Archive | September, 2010

2 Steps Forward, 1 Back!

29 Sep

Had a rather frustrating week, which is to be expected at this stage of my recovery. Two steps forward, one back at the moment! After the excitement of getting back in the pool and back on the bike, my chest has continued to ache during and after exercise. After 10 lengths of the pool, I had to get out. After a 14 mile bike, I was in pain for 2 days afterwards. Even after a gentle 3 mile run, my sternum bone is very uncomfortable. I guess my body is trying to tell me something! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a moaning minnie – I am extremely grateful that I am back training again. I just got a little carried away and I have learnt my lesson!

Referring back to my heart surgery ‘manual’, I read that if an exercise causes pain or discomfort then I should stop for 2 weeks before re-trying. This made me smile, I thought exercise was always meant to cause pain and discomfort! The difficulty I have when applying these principles to my condition is that I am 30-40 years younger than most heart patients. My previous level of fitness is allowing me to return to higher levels of exercise than is routinely expected. As a result of this (and after discussion with my hospital consultant), I have decided to take the lead from my body day by day. For the last few weeks I have been training every other day. If I need extra days of rest, I’ll take them. Sound sensible?? Pre-heart surgery me finds it hard to stay put and out of the fresh air.

As I mentioned on my previous post, I have recently been speaking to athletes planning their trip to the world Ironman championships in Kona next month. I am fascinated by what goes into training for this event. Having such an exciting long term goal as finishing a long distance triathlon outweighs any of my short term aim niggles.

Lessons I have learnt this week:

  • Don’t run on an empty stomach (if like me, it makes you dizzy and sick!).
  • Don’t push too hard too early on in recovery from major surgery.
  • Listen to your body and let it dictate the length or intensity of a training session.

Of course, there are plenty of occasions when you push your body to the limit and I fully intend to get back to this level of training as soon as body says ‘OK, let’s go!’ :)

The Beginning Of The Rest Of My Life!

22 Sep

BeachNo longer will I be posting about my recovery weeks – the official 12 weeks is over! So what now? The beginning of the rest of my life.  The excitement of the future and acceptance of events in the past. My mourning for months lost, finances lost, confidence lost is slowly easing and my focus again shifts to I can do. The easiest way for me to measure success is exercise. Every day during my recovery I kept a diary of how far I walked, starting with a tiddly 7 minutes and round the block.

Today I ran 6 miles, at a slow pace (12 min/miles with a couple of walk breaks) but felt good. The distance was no problem. If any slight nagging voices came into my head about wanting to run faster, I cast them aside. Right now, I’m lucky to be running and want to enjoy the joy of getting out in the fresh air and soaking up the scenery like this morning’s run (see pic!). I am great at sticking rigidly to training plans and getting psyched up for faster times and results but now is not the time to do this. I get the odd bout of chest pain if I raise my heart rate above 150/160 or push that bit too hard. I have plenty of time to work towards my goals in triathlon and running in 2011.

Speaking of which: here is my race plan options for 2011!:

Jan / Feb – Rempstone Roast duathlon series

20th Feb Brighton half marathon (got place)

March – Either Mad March triathlon in Dorset or Bournemouth Bay half marathon

17th April London Marathon (have my beloved place!)

8th May Try a tri, Dorset  or maybe New Forest Olympic on 1st May

June – London to Brighton bike ride (have place), Bournemouth pier to pier swim, maybe Summer Sizzler tri in Dorset

July – Bournemouth Olympic, London Triathlon (have place)

August – not sure about this one. Maybe Hyde Park on 6/7th or Swanage on 14th

September is 70.3 time! Options are New Forest middle distance 25th Sept, Vitruvian. Depending on pennies there are some M-Dot events abroad (New York, Mexico, Canada, New Hampshire!!!)
Have entered pre-reg for the Great North Run as well

All very exciting.

The above plans were jotted down for this year but my heart had a ‘mechanical’, so to speak! My mind never stopped believing in my ability to achieve, hence the endless frustration and disappointing times despite good training. I have many people around me who provide great inspiration. These include my friend who ran the London marathon for the first time this year, despite injury and an age 0f 63. We run together regularly and she really keeps my spirits up. Also, a new training friend inspires me – she has taken up triathlon despite health problems. It’s great to have strong people around you. I love following stories on Twitter about people who have gone from overweight and unfit to triathletes qualifying for Kona world championships! When in the pool, on the bike or out on a run, I imagine I am Chrissie Wellington and all seems effortless and easy! Role models are amazing motivation.

Check out this for motivation:

For most people, it is difficult to make a living out of sport unless you are gifted and have the determination to work excessively hard. But everyone can use sport to improve the rest of your life. Like holidays, sporting events give you something to look forward to and work towards.

12 Weeks Ago Today My Heart Was Stopped For 39 Minutes

15 Sep

12 weeks ago today, I had heart surgery for a large hole in my heart. My heart was stopped and I was put onto a bypass system during the operation. I woke up in intensive care sore and feeling very sick. I spent 8 days in hospital before returning home to spend the next 12 weeks recovering.

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Last night, re-running this in my mind kept me awake. Since my operation, all my focus has been on getting better and the future. I never let myself think about the lead up to surgery, my time in hospital or any pain during recovery. I can now admit it wasn’t easy. It hurt. I was scared. I saw my cardiologist last week who told me I would have died in 8 -10 years if I hadn’t had the surgery. At the time, I laughed this off. Afterwards I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach! This information has only made me more determined to achieve now. Achieve in business, in triathlon, in running and my life in general.

