Training for Cardiff Half and the falling of the first leaves of Autumn


It’s my favourite season at last.

There’s nothing I like more than Autumn, although like many things in my life I have a love hate relationship with it.

The falling of the leaves and stunning colours mean the return of snuggly jumpers, thick duvets and cuddling under thick blankets, but it also means the end of summer – meaning no more coral nail vanish, flip-flops and beer gardens.

I love Autumn fashion. I find it easier to dress myself with the layers, colourful prints and return of the little black dress making dressing effortless with an ostomy. It’s not that I feel that uncomfortable in the summer, Autumn just suits me better.

But while the first fall of the leaves welcomes in my favourite and most breathtaking time of year, it also means dragging myself out of bed to run in the cold, wind and dark….which is not very fun at all.

I realise I haven’t blogged since I ran the Cardiff 10k.

It might have only been a few weeks ago but it was so hot it felt like I was running in the height of summer, despite the heat and a few training hiccups and injuries on the way I did pretty damn well.

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I finished the race with a sprint – looking far from pretty – in under 59 minutes. Not my best ever 10k but pretty good for how nervous, hot and bothered and confused I was.

Next week is the Cardiff Half and my training has been rocky to say the least.

The start of Autumn, with some confusing hot days, has led to a weird cold and stuffy feeling. I also had some sort of virus which made me dizzy – and a brace fitted making me feel like crap and behave like a total cow in heat for a few days.

But after a few very disappointing runs, on Tuesday I dragged myself out in the dark and plodded around 15K in 1hr 30min, my furthest run to date – very proud indeed.

I just hope that I stay well for the next few days, avoid the heavy drinking which seems to come hand in hand with the stresses of work, watching the rugby of a weekend, and well everything at the moment, and perhaps get some sleep.

I have started to fall in love with running.

Next year I’d like to do a marathon – perhaps then I won’t be so enamoured.

If you’d like to sponsor me for my running challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis UK please click here 

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Ostomy on the run – and a wealth of injuries on the way #cardiff10k


 

IMG_0979In just a few hours I will be running the Cardiff 10k.

While my fitness has shot through the roof since I moved to Wales, having become obsessed with weights at the gym, I’m getting the feeling I’m going to be hobbling over the finish line.

Over the past three weeks I’ve been blighted with twinges in my abdomen, and earlier last week (horrifyingly) I had a few hours where I couldn’t seem to sit down without feeling stabs of pain.

Ironically for all the ridiculous weighted sit ups I’ve been putting my body through it was a run that caused it (well I think it was).

It all started after a 14k run – the longest on my own – where I felt 100% fine and got an amazing time (well for me anyway) making me feel all so proud.

Well, until I was suddenly in agony!

Shortly after I arrived home I started getting stabbing pains in my pelvis or lower abdomen, for days after it felt like pressure was building up in my abdomen and pelvis….all very uncomfortable and very, very odd.

So I signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon – and then thought that wasn’t enough let’s do the Cardiff 10K too.

Horrific mistake.

My body has tried everything to collapse under me since I took up this new challenge, it seems to want to try and throw my training out of the window.

But right now I seem to be ok (famous last words)….

Thankfully, following some antibiotics, the pains seem to have subsided and I am back in action.

This week I managed to knock 25 seconds off my best 10k, and I’m on track to do the 10k tomorrow in under 59 minutes – if nothing goes wrong of course.

https://connect.garmin.com/activity/embed/887013082

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with running.

I have days where I’m in the zone, motivated and nothing can stop me on my mission towards my half marathon goal, on other days my legs feel like jelly, my stomach twinges around my stoma, and everything from ducklings, my mobile phone, hair, and the thought of a glass of wine tempts me to stop sooner than I should.

I often think I look pretty hot while running, with my bright pink kit, but I think the couples dining in the Bay would say I look frankly gross (I often do my sprint finish right in front of people enjoying romantic meals, sorry!)

To say I’m not a sexy runner would be an understatement. I often totally forget people can see me: I mouth random words to songs, sweat profusely, get hair in my mouth, and well seem to always get a fly in my eye.

