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Planning A Heartfelt 2014

30 Dec

A distinct lack of a blog can only mean one thing – a lack of positive topics to write about!

Following on from my last blog,  I’ll share a little of what’s happened with my heart and beyond that, how I expect things to change in 2014!

At the beginning of November, I went to see my cardiologist for a series of tests to find out what kind of condition my heart was in. I knew it was in no state for any long distance races or endurance training but there was a big question mark over how ‘gentle’ my exercising needed to be (note the change of wording, I no longer ‘train’!). I explained to the cardiologist that I had listened to what he had said previously and stuck to light exercise. This for me had meant short swims which slowly had got down to 500 – 750m. Chest pain and breathlessness had ruled out running and cycling. Even with easy short swims, I still didn’t feel great. I was feeling dizzy after any exertion which began to worry me.

I had the same set of tests as I had before, an echocardiogram and exercise tolerance test on treadmill, in which I had to stop and lie down as my blood pressure dropped. My echo looked ok, but I was asked to have an MRI to rule out anything sinister with my coronary arteries. Two attempts later and after 6 needles, a horrendous injection of Adenosine to speed up my heart, all was confirmed as normal. Lastly, I had a 24 hour tape when I had to try and bring on my symptoms whilst wired up to electrodes.

After the tests, I was left with reassuring results but a big question mark still lingering. In this situation I should be grateful that after all I have put my heart through, that it is still pumping efficiently! I am left with a series of symptoms that I am learning to live with, that aren’t particularly pleasant but could be much worse.

I was recently reading up on the five stage grief process for an NVQ assignment. By no means am I comparing my experience this year of having to stop training for Ironman and triathlon races to the grief of losing a loved one, but the process of handling a difficult situation I can relate to.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

In May I was certainly in the denial stage, when I first was told that I needed to stop the long distance stuff. I carried on training regardless, without admitting to myself or others that I was.

Anger is something I have felt at some times. I haven’t been the easiest person to live with (and for that Liam Pryer deserves a medal!).

I see my bargaining stages as the later part of November onwards, when I joined the local swim on a 6 week membership and stuck religiously to 2 short swims and 2 light gym sessions a week. This meant that if I went easy on my heart, it might get better and somehow allow me to do more!

Depression. Hmmm, well nobody likes admitting to feeling depressed, stressed, low or whatever. But there have honestly been times when I have felt so sad about having to give up something I love so much. I have missed going outside and losing myself in some empty lanes or fields, enjoying the quiet, fresh air and feeling of satisfaction. I have continued to avoid the subject of triathlon, situations and people that I associate with sport as it has just been too hard.

Acceptance. I think (*I hope*) I am there now. Others might argue that because I’m not my usual positive self but deep down I know that tri, marathons and Ironman have had their time. There will be something to fill that hole (and not marriage and babies please people!), I need to feel I am achieving great things outside a relationship, outside having fun with my friends, outside my career goals. I really am trying to fill that hole; writing a book is still going, albeit slowly!

I’ve always been one for new years resolutions, and annoyingly bug others about doing it too. After a sluggish Christmas period, I love how January gives you the feeling of a fresh start, similar to starting a new school year in September.

2014 for me means this:

  • Positively accepting I need to be nice to my heart, forever.
  • I want to be involved with triathlon and the best supporter out there.
  • Learning to feel good about myself even without the buzz of hard exercise!
  • Trying to help others appreciate the benefits of exercise.
  • Absolutely not allow any of the following: bingo wings, muffin tops, pot bellies (GYM!)

This is the recipe for my perfect 2014. Heartfelt of course.

:)

The New Sensible and Responsible Corinne…!

11 Oct

It’s almost 6 months since I visited my cardiologist and received news that my planned season of triathlon was not to be. One by one I cancelled my races in 2013, feeling the financial pain of the situation as well as the physical! Watching all the races was fun but each piece took a little piece away from me. Being honest, I had to almost switch off and ignore anything to do with Roth in July, as pulling out of that hurt so much – hence the holiday to Greece!

