Rebuilding

Ah, the rebuilding phase. This is a training phase that I’ve become very familiar with. It seems like I’ve been in a constant rebuild phase since 2011.

This time around, it feel very different. I suppose partly because I feel like the worst of the ulcerative colitis is behind me. I’m comfortable living, training and racing with my ileostomy now.

Because of this I believe that there really aren’t any obstacles or unknowns in my way. Yes, I do need to have another surgery (I should have a better idea of this date before Christmas). But until the day before the surgery, it’s full steam ahead on rebuilding.

This full steam ahead sensation is something I haven’t experienced before. Previously, I always had some lingering doubt. I couldn’t really trust my body, the medication, or my cranky colon to play along and let me get back to full-on living.

But now I truly believe that the only thing that can hold me back is me. And the wonderful gift of this is that I’m in complete control of me. I can control whether I do get up at 5 a.m. to get my ride in before work. I’m in control of how hard I push myself. I’m my own motivator and cheerleader. I’m the one who puts the expectations on to get the core, yoga and TRX workouts done.

Finally, I’m truly responsible and in control of what I can achieve. The faulty organ is gone. Sure I still have extra intestinal ramifications of ulcerative colitis (because ulcerative colitis is an auto-immune disease, even though my colon has been removed, I’m not actually cured. I still get unexplained fatigue, joint pain, intestinal problems, light headedness, etc) – but these are easier to manage than a full-blown flare.

So yeah, I’m happy, actually I’m thrilled to be rebuilding. The one thing I’ve really been gifted thanks to ulcerative colitis is perspective. For this, I count myself lucky. After all, at the end of the day, it’s just a bike and I do this for fun.

 

Cyclocross Nationals

I didn’t race in Sherbrooke last weekend at the Canadian Cyclocross National Championships. I had planned to race. I had big goals for the race. I realized in the summer that my goals would have to be put on hold. This is life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.

Instead of racing, I was in Sherbrooke cheering, supporting, encouraging and hanging out. While it’s not quite the same as lining up and giving it my all for 40 minutes, the weekend was still special.

Watching Marc and my friends race was as good as being on the start line myself. I saw them push through uncertainty and fear. I watched them test their limits and discover how far they can go. I got to see the light in their eyes after having an amazing race. I got to hear about how they rode the muddy corners, attacked the sand, approached the off-cambers, and drilled it up the climbs. We talked about next year and how to get faster and smoother.

This for me was just as good as racing.

It inspired me. It reminded me how much I love racing my bike. It forced me to remember how good it feels to get through the tough stuff and come out on the other side. It brought me back to why I got hooked on racing my bike.

Next year in 2017 I want to be there on the start line. There is no other goal. Just lining up is enough now. This is not complacency. It’s finally understanding that the racing is about so much more than the result on the sheet.

It’s about how you race and how you feel about yourself afterwards.

 

 

One Special Sunday in October

Last Sunday, I posted this on Instagram:

And so, I raced. And it was awesome. I had so much fun. It was truly epic with the mid-race downpour that changed all the lines and corners. The people out cheering were top-notch. Marc riding around the course encouraging me was worth a couple thousand watts.

It was so special to be out racing in the Eastern Ontario Cyclo-Cross Series. This series sparked my love for cyclocross and bikes a very long time ago and it felt so good to be back racing with a superb community of folks.

After the race, Marc and I were in the car driving home and I started reading to him what I wrote on Instagram that morning. And something unexpected happened… my voice cracked, my eyes welled up and I started crying. I had no idea this would happen.

Turns out that race in Cornwall, Ontario at Lamoureux Park on October 16, 2016 might have been the most special one yet.

Fighting the Guilt

I didn’t ride today.

I had planned to ride. My plan for the day was 1.5 hours on the road bike.

It didn’t happen.

I was ready – organized my clothes last night, went into work early so I could leave early, and I still didn’t ride.