Niggling fears and doubts are starting to bug me! Two of my hospital consultants have told me that it is ok for me to train again. They both know my aims to return to triathlon and running (ironman hasn’t been mentioned though!). Both were quick to tell me I wouldn’t be able to be an elite athlete. This hasn’t been an aim of mine but why is it when someone tells you you can’t do something, it makes you want it even more!! I am now questioning why not. Physiologically, can my heart not stand intense exercise? I’ve been told my heart is as good as new now so this doesn’t make sense. Should I be scared to push it on a lone 20 mile run or 50 mile bike ride? What if I feel like I did after the Berlin marathon last year (hideous!). Feelings of sadness have filled me this week. Sadness at what I have missed in terms of races and at what my body has gone through.

There I’ve said it. I admit to feeling rubbish this week. However, I have had the best training sessions. Running on the treadmill with the occasional 1 minute walk have felt great.  Cycling on the spin bike at the gym was such as relief to get back on the bike. The best feeling of all was getting back in the pool. Lengths felt so easy, I was shocked! No breathlessness or chest pain, not so much as an ache in any of my chest muscles. My sternum has now healed, yipee!! I am finally at a stage where I am going to overtake my progress before my operation. With some trepidation I am starting to believe in what I may be capable of. I  am excited to think of the personal bests that may be ahead. All the frustration of not achieving the times I thought I should in relation to my training is now behind me.

Although my heart was stopped 12 weeks ago today, it has never worked as efficiently as it is now. For that, I am very grateful! Coming soon is my list of 2011 races :)

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From Heart Surgery to Ironman. Weeks 10 and 11

6 Sep

To those who have been reading this blog don’t get too excited, I haven’t gone out and done an Ironman!! Until now I have kept this blog post as a diary for my progress following heart surgery in June. From now, I will be recording my journey returning to the sport of triathlon and in particular the ultimate challenge of Ironman.

Over the weekend, I watched a programme on the UK Ironman race. This inspired me to begin serious research into training for the long-distance race. Which Ironman, when is realistic, what training will I need. I have begun looking for a triathlon coach as I feel I will need structure to my training and good advice to keep me on track. Through Twitter and Triblogs I have come across some great people, from local novice triathletes to train with to expert coaches from the US. I fully intend to utilise the powers of the web to aid my training!

The reaction I have had from friends, family and online acquaintances has been mixed! My brother thinks a screw has come loose. My friends understand my obsession with extreme challenges. Friends on Twitter have given me great words of encouragement which really spurs me on. The Channel 4 programme on the UK Ironman showed several participants who had a ‘story’ such as a young guy who had fallen 100ft in the ski accident and was in a wheelchair for months, a Canadian women in her 60′s on her second Ironman and countless others. Whenever I watch footage of a long distance triathlon the strength of human nature is obviously abundant and this reduces me to tears and goosebumps every time.

So what is my personal reason for wanting to do an Ironman? My heart surgery set me back in my marathon and triathlon training. I had set out goals for each year up until 2012 and as a result of my heart condition, didn’t seem to be getting anywhere fast! My aim for a sub 4:30 marathon went by the wayside in 2009 as my symptoms worsened. I couldn’t understand why my running was slowing rather than improving. Doctors in March 2010, when they heard the word triathlon, told me to stop training (other than a gentle jog or walk). I found this disheartening and frustrating so tried to carry on working out for a few more weeks. Finally, I was forced to give up exercise. I was told by my cardiologist that I would never be an elite athlete (although this hadn’t been my aim). At this time, my way of getting through was to focus all my energy on ensuring I focus on the future and making sure I had the required surgery as soon as possible. This strategy worked and carried me through the tough times.

Here I am now, nearly at the golden 12 week date. 15th September to me is the start of my future as a triathlete. On that day, I will celebrate the end of my recovery period with my first cycle and swim in the pool. I have a long way to go with my training as over the last 6 months I have obviously lost fitness, have put on weight/body fat and just a little bit of confidence.

My aims for the next few weeks:

  • x 3 runs a week, slow pace (no quicker than 10 min/miles), distance between 2 – 5 miles
  • Gentle workouts at the gym, 1-2 x a week
  • Yoga x 3 a week
  • Massage or reflexology once a month to help with lingering sore neck
  • Ease back into swimming, depending on how my chest is feeling
  • Set-up my turbo and begin gentle cycle sessions x 2/3 a week
  • Research a triathlon coach
  • Record my weight/body fat and exercise sessions to keep a log

I love following a training plan and I will start looking into marathon plans that begin at the end of 2010/Jan 2011 but will not follow a plan at the moment. This is because I need to listen to my body while I resume exercise again and make sure I take the necessary rest. There is plenty of time to focus on sub 4hr marathon, olympic and 70.3 triathlon plans!

Brief race plan for 2011 – 2012.

April 2011 – London Marathon. Aiming for sub 4 hours.

Spring 2011 – Sprint distance triathlon as warm-up race

Summer 2011 – 2 or 3 olympic distance races (including Bournemouth and London)

August, September or autumn 2011 – half Ironman.

2012 – Ironman!!

Stats today:

Weight: 9 st 1 lb, Body fat: 25.8%, BMI: 20.4, Waist: 26”, Hips: 36”