After seeing the specialist, I made an effort to reduce my training down, in volume and intensity, incorporating some yoga and gym work to keep me busy. But soon the lore of triathlon was back as I entered a local sprint tri in August. My training was back up to doing two sessions of each discipline every week. A few faster runs, an extra mile or two per hour on the bike, and regular sea swims. All of a sudden, and not surprisingly the chest pain returned – warning signs to slow down. I felt annoyed and frustrated, I was only training for a slow ‘sprint’  and my body couldn’t even manage that??

Those close to me asked me to stop training. I was running myself down and being grumpy most of the time! Letting go of such a big part of your time takes time and a great deal of patience – certainly not my forte!

I’m back to see my cardiologist in two weeks, fully expecting to be told off and given what for, again. I’ve learnt my lesson this time and this dodgy heart of mine is only going to get TLC from now on! Since my surgery 3 years ago, I have completed 3 half marathons, 2 marathons, several 5 and 10k’s, probably 10 Olympic distance tris, 4 half ironman and obviously Ironman Austria. Even though I was told my heart would be as good as new (maybe incorrectly), I don’t think the doctors could have predicted I’d go on to do all that!

Deep down, I felt invincible after my op, like it was a second chance to do whatever I wanted. In a way that’s why I’m not finding it hard to let go or give in. I feel cheated of all the things I still wanted to do and have a feeling that I have much more to give.

Having said that, I think I’ve finally accepted that tri is off the agenda, at least for the foreseeable future. I can’t trust myself to train sensibly so I’m better to have an almost complete break. As to running events next year, I still have hope but we’ll see. Ultimately, there is life outside of triathlon (shock horror). I have so much to look forward to and be grateful for, being selfish is just not an option.

Breaking my toe last week I’ve been told is a godsend, actually forcing me into resting. You may still catch me occasionally sneaking a few lengths in, eagerly pacing around the beach or lifting some weights in the gym, but that’s it.

Here is the new sensible and responsible Corinne. The one who puts health and the future first, not merely thinking of the here and now or giving in to the dreaded training guilt.

Just keep me away from the apple crumble please!

Life After Ironman, for real this time!

29 Jul

Over the last two months and since my last visit to my cardiologist at the beginning of May, the realisation that I won’t do another Ironman is finally sinking in.

Mallorca 70.3 was hard to watch but loved watching my friends’ race. My best friend did her first half iron distance and it was so great to be there.  I hadn’t pulled out of the event as it was so last minute so didn’t take my bike as I knew I’d end doing the full race if I did. Up until the day before, I was convinced that I could get away with doing the swim! In the run up to the race, we had several sea swims and I felt good. But doing a 20 minute leisurely swim with no pressure is slightly different to 1.9km in a hectic 70.3 swim!

At the finish line, the atmosphere was buzzing and all the emotions of a longer distance tri were present!  A couple of tears fell as I watched people finish. On greeting my friends and getting the sneaked-out medal and finisher’s t-shirt, the tears definitely fell!

In May, I cancelled the reminder of my races but struggled with the thought giving up racing altogether. The Challenge Henley half iron distance was the only event that would give me no refund whatsoever. This meant that I kept my entry and the little voice in my head was saying ”maybe, I could possibly do it’. Those around me were of quite a different viewpoint…

As the triathlon race season progressed, I supported at many races and enjoyed being the other side of the line! The run of ironman races was tough and listening to friends talk about the process was a challenge in itself! Not doing Ironman this year made me feel like I have a heart condition, made me feel different to those around me and not in the positive way that I had felt last year! Although I will always know I have a congenital defect, before I gave up Ironman, I had a feeling on invincibility, I felt I could do anything. The reality is whilst I believe you can do anything you want, sometimes the sensible course of action is to move to something else on the list.

Secretly doing lots of training (including yoga) was not my wisest move ever but it got me to where I wanted to be before going on holiday! I obviously listened to my body, stopping if I got any twinges of chest pain or breathless and taking rest days when necessary. It seemed my body could comfortably manage 1200m swimming, 30ish miles on the bike and around 5 miles running. Any more than that and it was game over. Once I had my parameters, I did stick to them (or others forced them upon me!).

