Breathing Deeply

It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything. Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood. Nor did I feel like I had anything to say. I even debated taking this site down and shuttering it. But I’m not going to do this. While this type of writing feels very narcissistic, I do enjoy it and it does help me. So I’ll keep going – I’m not writing as often and my posts (in my opinion) are not that interesting as they were back in my racing, training, and Belgium days – but this is just like life – it ebbs and flows and we find excitement and thrills in different ways.

I haven’t been myself lately. I’ve been in a funk. I was frustrated with being injured. I determined that I “hated” summer (the last two summers I’ve been very sick) and now this summer I’ve spent close to six weeks being injured. I’m pretty good at snowballing small things until I’m neck deep in an avalanche barely keeping my head up. I was grouchy. I was unpleasant. I was behaving like a spoiled child. Good grief, I don’t know how Marc tolerated it – he deserves a few medals for his patience and logical words. I completely lost perspective on how unpleasant things can really be.

And now here I sit. I’m working hard at finding the good things in each day. I’m reminding myself how lucky I am and how much I’d rather have sore feet than a cranky and angry colon.  The last couple of weeks have been pretty good. While I’m not back to running and riding (I did manage a 35 minute road ride on Tuesday), I am able to get back into movement.

I know many people can’t understand how important it is for me to move my body and to feel my strength and physicality. Many people just shrug their shoulders and say something like “so find something else to do”. Well, the thing is, moving my body is my hobby and my passion. I love riding my bike. I love running. I love going to yoga. I like lifting heavy things. This is what I like to do. So when people brush this off as nothing – it is hard. Really hard. At first I worried that I’m a one-dimensional person – someone who only likes to do one thing. But this is not the case. I like to do other things – but I like to move my body the most. I guess for many people, moving your body equates to exercise – and many people associate exercise with unpleasant feelings and sensations. (This is kind of the way I feel about gardening, shopping, watching a lot of television, and not moving my body).

One really great thing that has come from this injury is my return to yoga. I used to be an avid yoga student – I had found a very welcoming community at Mountaingoat Yoga studio in Barrhaven. Talented instructors. Very friendly students. Going there feels like a deep warm hug. I didn’t realize how much I missed this until I returned a few weeks ago. Some of the faces have changed but really it felt like I had never left. Getting back into yoga has been a blow to my ego – I used to be very bendy and quite strong. But this is okay. This is me now. I’m happy with this me and I’m working to get strong and bendy again. Most of all, I’m appreciating yoga for more than a physical work-out – I’m discovering how much a yoga practice can do for my peace-of-mind and overall quality of life.

So this is the story. Small steps forward – both mentally and physically. Really learning to look around and see the good in all that I am lucky to have.

(As for the next trail race or other sporting event… I don’t know. I received some great advice on Monday – I’m not registering for any events – if I feel good the week of, then sure I might register. Instead of a focus on this race or that race, I need to focus on the process of fitness/training and overall body care. It’s so easy to get caught up in training for a specific event that, if you’re like me, you lose sight of correct training, rest, recovery, how the body is feeling and the bigger picture.)

And now, here’s some photos – photos that make me smile and feel great inside and out:

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Busted But Not Broken

On our drive home from Lakefield yesterday, I said to Marc in a  rather pained and regretful tone, “I really wish I hadn’t done this to myself. I put myself in this position.”

Marc’s response was, “I’ve been waiting for you to say this and realize what you did.”

So what did I do? Quite simply, I injured myself. I did it all by myself. I did it by ignoring rules and recommendations. I did it by believing that I would be just fine.  I did it by overlooking advice about training volume. I did it by jumping into shoes that everyone recommends I ease into. I did it by ignoring my stretching and mobility routine. I did it by skipping my strength routine. I did it by doing too much too soon.

Yes, this is most definitely my fault. I’d like to believe that this wicked case of plantar fasciitis (in both feet) came out-of-the-blue. But it didn’t. It came on as I gradually began to ignore all of the information out there that told me to take things slow and steady.