But there again if you look good you can’t be doing it property, right?

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Anyway tomorrow will be my second ‘race’ since my ileostomy operation. A few months ago I did the back to the stadium 10k which finished in the Olympic Stadium.

It was an unbelieveable experience, but backbreakingly hot. I finished the race in 1hr 1min and something, which was gutting as I had been doing 10k in under an hour.

Anyway tomorrow’s race – which I’ve combined with the half to raise cash for Crohn’s and Colitis UK – will kick start my real training in the run up to the half.

I’m determined to get a good time next month, the last time I ran a half marathon was the Great North Run at the height of a Colitis flare. I was so tiny, exhausted, and my training had been sporadic due to illness and hospitalisation.

I only managed to stumble round due to the support of kind strangers who were also running for Crohn’s and Colitis and ran alongside me, pushing me on, encouraging me and sharing their loved ones’ stories.

This time I am the fittest I’ve ever been, happy and motivated, and I’m getting a little bit addicted to smashing personal bests.

I want (have) to prove what I can do without this illness. I want to show my own body that anything is possible and that with my ostomy I can make it all the way round the course without going to the loo – a miracle.

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Meanwhile my sister (who is a self confessed non runner) will be taking on the GNR to raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. I’m beyond proud of her, and hope she gets round in one piece and with a big smile on her face.

Anyway, good luck to everyone running the GNR or Cardiff 10k, especially if you’re doing it for Crohn’s or any Ostomy charities….I’ll be rooting for you!

If you want to follow my training I will be putting a new section on my blog for you to follow my progress, and as per usual if anyone has any tips on exercising/ running with an ostomy please share.

And, just in case you are feeling generous, here is my Justgiving page.

https://www.justgiving.com/Rachel-Flint

 

 

 

Running with an ostomy – getting ready for challenge 66


Not my best look - post run

Not my best look – post run

All my life I’ve dreamt of running a marathon, but I’ve never got round to it. There are all kinds of reasons why I’ve never signed up for one – including laziness, and the fact I’m rubbish at disciplined training regimes – but the main thing that has been holding me back has always been my IBD, and now that has all but vanished I guess I’ve run out of genuine excuses.

As you have probably gathered I’m no couch potato. Even at the height of my most serious flares I have forced myself to do exercise, sometimes with disastrous consequences, including fainting and blackouts. I’ve learnt the hard way that pushing your body to the limit when you have lost a serious amount of weight and your body is already battling to survive can be incredibly dangerous. But I have always, and will probably continue to have, had a very stupid habit of ignoring my body’s cries for help – I almost seem to be hell-bent on punishing myself for everything, even when there is no reason to.

Bend and stretch :)

Bend and stretch 🙂

I’m no fitness fanatic, but I love exercise. At times I am lazy but most of the time I live to swim, dance, run, basically anything that gives me that satisfyingly free feeling. Exercise makes me feel good about myself. And, at times, when my illness has been at its height, it has helped; mostly as a distraction from the pain, but often as just a way for me to relax and let off steam. A few years ago I swam 120 lengths every single morning (or evening). I was the fittest and most relaxed I had ever been, and I did find that it helped me to manage my illness, simply by relieving some of the stress from work – the problem is I did go a little bit over the top with it.

If you don’t believe the full extent of my pig-headed stubbornness, what follows is an example of me pushing myself to the extreme.

At the hight of my last full flare, in the year leading up to my operation, I ran The Great North Run. Yes, great idea Rachel. I struggled around the whole course, my whole body feeling like it was going to disintegrate into the tarmac. If it hadn’t have been for the amazing people who were also running for Crohn’s and Colitis UK who ran next to me, shouted words of encouragement and told me their stories, I probably would have given up a quarter of the way round. I needed the toilet constantly and had to force myself to keep running, made even harder by my injured leg wrecked by a crippling bout of cramp the night before, which left me hardly able to walk on the morning of the race.

