Listening to My Guts

Semi-serious disclaimer: if you don’t like posts that discuss bowel issues, this isn’t the post for you.

152 days. The St. Jude Half Marathon is 152 days, or approximately 21.7 weeks, from tomorrow (Monday). That seems like a lot of time, but the truth is, those days will fly by, and before I know it, race day will be here.

With race day looming in the not-so-distant future, I need to start thinking more seriously about my training. My running the past few months has been lackluster, to say the least. For example, in May I started using the Strava app on my runs. It’s a GPS tracker that logs your runs or walks and then saves them online. It will track your personal bests in certain distances and will tell you when you’ve hit certain goals. Even though I don’t think it’s the most accurate of the GPS apps I’ve used, I like it because there’s a social component to it. Strava has groups you can join and allows you to follow different people’s feeds. Basically, it allows me to see how lame my running is in comparison with the rest of the running world. 😉 Anyway, since I started using Strava in May, I have logged a total of 29.8 miles. That’s for all of May and June and the first week of July (and 9 of those miles were just this past week!). To put that in perspective, many runners run 29 miles (and often more) in one WEEK, not over the span of several weeks. Clearly, I need to up my game if I ever plan on finishing that half marathon in December.

The only problem with this need to increase my running? My darn bowels. It seems that I can’t make it through a run of longer than 20 minutes without feeling the urge to use the bathroom. Fortunately, right now all of my running has been in my neighborhood, so if I am on a run and have to go, I am never more than half a mile or so from my front door. Still, there is nothing more frustrating than being on a run, listening to tunes, feeling the breeze, and enjoying the sweat dripping down my face (well, okay, that last part not so much), only to have that all interrupted by the need for the bathroom. The first time it happened I thought it was just a fluke, but it’s now become a regular occurrence. And if it’s a run of 3 miles or longer, then I can expect to have issues for several hours after the run as well.

Honestly, I was not expecting this. With the exception of the past few weeks, my ulcerative colitis has been relatively inactive this year, which is one of the reasons I was so eager to do this race. I felt like my body was finally ready to handle consistent running again for the first time in almost 2 years, and I knew having a race to train for would help me be disciplined with exercising, but maybe I was wrong in thinking I could do this. Or maybe this is my new normal and what I have to deal with as a runner who also has an inflammatory bowel disease. When I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, my GI doctor advised against long distance running because of the stress it puts on the GI tract, but while I took him seriously, I also dismissed him as being overly cautious. I have read of many people with IBD who run half marathons or even marathons, so why couldn’t I do it? But what I am facing now is the possibility that while I may be able to run the half marathon eventually, doing so will come with a price. It’s not as though I’m running anything even approaching a “long distance” right now, and I’m already experiencing problems. My longest run to date is the one I ran tonight: 3.5 miles.

So the dilemma I’m facing is this: do I keep running and keep dealing with the bathroom stops, knowing that more than likely they’ll only increase as my mileage does? I know that GI issues with running aren’t limited to only those who have IBD, so is there another solution? Do I switch to a run/walk method? Do I stop running and just content myself with lighter forms of exercise, like walking? I really don’t know what the answer is. One thing I do know for sure: one way or another, I am crossing that finish line on December 6!

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2 thoughts on “Listening to My Guts

  1. My husband and I just had this discussion. I had issues for a while with bad bowel movement urges at about the 2.5 mile mark. It was painful, but I could always eventually push through it. As I kept running longer and longer it got to be less and less of a problem. Clearly, your situation is going to be worse because of your diagnosis, but I wonder if you’ll feel the urge less and less the more you run.

    I would keep up the running, and if you have to go, do what you have to do, then get back out there.

    Since there will be Porta-potties along the route, you will be able to stop if needed.

    You should be so proud of how far you’ve come. I truly believe that if you keep working at it, you’ll be prepared for the half!!

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  2. I am not sure what meds you are on, but I do know it can all suck the life out of you! It’s hard to balance getting back out in the world with honoring your body’s need for calm and healing. I can completely understand the frustration of wanting to resume “normal,” and of getting impatient when we can’t be the amazing success stories we read about!

    Recovery takes time, and learning to deal with a chronic illness takes more time than the recovery. I know it’s hard to have to think about all of these things so far in advance, but that’s the new way of looking at life when you want to achieve that balance.

    I am impressed by your desire to get back out there and resume life; there are many out there that give up, or dwell in the past. Please take a lesson from me though, and don’t overdo it. I tried to show the world that nothing would stop me, then a broken leg (from IBD malabsorption and cancer treatment bone loss) and surgery MADE me slow down. 😀

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