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6 month celebrations!

Today marks the 6 month point after my hysterectomy. It feels like only yesterday whilst also feeling like a lifetime away. In those 6 months I’ve completed two triathlons and an Aquathon, broken swim and run PBS and created some cycling ones! It’s not been easy there have been pain, tears and tantrums but we got through and for that I need to say thank you. 


Firstly thank you to all of you who told me how long and painful a recovery it would be. Thank you to those who told me I wouldn’t be fit enough to do anything this year, or that I wouldn’t return to the training I enjoy. Whatever your motivation to put me down your negativity motivated me to prove you wrong! 

Thank you also to those friends and family who had faith in me, who stuck by me through the tantrums, and who encouraged me to set the challenging goals and push my fitness. You are all amazing!


Plans now include a 10k and a half marathon run, a 20mile obstacle run (postponed from last year) and a step up to Olympic distance tri, oh yeah and complete my ITT year. There’s no holding back now!!!

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Trying to find balance. 

At some point in the last couple of months I had the bright idea of booking onto a second triathlon just three weeks after the Aquathon and 2 weeks into my PGCE. 

This week hasn’t been great training wise. Starting my ITT has been a shock to the system. I’ve gone from training being the focal point of my week to having a To Do list the length of my arm. Combine that with my first ever couple of days in a mainstream nursery (shock to the system!!) Training has been a battle, intensity hit and miss and actually getting to the gym took a fair amount of will power. Triathlon specific training has been virtually non-existent, my focus has been just on getting moving. Sessions have included more weights and functional training and boy have I felt it.

I’m realising more and more that post-op my focus wasn’t on recovery but I getting fit for the triathlon. Yes they should go hand in hand but in reality my core work has suffered and I’m paying the price now. More and more I’m discovering things that I should be capable of doing but because I’ve skipped steps in recovery those things are still a challenge. The main areas that suffer are cycling and lifting. This is something I know I need to address after the tri.

One Tri-specific session I have managed this week is an open water swim. Yes the wetsuit still fits, yes the fear is there, and no im not feeling overly confident for the swim portion of next weekend. Queen mermaid assures me she wants to do it together, a big part of me really wants to complete it solo but in reality the fear is creating a wall I’m not sure I can climb. 

A step too far?

With two weeks to go until “T-day” we (i.e. the wife) thought it would be a good idea to recce the area surrounding Castle Howard for the bike and run legs. You could feel the nervous anticipation rise in the car, and this was only a training ride/run. With the bikes unpacked and helmets on we made it just over 200m before we hit a roundabout. Right? Left? Straight? who knew? I had taken the time to write directions on my hand however a pre-ride trip to the bathroom resulted in me washing them off. We discussed and agreed it must be right and off we went (again). The undulating road suddenly got steeper, the quads burned, the eyes focused on the summit like a lioness stalking its prey. The view as we summited was almost as breath-taking as the climb itself, a taster of things to come. The sweeping rolling hills provided opportunities to practice the technicalities of road biking (like I know what I’m doing!). Playing with gears and riding positions I managed to avoid the pot holes and gravel patches, I was actually enjoying myself.

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The ride continued and amongst my happy thoughts were the words of my mother in-law “sharp left”, “big hill” no other words mattered. The turn arrived, it was time to get the pedals grinding. Suddenly I was overtaken, not once but twice. Here I was out of my seat, driving the pedals with all of my might, happy to just be moving and staying on the bike and they overtake me. I keep plodding along, checking back on Becky. the hill continues. I keep reminding myself everything ends, including this hill. The decent starts and finishes way to quickly for my liking. Becky shouts at me to stop, a quick pit-stop to adjust her seat and we were caught off guard by a sign saying Castle Howard left. Distance wise this was too early but with the directions washed away who were we to argue.

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We were into the final few kilometres and the last of the climbs, all that was going through my head was the dreaded thought that we had agreed to run after this. Arriving back at the car my watch confirmed we’d missed a couple of kilometres from the planned distance (must have been that left turn), at least we had gotten some good climbs into the legs. The bike was always going to be my best section, barring a few twinges along my scar line and into my groin I’d felt ok. With no time to celebrate my new farthest bike ride we gulped down some fluids and a couple of bites of flapjack and we were off on the run.

