Crohn’s and the Endurance Athlete

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a good weekend. Today I have a little something different for you… and I hope you can learn a little something from it!

Last week was Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week (sorry a little late…oops). Someone very close to me has been affected by Crohn’s disease. They also just so happen to be the very same person who introduced me to the world of running, cycling, and duathlons. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the GI tract.

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This would be my boyfriend, Drew who has been living with the disease for the past 5 years. He was kind enough to let me interview him and share his experience through diagnosis and living with the disease currently for this post. Drew started getting into cycling and duathlons a few years ago, and has been able to keep training and competing despite this annoying disease. Our hope in this little interview is to maybe enlighten others on the fact that you can certainly tackle the endurance world if you have Crohn’s.

When were you diagnosed with Crohn’s?

I was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s in August of 2007, which was my freshman year of college. I had been dealing with extreme fatigue symptoms and bowel issues for a few months before blood work finally showed that I was extremely anemic for a guy my age even lower than a girl. After that they ordered a colonoscopy and once they put both of those together they realized I had Crohn’s. Mine happens to mostly effect my lower GI tract.

Did  these symptoms occur out of no where or had you always had stomach issues?

I feel like they really came out of nowhere. I never had stomach issues growing up and they hit me all of a sudden.

How was the first year of dealing with Crohn’s?

Actually after the diagnosis, my whole freshman year the symptoms were under control. I was on a type of anti inflammatory. However, for whatever reason, right as the summer began I ended up with my worst flare up. I landed in the hospital for 6 days, no solid food had a colonoscopy and upper GI. Sometimes I go for a long time with no issues and then sometimes I feel like it wont stop. A couple months ago, I needed to go to the ER because the pain, cramping, and nausea in my stomach was unbearable. Once you start having a flare up and your stomach starts cramping you hope that its just something small and will go away. When they start getting extremely intense and you start vomiting and you can’t control it, you know you’re in trouble.

So, basically Crohn’s is very unpredictable. How does this affect your daily life?

It is very unpredictable. I know the foods that set me off but there are times where you could go from feeling great to absolute crap in about 30 seconds. It affects my daily life being constantly worried on how your going to feel especially with important days and work. It sucks to always be tired and not know how your going to feel. Also, with the bowl problems that are associated with it…They can be unpredictable and embarrassing at times. When your in the bathroom for 15 minutes everyone knows what your doing… not fun.
Being that you are an endurance athlete, how does Crohn’s affect you during your training or race performance?
Well obviously low iron (anemia) means less oxygen to muscles which is counter productive to anything endurance related. Days when your just so tired makes training extremely difficult or impossible. Also, crohns is trigered by stress so when race day comes around your nervous that stress might set off a reaction or symptoms which is the last thing any one wants.  Long training rides where you go for 3 hours can be really tough because you hope you don’t have to go to the bathroom and your out in the middle of no where. Really just trying to keep up with people who are equally trained and in equal shape makes it difficult when your anemic and tired your just at a disadvantage at any endurance sport when you have low iron. I take iron supplements but they are very rough on the stomach and really don’t seem to make a dramatic difference so it gets frustrating.

Well, that doesn’t sound fun… What is it that gets your through the tough training and what keeps you doing it?
I like to do it. I enjoy riding bikes. I’m part of a group in PA and I’ve met so many great people who share the same interest. Riding a bike is a great stress relief and gives you a different perspective of things around you that you dont get while in a car. It something i can do with my father and we both love spending time together.
DrewDuBike
So basically you giving a big screw you to Crohn’s and doing what you like right?
Exactly! You can’t live everyday afraid to get out of bed becasue your scared about how your going to feel. If you let it control you your just going to go insane.The first time I was in the hospital my parents and friends where very scared and nervous for me. But my rationale is that it could always be worse and i could have some worse disease or illness. Thats what i say to myself every time (or almost every time. Sometimes you cant but help feel a little sorry for yourself) it could always be worse. Im lucky i have parents that help me and have taken me to doctor appointments, found me doctors, driven me to the ER at 3:30 in the morning and ruined a camping trip. Oh, and an amazing girlfriend who helps me and understands that I just have bad days. (I didn’t pay him to say that- I swear 😉 )
Any tips for people with Crohn’s or GI issues who want to try endurance sports?
You can’t let it control you. Your going to have bad days and those are the days where the bike stays leaning against the wall and the running shoes stay in the closet. And you just have to say to yourself that tomorrow will be better and I’ll go after it tomorrow. Im not a sponsored athlete and no one is paying me to do this. I do it because  I enjoy it and you can’t let Crohn’s ruin it for you! You just have to listen to your body. If your feeling good, go for it. If your feeling crappy (haha- sorry), cut it back.
DrewDuRun
  • Any questions? I hope you all learned something and for anyone dealing with the disease know that you can also do endurance sports. Drew has gladly agreed to answer any questions you might have 🙂
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Hagerstown Duathlon Recap

I hope everyone had a great weekend.

