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Tyres, Tears, Tickers and Chips!

16 Mar

February was spent geared up for a big training week in the Canary Islands. After lots of family problems and busy work schedules I had finally managed to increase my training and was feeling pretty good. I faced a week in Lanzarote with three boys, all who were bound to whip my ass around the island. Time to be tough!

Bring on the hills!

When we first arrived the wind was blowing but the sun was out. We headed out for an easy 5k run, followed by a dip in the sea. Most of the day was spent trying to sort out our bikes. We made the decision to hire bikes and whilst they were decent bikes, we had many a drama with puncture after puncture plus several blown-out tyres. All good experience for people such as me with very limited bike maintenance experience!

The second day started from Puerto del Carmen where we picked up the hire bikes and headed out on a scenic 60 mile ride. Strong headwinds made some stretches of the ride very hard work, even drafting at the back of the boys. I gave myself a stern talking to – HTFU! A couple of hills along the route nicely tired out our legs just in time for a 2 mile run off once back at the apartment. Considering I had only covered this distance once before, I was pleased with the day.

I was super excited about our ‘sandwich’ day on the third day – this involved a 25 mile ride to Club La Santa, an amazing resort which is an athlete’s dream and includes an Olympic sized outdoor pool. We arrived at lunchtime and had a lovely 3k swim in the sun. Not only was this a great experience, it was my first ever swim at this distance! A quick athlete’s lunch of, erm, chicken burger and chips, then we headed back off on a hot, hilly 26 mile ride back to Costa Teguise. Total of 51 miles today and whilst I was started to feel a bit tired, I was buzzing.

Because the wind can be so brutal in Lanzarote, we closely watched the weather and planned in our long ride day for the Saturday. Warm weather was forecast and the wind was down – perfect. My friends I was out with knew the island well and had plenty of Ironman experience. This meant that their aim for the day was 100 miles. Another dodgy tyre meant an unwelcome detour back to Puerto del Carmen and the bike shop in the morning. By mid-morning, we were out and covering mile after mile. A climb up Haria really took the wind out of me and I struggled to catch my breath at the top. For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t stop the tears. Luckily, no-one saw them! I was feeling tired by 50 miles in but was so determined to complete the distance that my legs kept pedalling. The guys were so patient and waited for me whenever necessary. Once the main hills were out of the way, I got my energy back and we cruised back reaching just over 80 miles. I was so pleased. A celebratory milkshake was in order!

After such as long day on the Saturday, I decided to take Sunday off riding. The guys went off on a tough ride themselves and Damon & I headed out for a run along the coastline. 90 minutes off-road and in the sun was tougher than I expected and I withered a little! After some lunch, we got back in the sea and after 35 minutes, I felt exhausted and dizzy. Time for more chips.

Monday was especially hot and we made the most of the weather with a hilly day, attempting Tabayesco and Mirador – two big climbs. I was pleased that I managed them, despite at a very slow speed. Another 56 miles in the bag and very tired legs. As we are training for triathlon, I decided to pipe up that I thought it would be good to run off the bike. So off we trotted for an hour. The only training that did was practising my Ironman shuffle, I had no speed left at all! The following morning, we rode over to La Santa again, quick swim of 1500m then headed back. Towards the end of this 50 mile ride, I was pretty tired. So tired that I felt as if I was hardly moving. About 10 miles from home, I began to notice a heaviness in my chest. Not painful but enough for me to be aware that it was there. It was a familiar feeling, the same as before I had my heart surgery. A noticeably cardiac pain that until you have experienced it, you couldn’t put your finger on what it is. It kind of ache that grips you and you can’t focus on anything else. I deliberated about telling anyone and didn’t for about 15 minutes. It went off and I tried to focus on getting home as quickly as possible!

 

That night I thought over the holiday and started to wonder if I had been more breathless than I should have been on the hills. The terrain out there was tough, the conditions hot and windy and I am nowhere near as fit as the guys I was with. Maybe that was the explanation. In the evenings, I had been unable to sleep well as I had been noticed slight palpitations or just an awareness of my heartbeat in my ears. Alarm bells started to ring, very quietly, in my head. Was I just over tired at a successful but extremely tiring week?