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/local-news/chronicle-reporter-runs-great-north-2651519

Hobbling (well crawling) over the finish line was one of the proudest moments of my life. I’ve never felt so relieved. I could hardly speak, move or breathe, (and struggled for days after) but weirdly enough, despite the pain and agony, a part of me wanted to do it all over again. I guess the exhilaration and sense of achievement is addictive.

Me and sister Hannah after finishing the GNR

Me and sister Hannah after finishing the GNR

That was my first competitive run. I’ve often thought of doing another, potentially a longer one, but I just couldn’t begin to comprehend how my Colitis would cope with a run like that again. On the day of the GNR I had to do everything in my power to keep my body in order and my diarrhea at bay. Often the pain in my abdomen was agonising and it took all the will I could muster to not give up. I can’t imagine what would have happened if that had been a marathon – no number of toilets in the world would have been good enough in that situation – I would have either given up or died trying.

But now that I have my stoma things are very different. Yes, I guess I am still within the recovery period and so shouldn’t be attempting anything ridiculous, but in the past few weeks I have started to run again and it feels fantastic. I’m almost back to the fitness levels I had before, and I’m more motivated than ever. Yesterday I got up at 7.30am (yes on a Saturday) and ran 2k (I know that’s not far) averaging six-minute a Kilometre – which for me is pretty damn good. I feel happier, I’m eating better, and putting on weight, which after being so tiny for so long is a weird feeling and one that is a massive learning curve to get used to.

Ok, last year I did the Santa Dash (so a little bit of a competitive run) for The Countess of Chester BabyGrow Appeal. Which was exhausting as we were boiling in our outfits and I dragged Andy along as a lego man!!! But that’s no marathon, it’s more of a sprint.

After the Santa Dash

After the Santa Dash

But now, I’ve decided it’s time to start planning for my Challenge 66. Steady on, I hear you say, wasn’t Challenge 66 Cheese Rolling? Yes, it was, but I realised the other day that cheese rolling is part of the Visit England Challenges – massive error to duplicate challenges – so I have changed it to a marathon. Whether this was a size move remains to be seen, but it is on the list now, so as they say my fate lies with the Gods.

I’m taking this very seriously. I’ve bought myself a Garmin watch (other brands are available) and I’m going to be sharing my progress, good and bad, with you. I aim to run at least three times during the week and once at the weekend, and hope to do at least 12K every week, come rain or shine.

But I need your advice. I’m obviously going to be running for Crohns and Colitis UK, but I also want to raise cash for Ostomy Aid, so the big question is, which marathon should I do? Let me know which ones you have done and which have the best routes, atmosphere etc? I wouldn’t mind doing one abroad, as long as it isn’t too hot, cold, or humid that is. I mean I may swell get a holiday out of it, right?

First swim with my stoma – the best feeling in the world


This weekend I felt truly free for the first time since my hospitalization six months ago.The bizarre thing is that although I have been feeling more human than I ever have during the 13 years I have suffered from IBD, ever since my operation I haven’t felt truly myself. It hasn’t been because I’ve been mourning my large bowel, or feeling unattractive – having my bag doesn’t make me any less attractive, if anything it has given me more confidence than I’ve ever had in my life – it’s because I haven’t been able to swim.

My lovely family - fish and chips at the fish quay

My lovely family – fish and chips at the fish quay

I know that might sound ridiculous, of all the things that have happened and I haven’t been able to do since the operation – from the very start where I couldn’t walk, wash or eat properly to struggling to comprehend an intimate relationship with my ostomy bag – that I would find the inability to swim the most restricting thing. But I really have.

Before my operation it didn’t matter how much pain I was in, how much blood there was or vomiting, all I wanted to do was to swim. Nothing would stop me getting into that water, putting my head down and going hell-for-leather down the middle lane. No amount of pain, blood and guts would stop me swimming. Swimming gave me exercise, focus and a way to get rid of stress. When I swam I felt the whole world drift away, any worry from work, home, hobbies, community projects just fell off my shoulders and into the pool and my mind would be free, unable to focus on anything apart from the repetitiveness of counting the number of lengths and, sometimes, annoyingly, dodging screaming kids.

