My Old Enemy – Crohn’s Disease

I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve lost but here I stand alone, here I am, another lesson learnt………

After what seems months of unexplainable injuries, aches and pain, I seem to be getting closer to some answers.  Unfortunately to get the answers I had to reach rock bottom and things have gone from bad to worse.  It seems as though my Crohn’s disease has decided to make a comeback.  To say I’m completely devastated is an understatement.  I’ve not had any symptoms from Crohn’s for over 10 years.  I actually stupidly, ridiculously thought it had gone….cue hysterical laughter.  I’ve had so many problems over the last 5 years from Endometriosis, it just seemed like a life time ago from when I had Crohn’s.  To think I smugly thought that it had gone, how utterly ridiculous. I’m still waiting for some tests and examinations.

I was first hospitalised with Crohn’s in 2002.  I think it must have been rumbling on for many years but the GPs kept telling me it was IBS. It was only after I landed in hospital that I had a diagnosis.  I was on and off different drugs, in and out of hospital until eventually I had a bowel resection.  Things were better, to the point where I didn’t feel like I was dying every day but it came back and I had another couple of small but not insignificant surgeries.  Things did slowly improve and since I had my children I’ve been pretty much symptom free….or so I thought.

I’ve been hit quite hard by a flare and now in hindsight I can see that my shin pain and rib pain are all connected to the Crohn’s.  It is an inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s can manifest itself in the joints and muscles.  The inflammatory response was present before I had bowel symptoms.  Now I’m in awful pain, I won’t go into details but Crohn’s affects the entirety of the digestive system and quite simply and literally, it is a pain in the butt!!!!!!!!!  I had a small thread of happiness of cycling but for the time being that’s off the cards as well.

For the last few days, I’ve wanted oblivion, I just wanted to close my eyes and not feel anything, to not exist just for a short period.  Every time I wake up, for a few seconds, I don’t feel anything, no pain but then my brain kicks in does a mental body scan and quickly locates the pain.  Another day that I just have to get through.

It’s really lonely having this much pain and chronic illness.  I’m lonely and scared but at the same time, want to be alone, I don’t want to reach out, I don’t want to spread my misery to others, it’s like a virus. Dark, black wanting to suffocate everything that you find peace in.  I feel trapped by my own loneliness.  ‘I can’t do this’….I silently scream.  There is no bravery or courage or strength, at times I feel empty, numb, at other times the sheer terror threatens to overwhelm me.  ‘I can’t do this again’…but I’ve no choice, I’ve got to.  Every now and again, I’ll forget whilst I’m in work or doing something with the kids, then the wave of pain hits me again and I feel like I can’t breathe, the horror of the situation pounding inside my head. I feel sick.  I hate myself.  All of this going on inside my head, it’s absolutely exhausting.

All of this is going around and around in a vicious circle.  I’m finding it hard to concentrate and I’m particularly snappy, I almost don’t feel present enough to engage with people, this is making work extremely difficult.  It catches me in the most mundane of tasks, when I’m cooking tea or cleaning up and I start crying, it overwhelms me endlessly.  Life has become small and meaningless.  I can’t plan ahead, apart from the fear preventing me, I actually don’t have the brain capacity to plan or organise.  I can’t even plan what I’m doing tomorrow. I’m just existing hour by hour, just hoping the end of the day will come so I can go to sleep and not think.

I go through the motions of meditation but nothing is really helping. I can’t even muster the energy to go for a walk even though I know it will make me feel better.  The fatigue, another symptom, makes me feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.

I feel like I live different lives over and over again….when I’m well, I’m high on life but when I’m ill, I’m in despair.  I’ve only ever craved peace inside and out.

You may think this is terrible over reaction and I often get told to stop panicking, stop catastrophizing but when you’ve lived through what I have with pain, you would understand that I can’t, I have no control over my emotions.  I would be very impressed if someone like me could.

I do think though the trauma of the Crohn’s has manifested itself into what I feel now and I do need help in getting over the trauma of what happened all those years ago.  I’m currently drowning in memories and anger about what it stole from me when I was so young.  Your own mortality doesn’t really hit you in your 20s but now it does.  I’m 40, I’m midlife.  This is my time now so why the fuck can’t I be left alone to live a good life.  I’m a good person, what on earth have I ever done to deserve this.

Circumstances are different now whilst years ago I only had myself to think about, I have Joseph and Isabella now.  My complete world. I cannot and will not let their childhood memories be tarnished with this. I’ve got to try harder, if not for me but for them.  They were already put through an emotional roller coaster 2 years ago when I had surgery for endometriosis.

The way forward…I don’t know, as ever now, the waiting game begins. Waiting to be seen by the gastroenterologists, possibly the cholorectal surgeons waiting for tests, scans, being treated like you’re just another inconvenience  by GPs, receptionists and hospital staff.  Being treated like you have no intelligence that you couldn’t possibly  instinctively know what is right for your body.  Not being trusted to have access to your own medical results.  The joys of the 21st century medical system.