Going on feel, not heart rate was another tactic, and it also took my focus away from sticking to a certain pace or speed, or trying to maintain a level of fitness which was now unrealistic.

Return to short distance racing began with entry to the Bournemouth aquathlon. Just having this in the diary helped with getting-over-ironman. I loved racing again. The sea swim didn’t go to plan as I got caught behind some tri newbies doing breaststroke but I made up for that with a great 5k run.

This event reminded me why I race. To have a goal, no matter how small, is a reason to get out the door when you’re tired or it’s raining, it makes you get up at 5:30 for a yoga class before work and drags you out on a ride on a Sunday when you could just chill in front of the telly. Ultimately triathlon doesn’t define who you are but it does define the kind of person you choose to be. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that sitting still just doesn’t happen with me, relaxing doesn’t come naturally and I always have more than one ‘project’ on the go!

Last week I took part in my tri club’s aquathlon. As an evening event, I felt slightly nervous as I’m strictly a morning person when it comes to training. I let negative thoughts get to me and ended up coming last! Doing things for fun really has to be the name of the game from now on! The truth is sprint distance isn’t my thing (yet) but while it is all I can do, I’m going to keep doing it! My next tri is a sprint at the end of August.

My other news is that I’ve finally started writing my book! Now feels like the right time as only now is it the real end of my heart surgery to ironman story. I got to where I needed to and now it’s the beginning of my life; still with triathlon in it, but only as a supporting character, not the main role! I am finally happier with where I am, and although I’m still struggling with reducing training and badly missing the buzz of ironman, I am more accepting of where my life is headed without it.

2012 – Heart Surgery to Ironman Year!

8 Jan

2012 was always going to be a big year! It was the year I turned 30, had lots of life, work and situational changes and of course, continued to work towards my big goal. In the space of 2 years, I went from heart surgery to the finishline of Ironman Austria and achieved my dream. I started 2012 in a positive way, building on a good 2011 season and very keen to work hard, buidling mileage over the winter. I enjoyed the routine of ironman training, early swim sessions, meeting  for long rides with friends in all weathers, running longer and generally feeling fitter. I dedicated the first 6 months of the year to Ironman, religiously sticking to my training plan (well, nearly!), eating healthily and avoiding alcohol!!

My training took a sharp increase when I headed out to Lanzarote for a week’s hard cycling. This was a definite highlight of the year, as it really tested me to my limits. The challenge of warm temperatures, wind and the immense climbs pushed my physical ability much more than I had ever experienced. I loved each day of cycling, seeing the stunning island and learning a lot about Ironman training and nutrition (see pic!). Pizza, chips, chips and more chips. This holiday was a highlight of my year, but it was also both a low and learning point afterwards when I ended up in hospital! A humbling moment occured where I was faced with giving up my dream of ironman. More about my Lanza experience can be found here: Lanzarote 2012

Other highlights included: My first 100k ride in February – this was my longest ride at this point, involved lots of navigation as I couldn’t keep up with the group, and the conditions were less than ideal, ice everywhere! I remember the feeling of achievement when I finished though, each time I went further on the bike, I loved cycling a little bit more! By April, I was ready to take part in a New Forest Wiggle sportive. 83 miles later, I was bursting with happiness and proudly showing off my medal!

The first time I completed 100 miles, back in June, I took the below photo of my watch. I couldn’t quite believe that I had done it. I had borrowed a friend’s tri bike a couple of weeks before in preparation for Austria and this was my second time out on it.  A solo ride, around the stunning D0rset Purbecks, I actually loved every minute.