Saturday morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to drive an hour with my dad to Hagerstown, Maryland to compete in a duathlon. Way back in April I did the same duathlon and this happened to be the second of their series for the year..so it was the exact same course I did before.

My dad and I had waited to register for this race race the day of so we couldn’t kind of decide last minute if we wanted to bail or not. I won’t lie- it was FREEZING but the cold I can handle..there was no rain in the forecast so we decided to just do it. Waking up was tough because of course it was about 34 degrees out and the first frost was on the ground. A little early don’t you think October!!? I mean really now.

Anyways- by the time we got down there it was about 38 degrees, but one of those days you could tell would be freezing in the morning but would warm up later on. Deciding what to wear was difficult because I hate getting hot and not being able to peel layers off. I finally just decided to wear a long sleeved tech tee, underneath my bike jersey (no tri top today- too cold) and put a thermal bike jacket on over top. Bike shorts and my purple compression sleeves were also a go to. I honestly just prayed it would work and went with it…

Prior to the race I had coffee, 2 pieces of toast ,and a half hour before the start I had a peanut butter gu – my favorite of course!

I’m happy to say, I felt great before this race which was really exciting. My legs felt good even though I had run and done a lot of spin classes that week. I hoped I hadn’t overdone it, but my body seemed ready to go. I was just hoping to hold off any side stitch issues that have been bugging me lately.

I was at the start line when I realized I had let my watch at home. Crap. With all the layers I hadn’t even thought about putting that on. Now it’s no fancy watch but I like to just have the time running so I can see where I’m at. I figured oh well- seeing the clock at transition and on my bike computer was the best it was going to get.

The two mile run I was definitely very cautious because of the side stitches. Lo and behold I made it to mile one without a stitch…so I picked it up from there and finished the 2 miles. i had no idea what time i had finished in because the clock was running from a previous 5k that started before hand so I just grabbed my stuff put my shoes on and threw off my thermal jacket because I was very warmed up at this point.

I grabbed my bike and took off toward the bike exit. I clipped in with success (YES!) and took off. This course was a big 10 mile loop on the roads around the park. This course was slightly scary because the roads were not closed and at some points there were cars close to you. Thankfully MOST of the time there was a decent size shoulder on the roads but sometimes the shoulder turned into a turning lane (yikes). This course was slight rolling hills- nothing crazy but different than the last duathlon which was a straight flat out and back. I enjoy loops far better than the straight out and back. (It’s kind of discouraging when you see the super fast people already turning around passing you and you’re like ffff i have so much longer- but that’s just me haha)

The worst part about the bike ride was that you forget how it’s going to be so much colder on there..the crosswind was tough at some points on the road where it was open. I felt good on the bike though..my quads weren’t tiring and so I pushed it as much as I could. I try to do this just for the fact that I know my runs are my weakest part so it’s all out on the bike to make up for that time.

Finally I made it back into the park to dismount (success again- yes!) and I ran into the transition the best I could.

My body was completely numb from the torso done not even lying. Running in to change my shoes was probably hilarious if you were watching because I could barely feel my fingers to undo my shoes and get my running shoes back on. Unbuckling my helmet was not an easy task either.

Anyways, once that was done I took one last drink of gatorade and took off on the 5k course that started out like the 2 mile run. I loved this run because it wound through a littler trail between trees and wasn’t boring like the beach run.

However, not gonna lie- the first mile was terrible. My whole body was numb, my legs were tired and in the mode where they feel like they’re a thousand pounds. I finally loosened up after the first mile and when I hit the turn around point on this run I decided I felt good and felt like I could bring the pace up more to hopefully kick it in hard. The moment I was able to see the final turn and straightaway to the finish I kicked it in as much as I could.

When I saw the time coming across the line I was excited because I thought it had beat my previous time for this course! I was completely exhausted so I”m glad to know that I did the best I could that day. BOOM.

Final time: 1:24.01 Beating the previous time by 30 seconds!

Post race carb fest- (Already at the donut WHOOPS!)

Even better yet- checking the results I finished 2nd out of 6 in my age group! YES medal and podium time!! 🙂 ( I look like a GIANT!)

 

  • How was your weekend?

High Five Friday!

Ah my frist High Five Friday! I’ve been wanting to put this thing together for a while now, because Meg really make me want to pass on high fives to all of you wonderful people! 🙂

This week I am giving myself a high five for completing my 4th duathlon! We all know it didn’t go that well for me, but I did complete it and am already moving on to the next one!

And now I’m gonna give out my high fives all over the place!

To Meg: for creating High Five Friday, and to her for being featured at her school for being a leader! Girl you display fine quality leadership skills through your blog and I bet even more in person! Way to go 🙂 Go read more about her here. 

