Let the races begin!

Last Sunday I went with Doug and his dad to run the Journey Quest 5k in Fort Collins, a fundraiser for the Shared Journeys Brain Injury Foundation (SJBIF). The organization provides programs that help people with acquired brain injuries regain independent, satisfying and productive lives. This was my first 5k race since my ostomy surgery 16 months ago. The overall time I achieved in this run would determine my wave for the 10k Bolder Boulder, which I plan to run on Memorial Day.

Getting ready for the run.

I started running again last summer, but have mainly been working on endurance by going on longer runs. Since I have not been focusing on speed, I wasn’t sure what to expect my finishing time to be for this race. I have never been a very fast runner. My speed has been in the nine-minute mile range in just about every 5k or 10k I have done. Therefore, when I set my goal for this run, I simply hoped to at least match my time from the last 5K I did prior to surgery, which I completed in 29:43.

I felt fairly strong and crossed the one-mile mark in nine minutes and then the two-mile mark at 18 minutes. Despite the decent start, I really struggled in the final mile. There were a few times I had to tell myself that I needed to ease up because my lungs and heart felt like they could barely keep up with what I was trying to make my legs do– I simply could not breathe. I relaxed the pace a bit, crossed the finish line and realized that I actually shaved a handful of seconds off my last 5k with a time of 29:19. I was happy with the result, but could not believe how hard the race felt. I have never been so utterly exhausted during or after a 5k. Doug and his dad met me at the finish line after running great races too (Doug came in second in his age group, 40 to 49), and I couldn’t even talk from lack of breath. Doug’s mom caught us each on camera as we ran the race.

Doug heads out from the starting line.
Doug cheers on his dad as he prepares to cross the finish line.
I am exhausted but still smiling as I finish the race.

This race made me realize that if I want to get faster times, I must change my training strategy. I really like going out for long, slow runs, especially on the trails, but I need to mix things up and start including some speedier runs in the mix if I am going to match my pre-surgery time for the Bolder Boulder 10k. I have always finished that race in just under an hour, but based on how I felt on this run, that would be impossible right now. Time to put some more miles on the running shoes.

I am also glad to report that my ostomy caused no issues during the race. The event started at 10 a.m., so I ate my normal breakfast of a protein shake, a banana and a bowl of oatmeal at 6 a.m. I emptied my pouch before heading to the start line and was good to go for the entire time. There was a party following the race and I refueled on some chili and a few cups of popcorn. Yes, I said popcorn! I find I have no issues with this favorite treat of mine if I chew it well and drink plenty of water (24 ounces in this case.)

Speaking of water, I have never been a fan of the hydration stations at races where one stops to slam a small cup of water. Even before surgery, I always got a gassy bellyache from gulping the water down… that is if I didn’t choke on it first because I was breathing so hard. Most of the time I would just drink a little and toss the half-full cup onto the ground or skip some of the water stations altogether. With my ostomy, I am even more conscious of avoiding things that cause me gas pains. Not to mention that I need to drink a lot more water during activity to prevent dehydration. I usually carry a CamelBak hydration backpack on my runs, and decided this would be a good strategy for the race as well. I filled it with just the amount of water that I would need for the race so that the pack was light. This worked well because I could sip small amounts of water through the hose as I ran to stay well hydrated and didn’t get a bunch of air in my stomach.

One less-than-ideal thing I had to deal with during the race was trying a different wafer than my favorite one. Typically, I reserve sampling new supplies for times when I know I don’t have something big going on in my schedule. However, I have recently had some skin issues under the tape of my wafer: little red bumps that are insanely itchy. My stoma nurse is working with me to try to troubleshoot the cause, but in the meantime, I decided to try a sample of a tape-less wafer to give my skin a break. The 5k was on day four of wearing this new wafer. I was worried the sweat might make it fall off during the race, yet I didn’t want to risk irritating my skin by removing it early. By the morning of the race, my wafer was already starting to peel up on the edges. However, with a few little pieces of 3M Medipore tape in strategic places, the wafer held on just fine. Whew!

All in all, the race went well, and I am excited to push my running to the next level. I look forward to adding a few more races to my schedule in the coming months. And I still have my sights on the CCFA Team Challenge Half Marathon in December. I am hoping the shorter races will help prepare me for that big distance. Most of all, it feels great to discover another favorite activity that is once again possible thanks to my ostomy surgery.