The landscape of Crohn’s has changed enormously since I was last in the system,  not just all the drugs but the support networks.  There are Facebook groups for absolutely everything these days. Ive just joined one that does give me a bit of hope – IBD Runners and Riders.  The problem with these groups is that they are very scary.  I’m really frightened by what I’ve read and poor poor peoples problems.  The IBD runner and riders seems a bit different though in that it’s all very focused on sports and how we can still do them.  I got chatting to a really inspirational guy who turns out is local as well.

This year my husband is taking on his first triathlon.  I’m going to find this really tough. I will be supporting him and encouraging but inside, selfishly, I’m saying….’it should be me’.

Never forget that you are privileged to be able to take part in something that you love.  When training is tough, when you’re losing the plot asking yourself if its all worth while, there are hundreds of people out there who would love to be doing what you’re doing.  We are privileged and I will never take that for granted ever again.

Maybe this blog is the ultimate self indulgence, I’m having a bad day, hopefully tomorrow will be better but bear with me, the writing helps.

I spend most of my life raging and this poem has always stuck with me:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The end of the road….

This is quite a hard blog to write but I’ve been here repeatedly and maybe sharing this time will make it a bit easier.

Unfortunately due to my body letting me down AGAIN, I can no longer take part in Triathlon which breaks my heart.  Before I disappear into a wallowing pit of self despair, I am hoping this is just a temporary year out.

Over the last 12 months I have developed Costocondritis (which is total bitch) and some kind of lower leg shin problem which currently is being called shin splints but I’m on my 4th physiotherapist now after endless hours of physio appointments and exercises, so god only knows if I do actually have shin splints.  All I know is that I cannot run…at all!!  The Costo was triggered by swim drills around this time last year.  It is inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs join with the cartilage that holds them to the sternum.  At its worst the pain can make you feel like you are having heart attack, it feels like there is huge pressure on the chest and the pain radiates all around the chest.

I just feel despair, the crushing kind that makes your heart hurt, makes you want to curl up into a ball and just stop so you don’t have to feel physical or mental pain anymore. I’ve not felt like this since post surgery for endometriosis.  The surgery was successful but there was no end in sight with the pain.  Thankfully 2 years on things have vastly improved in that area.

This too shall Pass’

I know there are dark days ahead as much as grit, determination and a fighting spirit can get you through, I know those dark days are coming.  Just got to hunker down and weather the storm.

I have been here so many times before, the Crohn’s Disease, Endometriosis, and now Costocondritis, the aches, the endless injuries, time and time again, my body lets me down over and over again.  I am starting to think that I have something wrong with me, that my body has some kind of over reaction to inflammation.  This is something that I need to investigate I think.

Chronic illness and pain costs a lot of time, money and energy.  The hours I have spent doing endless physiotherapy and self care, the treatments that I have searched for to help me feel better, all cost a lot of money and sometimes I am completely exhausted and overloaded with pain. Its not much fun.

My thoughts at the moment are ‘why me?’ and ‘its not fair’ haven’t I already faced enough? But then you stop yourself and remind yourself that actually there a lot of people facing much bigger problems than me.  I really need to start doing some gratitude meditations.

To an outside person this must read as very melodramatic and I feel embarrassed every time I have to explain yet again to others why I can’t come swimming or why I can’t go on a club run.  I feel like a hypochondriac that brings it all on myself.  But I love Triathlon, I really really love it.  I’ve immersed myself in the community, I have made connections, I met mentors and friends.  It takes time for friendships to grow and develop so take away a shared interest, will these friendships continue?? I certainly hope so.

Maybe I bring it all on myself in my vain attempt at glory, why I can’t I just be satisfied with a Zumba class and going out on a Saturday night.  Nothing wrong with that.  What is it that drives me to take on these sports that are obviously no good for my body.  I thought really hard about this and I think training and races especially in Triathlon make me feel free. Free from my other roles in life, free to be just who I am without all the trappings of the materialistic and consumerist lives we lead.  When I’m out on my bike, swimming in the sea or running along the coast, I’m not only getting those pain numbing endorphins, I’m out in nature and I feel free.  I love being coached, again the freedom not to think and just do is worth all the money.  When I raced Cardiff Tri the feeling of accomplishment is incredible.  Worth all the nerves and pain to get there. I am not ready to give up on that just yet.  Maybe I am just a daft middle aged woman.

Not if but when…

I did have a frank and honest discussion with a physio and a friend yesterday and to be listened to and have my worries discussed without being told ‘it’ll be ok, don’t worry’, made such a difference.   I have been thinking that I can’t compete this year despite my race entries and the chat I had just confirmed what I already knew.  I need to stop running and swimming now but hopefully by taking the time now it will be ‘when’ and not ‘if’ I come back to Triathlon.

Layers & Reinvention

I posted this on Instagram the other day:

One thing I have learnt along the way is that you need to lead a multi-layered life, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  I have a passion for triathlon but I am only ever a whisker away from not being able to take part.  Its important to value everything in life and foster other interests because when the shit hits the fan (which it often does for me) I can’t cope with the misery of it.  Not one interest, passion or person will define me.  Perhaps 2019 will be the year of reinvention…..once I get my head around it!!!

As ever I have an amazingly supportive family, Kelvin is my rock, don’t know where I would be without him sometimes.  How he doesn’t tear his hair out with me is beyond my understanding.