By spring, it was all about triathlon. My olympic distance race in the New Forest was cancelled due to bad weather and I was so disappointed that I went on my turbo for 90 minutes then straight into a 9.5 mile run along the beach in a sandstorm! A photographer even asked to take pictures of me because I obviously looked completely crazy on an otherwise deserted seafront! My next race was Beaver middle distance in May, and my first DNF (did not finish!). Injuries plagued me throughout the year and with only 6 weeks until Ironman Austria, I had to take the decision half way through the run of this race. A huge learning point! Being strong enough to walk away from a race took more than I thought! There was a bit of a grumpy Corinne at the finish, I saw my friends finish then sped off to work and entertained people with my pond-weed styled hair and delightful smelling wet-wipe washed body!

The highlight of July, and my whole year, was obviously Ironman. Even though this was 6 months ago, I am still buzzing with the memory of that day. The time, energy, support, commitment and dedication that it took to get to the start line, as well as the finishline, will always be my biggest achievement and what 2012 was all about for me. Here is My race report.

After Austria, I was really tired and the cumulation of a hectic and emotionally draining 6 months caught up with me. I had to learn to rest when I needed to, otherwise the dreaded multitude of injuries would be back to haunt me. Finding a balance was one of the key learning points for me in 2012. Remembering to have fun, to stop working so hard, to spend more time with those close to me and to listen to my body was what 2012 taught me.

Other milestones of the year included my first 3.8k open water swim and long training runs of up to 22 miles in preparation for the Amsterdam marathon in October. This race was definitely a learning point, as despite training hard in the months leading to the marathon, on the way, I crashed and burned in a big way! It made me appreciate what I had asked my body to do during the year and that sometimes you have to just approach an event as fun, especially when in Amsterdam! I didn’t achieve my sub 4 goal but learnt a valuable lesson about simply finishing what I set out to achieve, doing your best on the day and having a big fat rest afterwards (aka a big night out in the Dam!).

Talking of fun, 2o12 was a year of celebrations, 30th birthday style! A trip to Prague was the first stop, with 3 nights of European fun and games. Next it was on to Las Vegas for adventures partying, pole dancing, vodka, nachos, big blisters, ledge ledges, room service and a concierge named Ron (don’t ask!). Before getting back to some serious training, there was time for a few more nights out in Derby, Christchurch and Newcastle. You only turn 30 once! My friends have been a massive support to me this year and spending more time with them was one of my new year resolutions that I kept willingly! People I met on my journey through my eventful year all added to the excitement, variety and absolute craziness that is my life!

I might now stop talking about my heart surgery to Ironman journey, as I have completed my goal and my two iron distance races in 2013 are just the icing on the cake – I’m doing them because I can. My first Ironman will always be special because it took so much to get there. You don’t need to have a heart condition or to have surgery to aim high, I’d recommend it to anyone. Having a reason to get out of bed early in the morning gives you a focus, an enthusiasm and purpose that I cannot imagine not having now. Going on a journey such as this makes you truely grateful for those around you. Massive thanks to all my friends, family, my coach, 110 % Play Harder, Ironheart Racing Team and all those I have met in 2012 – you made my year!

Heart Surgery to Ironman – The End of the Journey!

8 Jul

My 2 year anniversary of my heart surgery was 23rd June 2012 and Ironman Austria took place a year and a week after my operation. What better way to celebrate! I picked Austria as I was told it was a great course, amazing area, good weather (!) and support the whole way round.

We headed out to Austria on the Thursday before the race and the temperature hit us straight away. Mid 30’s was lovely for sunbathing in and relaxing by the lake but rumours were it was only going to get hotter by the weekend. Nerves had settled in and all of our thoughts were on getting things done, course recce’d, registration done, plenty of food! There were several occasions where I had to take some time to calm down, and think logically through what needed to be done. I had lists of lists but in the end, I decided to trust my packing and chill.

The day was everything I expected it to be. An announcement of a non-wetsuit swim added to the nerves but there was certainly a buzz in the air. My friend and I got to the start line with a mixture of anxiety, fear, excitement and sheer happiness. There is no feeling like being surrounded by nearly 3000 athletes and hitting the water all together. I made sure I took time to soak in the atmosphere and remember the moment that I had worked so hard to get to. I loved every minute of the swim and came out feeling full of energy. The lake was beautiful, especially with the sun rising.