Back home, I went for a short easy run to test myself. My legs felt fine, my body did not. Hmmm. Another day off, followed by the local parkrun on Saturday. I went on my own and I was glad I did. I was so out of breath the whole run, finishing feeling deflated and with the starts of chest pain. This got worse and I walked until it went off. I made my decision then and there to go to my GP and get the pain checked out. Getting pain and breathlessness when exercising is something not to ignore and my nursing voice told me there could be more to this than just Lanza tiredness.

An agonising wait for the doctor’s appointment three days later meant I worried non-stop. I had started to get pain during the day, even when doing nothing. I made the decision not tell anyone about the appointment until I had a plan. The GP was mildly sympathetic and referred me back to a cardiologist at the hospital for an exercise tolerance test. This could take two weeks but I figured something was better than nothing. A chat the following day with a friend lead me to the decision that this wasn’t good enough, considering my symptoms and continued pain.

Going to A&E as an A&E nurse has to be one of the hardest things to do. Luckily, they were lovely, sorting me out quickly and painlessly (well, nearly, after several blood tests!). Before I knew it, I was admitted on a ward, with the promise of further tests the following day. Nothing sinister had showed up on my ECG or chest xray so an echocardiogram was required. Knowing that there was a possibility that the patch in my heart had a leak, I fought hard to stay positive and focus on what needed to be done.

As it goes in the NHS, progress was slow and I had to wait patiently to see any doctors or get my tests requested. Once I had my echo, more waiting ensued and it was pretty painful! Not knowing is difficult. I was kept occupied by other women in my bay, qho couldn’t understand how I could have heart problems ‘being so young and pretty’ – haha (“don’t think so love!” was my reply).

The results were finally in and I was informed that I had a slightly leak on my mitral valve which might or might not be causing my pain. There was a possibility that scar tissue was also a factor, as could be muscular skeletal pain or even stress. The final test of a CT of my coronary arteries to check that they are in the correct position after my surgery which I will  have next week will be the last option to rule out. After 3 days,  I left hospital a little fed up and uncertain of what to do next.

Speaking with other members of the Ironheartracing team help, as did chatting with others I know who have had similar surgery. I owe a special thankyou to my always supportive coach and a new friend who has helped me out massively over the last couple of weeks – you know who you are!

This morning I was back to the hopsital for an exercise tolerance test on the treadmill. This went well and I was reassured by the cardiologist that there was no evidence to suggest my heart was under stress when exercising. A chat with the consultant confirmed that I was ok to continue training and still race in July. Luckily he called me to say this – otherwise I might have kissed him! :)

At this stage, having had two weeks off training has felt like forever. As I am continually reminded by friends and family, health always comes first. That voice in your head that tells me to forget all the advice and get back in the pool, on my bike or in my trainers will have to be quiet for now. Now’s the time to reflect, recover and be patient. Maybe it’s nothing and my body is just telling me to have a break. What’s important is that I stay strong and don’t let a hurdle get in the way of my long term goal. Heart surgery to Ironman was never going to be an easy journey but after a week in Lanzarote and two weeks of uncertainty, I feel ready for anything!

 

 

Heart Surgery to Ironman – January Dramas

6 Feb

I started 2012 with my eye very much on the big goal. As soon as the clock struck 12, I was on a mission to ensure I did everything possible to improve my chances making it. With a pretty rubbish month of training in December due to a lingering back injury, I was raring to go in the new year. Every so often, the enormity of the task that is Ironman dawned on me, usually when I had a less-than-ideal training session!

Like so many others making new year’s resolutions in January, I committed to a healthier lifestyle and a few tweaks here and there. I feel fortunate to to not have a lack of motivation to exercise, even in the middle of winter. It appears that I never struggle to get out of the door! I can only attribute this to one thing – my overwhelming desire to achieve my goal!

Looking back a few years, I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to motivation. At university I was certainly more interesting in going out than going for a run. From around that age though, my family history of heart disease really did scare me. This fear of ending up with the same fate seemed to serve a purpose when it came to exercise. I wrote my nursing dissertation on the impact of having cardiac rehabilitation in community – ironic that I ended going through that myself aged 27!