Plan

I do love to plan so these are the things that I need to do or investigate:

  1. Wait until my leg pain has gone so I can rehab
  2. Rehab properly under guidance
  3. Costo – see osteopath, sports massage, exercises – all to free up my thoracic spine where the problem comes from (more money & time).
  4. Investigate anti-inflammatory diet and allergy testing
  5. Try to continue to be part of the tri-community by volunteering
  6. Sell my race entries
  7. Strength train – look into personal training but its unlikely due to cost.  I have to be careful and considered with strength training to my groin/pelvic pain.
  8. Keep cycling – enter some sportives to keep the despair at bay. I am worried though that the cycling will exacerbate the leg pain and costo but I can’t give it up, I just can’t
  9. Come back stronger in 2020
  10. Keep meditating and understanding the brain processes that lead to pain.

Wish me luck!

Ironman Wales – could I be an Ironman?

Post Saundersfoot sprint tri on the Sat, the adventure continued on Sunday with watching Ironman Wales Tenby.  I’ve been wanting to be spectator for a while now and I finally got there.  I decided against volunteering as I wanted to soak up the atmosphere and move around the course.  To make the swim start, it was another 5.30am alarm call and I was on the street, getting a good sport at North Beach by 6.15am.  As soon as I stepped out the door on to the streets of Tenby, the atmosphere was electric.  It was still dark and I joined the crowds heading for the swim start.  Athletes were making their way through the crowds in various states of undress, many were getting wet suits on in shop door ways, there was racking everywhere so we were all just funnelled in the same direction.  The nerves in the air were palpable.

As I waited for the race start, the day dawned and the sun rise welcomed the athletes on to the beach.  It was sheer drama hearing the Welsh National Anthem and then all of sudden they were off, hundreds of swimmers launching themselves into the calm cool waters, all looking like sharks as the pack headed towards the first buoy.  What a moment!

I got to various points on the course and it was such a joy to see so many different shapes, sizes and ages taking on this race.  I saw the bikes around 70-80 miles into the bike course and I saw all different kinds of emotions, everything else by that point had been stripped away.  There was pain, tears but a lot of smiles and some still clearly loving it.  I had a phenomenal time watching the race, it deeply affected me on many levels.  Its crazy, insane but incredible race.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Ironman wales without a doubt.

So just do it…!

I can’t…

Why………………………………….

Yes I’ve been told on numerous occasions, if you want it badly enough then you’ll just do it.  But I don’t work like that.  I like to think and get my questions answered before I commit to anything.  Is the quest important enough to sacrifice the time away from the family?? I don’t know.  If I was younger, fitter, single no children, this wouldn’t even be dilemma, it would be a yes.  So the very fact that I am contemplating these big issues and giving it careful consideration, does that in itself indicate that I don’t want it enough.  If I really wanted it would I be signed up by now?? That’s how certain views have been presented to  me. I can’t want it enough.  Maybe they’re right.  Or not?!

What I find really interesting is that out of 2,400 women only 255 were women.  Why?  I genuinely would like to know the reasons that only 10% of competitors are women.  I don’t have these answer, all I do know for definite is that women are tough enough, absolutely 100% tough enough.  So again why? Maybe I’m not the only one who would put my dream to one side as I don’t have the confidence in myself, ability or able to put myself first above all of the family.  For sure this would be the ultimate selfish goal.  I don’t mean that in a negative way, we all have a right to be selfish and put ourselves first but what I find comes with being selfish is guilt.  The big ‘G’ and I know this is something that Mum’s suffer with in aspects of life.  How do you get through this?

 Somebody replied to a  tweet along these lines with ‘get a coach who will give you an honest appraisal’. I’ve already got a top notch coach but I love the idea of having an honest appraisal of my life in every area.  How do we work and function as family? Do we work effectively together? I am the only one who feels perhaps home life doesn’t quite work at the moment and how do you talk honestly and openly about these issues and then tackle them?

 I feel like Sunday has opened a can of worms for me.  Possibilities are exciting but practicalities not so much.  I know I can’t take on an Ironman mission without working really hard for good couple of years to build a solid endurance base.  I can’t go from zero to hero as my body is a bit broken in parts and I need to add layer upon layer of endurance and resilience.  I turned 40 this year so I don’t really have time on my side.  I’ve only taken up triathlon over the last couple of years.  For 30 years of my life I pretty much did no sport.  I’ve always enjoyed being outside and being active but never any sports related activities.  I was very ill in my mid 20s with Crohn’s Disease and again in my early 30s with endometriosis.  Diving straight into huge levels of endurance training is just not right for my body, I’m not free of pain but I do manage it. I have  realised though that sport is now really important to me, it gives me a positive outlet that I have not found anywhere else, it boosts my self esteem and helps me manage pain and chronic illnes.

I do have a loose plan for the next couple of years and who knows what might happen.  I definitely feel my kids need to be a little bit older.  This ultimately will give me more freedom and not have to rely on my husband and his work hours so much (don’t even get me started on the ‘I’m stuck in traffic’ scenario).  I need to get the kids doing as much stuff for themselves as well which is not a bad thing for their own self-sufficiency in the future.

