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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…. !

Shin Splints Saga

25 Mar

Last week, I was diagnosed with shin splints – 4 weeks before my London marathon! The week previously I had run exactly as planned, 5 times, mixture of intervals, different paces and ending in a 19.5 slow run. Two days later I attempted a club hill session which resulted in a strange pain in my lower legs. I thought I had been working too hard and maybe pulled a calf muscle.

A trip to the physio the next day brought the news. Shin splints! How can this be? I’d had new trainers around 3 weeks before, had sports massages, always stretched, gradually increased mileage. I was in shock and felt quite emotional. Since my diagnosis of with a hole in the heart last January, I had this fixation with running the London marathon once more. I was forced to defer my place from 2010 and throughout my recovery from heart surgery, my driving force was VLM!

I began running in September last year, 8 weeks after surgery. Very slowly I increased both distance and speed. By January, I was able to stick to a sub 4 hour training plan and ran 5 times a week. My speed was at a level I could never have dreamt of before my surgery. As the weeks ticked on, I felt stronger and more confident of achieving an all time best performance.

My injury occured 12 weeks into my schedule. With 4 weeks to go, decisions had to be made. If I am to get though the marathon and really go for it, I have to cut back the running and allow my shins to heal. There is no way in the world I would miss the 17th April – I have put so much time and energy into achieving this goal.

In the last week and a half, I have thrown myself into cross training and have loved it! Had some amazing bike rides, feeling strong and enjoyed being back in the pool. Now, when I am able run  I appreciate it even more.

My plan for the next 3 weeks is:

Run on alternate days (3 times a week), some short and faster, some longer and slower. No more long runs or hills :(

Cycle twice a week, including a long ride at the weekend.

Swim twice a week.

Gym for strength work once a week.

This should keep up my fitness and keep the legs ticking over until the big day! Wish me luck!

If anyone would like to sponsor me for the marathon, please check out my Justgiving page at: www.justgiving.com/corinneellison4GUCH

Marathon Lessons and March Targets

15 Mar

Since my last post after the Brighton half marathon, my world has been a whirlwind of excitement! Running, coaching, business, travelling the country and seeing family. I set myself a target last month of spending an hour a day on self development. What a revelation that has been! In the midst of work related tasks (which for me includes my business role, coaching clients, and running  (a must do before the marathon), I aimed to spend 60 minutes a day reading, writing, listening or studying. In this time, I have covered and revisited 2 amazing books – Stephen Covey’s ’7 habits of highly effective people’ and Brian Tracy ‘Eat that frog’.

What I have learnt in the last 3 weeks:

The importance of listening to others. Through my coaching, I am developing listening skills, picking up on verbal and non verbal language. Covey suggests you must ‘seek first to understand and then be understood’. Last week, I spend a week with my family which meant staying in 3 different parts of the UK, 2 family meals and lots of travelling! I used this time to really listen to each family members conversations and let them open up. An enjoyable experience!

I have also learnt (or remembered) the difficulty and subsequent rewards of marathon training. For the last 3 weeks, I have been running 5 times a week and have increased my long runs (15, 17 and 19.5 miles). This week is my biggest mileage week. Through determination to achieve my target time, I have continued to progress and noticed a real improvement in my running. As I feel this will be my final marathon (apart from the one at the end of Ironman!), I wanted to take stock of what I have learnt training for 4 marathons.

  • Pushing boundaries. With each hill, sprint or group interval session, I felt stronger and more in control. The speeds I can now achieve were completely unthinkable several months ago.
  • Discipline. Training in the UK, over winter is not an easy task. Fitting in 5 runs a week around a 70-80 hour working week is also challenging but I have enjoyed the experience. Early morning runs, late night runs, snow, wind and rain all make for a disciplined athlete.
  • Commitment. Similar to the above but more specifically about sticking to the task. When the going gets tough, injuries or extreme tiredness occurs, commitment is required to keep you going.
  • Accepting and seeing through a challenge. Commitment is the first step, the second step is action. Seeing through your actions is vital to ensure you succeed.

With my coaching clients and myself on past blog posts, I have set monthly targets. My favourite one was aiming for 6 miles in 60 minutes – a specific and quantifiable aim which was satisifying to achieve!

My summer triathlon races are looming, with the first event being on 1st May. For that reason, between now and the London marathon (17th April), I aim to:

  1. Swim once a week (quality session) and get back to the tri club sessions by the beginning of April
  2. Cycle twice a week (one on turbo and another longer ride) building up to 25 miles by 17th April.
  3. Gym once a week to work on core, legs and strengthen the glutes!

This is all achievable if I continue to push the boundaries, commit, dedicate and ‘eat that frog’ first thing every morning (read the book and you’ll see what I’m talking about!).

First Race Since Heart Surgery

22 Feb

So, after much training, heartache and frustration, the day finally arrived for me to race again. The Brighton half marathon was my first ever race when I was very new to running back in 2007. It seemed a fitting race to aim for this year, given that I had to cancel my place last year.

