Small improvements , massive result

Striving to run a marathon in under 3 hours I discovered something new, well for me at least. I had read about it but never really given it any further attention. The large benefits of the small improvements you make if you do something long and consistent enough.

In sports it has been a thing for a few years now, make small improvements in a lot of areas and the sum will surpass anything. Which is off course true , mathematical speaking, take a spreadsheet and set a few numbers and keep adding 1% , compounding in action.

During my training it’s been evident that regularity in workouts is hugely important in getting the most small improvements. But here comes the kicker, for a long time you will not notice any improvements at all. It’s like being stuck, and all of a sudden there is this breakthrough moment. My times improved , tartrate dropped and recovery was shorter.

I am am nowhere near as data driven as a top athlete , but I just noticed the effect and it was significant.
Like it came out of nowhere. Which when you look at it, isn’t true. The consistency and persistence combined with a slow and gradual increase of volume in training has made this possible. But at first there is a whole lot of time were you notice nothing of great significance, it’s just maintaining your condition it seems and not moving forward at all. This is a dangerous point, you get demotivated and you start focussing on something else. Or you quit.

During my revalidation it was always hammered down that you should celebrate small victories, I was mostly frustrated because I was not achieving my bigger goals. I tried and compensate it by working harder and having draw backs. Finally I kept my schedule and things improved. Still not too my liking and my real breakthrough moment never really came.

In hindsight it was just the amount of time that was simply too short, you can’t do that much in a year and I have to get back to the drawing board and see how I can get at these small improvements by means of regularity and slowly increasing my load. I am stuck in a vacuum of no progress for some time now. At one hand that could be it, I am at my maximum in recovery, but I believe in something better.

The running is the proof for me. And while thinking about this subject it really applies too all things that are hard in the beginning. Or stay hard for a long . long time. Take learning how too read for example, or paying off a huge debt. In the beginning nothing real seems too happen. All the effort looks worthless. But then there is a moment it all takes off. The ball starts rolling , and then it goes really fast.

What I have learned , it’s more important too regularly work on a goal and grab the small improvements. Than try and sprinting towards it. Persistence is key , it should become a habit and not a burden.

Let’s get more small improvements!

Fear

Fear, my biggest fear ? Losing control, or more accurate losing the illusion of control. I have always wanted too have as much control over my life as possible. More often than not pushing it too the extreme. Combining this with setting high demands for myself and big goals, I made it quite difficult for myself to really have control. Not in ways of getting towards my goals but controlling myself.

Eventually my biggest fear became reality, I now only have limited control over my life. The daily condition of my brain determines what I can and cannot do that day and it makes for a lot of unexpected moments. Offcourse I do all I can controlling this. It’s my nature.

The difference with the past is I am not trying too force this at all costs. All I can do is plan well , exercise and train well and rest. Controlling everything simply costs too much of my valued and scarce resource , energy.

It had taught me that living in the moment is very valuable, you simply cannot control every aspect of your life. You can work on creating the conditions and environment too increase your chances of achieving your goals, and thats an attitude I recommend too everyone. But in the end you are reliant on so many factors and moments that there is a point at which it simply does not make sense trying to control more. You end up in an illusion, and you keep pushing for more influence on a increasingly smaller effect on the outcome of events.

Energy better spend on fun things in life, or activity’s which you can do in reaching your goals. Not just trying too control everything.

It’s strange how you always fall back on old instincts , which have taken me far in life and still my discipline , controlling nature and perseverance take me far today. But in the past these attributes were in my way a lot of the time. It backfired numerous times when achieving my goals. Controle became a goal in itself. There was no more logic.

Now there is more acquiescence, frustration about my failing brain is still there, and also acceptance is a long way down the line, but this has given me the insight in the simple fact you can better put your energy in little steps towards a goal , the using it too control stuff you can’t. Or obsess over details. Problems will arise anyhow, and when they do , I will deal with them.

My life has a lot more direction and focus , and is more relaxed than it used too be. Everything is a bit smaller, at a lower pace. Unnecessary fear is bad guidance , and working at overcoming this fear is a very valuable side effect too my brain damage. I doubt if I would have ever gotten it otherwise.

3 years later

It has been 3 years already , since my brain injury, a sort of 3th anniversary combined with my 39th as it were. It has been a year of learning, yet again about dealing with the inevitable limits caused by permanent brain damage. Most notably the realization that there is, in fact a limit in what I can achieve. Building at expanding my activities in the way of work, social life and all other activities is not something I can do limitless. Although this was always in the back of my head, by planning meticulously and adding slowly that I somehow could return to my old levels, and in a way my old self.