I’m not listing a load of negatives here and then just having a moan.  I see these as problems/obstacles which can be solved and over come.  It’s just trying to find the right solutions.  I would be really grateful for anyone’s input and advice but I would particularly value opinions from women who have undertaken Ironman with young children, a job, a home to run and a husband without getting divorced or the kids forgetting who mummy is.  I know the reality of this race is not the glory on the day but the many months of hard work, exhaustion and sacrifice leading up to the race.  Ultimately is it worth it? Why would you put yourself through it? This is just a hobby something that I do in my spare time so can I justify this?  I am not naive, I know the enormity of the undertaking, I do realise that the training could be anything between 15-20 hrs a week and you’re pretty much too knackered to do anything else so please accept that I know this and if anyone has really useful insights and knowledge I would be very interested to know.  Maybe I was just too caught up in the emotion and excitement of the day and should discount going out to play with the big boys!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saundersfoot Sprint Tri – last race of the season

A bit of a break from tradition for me this time around. This is my 5th triathlon but my first in the rain and heavy rain as well.

It’s been interesting few months since Cardiff Tri. I managed to fall over and really hurt my elbow and back with took a month to recover from. Also I had the school summer holidays so training for this race has been minimal. Please remind me that doing a race in early September is not a good idea.

I did Saundersfoot Sprint Tri last year so I knew the course, I was staying with family in Narberth so all in all, preparation was fairly relaxed. The more races I do the more I’ve got a handle on my nerves. Although the races that mean the most to me and that push me well out of my comfort zone, the worse the nerves BUT the achievement is that much sweeter. The only aspect that was putting me on edge all week was the weather. I was on weather watch every day and it was steadily getting worse.  I wasn’t too bothered about the rain but I was worried about the wind.  Big wind = big sea!!

Transition

To ‘control the controllables’ I like to arrive to a race early, minimal stress, set up transition, warm up, wetsuit on then into a sea warmup. This time around though it was chucking it down and I could not face being in the rain any longer than necessary. I got into Saundersfoot at 7am but had a desperate dash to the toilet which took forever. This quite possibly has to be the WORST part of triathlon races, the bloody queues beforehand. This meant quite a big delay by the time I got into transition to set up, get wetsuit on and I could feel my anxiety rising. No time for a warm up but I did manage to get into sea beforehand. This is so important to get the cold water shock out the way. Trying to keep stuff dry in transition was a pain in the ass. I had plastic bags everywhere. I had no supporters there so I left my dry clothes to get changed afterwards in the car – good choice, everything was drenched by the end of race.

Swim 750m – 24:32

A beach start. The organisers had all 700 of us on the beach for the start rather than a funnelled start down the slip like last year. The tide was not as high so that made it easier. The hooter sounded and off we went. I did my usual trick of hanging back and starting slow in the swim. The difference with this swim though was I felt ready and not too scared. A few dolphin dives to get going and I was off. The first few minutes are always a bit sketchy trying to find a rhythm, not get knocked, check your going right way. Quite quickly I saw a few swimmers stick their hand up and I was a bit concerned by this but then all of sudden….I saw them….the icky things I’d been dreading all summer….the stuff I have genuine nightmares over….JELLYFISH! There were a fair few of the buggers, I’m sure I touched one and kept glimpsing them out the corner of eye. I could feel the panic rising. I swam with my head out of the water for a bit as I couldn’t stand seeing them. As I got to deeper water, I saw them underneath me!! My brother in law also raced and he started nearer to the harbour wall where there was more of them. He says he swam through a batch of them. I think if that was me I’d have to be pulled out. I need to find a way of desensitising myself to them. The fear is real. It’s always disorienting swimming down West Wales compared to Barry Island, the difference being is that you can see everything down West and you can’t see naff all in Barry. I’m not quite sure which I prefer ha ha! Even though I was slow I seemed to be in a crowd which I’ve not experienced before. It was fine but trying to avoid the breast stokers was a bit of a job. I’m not overly confident in these situations. It was a bit if stop/start swim as I couldn’t figure out how to overtake. I didn’t mind too much as I found the swim fairly easy, I think I got a bit of a draft but I could have definitely pushed it a bit harder if I’d had a bit of clear water. Relief to get out of water and not be stung by a jelly fish and off I went into T1.

T1 – 5:18

Honestly this was such a pain of a transition. Everything was a ton more difficult in the rain. I couldn’t get my socks on properly, I put on a jacket which was a complete waste of time and it took me AGES to get my cycling gloves on. I wouldn’t usually put gloves on but the bike was so wet and I was worried about handling the brakes and gears in the wet and they definitely helped. Nothing was laid out how I would usually do it as I needed to keep stuff dry, who wants to put on wet shoes and socks??

Bike 20km – 57:16

As soon as you come out of transition, you’re straight into a climb. I’d forgotten how tough these hills were from last year. I was a bit blasé about it beforehand but they are tough. It’s pretty much climbing for 2/3rds of the course. There was lots of traffic and it was still raining. On the big descents it was so wet and I really had to take my time. I was worried about slipping so took it slow. The conditions were not ideal which was a shame. Finally got into T2.

