Tag Archives: Cycling

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!

 

 

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…. !

2 Steps Forward, 1 Back!

29 Sep

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

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

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

Lessons I have learnt this week:

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

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

From Heart Surgery to Ironman. Weeks 10 and 11

6 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

My aims for the next few weeks:

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

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

Brief race plan for 2011 – 2012.

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

Spring 2011 – Sprint distance triathlon as warm-up race

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

August, September or autumn 2011 – half Ironman.

2012 – Ironman!!

Stats today:

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