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?

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?

I love Fall

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a stellar weekend. I DID! Drew ended up having his work cancelled Saturday SOOO he got to come up to my house and spend the weekend with me! YAY 🙂 reunited! We finally got to spend some quality time together..and I even had a buddy for a bike ride!

The temperatures this weekend surely made me welcome the new season!

Helloooooo Fall!!

As much as your have heard  me ramble on about why I love summer, I actually wanted to to share with you why FALL is my actual favorite time of year.

Field hockey- Fall sport. You all know I love field hockey and my favorite sport is played in the fall. The fall always meant it would be a fresh new season! So happy to be playing in a fall league as well!

Football- staying with the sports theme. Football is in the fall! Nothing I love more on a Sunday is watching my Steelers play!

Izzy on her Steelers blanket..she loves them too!

Perfect Running/Biking weather- As much as I love hot weather (which I do), I do prefer exercising and not feeling like I’m going to suffocate outside. Having the cooler temps is quite pleasant- especially for a run or bike in the evening.


My Birthday is in the Fall (October 19th) to be exact…it’s coming up soooo- don’t forget 😉 Kidding- but really as a kid I always looked forward to the fall because it’s my birthday season (yes…you read that right SEASON! I’m not narcissistic I swear….) Bonus: it’s also mine and Drew’s anniversary! The day after my birthday ha..good timing. (more presentsss??? one can hope.) 😉

Candy Corn-

Might have ate this til I was sick to my stomach on Saturday. oops. oh and especially love the pumpkins and the chocolate covered ones.

Hot Coffee- I love hot coffee in the morning and it finally doesn’t make me sweat to death on the way to work! WIN!

Leaves changing- Watching the leaves begin to change to oranges and reds and yellows is my favorite. At this time of the year I miss being in the mountains (in college) because there they’re already changing!

  • Do you love fall as much as me? What is your favorite thing?

I’ll be back tomorrow to recap my weekend and talk about my upcoming duathlon on Saturday! Wait.. I didn’t tell you about it? Yah i’m RACING on Saturday. With no formal training this time. Should be interesting 🙂

Vacation Recap!

I had a little mini post yesterday to say Hi, but I wanted to recap my entire vacation in this post. Warning: this is semi long but lots of pictures 🙂

As many of you will agree with me, let me just say that this vacation was absolutely the best thing ever. I just needed that break of no schedule..no running from job to job squeezing in any second of workout I can, and no eating a meal on the go in the car while trying not to spill it all over myself…(Probably 8 out of 10 times I end up with something on my shirt. Most of the time it’s coffee and I’m sure everyone is snickering at me like that girl is a slob! oops.) But, yes, we are all busy, so i’m sure you understand the importance of a vacation and getting the time to relax with your family.

We have loved going to the Stone Harbor/Avalon, NJ area for a few years now. Once we went there we’ve just kept coming back. One of the main reasons we love it is there is a bike path that goes through both towns and bridges that take you over to Sea Isle City. My parents and brother and I got down on Saturday and Drew drove down and joined us on Sunday afternoon. We actually made sure we got a house where you could bring a pet to save some money so…little Izzy was packed up in the car with us too!

Riley stayed at home unfortunately because he wouldn’t be able to stand 4 hours in the car..he HATES the car! So he stayed at home and was pet sat!

Anyways- on to the fitness aspect of vacation! It was so nice to have the time to try out some long miles on the  bike. I’m proud to say that I seriously got more of a tan from my bike shorts and racer back tops then I did my bathing suit..haha! oops!