More recently, my lovely 84 year old grandfather was taken into hospital with heart problems. Being faced with losing another loved person and watching all the intensive care that was required to get him back to health made me appreciate how precious both life and health is. My fighting instinct kicked in (not violence of course!) and I tried to do all I could to ensure my grandfather got the best care possible. I strongly believe in fighting for both health and life and in these circumstances, a positive outlook on life often directly results physical recovery.

Since my own dice with death, as it were, goals become prioritised, higher aimed even. The ‘do it tomorrow’ attitude now seems pitiful to me. Through recent events and previous experience, I have been inspired to do more, achieve more and encourage others to do the same.

So whilst injuries, the weather and other life commitments can try to get in the way of achieving your goals, remember to stay in control. I find it useful to regularly reflect on why I want to do Ironman, and as you can see, the list is endless!

Importance of HealthIronman Training - Corinne Ellison

18 Months Since Heart Surgery – 6 Months til Ironman!

23 Dec

Today marks the 18 month anniversary since my heart surgery in June 2010. Funnily, it’s not the looking back that I have been focussing on today, but where I am at right now and where I would like to be in 6 months time. With it being Christmas, being around family today and on this date, I am feeling very grateful for what I have and for being alive in general! A little run this morning was just the right thing to do and made me appreciate my health.

There are many who have been in my position who were not so lucky and didn’t go on to make a full recovery from their heart surgery, or recover at all. Living with a long term health condition is difficult and I have spoken with many brave people who do just that but strive to live their lives to the full. If you are healthy, what excuse do you have not to push for more than you ever thought possible?

Just over 6 months from now (and exactly a week after my 2 year operation anniversary!), I will be aiming to prove to myself that nothing is impossible. In 2 years, a lot will have had to happen to get me from unable to walk round the block to completing 140.6 miles. Some say I’m a little bit crazy, others admire my plans. There is nothing that can stop me finishing this Ironman because of what it means to me.

I happen to believe that exercise is the best way of  making you feel good about yourself and it inspires others to do the same. So go out and get some fresh air over the holidays, you know you should!

Heart Surgery To Ironman – October Reflection

25 Oct

Last October, I set myself a target during my recovery from heart surgery. I was 4 months post-op, had been back running for a month and was keen to test my fitness. The aim was to run 6 miles in 60 minutes. I achieved this on the 28th October 2010 and I still remember that run! It hurt every second of the way but the feeling of achievement at the end of it was incredible.

Pre-diagnosis, my running was not improving and those feelings of frustration on a hard run still haunt me sometimes. Pre-surgery, not being allowed to exercise for 5-6 months was mentally tough. Recovery was the first time I felt free to test my body again and this felt even better when I set myself targets such as my October challenge.

Now, a year on, that run symbolised the start of my training as I now know it. Through persistent effort and consistent training, I am now feeling faster, stronger and more confident. Little by little, my running, swimming and cycling times have improved. Beyond figures, how I feel has improved. It’s been a long time since I felt ‘fit’. This week I do and it made me laugh when I saw that it coincides with a similar feeling of satisfaction a year ago.

Occasionally, when I contemplate the extent of what an Ironman involves, it can be overwhelming. I haven’t got years of experience as an athlete but what I do have is strength and determination to see me through my goal.  In additional with this, I am lucky to have a lot of support, plus friends and family who believe in me. I’m very fortunate in having a great coach and appreciate how much having access to his knowledge and experience has helped. I am surrounded by people who have already achieved (several times over!) what I would like to and this makes the otherwise daunting challenge feel almost normal! Inspiration from others should never be underrated.

Through this blog, I have been contacted by more than a few heart surgery survivors, intrigued to know what is possible, how I dealt with recovery and what I feel like now. My story is shared by a few (see www.Ironheartracing.com ) and sharing the motivation to achieve athletically after this experience only spurs me on further. I might have a long scar on my chest that I’m still not comfortable with but being part of this special club makes it worth while.

What have I learnt in the last year? The importance of having a goal, that is regularly reviewed or updated. This is the thing that pushes you out of the door on a cold, dark, windy and rainy morning! It’s also the reason you make sure you have time to work towards your target. My goal is the reason many look at me and say ‘You?’ ‘Are you mad?’  The answer is, yes. Quite probably. But I am committed, happy and am out there to prove that I can do this!

My goal: Ironman!