I was doing not badly but then I got greedy and wanted to run longer and more often. I ignored my trusty bicycle and instead laced up my running shoes to give my body another pounding in the woods. I love trail running – there is nothing like being out in the Gatineau Park surrounded by lush greenery with only the sound of your footfalls and breath to keep you company.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get back to this by the end of July. Yes, that is a long time from now. I have to miss the race that I’d been training for with my super running pal. I have to miss out on our epic Saturday morning runs and chats at the coffee shop in Chelsea. I have to miss out on the Tuesday night trail runs with some many invigorating people. I have to miss out. Right now, I can’t even ride my bike.

Very frustrating. But please don’t read this as a tale of woe. Read this as a cautionary tale. You don’t want to be like me – missing out on the best of the summer because you did a number of silly and stupid things that culminated in an injury. So just as a reminder here is a don’t list for you:

  1. Don’t increase your running mileage by more than 15 minutes every two weeks. And this doesn’t mean that if you’re doing a two-hour long run on Saturdays that adding in an additional two-hour long run on Friday is okay.
  2. Don’t start running in zero drop shoes for every run. Transition into them. Follow the guidelines that come with the shoes. Don’t think that you won’t get injured. Because, you will.
  3. Don’t ignore your stretching and mobility routine. You’re not a spring chicken and your muscles, tendons, and joints need some love and care. If after driving home from the Gatineau Park after a Tuesday night run, you find it hard to get out of your car and untie your shoes – you’re likely tight and need to stretch.
  4. Don’t subscribe to the more is better approach. While I agree that more peanut butter and more chocolate are always better, this is not the case for running and especially for new runners.
  5. Don’t assume that a training system you used for bike racing will work for running. While back-to-back hard and long days worked on the bicycle and gave you lots of fitness, don’t assume this approach will work when running. Especially if you’ve got soft fragile feet that are used to being pampered in cycling shoes.

If like me, you make a mistake and do one or all of the above, remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your life is not ruined and over. There are lots of other things you can do, such as: Yin yoga, kayaking, riding a bike with flat pedals, foam rolling, stretching. and remembering how lucky you truly are to even be in this position.

(A huge thanks to everyone who has emailed, called, texted, Tweeted, and commented on Facebook. I’m icing, seeing a physiotherapist, foam rolling, stretching, resting, and seeing a podiatrist – hopefully all of this will speed things along so I can get back outside and play.)


So today this happened:

It was not what I had planned. My plan was to enjoy a nice ride to Merrickville. I got up at the crack of dawn and was out the door by around 7. I lasted around 20 minutes before I turned around….

I’ve got a running injury – two very sore achilles tendons. I’m guessing it is achilles tendonitis (hoping to get in for a physio appointment tomorrow). I haven’t run since Tuesday – I’ve been icing, foam rolling, using compression, stretching, and rubbing in Voltaren. I’m starting to think that my achilles tendon’s are feeling better – but I’m not sure….

On Saturday I got out on my mountain bike for the first time. I didn’t do a real technical ride – just a nice steady and somewhat hilly ride from Champlain Lookout to the Fire Tower. I thoroughly enjoyed this and my achilles felt really good. So today the road ride made sense. Well, I think my road shoes must fit more snuggly than my mountain bike shoes and this put some pressure on my heels – which caused this dull nagging pain.

The kind of dull nagging pain that a few years ago (likely even last year), I would have ignored… but this year I’m trying to be smarter. You see I’ve got the Ultimate XC coming up in a few weeks. On June 28 I’ll be running 21 km over rather rugged and technical trails. I want to be ready for this. I’ve done the training – got in some good long runs., some excellent back-to-back long runs, been working on technical running skills, been running up lots of hills, practicing fueling and drinking. So I’m ready. Except for this little problem. I know it will work itself out and I’ll be there on the 28th, but the waiting and the resting is really hard to do.

I’ve got lots of other stuff I want to do this summer – a couple more local trail running events, mountain biking, some cyclo-cross riding, more road rides, and I’m looking ahead to doing another 21 km or so trail race in the late fall. So I guess now is the time to heal up and get recovered.