Run 5k 31:28

Again more faffing in T2, getting my trainers out of the bag, taking my gloves and jacket off!!! AND IT WAS STILL RAINING!! The last 2 events I’ve had issues with a bit of numbness in my feet coming off the bike into the run. Not really sure what that’s about. The run course at Saundersfoot is really nice, flat and scenic. Due to everything being the wet, I developed a nasty bit of chaffing in the bottom area from the tri suit. A lesson for next time…lube up! I did try to push it on the run and I actually over took a few! As I crossed the finish line I couldn’t speak but it was awesome to come down the red carpet and hear your name called out. All smiles when it was all over.

Summary

Completed the race in 2:00:34, I knocked 8 minutes off last year and if the conditions had been better, I think I could’ve knocked off a bit more.  However I really don’t seem to get any faster in these sprints, I know I’ve had a few mishaps over the summer, training has been very hit and miss but I think I’ll give the sprint distances a break for a bit (unless the race is more for personal reasons). I really enjoyed Cardiff Tri Olympic distance and it’s a distance I want to focus on again next year. I do have my eye on half Ironman 70.3 as well.  I may not be able to go faster but I may be able to go longer.  A few of my tri friends are taking it on next year and part of me wants to throw caution to the wind and go for it but I also know how much work I need to do. Family life is also a factor to consider. I’m not sure my children are old enough yet to cope with more of my hours thrown at training. I’ve only a small window to play with as well as the ideal time for races is May, June and early part of July, anything later is too stressful with the kids summer holidays.

As the same as last year, the organisation of Saundersfoot tri is spot on, marshall’s are great, local support is fab and I think it’s great value for money. Saundersfoot is a great location and despite my fears of 10ft waves due to increasing wind, the bay was beautifully calm. I’d highly recommend.

That was my last tri of the season, got a couple of bike sportives in the next month and then it’s all over for the winter.  Not sure if I am relieved or disappointed!!

The Big One….

Sunday 24th June 2018, this date has been ingrained in my brain for the last 6 months. Since I signed up to do Cardiff Olympic Triathlon back last November, it’s all I’ve been able to think about. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long but every time over the last few years that I’ve contemplated it my health problems have always stopped me. But yesterday after a 4.10am alarm call (it’s literally obscene these early starts for Triathlon) my long awaited dream came true. I’m still in shock to be honest that I actually did it.

The build up hasn’t been great. I was really down on myself after my last triathlon, I’ve been ill for a couple of weeks following a tummy bug/flu and I’ve been on holiday, so all of this combined, led to massive self doubt, zero confidence and a general sense of dread rather than excitement. So a few days prior to the race I really had to pull myself together and stop all this negative thinking. I’ve been meditating a lot and I’ve been using Headspace ‘competition’ pack which has been so useful. I’ve also been using positive self talk affirmations. I got to the start as nervous as hell but excited and not full of crippling self doubt.

Another beautiful sunny day dawned over Cardiff Bay. I’ve been so lucky with the weather this year. It’s leading to a false sense of security that at all triathlons the sun always shines!!!

Swim – 1.5km

Time – 38.51

This swim has given me nightmares. After my previous sea swim triathlon, which I found really hard, I have been terrified of this swim. Watching the other competitors before me getting in the water and setting out just made me feel sick. When it was my turn to walk the gang plank I felt like running away.

I walked on to the pontoon, looked at the black cold water and jumped!!!! As soon as I hit the water, the nerves were gone. The water was a lovely temperature not cold and Cardiff Bay tasted like a lake and immediately it felt a more comfortable environment to be in rather than the sea. We went on holiday a week before and we stayed next to small Italian lake which I swam in most days. This gave me so much experience and confidence of lake swimming and the water was very similar in Cardiff Bay so straight away I felt at ease. I headed straight towards the back of the pack, splashed around a bit and before I knew it we were off.

I fell behind a bit but I didn’t care. The swim was straight forward, lots of room and the course was so easy to navigate, sighting wasn’t a problem. My biggest worry was that the later competitors behind me would come and knock me about a bit but apart from a couple of mild collisions it was so totally fine, I actually started to enjoy.

I got to the first bouy really easily and came around 2nd bouy and then it was just a long straight back into the bay. I stayed quite wide of everyone and I went off course slightly as I was heading towards the blue inflatables of transition in the distance and not the green inflatables of the finish line but I quickly veered to the left and it was all good.

I dragged myself onto the finishing pontoon and was helped up by two marshals, I did actually feel like having a little lie down at that point as I just could not believe I’d done it. I ran into T2 and could not stop smiling. My husband was there cheering and I just kept shouting, ‘I did it, I did it’!!!

I think after all the terror this was one of highlights for me.

As you can see it wasn’t exactly a straight swim but it was fine.

Bike- 40km

Time – 1.26.41

I ran into T1 and then proceeded to do my usual faffing. I’ve not really found a way to keep my hair in a tidy decent style so I have it tied up high for the swim but then have to untie it as I can’t get my bike helmet on otherwise – a right faff! I managed to get my wet suit off quickly and my already talc-ed up socks on with my bike shoes and off I went.

