Tag Archives: recovery

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!

 

 

 

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

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

Amazing What The Body Can Do In 4 Months

28 Oct

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From open heart surgery in June, to achieving a target of running 6 miles in 60 minutes. This is one snapshot into my journey back to recovery after repair of a congenital heart defect. To many athletes, 10 min/miles is barely a recovery run. To me, it is a small achievement that allows me to track progress back to my previous level of fitness and beyond. I am not a bionic woman, just very determined and prepared to work hard! My run today was hard, hurt all of the way but meant a lot to me. The desire to succeed is far more powerful than a nagging tiredness. You have to REALLY want something if you are going to aim high. I have REALLY wanted to get better!

Many of my friends and family have become accustomed to having the ‘old Corinne’ back. I, however, do not take any of my physical efforts for granted. Each time I push my heart and legs just a little bit more, I remind myself of how lucky I am to be able to exercise.

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!

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!’ :)

The Beginning Of The Rest Of My Life!

22 Sep

BeachNo longer will I be posting about my recovery weeks – the official 12 weeks is over! So what now? The beginning of the rest of my life.  The excitement of the future and acceptance of events in the past. My mourning for months lost, finances lost, confidence lost is slowly easing and my focus again shifts to I can do. The easiest way for me to measure success is exercise. Every day during my recovery I kept a diary of how far I walked, starting with a tiddly 7 minutes and round the block.

Today I ran 6 miles, at a slow pace (12 min/miles with a couple of walk breaks) but felt good. The distance was no problem. If any slight nagging voices came into my head about wanting to run faster, I cast them aside. Right now, I’m lucky to be running and want to enjoy the joy of getting out in the fresh air and soaking up the scenery like this morning’s run (see pic!). I am great at sticking rigidly to training plans and getting psyched up for faster times and results but now is not the time to do this. I get the odd bout of chest pain if I raise my heart rate above 150/160 or push that bit too hard. I have plenty of time to work towards my goals in triathlon and running in 2011.

Speaking of which: here is my race plan options for 2011!:

Jan / Feb – Rempstone Roast duathlon series

20th Feb Brighton half marathon (got place)

March – Either Mad March triathlon in Dorset or Bournemouth Bay half marathon

17th April London Marathon (have my beloved place!)

8th May Try a tri, Dorset  or maybe New Forest Olympic on 1st May

June – London to Brighton bike ride (have place), Bournemouth pier to pier swim, maybe Summer Sizzler tri in Dorset

July – Bournemouth Olympic, London Triathlon (have place)

August – not sure about this one. Maybe Hyde Park on 6/7th or Swanage on 14th

September is 70.3 time! Options are New Forest middle distance 25th Sept, Vitruvian. Depending on pennies there are some M-Dot events abroad (New York, Mexico, Canada, New Hampshire!!!)
Have entered pre-reg for the Great North Run as well

All very exciting.

The above plans were jotted down for this year but my heart had a ‘mechanical’, so to speak! My mind never stopped believing in my ability to achieve, hence the endless frustration and disappointing times despite good training. I have many people around me who provide great inspiration. These include my friend who ran the London marathon for the first time this year, despite injury and an age 0f 63. We run together regularly and she really keeps my spirits up. Also, a new training friend inspires me – she has taken up triathlon despite health problems. It’s great to have strong people around you. I love following stories on Twitter about people who have gone from overweight and unfit to triathletes qualifying for Kona world championships! When in the pool, on the bike or out on a run, I imagine I am Chrissie Wellington and all seems effortless and easy! Role models are amazing motivation.

Check out this for motivation:

For most people, it is difficult to make a living out of sport unless you are gifted and have the determination to work excessively hard. But everyone can use sport to improve the rest of your life. Like holidays, sporting events give you something to look forward to and work towards.

12 Weeks Ago Today My Heart Was Stopped For 39 Minutes

15 Sep

12 weeks ago today, I had heart surgery for a large hole in my heart. My heart was stopped and I was put onto a bypass system during the operation. I woke up in intensive care sore and feeling very sick. I spent 8 days in hospital before returning home to spend the next 12 weeks recovering.