(Yes, feeling a bit frustrated with this entire thing. But I’ll take being injured over being sick anyday.)

Oh and it’s Father’s Day!! Happy Father’s Day Dad!

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An Anniversary of Sorts


This weekend there are two events happening that are both close to my heart: Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour.

Way back in 2009 I was deep into riding my bike and training very hard. I had never heard of the Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and I thought that riding 177 km on both Saturday and Sunday was a bit crazy. Neither event registered on my radar. Flash forward about a month or so later and I had just received my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.

This news changed my focus – while still racing and training, all of my free time was spent researching ulcerative colitis and IBD. In June 2010 – as luck would have it the Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour were not on the same weekends. I participated in both events – I was quite sick but determined that ulcerative colitis would not stop me from getting out and being active.

Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, I raised a good amount of money for the Gutsy Walk and I enjoyed seeing so many people come together for the event. Rideau Lakes that year was one that many people are still talking about – beauty of a day on Saturday and downright miserable on Sunday with horrible cold rain. I loved every second of it. I did the ride with some great friends who knew of my health status and I had a blast. (I did have to take six Imodium tablets each day to get through it – not recommended and in fact quite dangerous for folks with IBD.) That weekend is still one of my cycling highlights.

Since 2010, I’ve registered for Rideau Lakes every year. Each subsequent year, I’ve been too sick to participate. I registered again this year. While this year, my health is much better, I’m not participating. Now I’ve learned after close to five years of living with ulcerative colitis that I can’t push myself super hard anymore and I really have to pay attention to my energy levels.

I also haven’t participated in the Gutsy Walk since 2010 – being too sick in past years to participate. This year, I didn’t do any fundraising but three amazing women who are tremendous role models of how to live a well-rounded and balanced life while battling Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis have been working hard this year to raise funds. If you feel like contributing to the Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and helping us to find the causes and cures for these diseases – please follow this link: Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and search for Marie-Josée Lafleur, Laurie Ann Crawford-Renwick or Alex Beaudoin.

So this first weekend in June 2014 is an anniversary of sorts. I’m finally getting my health on track. Two big events are happening this weekend that have impacted me in many ways. People are coming together to raise awareness of IBD. People will be out riding their bikes to Kingston and back – hitting new personal milestones.

Long Steady Ride

You know that feeling when you go out for a “long steady” ride? The effort is a little higher than your usual effort but it is not verging on tempo or close to threshold. An effort that is just enough to remind you that you’re doing some work but it is not an effort that you can’t sustain. At the end of the ride you have a deep feeling of satisfaction that reminds you how much you appreciate your bike, your fitness and the opportunities you have to ride your bike.

I think the best thing about the long steady ride is how it gives me a chance to ride with others. Pretty much anyone can come out on a long steady ride – riding two by two or in a pace line or simply sitting on – each option is perfect. That’s the thing about a long steady ride, you can make it what you want, it is your ride after all.

Long steady rides offer coffee shop stops where we can hang out, much cookies, guzzle Coke and wonder out loud about the wind. The second half of the long steady ride can have a few struggles with sore bums and heavy legs but this is the stuff that makes the long steady ride so worthwhile. Pushing through the hard spots makes you appreciate the descents and the tailwind.

Getting home after a long steady ride and sitting outside in the sun is simply brilliant. The ride is discussed with plans for another one next weekend. Maybe the route will change or some new people will come out. Or maybe you’ll decided to squeeze in a solo long steady ride – just because you can and want to.

Yes, there is no better feeling than that of the long steady ride. The sensations remind you why you do the hard training in the rain and the cold, the threshold and VO2max efforts are all worthwhile when it means you get out for a long steady ride. The hard stuff all comes into perspective during a long steady ride.

Thanks long steady ride for reminding me that the hard moments will definitely be softened by the good.


May 19 is World IBD Day


Today is World IBD Day – a day to spread awareness about Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis the two diseases that are Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD).