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The run began along the car park, the brick sessions must be paying off as the jelly legs were hardly noticeable. We ran, and ran, I became convinced that the GPS on my watch wasn’t working as the time ticked by so much quicker that the distance. A left turn down the hill and I got my first look at the lake, a deep breath put the thoughts of the dreaded swim to the back of my mind. Back up the hill we trotted, I was giving my all to keep on Becky’s heels, she was looking fresh. The gates gave me hope as they offered brief rest opportunities. As my legs and lungs burned the twinges in my abs became stronger and more frequent, the arguments between my heart and head continued. On mre than one occasion equal amounts of energy were given to moving forward and stopping myself from breaking down in tears. This was tough, I hadn’t pushed myself like this in a long time, I knew I’d come so far in only a few months, I hoped I wasn’t pushing myself too far, but I had to finish.

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The gardens were beautiful, but the sight I longed for was that of the car. Never has a Ford Fiesta looked so good. We ran passed it. I looked at my watch, we were 400m short of the planned 4 km. Yes we were those people running laps of the car park until technology dictated we could stop. As the GPS ticked over to 4km there was a patch of grass surrounded by a wooden fence. My body took over as I leant onto the fence to compose myself, I felt like I’d been to hell and back, the muscles around my scar cramped, I longed for fuel. The focus now is recovery, manage the pain in my lower abdomen and plan next weeks training, the final week of pushing it before race week. The journey continues, it’s nerve racking, it’s exciting, most of all it’s fun, well most of the time.

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This session had come after a tough week at work and in training. The triathlon feels almost achievable, I feel reassured that despite the relatively short preparation time I’m doing the correct things in training. Most importantly I know that if I hit rock bottom in the triathlon I should have the mental strength to push through. I’m only doing a sprint triathlon, people out there achieve much greater physical and psychological feats than this. This is my challenge though, my journey, my battles. I hope that in the future I can look back on this experience and smile knowing this is only the start of an adventure. We all start somewhere.

 

swimming forwards but stepping back.

When I was thinking about this weeks blog I thought I would write something profound about lessons learned, or self improvements (who knows these blogs may still come). Mark the 12 week mark with a bang. What has actually appeared on paper is reality, a story of celebration, frustration and stepping back to move forward.

 

I have written before about my relationship with water and battles with open water swimming. This week I took my first tentative steps away from the safety of the pool and into a lake. Walking in with Beck by myside, the cold murky water  filled my wetsuit, my heart rate rose and the arguments bounced around my head. Four hundred metres later and I dared to go solo, each stroke became slightly less nerve racking. Suddenly the realisation hit, I was swimming in a lake, ALONE. Holy S**t I was alone in a lake (ok there was other people around but not actually with me), I could sink and nobody would realise. Stroke, stroke, breath, stroke, stroke, PANIC, stroke, stroke, breath.  400 metres further and I am out of there, wet suit off and I sit down watching the real swimmers continue. Realisation set in, I’d just swam by myself in a lake, an actual lake, and I’d survived. In my world that is grounds for celebration.

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Celebrating achievements is great, as is looking back through my training diary from the last 12 weeks. The frustrations of recovery are still present though. At this stage I feel stuck in a kind of no-mans land. I’m not ill or injured but then I’m not fully fit either. I’m making progress but it seems the progress is coming in every area but my core, and this is holding me back. For the second week running gymnastics seems to have aggravated my abs, this made Pilates tough as every other movement brought uncomfortable twinges or pain. The continued battle between pushing through and listening to my body was ever present as I participated in a class yet felt like an outsider, watching others I had been at a similar level as make it look easy. I have so much to be grateful for, recovery could have been much more complicated and the improvements I’m seeing in my swim, bike and run are reassuring and evidence I’m moving in the right direction. The problem is I know the true mark of recovery from this surgery lies in the core. A lack of core strength/endurance can lead to so many problems and injuries. This knowledge is another reminder that I need to take more time to get this right.

