Tag Archives: Triathlon

The New Sensible and Responsible Corinne…!

11 Oct

It’s almost 6 months since I visited my cardiologist and received news that my planned season of triathlon was not to be. One by one I cancelled my races in 2013, feeling the financial pain of the situation as well as the physical! Watching all the races was fun but each piece took a little piece away from me. Being honest, I had to almost switch off and ignore anything to do with Roth in July, as pulling out of that hurt so much – hence the holiday to Greece!

After seeing the specialist, I made an effort to reduce my training down, in volume and intensity, incorporating some yoga and gym work to keep me busy. But soon the lore of triathlon was back as I entered a local sprint tri in August. My training was back up to doing two sessions of each discipline every week. A few faster runs, an extra mile or two per hour on the bike, and regular sea swims. All of a sudden, and not surprisingly the chest pain returned – warning signs to slow down. I felt annoyed and frustrated, I was only training for a slow ‘sprint’  and my body couldn’t even manage that??

Those close to me asked me to stop training. I was running myself down and being grumpy most of the time! Letting go of such a big part of your time takes time and a great deal of patience – certainly not my forte!

I’m back to see my cardiologist in two weeks, fully expecting to be told off and given what for, again. I’ve learnt my lesson this time and this dodgy heart of mine is only going to get TLC from now on! Since my surgery 3 years ago, I have completed 3 half marathons, 2 marathons, several 5 and 10k’s, probably 10 Olympic distance tris, 4 half ironman and obviously Ironman Austria. Even though I was told my heart would be as good as new (maybe incorrectly), I don’t think the doctors could have predicted I’d go on to do all that!

Deep down, I felt invincible after my op, like it was a second chance to do whatever I wanted. In a way that’s why I’m not finding it hard to let go or give in. I feel cheated of all the things I still wanted to do and have a feeling that I have much more to give.

Having said that, I think I’ve finally accepted that tri is off the agenda, at least for the foreseeable future. I can’t trust myself to train sensibly so I’m better to have an almost complete break. As to running events next year, I still have hope but we’ll see. Ultimately, there is life outside of triathlon (shock horror). I have so much to look forward to and be grateful for, being selfish is just not an option.

Breaking my toe last week I’ve been told is a godsend, actually forcing me into resting. You may still catch me occasionally sneaking a few lengths in, eagerly pacing around the beach or lifting some weights in the gym, but that’s it.

Here is the new sensible and responsible Corinne. The one who puts health and the future first, not merely thinking of the here and now or giving in to the dreaded training guilt.

Just keep me away from the apple crumble please!

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.

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!

Vitruvian Middle Distance – Heart Surgery to Half Ironman!

27 Sep

Vitruvian Middle Distance

Why I wanted to do it? The Vit was my A race in 2011. I trained all year for this race and it really meant everything. Finishing was then my biggest achievement to date and I was over the moon with a time of 6:37. This year, the race was a post Ironman goal, just to make sure my training was kept ticking over and I had a focus after July. Tied in with the Amsterdam marathon in October, Vitruvian helped me through those lost post Austria feelings!

Training

My training had a break after Ironman but I was soon keen to get back to some kind of distance work. Ironman spoils you in a way, going out for short distances just doesn’t seem to cut it! I loved getting back into some longer runs, the odd brick session and keeping my swimming going. Whilst my training for the race was less than ideal, I was still enjoying all the disciplines and felt ready to race.

The day

I viewed the Vit as a fun race, with no pressure other than to do my best on the day and hopefully beat last year’s time. With a year’s good training under my belt, I thought this was possible and had really looked forward to the race.

On the day, I attacked the swim as best I could. I was a little disappointed with a 42 minute swim, as I regularly achieved much quicker in training for 1.9k but exited the swim with plenty of energy for the bike. 3 minutes quicker than last year, so no real reason to complain.

