Tag Archives: CHD

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.

:)

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.

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!

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!

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! :)