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Last night, re-running this in my mind kept me awake. Since my operation, all my focus has been on getting better and the future. I never let myself think about the lead up to surgery, my time in hospital or any pain during recovery. I can now admit it wasn’t easy. It hurt. I was scared. I saw my cardiologist last week who told me I would have died in 8 -10 years if I hadn’t had the surgery. At the time, I laughed this off. Afterwards I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach! This information has only made me more determined to achieve now. Achieve in business, in triathlon, in running and my life in general.

Niggling fears and doubts are starting to bug me! Two of my hospital consultants have told me that it is ok for me to train again. They both know my aims to return to triathlon and running (ironman hasn’t been mentioned though!). Both were quick to tell me I wouldn’t be able to be an elite athlete. This hasn’t been an aim of mine but why is it when someone tells you you can’t do something, it makes you want it even more!! I am now questioning why not. Physiologically, can my heart not stand intense exercise? I’ve been told my heart is as good as new now so this doesn’t make sense. Should I be scared to push it on a lone 20 mile run or 50 mile bike ride? What if I feel like I did after the Berlin marathon last year (hideous!). Feelings of sadness have filled me this week. Sadness at what I have missed in terms of races and at what my body has gone through.

There I’ve said it. I admit to feeling rubbish this week. However, I have had the best training sessions. Running on the treadmill with the occasional 1 minute walk have felt great.  Cycling on the spin bike at the gym was such as relief to get back on the bike. The best feeling of all was getting back in the pool. Lengths felt so easy, I was shocked! No breathlessness or chest pain, not so much as an ache in any of my chest muscles. My sternum has now healed, yipee!! I am finally at a stage where I am going to overtake my progress before my operation. With some trepidation I am starting to believe in what I may be capable of. I  am excited to think of the personal bests that may be ahead. All the frustration of not achieving the times I thought I should in relation to my training is now behind me.

Although my heart was stopped 12 weeks ago today, it has never worked as efficiently as it is now. For that, I am very grateful! Coming soon is my list of 2011 races :)

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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”

Week 7 – On The Road To Running

14 Aug

This week, I have had to do everything possible to restrain myself from breaking into a run! My walks, up to 4 miles at a time, are certainly faster and I feel ready to jog. Even though I love all three disciplines of triathlon, running would certainly be my first choice when starting to exercise again. It’s just as well that I’m allowed to run before cycling and swimming!

Wednesday will be the  8 week point in my recovery. 2 months after surgery means, for me, that I can run. I will be attending a cardiac rehab session at the local hospital, followed by a tentative treadmill session at my friend’s house. I’m not sure how nervous I’ll be but having upped my walking speed recently, my heart rate should be used to the exertion. As well as being sensible and listening to my body about how much I can push myself, I want to eliminate the fear I had when I stopped running back in March. Then, whilst out on a group training run I’d panic that I couldn’t breathe and be overly aware of my heart rate. All has now been fixed with my heart and I hope my confidence will grow during each run.

Emotionally, I have been up and down, but ‘the book’ says this is normal!! Let’s just say I haven’t been the easiest person to live with but I envisage this all to change when I’m back doing my usual activities over the next few weeks. I have decided to go back to work in the office the week after next and have at least 2 days off week. This experience has  made me and others evaluate the amount of time we spend working. Not healthy to work 7 days a week for months on end. Financial concerns mean a holiday isn’t on the cards this year but a renewed energy from me when I’m back in the business should cheer us along to Christmas and a possible Alpine break!

This week I have experienced a person staring at my scar for the first time. Others have told me that see people checking out my scar when I’m in public but up until now, I hadn’t noticed. My feelings were mixed. I found some humour in the situation and pride at what I have gone through. I also felt  a little sad that the scar could cause such a horrified look!

Having targets and deadlines is who I am. So my 8 week point next week, and the celebration of running that will accompany it is what has kept me going through this chapter. Over and over in my mind, I imagine how good it will feel to run again. The same with the scenario where I cross the finish line next April with my ideal marathon time.

Mental conquers physical hands down!!