Onto the bike, I hoped to stick around 16mph, but with the rolling hills of the course, my average soon dropped to 15.6 for the first lap then down to 15mph for the second. Gutted! Started to get really cross with myself on the bike, had to keep changing position on my new TT bike and generally had no power in my legs. I finished in 3:22, 5 minutes faster then 2011.

Onto the run, and all I can say is OUCH! Pain from the minute I started running. My back from the bike position, my right knee from a niggling injury, my foot, seriously – everything hurt! My pace plans soon went out of the window and it was case of survival. Had to pull a few psychological tricks out of the bag to keep going! Try imagining you’re in a hospital bed and being told not to exercise for months! Motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other! A finish time for the half marathon was 2:20, a personal worst but a finish all the same.

Finishing was a huge relief. I had committed to completing Vitruvian and I was even more determined to get a PB. 4 minutes was what I managed on the day, in hot conditions, so I was pleased! A few days of pain followed but it was so worth it! Medals and t-shirts mean a lot!

What did I learn?

I learnt that Ironman takes a lot out of you, more than you think. Your body dictates how you perform and sometimes you have to listen carefully. I am lucky that I have been able to complete a full distance, two half iron distances and hopefully a marathon by the end of 2012. I am pleased with my progress to date and can’t wait to see what the future hold with more training. I also learnt that after all of that, I really need some new trainers asap! :)

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!

 

 

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 – October Reflection

25 Oct

Last October, I set myself a target during my recovery from heart surgery. I was 4 months post-op, had been back running for a month and was keen to test my fitness. The aim was to run 6 miles in 60 minutes. I achieved this on the 28th October 2010 and I still remember that run! It hurt every second of the way but the feeling of achievement at the end of it was incredible.

Pre-diagnosis, my running was not improving and those feelings of frustration on a hard run still haunt me sometimes. Pre-surgery, not being allowed to exercise for 5-6 months was mentally tough. Recovery was the first time I felt free to test my body again and this felt even better when I set myself targets such as my October challenge.

Now, a year on, that run symbolised the start of my training as I now know it. Through persistent effort and consistent training, I am now feeling faster, stronger and more confident. Little by little, my running, swimming and cycling times have improved. Beyond figures, how I feel has improved. It’s been a long time since I felt ‘fit’. This week I do and it made me laugh when I saw that it coincides with a similar feeling of satisfaction a year ago.

Occasionally, when I contemplate the extent of what an Ironman involves, it can be overwhelming. I haven’t got years of experience as an athlete but what I do have is strength and determination to see me through my goal.  In additional with this, I am lucky to have a lot of support, plus friends and family who believe in me. I’m very fortunate in having a great coach and appreciate how much having access to his knowledge and experience has helped. I am surrounded by people who have already achieved (several times over!) what I would like to and this makes the otherwise daunting challenge feel almost normal! Inspiration from others should never be underrated.

Through this blog, I have been contacted by more than a few heart surgery survivors, intrigued to know what is possible, how I dealt with recovery and what I feel like now. My story is shared by a few (see www.Ironheartracing.com ) and sharing the motivation to achieve athletically after this experience only spurs me on further. I might have a long scar on my chest that I’m still not comfortable with but being part of this special club makes it worth while.

What have I learnt in the last year? The importance of having a goal, that is regularly reviewed or updated. This is the thing that pushes you out of the door on a cold, dark, windy and rainy morning! It’s also the reason you make sure you have time to work towards your target. My goal is the reason many look at me and say ‘You?’ ‘Are you mad?’  The answer is, yes. Quite probably. But I am committed, happy and am out there to prove that I can do this!

My goal: Ironman!

Vitruvian Half Ironman – Half Way There!

7 Sep

Saturday 3rd September was a date ingrained in my mind since the middle of January. Having set my mind on a year full of races, entering Vitruvian middle distance triathlon seemed a sensible idea and long enough away to not evoke panic! A friend had finished the race in 2010 and fully recommended it, despite giving me horror stories of weeds in the lake and cyclists being disqualified on the bike. A brief discussion on Twitter finalised my decision.

