A challenging late-summer biathlon

When I haven’t blogged in a while, it is hard to know where to start. I had a wonderful summer filled with a lot of fun activities and it would be impossible to cover all the happenings in a single post. Last summer I focused on the singular goal of climbing Rainier. This year I spent time doing a lot of different things including camping, rock climbing, hiking peaks, backpacking, bicycling, fly fishing, making art and visiting with family and friends. This was not the summer to get in shape or work on any specific fitness goals; it was a time to let myself bounce from paint brush to climbing hold on a whim and let go of some of the overwhelming feelings that I had been experiencing in the spring due to having too many things on my plate. I even fulfilled my dream of spending an afternoon sketching in my mother-in-law’s beautiful backyard flower garden with a glass of iced tea at my side. While I moved forward in feeling less stressed, my performance in a few sports definitely took a hit. One of those was running.

The results of some much needed rest and relaxation: a sketch sketch in my nature journal.
Nature journaling may not improve physical fitness, but it is definitely good for my mental health!

That was not a good thing with a September biathlon race on the schedule. Last winter, Doug and I started this sport and fell in love with it. Our last race was six months ago. In preparation for the upcoming season, we signed up for our local biathlon club’s late-summer event. This warm-weather race would be done by running or cycling rather than by skiing. I absolutely love biathlon and was excited to get out there with my running shoes and rifle. The course was only 5K, so I wasn’t too worried about my lack of training. Certainly I can run a few miles, I figured. It wasn’t like I had been a couch potato all summer. I had done a little bit of running and had still been active with climbing and hiking.

Unfortunately, I was in for a rude awakening on race day. The event was tougher than I anticipated and I huffed and puffed my way through the course. I couldn’t glide down the hills as I was used to doing on skis so it felt like my legs never got a break. Each lap of the race route ended with a small uphill into the range and I was so out of breath during the shooting bouts that I missed most of my targets. That meant a lot of extra penalty laps. Forget about trying to make a certain time–I decided mid-race that my goal would be to simply run the whole course without walking. I succeeded, but was completely wiped out by the time I reached the finish line.

Even though the race was tough, I still had an absolute blast. It rekindled my desire to train for biathlon. Maybe not at a super intense level (I still want to leave time in my schedule to work on art), but enough that I see some personal improvement.

Running into the range for my first shooting bout.
Running into the range for my first shooting bout.

 

Here I am shooting in prone position. The ability to use one's elbow for support makes the it a little easier to hit the targets when I am breathing hard.
Here I am shooting in prone position. The ability to use both elbows for support makes it a little easier to hit the targets.
I couldn't hit any targets in the standing position. My breathing was making my rifle wobble everywhere.
I couldn’t hit any targets in the standing position. My labored breathing was making my rifle wobble slightly, making a huge difference at a distance of 50 meters.
With no targets hit, it is off to the penalty lap once I put my rifle on the rack.
With no targets hit, it is off to the penalty loop for five laps once I put my rifle on the rack. Knowing my fate, I am not sure why I am smiling. Could it be because biathlon is so darn fun?

Another thing that made race day challenging is that I was experiencing watery and profuse ostomy output. I have no idea why—it just happens to me on random occasions. The hard part is that there is no restroom near the biathlon range and the hectic race-day schedule makes it tough to hike back to the lodge to use the facilities. When I am not racing, I am usually helping with scoring or other tasks. My ostomy hadn’t been a problem at other races because I can usually make it six hours between empties. With the higher output, I knew I would have to somehow deal with it out at the range. I thought about taking Imodium, but sometimes that medication makes me feel nauseated, and I didn’t want to feel sick during the race.

To solve the dilemma, I brought closed-end pouches for my two-piece appliance and OstoSolution Seals. When my pouch filled, I dashed off to a secluded spot in the nearby woods to swap it out. The OstoSolutions Ostomy Pouch Disposal Seals made it easy to pack out the full pouches. During the hour I was actually racing, my output slowed down and I didn’t have to worry about it out on the course.

Though it can be frustrating, I really do appreciate it when my stoma acts up and throws me an unexpected challenge. It teaches me to be resourceful and is a good reminder that even on those less-than-ideal days, I refuse to let my ostomy slow me down.  Now if only that were the case with my lung and leg power!  They are definitely holding me back. In the upcoming months I am going to be busily training for the winter biathlon season so that I won’t get so tired on all those penalty loops.

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10 thoughts on “A challenging late-summer biathlon

  1. Did you get to have the fun of petting the big black bumble bees while they are busy in the center of the flowers, think they get a little loopie & don’t mind being petted at all. Maybe just napping.

    1. Carla,

      I didn’t get to pet any of the bumble bees but I probably could have! I was really close to them and they paid no attention to me at all. I did get to pet a swarm of honeybees on a fence post once and it was really cool. The beekeeper said they would be fine with being touched so I put my hand right on the buzzing mass of bees. I couldn’t believe it didn’t bother them.

      -Heidi

    1. Thanks Dominic! It did feel great writing a blog post again. It is just hard balancing all my hobbies and passions sometimes. I like doing way too many things:) I do hope to write on my blog a little more regularly than I have been lately though. I miss it.

      Hope you had a great summer!

      -Heidi

  2. I am the mother of a young adult male who has an illestomy. For about 2 years now. I am thrilled to read about your adventures as it helps me to support my son in knowing life doesn’t stop because of this.

    When I see pictures of you I notice that your pouch does not show under your clothes. What types of appliances/support do you use? It would be helpful to know and share with my son so he can go about his day not worrying about any part do the pouch being obvious under his clothing. Also, what do you find to be the best support while exercising, etc?