Vitruvian Half Ironman – Half Way There!

7 Sep

Saturday 3rd September was a date ingrained in my mind since the middle of January. Having set my mind on a year full of races, entering Vitruvian middle distance triathlon seemed a sensible idea and long enough away to not evoke panic! A friend had finished the race in 2010 and fully recommended it, despite giving me horror stories of weeds in the lake and cyclists being disqualified on the bike. A brief discussion on Twitter finalised my decision.

2011 has been a busy year for everything in my life! From half marathon and marathon training over the winter months, to 4 olympic triathlons, I had a race every single month! Work has been insane, feels like I have been making up for having 6 months off last year!

As the date approached, I finally felt ready for the race although facing the idea of half ironman distances is always going to induce butterflies! The week leading up to the race was extremely busy and I made the registration by only 15 minutes on the Friday! A strange calmness overtook me, not at all normal for me pre-race. When the alarm went off at 4am, I was so excited. Today was the day I had been waiting 9 months for!

Arriving at Rutland water in the dark was a surreal experience. I looked around me at other triathletes faffing with bikes, equipment and looking very nervous. After meeting up with friend Claire, we headed for banks of the lake to watch the various waves of male swimmers go off. The two mums were excitable too, finding it impossible to not to be affected by the electric atmosphere. I recognised lots of woman from my previous races and was tapped on the shoulder by many a twitter triathlete! Minutes before I about the get in the water, my dad turned up! It was great to have him there as well and a real surprise.

I briefed my supporters on my expected times, gave them a quick hug then went into the murky water to acclimatise. Others seemed worried but I felt right at home. I stuck to quite near the front of the group, but at the side. As soon as the start gun went off, I went for it. Getting kicked and punched is all part of a mass swim start and I found it very reassuring that I wasn’t getting left behind! I surprised myself by feeling strong all the way round. I was quicker than expected, so much so that my parents were still having coffee when I finished my first lap and briefly entered the lake before heading back in for lap 2.

Headed for transition, my dad shouted at me that I had done 45 minutes for the swim! That spurred me on for the next stage. After a bit of faffing, I got on my bike and headed on on the 52 mile course. I soon arrived at the famous Rutland Ripple, a long drag of a hill which reduced some riders to getting off and walking. At this stage, I was grateful of my training in the VERY hilly Purbecks. Some guys joked that I better not ‘chick’ them, well guess what, I did! I loved the challenge of overtaking, maintaining a good speed and feeling strong. My dad kept driving between locations around the course, shouting words of encouragements and taking lots of photos!

My aim on the bike was not to feel as though I wanted to get it over with. I achieved this as near the end of the second lap, a woman ahead of me shouted back that she couldn’t wait to get onto the run. I didn’t feel the same, if I really had to carry on for another lap, I would have done! Back in transition, I did actually start to look forward to the run. Every triathlete likes to discuss their strongest and weakest discipline. Mine is not that clear cut, whilst I have done more running than anything else, I wouldn’t say that I am a particularly strong runner. I love all 3 disciplines the same!

The run at the Vit is a two lap course, across a windy dam and around a lake. By the time I started on the run, I had been out for over 4 hours. The thought the some competitors had finished by then was unimaginable! I enjoyed seeing people I knew on the run and I tried to encourage others around me who appeared to be struggling. I kept looking down at my watch and realised the aim I had in my mind was more the achievable. As I approached the last part of the run, it all started to feel real.

14 months since my heart surgery, I finished Vitruvian in 6 hours 37. Without my knowledge, my boyfriend’s mum went to speak to the organisers and informed them of my ‘story’. As I approached the finishing chute and after looking at my watch, I was already a little bit emotional. No tears, just an appreciation that my body had allowed me to get this far and proud of what I had achieved this year. Over the microphone as I finished, I heard the words ‘Corinne Ellison you are a Vitruvian!’. The woman then went on to tell the crowds that just over  a year ago I’d had open heart surgery. This prompted the medal-givers to give me extra fuss – queue the tears! At the end, I soon met up with my mum, boyfriend’s mum and lovely friends from twitter, Claire and Lee. I don’t normally cry that much but I was off!

For the rest of the day, I was buzzing and couldn’t get over what had just happened. The support I have had from friends was incredible and I have a lot of people to thank.