2011 has been a busy year for everything in my life! From half marathon and marathon training over the winter months, to 4 olympic triathlons, I had a race every single month! Work has been insane, feels like I have been making up for having 6 months off last year!

As the date approached, I finally felt ready for the race although facing the idea of half ironman distances is always going to induce butterflies! The week leading up to the race was extremely busy and I made the registration by only 15 minutes on the Friday! A strange calmness overtook me, not at all normal for me pre-race. When the alarm went off at 4am, I was so excited. Today was the day I had been waiting 9 months for!

Arriving at Rutland water in the dark was a surreal experience. I looked around me at other triathletes faffing with bikes, equipment and looking very nervous. After meeting up with friend Claire, we headed for banks of the lake to watch the various waves of male swimmers go off. The two mums were excitable too, finding it impossible to not to be affected by the electric atmosphere. I recognised lots of woman from my previous races and was tapped on the shoulder by many a twitter triathlete! Minutes before I about the get in the water, my dad turned up! It was great to have him there as well and a real surprise.

I briefed my supporters on my expected times, gave them a quick hug then went into the murky water to acclimatise. Others seemed worried but I felt right at home. I stuck to quite near the front of the group, but at the side. As soon as the start gun went off, I went for it. Getting kicked and punched is all part of a mass swim start and I found it very reassuring that I wasn’t getting left behind! I surprised myself by feeling strong all the way round. I was quicker than expected, so much so that my parents were still having coffee when I finished my first lap and briefly entered the lake before heading back in for lap 2.

Headed for transition, my dad shouted at me that I had done 45 minutes for the swim! That spurred me on for the next stage. After a bit of faffing, I got on my bike and headed on on the 52 mile course. I soon arrived at the famous Rutland Ripple, a long drag of a hill which reduced some riders to getting off and walking. At this stage, I was grateful of my training in the VERY hilly Purbecks. Some guys joked that I better not ‘chick’ them, well guess what, I did! I loved the challenge of overtaking, maintaining a good speed and feeling strong. My dad kept driving between locations around the course, shouting words of encouragements and taking lots of photos!

My aim on the bike was not to feel as though I wanted to get it over with. I achieved this as near the end of the second lap, a woman ahead of me shouted back that she couldn’t wait to get onto the run. I didn’t feel the same, if I really had to carry on for another lap, I would have done! Back in transition, I did actually start to look forward to the run. Every triathlete likes to discuss their strongest and weakest discipline. Mine is not that clear cut, whilst I have done more running than anything else, I wouldn’t say that I am a particularly strong runner. I love all 3 disciplines the same!

The run at the Vit is a two lap course, across a windy dam and around a lake. By the time I started on the run, I had been out for over 4 hours. The thought the some competitors had finished by then was unimaginable! I enjoyed seeing people I knew on the run and I tried to encourage others around me who appeared to be struggling. I kept looking down at my watch and realised the aim I had in my mind was more the achievable. As I approached the last part of the run, it all started to feel real.

14 months since my heart surgery, I finished Vitruvian in 6 hours 37. Without my knowledge, my boyfriend’s mum went to speak to the organisers and informed them of my ‘story’. As I approached the finishing chute and after looking at my watch, I was already a little bit emotional. No tears, just an appreciation that my body had allowed me to get this far and proud of what I had achieved this year. Over the microphone as I finished, I heard the words ‘Corinne Ellison you are a Vitruvian!’. The woman then went on to tell the crowds that just over  a year ago I’d had open heart surgery. This prompted the medal-givers to give me extra fuss – queue the tears! At the end, I soon met up with my mum, boyfriend’s mum and lovely friends from twitter, Claire and Lee. I don’t normally cry that much but I was off!

For the rest of the day, I was buzzing and couldn’t get over what had just happened. The support I have had from friends was incredible and I have a lot of people to thank.

So, I am now half way on my journey – from heart surgery to Ironman!

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!