“Hmmm, that’s strange… have you ever had this problem before?” asked the nurse.
“No,” I answered truthfully, and somewhat abashed.
And it is true: in more than two decades of giving blood I’ve always sailed through the iron test; the ol’ droplet of blood usually plummeting to the bottom of the test tube like a depth charge.
This time, though, it hovered about at the top, seemingly unsure what to do next, before finally floating gently down like a splash of paint in an arty video.
“Must be a mistake,” said the helpful nurse, “we’ll do a more accurate analysis.”
As it turned out, I was OK to donate, scraping home by a single point above the iron content threshold (136 against 135, whatever that means). I would, though, like to apologise in advance to the eventual recipient of what was clearly a substandard batch compared with my normal lofty standards. Hardly a shot in the arm that’ll be…
What this also tells me is that I’ve probably never worked my body as hard as I’ve been doing in the past few weeks; and if I’m going to continue with this much more intensive training regime (and I certainly intend to) I need to be on top of the ‘refuelling’ elements of the process, too.
To be fair, I’d started to feel a little run down in the run-up to the blood donor session and I’ve been sleeping quite heavily too, which is very unlike me. The iron deficiency is no doubt another symptom of that general fatigue, one which I’m immediately rectifying by scoffing an iron-enriched multivitamin a day for the foreseeable future. Taking a couple of days off training is also going to help, I think.
Strewth, it seems a lifetime ago that my main health concerns would be a raging hangover and the distinctly rotund shape of my midriff. Now I’m having to behave like a proper sportsman, balancing my exercise/recovery programmes with a keen eye for nutritional detail. Where did it all go wrong…?
Of course all of this is very early days and I’m a long way from where I need to be if I want to start the racing season in tip-top competitive shape. The new two-up sprint element of the Preston Park chaingangs (where the front pair of riders do a sprint against each other as the bunch passes the start line on each lap) is proof that I’m seriously lacking top end speed. I’ve had a lot more defeats than victories to date, although I’m feeling much more comfortable on the bike with each sprint I complete.
As to a first race, I keep changing my mind with almost every passing day. Cyclopark, Mountbatten Centre, even Ludgershall maybe? I want to get back into it so badly it hurts, but I’m conscious of my domestic responsibilities, some upcoming business travel and the need to let the training play out a bit further if I can. It is really working – I can already feel that surge of power in my legs I enjoyed after the back-to-back Eastbourne and Hove Park crits at the height of last season. So why the rush?
Because I’m as impatient as a child on Christmas Eve when it comes to stuff like this, that’s why.