I felt my training had really come on in the last few weeks when I had commited to regular runs, upped my long run mileage and had been back to my triathlon club runs once a week. If I wasn’t ready for the half marathon now, I never would be. On a recent study day, I was coached by a fellow coach who is also a runner / triathlete. He made me think about my nerves about racing, address my limiting beliefs about achieving my target goal and put together a strategy for the big day. This involved visualising the finish line, taking my iPod with me, running with a friend to pace me, amongst other things.

The day before the race, I spent the day in Brighton with friends, trying very hard not to get nervous. Butterflies were flying everywhere in my stomach and I just couldn’t relax. After an lovely pasta meal, we headed back to our hotel for an early night. I struggled to get to sleep and when I did, I dreamt I died and was floating round as a ghost! Disturbing!

All went to plan in the morning, with a good breakfast and arrival at the start line in time. My focus was on maintaining a steady pace – 9 minute miles for the entire course. I was determined to say the least.

Once the gun went off, I held back slightly, not being tempted to lurch forward with the crowd of eager runners. Running with my friends, we soon found our pace and I felt surprisingly comfortable at 8:50 min/miles. Around the course, I had several moments where I battled with tiredness but I soon shook these off when friends waved at me in the crowd. Knowing the course and area helped me and I reminsced about running in Brighton whilst training for my first London marathon. I felt overwhelmed at how much things have changed in the last 4 years.

At 12.5 miles, fatigue really kicked in. The first doubts about not finishing strongly came over me. My friend pep talked me to the max and I somehow continued my pace…all the way to a 1:57:04 finish. I couldn’t have been more pleased! It was the most incredible feeling to have achieved my goal, having never experienced this before. Whilst I had completed a marathon and felt ok, I had never achieved a time I was proud of. Until now!

A day later, I am still glowing and get little bursts of happiness when I think of what I’ve done. 8 months after heart surgery, I am feeling stronger than ever. I just can’t wait for the London marathon and an exciting summer of triathlons. I am now the proud owner of my ellasport outfit and can’t wait to try them out – photos coming soon!

Bring it on!!! :)

Brighton half marathon

Brighton half marathon

Brighton half marathon

Brighton half marathon

Brighton half marathon

Brighton half marathon

Exciting News!

31 Jan

So, my exciting news is:

Ellasport are very kindly sponsoring me for all my running and triathlon races! Ellasport are an exciting US brand of women’s technical apparel which both look and fit great! Can’t wait for my lovely new running outfit to arrive and try it out on the seafront.

You know the feeling that everything is fitting into place? I have that now. Today I ran 11 miles in 1:46, not super fast but the best I have ever run! I am so pleased that my newly fixed heart is allowing me to run sub 10 minute miles and feel so good at the same time. I can’t believe I had been running for 4 years previously, not understanding why I had never improved. I have a lot of gratitude for all the things that are going right in my life, but also am a firm believer in positive thinking. Determination to succeed cannot be undermined.

2011 is so far proving to be the successful year I had hoped for. Not only hoped for but have been working very hard at! After an extremely busy December, I found it difficult to prioritise what I would like to achieve in 2011. After much discussion and consideration, things are becoming clearer!

The 4 main areas in my life that I am aiming to improve are:

  • Sporting goals – running, triathlon and general fitness
  • Personal career goals – launching success coaching website and training
  • Business goals – Continuing to build the empire!
  • Ongoing life goals – Material possessions, experiences, travel etc

In each of these areas I  have made headway this month. With my running, I am now on track with my marathon training and achieving the distance and times I hoped for.  The majority of my triathlon races are booked in and I can’t wait for the summer. Business is going well, but is absorbing a LARGE proportion of my time. Improvement of my time management is much needed. Of all the areas, my life goals are suffering the most. I can’t remember when I last had a day off!

Exciting news, exciting times!

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! :)

December Goals

1 Dec

Two and a bit weeks since my last post, my excuse? Life, work, stress… all reasons that prevent us from taking action towards important goals. I guess I have felt overwhelmed with urgent tasks involved with my business which resulted in November being largely unsuccessful. Yes I have earnt money, run a few times, been to the gym, seen a friend, written an article…. Ok, maybe unsuccessful is an unfair assessment. Urgent tasks persuade us away from the difficult jobs, such as finding time to write blogs, speak to that person or work towards a short term goal.

My lack of a November goal has had a huge impact on my exercise. I have lacked motivation to get out running regularly. My knees have started complaining when I did go out and I am seeing a chiropractor to get the aches nipped in the bud.

Business is so busy, I am working at least 12 hours a day when in the office and around 16 hour days when out at events (3 times a week). I am now very behind in my ‘to do’ list!