So, I am now half way on my journey – from heart surgery to Ironman!

Heart Surgery to Ironman – Austria, The Next Step!

20 Jul

Just over a year after my heart surgery and soon after the Bournemouth triathlon, I did something brave/stupid/controversial – entered Ironman Austria 2012!

Those close to me know that in the last few years I always wanted to complete an Ironman. So the timing was right, I had my races planned in this year and I just wanted to go for it! A scary feeling but also very exciting. I was very aware of what lies ahead!

My reasons for entering:

Having being told I wouldn’t have made 40 without major surgery, I want to experience the biggest challenge.

I love triathlon! It makes me feel alive, appreciate being healthy, makes me get outside in all weathers and enjoy the fresh air!

I am best when I have a goal or a deadline.

Along the way, I hope to both inspire others to take-up an active lifestyle and raise awareness of adult congenital heart defects.

Between now and the 1st July 2012, I have a long way to go physically, but psychologically I am prepared for the challenge and can’t wait!

Bournemouth Race Report – One Year On

4 Jul

The year anniversary of my heart surgery was 23rd June. The day came and passed without much occasion. The following day, I went to the hospital alone to speak to the consultant. With my Ironman plans becoming more real, I wanted to be absolutely sure that all was ok inside! An ultrasound, ECG and examination confirmed the ticker is good as new and normal sized. I made sure the doctor understood what I am about to undertake and I was relieved to hear a non-hesitant ‘Yes’!

I wandered past the cardio-thoracic ITU and felt a funny feeling that I couldn’t put my finger on. I’d almost forgotten about that week in hospital and it was strange to walk around there one year on.

Today I raced the Bournemouth olympic distance triathlon, a race I first did in 2009. My expectations weren’t high after missing a lot of training recently due to crazy work schedules and the fact that I didn’t actually get to bed on the two nights preceeding the race!

A 7am start meant I had time to catch up with friends from the tri club and twitter before heading down to the water. I felt a little shaky with nerves beforehand but nothing too spectular. Getting to the sea with a large mixed wave was fun, lots of running and splashing! I held back to let most of the pack go before timidly starting swimming. Soon, I settled into my stroke and felt strong. My goggles started to leak and I had to tread water a couple of times to empty and re-adjust. During these short stops, I managed to lose most of the group. Heading to the first buoy, I could only see 3 or 4 other swimmers ahead. The rectangle course meant that on the last 750m, we were swimming directly into the sun. The combination of non-tinted, leaking goggles and blazing sun meant sighting the last buoy was very difficult! By this point, there was only one swimmer around me and I struggled to stay with them. Soon, the next wave of swimmers overtook me and I was caught up in a mass of hands and feet! Finally exiting the water after 43 minutes, I felt drained. A run up the beach was challenging!

Onto the bike, I struggled to get clipped into my new pedals quickly enough on the main road. A bus made it’s way behind me and made the pressure even worse. Once off, I was fine and got on with the 25 mile course. As I was tired, I felt cold but pushed as much as I could. There were no women in sight! One by one, male athletes overtook me and I made it my mission to catch them up. Man with blue shoes, Cervelo boy; I named them to keep my mind distracted from my hurting legs! The busy main road of the course meant we were always in danger and unfortunately one guy got hit. I was determined to stay safe and concentrated on getting back as soon as I could. I finished in 1:33, 3 minutes slower than my 09 time.

Once of the bike, I downed some water and headed off onto the run. The morning had heated up by now and the beach was packed! I found that my legs were running ok but just slowly! No jelly legs but I could not get up any speed. I was motivated to run as fast as I could, had taken on fluids and gels with caffeine but it appeared my body would not allow that last push. Friends along the course cheered me on which was great, but still I had no energy. Once I hit the half way point on the run, I thought it would be downhill from there. The last 5k seems to go on and on! My run was a slow 1:03. I felt disappointed but I have never been so glad to finish a race.

Positives: I’m alive, well and injury free! I have the ability to exercise and take part in amazing races. I finished the course despite having no sleep. Seeing friends along the way was brilliant and I felt so well supported. The race has spurred me on to train harder. 3:24 is a 6 min PB! On year on, I am lucky to be at this stage.