When my Dad and I woke up on Sunday we got up and did the length of Stone Harbor/Avalon back to our rental house which ended up being almost 14 miles, with a 14-15 mph average. We then followed that with a nice mile-ish run. The flat ride is nice with no climbs, but you also have to remember that on flat ground you are peddling the entire time! There are no descents to coast down! Another thing is the sea breeze! which is totally awesome when it’s going your way but when you’re going against it you instantly feel it. With our ride being a loop it was fun turning to have the breeze with you and suddenly being about to do 18-20mph NBD. This is longer than the typical route my Dad and I do at home and we figured it would be a good enough start to our week. We knew that once Drew was there we would definitely do some longer bike rides, considering that Drew does 30-40 milers like they’re his job..we had to step it up 😉

Oh did I mention this week was hot as hell?..seriously! Honestly, I’m not complaining too much cause I love hot weather and would take being hot over cold ANY TIME.  We were very thankful for the sea breeze this week though..Not sure how so many people were running long distances in that heat, but seriously, good for them! What’s about the beach is seeing so many people exercising! I love it!

Monday we all went out for what ended up being a 17 mile ride, 1 mile run– I was pretty sluggish on the bike that day and was not keeping up with Drew that well. I mean you really did have to pedal the entire time and my legs were feeling tired that day. Being that it was completed and was one of my longest bike rides completed without stopping.

Before one of our rides

Tuesday20 mile ride, 1 mile run! This day, as I was kinda struggling to keep up- Drew dropped back, took one look at my gears and told me (fairly nicely although i can’t see his eyes through his sunglasses so I MIGHT have sensed an eye roll…) I was totally not in the right gear for this flat surface…..oh? hm. I know basically how to shift but I never really messed with my bike to get it in the right gear that I needed. Yah, bad cyclist move- i guess they have front gears for a reason. duh. I had to shift my front gear into the toughest gear and then adjust my back gear so that I was comfortable. Umm…I probably should have known that..and Drew said it nicely but really he was giggling at me on the inside haha. (you don’t have to hide it I KNOW). So once I shifted right- I was flying! IT WAS AWESOME. I was able to keep up with Drew without making him want to slap a kitten because I was so slow (i think, right? i mean i’m sure you were going a bit slower than normal…) I was pretty pumped after this ride!

hi. I just learned how to ride my bike really fast.

Wednesday– 4th of July! We wanted to keep increasing so we completed a 23 mile ride!!!! We did the entire strip of Avalon and Stone Harbor and then went into Sea Isle City which is just a across a bridge, turned around there and came back. I think we were still averaging 14-15 MPH. Woo Hoo-my best ride all-together to date. I’ve done 26 miles  before..but it was a 13 mile ride with a big break in between and a 13 mile bike ride back. We decided it also would not be best to run that day. We ALL had dead tired legs! I did however do my Beach Babe DVD arms, abs, and long and lean routines. I needed that deep glute and quad stretch SO bad!

We had a great time that day with a little BBQ food and watching fireworks. We also did sparklers at the house and then had a brilliant idea to put these sparklers on a bike and ride it!

Thursday– we did a much needed 14 mile recovery ride. It was pretty refreshing to just go out and pedal and enjoy the breeze and scenery.

the paparazzi aka drew- was out today

Friday and Saturday we took complete rest days regarding cycling but we went golfing on a Par 3 course! It was bought actually, we had fun..lost a few dozen golf balls…but it’s okay!

In our best golf attire

Action shot!

Check out that form!

We also went to Atlantic City Friday and did plenty of walking at the Outlets and on the boardwalk! it was a good time!

AC for the night!

Overall we had FUN! it was such an awesome time. The worst part about vacation? That it goes by soooooo fast! I’m actually going down to the beach again in about 2 weeks for 4 days with Drew’s family so hopefully I’ll get to relive some of that fun again. I hope I didn’t bore you with my ramblings, but I didn’t want to make it two posts!

  • What are your highlights of vacations?
  • Do you like to exercise while you are on them or do you take a big rest?
  • Have you ever been to Atlantic City! I think it’s such a great place to people watch!
And here are some outtakes from the week…i couldn’t resist not putting up these pics! 

sorry drew haha…he was REALLY excited about his hole in one for mini golf

Drew refused to take a picture of me “for the blog” so this is what resulted. You’re welcome.