For many years, this day would have not resonated with me. But now it does. Very profoundly. We need to do all we can to raise awareness of IBD and how these disease impact so many Canadians and many others living through-out the world. Speaking from personal experience, ulcerative colitis has changed my life. Drastically.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about ulcerative colitis and wonder if this is a day that I will remain in “remission” or will I end up in a “flare”… because there is no known cause for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease – there are no known cures. The only options for those of us living with these disease are drugs – and unfortunately the sicker we are, the stronger the drugs with rather severe side effects and related-symptoms.

Too many people have said to me “well, you won’t die from ulcerative colitis” or “at least it’s not cancer” or “it could be worse” or “you don’t look sick”. These are the worst possible things to tell someone like me. The actual truth is I could die from this disease – my bowels could rupture and I could end up very very ill, because I have a very reduced immune system (due to the medication I take) I’m super susceptible to colds, flus, and other viruses that if not careful could turn into pneumonia or other life-threatening infections, my cancer risk is now very high (a side effect of the drugs I’m currently on and the ones I was on), and yes although I run, bike, and look really good – I’m still sick.

I am a sick person. This is a hard thing to live with. But luckily right now (knock on wood) I’m a sick person who is thriving and doing well. Next week – who knows? All I and so many other people with IBD can do is take the day for what it is and make the most of it.

When people ask me about ulcerative colitis and what it’s like, I’m very honest – there is no need to be shy about about what this disease does to me. It is because people don’t want to talk about it that so many people don’t realize how horrible it really is. I never thought that at the age of 41 I would have to wear adult diapers just so I could go out and watch Marc race his cyclo-cross bike. I never thought that I would loose control of my bowels in Loblaws. I never thought that I would have to pack extra pants and underwear with me when going to work – just in case something happened. I never thought I’d go from being a person who used to race a bicycle to being someone who was thrilled to ride a bike for 30 minutes. I never thought that I would get sick.

But this is the way it is. The thing is, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have so many friends living with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis who can’t do a fraction of the things I do.  And these friend were all people who were “healthy” and lived full lives before getting sick.

Here are some stats about IBD (I copied these from my friend MJ’s blog):

  • There is no cure for IBD.
  • About 1 in 350 people worldwide suffer from IBD.
  • Here in Canada, we have the highest rate with 1 in 150 (about 233,000 people; of this, 129,000 have Crohn’s Disease and 104,000 have Ulcerative Colitis). The lowest rates are in British Columbia, and the highest in Nova Scotia and Québec.
  • The number of people newly diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease is greater than the number of people newly diagnosed with UC. Every year, there are 10,200 new cases of IBD in Canada: 5,700 people with Crohn’s Disease and 4,500 people with UC.
  • The rate of newly diagnosed cases in children is increasing, and is approximately double the rate of adults.
  • IBD can be diagnosed at any age but typical age of onset is people in their 20s. There is a higher frequency of Crohn’s Disease in female adults in Canada, while boys are more commonly affected by IBD than girls in childhood.
  • Genetics is involved in IBD, shown by clustering within families and the identification of several genes which are more common in people with CD.
  • People with IBD face an elevated risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • People with Crohn’s Disease face a significantly elevated risk of premature death (almost 50% higher) than the general public, due mainly to cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, GI diseases, infections, and complications following medical and surgical interventions.
  • IBD is more than twice as common as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease and about as common as Type I diabetes or epilepsy.
  • Quality of life, career options, sense of self-worth and self-esteem, intimacy and personal freedoms are all significantly affected when someone suffers from Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
  • IBD is largely a disease of the developed world, with an increase in rates of Crohn’s Disease as a country becomes industrialized.

Thanks for reading this post and remember that if you have any symptoms such as blood in your stools, constant diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and pain, or unexplained weight loss, – don’t ignore these symptoms. These are not symptoms to “tough out” or to “ignore” because you’re too embarrassed to discuss them with your doctor.

Ulcerative colitis has changed my life. Ulcerative colitis has changed Marc’s life. I really would like it not to change anyone else’s life.


Adding It All Up

8:00 a.m.: Wake up and start the day.  Drink 500 ml of water and swallow a bunch of supplements.

