Monday, 21 November 2011

A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn. Unknown

Today I'm feeling pretty tired, emotional and very proud... Yesterday I took my beginner running group 'Sarah's Runners' down to Brighton 10km - all 35 of them! For some it was their first ever race, for others the furthest they'd ever actually run..... and for me it was my first proper race in 18 months and my first race with my ileostomy.. 

I'd moaned on all week about not being ready, being too slow, about having sore legs, about how it might set me back and I had swung back on forth on the decision about whether or not to take part. I've lost a lot of confidence over the last 18 months and I was really nervous about putting myself back 'on the line'. It would have been much easier just to support the others and use that as an excuse not to run.. especially knowing that most of them would actually go faster than me and I would probably be about 20 minutes slower than my best. No-one makes me feel like that though.. the group are amazingly supportive. I'm the one who beats myself up.. 

But on Saturday I decided to stop with the moaning and just toughen up and get on with it ... no excuses. Saturday night was spent getting my kit together, hunting for safety pins and deciding what to wear and feeling nervous.. just like times of old.  So on Sunday, we all loaded onto the coach and headed off down to Brighton, everyone very nervous and excited! Before the race we all got warmed up and it was a brilliant sight seeing everyone in their club t-shirts.. I was so proud of them all.. they all looked fab! 

Before the start I had to visit the loo a few times to empty the bag which caused a bit of a panic. I'd forgotten how my body would react to pre-race adrenaline and hadn't appreciated how it would speed up my output into the bag. When I get running though, there is a shift of blood flow away from the intestines and the bag doesn't fill up at all, but I didn't want to start the race with a full bag as a) it's really uncomfortable and b) it makes a rather large bulge in my lyrca.. not a good look.  With hindsight I should have taken some immodium to slow things down - something to remember next time.

Anyway... onto the start line and I was standing with my friend Anita.. who is rather ironically my surgeon's secretary. She totally understands everything I've been through and knows more about my bowels than I do! It was quite a poignant way to start the race with her and she gave me a big hug before we started which was lovely and made me feel very emotional. I set off very conservatively not knowing how I'd feel or even really having any idea how to pace it. The feeling of 'racing' came back pretty quickly though and I found myself wanting to push on and not let people pass me.. I realised my pace was going to bring me in under the hour and possibly even 55 minutes.. that was a surprise! After about 7km I was feeling quite strong and managed to push on a bit more. I ran with a couple of my group - Sema and Raquel - for a while and that really spurred me on. I managed to find a finishing kick from somewhere and crossed the line in 53:48. I saw loads of friends around the course.. people I know from all different aspects of running as well as my lovely hubby and the boys who had come to watch - and they all gave me a lovely cheer! it was just brilliant. 

But what surprised me the most though was how much I loved it! I just loved being part of a race again and even though I was 13 minutes slower than the last time I ran Brighton 10km 3 years ago.. I couldn't have worked any harder and I loved the adrenaline kick of racing hard! My max heart rate was 186 and average 168. Must have been a bit of a shock for my body as I haven't seen a heartrate like that for a VERY long time.  Running down the finish chute with everyone cheering was just amazing and I had a giant smile on my face. I felt like a proper runner again and well.. just like ME! 

Everyone in the group did so well and really enjoyed themselves. I know I wouldn't have done the race without their support either, so we are all helping each other and it's just brilliant. I was very proud of them all and if I'm honest... I'm proud of myself just a bit too. 

This has been a huge turning point and I've proven to myself that I can be back in the game. Whilst I will always need to take care of myself a bit more than most and stay on top of injuries, recovery and nutrition.. I also need to be a bit more confident in my body and push it to see what it can do.

It can only get better from here and this has been the confidence boost I so badly needed.  It would have been easier to watch from the sidelines, but I launched myself out of my comfort zone and into the unknown.. and it turned out just fine.  

I might have been taken 'off track' for a while but I'm slowly finding my way back to the road. It might be a slightly different road to the one I was on before, but maybe it's actually heading in a better direction.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Seems I spoke too soon!

If I was 5 years old, I'd be stamping my foot and declaring it all to be 'so unfair'. That's exactly how I feel right now as I'm sitting here with an ice pack on my calf. But as I'm a grown up, instead of stamping my foot and having a tantrum, I'll just have a moan in my blog instead ;-)

I guess now I look back with hindsight, I realise I'd started to do a bit too much over the last week or so.  A 7 mile run last Saturday was really demoralising and I ran too fast and with too many hills. I had gone with a (faster) friend and I just couldn't keep up with her, so I ended up having to push it too hard and was completely wrecked when I got home.. bursting into tears as soon as I got through the door. I know that sounds childish, but it just feels like I take one step forwards then get knocked back again.. and I'm having to dig really deep.

I'm pretty sure that long run then contributed to some tightness in my lower back and  hamstrings which has resulted in my calf going 'twang' when I was coaching yesterday.  It's a relatively minor tear in my soleus, but it's just annoying when things were starting to go well and it just means taking a few days off, icing it, getting some treatment and seeing how it responds.  It's hardly surprising given the state of my core stability and despite doing my exercises, it seems it's just not enough. 

It's SO frustrating and so hard to know how much I can (or can't!) do. The rules have all changed now and I'm having to relearn how my body responds, recovers and progresses. And as much as I love my beginner group and my coaching work, it's really tough watching everyone get faster, fitter and feel so good about themselves, while I'm slowly struggling on. People say that I'm an inspiration, but I don't feel like it. I just feel unfit, overweight and mentally knackered from it all. 

Having the ileostomy in itself isn't really a problem any more. Now I'm using convex bags I haven't had a leak in a month (yippee!!), I'm figuring out the sorts of food that work best (nuts and porridge are still off the menu!), my blood sugar levels are better and I'm feeling recovered pretty much from the surgery itself. 

The PROBLEM is that my body is wrecked from having 4 abdominal operations in a year and the posture and body composition changes that have gone with that. I've pretty much had 16 months off training, have lost a lot of muscle (and gained plenty of lard!) and my immune system has taken a bashing too. Some issues at home with my 12 year old and having to find a specialist school for him, are also causing my stress levels to rocket and I have an almost permanent headache. Stress, recovery from surgery and running don't really go very well together!

People ask me if I'll be able to get back to 'racing' again.. and the answer to that is I have no idea.  Last week I thought I might be able to run the marathon in April.. this week, I'm not so sure. All I do know is that I'm going to have to ramp up the rehab, stretching and strength/conditioning stuff if I've got a hope of running more than 5 miles ever again! So it's time for yet another rethink. Pilates, swimming, gym work, foam rolling and massage need to be a higher priority - I can't afford to be complacent for one second. 

In the words of Dick Wolf 'As soon as you get complacent your show gets cancelled'.