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This week I came to the realisation that I’d miscalculated the number of weeks until the triathlon, oops. Its now just five weeks until the big day. Realising this, I’ve made the conscious decision to take a step back in training. anything that doesn’t directly benefit either my core or the triathlon is taking a backseat. That means gymnastics, zuu and body pump are on hold, at least for the next few weeks. A frustrating call to make and one that feels like a huge step backwards, but a step back may just be necessary to move me forwards.

The magic 6 week mark!

Today marks the 6 week point, the end of the official “take it easy” period. The reality, I am learning, is not as simple as that and there is still plenty of recovery and learning to be had. Prior to surgery my main concern was not related to the surgery itself but rather my patience to endure the recovery period without doing anything stupid. The answer, so far, has been yes, just about and the recovery has been much easier than the build up to surgery.  


Thinking about the surgery I had some concerns that I was making the right decision to have a hysterectomy rather than myomectomy. Having initially had the hysterectomy dismissed in favour of the myomectomy, the u-turn following my second cancelled operation left some questions. I researched and read forums about the recovery and implications of the decision. Hystersisters became my go-to website for real life stories, hints and tips. The reality now the dust has begun to settle is that even I hadn’t realised how much of an impact the fibroid was having. Now that it has gone I am not in a constant battle with fatigue, pain, agitation, mood swings and frequent urination. Even at this relatively early stage of recovery (never thought I’d think of the 6 week mark as relatively early) the pain is nowhere near what it was, if I’m sensible and plan short activities with plenty of rest fatigue isn’t an issue, and I get a full nights sleep without getting up to the toilet every hour. The reassurance of knowing there’s no chance of the fibroid coming back is a huge weight lifted. 

Physically I haven’t felt this good in months. The scar seems to be healing well, and even though I still get the odd twinge and pain/achiness at times it’s been fine, and nothing like some of the horror stories you read. Mentally it’s been a real challenge to go against my instincts, hold back and not push myself too far. The results when you do just aren’t worth it. What I hadn’t factored was the psychological inpact of the restriction recovery brings. Besides family the two areas of my life that brings me most happiness are work and fitness training, to be restricted from both of these for such an extended period has been really tough. As I start reintroducing activities I am really appreciating the whole environment again.

The next steps for me are simple, continue as I am, introduce activities as and when they feel good, if something doesn’t pull or hurt keep trying it, listen to my body and try and focus on the positives. 

Life is better upside down!

Handstands, handbalancing, call it what you will, those that are good at them make them look easy, those that are learning them look about as graceful as Bambi on ice. I had set myself a target of a 5 second handstand hold, that might not seem like a long time but unsupported upside down time seems to stop.


When I first started I could barely hold a handstand against a wall for 10 seconds. There have been days where it felt like I was going backwards, days were standing on two feet let alone hands was a challenge. I’ve been almost religious in practicing, core, strength, technique and holds. I’ve landed on my head, my face, my back and rolled straight over. But I have held a handstand for over 5 seconds – goal achieved- I’m now working on consistency.


So many people have asked why I would want to learn how to handstand. After all I’m 32 with a background in karate, judo and rugby, if I’ve been upside down in the past something had gone wrong. The truth is I enjoy challenges, learning new skills and seeing how far I can push myself, a handstand ticked the boxes. What I hadn’t expected was that practice became more than just physical. As time progressed learning about mind muscle connection, listening to my body and clearing my mind of all other thoughts gave me the outlet to breakaway from all other pressures and stresses. 


So for now I’m still working away slowly moving towards yet another op date in the hope it’s third time lucky. It’s a strange feeling building techniques and fitness knowing post op most of the progress will be lost. Psychologically though I feel so much better, training let’s me feel involved in the waiting process rather than being an interested by-stander. For now though I’m staying focused on the knowledge “life is better upside down”. 

Spare bed anyone?

As I write this I can’t help feel a sense of deja vu.

Its just over a month since my original surgery date and the phone call cancelling it due to a “lack of beds”. The new date I was given was 31st January, my dads 50th birthday and the last day of our first planned trip since all this began. Fast forward to the 3oth January, the whole day my partner and I were on edge everytime the phone rang, the perfect way to prepare for surgery, but the dreaded call never came.