9:00 a.m.: Make breakfast: 1/2 cup of oats, spoonful of chia seeds cooked with 1 1/2 cups of water, unsweetened almond milk, one banana and peanut butter. Finish eating at around 9:45. Drink 500 ml of water.

10:00 – 12:00 p.m.: Lounge around the house reading the paper and sitting outside thinking about riding.

12:15 p.m.: Get kitted up in shorts, jersey, lightweight undershirt and fill pockets with two packages of Clif Bloks and two Clif Shot Gels. Stuff extra tubes, a pump, arm warmers (?), money, bank card and credit card into pockets. Fill two large bottles with water and stick them in my bottle cages.

12:30 p.m.: Start riding at close to the warmest part of the day. Head out directly into the fierce headwind with the goal of riding to Merrickville. This has me riding in either a crosswind or headwind for 2 hours and 13 minutes. During the 2 hours and 13 minutes of steady hardish riding I drink about half a bottle of water and consume 4 Clif Bloks (around 180 calories).

2:45 p.m.: Arrive at the Neighhbourhood Cafe just outside of Merrickville. Purchase two massive freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, 1 bottle of water and 1 can of root beer. Have trouble with math and counting out the loonies and quarters. Sit down at a picnic table and immediately feel very cold and notice I’m covered in goosebumps – assume this is because I’m in the “shade” and wind…

3:00 pm.: Top up my water bottle and start riding back to Ottawa. With a very strong tailwind I’ve gone from 18 – 20 km/hour on the way out to 38 – 42 km/hour on the way home. Feeling like a monster. Riding a much smaller gear than is normal. Notice that my left knee is rather stiff and sore (it was on the way out but I kind of forgot about it). Make it to Becket’s Landing in record time on nary a drop of water or food – feeling like the Incredible Hulk. Proceed to ride down McCordick Road (one of my favourite roads) and begin to feel rotten – knee is sore, the crosswind is horrible (it really wasn’t), my bum hurts, and my triceps begin to ache. I eat the last two Clif Bloks in my first package (around 20 calories) and drink water. The wheels begin to fall off, I’m feeling very slow and not enjoying my ride. I think about calling someone to pick me up.

4:00 p.m.: Decide to take a Clif Shot Gel and drink lots of water. Still riding in the crosswind but making progress home. Knee is sore. Triceps are full of lactic acid. Feeling like the Pilsbury Dough Boy.

5:15 p.m.: Crawl up the driveway. Finally home. Took me almost the same amount of time to get home as it did to ride to Merrickville… Important to understand how crazy the winds were on the way out – should have been a much quicker ride home. Look in the mirror – I’m encrusted in white salt – I have it in my hair, all over my arms and legs, and my face is coated.

6:00 p.m.: I feel rotten. My arms are looking a bit pink. Drag myself out to eat – no energy to cook. Have hardly an appetite. Sit around all night feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck.

9:30 p.m.: Go to bed. My arms by now are bright bright red and burning hot. Sunburned and swollen. Restless night of sleep and I end up sleeping until 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning (usually I get up at 6:00 a.m. without an alarm clock). Have a splitting headache and my legs are dead. My arms are radiating heat and very swollen.

All of these little mistakes that I made during my day on Sunday May 11, could have ended up being very very bad. I think the only thing that got me home was sheer will and the crazy thinking that this suffering was good for me. I didn’t need to suffer on that ride and I shouldn’t have – if I’d eaten and drank more on the way out, had drank more water while sitting for a bit in Merrickville, had not pushed such a small gear on the way back, had eaten and drank more while riding, and by remembering that it was my longest solo ride this season on such a hot windy day – this would have been a very different blog post.

I know better. I’ve been riding for a long time now. Taken individually – not eating enough, not drinking enough, not listening to the body, being stubborn, ignoring the weather – these things are bad enough – but add them all up and squish them into a four hour ride and bad things happen. Luckily, I’m generally feeling okay today – just dealing with the residual effects of a bad sunburn….

The next time you head out on a long ride or even a short hard ride – remember how easy it is to make little mistakes that end up hurting your training.