The bike course is flat and fast and 3 laps. I knew I wanted to keep a consistent time for the 3 laps. I’d driven the course the day before and Cardiff is my home city so it was all straight forward. I got all my nutrition in that I wanted. The only issues I had was I had cramp in my bottom really early on. I think that going off really quickly on the bike in hard gears as the course was flat led to a bit of cramp. Too hard too soon maybe?? Needed a bit of high cadence to warm up first?? Not sure really. It eased off after about 30 mins or so. I really enjoyed being surrounded by so many riders and the closed roads were epic! There were moments of long straight flat traffic free road where you could just go for it, it was just amazing! The 3 laps flew by. The U turns were a bit tricky and had to slow right down for those. Something to practice for the future. The 3 laps whizzed by and before I knew it I was staggering into T2 and ready for the run.

Run–10k

Time- 57.42

T2 was easy peasy and straight into the run. I grabbed my 2 energy gels and off I went. I’ve done a a fair few bricks but this transition was hard. My right foot had gone a bit numb on the bike and when I started to run, I was really suffering with my feet and as always my lower calf’s. This eased off after about 15 minutes into run. As runs go, it was flat and quite enjoyable. It was gloriously sunny and I really enjoy being in a crowd with all the other runners. First 5k was quite long but by the second 5k I was into the flow of it. The energy gels helped. I fell into pace with two other women on the course and that really helped me. I’m much better when I’m running with others. The last 10 mins were tough, I was hot, the finish line was getting nearer but I still had to keep going.

I had some great support on the run, my husband was on the course the whole time but by the time my run had started the rest of my family had joined him. My in laws brought Isabella and Joseph and it was fantastic seeing everyone. I saw some friends and the crowds were amazing.

Into the last 5 mins and I came around the corner, I saw a friend from running club, cheering me in, a friend from work cheering and I started to get all emotional. Into the finishing straight and I was over the line.

INCREDIBLE!!!

Total time – 3 hours & 9 mins.

The race was beyond all my expectations. From the very start Always Aim High Events did not disappoint. The organisation was superb. An important factor for me was the safety cover on the swim course and you couldn’t have asked for anything better. Every time I looked up there were kayakers everywhere. Even when we watched the elite races later, there was someone who seemed to struggle right from the start, within seconds there was a kayaker right next him. The marshalls were fab, the signage & routes were clear and well thought out. For £90 or so you would expect this high level of organisation so I’m pleased the event was extremely well run.

Post Race

I can’t quite believe I’ve done it. It’s yet to sink in. It was phenomenal! I was having a crisis of faith before this event that maybe Triathlon wasn’t for me but this race just confirmed how much I love it. Throughout the race and really almost as soon as I got in the water, I knew I could do it, I knew I had it in me. This is testament to the training I have been doing. This wouldn’t have been possible without the quality coaching I’ve received from Lawrence Cronk and Whittlefit. I’ve been following a coaching plan for 6 months and it has been nothing short of amazing. The whole experience has been a revelation and a huge learning curve, I knew pretty much nothing about training for triathlon but Lawrence created a training plan for me which pushed my limits but was realistic, something that fitted into my family life. Having a coach has taken the weight off my shoulders in terms of thinking and planning. That in itself buys you time and in our busy lives, time is precious and to me it’s beyond valuable. I had a straight forward answer to every single query I came up with and I definitely had a few which again is so valuable to have a reliable source for information. I trained hard and raced easy. This originally was supposed to be a 40th birthday present to myself but I’ve loved every second and I really don’t want the journey to end here. I’m going to continue with the coaching as it’s makes me a happier person and I love doing some I enjoy. This journey has been a massive boost to my self esteem and confidence. I’m a 40 year old working mother of 2 with dodgy insides and endometriosis. If I can do it then anyone can. The biggest question now is….what’s next????

Lastly but by no means less least, I raised over £850 for Velindre. This by far exceeded all expectations. I been blown away by my family & friends generosity. I re-read all of my support messages before the race and it gave me a massive boost.

After the race we all hung around Cardiff Bay & even managed to get some bubbly. What a fantastic day!

Barry Island Sprint Triathlon

A truck load of gear and a 4.30am alarm call can only mean one thing – TRIATHLON RACE!!

A beautiful day dawned over the equally beautiful Whitmore Bay, Barry Island ready for the inaugural SWYD Sprint Triathlon created by Simon Webb and Mathew Pritchard of All or Nothing Events.

After a lot pre race preparation I arrived calm and ready for an awesome race. I like to get there early into Transition, rack my bike, lay out all my things without adding to the stress by rushing. I had a clear plan of a warm up and getting into my wetsuit and spending some time in the sea. This worked really well. Took away the cold water shock and made it far easier when it was time to enter the water at the start of the race. I’ve been working particularly hard on acclimatising and have spent every Sunday for the last few weeks sea swimming and working my way through my fear and feelings of panic.

The organisers throughout the build up to the race worked on creating a fun, welcoming and accessible race. No question or query was left unanswered, they offered organised sea swims and have been so generous with their time and working with the community. I believe through this they created a race with a real ‘heart’ bringing athletes, marshals, family and the public together to celebrate a great morning of sport at the iconic Barry Island. I felt proud to be part of their day. A vast majority of the athletes stayed for the presentations and we all cheered the last athlete in who had valiantly been going for over 3 hours. The race organisers were determined that she finished and got the biggest cheer of the day which she richly deserved. I hope Simon and Mathew develop All or Nothing Events and continue to host amazing races.

Swim

A 750m sea swim in Whitmore Bay in a triangle formation.