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Having spent the weekend in Dorset we cut our break short and made the long drive back to Leeds, set the alarm for an early breakfast (I was to fast from 6am) and I started to believe this surgery might actually happen. I was woken at 8 am by a phone call. I recognised the number straight away. My heart sank. It was the ward sister telling me not to eat but not to go in either, they were trying to find me a bed but it didn’t look hopeful. So there I was stuck between preparing mentally for a surgery that may then be cancelled, or, preparing for it not to happen and then not being ready if it did. For 4 hours I was left in limbo not knowing what was happening. When the phone did ring I was told the surgery was cancelled, not by an administrator but by a ward sister. A lady who had no doubt spent much time, effort and money training to look after patients not chase beds. Anger, frustration and disappointment all needing to be released, but you could hear all of these in the sisters voice.  I was then told that because they had cancelled the surgery I would be made a priority, funny, they said that last time!

NHS notice - This is a bring your own bed hospital

The surgery I was due to have was an open myomectomy, similar to a C-section but rather than deliver a beautiful baby they take the fibroid(s). The surgery requires a short stay in hospital, a recovery of 6-8 weeks (as a supply UQT I am only paid for the days I work and therefore loose 6-8 weeks pay to have surgery) and is termed an elective surgery. Elective surgery, the very term suggests it’s a choice. Yes I opted for surgery over an extended period of taking a synthetic hormone with mixed research that has only recently been licensed for extended use (A treatment I did try for 3 months and with side effects including pain and extreme exhaustion that made it difficult to function effectively). What I did not choose was to have fibroids, a condition I and many other women live with daily, a condition which has had a huge impact on my ability to work and maintain the hobbies I enjoy. As a result of this condition pain and fatigue are daily battles, my teacher training has been put on hold, holidays affected and family events missed and/or postponed. So to use a term that implies “choice” seems insensitive. I am not writing this for sympathy, I am aware there are people worse off than me, but more to raise awareness of the issues caused by fibroids and that whilst news reports are no longer covering the “crisis” it is still there. How long can a situation be termed a crisis before it become normality? If it becomes normality at what point does accountability raise it’s head and solutions begin to be found – a question for the administrators out there.

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So for now I am concentrating on my resolution to not waste energy on things I can’t change, admittedly with mixed success. I’m continuing to prepare for surgery whenever that might happen. The first time around I was ready mentally but not physically, this time round I was more ready physically but less mentally, maybe next time I’ll be good to go fro both perspectives. All we need is a new date and a bed, if not I may have to take an airbed with me.

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For those interested here is  my journey with St James hospital Leeds, since I entered the system of “care” at St James I have never seen a consultant, took Esmya for 3 months and have not seen a single member of staff from the department since 29th September.

July-September – Outpatient appointments all with different registrars.

September 29th – Consent for surgery signed – Esmya treatment began.

Early December – Pre-op (at Leeds General infirmary)

December 31st – Initial surgery date with Dr Tay (Cancelled on 30th December)

January 2017 – informed by Dr Tays secretary she is away and the next date available is late February.

January 24th – Given a cancellation with a new consultant for 31st January

January 31st – Surgery cancelled for the second time.

What does the future hold?

Am I getting more mature?

For those that know me the notion that I am getting more mature is probably being met with barrels of laughter. In truth, in everyday life I’m not any more mature but in training things are different. Gone is the mind-set of just beast myself as hard as I can for the whole time I’m training every-time I’m training. Now it’s more of a measured approach, yes some days you will find me pushing myself, others you will find a more measured approach. If I’ve trained at a high intensity one day the next will be at a lower intensity, I’m experimenting with heart rate zones and actually enjoying just playing around with methods and styles of training. It’s difficult to see if it’s working, progress has certainly been made over the last couple of months but is it more or less than what my old style of training would have brought? Who knows! In reality the physical benefits to training is only a small part of what training has given me.

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Having returned to exercise having been advised to considerably modify my training I honestly believe I am in a better physical shape to tackle the trials and tribulations of surgery and recovery than I would have been if I’d remained at such a minimal level of training. Psychologically this is hugely important, and this is where the true maturity is developing. I know that what I’ve been doing the last month or so and what I do in the coming weeks won’t get me to the finish line of rat race dirty weekend but it will help determine if I get to the start line. And if I get to the start line the chances of me completing my challenge is pretty high.