As it turns out , that’s not the way it works, last year I upped my working hours towards 8 hours per week, first in 2 days and later on spread out over 3. It all seemed to work out, at least this was the initial feeling. Until the fatigue hit me and it took a couple of months in recovery getting back.

So I will keep it at 6 hours over 2 days. Which means I can recover and get a social or other activity in a week. Which is always fun, especially getting together with family and friends. In my enthusiasm I will go over my limits on such occasions , just because it’s so good having people around. So it’s a bit of a focus this year in getting the most out of that time spent.

In this quest in staying as stable as possible , keeping myself fit is crucial , the fitter I am, the better I can cope with moments were all else fails. Purly on physical strength I can manage to stay afloat. Getting home when I miss a train, It’s way too busy or if I simply forget too rest enough.

Periods in which I could exercise less my overall functionality and recovery was way off. It took ages. Luckily I really enjoy my running sessions, which clear my head like nothing else. It’s the one thing I can really control which is excellent because it’s vital in my ability too function properly.

A discovery which I hadn’t made when I was in my revalidation stage , is that the left side of my body is way worse than it was before. I hadn’t noticed this because I predominately use my right. By getting into exercising and building strength on my left side, I hope too improve this.

The hard part is realizing that I am , most likely at my maximum capacity , and I now know what it takes to stay at this level. A lot of disciple , rest staying fit and planning. It’s very weird not having a full time job , bering dependent on other people for a lot of things and being restricted in crafting your own future.

Nevertheless , I am very lucky being this well off, having a lovely group of family and friends to lean on. This makes me a very happy and fortunate person. Which I am very grateful for.

For the future it’s important too find real acceptance and not too hold on too the past and the vision of getting to were I was before this happened. I have too find progression in a more natural and organic way instead of just pushing my limits.

Find the challenge in things I can control.

Under 3 – Fourth week of training

This week has been a successful one, full training schedule done ! It went very well and although I can’t yet get enough speed this is something that I am working on with extra speed training and short speedy parts during the long runs. But that did not take away the fun , I am very happy I could cope with the Km’s smoothly. No weird pains or sore muscles in between the sessions. Which makes me a very happy person.

Strength training I am still doing via yoga sessions which I like a lot, it’s more tranquil and the continuous movement makes for a more flexible me. Which is an added bonus. Also it is supposed to make you more resilient and thus less prone to injuries. And it makes me more relaxes mentally , which is kind of ideal being me. 4 sessions this week and I am planning to keep this up.

All in all an excellent week. On to the next !

Running, a new goal.

I love running, I also need it as a way for clearing my head and stay as fit as possible in order to be able to manage day to day activity and keep my balance. As I have mentioned before, after my brain injury , my running prior to the accident saved my life. And it also gave me tools for persisting during my revalidation process.

As with running revalidation starts and ends with keeping at it, and with most things in life this helps a great deal. Being conditioned this way has helped me true rough patches and kept me sane during periods when my brain simply gave in. So all in all running means a great deal in my life.

For this year I am going to write more about running and my day to day with brain damage. As a lot of people can’t really imagine the effects it has on life. But I am starting out with running. I have ran a few marathons and my personal best is 3:17:22 seconds. Which I am very happy with.

Ever since I have ran this fast I am contemplating if it’s possible to run a sub 3 hour marathon. In my case getting 18:17 seconds off my personal best. Which is a bit steep. But if I don’t try I will never know. So I am starting a journey which hopefully gets me under the famous 3 hour barrier.

I have said it , I want to run a marathon under 3 hours. And now you can all help me do this. Any training , nutrition and general tips are more then welcome ! Let’s go!

2019 goals

A new year and new goals, this will be my first time setting goals , up until now I mostly used to do lists and loosely set goals. Resulting in missing real focus. In turn running up the to do’s on the good old to do list.

First up the finance side of tings. Which can be roughly divided into 2 parts, mostly cost reduction and building wealth. The easiest way for reducing costs is paying off the mortgage which is the only and biggest debt. Last year saw the biggest reduction so far. It’s so easy it’s hard not simply keep on doing it. However I am now at a point which all the alternatives in the market, renting or buying another house will be more expensive. I have no way of living any cheaper. The mortgage needs paying off so I will continue doing the extra payments but the focus needs too be on other more lucrative investments. So the goal for 2019 is paying off an extra 1200 euro’s. That’s it.

Which leaves the other part , my stock and ETF portfolio. A fixed amount will be added each month, divided over ETF’s and handpicked company’s. In which dividend payments will be one of the main factors, as part of my passive income strategy. My goal is getting my dividend payments up too 1500 euro’s per year. In 2018 the total got over a 1000 for the first time, 1021,80. A small milestone. Let’s see if my new goal is achievable.