Although some people would argue intensive exercise is not good for people during a UC/Crohns flare-up…from my experience I would argue the opposite. Running, jogging, hiking and dancing have always helped to give me focus on something other than the pain, and to ease stress – usually the trigger and exasperater of my particular disease. My main problem has always been over doing it. Usually by the time I’ve stopped swimming I’m sweating, which is something that’s puzzled a lot of people – just how do you sweat under water?

Anyway, normally swimming post surgery is not a problem. Ok its advisable and necessary to wait for any open wounds to heal and to not over do exercise in the first few months after an operation, and to basically take it easy – you don’t want to suddenly decide to become Michael Phelps over night. For me it wasn’t about fear but a great bit gaping scar that just would not heal and could not be submerged in water. Even a shower caused chaos – but there was no way I was going without them.

As I told you in the previous blog entry, despite still having my fistula pumping out gunk (into a bag, no hygiene risks here) my surgeon gave me the green light to submerge myself last week. He said I would be “fine” to swim and bathe, but to be sensible. So naturally at the first opportunity I went shopping for swim suits that flatter my new figure…only to be left almost crying on Chester’s high street as I realised no where stocked nice swim suits or high-waisted bikinis in the depths of Autumn – there’s simply not the demand.

The perfect coat shopping at Fenwick's in Newcastle

The perfect coat shopping at Fenwick’s in Newcastle

I was even left disappointed by Next’s catalogue range. I’d pictured lowering myself into the glimmering waters wearing a 50s inspired high-waisted bikini or a more Victorian ask bathing suit with stripes and all that jazz – I’m so nostalgic at the moment, I blame it on Mad Men – but the two viable options in the catalogue left me feeling far from inspired. It was a shame as I had been pinning my hopes on Next after a few tweets from ostomy societies and ostomates recommending them for their fab costume range.

Anyway, despite not being able to find my dream confidence-boosting costume my boyfriend booked us both a hotel with a swimming pool for our trip to visit my sister in Newcastle for her birthday. So after a rest on Friday night following the long drive I donned my very old post surgery swimming costume and went for a morning dip. Although my swimming costume didn’t exactly flatter my new body, with the lycra clinging around my ostomy bag, it didn’t really draw attention to it either. At first I have to admit that I was very self-conscious about it, pulling a towel around my waist to hide my stomach and bag, but once I got into the water I couldn’t have cared less.

Once in it was like I was alive again. I tentatively lowered myself in terrified that my bag might float off my skin or my fistula bag would fill up with water and fall off. But once I was in I had no concerns, but trying to stop myself going mental doing hundreds of lengths and giving myself a hernia. It was tempting, I was soon back into my natural rhythm, but after 20 blissful lengths I forced myself to give in – exhausted and realising I was working muscles that, well, hadn’t been used in months.

Very hungry after my morning swim

Very hungry after my morning swim

I’ve never been happier. I went swimming again on Sunday morning, doing 30 lengths at a fantastic pace, racing in between crowds of kids and generally getting back to my own good old self. I can’t wait to go swimming again, but with everything that’s going on now I don’t think that’s going to be for a while.

First run with my ostomy – my love of exercise


Talking about exercising with a stoma after putting on my running shoes for the first time since my ileostomy operation. I may have only managed 1 mile but it’s a start eh?

Also talking about how exercise helped me battle my Crohn’s/Colitis. I’m not saying its a cure, but it was therapeutic and helped me to relax and feel good about myself while my body was dealing with so much crap and basically battling to survive.

I’ll be back running half marathons and raising thousands of pounds for charities in no time right?

Bend and stretch :)

Bend and stretch 🙂

Exercise with a stoma – me & Winnie and the joys of moving and shaking


It’s official, me and Winnie (my temperamental stoma bag) are back in the saddle.

Me and a very naughty petting pony in Chester

Me and a very naughty petting pony in Chester

Ok, so before you go shielding your children’s innocent eyes from my blog post and blocking this site using parent protection, I have to make it clear that this post is not about my sex life…I’m afraid it’s much more boring than that (sorry guys), today I’m going to talk about getting on my bike and exercising despite my temperamental stoma.

