Monday, 24 October 2011

Finally a Breakthrough!

So, I've been following this heart-rate training method for the last 4 weeks. Basically keeping my heart-rate as close to/under 70% of my max (140bpm). It has meant walking up hills and plodding at about 11 min mile pace. To be honest it's been really frustrating and fairly depressing.

But deep down I know it works, so have persevered.. and I'm really glad I have. On Saturday I did a regular 5 mile run from my house and again stuck to the heart-rate thing. Glancing at my watch I realised that my pace was much quicker at the same heart-rate and I didn't need to walk up any hills.. and by the end of the run I was a whole 7 minutes faster than 2 weeks ago for the same average heart-rate. A MASSIVE breakthrough and proof the the heart-rate training method really works!

Ok, so still not exactly fast, but certainly a huge improvement.  It made me feel that maybe, just maybe, the London Marathon might not be that insane an idea after all.

Talking about the London Marathon, I have just agreed to be the official training consultant/coach for the Cardiomyopathy Association Team. So I'll be helping their team with their training and preparation for the Virgin London Marathon in April. I'm really honoured and excited to be helping them and they're a great charity. I think it will also help me focus on my own training and it'll be an interesting journey to see how we all get on over the next 6 months.

I've also been getting out on my bike and really enjoying this lovely autumnal weather. On Sunday (after my breakthrough run on Saturday) I had a fantastic bike ride with my friend Steve. 33 miles and 2500ft of climbing (we happen to live in a very hilly area) and it was brilliant! My longest ride since June 2010 (and that was 56 miles in Weymouth Half Ironman)!  I was completely knackered afterwards, but in that lovely 'post exercise tired' sort of way.. rather than in an 'ill' sort of way.  I'm always nervous after pushing it like that (I have to confess that my heart-rate didn't exactly stay under 140) and wonder how I'll recover, but so far, my immune system seems stronger and my tolerance to exercise seems to be improving. FINALLY !!!

I'm going to show this stupid bag who's boss here! I was robbed of my Ironman last year from being ill, but having an ileostomy isn't going to stop me getting back there now. In the words of Michael Jordan...
'Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it'

Monday, 10 October 2011

Exactly 3 months on..

How quickly time flies! It is exactly 3 months ago today that I had surgery to create a permanent ileostomy. Having had perforation of my colon last year and peritonitis, my colon was so damaged that it basically stopped working - so now it's bypassed and the end of my bowel is a hole in my abdomen. Nice trick!

That means I've had my little stoma (the technical name) for 12 whole weeks. Sometimes it feels like forever and sometimes just like yesterday. Sometimes it just doesn't seem real at all.

I'm usually a really positive person, but I have to admit that recently a few negative thoughts have been sneaking into my head. Up until now I've been so ecstatic about feeling better, about being able to eat, sleep and exercise again that I didn't care about the bag... in fact I was grateful for it.  But now the euphoria of feeling better is starting to wear off a bit.. and I catch myself thinking 'how am I going to live with this thing for the rest of my life?' I'm sometimes repulsed by it and if I'm honest just sometimes REALLY wish it wasn't there at all.  This whole journey has been crazy.  18 months ago I was training for an Ironman thinking I was invincible and superwoman .. Here I am now (never having made the Ironman) with a permanent colostomy bag, having survived a life threatening perforation of my colon and now faced with re-building every aspect of not only my fitness, but my life and my career.  Sometimes it just sucks!

For some reason however, these are the cards I've been dealt and it is what it is.  I have to remind myself that things could be a lot worse. If I had MS or Parkinsons disease or cancer for example... something that really prevented me from living my life the way I want to. The reality is that the bag is nothing more than an inconvenience and it needs to be put in it's place. It is not going to stop me from doing anything! so there. 

On that note.. my actual training has been going pretty well, although painfully slowly. My heartrate is feeling more stable and I can actually jog up a hill now without it shooting through the roof.  This last week I've clocked up 15 miles of running and 35 miles on the bike as well as my core stability work.  As ever its all very steady and slow, but already I'm starting to see some tiny improvements in pace for the same heartrate and recovery is becoming more predictable. Hooray! about time. Don't get me wrong, I'm still running at snails pace.. but it's starting to get a little easier and I'm really enjoying it. If nothing else the 'lay off' has given me a renewed sense of enthusiasm for training... and that in itself feels amazing!

I still have a bad case of 'skinny fit runner' envy though and watched the recent Ironman World Championships in Hawaii with a mixture of awe and jealously! I'd always dreamed that one day I just might qualify... now of course it'll be harder than ever and I have hurdles which I'll probably never be able to overcome. So I think it's one goal that I'll have to put in the 'dream on!' box for now and focus on a more realistic target - the local 10km to start with.

