Dusseldorf citytrip

Another experiment in my never-ending quest in how far can I take it without failing miserably. A citytrip to lovely Dusseldorf. And as with a lot of citytrips over the years , another marathon. My third Dusseldorf marathon. Preparations were not ideal. I could not escape the flu and I hurt my left leg during a random walking down the stairs, resulting in a bruised left calf. Hopefully I recovered just enough.

Combined with the anticipation of a long travel and hustle and bustle of a big city I was pretty nervous. But we were prepared, planned a full day for both the journeys , Saturdays an empty day , so staying sharp en fit for the marathon should be doable.

the outward journey didn’t go with the fast ICE due to maintenance , so we went with the regular train services. First off to Venlo, then a simple stop at every stop you can find train towards Dusseldorf. The trip went well and we arrived at noon. Luckily the room was ready and we just took it easy the rest of the afternoon.

We went for a walk and a lunch in the city , got my racing number and just walked around a bit. We ended up passing a truly giant supermarket just around the corner from our hotel. Got some breakfast stuff once we found it and took a break at the hotel. Late in the afternoon we went to our favorite Burger restaurant in Medienhafen.

Saturday morning after breakfast we went to Niederkassel for some relaxing and to visit the Japanese garden. Unfortunately it openend hours later so we went on a walk around the neighborhood. With a bit of coffee and cake on the way. A very beautiful place too live indeed. Lot’s of green , parks and cool houses. And very close to the city centre. Happy few only I’m afraid. After the nice walk we went back towards the city, grabbing lunch at our favorite breakfast lunch spot. It’s still there !

Back to the hotel after getting some supplies from the mega Edeka. Taking the afternoon to catch some sleep and make sure I get enough rest. Even dinner at the hotel with fresh salads bread and deserts and getting a nice early rest. Tomorrow is marathon day !

Sunday morning, marathon d-day, nerves are definitely at their post. Early breakfast and preparation time. Main question of the day is , do I have enough endurance to get to the finish line without breaking down at some point. Only one way to find out.

We walk towards the start , which is at 9:00 in the morning, via Altstadt where the last remaining people are kindly swept out of the bars. There was a bit of a celebration in the city due to the promotion of Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday.

This being a relatively small marathon, about 4000 runners, there is plenty of space to do a nice warm up at the start and my girlfriend is able to be at the starting grid. I did a few test sprints to see how well my left leg felt. It felt good which added to the confidence a bit

About 10 minutes before the start I get in my starting position and it starts to rain a bit. Because of the course spectators can actually see the runners a lot , the course returns in a small part of town a couple of times so they can easily walk and be on time at different points in the race. Fun and good for moral.

Een 10 minuten voor de start zoek ik mijn startvak op en begint het wat te regenen. Mijn vriendin kan gezellig naast het vak staan en gaat even later naar het eerste punt, door de opzet waarbij je steeds weer terugkomt in een klein deel van de stad is het ideaal voor toeschouwers en kunnen ze de lopers vaak voorbij zien komen. Leuk en goed voor de moraal.

It’s there start , and the running can begin, all nerves went away immediately , which always happens when I start running. I am in a group with pacers who have 3:14 as a goal. I know that is a bit of a stretch for me but for now the pace is good and being in a group provides some heat. Which is great because of the increasing rain. My liquid intake isn’t great apparently because I have to take 4 restroom breaks along the way. First 2 times I got back with the group but I gave up on that because it took too much of my energy.

I am in a good pace and feel good, I take a drink at every stop and some gels and bananas. While running thru Niederkassel and Oberkassel the rain really starts pouring and I am soaked and a bit cold. Mainly on the return trip over the bridge. I still maintain a nice pace, After 30 K my legs het heavy and I can’t keep the pace. Which is fine by me and I decide not too force anything and stay in one piece. Just maintaining pace as much as possible which works great. In my mind I reached the giant 40 K sticker on the road pretty fast and the sun has started drying me and warming me up. Which is nice. The final stretch downhill towards the finish line and I am there. As usual my muscles immediately stop working after crossing the finish line, which is always a bit of a strange feeling. As is the time my watch tells me 3:21:11, en new course record. For me that is. I am extremely pleased , not one moment of pain or troubles along the way. Race seemed over before I knew it. Another milestone , in experience and running.