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So there you have it, just a few days before surgery and I’m feeling surprisingly good. I’ve accepted there’s nothing I can do about what will happen on the day (and let’s face it with the NHS there’s always the chance it will be cancelled – Everything crossed this is not the case!), but I can change how I react to the challenges I face, to the frustrations of the recovery process, and the embarrassment of the hospital paper pants!

Happy new year!

Taking it easy Vs Being sensible

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This blog was supposed to be a review of, what would likely have been, a great afternoon of fun at The Suffering, 6 months and 7 days before the big one, Rat race Dirty Weekend . However rather than a tale of excitement and fun, feats of endurance and strength as I dragged myself and family through what looked like an adults playground, this blog is about road blogs, sulking and geeking out!

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With my final Obstacle run of 2016 just days away and excitement building my body gave me a sharp reminder that not all is well, Body 1 – Fun 0! It may have been a shift at work involving lots of lifting, stubbornness at pilates (Note to self – that look and “is that ok” question actually means “try the lower option”) or it may have been the culmination of a busy training week. Whatever the reason the result was the same, a missed weekend with the family and an unused race entry. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement, and even by my relatively unsociable standards, I have been in serious need of an “approach with caution” sign above my head as I pulled off a rather impressive angry elf impression.

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Two days of sulking and being fed up is over, it’s time to return to being grateful for the progress I’ve made and look forward to the remaining journey to the Full Mucker. Six months, six days and 12 hours to prepare for a challenge that will test endurance, strength and guts. Plenty of time in normal circumstances however, in just over a months time I am expecting to undergo abdominal surgery with a 6-8 week recovery period. Yes that is cutting it fine, but I like a challenge.

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I’ve written before about controlling my competitive/stubborn streak and although I still need to work on that I am making progress. More and more I’m able to ignore others and focus on myself, my form and my movements. Despite this shift in attitude friends and family still insist on telling me to “take it easy” something I find difficult to understand when it comes to training.

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How much progress can actually be made by “taking it easy”? My thinking is not much! So here lies the problem, how can I make progress towards my goals of being in the best shape possible for surgery, facilitating my recovery and preparation for the rat race weekend whilst not aggravating my current circumstances. As a geek knowledge and understanding are my tools of choice, my thinking being, that if you understand how and why things work it’s easier to make informed decisions, make the most of training time and avoid anything that might aggrevate or detract from training. So this weekend my kindle has taken a hammering, a reading list containing texts on calisthenics, Heart rate training, Yoga and pilates  has been created as I look to plan my training for the next month in the most “sensible” way I know. Stay tuned to find out if it works or if the angry elf returns.

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Why I’m doing what I’m doing

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Time to Suffer. 

This weekend I will be returning to Rockingham, this time to the speedway, although speed is the last thing I will be aiming for. It’s time for the suffering race part 2. Initially I had planned to do the 10mile event although current circumstances and an attempt to be “sensible” (well as sensible as you can be entering an event named the Suffering) means the 5km will be the challenge of choice. The Suffering is the event I’ve enjoyed the most this year and  seems the fitting way to end my OCR season. I will undoubtedly be paying for membership to “team suffering” next year. Who knowsI may  even  attempt to become a Legend. 


This event is likely to be the final preparation event before the Big one – Rat Race Dirty Weekend. The journey to this point has been full of peaks and troughs and the coming months are likely to bring more physical and mental challenges.  Throughout this journey I never forget the reason for the journey, yes the personal challenge is a factor but raising funds and aware Awarenessfor the Royal British Legion and Scottys little soldiers is always the priority. 

Training started so well, PBS on an almost weekly basis, running became my new best friend. More recently running has been joined by swimming and pilates. Less PBs have been coming my way but I feel more well rounded and I’ve had my eyes opened to a whole new world of potential challenges – did anyone say Great North Swim?  triathlon?, Suffering Legend? Spartan Trifecta? The possibilities are endless!