Tag Archives: Ironman

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.

Heartbroken!

3 May

To some people ironman is stupid. They can’t understand why you’d want to do something which takes over your life, causes so much pain and requires so many sacrifices.  To me, it’s what kept me going when I had to deal with a diagnosis of a congenital heart defect and subsequent surgery. I achieved my goal of completing an Ironman and I’m so grateful I got the chance to. It really was the best day of my life!

Today, my chances of doing another have been taken away. I’ve received the official ‘no’ to another half or full IM from my sports specialist consultant cardiologist. Over the last few weeks I’ve experienced symptoms including chest pain, breathlessness, palpitations, wheezing – all not exactly confidence building with a race next week! I made the decision to stop and get it checked.

My VO2 test revealed figures that meant enough is enough. I am fit, healthy and I want to say that way. My heart, with years under a lot of pressure per-operation, just doesn’t like ironman training.  Carrying on now would risk shorting my life and heart failure. That’s good enough for me. It’s not me giving up….

I made a deal with him that if I quit ironman, he will give me a place, support and monitor me to attempt the London marathon one more time next year! I will still love all things swim, bike and run and will never give up but I need to have a break from it for now. I think it will take time to process, giving up a total of 6 races, including my two iron distances is heart-breaking (!), I am totally devastated to miss Mallorca 70,3, Roth and IM Western Australia, amongst other races, but I know it’s the right decision.

I will be back!

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!

Ironman 2013!

14 Dec

After Austria this year, I was so pleased I had two other big races lined up for the rest of the year. If I could have done another Ironman, I would have! These thoughts lead me to considering my plans for 2013. With Challenge Roth already in the diary, I began to search for options for another race. Having reached a point in my life where fun has priority, and having the go-ahead from a knowledgeable sports cardiologist, it was time to add another race into the mix!

Australia had always been on my life to-do list and what better reason to go than for an Ironman? IM Western Australia takes place on the second weekend in December, meaning two things: 1. A healthy gap of 5 months with Roth and 2. The race takes place in their summer!

Why 2 races? Some might say this is greedy, excessive even. The costs of racing this distance are certainly not cheap. However, given that the chance to compete in ironman will not be there forever for me, I can honestly cease this opportunity without feeling guilty. Sacrifices will be made and I will make it happen!

What will two races mean on my lifestyle? Whilst work will always have to happen, I would like to avoid an unhealthy work/life balance that I previously had. Training for an ironman has a huge impact on your life but I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by incredibly supportive people. I am touched by how the closest people to me encourage me with my choices and value my commitment to doing what I love. Without a strong support network, the experience can become more difficult and even a little lonely. After Roth, I will have a break before resuming training and building on my fitness ready for Australia. My body will have a lot to cope with and finding the right balance for training, nutrition and rest will be essential. Listening to my body will be priority or I could be headed for an almighty crash and burn!

Sharing the experience of training for an ironman is something quite special! I became close to friends during this year, doing long rides, swapping stories and sharing landmark moments such as the first 3.8k swim!

Next year, I will sharing the Roth experience with several good friends and I just can’t wait. The icing on the cake to that is that my best friend since I was 18 has slowly but surely been converted to triathlon after a great year of running marathons and first few tri’s. After a little encouragement / persuasion, we both entered Ironman Western Australia yesterday – a happy moment, even though it was 1am!! As previous party girls, it is a bit surreal to be doing this together but also massively exciting. 2013 is without doubt going to be an adventure!

When looking to make New Year’s resolutions, most of mine will be based on sports goals, swim efficiency, getting stronger on the bike, faster running, commitment to a healthy diet, getting enough sleep. But most importantly is the determination to stay happy, keep doing what I love and not losing sight of the reasons for doing what I do. Behind every successful completion of a goal is a strong reason to want to do it, the determination to see it through, the motivation to keep going when it gets tough.

Life After Ironman

13 Aug

6 weeks on and here are my thoughts on life after Ironman.

Completion of Ironman Austria was the biggest achievement I think I had made in my life up to this point. Just making the finishing line gave me the greatest feeling of success, even though the day didn’t go completely to plan. As soon as I finished, I began reflecting on my experience, thinking over and over about what happened and what I got out of it. To anyone who asked ‘how was it?’ my answer always started with ‘I loved it’! I genuinely did, loved each aspect of the race, the support on the day, the atmosphere and most definitely the finish. How could anything compare to that?