After the finish we find each other again and go for a curryworst lunch. Getting some food in is always great. Afterwards we walk back to the hotel and the sun is still shining. At the end of the afternoon we go to Medienhafen and get a drink and some sunshine. It’s hot by now. We walk back to the hotel via an unknown part of the city which has nice shops and restaurants. A new discovery for future visits.

Dinner is at a Thai restaurant near the hotel and an early bed , travel time tomorrow. Weather the next day is bad , well luckily travel time which went well as well and we are back home in the afternoon.

This citytrip went well and has given me a lot of insight in how to plan a trip. Running a great marathon was a very nice bonus. This learning experience has given me a lot of hope in getting on with our main hobby. Traveling.

2 years on

2 years on, seems like an eternity since my encephalitis, but today marks the two year anniversary of my hospital discharge. Could be a day sooner or later but that can’t dampen the spirit.

On this blog I have written about my recovery and the strange road I have been traveling ever since. A very short recap, 1 year of revalidation, a move too calmer surroundings, a new work experience place at Utrecht University , lot’s of learning and luckily lots of running. With the Amsterdam marathon as the cherry on the cake.

Has it all been happy days then ? Not quite , my short term memory regularly abandons me , and my operational speed isn’t very speedy anymore. Speech wise word juggling happens, as in random words in sentences, Yoda like sentences and just plain gibberish also occur. I can manage around this pretty well and every time I meet someone new I try and find an opening quickly explaining the reason behind possible errors in conversation.

That’s the practical side of things , it’s still very strange not to have a ‘real job’ , as in some sort of control over your career , future and possibilities. It makes me feel very dependent of other people and policies. Maybe control has always been an illusion in a way but at the moment I feel powerless sometimes. It’s also not a position I have chosen to be in, like when you take a year of for a trip around the world.

I have enough time behind recovering behind me that I understand that this is as good as it gets. I will have recovery periodes for every daily or not so daily activity in my life.

I sometimes compare it with pro sports, you have to keep training and take into account very parameter in order too stay sharp and fit. Slacking for a few days and forgetting about the balance between activity and recovery and it takes its toll.

Ik ben nu ver genoeg in mijn herstel om te beseffen dat het niet heel veel beter gaat worden dan dat het nu is.
Ik zal altijd rekening moeten houden met herstelperiodes voor allerlei dagelijkse en niet alledaagse zaken.

It kind of takes the spontaneity out of life a little. Just take a short unplanned weekend trip is out of the question. Getting something you forgot during shopping, not that smart. It forces you planning everything you don’t want to plan.

I am fully aware of the fact I’m very lucky and privileged in simply being alive and in the shape I am in.
I just need too accept the fact the old ways of doing things is no longer available.

It’s also taught me time is only there in an unknown quantity enjoy it while you can.

Portfolio news – November 2016 changes

In November I added to my position of Ahold, in the weeks leading up to my monthly buying spree 😉 this went down somewhat faster and has now become a buy in my humble opinion. The numbers are still adding up and for me this is buying with a discount. The main reason for the drop is the overall exposure to the dollar and eastern Europe, although I see a lot of upside there for the next few years. So I now own a larger piece of this nice stock at a discount.

For next month the buying list is not there yet but I am thinking about adding some more to the ETF part of the portfolio, this part has been neglected for a few months now as I enjoy reading and figuring out things myself. It’s a bit of a hobby as well and it helps me training my focus and gives me energy. But and this becomes more and more evident. It’s not the most profitable options. Because of it’s cost base and lack of sufficient spread of risk over markets and sectors. With ETF’s this is all worked out better. And it’s a bit easier.

So I will add some more to my portfolio , but it will kind of take the fun away. So I will keep doing the research as well and backing this up with buying the stocks. Simply because I enjoy it.