Meg and her parents- photo courtesy of Meg 🙂

To Alex: for not taking herself to seriously when she talks about her grandma ways, baking skills, and the fact that she doesn’t think her food is pretty. Her hilarious sarcasm and point of view makes me love her more each time I read her blog! Her little reminders on things we all think make my day! 🙂

To Megan for celebrating her “Runniversary!” This girl rocks and has seriously accomplished SO MUCH in a year. She inspired me to look back on my own year and see what I’ve accomplished.

Photo courtesy of Megan

To Jessie for her awesome week of running! And her reminder that it’s the little things in life 🙂

To Heidi for a successful move into her house AND its her birthday today! Happy birthday and high five!

To Nikki for mixing it up and going to Zumba for the first time in a while! It’s always fun to do something new!

  • And lastly- High fives to all of you for reading…and PLEASE share with me why you are giving YOURSELF a high five this week 🙂

The Past Year

Hi everyone 🙂

I was reading my blog buddy Megan’s recap of her recent “Runniversary” and it made me think how it’s also my “duversary” this month.

Megan talked a lot about how much her lifestyle changed, goals she achieved and what else she is looking forward to trying. Go read her post to see all the amazing things that she accomplished and what’s up for her next! Reading hers made me think all the things that resulted in me signing up for my first du last year….

About this time last year I was getting ready for my very first duathlon. This was after going through a time period where I was a little lost in the fitness world and bored now that I wasn’t an athlete,by my standards at least, anymore. Signing up for the du was probably the best thing I could have done for myself and my motivation levels.

First duathlon!

I can still remember flying on the bike and passing people, and the last stretch to the finish line was probably one of my proudest moments ever. I was so excited that I did it! I was not an endurance athlete by any means before and now I just did it in a time I didn’t even think was possible! The camaraderie with others before and after the event was something else that made me want to keep coming back again and again…and here I am 4 duathlons later and soon to be 5 I hope 🙂

What else happened in the past year?

Well, for one, I started this little blog which connected me with a ton of people who are intersted in the same things as me- I’ve gotten involved in groups that are supportive and so helpful…I mean hello- Oiselle Team, Fit Approach, and Fitfluential! Such wonderful groups of men and women!

Oiselle Team!

Even small things like I’ve tried foods I never heard of before (Ch-ch-ch-chia seeds for one!) I’ve definitely put more of an emphasis on eating better. We all know I love my veggies..jk but I’ve definitely been eating more than ever before! WIN.

All of those little things happened because of challenging myself with the duathlon. The duathlon was a chain reaction of good fitness and health habits for myself!

Couples that do “du’s” together…but not “together, together…”

And now to continue the chain reaction… what’s next for me? Well, certainly a triathlon is on my bucket list, starting to run some smaller 5k races, and a relay run event would be some of my top choices.

After writing all this I can’t WAIT to see what this next year is going to bring! I encourage all of you to start a positive chain reaction for youself this year. Just go for it 🙂

  • What have you accomplished in a year?

Weekend Recap

Helloooo! I hope you’re all well! I, as much as I love fall…when the season changes like this my sinuses and allergies go haywire. so that’s me now. I wouldn’t say “I’m sick” butttt I don’t feel great.

Anyways…as I said yesterday Drew and I got to spend some time together this weekend. YAY!

I wasn’t the only one excited Drew came to visit!

 

I caught this moment in the act. Izzy especially loves if you give her space to cuddle next to you!

Saturday we did a brick workout to help prepare us for the race on Saturday! We all have been crazy busy and training for all us hasn’t been top priority (with both our new jobs and routines) we decided to squeeze it all together 🙂

 

 

Obviously preparing and very serious. Also I look very tall. I am not.

We did about 10 miles followed by a mile run. We threw some kettle bell squats and swings in there and called it a night. Hey- that’s obviously how we enjoy on Saturdays- we are so cool. 🙂 I felt good during the training…I was pushing it cause I was obviously behind and trying to catch Drew the entire time. (Kinda competitive, what can I say). I feel like my training throughout the summer will keep me in the race even if my recent training hasn’t been as serious. I definitely wasn’t on the bike as much last year and I held my own! I am just hoping to beat my time from last year.

 

Sunday I had field hockey all day so Drew came along to watch and support moi of course! Somehow on the way home we decided pizza was needed and found a place called Iggies in Baltimore for some great pizza. Very organic and natural- I’ll take it.

 

Their pizza names were ones we couldn’t really say but very different than the usual so it was pretty cool. We asked for pepperoni and the girl told us it wasn’t exactly pepperoni but better..she was right! No clue what it was called however…

 

So if you are ever in Baltimore- Iggies is a great place to go!

  • What did you do this weekend?