All in all, I just can’t wait until Christmas when I can stop and take stock. A recent email from a correspondent in the US made me stop my complaining and consider all that has gone well recently. Thanksgiving in America sounds a great idea to me. In the UK, we love to moan about the weather, the economy, the recession and anything else that depresses us. The power of gratitude is overwhelming. Comparing my life to others less fortunate, less healthy, really helped me gain perspective on my perceived problems.

Already, I am finding excuses about committing to a December goal. I am tempted to fall into the common trap of delaying action, until next month ‘when things have settled down’ or ‘when I am more financially stable’. Learning from November, I refuse to go goal-less again.

My December goals will be:

To complete my first module of reading for my coaching course

To get to the gym for core / strength training at least once a week

Complete a turbo trainer session at least once a week

Time For Change

10 Nov

Change

Much is changing in my life at the moment, all of which is welcome!

  • We have sold the largest of our businesses, which is a huge relief financially and frees up much needed time for new business
  • The exciting start to a new business begins
  • I have signed up to a diploma in personal coaching, a long term ambition of mine.
  • I am in the process of making decisions about my working role, involvement with various businesses, and possibility of going back to nursing
  • Sorting out of my home life is underway, e.g. putting pictures on walls, clothes in wardrobes! We have been in our apartment for 6 months and still haven’t done these things!
  • Jobs on the ‘to do’ list are getting ticked off at long last
  • My fitness seems to be improving, almost to the same level as before I started experience symptoms relating to my heart defect
  • The reality of next races are becoming real. Having entered several races, time is ticking by and training plans are beginning to be considered. It’s been fun training with no strict schedule!
  • I am almost back to ‘normal’ physically, no pain or lingering effects from the surgery.

Business is a huge part of my life and has been since my early twenties. My experience has spanned student lettings (age 21), property development (age 22), online childrens’ clothing retailer (age 23), nationwide chocolate fountain hire company (age 24-27) and photo booth hire business (current). Even as a teenager, I spent my spare time running a small Avon cosmetics business and worked endless shifts as a care assistant. At university, my work ethic continued and fitted in around partying, I worked all my weekends, days off and holidays. I have always had the belief that hard work pays off in the long run. As I have gained confidence with aspects of business such as online marketing and sales, I have set my sights on a career in something I am passionate about.

At university, my tutor and class leader was a certified coach and had trained in NLP. Her lessons incorporated aspects of coaching theory and this intrigued me. Throughout my nursing career and personal life, I have found people come to me for motivation. I enjoy seeing others succeed and would love to be a part of this process with personal coaching. Can’t wait to get started. I feel I am at a stage where I have enough life experience, business experience and increased confidence.

Goals

When you run a business, committing to personal goals is sometimes difficult but not impossible! I have found my social life has suffered from my busy lifestyle and I don’t see friends or family anywhere near as often as I like. The benefits of mini goals such as a monthly target make long term aims more achievable. Rewarding yourself for completion of a monthly goal is satisfying! My October goal of running 6 miles in 60 minutes was great for motivation on a cold, wet morning. I am yet to set a goal for November and whilst, I am continuing to train regularly, I have lacked the dedication to a particular target. A group of women and I weigh ourselves weekly (called Tweigh!) and I also record my body fat. Having someone to share this information with spurs me on, even if sometimes I am the only one to post my results!

I have proven to myself many times that I am good at sticking to a schedule or training plan. Similarly in business, ‘to do’ lists feature heavily! To achieve all I want to in the next 12 months, I must implement plans, lists and more plans!

First Flight Post Heart Surgery

26 Oct

Funny how sometimes I can completely forget about my fixed heart defect and continue life as if nothing happened! Instead on focusing on every twinge and missed beat, I am now so busy with work and life in general that I often forget about my operation. Then I get a little reminder. Something to make me remember and consider myself extremely lucky.

My recent reminder was during take-off of my first flight since my heart surgery. Over the weekend, I went to Germany to see family and I hadn’t considered the travel nor had any nerves. Once on the plane, I began to feel a little scared and looked to my partner for support. ‘Will I be ok?’ I asked him nervously. Bearing in mind I was clear to fly after 6 weeks, I had nothing to worry about. Stories about the ‘patch’ coming dislodged at attitude filled my mind and I felt very worried. All was fine and I didn’t get so much as a tiny palpitation!

Over the coming months I expect to have occasional moments of anxiety about my fixed heart, especially as I slowly increase my training and push myself further. I believe a little worry is healthy and allows you to gain perspective. I certainly had my feet firmly on the ground whilst taking off in a plane!

Heart surgery has given me time to reflect on many aspects of my life, including career aspirations, life ambitions and what makes me happy. Maybe as a result of my pondering, we have recently sold our company to focus on an exciting new business. I have also applied to start a diploma in coaching. My ambition (other than completing Ironman Florida) is to help others achieve their dreams. I also feel very privileged to be asked to be part of the IronHeart Racing Team. Check out the amazing website for inspiration overload!