November 2016 – Dividend

This months dividends are small , but there’s still some. The year is almost over and over the next few weeks I will think about the goals for next year. They will be small and manageable and fun. I will keep you all updated on all things in life. But that’s for another post. This one is about dividends. So without further delay, November dividends:

14-11-2016 ONEOK Inc EUR 4,87
10-11-2016 Apple Inc EUR 4,66

Total 9,53

Not much but all little bits help. On to next month.

Redesigning everyday life – Start climbing

Last week I got permission to start a reintegration project with a foundation that specializes in people with brain damage and getting them back to work, or other meaningful social activity.
My work with the revalidation centre is almost done , I can manage my day to day life pretty well without going into the red. It still takes a lot of careful consideration and planning. But for now it’s more than enough to manage daily things. Next step will be getting back to work, with specialized help, which is paramount. At the recovery centre they do not have this kind of expertise as their focus is on the day to day.

So it was important to get the approval of the government body that issues my social benefits as they need to pay for it. In the old days, before the new law my employer would be responsible for my salary, recovery etc for 2,5 years. Since I just switched jobs and only had my second short term contract out of three maximum, with the new law the government takes this responsibility, and must make sure I get back to work instead of the employer as my contract ended.

the idea behind this law is to reduce the risk for employers and make sure more people get long term contracts. In real life a lot of people only get the 3 short term contracts and then get replaced, especially with generic work. The new law works it’s magic, but that’s another discussion altogether. Just some background to sketch my situation.

So with the government now has taken on the role of employer , I have to make sure everything I want to do and has to do with work related recovery has to be approved. So last week I had a meeting with my case manager and I told my story, and why I already wanted to get a head start with this new trajectory. The main issue is that all things recovery are going slow. And if I want to take the full effect I need to get started.

My case manager understood this perfectly and has worked it out very fast, so last Friday I got the OK and tomorrow I will have my first intake meeting, and hopefully get started quickly. I am looking forward to it as it’s a new step. I can now go forward again. Learning that all things take time was very valuable.

I am now back in the valley , it’s time to start climbing the mountain.

What’s better ?

What’s better?, interesting question. While having less energy too spend on any given task it also has advantages. I used to do a lot of things simultaneously and as fast as possible , because I wanted to do a lot. I find a lot of stuff worth doing or exploring. And it’s a lot of fun. Learning new stuff. As a result I never really found the focus to concentrate on one particular thing. I always did it all, let’s take hobby’s as an example. I like too listen to music, make music , photography, writing and drawing. Mostly I only did one of these things for an hour a week at most.

This week I looked trough old files I found in a back-up, bits and pieces of sketches, unfinished music and maps of photo’s that never really went anywhere. As I am searching for new ways too train my brain and expanding my focus it needs to be a small task which can easily be cut into very small pieces. Well any of my hobby’s will do this just fine. I have some musical instruments I haven’t mastered yet, this can be nicely done in 10 minute intervals. Editing photo’s or reading about how it actually works can also be cut into little pieces. And writing as well.

By being limited I can now focus better on one thing at a time , and not allow my brain to go all over the place. Because it’s simply too exhausting. When working on stuff for just 10 minutes you need to define the task to strict boundaries. Which has helped creativity enormously. Less is more is really true , well for me now anyway.

What else has become better, time spend with friends and family. Which has always been very valuable, but now I appreciate it much more. This sounds very very cliché , I know. But it’s true. So everyone, you know who you are, Thanks for spending the time and being patient with me.

The time I can now spend on actually working on the recovery has been a better experience then I thought it would be, It’s given me insight in myself and I am now figuring out what’s important. One thing I learned is that everybody needs some time to figure stuff out, taking real rest and moments for reflection. So I encourage everyone to really do this. Not just for an hour but regularly and consistently over time, rest and think about life, it’s worth it.

Missing the action

Slowly adapting to my new self I am almost confident enough declaring the following , my energy management system works !
Yes it took a lot of time and painstaking tweaking but I now now what I can and can’t do on a given day.

The next step will be figuring out how to up the ante a bit. And the most important part of all , sticking with the slow progress mantra.

