Tuesday, 16 August 2011

'I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday'. Unknown

And so I am... 

Today I've got that lovely tired feeling you get after hard physical exertion - something I haven't felt for a long time.  Yesterday, along with my friend Hatty, I cycled 23 miles - my longest ride since June 2010 (14 months ago).  To begin with I was pretty nervous, especially about the hills, and took it very easy not wanting to push myself. The feeling of being out of breath is a bit alien! But as the ride went on I could feel my confidence grow and towards the end I was starting to push the pace a little and felt stronger - although the hills were still tough. It was a great ride, we had a lovely chat and it was fantastic to be out in the beautiful countryside. To be truthful we'd only planned to ride 15-20 miles depending on how we felt, but we did take a little unintentional 'detour'.. so it was perhaps a bit more than I should have done at this stage.  I was tired afterwards, and yes I'm pretty weary today. But it's a different sort of tired - a 'post exercise tired' not an 'ill tired'.. and there's a huge and wonderful difference!  

It's not just my lack of fitness that's a problem though. The loss of confidence in my body, fitness and ability is profound and has taken me by surprise. I've been out of the game so long I've lost the ability know what my body can do (or not) and it's going to take a while to not only regain fitness, but rebuild that lost confidence and ability. That will go hand in hand with my recovery though, and I as know from coaching beginner runners and personal training with cardiac rehab clients, confidence comes with improved fitness and seeing results - however small. 

Over the last few days I've noticed that I've started to forget the bag is even there. There is no discomfort now the stitches are out, I don't feel it at all when I'm running or riding and I've not had a leak for over a week! result! this all helps build my confidence in what I can do, clothes I can wear and places we can go.  Eating is just a joy now too and I'm loving the fact I can eat fruit, meat and salad and my body is feeling healthier as a result already.  We are having a family weekend away soon and staying in a boutique hotel/gastro pub which has a reputation for amazing food.  Now I can eat again properly and not worry about the consequences of every mouthful, I'm so excited about going away and being able to enjoy a delicious meal and good wine. It makes me realise just how miserable my life was before I had this surgery and how grateful I am that there was a solution. 

Every day I feel like I'm progressing and every time I go out - whether it's for a run or a ride - I do a little bit more, feel stronger and more positive. I've got a couple of 10km events already in the pipeline, but find my mind racing ahead and wondering what I might be capable of doing in the long term. Could I EVER contemplate that Ironman I never got to do? It would be a huge challenge given  everything, but it's not impossible. There is an athlete in America who has an ileostomy and has completed Hawaii Ironman - an incredible achievement for any triathlete, let alone someone dealing with the challenges of an ileostomy. His story is here John Dermengian - I keep reading it and wondering... could I do that too??  but I mustn't get ahead of myself. This is all about small steps - but it's certainly a carrot that is dangling and just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.  One line in his article really stands out 'Opportunity comes from adversity'.. what a great attitude. I love that.. it's so true.

I have an entry for the London Marathon next April which was transferred from this year when I wasn't well. Could I really do it this time?? I've done it 3 times before and can easily imagine the amazing atmosphere, cheering crowds and emotions I'd feel.. not to mention the pain and hard work involved.  The London Marathon is emotional at the best of times, but to be able to get fit enough to do it given what I've been through, would be an amazing achievement.  Is 8 months really enough time to recover properly from 14 months of illness and 4 operations, and train for a marathon? Well lets give it a try... 

My lovely dad
When I was a little girl, my lovely old dad used to tell me I could do anything. He instilled a confidence in me to try anything and not be afraid of failure. I'll never forget taking my driving test. We couldn't get a slot for the test in our home town and so he said 'ask if there is anywhere else you can do it'.. 'yes there's a slot in Wrexham next week' was the reply. Wrexham was 45 miles away, I'd never been there and it meant the test would be only 10 days after my 17th birthday. 'Ok' he said 'lets do it'. He taught me to drive in 10 days and I passed first time. My dad died 6 years ago, and I really miss him, his encouragement and his confidence in me. He believed I could do anything and let me try even though I might fail. I'll be forever grateful to him for that gift.