So if you read my last post about my appointment at the surgeons you’ll know that I have been feeling a bit down in the dumps over the past few days. Well, if I’m going to be completely honest, that’s a bit of an understatement. The way I’ve been feeling is totally down-and-out depressed. I’ve been feeling totally confused about my body, about my disease and about my future. I’ve been feeling like everything is working against me to stop me healing and being able to embrace the normal, amazing and pain-free life, where I wouldn’t clock the toilets the moment I walked into a building, which I was promised I would have after my operation. Basically, I have still been feeling better and weller (I know still not a word) than I did before the birth of Winnie, but recently I’ve pictured myself standing in an open square, throwing my arms out and screaming “I’ve had 13 years of the godforsaken disease, pain and vomiting, give me A BREAK!!!”

Last time something stopped me running/ swimming

Last time something stopped me running/ swimming

Anyway, anyway, anyway, despite feeling like an emotional yo-yo and forcing my friends and extremely understanding boyfriend to tip-toe around me like I’m a ticking-time bomb, a few days ago I decided it was time for me to try to start to build up my muscles again and get exercising! Ok, so it’s not like for the past 12 weeks I have sat in sweat pants and stuffed my face with takeaway and chocolates (I wish), so please don’t get the impression that my longing to start exercising was triggered by some sort of lose weight fast or crazy body image issue where I see myself in the mirror as a giant whale – I have to make it clear here that I KNOW I AM TINIE TINY!! The idea to start trying to exercise again was not brought about by vanity or self-loathing, but by the itching to start moving again and the longing to feel that satisfying burn that tears through your muscles after a really tough workout is over.

Ok, so maybe I am lying a little bit about the vanity thing!

If I’m going to be honest with you (and if I’m not, what’s the point in this blog? seriously?), 70% of my idea to exercise was health related – to help get my muscles, body and bones (due to my osteoporosis) stronger, and transform my twig-like legs back to their stronger, half-marathon selves – and 30%, I have to admit, was more to do with pride.

Ok, so I know that sounds ridiculous, so let me explain. This weekend me and a group of my girlfriends are heading to Centre Parks for a couple of days of girly fun and laughter without the prying eyes of the male species (well I am sure there will be boys in the vicinity, otherwise that would be weird). This will be my first ever weekend away with my friends – EVER! I know, I’m so sad, I never went mad and took part in one of those mental booze-fuelled rampages to Ibiza in my youth. I never felt the need to get bladdered abroad, drinking out of funnels and having shots off naked bodies – I totally missed out on that one, I don’t think i was in that sort of crowd, and to be fair I don’t think my IBD would have let me go even if I’d wanted to. Instead I stuck with the family caravan trips, where we visited every historic monument in Britain, got flooded out of camp site, ate biscuits in bed and even dressed-up in bin bags in public. My childhood holiday memories are made up of me leaving my sister to drown as the tent filled with water, waking to find sheep carrying us down a very steep hill, and many many paddies that I can’t remember exactly why I threw!! Ah memories!! (At the time I didn’t appreciate those holidays enough, now I wish I had)

Anyway, where was I? The Centre Parks trip was booked months before I realised that my surgery (that I knew was going to happen) was imminent. When we booked the trip I was seriously ill but still incredibly active. Despite the crippling pain and exhausting fatigue which filled my bones I still loved nothing more than to exercise. I have always been that way. No matter how ill I get I still find the energy to get my bum off the sofa and do a bit of jumping about. In fact I find it helps my illness. Exercise makes me feel happy…it makes me feel in control when everything else is spiralling downhill at an incredibly fast rate. When I’m at my worst getting motivated can be hard, but the hardest step is getting out of the front door in between the toilet visits, once I’ve passed that hurdle and started running/swimming/cycling, I can run/swim/cycle for forever (well not forever) without letting my Crohns/Colitis cross my mind. You could say that exercising is the only time when I feel free, that I feel my illness comes second and I come first.