I have some experience and some perseverance when it comes to getting things done, for example running , following a nice training plan and feeling the progress almost every step. If I see a clearcut goal I can really get into most stuff and follow my plan. If I think it’s for a well defined and reachable goal.

My biggest asset has always been my ability to break my own boundaries, and thus by doing that almost all the time I reached the majority of my goals.

As I have mentioned before now it’s more important to manage the energy and reach goals without breaking any boundaries. Which for me is as hard as it gets. But I never fully realized this.

Working on stuff until late really made me feel alive, whether this was the smart thing to do , I found the grind very enjoyable.

It made me feel buzzed in some way, working hard and hitting targets is addictive, I now know it is. And after having a few brushes when pushing too hard I always found my way back to it. Even when a lot of the daily stuff is mundane and boring, I now tend to miss the action and dare I say the stress.

Funny how life works , last couple of years I tried to minimize the action and stressful parts of my work and going back to the fun stuff , but how ?

Well mother nature found a way, and in doing so made me realize that I needed too constantly pushing myself, turns out I never wanted too loose the action. I was somehow addicted too it. It’s also the thing I miss the most lately, I read an old ‘Bucket list’ when researching what to do next, and It was full of great stuff I wanted too do , and some I already started. When reading it I also realized that taking on one item off that list would be a massive undertaking, especially doing it in a way not to fall into my own trap of going non stop until it’s done.

I have never been the smartest kid in the room , but by methodically working on stuff and simply putting in the hours I managed most of the time. It has been my greatest asset. Pushing my limits and figuring the rest out as I go. I can no longer rely on this. By learning to do everything ‘slow’ it sucked the fun out of it a bit. The action so to say. It’s a bit terrifying knowing I will not be able to get that part back.

It’s also the automatic braking system I always needed, I more than ever need to pick my battles. It opens up a lot of creativity and possibilities. Figuring out how to apply this is the next step. Progress is here to stay.

Redesigning everyday life – Carpe diem

The biggest question of all, how far will the recovery go. Nobody knows the answer, or can give you a range. I knew that from the beginning. What I didn’t know is what it meant for me and everybody around me.

I am slowly learning what it means. I have to give up my desire to control things, which is hard to do because I have always had some sort of plan and knew if I followed the plan , the goals would be reached. Most of the time anyway. You can’t win them all.

I’m trying to let go of my old ways of doing things, which was to work hard and work harder if it didn’t go as planned.
Fighting was my number one response if events didn’t go my way.

It was my first response in my recovery, I wanted to get back to normal as fast as possible. So I went back to work pretty quick and set out to up my activities almost on a weekly base. Not just the hours at work but also activities at home. I felt tired pretty quick but tried to fight it and push on, which normally worked upon till some degree. I kept this up until my contract at work ended and I felt just how much energy this had taken. And I suffered the inevitable set back most people experience in their recovery. I had tried to train my way out of it. But it’s not sport or even studying were you put in the time and effort and it mostly pays off in the end.

I was simply draining myself and burnt the energy I needed to recover. So after the dip I had to really rethink the approach and take taking my time to recover seriously. I talked about this period with the people who help me recover and they said it was time for me to accept my current situation and not trying to compare everything to the way I was and did things before. Most of the progress is with acceptance and trying to live one day at the time. So it was back to the drawing board, the result was a new system for energy management which allows me to go into more detail when planning my energy and some extra help in acceptance and the psychological side of things.

The new energy management system will show results after 3 to 4 months give or take. If the balance is solid I can them go and experiment further. the other part is the acceptance bit. Given the results of the Neuro psychological tests I can’t expect to fully recover to my former self in terms of concentration , analytical capabilities and information intake and memory. Most likely I can’t return to my old job. The funny thing is , I was already exploring other options before I got this. Off course the cards have been shuffled differently since then, and I never pulled the trigger on those options. It was easier and way faster to go back into my ‘old’ job then it is to make a real switch.