Onto the bike, the sun really came out and the heat soared. 38 degrees was the recorded high! Support on the course was amazing and having my family and friends there made it even more special. I struggled at several parts but was determined to give it my all and make it in one piece to the run. My energy levels flagged as I suffered with stomach problems and was forcing down food and fluids. After a few stops on the bike, my times were slowing and the heat continued to increase. Crowds, DJs, music and the lively aid stations kept me going as well as the beautiful scenery. Despite being in a lot of pain, I managed to appreciate the view! I’m doing an Ironman, I kept telling myself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The marathon was by far the most difficult part of the day. My stomach issues worsened and exhaustion set in. I got to the point where I could only tolerate small sips of water and energy drink. There were moments when I didn’t think I would make the 17 hour cut off. I could barely walk in a straight line and started hallucinating that there were worms everywhere – not nice! Once completely dark, motivation on the street was challenging and my focus had to be on moving forward and nothing else. Inside me were two voices, one telling me to stop, lie down, give in to the pain my body was suffering. The second drove me forward, told me to be brave, be patient, stay strong and finish what I set out to do. That voice came from two years of fighting, trying, hurting and achieving.

I will never forget those last few moments. The last km of the run was so hard physically but mentally I built myself up for the moment I had been waiting for. I started to run again, fought against anything that told me to stop. I was determined to run down the finishing chute whatever it took. Despite being emotional at other point in the day, at this time I wasn’t. I was quietly set on one thing and one thing only, finishing. At the realisation that this was going to happen drew closer, I felt unbelievably relieved. Not sad, not happy, not overwhelmed, just so glad to be there. The reception at the finish, in the dark, was something else. On my mind was my friends and family waiting for me, plus everyone at home that were tracking my progress. As I heard the Baywatch theme tune, I ran to the finish, stopping to have the picture that I will treasure forever. I had made it! Two years, almost to the day since I had open heart surgery and I am an IRONMAN!

Thank you to all of my friends and family for their support over the last 2 years. Certain friends have really been there for me during training. Thanks to my coach for helping me achieve what we set out to do – finish! My lovely Twitter friends, never failing to pick me up when I doubted myself and always there to give you a pat on the back.

The support I have received has been incredible. Emails I have got from people who needed some inspiration to try for their own challenge really touched me. I have come across so many stories of those who have overcome adversity and I am inspired to give something back to all those who have helped me. Maybe a book, who knows?

So, what’s next? The experience left me inspired, exhilarating and wanting more! I loved the training, have made some great friends and truly enjoyed the journey. Now I know what my body is capable of, I can trust it more and explore the possibilities of pushing further. Another Ironman is on the cards, of that you can be sure! Whilst this may be the end of my heart surgery to Ironman journey, it definitely the start of another! For now, I am enjoying the memories of the best day of my life!

 

 

2 Years Ago Today – Heart Surgery to Ironman

23 Jun

23rd June 2010.

My heart was stopped for 39 minutes. My sternum was broken and the hole in my heart patched up. I was in Intensive care and had 8 days in hospital. The pain was unbelievable. The recovery was slow and frustrating. To work my way through this experience, I needed to look to the future.

In my hospital bed, I made the decision firstly to run my deferred London marathon place the following April ( 2011) and secondly, complete an Ironman in 2012.

Why? I get asked this all the time. In usual circumstances, you could say the extreme element to the challenge makes it appealing. The feeling of satisfaction about pushing your body to the limit. It’s also actually enjoyable to train long and slow in all three disciplines. For me, the real reason for wanting to do Ironman is to prove to myself that anything is possible. I believed this before the diagnosis of my heart condition but afterwards, that confidence slipped away somewhat. I needed a clear positive goal that I knew would help me through the tough months of recovery.

