the local anaesthetic. A cocktail of drugs which included a large and rather pleasant dose of morphine.

Morphine is of course the best pain killer out. But I suspect, in this modern world where the consumer is king/queen (delete as applicable), it has another altogether more aesthetic role in the process. To make sure that the whole experience is as pleasant, mind expanding and customer friendly as it is possible to have on an operating slab, with no acces to facebook and a consultant treating you like a side of beef.

It worked for me. The patterns in the ceiling tiles took on a whole new meaning as he prodded away at my groin to feed the high tech catheter into the vein and up into the heart itself. My mind wandered along a largely enjoyable path that took in such thoughts as 'do you suppose Jackson Pollock was influenced by ceiling tiles, whilst lying on his back, out of his face, as someone was being a little less than delicate around his crotch area?', 'how does Teresa May look when she tries on Churchill's Trousers from the Thatcher Collection in the basement of No 10?', 'I hope the consultant has washed his hands'.

During the 3 hours of the operation my mental strolling, which became really quite animated and entertaining, got round to that favourite of all considerations when you are undergoing something that is a little less than enjoyable. What am I going to do when all this is over?

'Have a stiff drink,' was the first answer offered up to the general discussion that had broken out within my pleasantly addled mind. Things were getting a little democratic with thoughts all vying for prominence and the chair of the committee having abdicated all responsibility in favour of considering the best process for using ceiling tiles to produce 'Pollock' style abstract prints.

There was a strong suggestion, from the right thinking side of the debate, that we should 'EAT SOMETHING!' It being the protocol, for obvious reasons, not to eat on the day of an operation, this was a reasonable request and was duly noted, as the chair considered the relative merits of water based over acrylic paint, before conceding that he didn't know enough on the subject and would have spend a few years in art school, before embarking on this adventure that would turn the art world on it's head.

And then, very much from the back benchers, who are generally only there to make up the numbers and make it look like my mind is a democracy, there drifted into my consciousness the thought of 'going for a long run'. This dragged me back to something approximating to reality.

Heart Op to Half Marathon in 51 days
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'Going for a run?' Not one of the first things to drift into the consciousness of your average heart patient who is actually under going surgery. I suspect it doesn't usually rear it's self righteous head until the patient is at least walking unaided to the toilet, if then. But with me it was there, as I stared in a morphine induced haze, at the intricate patterns in the polystyrene ceiling tiles and noticed that a couple were slightly damaged as a result of some never to be explain trauma that formed the basis of a script for Casualty that was rejected as being just a little too unbelievable even for that piece of T. V. dross.

I was overcome by the irresistible desire to enter the Belvoir Half Marathon.

Once a thought like 'running the Belvoir Half' enters your mind, especially a mind temporary unbalanced due to the effects of 'chemicals', it is too late for rational argument. You are going to go through with it whatever agony you have to endure or which part of your brain cell presents the clearest, most concise and logical argument for at least giving yourself a chance to recover and entering a later half marathon.

So I started planning the training, about the time that the surgeon was positioned for the move from the left side of my heart through to the right side using what he described as, very reassuringly, the 'gateway that we just open up,' and then pumped in another large dose of the morphine based cocktail to further fuel my meandering mind and keep the customer satisfied.

Training for a half marathon is a serious business. Well at least it is the first time you do it. It is a matter of slowly increasing the distance at a pace you are comfortable with.

Start with couch to beer fridge. Do it as a light jog. Make sure you can still discus the finer points of the offside rule, with your other half as you do it. If you can talk as you run you will have a pace that you can maintain 'indefinitely.'

Next, try a jog to the end of the road. Walk back. Briskly. You don't want the chips to get cold.

Round Sheffield Run
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Remember, increase distance but not pace. Take in a jog round the block. Rest for an hour or so and then jog back from the pub.

You are now ready for the Holy Grail of the slob runner, the parkrun. As long as you beat the back markers your pride will remain intact.