To put things in perspective though. My lovely dog Willow has just qualified as a PAT (pets as therapy) dog and we just had our first 'date' at a local nursing home which specialises in dementia care. She was an absolute star and everyone loved her - feeding her treats, patting her and she wagged her tail a lot! It was a really lovely thing to do and all the residents were so grateful and really enjoyed spending time with her. It was lovely to help put a smile on their faces and just give a little something, no matter how small. It did make me think though... what have I really got to complain about??? life is just too short and even though I have this stupid bag to deal with... it's nothing really. Certainly not compared to those poor old folk in the nursing home suffering dementia and unable to live in their own homes. One day, probably not that far from now, that could be me sat in my nursing home, patting the 'therapy' dog brought in by a local volunteer.. I just need to grasp my life in whatever shape or form it might be in and live it to the full. So it's time to push those negative thoughts from my head and be grateful for my little bag which has given me my health back. Positive 'head' is firmly back on.. and sorry for the moan!
I don't know who Merle Miller is.. but I do love this quote. 

"Everyone has his burden. What counts is how you carry it."
 --Merle Miller 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

London Marathon.. I'm in!

So I'm officially in the London Marathon for 2012.  It's on 22nd April.. which is basically 28 weeks away and I have a 'Good for Age' place! Ha! A lot has happened in the 2 years since I gained the qualifying time at Paris Marathon.. and I'm about as far from being 'good for age' as I could be. I think I'll be better off running with the fairies and rhinos off the red start. Do I think I can do it??? Honestly I have no idea. It's not for the lack of desire.. I desperately want to be there and am motivated to train, but it might just be too much too soon.  On the basis I can currently run for 5 miles (walking up hills I might add!) it seems like a pretty big task ahead.  I think I'll just build the miles and see how things go..  

Looming closer though, is Brighton 10km which is 7 weeks away on 20th November. I'm taking a big group from my beginner running group (over 30 of us!) which is fantastic, but I have a feeling most of them will actually run faster than me! They all know about my surgery and what I've been through and everyone is very supportive and lovely, but it's going to be a tough one to watch them all disappear into the distance..

My training is going ok though and I'm beginning to build the miles, but I'm really nervous of doing too much and pushing myself.  I'm religiously sticking with my sub 140 bpm heartrate training and hoping I'll start to see an improvement in pace soon. But I'll admit it's getting boring! However I've got some great friends (and an amazing hubby) who are happy to run or cycle slowly with me and I feel really lucky to have such great support :-)

On the nutrition front, since I've started doing more exercise, my blood sugar levels are all over the place and I find myself scoffing bags of the kids sweets in desperation! Not great I know.  Because of the ileostomy, things I eat can whizz through my system and be out and in the bag in less than an hour, and consequently my energy levels are really inconsistent. It's almost like being diabetic at times (I'm not) and I found myself in Marks and Spencer the other day shaking with low blood sugar and having to buy (and eat) an entire bag of Percy Pigs!  A healthy low GI diet (with lots of fibre, seeds and nuts etc) which helps to stabilise blood sugar just isn't working for me at the moment and last night I was close to having a blockage after overdoing the salad, nuts and jacket potato skin.  It's all a massive learning curve and I'll admit I'm finding it tough to get it right.

I have to be honest, there are times when I look at the bag and wonder how on earth it got there! the last 18 months has been such a weird journey and here I am now with a permanent 'colostomy' bag and the challenges it entails. Without wanting to complain, sometimes it just doesn't seem fair. 

I also still haven't quite gotten on top of the leaks and haven't felt 100% confident with the security of the bag. There are times when I can feel it starting to itch and feel sore.. and the inevitable leak begins. Then I know it's time to rush home for an emergency shower and change.  It shouldn't have to be like that and we shouldn't have to suffer embarrassing leaks. So I finally gave in and tried what is called a convex bag. This has a hard ring which goes around the stoma and pushes it out.. even though it's more uncomfortable and obvious under clothes, I've tried it over the last few days and it seems more secure and trustworthy! so for the moment I'm feeling pretty happy with it and more confident. Phew.. 

On another note altogether, my 12 year old did a local aquathlon on Sunday. He had to swim 200m and then run 1500m. He's not hugely competitive and his training has left plenty to be desired, but it was all about having fun and being proud of himself. He was very nervous to begin with, but had a great time and did really well! But for me, just being part of the 'triathlon' scene again was amazing and I loved being poolside watching the swimmers and mixing with the other obvious 'triathlete' parents (their Ironman T-shirts gave them away). Setting up transition and helping him get ready was really inspiring and exciting and just made me want to be part of it all again.... So whether I do the London Marathon in April or not, I know that whatever happens I'll be signing up for a triathlon next season. I wonder if they'll let me compete as a 'novice' again?!