Being both a physical and psychological challenge, I wanted to take my feelings about heart surgery and channel it into a positive experience. Another reason for wanting to do Ironman is to make the most of having an opportunity to get fit again. Many with a heart condition are severely limited and cannot exercise. I was lucky that my defect was picked up firstly as a result of exercise and secondly there should be no real long term complications. Once I was fixed, that was it – free to get back to the sport I love! That’s lucky. If I wouldn’t have been here in 10 years time, I need to make the most of what I have – an opportunity to do the things that really challenge you and push boundaries of what is possible.

There’s such a community of long distance triathletes, you really stick together. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the training without my friends. Without support from those close to me, life would have been a whole lot tougher. No-one has questioned my decision to do this. My coach has been nothing but supportive, despite set-backs along the way. Having people believe in you makes all the difference when occasionally you question yourself!

Recent advice has included taking the time to take in the atmosphere on the day, to really get a sense of everything and to remember it. After working towards my goal for so long, it will all be over so quickly. When I swim my 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles, I will be thinking about all those who can not do this challenge even if they wanted to. I’ll be remembering the determination I felt after my operation when a short walk exhausted me. Above all, I will enjoy the day because I am lucky to be there.

Two years ago I was alone in a hospital bed after being woken for surgery. A last minute decision by the consultant meant that my operation had been brought forward and I was about to be rushed down to the operating theatre. I was petrified! Family had planned to visit early in the morning to wish me luck but I soon realised there was no times for goodbyes. I considered the risks previously explained to me and my heart raced. The very thing that keeps me alive was about to be stopped.

Lying in a bed connected to pacing wires, drains and drips is a funny time to start dreaming about Ironman. Maybe it was the morphine  but suddenly a seedling of an idea had clarity… it was my goal to achieve it. It was going to be a long journey with many ups and downs but now I’m here, with only a week to go, it’s been worth every minute.

Heart Surgery to Ironman, race report next!

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

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!

London Triathlon 2011

1 Aug

London Triathlon 2011

London Triathlon 2011Sunday 31st July was a date which evoked mixed feelings for me. Part of me was sensibly thinking withdraw from the London Triathlon. Whilst I have been training, that weekend was crazily busy with work. I would be away for two days before the race and the night before, I’d get 2 hours sleep. Crazy? Yes. Do-able? Yes.

All 3 triathlons so far this year have been with 45 mins – 2 hours sleep. Work means I have to work late every Friday and Saturday night, as well as Sundays sometimes! This schedule and a desire to take part in triathlons don’t make the best partnership!

However, I have this passion for achieving the seemingly impossible. The bigger the challenge, the more I want to do it. Pushing your body to the limit isn’t always advisable but it is satisfying! When you love triathlon, you will happily get up at 5am on a Sunday and get into lycra, a wetsuit, a very unflattering swim hat and goggles, following by jumping into cold, murky water. Why not take sleep out of the equation? :)

Joking aside, my nerves where at an all-time high. The London Triathlon is the biggest. It’s overwhelming but exhilarating. Fellow competitors chatted to me and by the time I was in the water, I was laughing my head off and completely ready to go.

This triathlon was a race I had deferred from last year when I had my heart surgery. For this reason, it was kind of special. I just had to do it, no matter what. With perfect timing, my Ironheart Racing tri-kit had arrived. Check out www.ironheartracing.com for inspiration from athletes who have gone through heart surgery or are raising awareness of congenital heart defects. London was my turn to wear the kit and be proud of where I have got to in the last year. I also spend a large portion of the racing thinking about those that cannot exercise as they’d like to as a result of their heart condition. I count myself very lucky.

The race itself had many good points. I enjoyed the busy swim, despite a lot of kicks and punches! I got a PB of 42 mins. The run also went well and I finished in another best time of 55 mins. I met up with a few friends on the day which was great. Damon dutifully took pics all day! On the bike, I somehow missed a short lap on the bike, meaning I was disqualified. I was gutted but was determined to finish in good spirits.

Every race I do, I learn more and more. About triathlon, about pushing your body further and about how much I love this sport!

Next step, last olympic distance of the summer, half ironman in 5 weeks then it’s all about the Ironman!