My legs felt drained and empty all day. I felt tired. A slight something at the back of my throat. I still left early so I could ride.

When I got home I didn’t ride. I decided it made sense to rest.

But I feel guilty about this. All evening I’ve been harassing myself over this decision.

Logically, I know it makes sense. I’m riding Friday and Saturday and then racing on Sunday. So it makes complete sense to not ride today if I’m not feeling 100%.

I guess the thing is, I’ve gotten so used to riding when I haven’t been feeling 100% that to not ride just feels wrong. Yeah, I know it’s a bit messed up.

Emotionally, I find it hard not to ride whenever I can or whenever my Training Peaks plan tells me to. I’ve missed so much riding this summer and over the years that to not ride when I’m able just feels wrong.

I almost feel programmed after so many years of training and racing to always be riding. To make the decision not to ride feels like I’m not motivated.

But, now that I think about it and put this down in black and white, I realize that it is this motivation that kept me off the bike today. I want to and plan to be flying with full colours for 2017. This means a solid winter and spring season of riding, weights, core, and yoga is ahead of me (I can’t wait). But to do this properly, I need to be ready for it. This means taking small careful steps now so I can be ready when it’s time to push the go button.

Motivation is what has got me here and motivation is what will get me through days like today.

 

 

 

Epic Day

Typically, the word epic is highly overused. Some might even believe that the word epic is overrated.

Well, not today. Today is an EPIC DAY.

Today I saw my surgeon.

Today I got the green light to resume all normal activity.

So yeah, I can start riding my bike again. Today. Today I can start riding my bike again.

I can also transition off the low-residue diet. Today I can start adding in new foods.

So EPIC is totally appropriate for today. Happy EPIC DAY!

Five Weeks

Today marks five weeks since my surgery. Amazing how time flies. All in all, life has been very good. A few rough days with pain and a trip to emergency at the hospital, but really I’m feeling good.

I’ve been up and walking around and slowly but surely building up some strength. Today I surpassed my goal of 10,000 steps. Pretty happy about this.

Today was also the start of the cyclocross clinics. I’ve been leading a small private cyclocross clinic for a few years now. I didn’t want this to end as a result of my recovery, so Marc has taken over for me. Tonight was a great success with everyone learning lots, laughing, and enjoying being out on the ‘cross bike. A big thanks to Marc for taking over and a very huge thank you to the women who have been coming out to these clinics.

I was thinking about the post I wrote one week before my surgery. In that post I listed a bunch of goals that I have for post-surgery. I think that at the five week mark, it’s the perfect time to revisit these:

  1. Out of the hospital in five days: I smashed this and left the hospital after four days. The stay in the hospital was pretty much okay. There were some rough moments, some stressful moments and some downright awful moments but really, it wasn’t so bad. Whenever I end up in the hospital for a while or end up in emergency, I really am so impressed with the nurses – these people are working so hard and it seems like they’re on a flat out run all day.
  2. Be ready for a fun weekend at the cottage on Labour Day: yep, nailed this one. This Labour Day weekend was a big one for me. I’m very happy to say that it was a success. There were no travel or car disasters. No leaks or pouch blow-outs. No stresses over food. My niece and nephew were champs and totally understood that I couldn’t pick them up, play basketball, play pingpong or do any other crazy stuff. It was easy being around my family and just being able to relax and not worry about anything.
  3. Ready to fully take in the Adele concert on September 28 in Montreal. (Fourth row tickets!!!): well good thing I checked the date – the concert is on September 30. All systems are go for this big concert. Air BnB accommodations are booked. I got the okay from my surgeon. I’m stoked. Marc is stoked (or he is pretending to be).

So far so good in the goals department. When I see my surgeon again on September 27 I’ll ask him about getting back on the bike and starting some very light yoga.

Interestingly, I don’t really miss the bike that much yet. I think this is likely because I’m not ready to sit on a bike seat yet.