Now I have the opportunity to explore things I am really passionate about , and step outside of my comfort zone and habits, without going all practical about it all the time. I have never taken these kind of exercises seriously in the past, Amusing yes, but my practical side always took over and I just continued with life. In general there are always more excuses to stay on a course that feels safe and secure, or feel that way. So when I was told that it’s a good exercise to brainstorm what it is that makes me happy in life, my first reaction was a bit sceptical.

But then again what do I really have to loose ? All my prior attempts failed because of self imposed boundaries and limits. And without having a solid outlook I just as well go and think out of the box and give this a real shot. I always found people living by the day a bit naive, never planning ahead seemed like a path to certain failure. But now it’s really time for me to incorporate some of that ‘Carpe diem’ in my life and find out where it takes me.

Redesigning everyday life

Last few weeks I have been taking some more rest and time out to reflect on my progress so far. It’s been a steep learning curve and I am now up to a point where I almost know how much energy I have on any given day. I am now working on a system to score the amount of energy of each individual activity in a way such that I can compare and measure my flow of energy.

Until now I was giving out colours , red for an energy consuming task, green for an energy giving task and yellow for neutral. At the end of the day I also scored the overall day on a scale of 1 to 10.

While this was fine it didn’t help me as much as I wanted, especially when planning ahead. While thinking about this , I set on designing a system that helps me plan my activities more accurately and thus keep the heavy dips in energy at bay. So my first idea was to come up with some kind of system to score my activities and my daily available energy amount.

I discussed my idea with my therapist and she had a system which they don’t use that often because it’s normally a bit to hard for people to understand. But it has exactly what I need , a scientific based scoring method to score your activities. It also has a tool to calculate your base daily energy.

The goal for me is now to start and measure the activities and score my days. Once I have that sorted I will be able to manage my energy in a way that the strange dips in energy don’t occur as much any more.

For me this is a great step in redesigning my life in such a way I feel more in control about it. It also opens a lot opportunities to develop this further. Since it’s more accurate than just handing out colours it has a lot of potential for analysing my day to day and week to week planning.

I am very enthusiastic about this new method and hopefully I can report some good progress over the next few weeks and months.

Plan A or B

It’s been a few weeks since the post on the test results and in the meantime I have been spending some time on digesting everything, still a lot of questions need to be answered which I will hopefully get to in the next few weeks.

The recovery is now focussed on getting my concentration better when doing mentally intensive tasks. I have to cut up a task in tiny 10 minute pieces and take 10 minute brakes between them and do this for 1 hour. I then have to write all I experience during and after this hour. Also I have to grade my fatigue and general well being beforehand. Did I sleep well, what did I do the day before? That sort of thing. This is important to get a feel of how I perform and feel during a period of intensive activity.

I must admit last few weeks haven’t been easy , I had a bit of a setback after the ‘pressure’ of work went away , it’s not that they pushed me at work it’s just the fact that you want to perform at the best of your abilities. That being out of the way it became apparent how much energy this took away. After a week or so it started too creep in, being tired more often. Feeling fuzzy and unable to think properly. The people at the recovery centre told me this is normal when people go at it with full force, and thus having a few setbacks during the process. Learning to deal with these episodes is the important part.

One important factor which I always forget is to relax and let go , not constantly trying to figure out ways to improve myself and try to work on it all the time, be it consciously or subconsciously. Working harder isn’t the solution , relaxing more is. Which is an adjustment for me at the moment, but one I need to make.

They also pointed out to me I just started to really process what it means and what has actually happened in the past 7 months or so. After this stage I will have more room to accept it and then move forward again. All contributing to my recovery. So after sprinting in the beginning I am back to basics, simply walking.

It’s really strange how this affects your life , impacting almost everything you do on a day to day basis. Ignoring tell-tale signs of fatigue and pushing on is not the way to go. This also means being flexible enough to throw your ‘plan A’ out of the window and having a ‘plan B’ ready just in case. Which I now try to do when I plan my weeks. So if on any given day in the week I will be too tired for an activity I will have a backup activity in place, thus reducing stress from the pressure you put on yourself wanting to finish something.

Like Hannibal did in the old days, so every day can be concluded with ” I love it , when a plan comes together ” .