What have I learnt? I need new goggles! Doing the London triathlon at the end of the month might not be an option as I will be unable to sleep beforehand and that doesn’t make for a pleasant experience. Sleep is very important! I need to work on swimming faster. Try not to let work consume ALL my time, as improving at triathlon is important to me.

Tomorrow is Ironman entry day…. !

Heart Surgery to Ironman – Spring Training

8 Jun

The main reason for this blog is recording my journey from having heart surgery last year all the way though to completing an Ironman race so here is my latest update! After completing the London marathon in April, my training took on a triathlon flavour! My first race of the season was the New Forest triathlon – an (nearly) olympic distance race. This was my third triathlon, with the last race being nearly 2 years ago.

Previous to this race, I’d had limited time on the bike, only a few sessions in the pool but plenty of time on my feet! For that reason, I took it steadily in the lake swim and exited the water feeling fresh. On the bike, I loved cycling through the beautiful New Forest. The scenery was stunning and although the wind was up, it was a steady ride. Onto the run, I felt a little challenged by some of the ‘undulating’ course, but finished the second half of the 10k on a high and even managed a sprint finish!

A year ago, completed a triathlon seemed a long way away. Getting back to a previous level of fitness was a goal to keep me motivated. Now I feel I have achieved that and am headed towards new levels of fitness! With a new and improved heart, breathing feels easier, post exercise tiredness is now what I’d call ‘normal’ and the hideous blue / purpleness has gone!

All was going well with training, despite work being so busy. If racing meant only having two hours sleep, then I did it! Missing a session was not an option, even if I was excessively tired. Keep going, keep pushing, I kept repeating to myself. If you are going to attempt an Ironman, you have to get used to tiredness, pain and pyschological challenges.

What I forgot to do amongst all this was take time off. This resulted in a small burn-out, loss of rational thinking, being unable to get up in the mornings. Small decisions became high mountains to climb. A holiday (was well as regular days off) was needed. So we did, and headed off to Dubai for 10 days.

On our return, work was even worse and sheer determination has kept me ticking over with training. I now have an amazing coach, who is really helping with my training , opening my mind to pushing myself further and taking the headache out of planning sessions. I am so excited about the future and planning my Ironman. There is so much choice with races and as you have to apply a year in advance, the clock is ticking! Favourites are the moment are Austria, Florida or the new IM NYC!

Decision to be announced soon!

From Heart Surgery to A Marathon – London 2011

22 Apr

After a super busy week coaching, recovering and working,  it is now time to reflect on my long-awaited marathon last Sunday!

The Virgin London Marathon 2011 was, for many reasons, one of those life changing events for me. In October 2009, I was over the moon at receiving a place in the ballot. After lots of previous fundraising, I was almost glad to be relieved of the pressure of badgering friends, family and strangers for donations. My focus was purely on the challenging, improving my running and tackling my fourth marathon. Finding out about my place for VLM came only a month after I had completed the Berlin marathon in 4:41. I had been disappointed with this time and was determined to do better.

Training began well as I kept up my running fitness and joined the local triathlon club (www.zoomtri.com). Most of you reading will know the rest of the story: start of heart-related symptoms, tests and eventual diagnosis of an atrial septal defect in January 2010. Deferring my place for VLM was one of the most difficult parts of the whole experience. My fear was that I would never be able to run a marathon again.

After my heart surgery, my focus was once again firmly on the 26.2 miles round London. During the tough runs, rain and snow, my visualisation technique was lying in my hospital bed feeling frustrated. Remembering the pain of a broken sternum and stitched up heart meant a few interval sessions seemed easy!

As the day approached, nerves set in. My shin splints saga meant I had 4 less than desirable weeks training. I knew that prior to that my training had been more than adequate and I was mentally feeling strong! A busy lead up to the day meant my mind was occupied but I still had chance to go through some race day strategies. My mantra was ‘run tall, race strong’. Tall to stop me slumping when tired, strong to feel powerful and continue my race pace.

This year was my first time at Blackheath and the blue start. I loved it! Despite being a little cramped in Pen 5, the atmosphere was electric. I had my iPod with me for the tough times, but found I hardly needed it. After a slow start until mile 3, I soon settled into my pace. Managing to see my family at mile 9, 19 and 23 really helped. A school friend randomly shouted my name from the crowds which was an unexpected boost!