I’m at the point in my recovery when it’s easy to forget that I underwent a major surgery. The external staples are out. There is essentially no pain. But the internal healing still has a long way to go. This is the biggest challenge – reminding myself that I’m still not recovered yet.

So that’s about it. I’m feeling good. Best I have in a long time. It’s funny to realize that five weeks after major surgery, I’m feeling better than I have in a really long time. I guess I just got used to feeling unwell and being in pain. What a relief it is to no longer be experiencing daily pain.

I can tell you I’ve been doing lots of thinking about 2017 and what I want to achieve. 2017 is shaping up to be a fantastic year. But for now, I’m on the slow and measured approach – this is a race that can only be won with turtle speed.

 

 

Two Weeks In

I’ve been mulling over a blog post for a few days now. Not sure how to start or what to write. So I think I’ll do my best to keep things fairly straight-forward and simple.

Fact: On August 8 I had a total colectomy. This means my colon was completely removed. My appendix was also removed. As well 10 cm of my small bowel was removed. My colon was 65 cm in length.

Fact: I now have a stoma. A stoma is made from the small intestine – it is turned inside out and pulled through a hole in my abdomen. A bunch of tiny stitches (and I’m guessing internal staples) hold it in place. It has the look and feel of the inside of the mouth. It doesn’t hurt to touch it. This is how poop leaves my body.

Fact: I now wear an appliance. The appliance is essentially a bag (but I don’t like calling it a bag…) that covers my stoma. The poop is collected in my appliance. I empty this five or six times a day.

Fact: This is all collectively called an ostomy. There are multiple types: ileostomy, collostomy, and urostomy (and maybe more). I have an ileostomy. This is actually more common than most people realize. People with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, colon cancer, colorectal cancer, bladder cancer and more may have an ostomy.

Fact: It’s not horrible. It might sound horrible. I mean who wants to walk around carrying their poop? Oh wait, other people do this but instead it’s in their colon…. If you see me, you likely won’t even notice that I’m wearing an appliance. And if you do, oh well.

Fact: The recovery takes a while. I’m now 15 days post-op and I’m finally starting to feel better. I’m getting out for daily walks. I’m able to eat out at some restaurants. I even went to the mall! It will be a few more weeks before I can think about the bicycle. Frankly, the bicycle is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m content with a couple of 20 minute walks.

Fact: My diet right now is really limited. Only cooked vegetables without any skin, seeds, membranes, peel, etc. Only white bread, white rice, white pasta. Fruit is limited to canned peaches and pears, applesauce, cantaloupe, banana and mango. Protein is super important for the healing process so I’ve added in Kefir, peanut butter, fish, beef, and tofu. I seem to be eating a lot of soda crackers. Arrow root cookies and chocolate pudding are the bomb.

Fact: I’m doing well. I’m okay with all of this. I’ve had a lot of time to think about living with an ileostomy. I’ve talked with a lot of people who have an ileostomy. An ileostomy does not limit me. Once I’ve fully recovered there is no reason that I cannot start riding a lot again.

Fact: I will need a second surgery. I don’t know when this will be. I have an appointment  in February to meet with a surgeon. The second surgery will be to remove the rest of my rectum.

Fact: Marc is superstar. He has been doing everything in the house for the past three weeks. I’m not permitted to lift anything over 5 lbs for eight weeks. This means I can’t really do anything in the house.

Fact: I don’t have to take any more medication for the ulcerative colitis.

Fact: This is not a cure. Even though my colon has been removed – this is where ulcerative colitis strikes, I am not cured. I still have about three inches of my rectum left – the disease could recur there. My body could also outsmart all of the brilliant doctors and surgeons and trigger another auto-immune response in another organ. But I’m not going to worry about this.

Fact: Right now today, I actually feel better than I have in a long time. Yes, I’m fatigued but it is a fatigue I can understand. No, I can’t ride my bike or do yoga or eat the foods I love but I know that soon enough I can do all of this again.

Fact: I’m only looking forward. This is short term hassle for long term life enjoyment.