After nearly two years of build-up, life after such a big event takes a bit of adjusting to! After Austria, I had been warned about the ‘post-ironman blues’ – a time when all the craziness of your A race and focus for the whole year is over. When your post-race buzz is fading, there is a rather big hole in your life, when once you didn’t have a minute spare. Training is limited as your body needs time to recover. Mine felt ok immediately afterwards, I didn’t ache and I didn’t have any of the dramatic side –effects I had heard about. But then I did have a nice long cool down (6 hr 21 walk/jog!). Two full weeks off any structured training was just what my body needed but by the end, I was twitchy as anything.

I found my mind was still in ironman-mode, switched on and continually reflecting on my experience. It’s hard to quieten that voice in your head that says ‘keep going, you’ll be fine’! I had this voice finely honed from all the hard months of training. You absolutely cannot have a voice that tells you to stop.

3 weeks after Austria, fatigue hit and my motivation to train plummitted! Without the burning desire and crazy obsession with something, I found getting up in the morning difficult for the first time ever. I’d be in a beautiful lake with the sun coming up and still felt no love! On my bike, I felt alright but nothing special, not like I had the fitness to ride 112 miles! Running made my heartrate go sky high so had to be careful to keep it all under control. I lost my appetite, but this always happens to me after a race.

I had several interviews and blogs to write and this helped keep my focus positive, although inside I wasn’t necessarily over the moon about all aspects of my race. My main disappointment was with my time and how my body reacted during the marathon and in the heat. Lots of lessons learnt and to be improved on. I still maintained the overwhelming feeling of achievement for simply finishing, but I think it’s only human to always strive for better. I tried not to compare myself with others. I was reminded by the stats about those who have completed an Ironman after heart surgery and I’m still in the minority (made me feel better!).

The only sensible thing to overcome the temporary sadness was to line something up to look forward to! That for me was round 2. I entered Roth (iron distance event in Germany) a couple of weeks after finishing Austria. As the deadlines for next summer’s races were fast approaching, I had to make a decision. There was never at any point a question of whether or not, I’d do another Ironman. I knew a long time ago, in the middle of training for Austria, that this was for me.

I also entered a half ironman distance race for September which meant my training had a closer goal to work towards. Suddenly everything started to fit into place again! Speaking to friends, I heard that this is a common thing to do after Ironman and probably the reason why people go on to become lifetime endurance junkie.  Oh no, I think I might be part of that club already…!

After making it round the course in one piece, I am now determined to become faster, fitter and stronger. Another year’s training and I’m excited to see what is possible next. Was it all worth it? YES!

 

 

 

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 – Beaver Middle Distance and 4 Weeks To Go!

2 Jun

Last weekend I had my first race of the year – the Beaver middle distance triathlon. This was going to be a test of all the last few months training and to see if I could actually remember who to put all three disciplines together! As it was all about practice for Ironman, I wasn’t under huge pressure but still wanted to do my best.

I felt ready for the swim after a couple of great open water sessions recently. My time on the bike has all been relatively successful and I couldn’t wait test my legs! After lots of rest from running to ensure my shin recovered from a recent injury, it was uncertain if I would be able to complete the full 13 mile run.

Meeting up with friends the night before helped ease the obligatory pre-race nerves. Whilst carb-loading on pasta, chips and ice-cream, we discussed the delightful topic of peeing on the bike. Such conversations you couldn’t have in ‘normal’ life!

A relatively small race and beautiful sunny weather made for a friendly atmosphere. I loved the buzz of the day and started to feel really excited. Once down at the lake, we were soon off and fighting our way through very shallow, murky water for 1.9k. Admittedly, I was quite glad to get out and up to the 450m run to transition.

On the bike, I was mainly surrounded by the 35-39 age groupers as their wave had caught me up on the swim! This meant I pushed a little too much for the first part of the bike but did have fun keeping up with them! A three lap course with a fairly long hill in the middle was a bit of a challenge but the support was good and I got to wave at my dad every lap!

The plan on the run was to cover 4 miles then see how my shin felt. I did this and continued to 5 and 6 miles. At this point, I had some pain so had to take the heart-wrenching decision to quit there. I was gutted! Being so close to finishing and having never quit anything before, I took a little while to get over this. Seeing my friends finish and do so well cheered me up and overall, I had a great time.

I recovered pretty quickly which was encouraging and I’ve just had probably the best week’s training ever. For the first time, I swam the ironman distance in a lake and felt great (despite having been up all night!). The next day, I had a brilliant day with 93 miles on the bike straight into a 5 mile run. No shin pain, no real issues, just big smiles!

So, it is now 4 weeks to go until Ironman Austria, 3 weeks til my 2 year ’surgiversary’  …. I’m feeling nearly ready. Just the matter of 100 mile ride next week!

Tyres, Tears, Tickers and Chips!

16 Mar

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

Bring on the hills!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Heart Surgery to Ironman – January Dramas

6 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Importance of HealthIronman Training - Corinne Ellison