So, I’d been really looking forward to this trip until we had a meeting to discuss activities a few weeks ago. This is when the realisation that this was not the average relaxing holiday lounging around drinking wine or exploring monuments finally hit home. I really don’t know what I had been expecting or what I thought Centre Parks was, but I really didn’t expect that we would be spending our few days of blissful girliness zip wiring, jumping off cliffs and racing around a forest. Everyone else was really enthusiastic as my friend read out the activities, but I kept saying “oh that sounds energetic” or “not for me”…and you know what, I hated myself for it! Usually

A daring but very painful experience in the month before surgery - extremely ill but determined to enjoy myself

A daring but very painful experience in the month before surgery – extremely ill but determined to enjoy myself

I would be the first one to jump onboard with the craziness and fling myself off a rock face or something equally energetic (as long as it was certified as safe), and I hated hearing my little wining voice winging about how little I could do because of my op. Even the cycling seemed out of the question with my open wound, stoma and fistula…I left the meeting without putting my name down for any of the activities, in fact I wasn’t even sure how I was going to get around as I didn’t even know if I would be able to cycle! I went back to my flat devastated with an image of me sitting in the villa alone all day while my friends did fun-filled activities, waiting for them to get back before asking how their days had been…STUPID OPERATION!!!

But I was determined this wasn’t going to happen, I was going to have fun even if I couldn’t throw myself off a cliff or zip to my death down a ridiculously high wire. So I broached the subject with my surgeon (who I adore) and to my amazement he said I could do light exercise, just as long as I didn’t forget I had had major surgery. I mean, like I’m going to forget, I’ve got a flaming stoma bag to remind me every second of every day. I heard my heart-break into a million pieces when he said I wouldn’t be able to swim because of my open scar…I knew it was no good pleading so I just sat looking dewy-eyed and upset, hoping it would at least make him feel like the most evil person in the world. You see swimming is my most favourite thing in the entire world, I find that no matter how much stress or how much pain I’m in all my troubles float away when I get in the water and I can swim for hours on end at an absurdly rapid pace with the only thought bobbing through my mind being did I do 26 or 27 lengths…if I don’t concentrate on counting I quickly forget and have to go back to the lowest number.

swimming in the ocean - happy days pre surgery

swimming in the ocean – happy days pre surgery

But he did say I would be able to cycle. But I didn’t want to find out I couldn’t mount the damn thing in front of all my friends or get on and wobble around and fall off with my bum in the air exposing Winnie to the world. Basically I didn’t want to be humiliated. So on Monday I got on my bike for the first time in, well, forever. I have to say I was excited and petrified! The last time I got on my bike I was on a busy main road (I don’t know why we started out there DOH) and I was wobbling around all over the place. This time we went to an abandoned (well not quite abandoned sorry guy who owned Landrover I almost hit, I wasn’t sure if the look was pity or annoyance you gave me from behind the wheel), to get me used to the motion and to see if I could even get on the seat with all my bags dangling off my utility belt! I had this weird image of me getting Winnie stuck on the handlebars or her falling off as I whipped along the bumpy tarmac – obviously that didn’t happen.

Anyway, I have to say it was the most fun I have had in ages. I raced around in my little helmet and luminous jacket (yes I know it was broad daylight) like the happiest little kid in the world. In fact I think the man whose car I avoided crashing in to thought I was a child because of the massive grin on my face (if you watch vid you’ll see what I mean). It was exhausting and exhilarating, and because I enjoyed it so much we did it all again yesterday, but instead of a short ride in a derelict car park we took to the canal tow path and successfully avoided dogs, pedestrians, children and cyclists for a three-mile ride which left me shattered and feeling like I’d been sat on a sharp rock for the rest of the evening (ouch) – I didn’t however feel half as bad as Andy who ran alongside me.

Next step…light jogging, but I’m going to give it time and invest in some mega supportive underwear!!!

If you have a stoma or Crohns/Colitis and exercise and have any tips please comment below…