The Bristol Channel has the 2nd biggest tidal range in the world and goodness me the currents at Whitmore Bay are STRONG! We were advised to head left to the first buoy and keep it to the right of us. As you can see from the photo many were having to turn and cut in to swim around the buoy as the current was pushing us so far right. It took me a while to get to the first bouy but I kept very far left so had no issues getting around. The straight to the next buoy was ok, I am a slow swimmer and had plenty of clear water and I was swimming in a steady rhythm. The trouble started after the right turn around the 2nd bouy and there was a diagonal swim back to shore. The current kept pushing me right. Every time I sighted I wasn’t getting any nearer to the shore, just further across. It was a real struggle and I could feel myself starting to panic, I felt I was never getting back to shore. I made it in the end and I was just relieved. I am not sure how I ended up so far off course. I staggered out of the sea and there was a few hundred metre run off the beach, up a hill and into transition. By this time I’m nearly blowing a gasket and starting to feel really sick. Far too much faffing in transition but I managed to get myself out and on the bike relieved that the hardest part was over.

Bike 20km

On to my happy place – the bike. By far my favourite and strongest leg of a tri. I felt strong and managed to make a bit of time after such a poor swim. I averaged 14mph which is a fastest speed for me so far. It was a fairly hilly course but nothing too strenuous. The traffic lights were extremely annoying and it seems that a fair few drivers were determined to show us cyclists who’s the boss on the roads and I seen some ridiculous and unnecessary close passes. I also took on an energy gel in the last 10 minutes of race ready for the run. One last push on a hill to finish and straight into T2.

Run 5k

Transition straight into the run. I had a right faff with elastic laces the night before the race so stuck with my normal laces. I don’t think it added much to my transition time though. Run was straight forward. Very scenic coming around the old harbour. I lost count of the members of public who gave me a cheer and said well done, keep going. That was really lovely. The run took you past the finish line on lap 1 which was quite hard mentally to run past the crowds cheering and then keep going past the finish line and up a hill! By the time I was on the finishing straight I was really psyched to finish. The cheers, the crowd, the organisers high fiving, my name being called by the compere as I finished really was a thrilling moment.

Finish

Amazing medal and wicked goodie bag! What a finish!

Summary

Overall the race was thrilling and everything I hoped it would be. It’s my home turf and I knew so many competitors it was fantastic. Most of my previous races have been away and I’ve always started on my own. Today was really special to share it with so many friends. I was really rooting for All or Nothing events and I hope they’re proud of their successes. I’m also proud of the network of fellow triathletes I’ve managed to build over the last few months. I love meeting people and getting to know them. I’ve met some top people over the last 6 months including my running club, Rhoose Runners who have so much patience with my slow running. I’ve also a great network of female friends who are into triathlon.

In terms of performance, I’m disappointed. I did not do well on the swim and that just impacts on everything. I’m training for an Olympic distance triathlon which I’ve training for over 5 months. I knew I had the distances in me today based on my training. I’m happy with bike and run and felt I could definitely go longer on both. But ultimately it’s make or break in the swim. I’m struggling with this and I really can’t see a way forward with this now. Why can I swim decently in a pool (not fast though) but not in open water? It’s too late for Cardiff Tri now I just hope that it’s a slightly less tough swim as the currents won’t be as strong but equally it’s double the distance.

‘Comparison is the thief of joy’

I firmly believe in this quote but it’s really hard at races where times are published. You know how hard you’ve worked and how far you’ve come to but compared to my peers I didn’t do well in my opinion.

On a personal note, I’m in pain, lots of….hoping this eases over the next few days. I’m extremely grateful it’s a rest day tomorrow followed by more sodding swimming on Tuesday ha ha!! But I must not forget how truly lucky I am to be able to take part in events like this. I always finish with a smile and looking back at the photos I am clearly loving it. I’m not going to dwell on the negatives but take the positives ready for Cardiff Tri in a few short weeks.

****my uttermost heart felt condolences go to the family of the man who lost his life yesterday. It was very very sad and my thoughts are with the family*******

10ks, Pool rage and my Inner Chimp

Bike: 442km

Swim: 20,235m

Run: 126

Injury: Hurt my abs, sore knee!

Money raised: £587

The other week started off so well, I had a great ride with a cycling club and I ran my first ever 10k!!!!!!!!!!!

The ‘social/beginner’ ride was great we rode around 12mph and I did 36 miles. It was my first proper experience riding with a club and riding as a group as well.  The conditions on the roads were not great as it was a week after the heavy snowfall so some of the quieter lanes that are usually great for cycling had a lot of debris on the road, floods and massive pot holes.  I was exhausted just by the sheer concentration required.  I had some great coaching at the back and the ride leaders did a great job of keeping everyone together.  The only problem going forward is that they only offer these sessions once a month and I’m not good enough yet for a ‘steady’ ride which ups the pace and the mileage.  I’m really looking forward to the next one.  For cyclists out there who are really experienced, never underestimate how much it is valued to coach another less experienced cyclist.  It’s all about building confidence and I was buzzing after that ride.

Well I was completely taken by surprise by my first 10k. I went out with my usual running club and we went a bit further than usual but the 2 mega hills en route just took my mind off the distance.  I was so surprised to get to 9k and I was nearly home so I made sure I did another KM to get to the 10k.