I passed halfway in 2:03, a little behind but still feeling good. The weariness started to kick in around mile 17. Soon after this, a Twitter friend Tim – @IronmanTD2011 appeared! After chatting for a couple of miles, I felt revitalised and ready to tackle the remaining 10k. Determination kept me going even when I felt a little dizzy at mile 23, remember what I have been through in the last 18 months made me dig in at run faster than ever! I finished strong, happy and feeling that I had given my all.

It was my ultimate aim to go sub 4 hours, and I still think I have this in me! 4:12:55 was more than good enough for this year and I beamed with pride at the finish line. I have been overwhelmed by support from all my family, friends and Twitter army! Thankyou to all who have donated to www.justgiving.com/CorinneEllison4GUCH, listened to my wobbles, given great advice and been an amazing source of support. Special thanks go to Damon, for letting me take time off from our busy life and photo booth hire business to train for the marathon, for always supporting me. Also, to my mum for being the most enthusiastic supporter at each and every marathon. Thankyou to my sponsors – ellasport. For the beautiful kit and all the support along the way! On Twitter, thankyou to Neil @GartsVLM2012, Jason @davmort, Kim @kimingleby, Nick @wombatsVLM, Claire @Claired0 and Candice @caliwi. @IronmanInTrng – we share the same unique journey and your support has been the best. You are all amazing.

SO….what next? With a full season of triathlons kicking off next week, I thought I would be satisfied. But guess what, I need to do another 26.2 – hopefully London 2012! Whilst I have been through my fair share of hurdles and low points in the last 18 months, I know there are many others with a congenital heart defect who are unable to run a marathon. I am the lucky one. My aim is to give people hope that with determination and passion, anything is possible. Whether a jog round the park, or a marathon, exercising when living with a heart condition is a great achievement. 10 months after open heart surgery, I managed to achieve my goal of running one of the biggest marathons in the world. What an incredible experience to share with 35,000 other runners.

Next year will be my year to go long. My journey to Ironman draws even closer – my biggest challenge yet!

Heart Surgery To Ironman – The Next Chapter

3 Jan

So then new year has finally arrived – for me, 2011 signals the continuation on a journey to the ultimate physical and mental challenge of an Ironman. Reminiscing about 2010 today has made me realise the strength I gained from a trying year inspite of the obstacle of being diagnosed with a heart condition. The experience has made me even more grateful for the ability to exercise and the excitement of entering races to push my physical boundaries.

I started 2010 bursting with enthusiasm for exercise and had entered many races; running and triathlon. I was enjoying being part of the local triathlon club, had huge plans for new business and generally felt great…apart from a few nagging symptoms. I had been to see my doctor on new year’s eve as something told me that was a serious condition underlying. Lucky that I did as 2 weeks later, I was diagnosed with a hole in the heart. On new year’s day 2011, I sat discussing that year that has passed and tried to pinpoint the positive parts that stood out. I identified moving house, employing a first member of staff, enjoying having family over in the summer, signing up to a coaching course. I was a little sad to not have achieved the sporting and business aims I had set out in January 2010.

Aims from last year are now being carried over to 2011, with an added few, including a half Ironman in September. My journey to Ironman is not only following heart surgery but  also as a novice triathlete. I had just a year of training in the 3 disciplines before doctors told me to stop all exercise. This was a frustrating time, leaving me feeling helpless. My focus on the future kept me going, as it does now. When I lack the motivation to run, bike or swim, I imagine myself back in the hospital speaking to the consultant who told me my heart was failing. The previous day I had run 16 miles!

Speaking of heart failure, my grandfather has recently been diagnosed with this condition after a history of angina, heart attacks and coronary artery bypasses. We share stories of scans and consultant visits , laughing about the similarities. Coronary heart disease is all around and this makes me passionate about spreading the message about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The cardiac history in my family has always been a concern to me, and maybe was one of the reasons I started running regularly. When studying to be a nurse, I chose to write  my dissertation on cardiac rehabilitation and found it amusing that I ended up attending these classes myself, age 27!

Now that 2011 is here, the long term goal of an Ironman in 2012 feels that much closer. I just can’t wait!!

Happy New Year! :)