Something new I got into in 2018 and developed more during the year is options trading. Which turned out too be the suprise of 2018. I used too write options every now and then on stocks I wanted too buy, not really consistent and just for fun. Mostly I didn’t get the stocks and I tried again. After some time I started making this a more systematic approach and I also started writing options on stocks I had in my portfolio.

At the end of 2018 I also started using part of my cash buffers as collateral for writing options. Usually you will have a good idea which part of the buffers you don’t need in the coming month, so it’s pretty safe using a part of this as a way for generating extra returns.

All in all this approach yielded a nice 10,21% return on risked capital. Not shocking in the option trading world but for me an encourachement for learning more about it and applying this in 2019. I will write about my learning process in the option series on this blog.

So 3 finance goals, keep downsizing the mortgage , generate more passive income and enhance the result with option trading.

But without my health all the money is worthless. 2018 has been a year with a few stark reminders of my permanent brain damage. I took on too much in some instances and got into a few nasty periods afterwards. 2019 is all about finding and keeping the balance again and really accept my new me. I can’t keep going on adding more work each time until I crash. The focus will be on being stronger, training the left side of my body and going back too the start of my revalidation process and taking and celebrating small steps forward. I will elaborate more on this in coming blog posts. For now have a very good 2019 !

Experiments , traveling by plane

Last month I did another experiment if you like, on how far I can go travel wise. It had been time for a good old fashioned holiday for some time. After successful small trips and lessons learned it was decided , flying with destination Tenerife, Canary Islands.

The B&B and the small town we stayed in were both familiar from previous visits , so the adjustment period should be minimal. Normally this was just the start of the trip or the end right after or before flying in or out. Now we would stay the week and see how things unfold.

The weeks before I was very nervous and anxious about the whole enterprise. What if I was forced too stay in bed the whole week. Things just didn’t sit well with me. Went anyway.

We booked a hotel near the Airport to cut the traveling in little bites so I could rest a bit more. Early morning flight so we took a cab to the airport, dropped our luggage and took our time. After boarding we had the furthest possible runway , the first few hours went pretty well, in the last hour my mind couldn’t keep up and I could not free myself out of the noise, movement and pressure.

Luckily we landed and the sun was shining, took a taxi towards the B&B and our room was almost ready. My initial expectation was that this was a crash moment. Luckily my afternoon sleeping breaks covered the fatigue and mental problems pretty well. So we enjoyed the village , food and sun and relaxed.

The first half of the week the afternoon naps proved too be sufficient enough , added we didn’t do much besides them anyway and all went well, the second half of the week sleeping wasn’t enough anymore. So the crash moment came later then expected.

In the second half we enjoyed a public transport trip to the capital of Tenerife and with a final meal at our favorite restaurant it was time for the flight home.

It was very good to be out of the country and having a ‘real’ holiday. Simply being abroad just adds to the overall holiday feeling.

It was a mixed bag in terms of my condition, before the trip I anticipated the first half to be a problem, which turned out to be the second half, and compared too out previous holiday’s we didn’t do a lot. It’s an adjustment I need to get my head around. One week of not doing much and just enjoying food sun and relaxation I can manage but after that I would like too see more of the place I am visiting.

After coming home I had troubles I finding my rhythm again , being tired and not committing enough time to rest. All in all a lot of lessons learned and perhaps I’ll have another go in the future. Never stop trying, and exploring , as they say at a famous outdoor brand.

The ups and downs

Mostly I try and write about all the positive stuff that’s been happening in my recovery and life. Sometimes however the tides go against me. In those periods I don’t have the energy too write about it nor do I want too look like I am complaining in any way shape or form.

But as with everything on the good ol’ interwebz painting a positive picture and not talk about the downsides is misleading and for others in the same situation and not much of a realistic picture. So I am going to try and write more about everything I my life related too my brain damage and the consequences.

In the past weeks I have done many fun things , all nicely planned and most of them went well. I let the planning slip and took less and less rest. And I didn’t listen too my girlfriend’s advice on taking it easy and going slow.

That in itself should have been enough of a warning. Just ignored it basically. Well that didn’t last long. Talking for example slowly went from bad to worse and concentration went downhill fast. So at the end last week I was stopped and my brain had had enough.

Which means everything gets hard. The basics of day to day life is suddenly more complex than complex algebra. It basically means getting out of bed is hard and getting off the couch is even harder. You simply need too take a lot of rest.

So a lot of rest later and some running again got me back up. Still it’s a bit fuzzy but all in all I am back, and I really need to get back to planning.

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.