After that it is a simple matter of throwing in your first 10k, a 7 miler around the local country park, a 7.5, an 8 etc Eventually you will be ready for your first 10 miler. If you are lucky that will be a medalled race like the Great South Run which I did dosed up with beater blockers which make the heart beat more slowly. The ultimate performance unenhancing drug. Lance Armstrong eat your heart out.

Now you are ready for your first 'half'. Then with fingers crossed and a heart monitor to tell you when anything is going wrong, run slowly, very slowly round the delightful course that is the Plymouth Half Marathon.

Of course having done it once the second half marathon is easy. A week of training after being off running for 2 and a half months with a bad ankle. Then blag it around the Nottingham Half and feel like death afterwards. Ultimately, the training is all in the head.

Half Marathon after a second heart operation? Well all a bit different. Firstly let the groin recover. The doctors say don't do anything strenuous for a week and did I hear him say in the case of housework, 5 months?

Running? As soon as the groin is healed up.

There are of course other aspects to training once you have got your new heart sorted out. Coffee. Always was a cause of heart flutter. How about now? Only way to find out? Filter coffee from Bromely House, probably the best and cheapest in town. Have three in quick succession.

Big fat fry ups. Another cause of heart wobble. Have far too many over the course of the next few days just to check out the new ticker you understand.

Then there is of course alcohol. Now I have always been a wee bit fond of my pop. There will have to be a serious test of how booze and my new ticker get along together. It is going to be an important part our relationship so the new ticker will have to get used to it sooner rather than later.

Several beers in The Poacher over a Saturday night meeting up with some old friends.

Sunday. Bottle or three of wine 'shared' with the wife.

Post parkrun pub crawl with a group of like minded health freaks from Rebel Runners.

Poacher at 10:30. The Goose Berry Bush for a fry up and a pint. The Room with a Brew. The Hand in Heart. Sir Borlase Warren. The Organ Grinder to watch England annihilate Scotland at rugby. Back to The Room with a Brew. Finishing off in Cast.

No problems except you won't remember: eating anything after the fry up, who you were having an in-depth conversation with about the intricacies of the off side rule in rugby before realising that you were alone in the toilet and actually haven't got a clue about the offside rule in rugby, how on Earth you got home. Apart from that, everything will be just dandy.

And there you have it. The simple training regime for the Belvior half planned and ready to deliver.

I was jolted out of my morphine induce La La Land by the consultant inducing hiccups as he endeavoured to avoid severing a rather important nerve that communicates between the heart and the diaphragm.

It was then I realised the enormity of what I had just planned. Hic! Operating slab to half ... Hic! ... marathon in 51 days! Hic! I must be mad! Hic! All that hard uncomfortable training. Hic! The half way point of the run ... Hic! ... itself when all you can think ... Hic! ... about is finding a short cut when ... Hic! ... no one is watching. Having to bring ... Hic! ... yourself back from the dead ... Hic! ... afterwards with a medicinal Sunday ... Hic! ... roast and 6 pints of Abbot Ale. Hic!

Well it can't be as unpleasant as induced hiccups. So bring it on.

The medical profession are past masters at jargon. If you go to the doctor with irregular heart beats, they will tell you that to have arrhythmia, which translates as 'irregular heart beats'. When you return with more detail saying that the beats are irregular and rapid but that it only happens after too much coffee, alcohol or exercise, you will be told that you have atrial fibrillation, which translates as ' the beats are irregular and rapid but that it only happens after too much coffee, alcohol or exercise'.

The solution to this maybe an ablation. Ablation is the burning off of excess material and is just as likely to relate to the outside of a sewage pipe running along the bottom of Colwick Lake as it is to the inside a human being. This case it means burning off excess nerve cells in the left side of the heart that were causing additional beats.

When that doesn't do it you maybe told you need a cryoablation. This means removal of excess material by freezing rather than burning. In this case, rather than removing barnacles from the bottom of the Queen Mary, this refers to having a go at some more troublesome nerve cells on the right side of the heart.

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