    Thanks so much and you are a wonderful model for others facing the same.

    Barb

    Sent from my iPad

    1. Hi Barb,

      Thanks for writing. I am so glad to hear that the site has been helpful for you and your son. I wear a two-piece Convatec Sur-fit Natura system with a drainable pouch and their cut-to-fit Durahesive wafer. It adheres amazingly well through all my sports and doesn’t show under my clothing.

      My favorite way to support my pouch is to wear Comfizz level one or two high-waisted ostomy boxers.

      http://www.comfizz.com/products/ostomy/level1/men/boxer-high-waist-black.html

      I have never been a fan of wraps as they tend to roll up when I exercise. The boxers are wonderful because they stay in place perfectly and never prevent output from getting to the bottom of the pouch. They are nearly invisible under clothing and I wear them while exercising and also whenever I want to conceal my pouch for every-day wear. I am wearing a pair under my running tights in the biathlon pics and you will notice you can’t see it at all. They are great under jeans too as even if my jeans sag down on my hips, the boxers will keep the top of my pouch from being exposed. They are super comfortable too. These undergarments are from England, but only end up costing around 20 US dollars a pair. I just put in an order for several pairs and the overseas shipping was only around 10 US dollars. They arrived pretty fast from England too. I ordered them at 9 p.m. and received a notice that they were shipped the next morning. I got them in just under two weeks.

      As far as other support– when doing strenuous exercise like climbing, snowboarding or backpacking where my abdominal muscles might get significantly stressed, I like to wear a Nu-Hope Flat Panel Nu-Support belt in the Cool Comfort Elastic option.

      http://www.nu-hope.com/beltlit.pdf

      This supports the abs around the stoma and incision site very well and helps prevent parastomal and incisional hernias. I put it right under the Comfizz boxers as they help hold it in place.

      Hope this helps!

      Take Care,
      Heidi

  3. Heidi,
    You are such an inspiration! I always enjoy reading your blog, or your articles in the Phoenix.
    You challenge me to not be so ‘afraid’ of my Ostomy, or what it ‘could’ do if I tried new things.
    Now, I’m beginning to feel I need to at least try. An old saying “the only thing worse than failing, is to have never even tried”, your writings have made me want to try, thank you! I need to start marking things off my bucket list.
    Thank you for being so transparent, it helps us all who have ostomys, and those who may have to in the future. You are always bringing “HOPE”! Thanks.
    ((((((HUGS))))))
    Debbie

    1. Thanks Debbie! I am glad you enjoy the blog and articles. Fear can definitely get in the way of living life to the fullest with an ostomy. I see so many people afraid to swim… travel…workout or whatever with their ostomies. They let their imaginings of worse case scenarios stop them from just going for it. You only live once. As long as you are healed and won’t get injured, what is the worst that can happen? A leak or other mishap? If there is a problem or failure, you fix things (and maybe blush and laugh it off) and try again. That is how you grow. I think that throwing yourself into unique situations with your ostomy and overcoming any challenges that present themselves is the best way to gain confidence. You really discover all you are able to do and overcome. Best wishes with the bucket list!

      Cheers,
      Heidi

  4. Hey Heidi,
    I want to thank you for sharing your story. Your story is one of the reasons I am getting a perm ileostomy with a barbie butt next month 🙂 . While I am super nervous because I am only 23, I want to live a life where I can enjoy activities again, especially outdoors where there arn’t bathrooms everywhere. I have quite a few pounds to lose after I get my ostomy bf I will be in great shape, but I know that there are others out there that compete in crazy events like the Ironman lol so I know I can accomplish my goals as well.
    Thanks again,
    Kim W.

    1. Hi Kim,

      Thank you for writing! I am glad the blog has been helpful for you. I do try to be a voice for people to relate to who choose the permanent ileostomy option. I think sometimes doctors and others just assume that everyone (especially younger folks) will want to choose to at least try a j-pouch. However, going right for a permanent ostomy is a completely rational and valid decision. I actually loved knowing mine was permanent. I could focus on getting my health back, learning and experimenting with all the supplies and doing the things I loved again. I wouldn’t have liked knowing that two more surgeries were looming on the horizon. I also think my Barbie butt is great! After dealing with severe UC, it is wonderful to not have to think of that region anymore:)

      I would like to share two pieces of advice that were given to me by other permanent ostomates before my ileostomy surgery that ended up being extremely helpful. One was to get good stoma placement that worked well with my clothing and for my sports (including wearing a rock climbing harness and a backpack hip belt.) The other was to talk to my surgeon about making sure to do everything in their power to create a stoma that was a good length (one that sticks up from the abdomen a bit.) A stoma that is around 3 cm long (mine ended up more like an inch an half) will help direct stool to the bottom of an ostomy pouch. A stoma that is very short or flush to the skin has a tendency to pump tool under the appliance wafer (the part that adheres to your skin) which causes skin irritation and leaks. I think a lot of my success with my ostomy has been due to these two things. My placement works well for my clothing/hobbies and the length of my stoma helps prevent me from getting leaks. I have only had two since surgery 5 years ago:)

      Another great internet resource is the blog Newbie Ostomy (http://www.newbieostomy.com/about-me/.) It is written by Karin, a woman in her 20s who chose to have a permanent ileostomy.

      I hope some of this helps! You can absolutely accomplish your goals!!! Best wishes for your surgery and renewed health.

      Cheers,
      Heidi

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