I know to seasoned runners this doesn’t seem like a big deal but to me it’s massive, huge!   For the many years that I was struggling with pain from Endometriosis, running was never a possibility, even when I did exercise, the pain in my groin was unbearable so to accomplish 10k, just over a year post laparoscopy is amazing.  But (there is always a ‘but’), turns out I really hurt my lower abdominals.  My stomach swelled and I looked 6 months pregnant, it wasn’t pleasant.  It’s an unpleasant reminder that I’ve had by tummy muscles cut into 4 times in surgery.  There is always a sting in the tail somewhere.  I had to take a few days off training to let it settle down and as much as I hate the snow, it did give me chance to rest my poorly abs.  I was also struggling with a cold, sore throat and ears so was pill popping Echinacea all week.

I tried to focus on doing what makes me feel better including meditation, lots of sleep, Epsom baths etc. I also attended a coffee morning at a friend’s about DoTerra Essential Oils and had some samples to try which have been very therapeutic, do look them up, I found it all very fascinating and the smells from the potent and pure oils were unbelievable.   I met an incredibly inspirational lady who now manages her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia in a more natural and holistic way.  I’m determined to keep helping myself.  I find there are many alternative therapies out there to try and many with great benefits.  Although keeping yourself healthy whilst managing a chronic illness and taking responsibility for your own health is very expensive.   I don’t think we live in world that encourages us to take care of our own health, just pop some painkillers which cost pennies or spend £50 on an acupuncture session?  I totally understand why health care professionals charge so much for their time, it’s their hard earned expertise that they are sharing but this is not a solution for the many who cannot afford services like this.  Again though the debate could lead to, well what do we chose to prioritise?  Is our health something we take for granted?  By having the NHS does that make us expect all of our health care to be for free?  Taking away our individual responsibility in how we live our lives?  I’ve spent hundreds of pounds over the last few years on alternative therapies and private health care.  It’s worth it to me as it has given me a better quality of life but I feel lucky that I had the option.   It does come at a cost to our overall family income though and we’ve had to cut back in other ways.

Anyway back to the training which proceeded to go downhill after my run. I managed a turbo but swimming was a complete disaster.  I’m really struggling to find quiet times in the pool to get 60-70 lengths done to the point where I was having pool rage last week.  I quite possibly had the 2 worst pool sessions ever.  The first session was a club session that just didn’t work out and I quickly aborted so the less said about that the better.  The second session I went to a local leisure centre and was swimming by 8.15am before work.  Everything was going swimmingly (!!), I was in the fast section of the pool and it was only me and 3 others so plenty of room.  Then a gang of young lads came in and it looked like they’d come in post gym for a cool off so of course being young men, they came straight to the fast section, plonked themselves right in the middle of everyone and proceeded to swim (not very well) in everyone’s way.  There were at least 5 of them.  A couple of older men got out in disgust but I had to get my training session in as I’d already missed one swim already that week.  When you’re swimming front crawl, you can’t see anything so I was scared I was going to crash and hurt myself.  At one point when they’d exhausted themselves with 2 lengths of breast stroke, they all lined up against the wall at the end and it was very intimidating.  I just don’t understand why they would’ve done this.  Ideally I’d like to join a club but I don’t think I’m good enough yet, I’m certainly not fast (although faster than those idiots).  It’s not that I want the pool to myself, I don’t mind a busy pool but it’s useful if everyone is there to swim properly and consistently and understands pool etiquette.

After this and my sore abs, I felt really fed up and to the point of chucking it all in. I regularly have people tell me in a very caring way that all of this might be too much for me.  This upsets me in that I start to doubt myself.  What if that is true and I’m putting too much strain on my body?  Why am I bothering to dedicate so much time to this if all I get in reward is pain and pool rage?  I messaged a triathlon friend and had a bit of a moan and she was really helpful with some good advice.  She also said that I should read ‘The Chimp Paradox’, which I actually own but have never read.  She said that my chimp’s cage has been rattled by all of this.  She then went on to describe hers; she’d given it a name and a persona.  It definitely had me laughing and I’ve decided to work on mine to try and recognise the behaviour.  So far I’ve come with this:

Penelope

Has a tendency towards the melodramatic

Will turn any kind of ache and pain into a catastrophe.

Has ‘imposter’ syndrome.

Is quick to judge, self righteous and is always right.

Stubborn

She thinks I’m old, fat and should stop mess around with a vain attempt at trying to compete in Triathlon when I’m only going to look stupid. I should dedicate more time to being a wife and mother.  Oh and you really need to take up yoga and just be happy with that.

Well, you wouldn’t want to meet her, would you?? As we all do we try and balance our negatives with the more pleasant aspects of our personality. Equally I think some of the attributes above lend themselves to me being driven, focussed, not willing to give up, just depends on what kind of day I’m having I suppose and who wins the inner self talk.  We’re almost talking self sabotage here.  Something to be aware of I think.  We need to be our own best cheer leaders and to channel the negative self talk into something more positive.  I am going to give the book a go as I find the psychology of this very interesting.

I have no control over Endometriosis but I do have control over the way I live my life. I will do this triathlon!